Social Groups and Racism

We are pre-wired to be racist.

That’s why it seems obvious, ‘Look at the differences, there must be differences of . . . quality, too.’ We are hardwired for it, that’s what gives it its truthiness.

I’ll be drawing a distinction soon enough: hardwired, hardcoded – it doesn’t necessarily mean objectively true. It doesn’t mean it’s not true either of course, but the point is, what it does mean is that we think it’s true. That’s what hardwired means, or specifically, that’s what something being an inherited, evolved genetic trait means.

As H. G. Wells said, ‘the past is a deep well.’ To illustrate it, he said that remains had been found to show that Peking Man (Wells was writing a long time ago) was sipping the brains out of the skulls of their enemies around the fire some 350,000 years ago. If I’ve got that wrong, I’ll be short, and I have no idea if the archaeologists have pushed fire back further into our past than that. We have a long existence that is one of nomadic and seasonal hunting and gathering, living in human family-based groups of between sixty and a hundred individuals, and that is the life that selection, ‘Natural’ or otherwise, has created us for. But don’t think about Adam and Eve, the theoretical first humans. That existence went on for millions of years and there have always been many human groups, all sharing the land and competing for its resources.

The normal course of events in that aboriginal and traditional human life, barring drought and famine, is that people breed, and the groups grow in good times, when food and water are plentiful until they reach a point where one or one of the few families in a group is so large that family resemblance begins to disappear, when there are third or fourth cousins in your village, it gets harder to know them all – and there is a split, perhaps a battle or a war, and two groups going forward, in competition, provided both survive. Again, the traditional pattern of human life since time immemorial. Jane Goodall witnessed and described at least one such splitting of the chimp group she monitored.

So the Earth has been occupied with these competing human groups for practically ever, and battles, wars, raids and the abduction of women have not been uncommon, right up to the present day.

These are the social conditions we evolved for, the social conditions we select each other for to this day. It is a normal, evolved trait to be at ease around your family tribe, up to maybe your second cousins, around few enough people that we can know them all, that we can know immediately, friend or foe. Family resemblances help for that. As do language and accent. That’s why we’re always coming up with new words, new jargon, new slang, which must be up to the minute. It differentiates us, our group from the next group, the rival, the enemy, the next village. In the dark, you use the right accent, the hippest slang – you gotta be in my group.

(For the religious: this is what the story of the Tower of Babel is all about, says Joseph Campbell, I think. The point in the Bible I think, is that the Lord cursed us with different languages so we couldn’t coordinate an assault on Him and Heaven. I guess the biologists would say that it’s a curse we put on ourselves, the price for the security it provides from our neighbor groups of humans.)

Other ways of identifying each other, who is friend and who is foe have been famously tried, the Hebrew ‘sign’ of circumcision foremost among them, but mostly it’s accomplished by selection, a group has traits it decides is distinctive and that is what they select for in that group, therefore increasing the incidence of it within their group, again, differentiating one group from another increasingly over time. Now, don’t get me wrong. No shame if you do, we are going to get to racism, and I thought for a minute that’s where this was taking me too, but prehistoric human groups in the frozen north probably didn’t select whiter and whiter partners to differentiate themselves from Africans they may have never been in contact with. Perhaps simple selection by race is a modern problem, a racial smorgasbord of potential mates is possibly an historic phenomenon, but was rarely a prehistoric one. Meaning, it is not in such a simple way that we are hardwired for racism.

Firstly, that is conscious selection, nothing necessarily hardwired about it, and second, races weren’t neighbors in the aboriginal world. With no air travel, it was a smooth transition as you walked the thousands of miles, from race to race. Plus – wife stealing, the necessary genetic shaking up, has made certain that was the case.

