* Paradigm for the Next Generation: The Positive Application of Human Instinct: Authority Instinct; Conformity Instinct: Reciprocity Instinct; Science of Social Structure: Culture as Code; Modularity & Systems Design.
Storm Clouds Gathering: The Tribal Identity: Paradigm for the Next Generation.
The Positive Application of Human Instinct is a set of psychological principles and tools oriented towards improving the outcome for communities and nations in times of crisis. Its thesis unifies the objective findings of anthropology and social sciences to counter fascism with a modernized application of group / crowd psychology, and a cultural code.
Why is this needed?
A 2015 study which compiled data on nearly 100 financial crises since 1870, found that in the wake of such events xenophobic and fascistic movements were consistently dominant. Tracing the results of more than 800 general elections, in 20 advanced economies, over the last 140 years, they observed that on average, parties which focused blame on minorities or foreigners increased their vote share by 30% as economic hardship set in.
The only way to counter the rise of fascism in times of crisis is to work with human instinct in a healthier way. When fear and uncertainty prevail humans always gravitate towards strong leaders and groups that provide a strong sense of purpose and identity. If those working towards a positive future fail to account for these realities they will be trampled by those who do.
Instinctual Psychology as an Applied Science
Our species — Homo Sapiens Sapiens — is a social animal. Tribes and nation states are human analogues of the pack. Like wolves, lions and apes our behavior is heavily influenced by the authority, conformity and reciprocity instincts. Human societies can only be fully understood (or changed) in the context of these forces.
The authority instinct is ubiquitous among social species. It increases the survival rate of groups by facilitating decisive action. Presidents, warlords, gang leaders and chiefs are all human analogues of the alpha.
Positive leaders can spark positive societal transformations. Unfortunately these are few and far between.
Modern politics is scripted and choreographed like theater; complete with acting, stagecraft and props. In keeping with the times it has devolved into reality television.
Unfortunately the humans who crave power, and have access to the wealth to win elections are often sociopathic degenerates that any sane society would prevent from holding any position of authority whatsoever. You really wouldn’t want these types running traffic stops, or even checking parking meters for that matter.
Crisis has a way of breeding discontent. And decadent ruling classes often don’t navigate these forces so well. In his books “The Crowd” and “The Psychology of Revolutions” Gustave Le Bon outlined the psychological dynamics of upheavals. Scary stuff really. When armed men utopian dreams set out to reshape society it usually ends badly. How badly depends on the nutcase holding the reigns when the smoke finally clears.
The problem isn’t really that there aren’t enough people out there who would make good leaders. The problem is that most of the human beings on this earth that would be truly great leaders keep their head down. They either don’t speak up or refuse to work with the authority instinct effectively. Unfortunately there is no shortage of idiots and lunatics that have no such compunctions.
In 1961 psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a series of social experiments to test whether participants would obey an authority figure when given an order which violated their core morality. His goal was to ascertain how previously sane societies can be convinced to commit atrocities.
These experiments demonstrated that the vast majority of humans will carry out orders (albeit reluctantly) which they believe to be causing extreme pain to another human being. 65% will follow these orders to lethality.
In numerous tests, participants from a wide variety of education levels and socio-economic backgrounds obeyed commands to administer electric shocks of ever increasing voltage to a person in an adjoining room. Each shock provoked screams, and pleas to stop the experiment. Many subjects hesitated and questioned the orders, but as long as the authority remained firm most complied to a deadly 450 volts, even after the screams in the other room went silent. The only symbol of authority needed was a white medical jacket.
Authority can be signaled by uniforms, insignias, colors, and other visual representation of power. However vocal intonation and body language which convey an air of strength and certainty can sometimes be sufficient.
The police and the military are key symbols of power, as are government buildings. The disobedience of a single general or a police force refusing to clear an occupying crowd can bring down an entire regime.
It has been said that all that is needed for evil to prevail is that is needed for the good to do nothing, but this isn’t exactly true. The only way the good guys ever defeat fascism is through strong, positive leadership. Their words can’t just make more sense than those of the hateful lunatic yelling in the streets, they must awaken a deeper emotion and a sense of duty. Action becomes a moral imperative; anything less a betrayal of all that they are.
