Wednesday, September 14, 2011

No respect

Another way that the mismatch between our genetic expectations and civilization manifests is in the lack of consistency between our inborn tendencies regarding dominance and submission and the machine’s artificially-imposed hierarchy and demand for obedience to arbitrary authority. 

All social primates show some degree of social stratification according to dominance.  For humans, nature divides dominance among a variety of context-dependent categories, physical strength, prior experience, personality, and natural leadership ability, for example.  Civilization partitions dominance additionally according to mechanical role in the hierarchy, sometimes in a way that overlaps with natural categories, as when a person with a personality predisposed to leadership is assigned a dominant role.  Frequently, however, the match among natural leanings, assigned role, and context do not comprise a coherent package. 

Consider in this context the phrase, “Have respect for authority.”  This common parental admonition is an example of how reification can be used to take an existing psychological tendency, in this case a natural sensitivity to dominance relationships among individuals, and yoke it to a mechanical requisite of civilization, in this case, the need to coordinate with an artificial power hierarchy.  Authority is not the kind of thing that could possibly be the target of the cluster of psychological postures that are subsumed by the word respect.  You can respect individual people who hold a position of authority, but the only possible responses to authority itself are obedience and compliance.

And, of course, their opposites.

No comments:

Post a Comment