The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Unit cohesiveness

I watch too much television, as I have said before, but it gives me ideas which I then use to fill up this blog. As I was watching something called "Last Secrets of the Axis Powers", something formed in my brain. A concept about why and how we humans have established huge empires.

We are not simply predators, we are herd predators. That is, we behave in many ways like wolves or dogs. Individually, we aren't much of a threat but in groups we are quite dangerous. We learned this early on in our development as a species. We formed tribes out of family units. Clans and tribes could better defend against predators and rival clans and tribes. We could also hunt more effectively in groups. Cooperation facilitated by communications skills was a formidable evolutionary enhancement that most "lower" animals didn't possess.

Language could have begun because we needed to communicate in order to cooperate or cooperation could have grown out of our development of language. It's not possible to know, I suppose, but the combination of the two certainly has served us well in terms of becoming the dominant species.

As I was watching that show, I saw some scenes of large gatherings of Japanese during or prior to World War II. In the scenes, the people were bowing toward the front of a great room where some men were seated on a stage. That's when it hit me. As we gather in large groups, we gravitate toward leaders. Without a leader, a large group is nothing more than a mob which has no direction, no real purpose. We seem to seek out leaders if we have none. Tribal leaders gave way to kings, kings gave way to emperors, in a natural way. Democratic systems gave way whenever the community was threatened by external forces.

The individuals in these large groups seem to willingly give up their individual autonomy in order to stay with, to belong to, the group. Military units are great examples of this. For those of you who have never been a part of a military unit, you are trained from the beginning to cede authority over yourself. You also find yourself becoming emotionally attached to your immediate unit and then to your larger group. In the Navy, for example, I was first part of a recruit company of 80 men (we were boys, really, but that is something that is cast off in such environments). We had a company commander who led us and he appointed a few of us to maintain order and unity for those times when he would be absent. After recruit training, I became part of a training class then was assigned to a ship where I became a member of a crew.

We easily assimilate into this because we are taught to do it from our earliest days. We are members of families first then classmates and schoolmates and each time we leave a group behind, we retain some connection to it, even if only in memory.

You become intensely loyal to your unit while also becoming loyal to the greater unit to which that unit belongs. I was in the Sonar "gang", a part of the Weapons Division which was part of the Weapons Department, which was part of the ship's crew. In the end, you held loyalty to all of these groups or units and, of course, to the larger unit that was (in my case) the Navy and then to the even larger unit which was the American military.

We didn't bow, however, but we saluted as part of the ritual that made up the bonding and the sense of hierarchy. Those of you who have been members of a softball team, or high school sports team, can understand this. If you belonged to the clubs and associations available in school, or been in the scouts, you can probably understand this. If you think about it, that is. But we don't think much about it when we are part of a unit, do we? We think about fitting in, being accepted, becoming a part of the whole.

This herding instinct is how armies are raised and become willing to fight and to die. It is how Genghis Khan, Attila, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Julius Caesar, and all the other great leaders were able to wage wars and conquer vast stretches of land. They used this natural desire, this need to be a part of a larger "whole", to amass armies and get them to follow their leadership. This has been both good and bad, hasn't it?

Of course, this is merely my opinion and not based on any formal training or knowledge of human psychology.

1 comment:

Tom Sightings said...

You're absolutely right -- the herding instinct is a powerful human force. But some people just don't have the herding gene. Did you ever try to gather a bunch of kids together? There are always one or two who just don't want to join the circle, who want to go their own way, do their own thing, and follow their own bliss. Some grow up to be geniuses or successful entrepreneurs or financial wizards; others become hermits; many settle into a kind of cynical distrust of everything and everyone.  Businesses hate them, because they don't conform to their algorithms; governments hate them because they don't fall into government programs or even (sometimes) respect the law.

Yep, human nature sure is funny. And me? I try to be friendly and sociable; but I just don't like crowds and have never been very good at saluting.

Anyway ...  intriguing post!