Identity and Chaos
The natural history of modern insanity

The human mind has never fared well with complexity. But this is a given, given the complexity of the world, relative to the simplicity of our drives, it seems that the adoption of heuristics like slang, and dogma, may even be required for monkeys like us to make our way in the world. But we know what the world becomes when we start to make things too simple -- Nazi Germany, Maoist China, prehistoric everything. But what does the world become when we stop thinking that we can make sense out of it? Or worse, when we start thinking that whoever thinks that they're making sense out of it must be crazy. But who knows, maybe we'd find world peace. Or maybe we'd lose ourselves. Maybe we forget who we are when we can remember everything we're not. Maybe we need to embrace the sloppiness inherent to categories, for there to be any sense inherent to anything. But who knows, maybe I'm already crazy...
The tiger's pace reaches a crawl. Its tail lowers, its hair flattens, and its eyes drift to your center of gravity as it calmly decides that you'd look better between its teeth. Your cortisol spikes, your heart rate increases, and your pupils dilate as you prepare to not have to think. You have no words for what you are experiencing — only reactions. This is your brain on fear. More specifically, this is how your brain reacts to overwhelming quantities of complexity. See, had your encounter with the tiger taken place in a scenario where a route to your survival was easily identifiable, or where the preceding actions of the tiger were manageably simplified — you may even have been relaxed, or calm, even. But in such a situation, such simplifiers were not ample, and such an ability to manage complexity was not present. In such a situation, all men are the same. When faced with predatory chaos, the human mind has one concern: survival. Throughout history this concern has taken many forms. For hunter-gatherer tribes it took the form of spirits that manage your emotions, and tigers that devour your children. For twentieth-century Germany it took the form of tribalism. When faced with the menacing sight of an economic depression, and the slightest whiff of a societal collapse, the Nazi party could form only one response — the jews did it. Today, although we may not be as tribal as our ancestors, in the face of chaos we are still every bit as confused. And although we may not have tigers to fend off, part of us does die every time we don't get our identity affirmed socially. When faced with the chaotic sight of two billion Twitter users, the human ego has one concern: survival.
Socially, most people physically require validation. Short of schizoids, autists, and psychopaths, social rejection tends to trigger an immediate decrease in serotonin, motivation, and subjective well-being. After all, group efforts were the only way that our ancestors could fend off tigers. Historically speaking, whether or not you understood the anatomy of a saber-toothed cat mattered much less than whether or not you had a large enough community to kill one. Extrapolate this selective pressure for agreeableness over applied reasoning for two thousand years, and couple it with the complexity of maintaining social relationships, and economic desirability — all in a rapidly changing society — and you arrive at where we are today. The modern mind has no concern with logic, not when modern life is the functional equivalent to experiencing Jumanji, with iPhones. But the dangers of our aversion to complexity aren't just embodied physiologically. Hyperbole aside, short of those possessing certificates from socially validated, or prestigious institutions, in most areas of the world it doesn't matter how many studies you can cite, or what your IQ is, if you're claiming to know the long-term repercussions of capitalism, Facebook, or lying, you won't just be shunned from any position allowing you to widely disseminate a message, you're likely to be viewed as a premorbid schizophrenic professing to be an oracle. But we don't yet know what's knowable. And given what we do know about the human mind's need for tribes, you'd have to be insane to think that anyone willing to stake their social livelihood on a controversial idea is simply just crazy.
But to the modern mind, because the complexity of the world appears to be increasing faster than any single person's ability to understand it, the modern world actually is getting more insane. And given how humans tend to react to overwhelming quantities of complexity, it actually makes sense that to any complexity perceiving, moderately socialized person, any claim that hasn't been widely socially verified should be labeled as senseless. But in our modern times, it are these once useful, but now primitive heuristics that are senseless. In the face of genuine, inarticulable complexity, such a strategy can do nothing but maximize for hysteria, and create innumerable groups, all of which are cohering around delusions and will eventually ossify into cults. These delusions, having been spawned from an irrational faith in group consensus, will likely be centered around communal dogmas, or different sub-forms of communism. This hysteria, having been generated from a genuine recognition of chaos, will likely be reactive instead of intentional. These reactions, psychological and physical, if allowed to fester unattended to, won't just cause the erosion of the very categories that we use to make sense of the world, they'll produce society-wide, socially reinforced, degradations and proliferation of all of civilization into ideologically incompatible tribes driven solely on utopian delusions.
This degradation, being dependent upon social reinforcement, would first occur to the hyper-socialized. That being, those that have spent the majority of their lives within social institutions, such as public schools, or contemporary universities. This erosion of categories, being a reflexive reaction to perceived chaos, would first occur to the categories that the hyper-socialized are temperamentally predisposed to perceive — that being, the ones that they use to identify themselves socially. Race, sex, and gender, no longer representing words to distinguish between our immutable characteristics — to those that view reality as being too complex to be understood, these stop being words meant to identify groups, and start becoming tools to combat confusion. "Dangerous" — to those who've developed a dependency on social affirmation, will eventually become synonymous with 'non-socially affirming,' and will eventually become a label used as a means to justify violence. By virtue of their reinforcement of each other, these groups will reaffirm each other's delusions, and their confusion will escalate into hysteria before they eventually culminate into mobs. As the mobs become too large to affirm each member's specific predispositions, the mobs will separate into factions before eventually culminating into mobs again. As the rest of society views this chaos from afar, we'll handle it in the only way we know how, and create groups, mobs, languages, and identities of our own, all the while regressing, and conjuring up the same chaos that we had set out to avoid. Before long, we'll roam the streets as our ancestors did — hunched over narrowly, grouped into tribes, worshipping spirits, fighting over food, all the while doing our best to not upset any tigers.

Text Author: Antjuan Finch

Published: August 16th, 2018

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