TW: No funny pictures, and you may well think I’m somewhere between naive and insulting by the end of this.
You are what you eat. Obviously true for actual food for our physical body, but I contend that it is even more true for our mental and spiritual bodies as well. Probably even more so. If you deny yourself carbs, your body undergoes a process called gluconeogenesis where it turns protein into glucose. If you deny important inputs to your mind or your spirit, I don’t think there is a similar process to turn garbage in into anything but garbage out.
In the previous post in this series, I promised that I would put forward a way to use the insight of that post (that aggregation and transitivity isn’t universal,) to make yourself a better person. Here is the long, round-about way of getting to that suggestion.
There is a saying that is the answer to the nature / nurture question. That saying is “Nature loads the gun, the environment pulls the trigger.” What that means is that ‘nature’ aka your genetics, your inborn instincts, and your physical limitations, they have created you as this machine that reacts to certain things in certain ways. In one environment, you will act in one way, and in another environment, you will likely act in a very different way to produce a different end result. Take, for example, a big burly man with limited abstract intellect, a distrust of machinery, but with great willpower. Put him in the workforce in a coal-mining town decades ago, and he will be remembered for generations as an American Hero. Put him in the workforce in a modern metropolis, and he is going to have a hard time holding down a steady job. Same traits, different environment, different outcomes.
Alla yall nerds, did you read Jim Butcher’s Brief Cases? Before the story about Marcone, Jim says that in another world, Marcone would be an ideal and humane landlord. But in wizard-and-magic Chicago, he’s a ruthless crime boss. Same traits, different environment, different outcomes.
Another example. Take the world’s most literate, religious, and educated population on the planet. Put them in a small town with no electronic communication facilities and a low enough level of wealth that many take for granted can only be made as communal property. A town usually has one oven, and all the ladies get together for bake days. The town has one mill, and all the men get together to for milling days. The town gets one newspaper and everyone gathers together when the mail comes so someone can read it out loud. Do you know the origin of the title Professor? He was the guy at the university who made up for the fact that there were more students than books. You couldn’t study in the library because there weren’t enough books to go around. They had a job called the reader where a bunch of people sit in a classroom and listen to someone read the books aloud.
This is a time of very cosmopolitan mixing. Anabaptists and Lutherans share dinner instead of the sword and the flame. Brewers sold yeast to Puritans. This happens because of the social environment. When two ladies are standing around waiting for the oven temperature to drop from “pie” to “bread,” it’s not likely that they’ll debate the scriptural validity of Calvin’s teachings. They’ll gossip about what sort of social disease the town strumpet gave to the preacher. Men around the millstone, slowly pouring in grain, don’t usually debate the value of the teachings of the Physiocrats vs that of the Scottish philosophers in developing the wealth of a nation. They talk about how preacher should apply a tincture of lead and witch-hazel to pants and stop riding the town bike.
Face to face, they’ve got a life to lead with more pressing and immediate concerns than abstract political economy. Or politics. Or whatever -ism you can think of. And having just seen what a circular firing squad it is when people of different faiths choose to go oppressing others, they opt to find a way to make friendly relations instead.
This has a drastic impact on what happens when a political disagreement comes up. I’m of course talking about the Colonies. Former-Loyalist or former-Patriot, early Americans knew that once the war was over they still had to live with each other and they had to work together to overcome the problems of slow communication and honest differences of interest. First time around, it worked pretty well.
The second time around… Well, it didn’t work so well. The economy and the social fabric of the nation had changed. Industrialization started in the north. The south became more stratified. People had less face to face time with each other. Rounded human beings became names, and names became labels.
Take the same humans out of the colonial environment and put them in Reconstruction. You have Yankees and Carpetbaggers, not Hank and Cynthia. Instead of a memory of the futility of warring over differences, you have a memory of a war where brother went to war against brother and shit got done because of it (either emancipating the slaves or perpetrating northern aggression and control, depending on which side of the Mason Dixon you haled from.)
Same traits, different environment, different outcomes.
The difference in the environment is a social difference. People knew more people but not as deeply, they cataloged others with labels, and they operated in an environment of labels.
The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was making you think you can only have tacos on tuesday. The second greatest trick was to get you to replace people with labels.
Because the human mind is lazy. Once you understand something, you won’t go any further to define that thing if we don’t have to. It has to be beaten into our heads. You have to stand next to someone working a millstone or loading bread into an oven day-in and day-out to see them as a human being instead of a label.
In short, labels are a way to aggregate people into types. It happened less in the Colonies, more in Reconstructions and…
And now, its out of control. Our social environment is becoming mediated by platforms and trends that reduces the standing-around-next-to-people time and increase the labeling tools at your disposal. Social media is making us evil, because remember, aggregation of humans is the root of evil these days. Your ability to spend more and more time plugged into your phone means you are spending less and less time being bored next to people you don’t have much in common with. Fewer and fewer kids are spending time running around the neighborhood with whoever happens to liveby, and more and more time being shuttled around to activities full of like-minded families.
And it’s making us worse off. On this website, lots of you call it derp. Posting links to show just how out of touch some idiot progressive or statist is. Progressive. Statist. These are labels and they do their damage even when, especially when, they are right.
Using labels like this makes someone a foot soldier in the culture war. “SJW” is used as a knowing insult. It’s a poke at people who are warriors when there’s no war to be waged. Its an assertion that these people are Mad Online in the real world. They can’t meme because they take everything to serious.
And in a lot of cases, it’s a rhetorical blow that strikes true. But it’s a blow in the culture war. It’s a fight in the war fueled with labels. It’s a blow in a battle that doesn’t need to be fought. Not by the SJWs. And not by us.
There’s names for people who fight battles even when it’s not appropriate. Different names in different times and places, but it’s an old idea. In one time, in one place, they were called ber-serkir. They were so useful in their society that they were treated like divine gifts. But that’s not what we call them now in modern culture. Now, if you go and you fight a battle without provocation, it just makes you a maniac.