Recently, I published an article regarding entropy as the current bane of society and how our institutions are unable to resist the inevitable deterioration that comes with the lack of ability to coordinate and plan on the part of the people within the institutions. A related question is why when things get so bad do people do little to nothing about it? I’ve worked in politics a while and in local politics and the most shocking thing is the herculean effort required to pass the smallest municipal ordinance. Why when faced with so many major problems are humans more inclined to apathy than to action and only take that action when the threat is extremely obvious and will only mitigate the problem insofar as they mitigate the obviousness?
First, one has to appreciate how humans calculate satisfaction. This is not happiness and humans will remain in an unhappy situation just to maintain a homeostasis that makes them feel safe, even if it’s irrational, because homeostasis almost always feels safer even when it is not. For instance, global warming is like an abusive relationship. Doing nothing may be existentially dangerous and even lethal but our lizard-brains believe doing nothing is always the safer option. In politics, the two largest aggregate movements are NIMBYs and nationalists which means that even when major movements erupt, it is to maintain the status quo or return to a relatively recent status quo. NIMBYs and nationalists both want their home to stay homelike which is the supposedly human-level conscious analog to an amoeba balancing its osmotic pressure.
I recently worked with the school board on special needs programs including anti-bullying PSAs, a peer ally system, creating non-G-rated social events, and so forth. Lots of things. As a first step, myself and three school board members of the Charleston County School Board agreed to try to recruit students and parents to form focus groups on exactly what their biggest concerns were during the pandemic. That’s when the three members of the school board realized this would require effort and even though the idea sounded great, they claimed they were busy and all ultimately abandoned the project.
The moment that the idea was supposed to go from idea to reality was when the school board members ran away from the project, claiming they were “busy”. Which is the universal excuse of everybody who doesn’t want to do something. I won’t deny they were busy but that wasn’t the reason they abandoned the project. People usually are doing something more than merely being alive and so long as you make something your lowest priority then everything else counts as “busy”. The real reason they didn’t do it was because they lived banal, mundane, lives without much intellectual or creative exertion and to engage in such would disturb the homeostasis which they are instinctively bound to.
Thousands of people, especially children, will be the victims of neglect for which they have plausible deniability. As long as the harm they cause is indirect and caused by neglect and they have plausible deniability then their amoeboid personalities shall remain in the warm security of homeostasis. Nothing is going to actively hurt them but doing the slightly bold acts that progress always requires elicits the primal feelings of exposure to potential ostracism and potential loss of material status that they can evade in favor of the feelings of safety if they just do absolutely nothing.
In that instance, I didn’t feel personally offended that my ideas didn’t get used. That was of little concern to me. I was offended that nothing was accomplished. They didn’t abandon my project for their own, they abandoned the project for their normal jobs and lives while leaving all the people we were intending to help at the feet of the crumbling system we had planned to make a little lass crumbling. It was not only that but that virtually every single political project I had worked on, more or less, ended similarly. The people in the project went back to their normal lives feeling no remorse or guilt over abandoning the people we were supposed to have helped, not feeling like bad people within the confines of their social circles and homes.
I entitled this piece “Death Before an Inch” is because people are so addicted to homeostasis that they will pursue it to their own and everyone else’s detriment. If no one takes risks then everyone will suffer. To return to the example of global warming, for many years any environmental proposal was deemed far-left and radical. Not pragmatic or practical. Doing anything was considered too much. The result will be that everyone loses to an extreme degree. Strategies must be developed to counter the cognitive biases that make this happen so that going forward, humans do not die on the hill of maintaining homeostasis but progress through the feelings of exposure and risk that the mildest boldness carries with it.