Friday, August 9, 2019

435. Parochial and kin-based altruism

Two sources of altruism are the following.

One, the strongest, is that of kinship, based on genetic similarity. The closer genetic similarity is, in parenthood, then siblings, cousins, etc., the greater mutual altruism is. That is a result of  evolution: it favours survival and proliferation of one’s genes.

The strong bonding of genes, with appeals to ‘family’, ‘brotherhood’, ‘blood’, and the like, is also borrowed, high-jacked, socially, beyond genetic similarity. Think of motor clubs, soldiers, soccer fans, gangs, etc., based on ‘brotherhood’.

Another source of altruism is ‘parochial altruism’, discussed earlier in this blog (205, 208 in 2015), with in-group solidarity and out-group suspicion and discrimination. Probably, this is also embodied in genes, but more universally, unrelated to family, not restricted to kin, as a basis for ‘group selection’. That works as follows. It is advantageous to people in a group to exercise solidarity, up to a point, next to an instinct for self-preservation. However, genes lie with the individual, not the group, so that there is a threat of opportunistic outsiders invading an altruistic society, and competing away the bearers of any altruistic gene. Thus, to survive, the altruistic inclination must be protected against opportunistic outsiders by a countervailing instinct of suspicion, for detecting and restraining or punishing egotistic invaders. 

The two, kinship and parochial altruism, can reinforce each other, especially in mobilizing the
‘pseudo-kin’ of seeing members of one’s group as family, or ‘of the same blood’.

Mentally, distrust of the foreign is housed in an area of the brain that seats distaste and disgust as a defence against poison. With that, the outsider is not just suspect but disgusting, or poisonous, contagious.

For dealing with the refugee problem, the trick now is to side-track these mechanisms.

Pseudo-kinship can be, and already is, mobilized for this, in trying to see outsiders as brothers in humanity, members of the same ‘family of man’. Or creatures of the same God, but then difference in God only exacerbates the problem. 

Another approach, discussed earlier (in item 208), is to bring in, as soon as possible, the experience of a shared activity, bringing in refugees into a variety of in-groups, entering employment as soon as possible, becoming members of local communities of life, education, profession, sports club, and culture. Nothing brings people together so much as working, doing things together, being dependent on each other in fulfilling a task.                 

The worst approach is the present one, of crowding them together in camps, keeping them idle and isolated, not letting them engage in activity until, far too late, they finally get the status of residence. They get frustrated by idleness, strife within their heterogeneous ranks inevitably breaks out, and then the judgement of their maladaptiveness gets comfortably confirmed.      

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