poly: small tribes, centripetal crit

From: Steve Witham <sw@tiac.net>
Date: Fri Feb 13 1998 - 21:41:05 PST

dbrin sez-

>Small tribes can makes mistakes that are just as devastating as big tribes.
>The important thing to recall is that leaders often get their way by
>intimidating and quashing complainers, even when those complainers are
>right. In most states, the good of the leader dominated over the good of
>the group.

I agree with somebody that once you've got states, you're already too
recent to have effected evolution.

But with small tribes, what's the overall effect of don't-openly-
criticize-the-boss? If it prevented people from figuring out the
truth, it would pretty much negate the value of thinking and language,
and you wouldn't see either of those!

I guess the effect only gets really pathological in much larger groups.
Anyway if what you meant was criticism-of-the-boss-to-his-face, then
yes, I think that's been selected against. And you don't need harems

>>...It's easy to counter
>>that criticism is a centripetal force, bringing erring strays back into
>>the fold.
>Hmm... interesting semantic point. In most cultures, criticism by church
>state sure had that effect! But it wasn't error-correcting "T Cell"
>criticism of the type I describe. In our culture it is driven by millions
>of separate egotists... a great immune system for discovering and
>denouncing errors... but rather divisive of social cohesion.

Okay, you're talking about...argumentativeness where I'm talking more
like reasoned honest truth-seeking. T Cells aren't driven by logic,
more like persnicketiness. Is that the only choice we have, between
encouraging people to say whatever comes to mind...and discouraging it?
No way to influence *how* people argue?

Last year Robin started a thread about why people argue--actually
take committed positions--over things like sports. Part of one answer is,
argument is a social glue. Just like dogs bond by fighting.

In _The Great Good Place_, *sorry,forgot-the-author* says that places
where people could get together for good-natured argument were an
essential cross-class, cross-culture, cross-age-group, cross-position
leveling, respect-producing, and, what, synchronizing system, that has
mostly been lost.

In other words, good argument is centripetal, but what we have lost
is the social processes within which it worked. And we lost them not
because argumentativeness was stressed too much, or community too
little, but simply by losing the places where they happened.

It does no good to tell people, "let's be a cohesive community."
What they used to do was, go down to the local and have a few drinks
with the regulars. If you had told them they were cohering they
would have kicked you out. And if you tell them to cohere now,
they have no way--and no place--to go about it, and no idea what
has happened.


<sw@tiac.net>Steve Witham
Don't dream it, su to it.
Received on Sat Feb 14 06:39:49 1998

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