I have come to believe, or at least suspect, that one of the many major flaws with our current social structure and indeed our current status as a race of human beings that will be uncovered by future generations (should there be any), is that there is a serious lack of positive interaction, perhaps able to be expanded to any interaction at all, between human beings who are of differing “levels” of thought, action, and overall perspective.
What I mean by this is that humans who tend to have radically or even simply noteworthy differences in their views tend to segment themselves, interacting little with one another directly (especially in person) and when doing so, seldom in a positive manner. As such, new, potentially challenging or “abrasive” ideology, is marginalized and often overlooked, later revisited and seen with clarity once an idea has become more mainstream or altogether forgotten or lost in the worst of scenarios.
Even those with the best of intentions, who are truly thinking of the common good in their actions and wish to do well, often succumbs to the habit of favoring interaction with those who agree with their methods of achieving that common good. They maintain a certain level of distance between themselves and those who they do not agree with or are not comfortable around, as those parties also do.
It can be argued that one of the key factors in the overwhelming developmental progress of the human race is in the ability of the human being to compose and subsequently communicate abstract, non-immediately-relevant ideas. Now our understanding of the ability of other species to do this is limited, I will admit that, but I do believe that this is one area in which we excel. We are able to share our thoughts, or feelings, describe a beautiful flower, or tell another person what we do not like about them. This is a very potent ingredient in species development, and was key to allowing us to develop advanced social structures beyond those of the other species and eventually multiply our numbers to such their current staggering heights.
It then seems rather obvious from a logical perspective that, if this interaction and interpersonal connection between humans has been so critical thus far in our development, to limit or reduce that interaction and connectivity would be counter-productive to our overall development as a species and perhaps even detrimental, as, having developed for so long on that “formula”, to remove such a critical component would be to starve critical processes of growth.
I believe that is absolutely essential for the continued development and sustained well-being of a culture, society, ecosystem, or even more broadly, organic system, that the entities within that system maintain a healthy level of interaction and sharing of energy amongst various parties or groups that will inevitably form, be it by species or intra-species differences.
Perhaps the most tragic part of the human conflict is the fact that those with the most potentially influential energy, those who hold the most potential to impart a positive “charge” to those around them, are the ones who are often most walled-off from the general population, and are, in turn, less able to do the job that they would be most suited to do (with little effort on their part, mind you).
Take, for example, our CEOs, our wealthy landowners, our stars. They are, in most cases, humans who excel above the others in terms of their personal ability, charisma, intelligence, insight, or a combination of these and other power-imparting traits. They are able to progress through the game that we humans have started playing much quicker than others, so much so that they are set apart in their own class.
This class imparts upon them more power, respect, fame – all of the jewels that humans seek in numbers beyond the limits of those outside of the class.
But this is a double-edged sword, for with this class distance, often comes a physical and personal distance as well.
The CEO is placed far above the other employees, in an unreachable sky-palace, inaccessible and almost wholly a foreign entity to the average employee, and the average citizen for that matter. In this way, both parties lose; the “star” fails to impart their energy to others, leaving them that much poorer in that regard, and the “star” misses out on the interactions and energy that they could gain from others.
On the other hand, take the middle-class worker, the “average jo(e)” who, though I would argue has the potential to reach the same heights as the aforementioned “star”, but for whatever reason has not done so, either by lack of opportunity, drive, interest, or some combination thereof.
The same flawed existence is present on the individual level as well – though they often interact with more people in terms of sheer number and minor variations, they are also segmented and fail to make connections with those outside of a rather limited scope on the human spectrum.
And these simple examples don’t even take into account personal preferences and biases; the naturalist with very strong opinions about the effects of industry on the environment is very unlikely to interact (at least positively and on a personal basis) with the CEO who runs a chemical engineering plant, and much more likely to stay within their own ideological circle, therefore preventing any sharing of information, insight, or other positive energy between these key roles. The two may interact indirectly, reading each others writing, seeing each other on television or in other forms of media, and perhaps even interacting occasionally on an impersonal, negative level through an arranged debate, protest, etc… but, and this goes for all variations, including the two pseudo examples above, they will seldom bump into one another in the elevator, exchange stories of their weekends, sit next to each other on a bus and simply exist as two humans in a shared space, and so forth. There will be no mutual exchange. And this limits the development of our species by limiting the “ingredients” that are available to us in our own development and thus, over a much longer period of time than our own short lives, the development of our society and species as a whole. Stagnation, is perhaps the best term I have for it.
Now you may be challenging this argument already, thinking that you do not fit into this picture, you interact, or at least make an effort to interact, with everyone, regardless of your feelings towards them, and therefore, this isn’t really a big problem. Now, let us simply put aside the subconscious, learned (and often unobserved) biases, and the flaws that come with self-analysis. Let us assume that you genuinely do make an effort to interact with EVERYONE, with absolutely no bias. Good for you. There are two major flaws though.
The first is the fact that, even though you may make an effort to interact with others, they are often making an active effort to avoid you. You may very well have the desire to interact with the CEO of of a large corporation on a personal level, but I am quite certain doing so would be rather difficult. If that is a bad example, and you are on a class level that enables you to do that, then how about the radical religious revolutionary, the heavily-medicated mental health patient, or the socially maladjusted introvert who seldom leaves their residence outside of the necessary food runs? With each of these, you must pass through a barrier: religious acceptance, the mist of drugs and mental illness, or social dis-ease and obsession. So unless you chase down, hunt, or otherwise pursue a spectrum of individuals outside of the social groups that you are allowed access to, there is still a significant portion of the human race that you are essentially barred access to, of no fault of your own.
