What Will People Think?

August 15, 2010 at 1:27 pm (By Realpc)

My mother always advised me not to worry what people think. Of course I questioned her advice — what would happen if I really didn’t care? And of course she didn’t mean what she said. She was really just rebelling against old fashioned conservative ideas. Worrying about what people think used to go without saying, because the social group was always more important than the individual — the whole was more than its parts. And that has probably been true in every society — human or animal — except for our modern liberal society. Now the parts often seem to be valued more than the whole.

But not really. We all care, very deeply, what other people think. We might not worry about it consciously, but our subconscious mind is always hard at work, paying careful attention to the infinitely intricate and subtle details of social life. We must resonate with some kind of social context. When liberals like my mother say they don’t care what the neighbors think, they actually mean they don’t care what the old-fashined conservative neighbors think.

People who really don’t care are the ones who don’t resonate with any social group. And they are, by definition, insane.

An old belief said that each society, human or animal, has its group mind. The group minds, or “over souls,” might exist on every level. Each village could have its group mind, and so could every household. In other words, I am talking about gods. A god is a unifying force that holds societies, and sub-societies, together.

So if you resonate with modern liberal humanism and atheism, for example, your subconscious mind is a devoted worshiper of a god that rules over that belief system and holds its followers together.

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42 Comments

  1. Jason (the commenter) said,

    Our society doesn’t like people who care too much for what others think. So if you do care what other people think, you shouldn’t show it.

    An old belief said that each society, human or animal, has its group mind. The group minds, or “over souls,” might exist on every level. Each village could have its group mind, and so could every household.

    That’s the atheist position, that god is a figment of people’s imaginations. Where did this “old belief” come from exactly? I’d like a source.

  2. Donna B. said,

    “Worrying about what people think used to go without saying, because the social group was always more important than the individual — the whole was more than its parts. And that has probably been true in every society — human or animal — except for our modern liberal society. Now the parts often seem to be valued more than the whole.”

    Not exactly true. Jacque Barzun’s “From Dawn to Decadence” is loosely organized around the historical pendulum swinging from a preference for individualism to collectivism and back again… wash, rinse, repeat.

  3. realpc920 said,

    “That’s the atheist position, that god is a figment of people’s imaginations.”

    No, that is not at all what they meant. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Over-soul

    But I am also connecting it with ideas from alternative science: Sheldrake’s morphic resonance, which is also related to Plato’s philosophy. And lots of other ancient ideas.

  4. realpc920 said,

    “Not exactly true. Jacque Barzun’s “From Dawn to Decadence” is loosely organized around the historical pendulum swinging from a preference for individualism to collectivism and back again… wash, rinse, repeat.”

    Yes, come to think of it — leftist ideology includes both liberal individualism and socialist collectivism. Making it an impossible ideology to follow.

  5. realpc920 said,

    “if you do care what other people think, you shouldn’t show it.”

    Well of course. You also can’t seem proud of how successful you are, because pride is annoying. Yet we are all going around wondering how successful everyone is compared, to us. And we’re all constantly worrying if people think we’re successful. Artistic or creative types rebel against all that of course, and refuse to be a conformist status seeker. However that long ponytail is a sure sign you are so talented your boss doesn’t mind how you look.

  6. wj said,

    I think the gist of the admonishment (at least when my mother said it to me) is “Don’t worry too much about what other people will think — doing the right thing is more important.”

    What other people think, i.e. your reputation, is important. Especially if, like most of us, you live and work in a relatively small community. (“Community” being the people you interact with; the hordes in your vicinity with whom you have no interactions are irrelevant to the discussion.)

    But reputation is not more important than doing the right thing. And, my mother would have continued (should any of us needed to ask), if you do the right thing, the people who matter will recognize it. A bit of a tautology, of course — since those who do not recognize the fact that you have tried to do the right thing are, by definition, people who don’t matter.

  7. Donna B. said,

    me – “Not exactly true. Jacque Barzun’s “From Dawn to Decadence” is loosely organized around the historical pendulum swinging from a preference for individualism to collectivism and back again… wash, rinse, repeat.”

    realpc – “Yes, come to think of it — leftist ideology includes both liberal individualism and socialist collectivism. Making it an impossible ideology to follow.”

    That makes absolutely no sense at all.

  8. realpc said,

    Donna, I was agreeing with you. Liberalism now days is associated with socialism. So when I said liberalism is focused on the individual, not the society, I was talking about the original form of liberalism.

