ajax18 wrote: ↑
Thu Aug 04, 2022 2:42 am
If you don’t have that sense, there are ways to develop it.
What would be your motivation for developing this sense of commonality?
I try to cultivate it in myself, so here are the reasons why I do that. First, it reduces my overall level of anger and frustration, which leads me to treat my family, friends, acquaintances and strangers with more respect, kindness, and civility. I feel happier and better about myself as a person when I do that, and, for the most part people respond in kind. Again, as a generality, people respond to others with reciprocal behavior: anger begets anger and kindness begets kindness. When the latter happens, that's two people who are happier as a result of my interaction with them.
Second, it reduces anxiety. I'm prone to both anxiety and depression. I've had anxiety to the point that I feel completely paralyzed -- unable to do anything. It's easy to get sucked into the sensationalism and polarization encouraged by mainstream, partisan, and social media. There are no more problems that we can sit down and figure out solutions to: everything is an existential crisis. All people can do is lash out because to do otherwise means the end of life the universe and everything. It's hyper stimulation of the body/brain's fight or flight (or its more modern expanded versions), and because there is nowhere to flee to, it's fight, fight, fight, fight. Disagreements among people become wars among enemies.
My humble little brain wasn't built for danger alarms 24/7. The systems that worked pretty well when my ancestors needed to avoid predators on the plains of Africa haven't had a chance to evolve to cope with the firehose of danger signals that never stop bombarding me. The part of my brain that thinks it reasons is the most recent part of my brain to evolve, and it's fragile. It's easily override by the the systems that operate without my conscious awareness of them being triggered. Developing a sense of community and commonality helps my brain filter the danger signals better. Rather than getting caught up in a whirlwind of anger, contempt, and hatred, my brain grounds its thinking in what I have in common with my fellow humans. Existential crises deescalate back into problems that are solvable by my fellow humans. Enemies become fellow humans I have disagreements with. Racheting down the overall level of danger warnings allows me to act on those problems I can do something about instead of being paralyzed by anxiety. And it gives me the perspective I need to set aside things I can do nothing about rather than let worrying about them get in my way. I feel happier, calmer, and more productive. I like my life much, much better when I feel this sense of commonality.
Third, I feel less lonely. I don't feel like it's me against the world. I only feel that way if I view everyone else as being fundamentally different from me. Flipping that notion to emphasize commonalities rather than differences lets me appreciate that others have the same types of problems and struggles that I do. I don't think it's the same as having, say, a religious community. But it has that same feeling.
Fourth, I've become convinced that the basis of individualism is a mistake. Many priming studies have shown that our behavior is influenced by the nature of our interactions with others in so many ways that we are not aware of that thinking of ourselves as completely independent entities is counter to our actual nature. The Ajax that existed before you started reading this post is not the Ajax that exists right now. Thoughts you have, decisions you make, and behaviors you engage in will be different because you read this post. But you won't be aware of them because they occur in the part of your brain that runs without your conscious input. Because every interaction with one of your fellow humans changes you, the notion that we are all independent agents is simply wrong. Developing a sense of commonality is more in line with our evidence of how the brain works than pretending each of us is an island.
Finally, civilization, especially our modern civilization, is built on interdependence and cooperation. Without it, the civilization collapses, resulting in massive human suffering. Take the Texas power grid as an object lesson. One of the problems of electricity generation and distribution is how to handle peak loads. The powers that be in Texas decided that they wanted a strictly market based system, which, of course, is premised on decisions by individuals. So, they essentially disconnected their grid from the rest of the country so they would not be subject to federal regulations. The free market would create that best of all possible worlds -- the most efficient production and allocation of electricity, resulting in lower costs for all.
There is just one little problem. Running out of electricity is, well, bad. It literally kills one's citizens. The way utilities typically handle this problem is to have excess generating capacity that can be brought on line when needed. But, there's no profit in having generators just sitting around most of the year. With a profit maximizing private market system, there is no incentive to build excess capacity. Even worse, because electricity is rationed in periods of high demand by increasing the price to consumers, the power generators have higher profits when there is a shortage of electricity than when there is plenty to go around. As a result, during periods of extreme temperatures, Texas are faced with crushing utility bills and a grid that fails.
If Texas were connected to a national energy grid through which electricity could be shuffled around, Texas wouldn't need as much excess generating capacity for its own power grid. Right now, it's a very comfortable 61 degrees outside, with a projected high of 67. As opposed to a few days ago, no one is running air conditioning. I never use my furnace during the summer (in fact, I turn it off). We've got excess capacity here that could be tapped by another place in the U.S. that is short of power, if we have an interconnected energy grid that allows us to shuffle power around. I know we do it with at least parts of Canada as well as with California. And I haven't looked at how interconnected we are in a long time.
The interconnected power grid that my state is a part of benefits everyone connected through interdependence and cooperation. And you can multiply this example by a million if you just start taking a look at how the world actually works today. The sense of commonality among fellow humans is the foundation for the cooperation and interdependence that is our modern civilization. The current hyper individualism and partisan conflict in the U.S. is corrosive to what makes modern civilization work.
I'm sure there's more, but that's not a bad list.