Of Mind-Control and Mirror Neurons

Someone recently pointed out I have a habit of putting clannish supernatural stuff in fanfics. They’re right, and there’s a reason for that.

My tribal instincts are broken.

Note, I said broken, not missing. I’m well aware that as a human being I’m supposed to have an in-group, and out-groups, and people I trust without thinking about it too hard. I’m aware that pep rallies are supposed to get the whole crowd revved up, that everyone should know who’s in and who’s out by the quirk of a popular girl’s brow, that there are in fact Popular Girls – and Guys – in just about every setting, and everyone knows who they are.

I know all that, and it does me no good whatsoever.

I can, by working very hard at it, mostly pass as a conforming member of local society. At least until I open my mouth.

But pass as “one of the group”? Ha. Doesn’t happen.

I’ll give you just one example. At one point I was minding my own business, watching a car park at a curb… and back right into a truck. I admit I blinked, because you don’t see that every day-

And someone yelled out, “Oh man, that truck just hit that car!”

In under five minutes, that was what everyone there agreed had happened. Except me.

Tell me that’s not mind control.

So if people reading and controlling each other’s minds and emotions shows up over and over again in my fanfic… that’s what I see people doing every day.

80 thoughts on “Of Mind-Control and Mirror Neurons

  1. its herd sense… following the heard, like cows do.
    its common, but statistically there always outliers that defy the trend. And their number is smaller the more people overall are involved.

    characters that dont change their opinion, and still know its the car that hit the truck, are more interesting then the mob thinking…

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Well, nice to know I’m not alone. If someone isn’t one of mine, I’m perfectly capable of calmly staring a they go through a crisis. When my dad put a chainsaw in his knee, my brother was flipping out so much he wasn’t thinking clearly. I had a faint amusement and kept the brother calm, and drove my dad to the hospital. At a mostly legal speed until my dad mentioned that I was allowed to go fast and that any cop would let me off in the circumstances.

    My emotional response is broken. I act pretty normal, but if it’s not mine or a kid, I don’t care. Kids are different. So I have no problem with any of your characters who don’t empathize with people outside the clan.

    Well, I care about pets too. More then most people in fact. But that doesn’t change the people thing.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Oh. It’s me! Sometimes it’s like I’m trying to download ‘things normal people do/how people react’ and reprogram myself like a computer. And then my idealized version of how people live meets real people. “Recalculating…”

        Liked by 2 people

      2. In Japan. And even then…..

        Anime is a stylized version, of artificial dramatic conventions, of how things work for a small segment of society in suburbs of Tokyo (mostly). Just as American sitcoms and dramas do not adequately explain US society, you have to remember that anime and manga are also depictions of a somewhat alternate, somewhat limited world.

        Do you see a lot of disabled Japanese, or Christian Japanese, or burakumin Japanese? Even now, do you see much grappling openly with the real issues of WWIi, or an open presentation of unhappiness with the threat posed by North Korea or communist China? Do you see anime spend much time outside of Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto, if a show was not subsidized by a local tourism group? Is it not surprising when these obvious omissions get filled, for once?

        So believe me, there are a lot of important things about Japanese emotional.life and social groups that are not being said, either from embarrassment or from not bothering to notice.

        Okinawans are as much like people from Tokyo as the Irish are like the English. (And for similar historical reasons.) It is pretty obvious that grievances against U.S. bases get used as a safe outlet for anger against the Japanese government and historical oppression, but nobody is ever going to say that. (And heck, we have done some stupid stuff and imported some criminals, but we never marched Okinawan civilians over cliffs.)

        anime is helpful as more of a triangulation method, or as an alternate way of looking at things through a “foreign” viewpoint. But it is just as un/realistic and convention-bound as kabuki or noh.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Er. I was actually thinking much more basic stuff.

        “This is the (stylized, so more easily readable) expression of embarrassment. This is anger. This is fear. This is a group socially reacting to a Bad Emotion.”

        …Yes, I need that basic a breakdown.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Okinawans are as much like people from Tokyo as the Irish are like the English. (And for similar historical reasons.)

