General Question

wundayatta's avatar

How would mankind get along if there were no status?

Asked by wundayatta (58571points) August 9th, 2010

Humans are tribal creatures who are constantly seeking to have a place in the group with high status. If you have high status, people want to be your friend or to help you, in hopes that some of the benefits of high status will fall on them.

These days, one of the simplest ways of demonstrating our status is the accumulation of material things. For the most part, the more we have, the more power we have and the more people want to be around us. Of course, there are other strategies for gaining status such as being an outstanding artist of some kind, or by making sacrifices for others, or by being really smart or by being a good fighter, among many others.

I think status is important for organizing communities and for organizing how work gets done. There need to be leaders.

Or do there? Could humanity work without leaders? Without people with higher status than others? How would that work?

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45 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

You would have to neuter all the Alpha males of the world as anytime there is more than one person involved someone will push their way to the front to take charge no matter what the situation or circumstances.

Seek's avatar

I think status is inherent to our situation. You can’t simply not have status.

For example – a two-year-old has higher status than a newborn, because they have the ability to express their needs beyond crying. An apprentice woodworker has a lower status than an experienced craftsman, because he doesn’t know as much.

Andreas's avatar

I’ll put a spanner (wrench) in the works and see what happens. Ants don’t appear to have any leader or status situation, yet they get their work done AOK. Mankind is status-hungry and I can’t see a status-free world happening any time soon.

Short answer for me is that it will never happen, although it would be nice for this Utopian dream to exist.

Also, we have far too many politicians (not just those in government, either!) and other assorted “boss” types who would never tolerate a status-free world.

But I could be wrong!

CMaz's avatar

They would get along just as well as the population on Mars does.

ChocolateReigns's avatar

@Andreas Ants do have a leader – the queen.

Randy's avatar

@Andreas Actually, ants do have status. They all serve the queen first and foremost so as to keep their species going. Then you have ants that tend to the queen, drones the fertile males, workers, warriors and so on.

The only way humans could get by without status is to live as lone creatures but there would still be status when males and females got together to produce offspring and when the offspring was born. Status is seen all throughout the animal kingdom. It’s not really possible to not have it.

marinelife's avatar

Invent some new way to define status.

JLeslie's avatar

I think some cultures are more status driven than others. I see it in companies too, some are much “flatter” than others. Meaning there are not many levels of status separating the bottom from the top. When I am with people who are not very concerend about status I like it better. I feel like they really want to know a person for who they are, not by what they own or earn.

I prefer not to call my boss Mr. or Ms. Lastname, even though I respect their position. Feels more approachable and team oriented.

I do think a certain amount of status related to leadership is necessary in a society. We need to be able to identify who has the most experience and most success in certain situations so we can go to them for guidance.

LostInParadise's avatar

According to Nietzsche, the desire for status is the primary driving force. He said that what we take as a desire for monetary gain is, beyond a certain point, a quest for recognition. There is much of Nietzsche that I don’t go along with, but on this point I am inclined to agree. I don’t think there could be a society that does not have some means for achieving status.

BoBo1946's avatar

I’m my own leader. anyone want to follow!

BarnacleBill's avatar

Are you saying that those with the most crap in their house deserve to be in charge because they are of higher status?

tedd's avatar

The only thing that will “generally” bring man kind together and make us get along (for the most part) ..... is when we find aliens to hate for being different.

wundayatta's avatar

@BarnacleBill I’m not making any normative statements. Deserving is irrelevant to my question.

People sort of are and sort of aren’t answering my question. Part of why I asked is to reaffirm what I think is true: we can’t do without a social hierarchy. We might not even survive without social hierarchy.

@Andreas has a utopian dream that there is a world where status doesn’t exist. Why is this attractive? Is it because it means an end to competition? We could all feel better about ourselves? Is it because once we are all equal, we don’t have to work any more? I just don’t understand why anyone would want a world where there is no hierarchy. I agree with @marinelife that it would just be invented again if someone it disappeared.

I think that it works the other way around from what @BarnacleBill seems to have suggested. People are not in charge because they have high status. It is because they have high status that they are in charge. The people who have a lot of “crap” are able to acquire it because of their status, and they use the “crap” as a way to show their status.

Big houses, big cars, the best appliances, first class service—these are the perks of wealth and power. I believe that people would not have those perks if they hadn’t worked for them (unless they inherit th wealth).

I think that people who rail against our society’s love of stuff—our materialistic society—are kind of missing the point. Stuff is not important in terms of actually using it, and people mistake that for a moral failure. Stuff is important as a status symbol. It is a way of visually announcing how important you are. It is not that we derive happiness from stuff. It’s that power gives us happiness and requires the acquisition of stuff (unless you gain your power from aceticism) to demonstrate how powerful you are.

