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Rippounet

What binds people together (?)

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4 hours ago, Jo498 said:

Furthermore, what could be focal points of common European identity cannot be stressed (or have become irrelevant anyway) because of secularization, general ignorance of history and culture and of falling into the mortal sins of anti-islam, anti-Americanism/Internationalism, implied European supremacy or whatever.

Just like most national identities then... 

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But the European Identity is supposed to be "better", more peaceful than the more local ones, isn't it?

I think that there is a lot of doublespeak here (not by you, but by the press and European politicians). It's like terrorist vs. freedom fighter. Tribal identities are "good" if one has some vague claim to a be an (oppressed) minority (e.g. Catalan, Basque, Kurd etc.), "bad" if they concern an established or even powerful nation. Sure, with many cases on the Balkans or in the former SU this distinction gets very muddy. (There is probably a level of violence beyond which oppression does not give any bonus points, i.e. when the freedom fighter turns into a terrorist in the perception of the somewhat neutral observer.)

Only identity emotions for (western) Europe as some whole are supposed to be an exception. Europe or rather the EU and its institutions is powerful, somewhat established, certainly not suppressed but not as "bad" as Spanish, Polish, British identities that reek of 19th cent. nationalism (although the Poles would certainly have a claim to having been somewhat suppressed (non-existent as a Nation) for centuries and never enjoyed being a colonial power). It seems open if Catalan or Scottish identity politics are acceptable or too "anti-European".

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One point about a European identity though, is that it can be a secondary super identity. This means that it can provide a shelter for smaller identities, such as the Scots, that are submerged in a larger nation.

A Scottish person might consider themselves to some extent Scottish and European, with the EU to some extent protecting them from the London UK government. Scotland is after all more pro Europe than England. Other European identity groupings sometimes seem to feel the same way (the Ladins in NE Italy, for example, or even the Catholics in Northern Ireland).

 

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Resurrection of my pet thread about nationalism and all that with an interesting article in Foreign Affairs. It's behind a paywall but I'll copy-paste the interesting bits:

Quote

 

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2019-02-12/your-brain-nationalism

The human mind’s propensity for us-versus-them thinking runs deep. Numerous careful studies have shown that the brain makes such distinctions automatically and with mind-boggling speed. Stick a volunteer in a brain scanner and quickly flash pictures of faces. Among typical white subjects in the scanner, the sight of a black man’s face activates the amygdala, a brain region central to emotions of fear and aggression, in under one-tenth of a second. In most cases, the prefrontal cortex, a region crucial for impulse control and emotional regulation, springs into action a second or two later and silences the amygdala: “Don’t think that way, that’s not who I am.” Still, the initial reaction is usually one of fear, even among those who know better.

[...]

Put simply, neurobiology, endocrinology, and developmental psychology all paint a grim picture of our lives as social beings. When it comes to group belonging, humans don’t seem too far from the families of chimps killing each other in the forests of Uganda: people’s most fundamental allegiance is to the familiar. Anything or anyone else is likely to be met, at least initially, with a measure of skepticism, fear, or hostility. In practice, humans can second-guess and tame their aggressive tendencies toward the Other. Yet doing so is usually a secondary, corrective step.

For all this pessimism, there is a crucial difference between humans and those warring chimps. The human tendency toward in-group bias runs deep, but it is relatively value-neutral. Although human biology makes the rapid, implicit formation of us-them dichotomies virtually inevitable, who counts as an outsider is not fixed. In fact, it can change in an instant.

For one, humans belong to multiple, overlapping in-groups at once, each with its own catalog of outsiders—those of a different religion, ethnicity, or race; those who root for a different sports team; those who work for a rival company; or simply those have a different preference for, say, Coke or Pepsi. Crucially, the salience of these various group identities changes all the time. Walk down a dark street at night, see one of “them” approaching, and your amygdala screams its head off. But sit next to that person in a sports stadium, chanting in unison in support of the same team, and your amygdala stays asleep. Similarly, researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, have shown that subjects tend to quickly and automatically categorize pictures of people by race. Yet if the researchers showed their subjects photos of both black and white people wearing two different colored uniforms, the subjects automatically began to categorize the people by their uniforms instead, paying far less attention to race. Much of humans’ tendency toward in-group/out-group thinking, in other words, is not permanently tied to specific human attributes, such as race. Instead, this cognitive architecture evolved to detect any potential cues about social coalitions and alliances—to increase one’s chance of survival by telling friend from foe. The specific features that humans focus on to make this determination vary depending on the social context and can be easily manipulated.