In 1951 social psychologist Solomon Asch conducted a series of experiments to determine to what degree individual belief and opinion can be influenced by a misguided majority.
In these tests, participants were brought into a room with a group of people. Every member of the group with the exception of the test subject were actors. The group was then shown cards with three lines of various lengths, and were asked which line was longer. The test subjects always answered last, or next to last so that they would hear the actor’s response first. The actors each provided the same wrong answer.
The vast majority of test subjects (75%) conformed to the incorrect answer at least some of the time. 36.8% conformed consistently. The education level or IQ of the subjects had little or no bearing on the outcome.
Later tests which monitored brain activity confirmed that social conformity rewrites sensory information at a neurological level. Peer pressure is so powerful that it can override what we see with our own eyes. This effect is amplified when evidence is not directly available or easy to understand.
The conformity instinct is triggered anytime there is theperception of group consensus, or social momentum. This perception can be simulated by coordinating false statements or distorting the results of opinion polls.
Repetition can mimic consensus. Studies have shown that when individuals are exposed to an idea repeatedly, even if that repetition originates from a single source, they gradually come to believe that that idea is widely held. A single individual can spark ideological contagion by repeating until others follow suit. This effect is amplified if the propagator holds an aura of authority or has access to mass media.
In studying conformity Asch stumbled upon the antidote. If a test subject was exposed to a single voice of dissent (if one of the actors gave the right answer), the spell of conformity was broken, and the subject was capable of answering correctly. This is why authoritarian regimes always seek to control the flow of information, and suppress ideas which contradict the official narrative.
In an age of universal deception, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. Even one voice can turn the tide.
Studies have shown that when test subjects are given a small gift of minimal value, they are statistically more likely to comply with subsequent requests made by the giver, even if the secondary request is significantly more valuable. For example: if the subject was given a free soft drink in the beginning of the evening, they were much more likely to buy raffle tickets from the person who gave them that drink, than were subjects who had not been offered anything. This principle also applies to non-physical gifts as well, such as time volunteered. Psychologists refer to this instinct as the reciprocity principle.
Among social species, reciprocity facilitates the distribution of effort and resources within a group, and provides a natural safety net. If a member of a pack or a tribe brings home food on a particular day, and they share that food with the other members, the reciprocity instinct ensures that they will be fed by others in the future. For over 300,000 years this was the primary form of exchange within human groups.
At the civilization scale, the reciprocity instinct has been hijacked in the form of debt based money aka fractional reserve banking; an economic paradigm that forces societies to perpetually increase consumption to stay afloat (the infinite growth paradigm).
The dollar’s loss of world reserve currency will catastrophic for many countries. However it will also open up opportunities to bring healthier models back to fill the void.
An example of this can be found in traditions where communities join together in collective work days helping one farm or house then rotating to the next. Barter or swap meets can operate alongside these traditions, as can local currencies.
Science of Social Structure
The vast majority of modern governments, businesses and organizations utilize a social structure called vertical collectivism. Vertical collectivism is top down system of organizing human groups which amplifies power by stacking layers of authority in pyramids. The result is a highly stratified society where those on the bottom have little or no say, and are left to fight over scraps from above.
Vertical collectivism is apolitical. Capitalists companies and Communist regimes both use it without contradiction, as do republics that call themselves democracies.
The vertical model was born of military strategy. A general or warlord alone can only control a small army, but by using subordinate officers in layers of rank, a single individual, or a small ruling class can dominate millions of people and vast territories. This is why a state is often defined as the monopoly on violence within a region.
Vertical collectivism didn’t spread to every corner of the globe because it improved peoples lives. In fact modern anthropologists acknowledge that the transition to this way of life was associated with reduced life expectancy and a decline in virtually all measures in health (up until very recently). Vertical collectivism spread like a cancer because it is brutally effective in the in the context of war. Every culture that it encountered was either crushed on the battlefield or forced to copy the model to survive. The dawn of civilization — as many euphemistically refer to it — is a story of conquest and colonialization that began approximately 10,000 years ago and continues to this day. This was not however, the beginning of the human story.
For over 300,000 years — long before the first empires of Asia and Europe began to absorb surrounding tribes — humans organized themselves using a very different model. Rather than building top down, stratified societies that concentrated wealth and power in the hands of an upper class, these cultures organized horizontally.
Organizing horizontally didn’t mean that there were no leaders. The authority and instincts are far older than humanity. Like all social animals, our species is hardwired to follow those who demonstrate courage and intelligence. However in horizontal societies disparities of wealth and power were significantly smaller. The leaders and councils responsible for group decisions were not insulated by armies and law enforcement conditioned to obey without question. Defense and order were maintained by an armed citizenry, bound by a code of conduct. This dynamic forced leaders to be directly accountable to the population. Their power was rooted in their ability to communicate with the people, build consensus and chart a course of action to the benefit of all.
The fact that horizontal societies required leaders to work with the public in such a personal way had one obvious disadvantage: it limited the size of the group. After all, why would someonevoluntarily follow someone far away that they never met?
There is however, a way around this limitation. By forming federations horizontal societies can expand their sphere influence significantly. An example of this adaptation can be found in the Iroquois confederacy which unified 5 tribes for hundreds of years in the region that came to be called New York. Each member tribe in the confederacy had their own culture and and internal governance, but a set of shared values enabled them to cooperate economically and militarily. If one tribe was attacked they quickly mounted a common defense.
Many historians believe that United States federal system was based on the Iroquois model. One significant difference however, was that the Iroquois had no central government. There was a central council comprised of representatives from each tribe, but this council had no power to enforce its will. Each representative was tasked with building a consensus that would resonate with their people.
Culture as Code
Whether consciously or subconsciously, psychologically unified groups always develop a cultural norms which defines what it means to be “one of us”. This code may include ideological tenets, duties, forbidden practices etc… Tampering with this code is dangerous, but sometimes absolutely necessary.
Conformity to cultural norms is rewarded with social validation. Nonconformity is punished along a spectrum ranging from verbal condemnation to expulsion. This mechanism operates directly on the dopamine channel, and plays a preponderate role in human behavior.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that operates on the reward, pleasure and motivation mechanisms of the brain.
Social validation causes dopamine levels in the brain to increase, creating a sense of happiness and well being. Social condemnation has the opposite effect, and can be emotionally devastating. This is the biochemistry of the conformity instinct. Very few humans are strong enough to resist its pressure. As such, most integrate the cultural code of their group as a package, conform to its expectations and reject or punish those who don’t.
In its most rigid form, cultural code has the force of morality, and is utterly intolerant of dissent. Criticizing or questioning its tenets is interpreted as an attack on the group, and by extension the self. The defensive (or aggressive) reactions that typically follow are the ideological equivalent of an immune response.
Tolerance in and of itself is not enough to counter this dynamic. New cultural norms must be established. To accomplish this requires strong, positive leadership.
Modularity and Systems Design
Systems are more stable, and easier to repair and update when they are built using simple, compact and minimally bundled components. In systems design this principle is referred to as modularity.
In technical fields a transition to modular components, and standardized connection points increases efficiency and radically reduces waste. Rather than throwing away an entire device or system when one component breaks or becomes outdated a modular approach facilitates repairs and upgrades.
When rebuilding an socioeconomic system the modularity principle is equally important. Rather than attempting to a provide monolithic, one size fits all solution, functions of the old system can be replaced incrementally; component by component.
The same principle applies when challenging an ideological order. Ideas replicate and spread much more efficiently among a population when they are simple, compact and minimally bundled. Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme” to represent these minimal clusters of information and illustrate how ideas and beliefs are subject to the laws of evolution. Memes are essentially modular components, analogous to genes.
For an idea to survive it must be adapted to its environment. Ideological habitat dictates selective pressures. Rather than attempting to replace world views in their entirety it is much more effective to propagate simple concepts which are compatible with a wide range of belief systems. An example of this can be found in the Local Resilience meme.