Money don’t buy you love. Money can’t make you happy. This is all true, but beside the point. Power can buy you love and happiness, and money is associated with power. It is a mistake to think that money is doing the trick.

Of course, power (status) can be misused, and then the mighty can fall. Status used without compassion will not buy you love. It just buys servility. Status used without honesty or integrity might give you more status for a while, but as soon as you are found out, you fall pretty far down.

The implication of this is that we can not get away from a consumption driven society. Consumption is too closely linked to status. If we want to have a lighter footprint on our planet, then we have to get society to buy into other indicators of status.

JLeslie's avatar

@wundayatta I think money does buy power and freedom. The money and material stuff can give someone status in our society, wat is interesting that it can give them status in areas that are sometimes undeserved. Think of wealthy actors who all of sudden people care about their political opinions. They may know little about politics, but once they are well known and rich, people care what they have to say.

The implication of this is that we can not get away from a consumption driven society. Consumption is too closely linked to status. If we want to have a lighter footprint on our planet, then we have to get society to buy into other indicators of status. Excellent point.

wundayatta's avatar

@JLeslie I guess what I’m saying is that the link is too close in time to be able to separate them. Maybe money = power. For example, fundraising in politics—whoever raises the most wins. Or is it whoever is most electable raises the most money?

Well, these things are not always true. Most of the time high status is associated with high wealth. Most of the time high wealth is associated with high status. But sometimes people have status with no wealth or wealth with no status. Similarly, with elections, sometimes the person who didn’t raise the most money wins.

My point is that just because it looks like money follows the power or power follows the money doesn’t mean that is what is really happening.

JLeslie's avatar

@wundayatta Yeah. And, a lot of it is perceived status or perceived money. If you dress it up right people will buy into the packaging, know what I mean? I think each group decides what is worthy of status though maybe. Some may value material things; some a title, like royalty; some life experience, like cultures who show high respect for their elderly.

You mention politics, I think whever raises the most generally wins. I don’t think how much an individual is worth personally, his personal wealth, necessarily makes him a likely candidate, but people will donate money to the campaign for many reasons. Interestingly I think part of the reason they will contribute to a politican is because the individual donating feels they themselves will gain some status or power if their candidate wins. They will be part of the group that has control. And, I think peer pressure is involved. If most of the people in the community are donating, they don’t want to be the one who isn’t.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Money purchases—or rents—physical comfort during your misery. It think hierarchy comes from man’s need for control or certainty. Those who need certainty the most generally will do more to obtain it, and the more successful they are, the more risks, albeit calculated, individuals are willing to take to get certainty. It’s not about the money. The money is the byproduct of having control.

JLeslie's avatar

@wundayatta I was just thining that in politics sometimes they dress down the candidate. Bush seemed to win because the average guy perceived him a good ol’s boy he could drink a beer with. His silver spoon, oil business, Harvard upbringing just seemed to dissappear.

lapilofu's avatar

I think small societies can function without hierarchical status. There would still be assigned roles, but not a traditional hierarchy. There are many communes and cooperative living situations that function this way.

I don’t think this generalizes well to entire nations, however.

zophu's avatar

The thing about status is that it must be based on practicality. A leader is a good leader, when they are in the process of giving good direction. This is essentially unrelated to their material possessions and such. It is also essentially unrelated to their reputation. A child giving the best order makes that child the best leader at the time.

The trick is setting up people with statuses that are reliable. This is impossible to do well in large populations. Even in populations of just a few thousand, a system of “checks and balances” must be used to ensure competent leadership. In systems of millions and hundreds of millions—billions—no status of leadership is going to be competently assigned to any person or group of people, because none can be competently held.

The natural progress seems to leans towards the creation artificial systems that serve as “leadership” for large populations. The more complex the effective leadership, the more mechanical it appears anyway, even if it is run by people of status. With a transparent artificial system built with science as the only authority, then altered democratically where science didn’t have an answer, (which would be rare,) we could effectively remove the need of hierarchal status in the largest populations—the world.

This is already happening through natural selection, I think. The problem is in the people of high status who are unwilling, or unable, to give up their status for a transparent artificial system of leadership. It would still be managed by people, but these people would be scientists and watchful citizens, not leaders.

