Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Social Distance: An Anthropological Perspective
With the current pandemic of the Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) there has been a lot of discussion about Social Distancing in order to slow the transmission rate between people. And in fact this particular virus may have originated from humans being in close contact with animals like the Pangolin (a zoonosis). We’re being advised to avoid crowds, but nobody (to the best of my knowledge) is advising us to avoid “making” crowds. We need to “think outside the Pyramid” and recognize the singular most important problem facing humankind- global human overpopulation.
The Human Species is a paradox- we evolved to be the most social mammal (the evolution of Language qualifies that statement)- our social cooperation kept our ancestors from following the Australopithecines into extinction in the East African woodlands. We have a Social Imperative to make and live in social groups, but these were small groups where every individual was known- cooperation was the norm while competition was not, because it could be potentially disruptive to the group.
However, after the Domestication Development around 10,000 years ago, human population densities increased to the extent that humans had to adapt by creating social and political structures in order to minimize disruptions. Social competition became the “new normal” creating ranking within the group, and stratification between groups. Nonetheless, over the past millennia, disruptions and violence have been increasing. These include xenophobia in all of its manifestations, and of course violence in all of its manifestations.
Humans are not naturally competitive and violent, and it’s not natural for humans to harm other humans. So “social distancing” has been, and still is being used when it’s employed in war and genocide (dehumanization). And of course that helps us to understand the phenomenon of polarization. The human world has become so crowded that we actively seek social distancing from others- even to the point of fictionalizing differences (aka stereotyping). Crowding stress is a perception tailored by culture and personality. So while we voluntarily congregate in incredibly large crowds, in other situations where we feel a loss of control, stress may ensue.
Machiavelli understood how crowding stress and negative emotions can be used for political gain. And today we see many of the world’s “leaders” use hate, fear, and loathing in order to motivate their political base.
Global human overpopulation is a genuine pandemic. It is the factor in anthrogenic climate change, density dependent diseases (DDD), and density dependent social pathologies (DDSP). The meaning of life is reproduction, but we do have a choice: either voluntary limits or let Mother Nature do it. The current CoV-19 pandemic will fade, but not our overpopulation pandemic….unless.
Population density matters.
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