        You might appreciate this, I seem to remember you are familiar with Italian culture– Okies are Japanese Sicilians.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yeah. It’s basically the media equivalent of the “clan sense” that Vathara writes into so many of her stories, which is why I watch anime too. Western cartoons tend to spend more effort on appearance, while anime tends to spend more effort on providing stylized cues for emotions and culturally appropriate reactions. At the extreme detail end, western cartoons care more about showing every little (unrealistic) muscle and hair and bead of sweat, while at the extreme unrealistic end they focus on showing all the little “this is a stereotype feature that makes this person recognizably part of this group”, but at both ends you have to figure out emotions and culturally appropriate reactions by hidden context. Anime, by contrast, at the minimal detail end is barely more than a stick figure with emotion/reaction cues blatantly displayed, and at the extreme detail end actually aims for realistic appearance while still making sure that all the emotion/reaction cues cannot be missed.

        It’s likely that the reason for this is that anime is aiming for the Japanese cultural virtue of “everyone acts the same” (like 1984, with the media informing the population how they are supposed to feel about what they’re watching), but at the same time it is also relaxing for those of us who have trouble naturally recognizing and interpreting the cues in real life. In real life, I have to actively go out of my way to examine everything, and try to figure out from my studies “this body language means this emotion”. When watching anime, I can relax, because I not only don’t have to worry about missing a cue (since the cues are all blatant and designed to be visible), I also don’t have to worry about figuring out what the cue means (because the cues are all stylized, so they can be easily interpreted).

        Liked by 3 people

    1. Actually, it is just as human-normal to react later as to react now. Having both kinds of people around is important for survival, because they correct each other; and many people can react either way, depending on what is needed. There are ways to swing the amphibious to the desired response, but there is not much point fiddling with those who are hardwired to react one way or another.

      Just because you are an outlier in your own community, that does not make you broken or defective or even odd, from a historical perspective.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. When the characters suddenly gain some form of “pack senses” or instincts, it does express ways that a power or a change of instincts can affect their minds without jumping straight to crazy.

    My one critique would be that they tend towards an idealized version of pack behavior.
    Lots of trust and safety, very little dominance fights and ostracism.

    The origin of the term “pecking order” comes from chickens.
    The most powerful/dominant hen will peck all the chickens to keep them in place.
    The second most powerful will peck everyone except the head chicken, etc..

    The end result is you can look at a flock of chickens and immediately spot the top chicken, who is neat and well groomed, and the bottom chicken who is bleeding, miserable and completely henpecked.

    I would like to see a story where a group of people gain strong pack instincts, and the person at the bottom suddenly gains awareness of just how far down they are compared to everyone else.

    On the one hand, they aren’t particularly happy with their position, but on the other hand there is a reason they aren’t higher and no guarantee they can do better in another “pack.”
    If they move out of the bottom rung somehow, then suddenly the next person moves down…

    Liked by 2 people

      1. So would you describe the characters in stories as having “enough room” or stressed and limited resources?

        Even just having an instinctive hierarchy might throw some curve-balls since it might not match the existing hierarchy.

        Imagine SG-1 gets an upgrade of spliced super-powers with a side order of instinctive behavior.
        They sort it out and realize they aren’t crazy or compromised, just extra pack-ish.

        Jack finds himself having to force himself to listen when Danny is pushing for diplomatic approaches and finds himself cutting in line in the cafeteria.

        Teal’c is older, more experienced and very calm, so finds himself unexpectedly in the second spot since the others put extra weight on what he says.

        Danny is surprised to find himself in a third spot and occasionally stepping on Teal’c toes because he’s willing to argue with Jack about their work.

        Sam is shocked to realize that she’s last. In any other group she’d be in charge, but in SG-1 they’re all strong personalities and she finds herself sidelined until they need SCIENCE!
        Even worse, she feels legally obligated to take command over the non-military members, but her instincts keep telling her that the way to do it is by suppressing and overriding Danny and Teal’c.

        Toe-stomping ensues.

        Unfortunately I don’t have the discipline or ability to write worth a damn.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I’d call it “socialized” rather than “raised”– much like other animals, you can keep the natural instincts from being nasty with some social hacking.
        (Don’t get me started on the car theory of pet and child raising. I am not a fan.)

        Liked by 2 people

      3. *chuckles* sorry, poorly phrased– problem with some fantasy writers is they treat horses like cars.

        Use, park, ignore. Do maintenance when you use them.

        Some folks use that same thing for kids/pets, they only exist when the parent/owner is interested….