In smaller populations, high stations could still be had without threatening immediate stability, but that seems inefficient. People who truly deserve status will get status based on people’s opinions of them alone—they don’t need titles or special privileges. If everyone has an equal volume of speaking, the extraordinary voices will always be heard. Even roles that people play would rarely need to stick as labels. A system of effective analysis would ensure that people who have the appropriate concepts and skills would be allowed the jobs and privileges that the less specialized weren’t—this would not necessarily imply role, though; there’s no need.

wundayatta's avatar

When I was a kid sitting around the dinner table and the talk turned to politics, my father would always say that “things would be a lot better if scientists ruled the world.”

Nonsense. I totally approve of evidence-based policy, but all the evidence in the world isn’t going to help you make a choice between spending a dollar on education and spending it on health care. In the end, that’s a choice only a leader can make.

zophu's avatar

@wundayatta Scientists wouldn’t rule society anymore than a biologist rules an ecosystem.

“All the evidence in the world isn’t going to help you make a choice between spending a dollar on education and spending it on health care.”

You’re right. Evidence would probably tell you that dollars are irrelevant and the only significant factors involve actual resource allocation. The supply and demand of which could surely be measured with acceptable precision considering it’s done already, just with money thrown in the mix to somehow justify severely limiting the amount of resources used on the two most important aspects of any society: education and health. They don’t require the same types of resources, anyway.

Until we claim the collective resources as the heritage of the collective people and demand that all uses of those resources be transparent and based on scientific conclusions compensated with democratic decisions where necessary, we’re going to continue to play this game of money-mysticism. Where “leaders” must be diviners of the future in order to make good decisions.

No. Do you really think the people behind the divining figureheads aren’t using scientific research to come to their conclusions as to what to do with “their” resources in relation to us? Until we claim that scientific privilege for everyone, we will never be free. Politics is a mysticism; you pick and choose decision-makers based on how their opinions and policies feel when you see them in one package. It’s like seeing the future in a pile of bones. It’s a joke.

wundayatta's avatar

Unfortunately, science can’t predict the future, either. At best, it can tell us probabilities that this action now will result in that action later. In social science, if you get a predictor that accounts for 20% of the variation in the outcome, you have a great predictor! All the studies in the world, while they help us get more understanding, will never get us even close to being able to predict outcomes on any important issue with even the accuracy of a weather report.

That means that we still need people who can make decisions in the face of such uncertainty. That means that your “mysticism” in the choice of leaders will always be there.

It would be wonderful if science can give us precise answers for everything that concerns us. It can’t. Not because it hasn’t studied everything (although it hasn’t), but because of the probabilistic nature of human behavior (not to mention the universe, itself).

zophu's avatar

Compensating for the lack of scientific certainty, is still a scientific endeavor. Leaders will always be necessary, but not leaders of millions and billions. The only way to ensure competent representation of that many people is through policies based on current scientific knowledge.

The policies used wouldn’t be considered scientific facts, they would just be determined by experts using scientific facts to maximize their reliability. Healthcare policies would be determined by qualified healthcare experts, and any other experts who’s areas might be involved the specific decisions, such as resource allocation. Not politicians. Not voters outside of the relevant specialties, unless something is literally a 50/50% decision according to the experts which would obviously be very rare. If people who weren’t considered experts had opposing theories, they could submit them for review.

Why is this such a radical idea?

anartist's avatar

If there were no “status” someone would have to create it.

wundayatta's avatar

@zophu You vastly over-estimate the certainty of science—especially social science. In the parts of government that rely on hard science—say the military—science pretty much rules the technological side. The strategic side is another thing altogether.

Your idea is not so much a radical one, as an ill-informed one. For one who is advocating the use of science to drive policy more, you have not done your research about what science is and is not capable of. You seem to be unaware of the controversies within science. You seem to be unaware of how often major proven theories get turned over when new evidence comes to light.

Experts are not really expert. Data are fudged all the time. There is as much dishonesty in science as there is in the rest of the population. There are many issues where scientific opinion is divided, not merely a few.

You suggest submitting policies for review. In fact, this already happens all the time. Health care reform had exhaustive review, with the CBO considered the final say. However, it can take a while for reviews to be performed, and the results are always impeachable as people claim that politics got involved in forming the results. So often, those concerns are justified. Science is subject to politics just as much as anything else.

Science will not rescue our policy making system. The system already relies on scientific data as much as it can. But there are legitimate disagreements about interpretation of results or about assumptions used in making projections. Politicians will always be an important part of the policy-making system. And after all, they are the experts in making policy. This is something few scientists (except political scientists) know a lot about.

You may not know, but I have spent most of my professional life providing scientific data and analysis to policy-makers. I have seen how this works. I am glad there are politicians out there willing to fight the good fight. I know I would never be successful at that. I couldn’t persuade a politician to let me out of a paper bag if my life depended on it. My representative may be a scoundrel, but at least he’s my scoundrel.

zophu's avatar

@wundayatta So many people get trapped in the idea that science deals in certainty; I think it comes from the need people have to believe in what they work for, even if what they’re working for is just a guess. The purpose of science is to improve the effectiveness of our understanding of nature—attempting to define nature is just a part of that.

