Sunday, December 2, 2012

An Alternative Suggestion for Eliminating Crime

This blog explores the possibility, half-seriously/half playfully that the cause of crime and destructive deeds has the same root cause as achievement and good deeds, the urge to be dominant. It will suggest eliminating crime and violence may only be possible by abstaining from conspicuously good or great deeds, as bad deeds are simply a retaliation to the dominance of high achievers. I will suggest this can be done by having a "neutral" society based on humility, not only in terms of career achievement but even moral ambition. It's my view that societies that approximate this already exist, generally egalitarian hunting and gathering or semi-nomadic peoples for instance (Ref 1.2.3.4.) although there may be additional ways of going about it.

The urge to be dominant, deeply ingrained (but not ever present) in "modern" society, has both instinctive as well as cultural roots (5). Domination is also something that can happen completely innocently and unintentionally. A person is likely to be utterly unaware they're dominating, but those on the receiving end may be acutely aware; they will be in the same compromised position as if it had been deliberate and are likely to respond accordingly, much to the bewilderment of the perpetrator.

Dominance has two know strategies: negative reinforcement, the instinctive form involves inflicting stress, which both perpetrator and victim may be unconscious of (5). The fact that there are far more very tall male CEOs than in the general population is probably an example of such unconscious, instinctive (and obviously unintelligent) dominance determined by stress. The other way to dominate is positive reinforcement, less often complained about because it works by giving people something they want or need. McDonald's would not be so dominant if it didn't provide ads, food and other experiences people love (of course they also use negative reinforcement, legal action against critics for instance).

The problem with positive reinforcement, aside from the fact that it can be a seduction that robs people of their free-will, is the dominant position it puts the successful positive-reinforcer in relation to those who have not contributed as much, for all practical purposes this inequality is no different to that achieved by the negative-reinforcing bully. Dominance is desirable in evolutionary and individualistic (6) terms for a number of reasons, preferential access to resources and mates, freedom of movement, better health due to less stress, monopolization of force, including punishment. The seemingly morally perfect scientist who develops a vaccine that saves millions of lives (and of course unintentionally brings the human race closer to extinction by contributing to over-population) will get all these things more than other people who lack his talent, drive, luck and consequent standing in the community. In terms of dominance he is no different to the alpha-chimp who reigns by terror and violence.

It may be that the dominance that stems from this sort of seemingly morally perfect contribution is what crime and violence are a response to, the violent criminal and the Nobel Prize winning scientist are both after the same thing, dominance, they just go about it in different ways. If the scientist had not invented his stupid vaccine the untalented, lazy or unlucky criminal would not have had to kill someone to compete for dominance. Apparently the targets of  "psychopaths" are often very moral people (7) , this fits, but since this dominance contest is largely unconscious I suspect anyone vulnerable enough will usually do.

As I said there does seem to be anthropological evidence of "primitive" societies, without much in the way of big-shot heroes, or violent villains, everyone can do pretty much what everyone else can do in such societies. They do have fewer medical heroes and consequently higher infant mortality amongst other serious problems, then again they are not threatening the entire human race with extinction as we are with all our wonderful achievements proving how amazing we are.

Most likely if we are to survive as a species we will have to go back to this way of living to some extent, at least most of us most of the time. But there may be ways we can hold onto great, or at least good, achievements without violent criminal blow-back. Perhaps it could be made illegal to take credit for, or personally profit in any way from inventions, discoveries, creations and the like. If no one knows who invented something the inventor is not dominant over the person who hasn't invented anything, so no need to assert dominance in the only way available to the unproductive person: violence and destruction. The internet is crammed with people anonymously benefiting their fellow human, I don't think it's that outlandish.  It's also possible lack of credit would make creativity more geared toward coming up with stuff that benefits humanity as a whole, rather than exploitative, manipulative innovations for personal profit.

I can understand industrialized people finding it hard to see how a society without endless dominance contests would not be utterly boring. I would only say it might be if we were the only species on earth. Adopting neutrality toward one another offers a way out of 'species narcissism'; a way to escape from the trap of staring in the human mirror all the time and seeing beyond to the infinite wonder of the rest of life on earth and developing endlessly meaningful, fulfilling and practical relationships with other living nature. Such personal and practical reliance on nature is probably an essential foundation for truely equal and free relations with each other.

References.

1. Anarchic Solidarity. Autonomy, Equality, and Fellowship in South East Asia. Gibson, Sillander Ed
2. The Eskimo of North Alaska. Chance.
3. The Semai. A Non-Violent People of Malaya. Dentan.
4. The Forest People. Turnbull
5. Biosociology of Dominance and Deference. Mazur
6. Games Primates Play. An Undercover Investigation of the Evolution and Economics of Human
     Relationships. Maestripieri
7. The Sociopath Next Door. Stout.

   


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