  9. realpc said,

    “Don’t worry too much about what other people will think — doing the right thing is more important.”

    But we can’t possibly know what the “right thing” is, outside of a social context. I guess what your mother meant is you should only care about what certain people think, not others. She probably felt, subconsciously, that some people are better than others. And we naturally think the people we resonate with are better.

    So your mother was sort of saying the same thing as mine: Don’t worry about those bad people who are outside our tribe, because they don’t k now what’s right.

  10. Donna B. said,

    Thanks for clarifying that real. Nowadays when I hear or read “leftist ideology” I associate it with “progressive” not classic liberalism.

    I disagree that it’s impossible to follow, though. I think it’s the only one we modern humans have a chance of following that doesn’t include some form of dictatorship and tyranny. (Modern being defined as after we invented writing.)

  11. realpc said,

    Donna,

    I meant that leftism, or progressivism, is impossible to follow, because it includes two contradictory ideologies. Liberalism is ok, in moderation. It has given us all our freedom. Freedom has a big price, of course, but it’s nice that we had a chance to experience it.

    Progressives now days are incoherent utopianists. They want freedom to be and do whatever they want, and they also expect to be cared for and nurtured by a parental central government.

  12. realpc said,

    There is also another dimension to my mother’s advice, which is sensible, and which I never was able to comprehend. I think she meant we shouldn’t think TOO MUCH about what people think. Constantly worrying what people think about ME is, paradoxically, self-centered. When we are resonating harmoniously with the gods of our tribes, we don’t have to worry what anyone thinks about us. We’re ok, they’re ok.

    So, I guess, any time my mother sensed that I was out of harmony, she would give the same advice: Don’t worry what people think. But it never did help, because I never did understand what it was supposed to mean. Now, maybe, I do.

  13. realpc said,

    And this can all be framed in the context of the Israelites in the Old Testament, and their precarious relationship with Yahweh.

  14. wj said,

    I’m not sure that I agree that “we can’t possibly know what the ‘right thing’ is, outside of a social context.” To accept that is to take the anthropological concept of “cultural relativism” to it’s logical conclusion: that any possible behavior is acceptable, if that is what the local culture approves of. Which gets especially dicey when you start trying to decide what constitutes a “local culture.”

    To take an obvious example: if the local culture happens to be that of a criminal gang, is it then OK to steal, kill those outside the gang whenever it happens to be convenient (or merely amusing) to do so, etc.? And we don’t even have to get into straight genocide (wherever practiced).

    There may be an alternative beyond the obvious: that there are some moral absolutes. (Not that all of those things claimed to be moral absolutes necessarily are. But some of them.) But I do not recall a good third option. Feel free to enlighten me, if someone has an idea.

  15. realpc said,

    wj,

    No, I don’t think any possible behavior is acceptable. You would not find every possible behavior in human or animal cultures, although you would find a lot of diversity. If your tribe practices cannibalism, then cannibalism is the right thing. But cannibalism is not practiced just any old way. There is a right way to practice it, and they have their reasons, strange as it might seem to us. I do not think we are more right than they are. Yes I believe in cultural relativism, to a limited degree.

    There are some general rules about what is right or wrong, but they are very vague. We can’t say that killing is wrong because sometimes it is right. We can’t say it’s right to do things for others and wrong to be selfish, because selfishness is healthy, within limits.

    Ok, if you can think of an example where there there is a clear right thing and a clear wrong thing, I would like to hear it. Usually when the right thing is obvious, we don’t even have to think about it. We just do it. It’s right to look before you cross the street. No moral dilemma there.

    But I would like to hear an example of a moral dilemma with a right choice and a wrong choice. They are not very common. Usually all options are partly right and partly wrong. Most moral decisions are a compromise. We harm someone else or we harm ourselves, and the compromise results in harming everyone, but to a lesser degree.

    So whenever I hear anyone talk about about doing the right thing, I am always skeptical. I always think they must be resonating with a tribe, and are not trying to see alternative perspectives.

  16. Donna B. said,

    Well then, I’m still confused. I see absolutely no similarity in classical liberalism and progressivism. They are, IMHO, directly opposed.

    Classic liberalism posits that what is generally good for the individual will also generate good for the collective — the rising tides raises all boats theme.

    Progressivism posits that an individual should not profit if the collective also does not in equal terms. It’s the “should” that makes it untenable. It’s the idea that if your action doesn’t make my boat float equally to yours, you shouldn’t do it regardless the effect on your boat and even if it floats my boat a little better than it was before.