I’m not saying we should look to textbooks as lawbooks. I’m saying that the only people who should be responsible for weighing in on a decision concerning certain fields, including sociology, should have to prove that they understand the determined relevant concepts that make up that field when the decision effects millions of people. What concepts are relevant for what, would be determined in a similar way, working down the levels of complexity until you reach basic natural understandings—isn’t that how science works? Science is only a shouting contest full of lies when you mix politics in with it. The politics should be removed from it. And they can be, if we demand it.

People get hung up on the idea of “human nature breeds corruption” when considering new ways for humanity to live. If the incentives and confusions that cause people to become “corrupt” are removed, people stop lying and shouting so much. They want to interact in altruistic ways. And the best ways to remove the incentives and confusions that cause people to behave in nasty ways is through . . . science. Scientists are still human and most of their decisions aren’t based on their valid understandings but on their incentives. If we make those incentives in the scientific awareness for the world, and not in competing for funding or for pushing political ideals, only the mentally unstable would intentionally jeopardize the integrity of that awareness—and they would be rare and usually easy to identify.

Political systems would still have a place in small governments that make up a part of the greater system. But decisions that effect so many people must be founded in science as best as they can be, “scientifically.” The only things preventing this are the ridiculously super-powerful and their religious notions of property when it comes to the planet’s basic resources. If those were freed up, their most efficient use would be possible. Imagine how much more research would be possible—there would be much more evidence available for backing up theories. There would still be mistakes, misunderstandings, and huge disputes—but they would be handled scientifically, without the possibility of any raw ideals being applied directly.

I think the painful thing to accept here is that our world isn’t run primarily by reason, but by the ideals of the people who happen to be most powerful. These people surely use their reasoning, but their reasoning is not enough. They are too few. Regardless of how intelligent, well-informed and cooperative they are, it is not their place to be so powerful. They could probably come to that conclusion if they used their resources to research the question. But they aren’t going to do that; or if any of them do do that, there will be others who ignore the conclusions and take their place once they step down. They’re going to use their reasoning on the world, trying to make it a better place, based on their ideals. The little idea here is to make those big ideals transparent and based in disputable science so that they cease to be ideals and become reasoning.

I’m not saying we can apply a new, more scientific system right on top of the one we have now immediately. I’m just saying that until world order is defined, not by the raw wills of leaders and random voters, but by widely understood and disputable cybernetics, we will not be free.

Something like this seems to already happen naturally. I really think that the only things getting in the way are unquestioned memes, which is exactly the thing that a science-based system of regulation would constantly work against having. Also, any understanding of the natural world that is actively kept from public access might be a big problem, I guess; but demanding policies to be based in transparent scientific research and dispute would make this more and more difficult for people to do as public awareness increased.

The only ideals over large populations should be anti-idealistic. The only effective way of doing this is through scientific authority. And that would not be one true authority. Experiments would still have to be done. Many conflicting theories would undoubtedly be used in figuring out how to improve the world order to better suite human nature, but they would each have to qualify as plausible if they were to include millions of test subjects.

Diversity would not be lost, in fact it would be greater. New cities would be research subjects, systems within those cities operating in different ways in search of more efficient ways to run things. There would never be one rule over how people lived, and the efficiency that would come from using a scientific authority would allow great freedom for those who wished to live in a new way—they would just be encouraged to document their personal experiments in life.

There’s some kind of meme that’s drilled into people’s brains. Politics is where the power of decision seems to be, but is it really what gets things done? Could it be there primarily to keep people busy disputing their ideals while the scientifically elite change the world on their will through technology? Every one of Benjamin Franklin’s inventions are considered to be fully in the realm of science, except for one. I don’t see why this should be the case. It just calls for better science. Things seem to be so restrictive when it comes to scientific pursuits. I’m sure there are evidence-backed opinions as to why this is, but I think it comes down to money and politics—both of which operate off of ideals, not science. I don’t think I can accept political rule regardless of what I learn about it. The fact remains, science is how we collectively understand nature, and our collective understanding of nature is how we collectively adapt to it. Our rule, should be based on that, without any middlemen. There’s no way around my idealism here that I can see, except maybe hopelessness in its application. But hope isn’t an issue when I don’t need to expect the world to be much saner than it is now before I die.