Even when group boundaries remain fixed, the traits people implicitly associate with “them” can change—think, for instance, about how U.S. perceptions of different immigrant groups have shifted over time. Whether a dividing line is even drawn at all varies from place to place. I grew up in a neighborhood in New York with deep ethnic tensions, only to discover later that Middle America barely distinguishes between my old neighborhood’s “us” and “them.” In fact, some actors spend their entire careers alternating between portraying characters of one group and then the other.

This fluidity and situational dependence is uniquely human.

 

Long story short: we are aggressive as chimps, but we are free to decide what groups we feel we belong to, and thus overcome this aggresiveness.

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Having read Harari's Sapiens since this thread was last on the front page he does make a case that I found convincing about shared myths.  That almost all states, peoples, nations, have some kind of origin story / national story that needs to be maintained in order to keep it all together.  

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I believe that something that brings generations together is music. I really don't think that people forget the 'oldies' at least me and my friends didn't. Even into classical music. I love to chat about music and would love to try to play violin in the future. 

Something that brings people together in a small way is mediation, not meditation, but the act of calming down a fight. That is not exactly a right way of saying what I meant, or even anything was right in this whole post about anything the topic was. 

I'm going to roll with it anyway because I have free will. 

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The ability to empathise... 

I'm not looking at people but animals what brings herds, packs, prides, pods etc etc together, it's not religion... but the ability to feel empathy, to feel compassion for each other, to be able to communicate and have understanding.   It doesn't matter if it's religion, politics, sport, family these four topics are vital for every subject  

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So from a biological standpoint I think this is an amusing place to start - the monkeysphere. It's based on a real study, so don't mind that it comes from Cracked - it's just funnier that way. 

But it's important, because so much of human morality comes from honest to goodness brain wiring and is not taught. There are limits to being able to deal with things like 'what binds us', and it also suggests the solution is far more about proximity to others rather than anything complicated. We've seen this in other studies - where people who are more inclined to be near different ethnicities tend to be significantly more welcoming.

But really, it comes down to how the brain groups people. If another person is not like the people you know, the brain falls back on generics, stereotypes. (It still does, mind you, but those can be overcome for specific individuals). And those stereotypes are easily changed and coerced into something bad. 

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5 hours ago, Kalbear said:

So from a biological standpoint I think this is an amusing place to start - the monkeysphere. It's based on a real study, so don't mind that it comes from Cracked - it's just funnier that way.

Kalbear, this is a great article because it uses funnny concepts to describe very real and very serious stuff. I think the monkeysphere is actually useful to help us understand nationalism (or racism, or politics generally speaking).
Funnily enough I had something similar in mind because years ago I read something extremely similar about how many actual friends you can have on facebook, and the number was a bit over 100. Maybe this Cracked article and the article I read were both based on the same study in the first place.

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3 hours ago, Rippounet said:

think the monkeysphere is actually useful to help us understand nationalism (or racism, or politics generally speaking).

Is it? Monkeysphere (and in-group vs out-group distinction in general) is as old as humans - or even older - appearing in every person in every society ever made. Latter two are not: nationalism, as we now understand it - started to develop only in 19th century. Racism as well - it was fa(aa)r from norm in human history.

I've even heard Harari speak how nationalism could be considered as a step in tight direction. Before, people felt loyalty to their immediate family, friends and colleagues. Nationalism far broadened the scale, making people loyal to millions of strangers whom they've never met before. Next logical step would be to include not only one nation, but entire humanity into that circle of loyalty (as much as human nature allows, of course. People will always i.e. put interests of their kin ahead of interests of stranger; no matter how nationalistic or humanistic they are).

