Home » Evolutionary psychology » Man is ever a wolf to man! – or maybe sometimes just another slowly moving barrier against the wind?

Man is ever a wolf to man! – or maybe sometimes just another slowly moving barrier against the wind?

Last Friday night, I was crammed tight into the Toronto subway along with thousands of other warm bodies moving slowly north. The train slowed to inchworm pace and we received a message: Personal injury at track level.

You know as well as I do what that means. Everyone did.

Thousands of us were dumped out against a chill north wind at the city’s central intersection (Yonge & Bloor), milling around, waiting for shuttle buses that rarely came.

A great opportunity for violence, right? You know, competition, selfish genes, survival of the fittest … Nah. There was none. A few crazy people were yelling at themselves and a splitting couple was yelling at each other. People passively cleared whatever space was available, so that they could carry on.

In one of the most multicultural environments on Earth, no one had an opinion except dispraise of the transit commission. But that’s routine social noise. As most acknowledged, what IS the commission supposed to do when someone decides to … ?

One shop clerk told me, “My husband drives subway. He’s been in a few of these. It takes a while to get the driver calmed down. They want to quit. And then you have to get the train out of there, as well as get the … ”

… get the … ah, yes, I understand.

Just think, it never occurred to anyone I heard from (and I heard from plenty) that we should not all pause in our thousands in the whipping wind, while this tragic matter was addressed.

A fundamental characteristic of humans is awareness of the significance of death.

Finally, the subway opened again, and the passive crowd flowed north like a massive wave.

I’d be far more interested in studies of large, passive crowds (the type with which I am familiar) than studies of the alleged selfish gene.

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2 Responses to Man is ever a wolf to man! – or maybe sometimes just another slowly moving barrier against the wind?

  1. If you are interested in the study of crowds, one of the foremost studies here, and original and frankly brilliant, is Elias Canetti’s “Crowds and Power”. Canetti, who won the Nobel prize in literature, put forward a thesis that human crowds resemble – no more to the point – are living oganisms in their own right; and that different kinds/types of crowds, with differing motivations and impulses are analogous to living organisms in their dynamics. That is the metamorphosis of crowds, their multiple stages – birth of the crowd, its growth, stagnation and ‘death’ share the dynamics of organisms.

    He categorised the different types of crowds according to their differing dynamics, as one would different species of animals.

    He did not mean this as mere analogy, to him crowds were living things, and the whole was greater than the sum of its parts (ie the people who make up the crowd). He also looked at the lynch mob, a special kind of destructive crowd and his insights here are profound.

    To Canetti, this was not a dry academic ivory tower inquiry, he was a Bulgarian born Jew who managed to escape to England in 1938, fleeing the Nazis just in time.

    It is very difficult to reconcile Canetti’s ideas on crowds with the idiocy that is evolutionary psychology. In fact it is nigh impossible short of the most warped contortions and mental gymnastics. In fact Canetti’s ideas on crowds are anatagonistic to scientific materialism as a whole, perhaps more so than Canetti himself may have recognised (but I am no authority on Canetti, so I cannot comment too much here, I don’t want to go out on a limb).

    It is worthwhile for any ID friendly psychologist/sociologist or anthropologist and the like to look into Canetti’s ‘Crowds and Power’. In fact it is a must-read – one is only rewarded by its originality and profundity.

    Canetti btw did study chemistry, but his fame was in literature.

  2. He did not mean this as mere analogy, to him crowds were living things, and the whole was greater than the sum of its parts (ie the people who make up the crowd).

    One who starts with a false premise can “prove” anything. And premises don’t come much falser than “the whole was greater than the sum of its parts”.

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