29 March 2010

random flashbacks

Lord of the Flies does have one pretty good notion in it. That is that people only tend to do awful things when presented with awful choices (they can also manage to do some of the more incredible things at the same time).

But I always found the depiction of a "savage state" as rather silly. This is probably among the reasons that Survivor always seemed absurd to me. Human beings in such a state more or less have to band together rather than compete in rival alliances for survival. We're not very good at being individuals because we are a social species.

The problem wasn't so much that civilisation is civilized and superior, because it clearly isn't, at least not automatically (see: Holocaust). The problem was that human beings respond to social norms, and those social norms of dominance come from schools. I recall getting into trouble once for asking an authority at a school "why?". I thought this was a modest request for clarification on the need for their intrusion into my daily routine. My prior experiences with authorities had generally been greeted with some openness and respect for my inquisitive nature. Not so much here. I was rather abruptly and rudely informed that if I asked such a question of a policeman I could be beaten or arrested for my intransigence. That I was to comply or else. This was not a line of logic I found particularly compelling in what was in title a free state such as ours. I reacted from this lesson with a considerably larger rebellious streak to my intellectual pursuits and thoughts, and a greater tolerance for the actions of non-comformity (if not the actual pursuit of them myself, given my aversion for violence and the rigidity of prison life). I seriously doubt this was the desired effect of the penalties and abuses of authority therein. I assume that this desired effect was supposed to be something like "I am the hammer and you are the nail wanting to stand out, so fuck you". Authoritarians and their methods do not get along nearly as well as they think they do with people like me, who tend to be their polar opposites in thinking.

So my takeaway was roughly similar to this one. That schoolchildren left to their own devices would copy the social order and organisations imposed on them by schools, using methods such as intelligence or strength to satisfy claims of leadership and deceptions like the conch shell to signify authority. It's possible that younger children might abstain from such controls (in large measure because they have difficulty with the hierarchical structures of society still, such as obedience to their parents). Or that a few children would act in conscience or ask reasonable questions over the use and abuse of authority as I might be thought of as doing in my youth. But violence and strength would suffice where conformity fails, and such children would not be adequately equipped to resist.
Post a Comment