Forgive any redundancy and, of course, try to see beyond the nativity if it isn’t too painful. Even a child can come up with an idea of how to work wood that the carpenter missed through decades of his career, simply because the child sees things from a different angle. Even if the child then goes on to talk about how he thinks the carpenter should build a house out of crackers or something. Not to imply that this is an original idea.

wundayatta's avatar

@zophu We are, I think, talking about decision-making, and the best way to do it. I totally agree that decisions should be made with the best scientifically gathered information available. That’s fine as far as it goes.

However, there are many non-scientific factors that go into decisions. I don’t think we could ever be able to measure everything. There will always be competing goods. How do we allocate limited resources between those goods?

For better or for worse, we have decided that we will select someone we trust to represent us to help make these decisions and to advocate for our interests. We need politicians and we need the political process in order to feel like we have a say in the decisions that get made.

Science will never be enough. Yet we should rely on it as much as we can.

zophu's avatar

I’m more so developing my ideas than arguing with you, I think. But to tie it up, I think there’s a compromise we can agree upon.

First, I believe science can be enough if there are practical methods developed to deal with things that are very uncertain—again I’ll state that science is not about defining nature, but dealing with it as apparently effectively as possible; so there’s room for all levels of certainty. Second, I believe there are decisions that need to be made by people in their daily lives that should not be scientifically analyzed and broken down—this includes leaders but only leaders of small amounts of people. What “small” means is probably something that could be determined scientifically, I think.

My fundamental point, I believe, is that as more people fall under a system of regulation, the more science-based that system of regulation should become to maximize efficiency in allowing people as much freedom as can be granted without causing instability.

My passion for the subject comes from my feeling that people don’t demand enough freedom for those who would advance technology and, more aggravatingly, they don’t demand enough accessibility to that technology. If we were to demand advancement, we would advance. My fear is that the people who are in positions to work for advancement don’t mind leaving us behind, since we don’t seem to mind being left behind. I don’t see a reason why so many people should be left behind when they could be given the resources, treatment and education to advance themselves. But it appears that we are purposely being left behind, and I can’t see the wisdom in that. Minority survival seems like an obsolete form of natural selection now that we have the ability to shape life, but I guess I’m not qualified to come to that conclusion with any high level of certainty. But who the hell would be? Leaders would automatically be biased, don’t you think?

LostInParadise's avatar

There are questions that are beyond the scope of science. When does a fetus become human? What is the purpose of marriage? What is a fair system of taxation? What are the best works of art?

The term scientism has been given to those who try to apply science to everything. In our love of technology it is easy to get caught up in the scientism trap.

zophu's avatar

@LostInParadise

Those questions are great for stirring up people’s ire. Which is why they are used so effectively to manipulate people by their idealism like leashes. But I think these questions are more relevant: what effects on a population does accessible abortion have?, what are the cultural effects of the marriage ritual?, what is the most efficient way to share resources?. Science can’t answer questions like this perfectly, but to rely upon ideology to answer these questions is to disrespect the autonomy of the masses.

Personal opinions are great, I have many that don’t “agree” with science and a few that wouldn’t even if science “told” me otherwise; but personal opinions are not to rule over millions of other personal opinions unless supported by our most generally effective methods of figuring things out. Even the majority opinion is unreliable because the majority is not made up of people who are qualified to answer questions that effect millions.

It’s not that the scientific conclusions will always be more correct than any idealistic conclusion out there, but they will generally be more reliable. And beyond that it’s about making the collective understanding of nature (science) the authority in how we collectively operate within nature. It’s like a step above democracy. Comprehension > Opinion

The inadequacies of science are a scientific problem and should be treated as such. While we can compensate for them in our personal lives, and while leaders of hundreds and maybe thousands can compensate for them; no leader of more people than he or she can count can. I think I stated before that I don’t expect to live to see a day where scientific advancement is this adequate, but it’s something we should collectively work for, and so it’s something we should collectively demand of ourselves. I see no other way for people to be acceptably free.

LostInParadise's avatar

Science can not place values on things. It can tell us the best way of achieving something given a set of constraints, but it can not determine what our global goals should be. I believe there is a need for secular spirituality based on shared sets of values and not dependent on the authority of any holy book.

zophu's avatar

The idea is to use science as the authority in handling the basics, like life support and communication, to allow all individuals the freedom to choose their goals and have the resources and articulation to work towards them with others. That efficiency is not present in a system that tolerates idealistic rule.

If it were scientifically proven that a law based on an unscientific moral helped society be significantly more sustainable, why wouldn’t it be held as law? The problem is when morals are imposed upon a large society simply because people want them to be.

Void's avatar

@wundayatta, “Humans are tribal creatures who are constantly seeking to have a place in the group with high status. If you have high status, people want to be your friend or to help you, in hopes that some of the benefits of high status will fall on them.”