        Liked by 2 people

      4. I hate to point out the obvious… But Sam is female. So she would be on a slightly different hierarchy branch, would have no competition, and can continue to do pretty much what she always does. The difficulty would lie in whether you are talking a pack group that has to determine mating patterns immediately, or at a certain time of the year.

        There are very few animal groups where there isn’t some kind of male and female hierarchy difference, although they can intersect in some weird ways.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Oooh, but she is also not female, because she is green. (Er….blue? Well, cami, actually….)

        That would be a delightful bit of examining group dynamics, depending on how they GOT the instinct.

        Probably have to be done by an enlisted female, or dude who has lots of female friends, and is really into group dynamics.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. If you are talking about best viewpoint character, how about a policewoman from another country? (Bunnies left me an incoherent mess. I’m sorting it out, but they are talking about Kirihara as viewpoint character.)

        I’m definitely the wrong person to write such a story. (No military experience, tend to care less about social stuff, very few human RL human contacts of any sort.)


      7. Well, there you go. Humans definitely have the category “She’s not a girl, she’s my sister” (in all sorts of permutations, fun and not fun); but in general, animals do not. It takes a pretty prosperous animal group to have members like that, or a society where only the queen or a few other highrankers are doing female things. Same for guys.

        But even among humans, that category can shift with radical swiftness, and probably has to, for survival reasons. I keep running into the background for the UK’s old Marriage of Sister act (ew), and it was not about getting somebody to look after young kids or take care of the house. It was all about the old maid sister-in-law, the poor relation in the house, suddenly becoming a viable sex object when the married sister died, because of being in the house already. (Victorian people wrote romance novels to get it made legal. But it happened lots before it was legal. Ew.)

        So I suspect that it you carefully examined “She’s not a girl” categories, you would still find subtle differences in the treatment of one of the guys versus a girl who is one of the guys. It might get pretty darned subtle at times, but it would probably never go away entirely.

        Liked by 2 people

      8. So I suspect that it you carefully examined “She’s not a girl” categories, you would still find subtle differences in the treatment of one of the guys versus a girl who is one of the guys. It might get pretty darned subtle at times, but it would probably never go away entirely.


        Yes, which is part of why it would be so FUN– it takes the individual differences that do exist, and makes them BIGGER, so you can really have fun with the theory vs practice– and what happens when a different group or even just a guy who doesn’t know you don’t mess around with Slim runs into Slim. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Anyway, my point is that humans do have simian group behavior, both what is unique to our species and what is shared by many other simians. But we have overlays of culture and religion, as well as individual choices, that have more effect from day to day.

        So it is hard to recognize what people do together on orders from the backbrain, except when people disengage the higher brain functions of otherwise do things without thinking.

        I suppose you could define culture as a way to customize or override human group behavior.

        Liked by 2 people

      10. But we have overlays of culture and religion, as well as individual choices, that have more effect from day to day.

        Thank goodness.

        Amusingly enough, I was thinking about the old song about “Don’t Mess Around with Jim” where he found out that violating those cultural and religious restrictions works… for a little while. Then the exploiting doesn’t work and you get catastrophic failure. (‘the only part that wasn’t bloody was the soles of the big man’s feet’)

        I like the cultural and religious over-lays; pissing matches are annoying.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. Actually, that’s one of the odd things. Just like drunk people can be thoroughly convinced that their judgement and physical ability is not impaired at all, normal people are convinced that they “normally think things through and know why they’re acting as they are”, even when outside observation shows that their _normal state_ is actually the one with “higher brain functions disengaged and otherwise doing stuff without thinking.” There’s a reason why we have the phrase about “seeing the gears start turning”. Because normal people coast through the majority of their interactions on subconscious reaction and memory, only justifying stuff retroactively if something forces them to actually stop and think about something. Not that this is necessarily all bad. It’s just that it does have consequences.

        Liked by 2 people

      12. *Amused* I’ve seen people strip their gears and stop thinking when I hit them with the fact their beliefs had an innate contradiction.

        Person who shall remain nameless: “We should allow mescal and other traditional medicines, because that’s part of people’s culture!”

        me: “Oh, so you approve of killing tigers for their bones.”

        PWSRN: “I didn’t say that!”

        me: “Tiger bones are part of traditional Chinese medicine. Also rhino horns. So whose traditions get a pass?”

        Gears screech. Person changed subject….

        Liked by 1 person

      13. Okay, I can now mention Forensic Files. You know how people who get hit on the head can sometimes get back up and start doing stuff without realizing they are hurt? Until they collapse, still not realizing?

        This poor guy Peter Porco got axed to death by his own son, but he did not die right away in spite of having his head chunked open. So when his alarm rang, he got up, put on clothes, made breakfast, went out to get the paper, accidentally locked himself out and got back in with the key under the flowerpot, and only then died.

        He was a very punctual person, and apparently all that morning routine was habitual enough that his paleocortex could do it all. Clumsily, mind you, because the rest of his brain could not correct. But yeah, we shunt a lot of complex stuff over to habits.


    1. And to continue Vathara’s comment about chickens in sufficiently suitable conditions, it’s the same thing with most of the other pack situations we know of. Most of the common knowledge about wolf pack dynamics, for example, is outdated knowledge originally gained from zoos, and a few areas of human intervention and reintroductions of wolves to a region… situations that are not the norm for wolves, involving taking wolves from multiple sources and forcing them together without the time to settle in. In the wild, while there is still some stuff that as humans we’d view negatively, most of the negative factors of wolf pack dynamics simply don’t exist, because they have the room they need to spread, can trust their pack instead of constantly considering the pack to be made of outsiders, etc.

      It could be interesting to have a story where the characters get “pack instincts” without also getting Vathara’s “pack sense” feature, and thus have the problems that wolf packs in zoos have. “I feel like I should be part of this pack, and they clearly do too… but how much can I trust them? Do I know that they will truly work for the pack, instead of turning and fleeing as soon as it gets hard?” But Vathara’s “pack sense” feature comes with “you cannot help but know what they’re like” built in, so those problems simply don’t make sense there.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. A lot of the issues with pack dynamics comes from treating them like humans, rather than…well, animals.

        Heck, a lot of good information comes out of just reading the “this is how you stay alive around wolves” type books. Basically, observation by folks who didn’t have a theory. 😉

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Actually the thing that drew me to and one of my fave parts of your writing is the clannish supernatural stuff. My tribal instincts are also broken, maybe not as bad as your’s but they def don’t work like they are supposed to. I usually can’t even tell who the Popular Kids are. Reading about how the characters pull at each other is great.

    Do you know any other authors who writes this kind of thing?

    Liked by 3 people

  5. LOL. I don’t know if my tribal instincts are broken, but I’m definitely socially awkward. If you aren’t my immediate family and therefore ‘mine’, or a fluffy animal, chances are it’ll take me awhile to remember you (and I am conscious of the fact that admitting that would NOT be good). 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Same here! I have a hard time with names and faces. I just don’t “click” with people. I just don’t get teasing at ALL. As in have a hard time with Mom hard.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I also suffer from a certain degree of autism. I would also very heartily recommend S Miller & S Lee’s science fantasy/space opera Liaden Universe.

    One of the main features of the setting is a people (The Liadens) whose society is completely focused on family Clans as the primary unit of cultural organization (as opposed to nations), whose clan heads have literal power of life and death over clan family line members, and much/most of the inter-clan interactions is a constant battle for social dominance/maintaining the pecking order, with everything regulated by exactingly written contracts, and the… “Lawyer”/Notary/Clerk caste clans administering it all, and Empathic Healers keeping people from melting down/going postal (mostly).

    Liadens keep literal ledgers of positive and negative personal and clan social interactions (and everything thing counts as such), with the goal of keeping “Balance”. If someone does you a good turn, you must, at some point, reciprocate- the same if someone does you wrong. With often just that subtle touch of a little extra, to prove your social dominance. Long standing alliances (and feuds) further come into play, along with efforts to establish/prosecute such.

    Marriage as an institution doesn’t really exist, as every child born to a clan belongs to that clan exclusively, and is by law required to provide their clan with at least one child, by Contract “Marriage” with a member of another clan. This is something of a commercial transaction, with who carrys the most cost (in money or other material goods, or some kind of social marker) dependent on which clan receives the child, and the relative social standing/relationship. One of the Healers’ main duties is to soothe away any mental/emotional trauma (or “trauma”) upon the completion of the Marriage Contract, particularly from the mother, in the case her clan gives up the child.

    Also, very much not least, Clan Korval is simply awesome.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. At one point I was minding my own business, watching a car park at a curb… and back right into a truck. I admit I blinked, because you don’t see that every day-

    And someone yelled out, “Oh man, that truck just hit that car!”

    In under five minutes, that was what everyone there agreed had happened. Except me.

    An additional wrinkle– sometimes, they just say they agree.

    Because it can be quite dangerous to speak up. (as you’ve probably found out)

    I can’t see what the @#$@# folks are responding to, but more than once friends have done what amounts to “what the hell were you doing, trying to get killed?!” when I didn’t go along with an attempt to, well, frame someone.

    On the upside, when the rubber hits the road– there are folks who are willing to tell the truth, and it’s unaltered. One of the things that tends to get ignored about the Trayvon Martin case is that there were a lot of witnesses who were willing to testify under oath– but the only ones willing to go out and publicly declare it were the ones pushing the popular storyline, and some of the loudly public ones went oddly silent when under oath.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Huh. My instincts are kinda broken in a different way – I frequently have trouble reading people and situations, but I default to *trusting* people. (Probably because I grew up in a very service-oriented Quaker family.) Granted, break that trust sufficiently and they’re *out*, but that means I do my best to avoid you… because I still generally can’t read you, so I have to protect myself against the habit of “treat this person like they’re trustworthy”.

    So when I encounter people who are naturally dickish, my mental model of “how to people” kinda crashes, and I need to reboot things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Remember that there’s different types of “trust” (just like there’s different types of “love”), and that even with the same type of trust, the circumstances it is put through affect it.

      I was also raised Quaker (and my parents were missionaries), with the “let your yes be yes and your no be no”, and the associated expectation of honesty (and thus safety to trust). However, I also saw firsthand how uncommon it was to have that actually come true. I’ve thus ended up with a situation similar to my split cultural problem with figuring out whether it’s rude to be early or rude to be late, where I expect people to be honest and trustworthy while knowing that the cynic’s belief in their sudden but inevitable betrayal is more reasonable.

      And that’s just dealing with the type of trust that is not based on the person, but instead on your expectations of “what is normal and right, and can reasonably be expected of the normal person”. Then there’s types of trust like that of coworkers “this person has shown how they handle the work, and I thus trust them to continue acting in similar fashion in the future”. That trust may be quite secure, and yet have no effect at all on how much you trust them in any situation outside the work situation. “Life or death? My trust is entirely built on the assumption ‘in the same circumstances, they’d continue to act the same way’, so without having had life or death circumstances with them, I have no trust for them.” (it can even be a negative, specifically because of emotions getting involved “I thought I could trust them, and now I find I don’t know if I can, therefore I feel like I can’t”)

      I’m not as bad off as most of the others who’ve commented here, I do have enough pack instincts to be able to almost fit in… but there’s just enough lag in the processing that others have trouble with me. Also, while I have the instincts, I find that most of my instincts get processed consciously, not fully subconscious, so I _know_ that hacking is going on, and have to choose to allow it or to resist it (and can see it in others). I didn’t come with understanding built in, and did have to study to be able to understand what I was seeing, but it does put me in the odd position of being just divorced enough from it all to be creeped out by what I see normal people ignoring, without being so divorced from it that I can’t mostly appear normal when I choose to. I just also have the opportunity to step back and say “no way, I am not letting you hack my mind like the rest of your mob”.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Yeah, that makes it difficult. Interestingly enough, the psychological definition of ‘trust’ as handed down by psychologist grandfather is, “the ability to predict behavior.’ So the question then becomes “can I predict that this person will lie to me” vs “can I predict if they will tell the truth.” I love that way of using trust, because it is entirely a different paradigm shift, and it lets me control more things.

      Also, this is why I was a rule follower as a kid. Because I knew I didn’t understand people, so if I followed the rules then I’d at least know what was going on, right? Except all of my filters and mental filing system were messed up, so I was working on mostly spoken rules and only half understood unspoken rules. I have been told that I had managed to offend everyone in one of English classes in middle school, including the teacher, at least once and I still have no clue what I did when.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Even with that, there’s a difference between “prediction that they will continue to do the same thing in the same circumstances without any further understanding of them and thus no ability to predict outside those circumstances” and “actual understanding of them as a character and thus ability to predict for whatever circumstances.” But yes, that is the simpler form of trust.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Speaking of discussions at ATH, that one recent one where past discussions on a topic were recapped may have missed a bit. There had been several rounds of discussion about the crazymaking effects of ‘you stepped on the wrong tile’ that Sarah may also have been inferring as context for that comment about W behavior of group X is like Y behavior of group Z. The issue of autistics being chewed out for ‘touching the wrong tile’, missing social cues, were explicitly mentioned in some of the comments. The case of ‘you should be ashamed for offending me’, used against normal people as a weapon for political goals, was also discussed in other comments. I know Sarah participated in some of those discussions.

        I don’t have citations, so maybe my memory is unreliable.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I spent all of high school observing teenagers like a behaviorist or something, and I still don’t get social strata, organizations, popular vs unpopular, etc. I never even knew who the most popular kids in the entire school were.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. *Looks at all the people that dont understand social behavior, and slowly walks backwards…*
    no need to take me to your planet

    jokes aside there are always people who are aware of social norms, but decide to ignore some of it, and purposely o against the clannism… not in a bad way, but in a different one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And there’s different sorts of awareness. I am “aware” when stuff is happening that “doesn’t quite fit”. People saying one thing, and acting counter to it. Or saying one thing, in response to someone else saying the opposite, and both thinking they agreed (or saying the same thing, and both thinking they disagreed). But I usually have to actively consider it, thinking about what I have studied, to actually “know what was going on” (which puts my reactions to it slower than normal people), and then I can choose to act or not act on it. I’m usually not, however, “aware” of it in the sense of “I’m aware of exactly what this means”.

      And since I am only aware of the presence of those things, but have to think them through, there are many of them I’ve decided I choose to go against. I wear what I choose to wear because it fills the needs I have, even if it doesn’t fit the cultural view of what is right to wear, and I don’t bow to fads just because everyone’s doing it (pants around the knees? besides looking silly, it’s also completely awkward to walk that way). I choose to make a point of arguing certain changes in the language because the changes were stupid, even if I know it’s a losing battle (yes, language changes over time. but there’s also cases where language is changed on purpose, and sometimes for malicious reasons. Sometimes just for stupid ones. And when the change is one that actively lowers communication quality, such as misappropriating the one word that covered a specific meaning, so we’re left with no single word for that purpose, when there were other words that covered the meaning it was misappropriated for… that’s actively harmful to communication, and thus to be fought).

      Liked by 2 people

  12. A lot of what you say matches my own experiences.

    that pep rallies are supposed to get the whole crowd revved up,

    Is that what they are supposed to do?

    Because they just gave me a headache. Too much noise, too many people – my high school wasn’t the largest but it felt that way when you crammed everyone who wasn’t absent that day in the gym.

    Classmates looked forward to the pep rally. I always wanted to be absent that day so I didn’t have to attempt half of my classes with a migraine.

    In under five minutes, that was what everyone there agreed had happened. Except me.

    The Emperor has no clothes. And yet almost no one will say so.

    And after a bit, they will genuinely remember it happening that way. Because humans don’t remember things nearly as well as we like to think we do. Humans, generally speaking, remember SOME of what happened and fill in the gaps with what their own experiences / biases / etc tells them should be in the gaps. Or what someone else who was there tells them should be in the gaps.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think that pep rallies were even more of a chore for me because of what they were trying to get the crowd revved up for. Which in my high school was American football.

        Which I have absolutely no interest in and never have. The only games I have ever watched were my little brother’s Pee Wee games and that was more about being a good big sister than interest in the sport.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. If you want to know something about football for social reasons, I recommend the anime Eyeshield 21. Sort of hilarious, sort of horrifying in its mutation of a feature of U.S. culture, but excellent at showing you how to watch football with understanding. Fun characters too.

        (The concept of only getting to play real games in the regional tournament was horrifying… I mean, how do you learn a game when the season is two games long, or similar? And then I realized that all the less popular Japanese high school sports and games are set up like that….)

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Social cues go over my head pretty badly, too. I had no idea who the popular kids were in school and frankly didn’t care most of the time. I was also told more than once that I had a creepy stare because when someone said something I wasn’t sure how to react to, I’d just look at them for a minute, trying to figure out what I’m supposed to say.

    For example, my school had this thing where we would hang out in the gym during the lunch hour if we were done eating or whatever. We’d sit on the bleachers and I was usually left alone (quite happily, mind) with a book. One time a guy I didn’t know came over and asked if I’d go out with him. I never really dated, so I had no idea how to react, and just kind of stared at him. He stammered out something about a bet and left. It wouldn’t be a big deal, but I still haven’t a clue if he was being serious or not and it kind of bugs me sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Part of what upsets me about standard school situations is that they make for incredibly tiny pools of “normal” that’s some 30 folks.

      Which is historically OK, and functionally a HORRIBLE idea. We can be trained to a much larger, wider range of normal, and teaching people for 13 years to do otherwise causes a lot of stress.

      Who knows what the proper response meaning “I have no idea how to respond, politely” is– and that’s before issues like if it was a dare, and expansions after that of he felt guilty, and he really was interested.

      It’s sad, because my small children are better socialized than that– because they’ve been in a wide range of social situations, so they are still childishly inexpert, but they don’t add fuel to the fire by getting upset.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. So, I don’t think my instincts are broken, so much as just not connected to anyone beyond immediate family and one of my two sets of grandparents. Anyone else, well, I care, but… I’ve never really connected well with other people beyond acquaintance level due to lack of shared interests. Not very interested in boys, or movies, or gossip. I’m pretty sure I was towards the bottom of the social hierarchy because of it, but don’t ask me where everyone else was on the ladder.

    And just look at me now! I still don’t know how to people. Unrealistic expectations from reading doesn’t help either. So much potential in every person, yet so many idiots…

    As a side note, I looked up ‘tribal instincts’ and found this to be an interesting read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The claim about movements between Indian tribal populations and American settler populations invites questions about sources and methodology. Among other things, how would the BIA “white man’s schools” be evaluated? I understand that for some tribes, even the children that wanted to return to the older ways of that tribe no longer could because they were no longer old enough.

      The article itself really does not discuss the matter as a trade off. Having a tribal culture often means that you cannot also have some other type of culture. Other qualities of a culture are somewhat related to type, and there are good and bad things to be said about these other qualities. Mainstream American cultures seem to be the result of mixing many different cultures, many of them national (such a French) or regional (Scotch-Irish is sorta regional) cultures. So I found the article fairly narrow.

      I currently suspect that the degree of individualism in American culture stems from the degree and kind of colonial era cultural mixing, and well predates industrialization. And long post dates agriculture. I am not sure that there is a way to trace continuity of our culture back to pre-agricultural periods and have the comparison be at all meaningful. There is an argument for weighting the Anglo-Saxon cultural influence highly, but you still don’t have to go back very far for inheritance of values to become so little as to be meaningless.

      Happiness? Meaning? Value statements. Values can be religious, or can be cultural. There are some interesting religious shifts in recent American history. That some moderns feel malaise is not necessarily evidence for how previous cohorts felt.

      The person who wrote the book is a journalist. I wonder how well read he is about some of the interesting things the physical anthropologists are turning up.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I don’t know enough to say one way or another on any of it. I had heard of stolen/kidnapped settlers refusing to go back- a couple of fiction books, granted, but I believe they had been based off a true story. Which might not mean much, in the end- ‘based off of’ leaves a rather broad range of possibilities.

        But I think the thing I found most interesting was the bit about the WWII bombing and morale. That, and chaos/disaster being “downright therapeutic to people suffering from mental illness”. Don’t think they have the whole picture there. I mean, sure people tend to band together in those times, you can get some of the unlikeliest bonds to form.

        But I think some of their improved health comes from,

        ‘Well, I’m probably gonna die anyway. But lets’ make it hurt for the other guy first.” Spite makes for a wonderful motivator. Harder to be depressed when you’re focused on proving someone else wrong/making them regret messing with you.

        “Well, things have already gone to hell, it can’t get much worse, so screw the anxiety. Let’s throw everything at the wall and see what sticks!” And thus, to their surprise, progress is made and they actually survived the mess.

        Also, I hate to say it, but the suicidal people were probably some of the first to go. And you know how people say that the time you should be most worried for someone who’s suicidal, is when they suddenly cheer up? Yeah, as far as some might be concerned, they’ll probably die without having to lift a finger, it’s only a matter of time. Might as well do something productive until then. At least until they decide that they want to live after all, too much to do to die here.


