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  • Wednesday, May 18, 2005


    Macro Sociology, or Misanthrope Gone Wild on Spring Break!!!

    My greatest bane is lack of knowledge. I have these flashes of insight, "Aha!" moments, immediately followed by doubt about the value and originality of the insight. "I can't be the first person to think of this, there must be whole branches of academia studying this subject. Why bother to mention it? I'm just lacking in basics of knowledge, a small intellect striving to think big thoughts. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained."

    So my grand thought du jour is this: The majority of societal movement and change occurs in ways beyond our grasp or comprehension. In this model/metaphor, all of human society on earth is like a single organism. Let's use a mammal as an example, a squirrel perhaps. All the world's subcultures and political divisions are akin to organs: kidneys, liver, skin, etc. This is a general model so please try not to attribute any particular organ (e.g., the anus) to a specific subculture (e.g., conservatives.) The organs operate separately but are also interdependent; a malfunction in one organ can quickly affect other organs.

    Some of the pressures and influences affecting changes in subcultural societies are obvious and direct (passing a law.) Other influences are less quantifiable but probably much more important (people deliberately ignore or disobey the new law.)

    This concept is sort of akin to the "inventions occur and spread when the technical and social conditions are ripe" school of thought. My concept is that none of us has more than the vaguest inkling of the ponderous forces shaping and moving us individually or the course of our society as a whole. We always impose meaning, context and direction on our lives and the lives around us. On a larger scale, we recognize situations, trends, cultural signifiers (i.e., poverty, fame, etc.) and either help propagate them, work to change them, or try to avoid thinking about them. If we see poverty in the United States, as individuals we might ignore it, give money to a charity or political group, volunteer at a soup kitchen, etc. As individuals, we weigh pros and cons, intellectually and emotionally, logically and impulsively, to make decisions and move forward in our lives.

    I'm sure there is a nice depressing school of philosophical thought that encompasses this "pawns of the universe" concept but I don't recall what it is at the moment. What I'm suggesting is not philosophical or a matter of personal perspective; it is that there are real effects of unknown motivations and forces acting on and within us. I'm not talking about a deity or deities, nor am I referring to supernatural agencies. A simple unpleasant example: If rats are kept in overcrowded conditions, some of them will kill and cannibalize others. This relieves the overcrowding. And, no, I don't think humans are like rats, mostly. But there are social conditions, conditions of life, where almost inexplicably, people will act impulsively, seemingly irrationally. Maybe part of it is some Malthusian forces at play.

    I'm sure all this shows more about my sorry psychological makeup than as a theory of social change and action. "Tsk, tsk. Poor fellow, lost in some fatalistic miasma of his own creation. If he could just smell the flowers, greet the joy of the sunrise, he might escape this sullen nature of separation and alienation he's cultivated and nurtured." Perhaps.

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