Humans aren’t tribal creatures but rather social creatures, and being social, create—join tribes, but not necessarily with intentions of joining groups with high status. Also, tribes don’t exist anymore unless you live in the jungle. Are you perhaps proposing that for example, the united states is a tribe and the government or president is the leader of the tribe? People can want to befriend or help a person without the person having high status. Furthermore, people who want to befriend a person with status in hopes for benefits are not to be labeled as people that want to befriend, but rather enemies that want to befriend, otherwise, this is a contradictory question because a friend by definition, does not do such things.

@wundayatta, “These days, one of the simplest ways of demonstrating our status is the accumulation of material things. For the most part, the more we have, the more power we have and the more people want to be around us.”

You are generalizing humanity. Each individual has their own criteria of what is considered status worthy and if status is relevant altogether. “The accumulation of material things demonstrate status” is speculative, unless you can show me some statistics that show that the majority of people consider status to be X or the relevancy of status.

@wundayatta, “I think status is important for organizing communities and for organizing how work gets done. There need to be leaders.”

Why can this only be achieved with status?—- Why can’t it be done in council?

@wundayatta, “Could humanity work without leaders? Without people with higher status than others? How would that work?”

Yes, in council.

wundayatta's avatar

@Void Those are some good questions. I hope you’ll ask some questions on fluther. Welcome!

I’m using tribe more as the feeling of belonging to a group, than in some specific anthropological sense. Your tribe is the group that you share ritual with. It can be a community, a 12-step group, a dance workshop, a neighborhood, a town, a congregation, and entire religion, fans of a sports team, fans of a musical group, and yes, an entire nation.

Call it social, if you want, status is still important. Otherwise we would not have movie stars or stars of any kind or politicians or people making lots of money, or doing any other things that get others to admire us.

I understand your definition of friendship, but that’s not how I was using the term. I was thinking of wanting to do business with someone—whether it’s the Ward leader or the Cleric, or the block captain, or the unofficial “mayor” of the refugee camp. These are people you need to help you get stuff done, and many people compete to be close to them in order to raise their own status. Others, as you imply, have other ways of gaining status, or try to ignore “the rat race” altogether. Even then, they are seeking status within the group of those people who hate the rat race, otherwise they wouldn’t say anything at all about it with respect to themselves, or their opinions.

You could call this “using” people, which, of course, is something friends are not expected to do, although I do think that using friends is not always unacceptable. We help each other out. Still, think about it? What are the characteristics of friendship? One is often that you are friends with people you have things in common with. This means you are sorting people into those with whom you share commonalities and those you don’t. Any separating of groups of people is status generating activity.

Yes, I’m making generalizations, which is why I added all kinds of qualifiers. I never claimed that a “majority” of people consider status to be related to acquisition of material things, although that is my opinion. I am pretty damn sure that everybody looks at other people and compares themselves to the other. Clothes, looks, speech, skills, things… yes, I think things are looked at most of all because they are an easy proxy. Of course, more sophisticated people will look at things besides material goods before making a judgment about another person.

Your council idea is interesting, and I’m wondering how you envision it. I’ve worked/played in a lot of organizations that use council techniques of various kinds. Some require more consensus than others.

The ideal would be to have everyone participate in one council or another. But then you have to have representatives when negotiating with other councils or when forming cooperations of millions of people. That always raises the question of who is council and who isn’t? Who is a representative and who isn’t? Being a representative is a position which gives you greater status than others in the tribe. Some people will never want to have that position, even if it is a rotating one. And a council may not want some members of the community to be a representative to another council.

Council does not make everyone equal in terms of status. Even if it did, there would be so many other ways in which people would compete for status that council doesn’t matter, except that it does create an example of a principle of how we respect each other.

Void's avatar

@wundayatta, ”Call it social, if you want, status is still important. Otherwise we would not have movie stars or stars of any kind or politicians or people making lots of money, or doing any other things that get others to admire us.”

Status and social are two different things. Status is a rank. Social is public interactions. What’s the problem with not having movie stars or any stars? Or politicians? You can make lot’s of money without having status. Do you know all the doctors out there? I don’t, yet they make six figure salaries. They will be treated like any other working citizen, in their case as an actor. No need to raise them on a pedestal. Politicians is just the way the system works now, doesn’t mean it can’t work without the politician. You are fixated that we humans seek admiration. This is nonsense.

@wundayatta, ”I understand your definition of friendship, but that’s not how I was using the term. I was thinking of wanting to do business with someone—whether it’s the Ward leader or the Cleric, or the block captain, or the unofficial “mayor” of the refugee camp. These are people you need to help you get stuff done, and many people compete to be close to them in order to raise their own status.”

