Monday, June 16, 2008

Overcoming the Status Drive?

The instinctive drive for status is remarkably efficient. It requires only that there be at least two people involved. Whatever the circumstances, small nuances will be enough to establish a status difference. This assures a constant motivation for action of some sort and with a small amount of discipline the action can be directed towards a productive result. Naturally, in a meritocratic context, those having superior abilities would tend to rise in rank. In hunter-gatherer times when meritocratic performance meant the difference between life and death, feast or famine, this drive served as an admirable adaptive attribute.

However, the social structures that have evolved in modern society suffer from a non-adaptive tendency. The social order seeks to perpetuate itself in part by preventing change and adaptation. This is built into present day America by the automobile centered design of our infrastructure. As fuel becomes more scarce, adaptation to walking, cycling, and public transport is hindered by the design itself, as was intended. In the system of American inclusive fitness, the driver will always seem superior to the walker, cyclist, or transit rider.

Automobiles, oil, roadways, and suburbia represent a great status structure. As fuel runs low, the culture itself will be a formidable barrier to change. Will it be possible to create a structure of conservation, recycling, and environmental virtue to supplant the automotive culture as the automotive culture supplanted the agrarian past?

Can any system that uses less energy have greater status than one that uses more?

Could religious paradigms be synthesized to meet this challenge?

Given the a priori nature of the inclusive fitness mandate, what beliefs, culture, law or other mores could serve to counteract the deep genetic drive?

Beliefs, culture, laws and other mores are secondary rationalizations.

If offered the choice between retaining status through aggressive violence or peaceful downsizing with loss of status, would enough Americans choose to downsize so as to make cooperative scaling possible?

How many Americans would choose aggressive violence in order to avoid the loss of status?

How many Americans are capable of surmounting their fundamental drives and acting in a way that is contrary to the normative logic, language, and values of American culture?