Speaking of which, I think he was on the right track when he wrote about the very issue this thread is about: what binds people together. For smaller numbers (up to Dunbar's number linked by Kalbear): it's informal stuff such as loyalty based of kinhsip or friendship, common goals, shared interests etc. The concept of monkeysphere refers to this type of relationships: always informal and always on personal level. For larger groups, on the other hand, it's always a shared belief in some abstract common myth, and this can be applied to nations, religions, money, political parties etc.

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 because so much of human morality comes from honest to goodness brain wiring and is not taught.

what experiment can authorize this conclusion, which strikes me as one of the most unwarranted inferences ever drawn?

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, sologdin said:

 because so much of human morality comes from honest to goodness brain wiring and is not taught.

what experiment can authorize this conclusion, which strikes me as one of the most unwarranted inferences ever drawn?

I'd honestly like to know what's so terrifying about the possibility the human morality comes in part from brain wiring, from nature as opposed to nurture? If it were indeed the case, how would it it any way diminish our morality or our striving to act in a moral manner?

As to your question - there's a relatively easy way to check this. If large multitude of people have moral reaction (positive or negative) to the same issue, we can pretty safely assume that their moral reaction is natural. For it's exceedingly unlikely that all of these subjects had exactly the same moral upbringing that lead them to execute exactly the same moral judgement. Or even better, check subjects cross-culturally to eliminate the influence of one particular culture.

Famous Ultimatum game is one such example. The experiment goes like this: person A is given 100 bucks, and must divide them in any way between himself and person B. If person B accepts A's suggestion - they both get what A proposed. If B rejects, nobody gets anything. Now, normally you could expect different reactions from different B's to various offers. For example, if offered some ridiculously small amount (like 5 or 10 dollars) - you'd expect that many of them would accept the offer: after all, getting 10 dollars is infinitely better then getting none. But no, all of them furiously rejected. And not only that, they were offended to be even offered such a small amount. Knowing that, A's would not propose such deals, offering either half or close-to-half split in most cases (like 50-50 or 60-40).

So this would suggest, for example, that people have some innate notion of fairness ingrained in them; some sense of fair play and reciprocity. Otherwise, they would not all feel cheated in experiment above. And indeed, if you asked random people about their notion of morality, most would naturally list fairness of a integral part of it. Of course, fairness is not the only element of morality - you could list others as well, such as loyalty or care or purity etc. These may be up to debate. But what I believe is certain is that there are some universal factors upon which humans base their morality; otherwise social mores would not be in part so similar all around the world. Pretty much all societies promoted fairness and kindness within the group (what exactly is a group is a trickier question. It may be a family, tribe or a social class. It goes back to important in-group vs out-group distinction mentioned earlier), punished arbitrary violence, murder or cheating within the group, rewarded loyalty, shown disgust for things they considered impure etc.

Edited by Knight Of Winter
typos

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what's so terrifying

nothing. what is so 'terrifying' about it having nothing to do with anatomy? (see how condescending it is to impute an unflattering emotional state to an interlocutor when it was not present, at all, in the presentation and is not warranted by the colloquy?  maybe edit it away next time?)

brain wiring

why speak in metaphor? where is the scientific precision that the subject warrants?

we can pretty safely assume that their moral reaction is natural

i cannot. am not sure who this 'we' happens to be; it does not appear to be a very cautious collective. to be very severe, the argument presented here draws upon historical rather than genetic evidence. the inference strikes me as unwarranted, similar to inferring the non-existence of black swans from the repeated observation of white ones, or inferring a normative principle from empirical evidence.

check subject cross-culturally to eliminate the influence of one particular culture.

assuming arguendo that the evidence exists, a cultural universal would be necessary rather than sufficient, no?

all of them furiously rejected. And not only that, they were offended to be even offered such a small amount. Knowing that, A's would not propose such a deals,

this is doubly aporetic: how did A make a successful proposition with the knowledge that all of the propositions were already rejected?  i.e., it sounds as though two sets of experiments were conducted, and that the second was contaminated with data from the first.  all the second tells us is how that data may be administered.

Pretty much any society

although inferring 'natural' from historical evidence is unwarranted, more significantly 'pretty much' is not a cultural universal, which kills the claim ab initio.

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4 hours ago, sologdin said:

 because so much of human morality comes from honest to goodness brain wiring and is not taught.

what experiment can authorize this conclusion, which strikes me as one of the most unwarranted inferences ever drawn?

There's a whole lot of study on universal emotions and universal morality out there. The morality one in particular lets me showcase one of the best things of all time yet again - Monkey Unfairness. This also gets into Jonathan Haidt's moral framework theories, which have strong statistical and scientific backing. 

This isn't to say specific moral ratings are set in stone, which I think is where you were getting umbrage. Rather, things like fairness are a universal moral value. What are you being fair about depends a lot on the society and culture, but typically it's like that monkey video. Purity is another one that is common - all cultures have the concept of things that are pure/impure, even if they don't agree on what those are. The idea behind this is that those moral values correspond pretty well to those universal emotional values. Anger and unfairness, disgust and purity, sadness and care/harm, joy and ingroup, fear and authoritarianism. 

These things are fundamentally part of being human. 

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4 hours ago, Knight Of Winter said:

Is it? Monkeysphere (and in-group vs out-group distinction in general) is as old as humans - or even older - appearing in every person in every society ever made. Latter two are not: nationalism, as we now understand it - started to develop only in 19th century. Racism as well - it was fa(aa)r from norm in human history.

 I've even heard Harari speak how nationalism could be considered as a step in tight direction. Before, people felt loyalty to their immediate family, friends and colleagues. Nationalism far broadened the scale, making people loyal to millions of strangers whom they've never met before. Next logical step would be to include not only one nation, but entire humanity into that circle of loyalty (as much as human nature allows, of course. People will always i.e. put interests of their kin ahead of interests of stranger; no matter how nationalistic or humanistic they are).

Speaking of which, I think he was on the right track when he wrote about the very issue this thread is about: what binds people together. For smaller numbers (up to Dunbar's number linked by Kalbear): it's informal stuff such as loyalty based of kinhsip or friendship, common goals, shared interests etc. The concept of monkeysphere refers to this type of relationships: always informal and always on personal level. For larger groups, on the other hand, it's always a shared belief in some abstract common myth, and this can be applied to nations, religions, money, political parties etc.

For me, I think nationalism is an obvious growth from the monkeysphere. Because you cannot hold in your head all of the people of a city, much less a nation, your brain has to do stereotypes - and when people who speak like you, wear clothes like you, groom like you, and care about the same things like you exist, your natural inclination is to say 'that person is good because I am good'. These are markers of being in the same tribe, basically, and play on that ingroup feeling. 

Also, the idea that nationalism didn't exist until the 19th century is farcical, as is the idea that racism didn't exist until recently. Perhaps not racist with respect to a specific skin color, but racism with respect to where people were from has been something recorded for a long time. Racism is a byproduct of the human need to dehumanize people that are being treated inhumanely. It is as old as slavery and war. 

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1 hour ago, Kalbear said:

This also gets into Jonathan Haidt's moral framework theories, which have strong statistical and scientific backing. 

Let's not got carried away here.  The "backing" on such a broad assertion requires more than differences in means experiments (or any statistical methods).  It's more about research design, and isolating the mechanism(s) of causality in a convincing way is very difficult.  I'm not trying to denigrate Haidt's work, but everyone I've ever talked to about it would agree it's still in the evaluation phase.  

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6 hours ago, Knight Of Winter said:

Is it? Monkeysphere (and in-group vs out-group distinction in general) is as old as humans - or even older - appearing in every... [clipped]

Mmn. I'd argue much, much older than that.

I mean, in-group vs out-group distinction is pretty much the core tenet of complex adaptive systems, the organization of matter across more or less every scale, since like... hell, as far back as humanity can speculate. It's transactional. An economy. Perhaps at the heart of all that binds us, or anything maybe, is the *desire for more than what one can individually have, or do, or be. 

 

 

*yes, I'm aware that's an anthropomorphism, but you know what I mean  

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For the love of god, the correct answer has already been given:

On 5/29/2018 at 5:33 PM, Tywin et al. said:

Tacos. The answer is tacos. All other responses are invalid and anyone who disagrees is a thoroughly weak-minded villain. 

Heathens! 

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