Yes, true, but you don’t have too. This isn’t how everyone behaves. Furthermore, this would be called a business associate, not a friend. The person in status is well aware of the the parties intention. This isn’t some uneducated person, it’s someone who attained status for his qualities, intelligence and characteristics, etc.

@wundayatta, ”Others, as you imply, have other ways of gaining status, or try to ignore “the rat race” altogether. Even then, they are seeking status within the group of those people who hate the rat race, otherwise they wouldn’t say anything at all about it with respect to themselves, or their opinions.”

If they don’t care about the rat race, then there is no status seeking. If there is status seeking, it would be against their first motive, to ignore it altogether. Doesn’t make much sense. Again though, these are generalization. You need statistics for this, otherwise, each individual must be viewed as an individual, not profiled.

@wundayatta, ”You could call this “using” people, which, of course, is something friends are not expected to do, although I do think that using friends is not always unacceptable. We help each other out.“

Friendships don’t have to be based on helping each other out. It can be based on sharing experiences together. If it happens that you need help, then yes, I don’t see a problem in asking for help. However, we are not discussing ethics here, so yes, status would be useful for one who wishes to increase self status, but, it doesn’t have to be done this way, as there are X amount of other routes.

@wundayatta, ”Still, think about it? What are the characteristics of friendship? One is often that you are friends with people you have things in common with. This means you are sorting people into those with whom you share commonalities and those you don’t. Any separating of groups of people is status generating activity.”

Well, yes, just like a parent get automatic status by there kids, and visa versa, parents giving automatic status to their children.

@wundayatta, ”Your council idea is interesting, and I’m wondering how you envision it. I’ve worked/played in a lot of organizations that use council techniques of various kinds. Some require more consensus than others. The ideal would be to have everyone participate in one council or another. But then you have to have representatives when negotiating with other councils or when forming cooperation of millions of people. “

A council is people assembled for purpose. I never said anything about appointing representative. Everyone’s opinions shall be heard and decided upon, whether through majority rules or by some other means. It would take longer, but it would be done without status.

@wundayatta, ”Even if it did, there would be so many other ways in which people would compete for status that council doesn’t matter, except that it does create an example of a principle of how we respect each other.”

I’m sure there will be. However, everyone should judged as an individual. Good statistics help.

Andreas's avatar

Sorry for my late reply everyone, but here goes.

@ChocolateReigns “Ants do have a leader – the queen.” Agreed.

@Randy “Actually, ants do have status. They all serve the queen first and foremost so as to keep their species going. Then you have ants that tend to the queen, drones the fertile males, workers, warriors and so on.”

Is this “status” or their “role” in their society? That is, they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing without implying that one ant is above another ant simply because one does a different job. It may seem to be hair-splitting, but not to me. Status to me implies a position of power, which can be abused, and often is in human society to the detriment of the many. Power abuses also exist in “free and democratic” countries. Look around and you will see it.

“The only way humans could get by without status is to live as lone creatures but there would still be status when males and females got together to produce offspring and when the offspring was born. Status is seen all throughout the animal kingdom. It’s not really possible to not have it.”

The “status” in the animal kingdom is instinct and not a genuine self-determined status as we have in human societies. They simply live according to what is programmed into them from birth.

Further, humans could get by without status if we got rid of the Me-first thinking that’s so prevalent in today’s society. If everyone genuinely cared for everyone else and didn’t compare themselves with the rest, but lived their own lives without jealousy and envy, life would be a lot better, wouldn’t it?

In short: Status is man-made, artificial.

LostInParadise's avatar

Why do you draw a distinction between animal and human status? Don’t you think there is an instinct for status among humans, based on the ability to produce healthy offspring and to be able to provide for them?

zophu's avatar

I think the problems surrounding status in society have more to do with our obsolete over-competitiveness than anything else.

You can’t argue with the notion that necessary positions should be filled by people who are best suited for those positions.

The problem is, we get so hung up on the “must be suited for position . . . must be more suited for position than you! I must eat and you must starve!” way of thinking. We habitually lose perspective, at an unconscious level.

The positions people strive to fill become justified not by their necessity, but by the fact that there are people striving to fill them. A group dynamic of a few children with one single-player toy will degenerate quickly if they aren’t clever enough to either invent a way to play with the toy together, or leave it alone.

But there are always plenty of people who lack both the cleverness to reinvent and the wisdom to drop the toy. So, there will always be people tearing each other apart to fill some perceived slot of power, and wait until they reach the status to worry about the actual necessity of its existence.