    Equality before the law is very good. Same goes for equality of opportunity. But equality of outcome sucks. That would mean that no one should be a better artist or artisan than I am! Or you are.

    To me, an example of what progressivism means is that Amba should never use her ability with words or her ability to see multiple facets of an issue because that might make me feel bad that I don’t possess the same talent or education or skill.

    Classical liberalism celebrates the good those abilities can do for all of us.

  17. Donna B. said,

    And… real – I suspect we agree about much on this subject but are using different terms/different definitions. That’s why I tried to define my understanding of them.

  18. amba12 said,

    A bit off topic, but my father gave me one piece of advice before I left for college: “Don’t ever do anything just because everybody else is doing it.” I recognized it even then as very good advice. And, of course, I ignored it.

  19. wj said,

    “Don’t ever do anything just because everybody else is doing it.” sounds like pretty much identical advice to “don’t worry about what other people think [about what you are doing or not doing].” It is advice that something may be the wrong thing to do, even if it is (at that time) the cultural norm. It isn’t easy, going against the norm of the culture that you are in — even if only temporarily. But it may be, contra real, it may be the right thing to do none the less.

    And, real, consider killing someone — someone who has never done you (or anyone else that you know of) any harm. Just because your social group values the ability and willing ness to kill those outside the group. Which, FYI, describes the gang culture in an unfortunately large number of places. I would submit that, even if you are a police undercover operative trying to work your way into the gang for some good and legitimate reason, that is a price too high.

    If you can think of a reason/rationale why that is not a clear-cut case of right and wrong, I would be interested in your reasoning.

  20. realpc said,

    “Well then, I’m still confused. I see absolutely no similarity in classical liberalism and progressivism. They are, IMHO, directly opposed.”

    Yes, I know that Donna. I was just saying they have become merged together in leftism today.

  21. realpc said,

    wj,

    I did not say there aren’t people who do things that are harmful to society, and/or to themselves. There is all kinds of craziness and evil in the world. I meant that for most of us most of the time it’s all shades of grey. I would like to hear an example of something in an ordinary person’s life where they did the “right thing.” Where it wasn’t just the obvious thing to do, and where no difficult compromise was involved.

  22. realpc said,

    “Don’t ever do anything just because everybody else is doing it.”

    Yeah but sometimes there are good reasons why everyone else is doing something. At least we have to notice.

  23. wj said,

    real, I’m guessing that by “ordinary person” you mean someone in the general American culture. (Being in that culture, it naturally becomes more challenging to see its flawed beliefs than from the outside.) I’m also guessing that you don’t want an example from the arena where the advice us usually directed: high school students or college students. I’ll have to give that some thought.

    Although I would submit that, if you happen to be born in the wrong part of almost any big American city, an “ordinary person” can find themselves in a (sub)culture which, to you or I, seems pathological. Not to mention growing up in Germany in the 1930s or Rawanda in the 1990s. Or, closer to home, growing up a relatively wealthy white person in the deep South in the early 1800s.

    The point is that, while “what is right” has IMHO some absolutes, what someone growing up learns from their culture can contradict that. And, until or unless you stop and think about the subject, you may not see it. You may not even see the internal contradictions. Consider the honestly devout believers whose religion says that they should treat everybody as they would wish to be treated, but who don’t notice the contradiction to the way that absolute caveat emptor way that they run their business. The two are incompatible, but holding both is not unheard-of, is it?

  24. realpc said,

    wj,

    Our moral beliefs are a contradictory mess, and I don’t believe anyone who claims to understand them or who really can tell me what is the “right thing.” And the reason our morality is so irrational, maybe, is that it’s hard to live with a lot of guilt. So everyone finds ways to convince themselves that they know what the “right thing” is and they generally do it.

    The “right thing” comes from whatever culture we are immersed in. Gang members may feel justified in killing because their close friends might have been killed by the enemy gang. Or whatever.

    I do not see consistency or rationality in our moral systems. I don’t really see absolutes. We know it’s absolutely wrong to torture and murder innocent victims for no reason. But we also suspect that anyone who does this has a severe mental disorder, which somehow compels them.

    But our fiction is full of clear moral cases. Our fiction does NOT reflect reality. You will never, or almost never, find anyone who does bad things, and knows he does bad things, and considers himself a bad person.

    The greedy business person doesn’t know he’s greedy. He is striving for success, which is considered an American virtue. And how can you draw the line between normal striving and obsessive greed?

