I was talking with a friend today ( outside by minus 20 degrees Celsius of all places ) when I began to develop the nagging impression that he was under a grave if common misconception.
So I interrupted him softly and said ;”Could you please just answer this question : Is Man a social animal?”
“Why yes, of course, are we not? “, he replied.
Shoot! Once more, I had to dispel that voodoo/mysticism inspired bit of modern folklore. Not wanting to disregard my About page’s statement to the effect : that time could be saved by posting definitive versions of his simple thoughts and tongue-in-cheek queeries , I came back to you with this post. And here it goes! A gentle if strict Austrian man thoroughly obsessed with sex and drugs worked out a respectable theory around his understanding of what he perceived the human psyche to be and how it worked. The Psyche comes from the Greek for breathe and represents in Freud’s works the global environment of man’s “feelings and intelligence”, the soul and the mind. The poor Father of psychoanalysis separates this combo in three layers of the id, subconscious ( not under voluntary control ) that manages biological functions and would be the animalistic level, the superego which is also subconscious concerns the conscience of society and self and is thus a control mechanism of moral or pre-ethical validation over the id and the ego, the real conscious you as a singular thinking being that supposedly manages the previous two.
Without going too far into it, let’s see the id as bringing need to action by guise of drives. Those drives can be controlled by the superego but the ego can contradict the initial order and let them loose or refrain the accepted ones. Good! Save that when the ego cannot choose, that sparks a feeling known as anxiety.
The limits faced by our nice thinker were his own. First, although giving the mind layers was quite a breakthrough for the period, the sex drive was seen by Freud as major. Death or life counted but sex more than all and must then be a social need extraordinaire! If we were Bonobos, he’d have been right but even then, even discounting as he was, all the people that accomplish things of worth for reasons not at all pertaining to sex, the social tag was erroneous and yet endured because since his musings got spread around a lot in the first two-thirds of the 20th century and became popular, it became a common snippet of knowledge that we are social animals. Which is wrong for so many reasons!
First, Freud said social beings not animals. It is the philosophical creature, he calls social. Even if he had meant it otherwise, our second reason is that he goes on to define the proper entourage of friends for a sane person to be around 30 people! Thirty? In ethology, that is the size of a group as it almost is in statistics. So third reason, why would you want an animal that is found to be at ease with close relations to do so with endless files of people? So, like huh duh of course, it cannot work as Freud himself shows by implying the individual’s control of his behaviour is superior to the control brought forth by social conventions which is also why the latter creates tension in the subject, i.e. anxiety.
You got the idea; enough! If you really need to research that kind of things, I’d recommend Carl Jung instead.
As most stupid ideas that get a moment of fame, that one permeated, seeped through the elite from university professors to social workers to … everybody. And can still be demonstrated wrong here without much of a chance of being dispelled but here it is : Bees and ants are social animals and to a lesser point some birds and fish; humans, wolfes, monkeys, dolphins, lions are GREGARIOUS.
WE LIVE IN GROUPS!
Anyone surprised? 30+ members means that at an encampment 12 hunters, 12 gatherers and 12 that stay put. At a friend’s apartment, a correct party! In the military, a platoon is 25 to 50+ soldiers. Etc.
But more than giving you examples of groups, let me show you the opposite : in a societal animal structure, any member is a unit to an uncountable ensemble. When ants loose a worker, any other worker can take over. So that if you think that we are social animals, it means that you believe that you could be replaced by anyone else without anyone noticing? That we are so functionally alike to one another that each member is indifferently permutable? So if some nice bloke comes through the door of your flat tonight that is not your husband, it won’t matter? That Einstein or Galileo are equivalent in all respect to each other or to Joe the plumber? That were you to die no one would notice as long as a replacement came at work, home or the Golf club?
I am very sorry but, bad thrown in with good, I for one am certainly not identical to my neighbor. I am not an interchangeable unit.
Not only can I proudly assess so for myself since I think therefore I am as wrote Descartes but I’ve been told enough by now in my life that I was like no other ( if not always as a compliment, sigh )
to corroborate the fact. I will behave socially with grace as I believe it necessary and proper but the people that I trust are my gang, a small lot. My group, my gaggle, my flock …
Take care of those you call your own and keep good company, my daddy said to me as he dandled me on his knees … and he didn’t mean them billions of Chinese!
Sorry for the Chinese, no disrespect intended and sorry for the social workers too.
Good night, Tay. *
* Signed Tay, cuz’ it’s my blog** you see, not yours so not your name or your landlord’s. The very fact we name ourselves scream individual and negates brick in the wall!
** “My preyyyyciooooouuuuuuuuus!”
P.S. If anyone notices at last, yes, it reads queeries as in queer query which a composite definition by dictionary gives as : odd or unbalanced mentally; eccentric or slightly mad question, especially one expressing doubt, uncertainty, or an objection hence Lapse of Reason, Definitive referring to the fact that I do not intend to relent.