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Jul. 8th, 2005 @ 03:32 pm the monkeysphere
Now, I'm not a fan of random Internet halfwits formulating grand, ill-informed pop-philosophy theories of how the world works based on mangled personal interpretations of barely credible and largely irrelevant science experiments. (HURRRK--sorry, needed a glass of water after that sentence.) But what this guy says is true, and 3/8th of a psychology major's worth of classes agree.

With his conclusions, that is. Not his justifications.

And there's just one thing I would change, unironically the one thing that makes us more than monkeys:

We can move people in and out of our monkeyspheres.

That soccer mom from the house down the street who you hit with your car this morning? Yesterday, the same thing could have happened to her and you wouldn't have cared in the slightest. Today, you're all oh my God are you all right I'm sorry.

Never mind all the people in the cars behind you honking their horns and screaming at you that they are going to be late for work or won't be able to drive Jimmy home from his ball game or need to get Grandma to the hospital right away. When this woman bounced off the windshield of your car, she torpedoed headfirst into your monkeysphere, and now she's your responsibility. And your top priority.

And maybe she'll be all right, and you'll take her to the hospital and get her some food, and you'll apologize and call her family and see her off and never see her again. A week later she could be out of the hospital and hit by another car (let's say she was suicidal) and you wouldn't even know about it. If you did, you'd be shocked, but you'd find it hard to genuinely care.

But that doesn't matter. What matters is that when this woman needed you, she was in your monkeysphere. You moved her in when you helped her, and when it was time to free up some space, you moved her out.

That's why we can be emergency room surgeons. That's why we can be firefighters and soup kitchen cooks and policemen, because despite the long hours and high stress and what have you we can focus on saving people from tragedy, one person at a time. Or five or six, if need be. You have more than 150 people to worry about--maybe 1,500, or 15,000, or a nation of 15 million. Perhaps all of them need you, and perhaps you can't care enough to help them all. But you can help a lot more than 150 if you manage your monkeysphere into units of one. Just concentrate on the gasping old man on the strecher you're carrying. Or buy a book for the wide-eyed nine-year-old boy who hates cauliflower. Or help an angry Lebanese lady you met on the subway deliver a baby.

For the average American, it's impossible to imagine millions of starving African children. It's impossible to imagine tens of thosands of Iraqi families grieving for mothers and fathers and daughters and nephews lost as collateral damage in American bombing runs. Hell, for most of us, it's impossible to imagine seven hundred people dead on the British subway lines. (Only thirty-three dead, eh? Numbers-wise, that's not so bad. Numbers are not human.) But it helps to know one. It's neither a fair or accurate representation, but it helps to know one. One is all you need. And you can fit a lot of ones in your monkeysphere. 150 of them, if you trust David Wong's figure.

There are 193 internationally recognized countries in the world. Each country is ruled by more than one person (even totalitarians need their advisors). Each district in a country is, in turn, ruled by at least one other person, and each subdistrict is ruled by at least one other person still. At 150 monkeysphere slots a person, with one person per vague sociocultural demographic, that's more than enough to keep the world in order. Hypothetically speaking.

And that, my friends, is the only reason why humans can be trusted to govern anything bigger than an elementary school.
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Date:July 8th, 2005 09:09 am (UTC)
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Amen, amen. It's all about the monkeyspheres as it's impossible for us to care about everyone. As long as we make better the lives of those we come in contact with, then I think that is already answering our call of duty. Idealism is great, but please, people, let's be realistic.