      2. Happier in WWII also has questions of methodology and sourcing.

        Have they corrected for the stresses of the great depression? You may also have a certain amount of stress in a society prior to the start of a significant war. “What is going to happen?” When you are in close contact with the worst of the war, you know exactly how bad it is, have less spoons for worrying, and may know that you can survive what you are experiencing.

        And looking at the climate change/global poverty talk, the secondary author has fundamentally misread society and societal events. You have to have societies with insides and outsides before wars between societies cause an increase in cohesion. If a country doesn’t start with a certain amount of fundamental internal stability, the stress of war would tend to also cause civil wars. The religion that experiences global poverty as being such an immediate and urgent crisis has probably already converted the current crop of susceptible personalities.

        Full disclosure, I am influenced in my analysis by a couple of other factors. One, I know there are many difficulties in measuring human beings. A lot of the stuff that moves beyond the journals does so because it is surprising or politically useful, and is surprising or useful because it is not very replicable. Two, word choice of the text would tend to make me ID the author as an enemy. Possible three, my immediate reaction was: “That sounds miserable. Why would I want any part of it?”

        Liked by 1 person

      3. *chuckles*

        Well, the #1 reaction I had was that tribalism is great, if you’re really good at messing with the emotional angles of it and…well, it’s like a football player liking trial by strength.

        And the site is “the emotion machine.”

        But then, it looks like the author is from the perspective that the lack of tribe is not accidental, it’s part of literally thousands of years of trying to expand the tribal instinct to the whole of humanity. (all men are brothers), and sadly the last several decades we’ve also had issues with family ties being weakened or destroyed.

        Both from family history and familiarity with the modern-day Middle East, I very much understand the downsides of tribes, and am aware that the book’s blurb on military brotherhood being a hunger for tribe is inaccurate. Tribal cultures, even very small tribes, had that bond.


        Side note, giggling about linking agriculture with industry, and the idea that it doesn’t require cooperation and doesn’t depend on those around you. ^.^


        People hunger for BELONGING. Different levels of it, but I can assure you– as if most of the folks here didn’t already know– that needing something from people, and not knowing how to get it, are extremely stressful.
        That is the fate of those who are strange in a tribe.

        Especially when it is an enforced tribe, rather that one born of necessity.

        Because a forced tribe, someone has a lot of power. And they’re using it to MAKE you do what they want. For their own goals.

        Contrast with “if we don’t all work together, we’re going to die.”

        Liked by 2 people

      4. *Facepalms* Agriculture requires a heck of a lot of cooperation. That guy does sheep – that guy does wheat – that other guy knows how to keep the mill running so our wives don’t have to spend half the day, every day, grinding grain….

        Liked by 1 person

      5. And before we got all highly industrial, it took a lot more.

        More importantly, from almost living memory (my dad’s grandparents) I know that agriculture took more cooperation; you can’t avoid the problems of shared resources by killing the competition when you need to buy corn from them for your sheep, and sell your wool to buy beef and leather from the other grazers, and “just move” isn’t a solution to screwing up the water supply.


      6. Yeah, but some of that cooperation was property rights. Otherwise, why put in work you won’t get a return from? Good fences make good neighbors, or at least neighbors that don’t spend their full time raiding and burning each other’s fields.

        And property rights are totally the source of human unhappiness, you betcha. The mind that simplified things down to the development of agriculture and the industrial revolution is the sort of mind whose opinions on happiness I particularly value. XD

        Liked by 2 people

  15. If you were in the US army in WWII, you ate good, you had clothing, you usually had someone giving you clearly defined tasks, you were making money, you got free books and magazines, there was foreign travel and meeting new people, you learned new skills (like poker), and so on. You were out in the fresh air, getting exercise.

    So yeah, it was not a bad deal, aside from the boredom and the chance of getting killed. And a lot of those things are helpful to people with mental conditions.

    Beyond all that, it is known that some people do badly when given time to brood, but do well when taken out of themselves. Responsibilities and a little forward momentum can be a real depression fighter.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Speaking from personal experience, now that you mention it…

        In hindsight, thinking about it that way, I’m surprised they didn’t just roll over the Axis and continue on into the Soviet Union.

        Liked by 1 person

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