Living in a community is tough. Living in society never was easy either. Looking at history and the collateral damage that arises from new technology demonstrates that society is flawed, challenging, and complex, yet preferred when faced with the alternative—isolation, a solitary life. This post is a response to events that may quiver your heart and lose your faith in man and society as a whole. This post purpose is to create a spark of optimism. I think it will.
Anthropologists, geologists, and archeologists demonstrate this by looking toward the remains of our Neolithic ancestors (2000 years of prehistory to the Bronze Age). Some 340 Oracadian (an early society group) skeletons were analyzed to show that few people lived past their 20s. It wasn’t a lack of nutrition or shelter that caused their demise, but disease. When people live together in committees diseases are easily transferable. The coughing, the water droplets from the mouth and nose, the dividing bacterial colonies, all provide opportunities for these bugs to occupy new houses known as you.
Think about it in terms of today: the bird flu, H1N1, the swine flu, anthrax, smallpox, and SARS. See there, I can feel your pinch of nervousness. But we would never have to fear any of these things, as much, if we weren’t living in society. It would be unlikely to experience any of these diseases if we were to go at the world in a solitary fashion. Smallpox, anthrax, chickenpox, shingles, measles, and the flu all come from the domestication of animals.
Surprisingly, earlier hunter-gathers experienced better nutrition and variety, unlike their sedentary commune counterparts. But wait, it gets worse. When a group becomes sedentary there is greater reliance and labor toward agriculture. This is not entirely a bad thing. Farms provide a stable and more predicable food source then hunting game does. But consider the three main crops such as rice, wheat, and maize. Believe it or not each have some nutritional draw backs. According to John Lanchester, rice inhibits the activity of Vitamin A; Wheat has a chemical that blocks the action of zinc and can led to stunted growth; Maize is deficient of essential amino acids and contains phytates, which prevents the absorption of iron.
Aristotle and the contract theorists such as Rousseau, Locke, and Hobbes all speculate on the beginnings of man before entering into society and whether that transition was natural or not. Even the bible suggests that man’s simple beginning is preferable. Adam, the first man, was created by God to rule over the creatures of the earth and to form a relationship with him. Later Eve would be added to provide Adam with a companion. Life was simple and earth took on its perfect and its most purposeful form. Man as well. Regardless, each suggests that man’s beginnings, in the simplest forms, is the more preferable state and society, while it offers tremendous benefits and could led to Aristotle’s the good life, has significant draw backs. Besides diseases, society brings crime, violence, war, inequality, private property, taxes, and the possibility of North Korean style government.
The tensions and prosperity of society is evaluated and themed in various literately works. Arguably, one of the best work to do this is Garcia Marquez’s book A Thousand Years of Solitude. It follows a specific family linage through time in a specific village. Each phase of the village is present in the novel, from its founding to its growth as a wealthy city, thus tracing a typical arc of human societal progress. As the village becomes more modernized and more cosmopolitan, there is a positive relationship between wealth and social problems. Increase traffic through the town brings greater standards of living, information, and technology—however it brings with it the loss of innocence and greater opportunity, in addition a greater probability, for conflict. These conflicts, which go along with society, is the purpose behind the various philosophical works. Just to illustrate the depth that man has reflected on the various problems, the following list spans over 2500 years and include works such as Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan, John Locke’s Two Treaties of Government, the numerous works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Plato, Aristotle, Karl Marx, the Utilitarians such as Jeremy Bentham and John Stewart Mill, John Rawls, Michael Sandel and even religious books such as the bible try to comprehend, define, and provide solutions that a complex society brings—and that’s a very, very short list. Despite the complex problems, the frontloaded cost (as experienced by our first sedentary ancestors), and the new problems it will bring—human beings prefer and maintain themselves in society.
The events of September 11th in 2001 and mass shootings from Columbine, Aurora, and Connecticut illustrate the collateral damage that arises from technology and the highly productive production of a capitalist system. Technology and capitalism brings us wonderful things. Airplanes create a smaller world in which love ones are easily met and provide greater economic opportunities to lift whole communities out of poverty and later an envy of the world, yet it also provides opportunities for individuals to execute events like September 11th to happen. Life in society is not easy nor will it ever be.
Yet, given these problems and bitter-sweet facilities we now have, it is easy to become cynical—you have the right to be—but I encourage you not to lose faith in man nor the society you live in. Consider this, science has vast speculations on the creation of the universe. In particular, physicist have speculated that positive force in atomic structures slightly outweighed the negative forces and through time this slight favor in positive forces established the universe we now experience. You don’t have to believe it, but it’s a perfect metaphor on how to live your life. Within yourself there are positive and negative forces pushing and pulling your interpretation of your community and your follow human beings. If you allow yourself to consider and adopt more positive forces in your own life—even if it is only slightly—you can create new worlds of opportunities.
So, stay positive.