Friday, June 18, 2010

Tower of Babel Phenomenon - Part 3

Continued from Part 1 and Part 2.

As previous discussed, the human inclination to gather together and live in high-density areas creates societal disconnection from nature and isolates people from one another. Another effect of the Tower of Babel phenomenon is the acceleration of cultural penetration. I have previously written on the profound impact of social influence on individuals. While social influence is an inescapable part of human existence, high-density living dramatically speeds up the pace at which ideas circulate and social trends change communities. This acceleration rarely results in positive changes.

Throughout the course of history, it can be seen that novels ideas and advancements rarely come from sparsely-populated areas. A majority of the major discoveries, novel ideologies and significant advancements in human history have originated from people living in metropolitan areas. There are a good many reasons for why this is the general pattern of things. In heavily-populated areas, the benefits of specialized labor and comparative advantage profoundly affect the local community. With the leverage and flexibility offered by these economic gains, less effort is expended in acquiring life's necessities. With the remainder of time and energy that men gain through living in a civilized society, they often devote some of their discretionary time to creative pursuits, innovation and various mental activities.

While in a civilized society there is some discretionary time for a certain percentage of the population, in an advanced civilization the economic gains are even more pronounced, resulting in even larger amounts of discretionary time for a higher percentage of the population. This time is generally spent either in idleness, innovation or ideation. Incidentally, with the possible exception of innovation, these activities all have a strong tendency to result in higher levels of cultural familiarity. Idleness, which results in boredom, leads people to seek newness, either in the form of new experiences or new ideas. This quest for newness, often haphazard in nature, results in greater exposure to different sorts of people, values, activities and ideas. However, the people, values, activities and ideas that are discovered are generally socially homogenous or localized ones.

For example, if you have a fair amount of time to kill and nothing particular in mind, you might find yourself surfing the internet in an aimless manner, looking through the TV Guide for something good to watch, or asking a friend for an activity recommendation. To you, whatever you stumble across may be new, but it is not new or original in any real sense. Whatever you find on the internet, television or recommended by your friend is simply a part of your culture that you were previously unacquainted with. Therefore, a person's response to the boredom caused by idleness has a reasonable likelihood of resulting in the person becoming more aware of and exposed to aspects of their own culture.

Innovation and ideation, especially of the sort engaged in using discretionary time, both involve the conscious pursuit of new ideas, either purely mental ones or ideas that will lead to tangible innovation and change. In order to create something new or come up with a new idea, a person first must possess a reasonable familiarity with those ideas and innovations which already exist. The process of innovation entails a contemporary familiarity with what already is and with what sorts of things would offer some utility to contemporary people. Therefore, when one seeks to innovate, extensive familiarity with modern products, methodologies and social conventions is an absolute necessity. Time that is dedicated to innovation almost inescapably leads a person to become more aware of and exposed to aspects of their own culture.

Ideation, though of a different sort than innovation, is largely identical. In the pursuit of observing people, being aware of various philosophies and worldviews, constructing academic treatises and attempting to conceptualize or express things in a new manner, there is no way to avoid become more informed and acquainted with the ideas, paradigms and misconceptions of one's own culture. Whom does one discuss ideas with? Those in one's own community. Thus, time that is dedicated to intellectual and academic pursuits also results in a greater familiarity with one's own culture.

Hence, it is seen that all of the primary discretionary-time activities of a civilization hasten and facilitate the spread of ideas and general cultural familiarity. Higher levels of cultural awareness and familiarity are not intrinsically harmful. However, given the human propensity for evil and the law of entropy, what is seen throughout history is that societies and civilizations trend downwards from more virtuous and orderly states to more chaotic and evil ones. Because that which is evil corrupts that which is good, higher rates of cultural penetration inevitably results in faster social decay. For this reason, the Tower of Babel phenomenon consistently serves to speed social degradation and sow destruction within a society. The tendency of people to gather in high-density areas not only results in disconnection from nature and social isolation, but it also accelerates cultural penetration, which typically results in the demise of a civilization.

1 comment:

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