    We are two very incompatible moral systems at the base of our society — Christianity and liberal individualism. You can’t possibly follow both, but millions of Americans try.

  25. Donna B. said,

    “We are two very incompatible moral systems at the base of our society — Christianity and liberal individualism. You can’t possibly follow both, but millions of Americans try.”

    That’s a false dichotomy.

  26. realpc said,

    I didn’t say it was a dichotomy. I said they are incompatible. And they are our two major ideologies.

  27. realpc said,

    wj,

    Think of all the many decisions you make every day. None, or almost none, of them can ever be described as the “right thing.” Whatever you spend time on, you could have spent that time on something else. Every time you do what someone else wants, but you don’t feel like doing, you are depriving yourself. And every time you please yourself, you may be depriving someone else. And when you do what person X requested, you could have spent the time serving person Y. Should you prefer relatives over friends, friends over society in general? What about your own inner dreams and goals? What happens when your loved ones don’t share or understand them?

    Every minute of your time has to be allocated somehow, and all these competing demands must be balanced. But how? By always choosing the “right thing” from the many competing options?

    Yes we know that certain options are obviously not the right thing. Some people do them anyway and tell themselves it’s ok because everyone else cheats on their income tax, or on their wife, etc. Some people do the wrong thing out of desperation or misery. Others do it just because they can get away with it.

    So maybe when you talked about doing the right thing, you actually meant that you would not knowingly do something that we all know is wrong. That’s pretty simple, most of the time. It’s easier to be honest than keep track of lies. It’s easier to not steal and not have to worry about being arrested.

    I don’t really see much challenge in that sense of doing the right thing. Stay out of trouble and your life will be more pleasant, and you won’t feel guilty. So people can convince themselves they are always on the righteous path just because they don’t break any laws.

  28. wj said,

    Perhaps it would clarify things if we divide actions (or inactions) into three groups rather than two:
    — Things that are clearly right
    — Things that are culturally encouraged or discouraged by one of the cultures that you move in. Or in a gray area for some other reason.
    — Things that are clearly wrong.

    The conflict, and the advice that started all of this discussion, comes when something is in an area where two of those overlap. That is, something that is clearly right, but the culturally discouraged. Or something that is clearly wrong, but culturally encouraged. And the conflicts get more prevalent when one culture that one is a part of says to do one thing, while another culture that one is part of says to do something different.

    And we all move in multiple cultures — that is where the incompatibilities you mention arise. The culture in your office may be similar to the one in your home, but it is not identical. Likewise the culture in your neighborhood and the one in your religious body and the one in your school. Or, the probable occasion for the original advice, your home and your school.

    Which leaves you with a couple of options:
    — do what the culture you are in at the moment expects, or
    — do what you believe to be right, even if it conflicts with the immediate cultural expectations.

    The advice that your (and my) mother gave us was to take the second option. Not always the easiest path at the moment, but one that makes it easier to live with yourself in the long run.

  29. amba12 said,

    “Don’t ever do anything just because everybody else is doing it.”

    Yeah but sometimes there are good reasons why everyone else is doing something.

    Sometimes.

    Yeah, there were real good reasons in the ’60s why everyone was losing their virginity whether they really wanted to yet or not.

  30. Theo.Boehm said,

    David Riesman wrote about the sociology of this in his 1950 classic, The Lonely Crowd.

    He identified three cultural types, a portion of whose behavior could be considered in the moral realm: tradition-directed, inner-directed, and other-directed. The norms observed by each social type derived their framework, respectively, from tradition, from one’s own “inner gyroscope,” and from an accommodation to how others lived and behaved. These are sociological categories, descriptive of societies at large, but they also may be applied, roughly speaking, to individuals.

    Riesman argued that the then-increasing, consumer-oriented American middle classes demonstrated a shift away from the values of the family, organized religion, and/or traditional societal codes. The consumption of goods, attended by fashions of taste and style, has been a driving force behind more malleable social relationships. An old-fashioned, inner- or tradition-directed person might say “degenerate,” “unsustainable,” or perhaps “evil” instead of “malleable,” but I’m not going to argue that now.

    The advice your mothers gave, if they were inclined to sociological cant, could be restated as, “Be more inner-directed!”

    The message of our hedonistic consumer culture, inculcated almost from the moment of birth, is entirely the opposite. Its effect has been long perceived as anti-family, which is, of course, the reason that traditional mothers, with well-set inner gyroscopes, are instinctively against it.

