Posted by martinknox
Some time ago I posted a piece questioning whether humans are more like bees or Australian brush turkeys. https://wp.me/p1z4yo-lM Bees are gregarious and nurture their offspring, whereas brush turkeys never meet their parents and lead solitary lives except for mating. Most humans are between these extremes.
To evaluate human developments, particularly those that control behaviour, such as political and economic systems, it is helpful to have agreed humankind’s destiny there. They could provide for hive-like sociality, or isolation, or alternate between the two.
It is difficult choose which way is best for humans. Tradition could express atavistic longing for the kinds of group living evolved by primates and hominids. Some humans in lockdown from the pandemic have suffered a deficit of communal care by traditional standards. Others have enjoyed more than usual.
There are many considerations other than tradition and pandemics. People can be individualistic and selfish, or altruistic and kind to strangers. There is a spectrum of ‘social affinity’ with people and nations varying widely. Countries ideally accept tourists’ selfishness but they may find observing local customs of tipping service off-putting, or even offensive.
Strengths of bonding between people and within communities can increase or decrease with hardship, wealth and war. It is possible that as material prosperity increases, individuals become less group-minded. Conversely, dislocation can foster selfishness.
It is unlikely that human psyches can flex enough to change their position very far along the spectrum. We would not expect a brush turkey to take to living in a beehive, nor a bee to be content to live estranged from its kind like brush turkeys. Perhaps the amount of sociality for humans should not be a monotheism, but we will enjoy living with diversity, both in local communities and within a community of nations.
Totalitarianism exists where humans are subjected to a central dictatorial authority, with civil society replaced by atomised individuals, who feel isolated, superfluous and fearful, without rights. There are too many nations where such conditions exist, including several superpowers. These offensive regimes can be mitigated by attention to human rights.
To avoid totalitarianism, a person must have their rights respected, such as to have a fair trial. Will bees in a crowded hive inevitably have fewer rights than free-roaming brush turkeys? Humans in densely populated countries need as many or even more rights than in sparsely populated countries like Australia. Isolated individuals may have fewer encounters with others but they could be as harmful and as cruel.
In summary, the social affinity of individuals is part of the fabric of life and can differ between countries. People have different experiences and need to be tolerant of others within sectarian cultures, especially under totalitarianism, where individuals need rights at least as protective of them as of isolated individuals in other countries. There are turkeys everywhere.
My writing on this and other topics is at https://martinknox.com