This is our evolved selected-for idea of a social group, of our social group: sixty to a hundred people who all share a family resemblance, an accent, an up to the minute vocabulary, and probably diet and body odours as well. Oh – and everyone in our group we see, all the time. Out of sight is out of mind – that’s natural. It’s all natural, it’s why it feels true, plus it’s evolved survival traits we’re talking about, so that’s why it feels not only true, but of life and death importance. This is something:

You pretty much have to go to university to learn this, but this is really true: social groups are what it’s all about for us. For humans, the environmental elements that have been most likely to kill us throughout that deep well of the past, throughout all of our evolution and development, are us. It’s humans that are the most difficult for us to survive, we’re our smartest enemies in the world and we have driven each other and so ourselves to dedicating ever increasing levels of resources to our brains, producing a prodigious machine. Thing is, human intelligence, homo sapiens sapiens’ massive brains evolved to sort out this life, social groups, friend or foe, and it’s what it does best. Again, though: we are a supercomputer designed to track and assess one hundred humans as relatives and all others as enemies.

It’s no wonder we’re having troubles living with one another in the millions and billions, right?

This is something we do not from our traditional, exclusionist and warlike natures. This is something we are attempting consciously, from a vision we have that comes from a different part of our brains.

“Nature,” as Katherine Hepburn’s character said so well in “The African Queen,” “is what we are here to rise above.”


Well that wasn’t nearly divisive enough, so here:

That is the position of the Nurturists, the true liberals, and the modern mind.




July 18, 2016

The Cruel Irony of Deterrents

This is my favourite series right here. It’s outside the box, it’s to the point, and entertaining.




These ones are better coupled with the Irony series too, I think . . .


Thanks for reading, folks! Please, share and retweet, it’s all free. Trying to save the world here.



Dec. 19, 2015

Policing at a Crossroads

. . . same crossroads all things eventually reach when they start down the road toward humanism, or just plain exist, moving like the rest of us into the future. At some point in the train robbery, you have to commit to letting go of your horse and holding on to the train. The period where you still have both options is dangerous, so safety dictates it be short. I know, sorry.

I’ll go straight to it, but it’ll take a minute still – still sorry.

I caught a headline somewhere, most likely Twitter, some person got released from a wrongful conviction, and got paid some great amount for damages, which got me thinking. Of course, the first NPLP (something I’m trying to start – Namby Pamby Liberal Pussy. Folks like me.) thought is ‘Yes! Science has saved another wrongly convicted man from police machinations!’ and yes, there could be a racial aspect to the story, I mean of course, there always could be, but the picture was of a black fellow.

Then of course, I sort of globalized the concept, like I enjoy way too much, started to wonder, if there are say, a thousand such cases in a given place during a given period, then how many of the thousand were non-criminal innocents and how many might have deserved their sentences or worse for crimes they weren’t prosecuted for and/or convicted of? I mean, surely, if the police can be known to have railroaded an innocent black man into prison, then it is probably not beneath their morals to have set some heinous, dangerous criminals up for solid wrongful convictions either.

So, the first RWN (Right Wing Nutjob, something that’s a normal epithet on a site I play on, thought following that probably is, I hope somebody is reviewing which sorts of folks they’re setting free, like trying to make sure the newly free drug-related convicts really are only that or something. And, yeah, we always hope for some local knowledge, some attention to detail. Numbers games are always error-riddled.

But for me, again, trying to globalize, trying to see the social implications of all things punishment-related, this is it here.

That second practice must have felt pretty justifiable, if the cop knew, for sure, that his target’s incarceration would make the public a good deal safer, that if in short, the end really was justification for some evil means. However, technology, humanism and morality have moved on in this case, specifically, the old setup tactics are failing now because some humanists, someone who cares, have applied DNA testing etc. and caught the police cheating.

In the long term, each generation gets treated better than the last, and they each learn to expect to be. We expect moral circles to expand, and we are viewing moral issues in a more egalitarian, more logical way with each decade as well, and one result of that process is this. We want to hold our police to the law more than we perhaps have in the past. Police forces evolved because the wealthy found their prosperity to be more stable when the King tried and punished crimes, rather than living with the endless feuding produced by the previous vendetta sort of system where families looked after offenders to their interests privately. So police came into being long before modern democracies. Now, we are taxpayers and the police don’t work for the King anymore, they work for us. So the time honoured tactic of setting a man up to please the policeman’s employers, now, looks as criminal as it always did, except worse.

Worse, because the victim is supposed to be the boss. Worse, because it’s now our moral issue, because we’re the boss. Can’t blame it on the King anymore, it’s us. Now that it is, I think we think the police are supposed to do their jobs and somehow succeed while never straying across the line of the law themselves for the very good reason that when they stray, it’s sometimes against us. I don’t imagine anyone has escaped the image of an experienced cop’s disdain for the idea, and fair enough, I get it, I do. It’s violence for violence, the experience is real, the danger is real . . . but still. As true and undeniable as that is, it’s still, I’m sorry, not that meaningful, uh . . . scientifically, yes, even for social science. Anecdotal, to be sure, but not only that. The thing is, all that is life as viewed from the past, from horseback. Our societies, and our police forces are at the choice-point now, still feeling the ongoing trauma of our authoritarian ways of the past and still trying to keep a grip on it, but we also have one hand on the train of the future, where mass media and big data are starting to show us who we really are.

So when the King’s dragoons abuse their position, it’s a moral crime, sure, but he’s the King, he’s responsible and we’re not. When our tax-funded, public police do, it’s our moral crime, we’re responsible, and in democratic societies like ours we need to do something about it. That is our job, to vote intelligently and not support evil, law and order politicians.

For the police, that is the crossroads we’re at. Yes, we have in the past turned a blind eye to some over-stepping on the part of the police, but now here we are, taxed and paying for it. Any herd of herbivores tolerates the presence of the predators, perhaps, the wildebeests live with the lions as a fact of life – but I don’t think they would if they had to pay for it too. I think this crossroads perhaps adds up to a slight change in job description for the police, an acknowledgement of the democratic nature of our society and who’s working for who.


What if we did let’s say, refresh our commitment to the police staying on the right side of the law themselves? We the people might try to remember that the goal, eventually, must certainly be a lawful world where at least the police aren’t criminals too. Sorry, also not very specific. Let’s just brainstorm a bit, point form.

  • It might not be going too far to suggest that police need to lose a few more fights to regain public sympathy. Personally, I reserve my concern for the people who lose the vast majority of the fights. Today, the police don’t look vulnerable enough to justify their shoot first policies. I think non-lethal weaponry in the hands of the police would go a long way towards building some public trust for the police, and for that to happen, there has to be some sense that police casualties are indeed a negotiable thing, as long as there are so many more citizen casualties. As long as the life of a single cop is supposed to be worth more than any number of citizens, we’re going to be in conflict and in that sense, police are creating social problems rather than solving them.
  • I actually like the idea of this possibly fictional ‘Ferguson Effect.’ If the police are really engaged in a sort of work slow-down action to protest the growing public scrutiny of them or to avoid getting themselves into trouble, that might be a good thing. If they are not going through a door when their only possible security is to kill those folks on the other side, maybe that’s a good thing. Personally, I can imagine that there are ways in which even gang activity and drug dealing are less offensive than state-sponsored murder of criminals. I mean, if this is the conversation?

“Hey, Police! Stop shooting unarmed alleged criminals!”

“Hey, it’s dangerous out here! Do you want policing or don’t you?”

“Yes, but murder is a crime, so it is for you too!”

“Hey, it’s my security! Do you want this crime stopped or not?”

“Yes – THIS crime, but your crime too!”

“Hey, if you haven’t got my back, I ain’t working! If it’s my life at risk, I ain’t going through any more doors. See how you like it when we’re not out there killing criminals for you.”

This adds up to an immediate threat, a pressure play, but what if maybe we call the police’s bluff, what if we stop and think about it for a minute? I say we give it a try, see how it plays out. Whatever happens, we learn something. So here’s my response:

“Good idea. Let’s see how it works out. If everything goes to Hell, we’ll make changes again, but for now, yeah. Let’s see how it pans out.”