  31. wj said,

    I’m trying to wrap my head around the idea of my mother as a “traditional mother.” And failing utterly. A woman more in advance of her times would be hard to imagine. After working her way thru college, she got a full-time job (management track at AT&T. And was on her way to being AT&T’s first female VP. Except that she got married . . . at 27. (Which, if you are not familiar with norms of the 1930s and 1940s was way, way late. However usual it might be now for a woman to work after leaving school, and for peole to not marry immediately on leaving school.)

    Not so very traditional. But I suppose it does reflect an attitude on her part of not caring what the cultural norms were all that much. So perhaps her advice represented passing on a new tradition…. Hmmmm, I’ll have to think on that.

  32. Donna B. said,

    Donna B. said,
    August 16, 2010 at 4:34 pm
    “We are two very incompatible moral systems at the base of our society — Christianity and liberal individualism. You can’t possibly follow both, but millions of Americans try.”

    That’s a false dichotomy.

    realpc said,
    August 16, 2010 at 5:59 pm
    I didn’t say it was a dichotomy. I said they are incompatible. And they are our two major ideologies.

    You have presented them as a dichotomy whether you “say” so or not and it is false. It is false mainly because it is not true that they are the major moral systems of our society.

    For one thing, Christianity at the time of this country’s founding could not be defined as any one coherent thing and it still cannot. Secondly, liberal individualism is not defined as opposed to Christianity by anyone other than you that I can see, though it’s probably defined in as many different ways as Christianity is.

  33. Theo.Boehm said,

    I suppose I meant “traditional” in a deeper sense of a mother who sincerely cares for the well-being of her offspring, and perhaps recognizes that, in the long run, a gyroscope might be more useful than an antenna in navigating life.

    I touched on the question of the dichotomy between Christianity and individualism in this post about Charles Ives.  The link is to my blog, but substantially the same post is on this blog, too, if you want to scroll down for it.

    There are real tensions between these outlooks.  Individualism as we know it had its origins in the Reformation, where every person was expected to be able to read the Word of God and decide for him or herself how his or her behavior and spiritual life comported with what might be learned there, of course with the guidance of a Pastor and the support of the Congregation. It wasn’t long before this individualism in religion began to work its way into economic and social life, giving rise to the famous Protestant Ethic.

    Here I mused a bit on its American manifestation, perhaps being a little too hard on Jefferson and the “Southern Interest”:

    There is a strain of American “progressive” thought, implicit in the New England Transcendentalists, that sought more perfect democracy, the Abolition of slavery, free and equal public education, governmental efficiency and elimination of corruption and favoritism, regulation of the influence of the “moneyed interest,”  Temperance, the protection of Nature for the common good, etc. These things were historically associated with the Republican Party in New England, who were heirs, ultimately, to the old Federalists.

    These were not wild-eyed radicals in their love of some collectivist ideal. Neither were they Jeffersonian small-government Democrats, with their hypocritical cant of “each man under his own vine” and “States’ Rights” covering for the enslavement of millions.  New England Republicans, mocked in the past as “Goo-Goo’s” for their commitment to Good Government, trace their roots to the intensely communal Puritans and their version of a proper Christian life.

    Puritans never passed up a chance to Do Good, individually or collectively, as they were impelled to as an external sign of their Christianity as part of  the Body of Christ. Yet, each of them had his or her own intensely personal relationship with God, and to a Salvation not meted out to Merit, but to Faith, and that by God’s unknowable Will alone.

    Thus were the tensions between the individual and collective expressed in the very mother’s milk of our own first, distinctively American, tradition of communal responsibility.  In modern New England, politicians such as Frank Sargent, William Weld, Olympia Snowe, and Joe Lieberman have been the uncomfortable heirs to this ambiguous and tense legacy, long since stripped of external signs of its Christian roots.

  34. amba12 said,

    Theo: interesting: I’m picking up on a two-edged sword, or maybe two two-edged swords.

    An inner-directed person could also be individualistic, and that could eventually be anti-family.

    “Listen to your heart” or “your authentic self”: but is there an authentic self? How much of it is what we’re trained to internalize? Tradition instills one sort of “authentic self,” Romantic individualism quite another sort.

    A traditional person is in a sense “other-directed.” But the others toward whom one is directed are behaving in a way dictated by tradition. That is a kind of convention and conformity, but not as shallow as the sort of herd instinct, people imitating each other without a center or a source or higher/deeper authority, that Riesman seemed to mean by “other-directed.” Empty mirrors reflecting nothing but each other.