The second problem with your self-assessment-based challenge is that, even if you are that person, you are a minority. You are a very small minority. And progress of an organic system, whether a community, a society, a species, or even an entire ecosystem, is reliant on the actions and habits of the majority. True, the impassioned and amplified voice of few can sway nations and bring entire civilizations to their knees, but that is exactly it – the (a) majority must eventually participate for success to be granted. Right now, those who are truly meeting the needs of our species for interaction are a desperate minority, and therefore, a problem is present.
There are fundamental differences between people – both inherent and learned that cannot be avoided. These will inevitably shape our decisions, and the variations in the impact the resulting actions of these decisions have will inevitably cause conflicts between people. But this should not result in a rift forming between those individuals, in a fragmentation of our people. It should cause more interaction, more sharing of ideas, more explanation of perspective and attempt to understand the perspective of others.
It should be noted that these differences have always been present. The urges to distance ourselves from those with whom we have conflicts has always been strong. This is nothing new – early human likely wished for space from those who challenged their beliefs, notions, desires, and so on. What is new, though, is the relative each with which we are able to act on these urges.
In early society, it can be easily imagined that interaction with those around you was inherently mandatory. Your living options are rather limited – you can live with and contribute to a small, community or tribe, you can try to break off and form your own community or tribe, or you can live alone.
I will address this last option first to get it out of the way: it is dangerous, difficult, and counter-intuitive. Humans are not, by nature, solitary creatures, and the decision to live a solitary life is rare.
Next, in the first scenario, it is difficult to avoid interaction with those you do not like, as your community is rather small you most likely depend on everyone for one thing or another in the workflow of the community. Everyone must interact, because there is really little choice otherwise. Even as a community grows larger, there is little luxury of avoiding others, as the community most often demands it of you through necessity and provides little tangible means of separating yourself from others that will not cause suspicion and eventually conflict that is resolved through removal of the means or through removal of the person, risks few would take and even fewer would follow through with.
The first threats to this community interaction would be the development of individuals deemed more important than others and granted, by the community, the right to be separated from the community. These would be those deemed spiritually, economically, or strategically superior to the others, to such an extent that they are able to justify their separation through contributions back into the society equal to and necessitated by their seclusion. The cleric or shaman must be left to determine their interactions with others to enable them to continue their mysterious supernatural proceedings, the wealthy landowner must be left to determine their interactions with others to enable the flow of money and land to continue, and the king or ruler must be left to determine their interactions with others to maintain a level of respect due to a ruler, as well as to protect them (and the rest of the community by extension) from harm.
In early instances, even these figures are still accessible, the religious cleric interacting with citizens through scheduled group or individual divinations, the landowner surely hosting events and meetings and still appearing in town for goods and services, and the ruler meeting with citizens occasionally for an audience or through communal events. These figures cannot simply hole themselves away and meet only with those they like – they are still relied on for interaction by the community and expected to make a contribution, though they are given slightly more leeway on their ability to specify the terms of interaction.
As society progressed and numbers in a community grew though, these figures and others who obtained a higher level of power in their respective fields became more illusive, as they were able to dismiss themselves from the rest of the community much more easily without much outcry. Structures were built with more reliable construction, especially in regards to methods of keeping others out. Processes for seeking audience became more complex, and requests granted fewer. As time progresses, we see the elite move further out of the center of the circles and begin to built their own, socially distinct, circles.
There are several consequences of this, which happen over a similar period of time, slowly, not all at once.
The first is the obvious – interactions with these individuals becomes less and less, and more concentrated with similar individuals. This leads to a further divide, and therefore less potential for collaboration and shared understanding. This is perhaps the most direct consequence.
A second is that this tendency towards and ability to maintain a decreased level of social interaction slowly bleeds out into the general population. As the leaders become more reclusive, the population both comes to accept that as normal and begins to seek such a thing itself as a means of showing their similarities to those in power. This is manifest in the increased overall disconnect between individuals and the formation of a wider range of classes and social circles.
A third is that the means to maintain seclusion are developed further and further, making them more effective, more obtainable and commonplace, and increasing the desire for such means by extension. This is manifest in the increased overall “space” between individuals and the further development of a society that accepts and in fact encourages such disconnect.
Eventually, we reach the point we are at today, where many of the members of our society interact with others almost exclusively through non-personal means or not at all, and when they do, it is seldom with those who are outside of the social circle, their comfort zone.
The case and point is this: We will never be a wholly unified species, with a single “golden” way of life that satisfies all of our ideologies and maintains perfect harmony. I would not want to live in a world where it was so. There will and must ALWAYS be conflict and dissent, always be others who do things as we never would ourselves, to challenge us and force us to challenge ourselves. That fact MUST be accepted if we are ever to move forward as a species. To try to change the perspective of others entirely to match your own is foolish and an effort in futility. To attempt to explain your own viewpoint to others that they may apply it to their own, and to make an honest effort to apply the viewpoints of others; that should be the goal of a respectable human.
There is hope…. But it requires effort to survive.