  • We need to stop arresting people for minor crimes, period. An arrest is an action that is an escalation compared to many of the “crimes” we arrest and detain for, and as such, worse. We need to mail out invoices for fines, and we need to help the miscreants pay the fines – not arrest them and start potentially deadly fights to do it. If we are trying to lessen crime, then we need to stop justifying larger crimes – confinement, violence – by using them to stop smaller ones.


So, this is getting long, I’ll stop.

Long and short? As a society, as many societies, we seem to have missed the change, we seem to not have noticed that democratic governments change everything, all the ancient social institutions, and that police forces today work, literally and officially, for the people, all the people. What was police brutality in the past and used to be a private act, the King’s goons working out on His citizens, is now insubordination. Eric Garner was a member of the consortium that employs the NYPD, a citizen, and he was murdered by his own public servants. Ironically, that should offend authoritarians everywhere as well as everyone else.

It stopped being us VS them when we established our democracies, Folks, it’s all us now. Let’s deal with crime generally, not just some people’s crimes. Ours too.



Nov. 23, 2015

Authority is the Problem, Part #2

Authority is the Problem, Part #2


       Here’s Part #1:

although it’s not really related . . .

Really this Sandra Bland thing, feels like the final straw, I’m sure these last few weeks’ body count of people who die in police custody will be for many people, the very last possible straw.

Don’t let it be, folks.

I know it’s horrible, and depressing, but if it’s what it looks like? If it’s as bad as it looks? Because what it looks like is that individual policemen all over America are making examples of black people, driving it home for blacks and everyone else watching exactly who kills who in this society. Just when a sane person might imagine some shame, Hell even chagrin, on the part of America’s police, no, same answer as always, the club, the gun, the authority. They just keep doubling down and they never seem to run out of chips. That’s what it looks like: gang style intimidation. It’s like the American jihadists shooting soldiers for “the self-proclaimed Islamic State,” individual nut case cops acting as representatives for policemen generally, all on their own. Maybe we can’t show affiliation, but their interests are all leaning in the same direction.

If it’s that? If it’s that, and it is, then our fear and obedience may be the first goal of these examples, but don’t let it get you down either, because our sadness, depression and apathy serves their goals too. Be happy when you can, and maybe be angry if you feel the apathy creeping in. Certainly don’t let the apparent hopelessness keep you out of the voting booth. Somebody needs to vote against these Law and Order sister-sleepers. These swine are selling that employment-killing criminal records and prison sentences – which only create poverty and crime – are supposed to somehow be something we all want. Of course they sell that, because that really is good business, selling social improvement while destroying families and communities, creating the need and expanding their market with every poisonous thing out of their mouths.

Looking at you, Stephen Harper.

Authority is the original, world-warping scam.

Seriously. It’s sold to us like the American Dream. ‘Sure you’re not enjoying it now, while you’re bottoming for the authority,’ they say. ‘But you’ll get some too. Some day you can top!’ Nobody likes it when they’re being pushed around by authority, but give somebody some authority of their own – let them reproduce, for example, let them become parents – and now, they’re invested, now they’ve bought in, and they’ll tell you: ‘we need authority. Without it, there would be chaos.’

It’s a scam, and we’re all getting a piece of the action or we’d hate it. The thing is, though, just because everybody’s in on it, that doesn’t make it right. It only makes it a universal wrong.

“Rebuilding Trust” – a Rant. If You’re Going to Lie, Lie Big – **UPDATED**

“Rebuilding Trust” – a Rant. If You’re Going to Lie, Lie Big


       Who announced the Diane Rehm show this week? I missed your name. I’ll tweet this at Diane, hope it reaches you.

On the show on Friday, May 22nd., I heard the phrase ‘rebuilding trust’ referring to the dysfunctional relationship between America’s urban police forces and the poverty-stricken black citizens living in those cities. Continue reading