We’re riding the insanity that helped our ancestors survive through famines caused by climate shifts and poor agricultural practices and such. “Scarcity must exist!” even when it doesn’t have to. That’s the mentality of those who have devoted themselves to achieving high status for the sake of achieving “high” status. If scarcity wasn’t necessary, then they wouldn’t be necessary. Their very drive wouldn’t be necessary. Their life, beyond their life, wouldn’t be necessary.

So, scarcity is perpetuated, by those who are in the positions of power capable of perpetuating it. What a crippling thought for the competitive. “Fight to survive!” only works until fighting becomes a primary threat to survival.

Andreas's avatar

@LostInParadise “Why do you draw a distinction between animal and human status?”

Animals do everything by instinct and not reason. Mankind does everything by reason or by conditioning. Animal “status” is part of their instinct, and not a deliberate choosing by themselves. Human “status” is, essentially, a form of religion where worship rightfully belonging to the Creator is given to a human perceived to be of higher “status” than the worshipper—think film star, sports star, musician, etc, etc, etc.

“Don’t you think there is an instinct for status among humans, based on the ability to produce healthy offspring and to be able to provide for them?”

You seem to be confusing “status” for “role” with your question. It is the role of good parents, both animal and human, to provide for their young and vulnerable. It is something we all have inbuilt from birth as part of our makeup to provide for and protect our young, both animals and humans. It has nothing to do with status.

Further: Status is artificial, based on a need to substitute rightful worship of the creator with worship of another equally imperfect human.

I hope my response has answered your question.

I wish you well.

LostInParadise's avatar

You talk about the desire to provide for the young as inbuilt. That is the same as saying that it is instinctual. We are not ruled by reason alone. We are driven by instincts and we use reason to satisfy them. Some instincts are mutually beneficial, like the desire to raise children, and some are competitive, like the desire for status. It is survival of the fittest, and status is a perceived standard of fitness that increases a person’s likelihood of mating with someone else of high status.

Andreas's avatar

@LostInParadise Inbuilt = Instinct. Yes, I agree. We disagree when you say we seek status. Personally, I seek acceptance as a person, but not status. If we feel comfortable in our own skins, then it doesn’t matter in the least what others think of us. In that case status is irrelevant, and only for small thinkers, or non-thinkers.

We’re taught from a young age that when we grow up we should fit into some predetermined pigeonhole, that is we should be a painter, or a carpenter, or a doctor, or a whatever so that the person who doesn’t want to fit into any particular pigeonhole is marked as strange or different and to be avoided, or else worshipped as uniquely gifted. Whereas, everybody has the capacity to be multi-talented, but the system we live in generally squashes it out of us. The system we live in requires drones (slaves in a former times) to do the drudge work, thereby keeping the “kings and queens” over us in power so they can enjoy the trappings of “status”.

You are obviously a thinking person, and so I hope there is some food for thought here.

wundayatta's avatar

People may not seek status, but they have it, none the less. Your status is not something you can measure, although many people do try to measure it. It is not determined by how necessary you or others may feel you are, although that enters into it. It has nothing to do with “me first” thinking. It can’t fully be measured by money or by things, although that’s how a lot of people try to measure it.

Even without jealousy and envy and comparisons, people would still have different statuses. Even if people cared about everyone else the same as themselves and there was no selfishness, there would still be a hierarchy in the community.

Status is your position in the community. Status is about where other people place you—how much they want to know you and be your friend, or not know you or have anything to do with you. It has to do with your reputation. Status is about what you can do and what people want from you.

People may say they are not comparing themselves to others, but it happens anyway. People always have some idea about where they stand with respect to everyone else around them. It’s an instinctual thing, people say. Perhaps so, but I think that everyone is conscious, to some degree, of how they are assessing others around them all the time.

Perhaps this is some kind of oversight of mine, but I do not see how a person can be in a group without noticing all the little clues and cues as to where everyone else stands in the community. I believe that people who say they don’t do that are either not very self-aware or they are being disingenuous.

It’s there. It’s everywhere. We know it whether we are conscious of it or not. Further, there is nothing we can do about it. It’s just the way people are, same as having a nose in the middle of your face.

zophu's avatar

The status of humans, above all else, should be held empirically. We, like our environments, are creatures of time; status is fleeting—illusionary even.

When in doubt and assumptions must be made, (always,) they should be strongly vague and strongly optimistic. Perception shapes humanity as much as it shapes any creation. The freedom of that perception is humanity’s prerogative.

Just because something seems intrinsic to the psychology of civilized humans, that does not mean it is innate to humanity as a whole. I think social status is becoming less associated with class and more associated with role. As it is now, I don’t think there will always be a true need for it.

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