    Something about the Protestant tradition? instilled the notion of the private conscience? which then somehow got degraded (through Romanticism??) into the deification of the self.

  35. amba12 said,

    The gyroscope vs. the antenna. That could almost be a book title in itself.

    The tension between individualism and communal responsibility does seem to be precarious but immensely creative. As long as individuals voluntarily commit themselves to responsibility, it is a tremendous engine of innovation and independence without tearing society apart. But it depends on individuals holding those values of loyalty and, sometimes, sacrificing self-gratification. Individuals are free to decide otherwise.

    Family. Hmmm. Unhappy families can be incredibly oppressive. Tragic. The freedom to get away from them has probably saved some lives. Unhappy families tend to be dominated by selfish individuals who act out their selfishness, not by fleeing their families but by dominating them, even terrorizing them.

    But what makes happy families happy?

    The more I try to think, the more I think thinking is too simple for reality.

  36. realpc said,

    “The advice that your (and my) mother gave us was to take the second option. Not always the easiest path at the moment, but one that makes it easier to live with yourself in the long run.”

    I don’t think that’s at all what my mother meant.

  37. realpc said,

    “Yeah, there were real good reasons in the ’60s why everyone was losing their virginity whether they really wanted to yet or not.”

    The sexual revolution was fun for men, not very fun for women. In general. There were reasons for it though — there was a lot of repression before then. I personally hated it, but i could see why it happened.

    When I see everyone doing something I can usually see reasons. I might disagree and decide not to follow them.

  38. realpc said,

    “The message of our hedonistic consumer culture, inculcated almost from the moment of birth, is entirely the opposite. Its effect has been long perceived as anti-family, which is, of course, the reason that traditional mothers, with well-set inner gyroscopes, are instinctively against it.”

    My parents always belonged to the hedonistic culture. That’s why I always questioned whatever advice they gave, which wasn’t very much. And as a result I tend to be conservative and traditional, and at the same time unconventional and inner-directed. In other words, totally mixed up.

  39. realpc said,

    “Thus were the tensions between the individual and collective expressed in the very mother’s milk of our own first, distinctively American, tradition of communal responsibility.”

    I think that’s what I meant about incompatible ideologies at the foundation of our American culture. The individual, free to seek worldly happiness, vs. the world-despising selfless Christian. We can see the tension illustrated in how we celebrate Christmas.

  40. Donna B. said,

    Incompatible only if each is taken to extremes. It’s the tension that keeps each in check and makes the existence of both valuable and necessary.

    Quoting Amba:

    The tension between individualism and communal responsibility does seem to be precarious but immensely creative. As long as individuals voluntarily commit themselves to responsibility, it is a tremendous engine of innovation and independence without tearing society apart. But it depends on individuals holding those values of loyalty and, sometimes, sacrificing self-gratification. Individuals are free to decide otherwise.

  41. realpc said,

    “The tension between individualism and communal responsibility does seem to be precarious but immensely creative. As long as individuals voluntarily commit themselves to responsibility, it is a tremendous engine of innovation and independence without tearing society apart. But it depends on individuals holding those values of loyalty and, sometimes, sacrificing self-gratification. Individuals are free to decide otherwise.”

    I really don’t know. There is tension between individual needs and requirements of the social group for any social animal, not just us. And for all humans, not just modern Americans. Our society is much more inventive than any other we know about, which I guess is because of individual freedom. People began to question authority and conventions.

    In traditional societies things changed very slowly, but now things change by the minute. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, and I think it is at least partly very bad. How can individuals have those values of loyalty when there are no stable social groups? The tribe and the extended family have disintegrated. The only social group that sometimes lasts for decades is the married couple. A group of two. And it isn’t all that stable anymore.

    So I don’t see how Amba thinks the society isn’t being torn apart.

  42. realpc said,

    “Unhappy families tend to be dominated by selfish individuals who act out their selfishness,”

    I never heard that theory before. Is it based on observations? What would motivate the selfish person to make their family unhappy? I also don’t know the definition of selfishness.

    If I were a selfish person (and I think we all are) I would want my family to be happy.

    I was raised in a family that started out happy and became unhappy. No one was dominating it, and no one was unusually selfish. My parents just screwed up, mostly because it was the 1960s.

    I have heard a lot about family unhappiness being caused by addictions or mental illness. But I didn’t hear about selfishness, unless you mean narcissism, and I have no idea about that. I think maybe narcissism is a state of mind that can be expressed within certain dysfunctional relationships. But I really don’t know.

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