Digression: Government from the Paleolithic to Philadelphia
Page 57: External self-regulation
Sis at last getting to say it, arms wide with triumph
Yeah, so you keep saying.
Sis gives him a dirty look for a silent frame. He reacts.
Kids jumping off a cliff, a mom holding one kid back.
Okay… So I don’t mean kids going along with the questionable judgment of fellow kids…
Campsite scene. Kids, adults. A woman is chiding her child, who’s holding several fruits in her arms. Group of teen girls is walking away from basket woman, each with a new basket.
I mean living the way your whole community expects you to live.
It’s not hard.
You don’t even have to try.
You’re immersed in societal expectations from birth. You can’t help but know how to behave.
Still, no worries. If you do step out of line, one of us will nudge you in the right direction.
Don’t be greedy. You go put some of those back.
TEEN GIRL 1 (looking at basket)
Wow, that’s a nice one.
TEEN GIRL 2 (leaning in to whisper)
Did you forget to say “thank you”?
Teen with the nice basket reaction shot
TEEN GIRL 3
Teen with basket running back to the basket lady.
TEEN GIRL 3
Thank you very much for the lovely basket!
Oh, don’t mention it.
It was my pleasure!
A group is reacting to the reader.
NARRATING GIRL IN THE DISTANCE
If it’s only a little slip-up, a nudge is all you need…
…but sometimes a stronger signal is called for.
VARIOUS JUDGY PEOPLE (looking at the camera)
What is wrong with you?
Hey, everyone! Guess what they did this time!
Man about to throw a punch at the reader / The band excluding a couple from the campfire.
And yes, major transgressions call for major corrections.
Don’t! Do! That! AGAIN!
You two fucked us over, big time!
Unless you can make it right, you’d better stay out of our sight.
The most important tool of social regulation has to be
You covered this already. Gossip enabled us to keep up on everyone-
Oh, there’s much more to it than that.
Gossip isn’t just how we keep up on the Joneses…
It’s how we keep them in line!
Group talking about one of them behind her back.
Gossip is how we keep each other accountable.
Did you hear? Francine tried to blame Raoul, but she’s the one who left the apples where the animals could get them.
That’s not the half of it! She took credit for finding that stand of plum trees? Well, Gina is the one who told her where they were.
That’s what I’ve been telling you: That Francine? You just can’t count on her these days!
Francine looking worried
In a tight community, you’re gonna know what people say about you.
More to the point, your Worth-O-Meter will get the message. And you’re gonna take corrective action!
I have to stop saying stupid shit like that!
Joe and Sis
Even a hint of negative reputation is a powerful motivation to fix bad behavior, and regain the approval of your peers — consciously or not!
JOE (looking askance)
I dunno. Gossip seems so nasty to me. Mean-spirited, you know?
It’s not nasty — it’s natural!
Gossip is what speech is for.
How we use our superpower of narrative to know what to think of everyone else..
…and what everyone else thinks of us.
While also ensuring that we all know what we all expect of each other.
Band members looking on with disfavor as someone spreads a rumor.
Malicious gossip, now… that’s another matter.
That’s about as anti-social as it gets.
A damaged reputation is hard to repair. It can even be ruined forever!
Using gossip as a weapon like that undermines our community and corrupts it from within.
You’d better believe we’ll nip that in the bud, too — if our band is to survive.
Okay, yes, but what’s important is that peer pressure and gossip work. These and our social hormones are the tools we evolved that govern ourselves naturally — purely informal, yet amazingly successful.
No kings, no laws, no gods.
Self-government was all the government we modern humans needed…
…for at least sixty thousand years!
How many thousands of years has your system of government worked?
Timeline with a few highlights in 2,000 year intervals: