The last blog post here compared society to a living entity resembling a brain, in the sense that a healthy development would result from the formation of new “synapses”, i.e. new connections, relationships, bridges. But describing society in this way can give rise to misunderstanding.
It’s only an analogy however sometimes, people do a “flat” analysis resulting in a literal interpretation. Comparing society to a brain could lead to the mistaken notion that a community somehow subsumes or absorbs people, erasing the individual. But it’s not a zero-sum transaction.
Joining a community in a meaningful, substantive way does not mean that you “lose yourself” or your individuality. People who believe that tend to view human interactions like mathematics. If I give you something, this means that you gain, while I lose. This is mathematical and symmetrical. But if I connect with you in a real genuine sense of two people recognizing one another, both of us gain something, and neither of us loses.
Making social or community connections strengthens or reinforces the individual. It’s not like math at all. Neither is society like physics. Picture a platform that works opposite to the way that gravity works. As each person jumps onto it, the platform rises upward. The more people that jump onto this platform, the faster it rises. This is the opposite of how we understand physics, but it describes what a developing society is like. It grows as people join, however nobody loses anything in the process. It’s all a net gain. To use the anti-gravity platform analogy again, as more people join, this lightens its weight and gives it a more ethereal quality.
As any society or community becomes more ethereal in nature when more people join it, it begins to resemble less and less of a solid shape. The expression “social fabric” is misleading because a fabric exists in a certain physical form, normally flat and two dimensional. But even if a fabric is three dimensional, its form is still static. This is why the expression “fabric of society” is misleading – because society is never static. Another way of looking at this is that a fabric can be torn by something sharp. Maybe this is why some people continue to do violence – maybe they are trying to “tear at the fabric of society”. But society is not a “thing” like a piece of fabric which could ever be “torn”. Rather, it is a living breathing entity, changing all the time with whatever happens. The nature of any community is changed when violence happens within it, however the community itself could never be destroyed. It’s not a “thing” in the material sense, so it’s not subject to physical destruction by virtue of anybody acting upon it. Not even damaging words or ideas could “tear” or ruin a functioning society or community in any way.
Another quality of communities is that they are very resilient. Sometimes it seems as if certain individuals have assigned themselves, or have been assigned, the “duty” of “holding hatred”. It’s as if everything they do is designed to maintain hatred as a “quality” within a certain community. But what ends up happening is that people learn how to disregard these people as anomalies. As a society develops and grows via new connections and bridges between formerly separated groups and individuals, there is less and less room for hatred and fear. And as hateful individuals begin to feel more and more left out, they would have a greater tendency to strike out, through either words or actions. This downward spiral of behaviour unfortunately pushes these outsiders more and more to the margins in a vicious circle.
Although sometimes if a person has been hurtful, it’s tempting to want to exclude them, we can’t do that. Nobody could be truly excluded – because they are here. They can only be sidelined, however they remain with us. Sidelining people doesn’t accomplish anything. It just makes the problem worse. Forcefully trying to include people who are determined to remain as “outsiders” also doesn’t seem to work. The only solution then would be tolerance and understanding. If a person feels invisible, unwanted, and perhaps they have done things that they can’t take back which have caused damage, they would need a way out of their situation which restores balance to their relationship with the rest of us. This would likely involve some form of restitution, after which they should be welcomed back. But this often has to be their own choice, because there are so many people around the fringes of society that we can’t really keep track of everyone.
It’s easy to imagine that people who have been living on the fringes, outsiders, those who have rejected society because they mistakenly believed that joining would “erase” them, could add a valuable dimension to our collective. They have unique insights and they have had to be creative in order to survive. They probably have “life hacks” that most of us have never dreamed of. They would have a lot to contribute, if we could ever find a way to build a bridge between us and them, allowing them to cross if and when they felt able and willing to do that. It’s about time that we acknowledge that the “haters” among us have become lost, maybe due to their fears that being part of a community would somehow subsume or absorb them, leaving nothing. That’s a major error and it’s just not true.
If people would just stop thinking about human relationships in a “flat” manner, as if it relates somehow to math or physics, then we would all be much better off. I hope that what I’m trying to say here isn’t carved up until little bits for literal consumption. There’s an overall message here but sometimes that can get lost in translation, when people try to divide it up into “parcels” for ease of understanding, and then apply piecemeal aspects of this too literally. It’s better to just read, try to absorb, but don’t do anything with it. Just let it seep in and then, as you go about your daily life, try to see whether or not what I say here is true. Analyze the entire picture rather than bits and pieces, and see where it takes you.