monkey marxism 5.30.2005

Yesterday I posted Deconstructing Monkey Politics. In that article I noted an essay which observed a correlation between brain size and the size of a monkey troop--and observed that, calculated by brain volume, the size of a human "troop" should be around 150 people. According to that essay, that is the "monkey sphere": people who reside inside our "monkey sphere" are real to us, people outside are not.

The fact that we are incapable of even understanding the fellow on the freeway yammering away on his cell phone rather than paying attention to us is in fact another human being is simple biology.

This simple observation, that everyone one of us is incapable of grasping those outside the monkey sphere as "real" has far reaching consequences in all fields of life, including politics.

The "monkey sphere" that renders us unable to appreciate people outside our sphere as "real" has two consequences. First, as we are simply incapable of understanding the people outside our sphere are real, it's hard for us to trust them. Thus, from a simple hindbrain perspective, something as complex as Democracy just doesn't compute, emotionally speaking. How can we trust "dumb" (read: outside our monkey sphere) voters who we don't know? That we could even hand over the future to people we cannot see or appreciate: emotionally it strikes us as a really bad idea. It's easy how someone could see the results of an election being "the safe man" selected by a "mediocre mob": they are all outside our monkey sphere.

Likewise, there is a strong sense in our monkey brains to want to simplify things to our ideal troop size. There is a powerful draw to the idea of the final end-state of Communism, where we all retire to our communes--presumably visualized by most people at around 150 people or so--to live in harmony. Oddly enough such communes could be quite stable--and in fact were for tens of thousands of years for the vast majority of the human race.

Once the workers of the world unite and overthrow their bonds, they will eventually retire back to the villages of the pre-industrial era, to live in communes--without private property, sharing in common the efforts of the communist village with their brethren.

Living in a commune is an appealing image. After all, at the back of our brains, where the primitive brain still resides, there is a desire to "simplify" our lives--to remove the excess people which cannot possibly fit in our monkey brains--and to get back to a time where there is a direct relationship between the efforts of our hands and the comforts of our immediate confidants and our extended monkey sphere. Communism appeals to this image, and gives us both a philosophy (of the dialectical method), an economic model (of capital flow representing the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie) and a historic prediction (of the uprising masses) which directly speak to our monkey brains.

This seductive image also forms the basis behind European Primitivism--that notion that the Primitive Man is more spiritually and emotionally evolved than his modern counterpart--which forms the basis of the entire neo-Pagan movement. The idea is even simpler: that the only way man can be happy is to retreat from the mechanized, computerized and capitalized world of modern industry and retreat back to the tribes where we lived as human being for thousands and thousands of years.

The intellectual arguments against both communism and primitivism are staggeringly long, and boil down to several categories: without the benefits of modern medicine how can we be said to be "better off?" Without the benefits of a modern logistical transportation infrastructure, how can we be expected to feed and clothe our current population centers? How can we effectively allow billions to die in order to satisfy economic and social theories that are completely laughable on their face?

Yet how can communism--proven wrong time and time again in places such as Russia, Georgia, Yugoslavia: just about the entire eastern world--survive in some of the most wealthiest intellectual centers that capitalism has developed? How can something as demonstrably ill-conceived as primitivism--which is readily denounced by most peoples who are descendant from the original primitivists themselves--still carry so much weight that it attracts millions to religious and pseudo-religious movements which use primitivism as a cornerstone philosophy?

Because it appeals to our monkey brains.

It is worth noting that as an economic model, communism is an abject failure. So is socialism, which is related to communism in that it reduces the size of our "monkey sphere" by eliminating the influence we perceive from voters and corporations--people outside of our monkey sphere. Both are abject failures for the same reason why governments and larger economic, philosophical and organizational structures evolved in the first place: it takes more than a village of a hundred souls to allow us to survive, to thrive, and to grow. Just the number of people involved in creating the Internet, the company who hosts this blog, and the computer manufacturer which made your computer is many times larger than a village of a hundred souls. And this blog is not essential to your existence.

Once you get beyond a village of a hundred fifty, you need tokens of trade to allow your village or individuals therein to interact in a fair way with people they are biologically incapable of comprehending as human beings (call it, oh, say, "money"), and you need a corporate memory (writing, libraries, scribes and recorders) to sort out who has what, and some form of stability as to who owns what (private property) and how people can interact with those they do not know (laws) in order to create stability for the tribe which necessarily must be larger than what we can comprehend.

Communism and its relative, primitivism, are useless.

Even though both are thoroughly discredited cries by our monkey brains to override the forebrains which should know better, they still provide us fantastically romantic images of survival and friendship which appeals to the simplicity we all desire, but can never have. (Or rather, can never have unless we are willing to sacrifice billions to starvation while shortening our own lifespan by decades, giving up all of the comforts of modern life in the process.)

So images of majestic knights in shining armor fighting for their villages, of the Amish living in serenity building barns for each other, and villages full of elder grandmotherly-types placing hot apple pies to cool in the window will always tickle our fancy--even though the life of knights are brutish, the Amish suffer significant cultural problems--including problems with drugs, and the grandmotherly Aunt Bea free of any problems offering sage advice while her nephew skins apples only resides in the imagination of the writers of the "Andy Griffith Show."

posted by William Woody at 8:15 PM

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A moderate conservative living in the left coast, surrounded by the sureal, wonders if there is a sane life living amongst those who have lost touch with reality.

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