Prejudice and hatred, alienation and homesickness:
So why are we so beastly to each other? Show me a place where there is no ethnic tension and I will have a pretty good chance of being able to show you a place with no ethnic diversity. A few weeks ago I hopped in a cab in Chicago and gave careful instructions on how to get to the address. On the way there I learned that my driver had previously been a major in the Jordanian army, so I guessed he was probably overqualified to be a cab driver but at least I had a Jordanian who was smarter than the average bear. When the issue of Israel inevitably came up I asked whether it was a problem that the land God promised the Israelites in the Bible included not only Jordan, Iraq and Egypt but Mecca as well. Was claiming the name “Israel” causing a problem because it implied claming ownership of the whole Mid East? He didn’t know what I was talking about. So there went one more excuse for what looks like the same old ethnic tension you see everywhere.
Outsiders are hated. There is prejudice against outsiders. Put different people together and problems will come as surely as the darkness. The reason is obvious. It is a survival skill. As I showed at the outset, a big mating pool depresses fertility. Animals all manage to limit mating pool size. We evolved from animals that were able to limit mating pool size. The importance of limiting mating pool size has never gone away. In fact it is more important for humans than for any other animals. Only a human can decide to buy a bicycle or a ticket on a jet plane. The danger we face is greater than that faced by any other animal in this regard. So there is no evolutionary reason for us to have lost our ability to limit gene pool size. Hatred and prejudice are simply misguided responses to this basic urge to have offspring and have them thrive. The responses are misguided in two ways. They go beyond simply limiting mating choices and they do not limit mating choices sufficiently.
So we can call the tribal mentality the urge to exclude outsiders and the urban mentality the urge to lure outsiders. You have to have people to have cities and the big gene pool of any city always self destructs.
When I offer my opinion that a big mating pool is suicidal I get resistance. Were I merely screaming that the building was on fire I would get a lot more interest even though the issue would be far less important. There are reasons for this. One obvious reason is that this sounds like a delusional system. You have met the person who explains everything one way: it is a communist plot or a government plot or flying saucers or the work of the devil or a conspiracy or repressed sexuality or whatever. The delusional system explains everything. Well my urban mentality and tribal mentality together sound a lot like a delusional system. It even sounds like a delusional system to me. The difference is that I have evidence and beg you to examine the evidence. But few indeed are those who have any interest in looking at the evidence.
A related reason is that my mind works in an unusual way. I am not autistic. Autistic people have difficulty in forming emotional relationships. I like just about everything and everybody I know. I even like outsiders. But I am perfectly capable of accessing the part of my mind that does not like outsiders. Autistic people have very sharp vision. A normal person has 20:20 vision, meaning he or she is able to see things at a distance of twenty feet that other normal people can see at the same distance. Autistic people have vision as good as 20:7. Those with the best vision can see detail at twenty feet that normal people cannot perceive until they are as close as seven feet. Most of us do not have our vision tested to the limit. Once we have demonstrated that we have 20:20 vision the tester looses interest. But when I was a teenager I wore glasses. I was once tested by being asked to read the lowest line on the eye chart. I could read the lowest line, and in front of the lowest line was the number 10, indicating that it should only be possible to read that line from ten feet. The number was somewhat smaller than the letters in the line. In other words my corrected vision was 20:8 or better. I do not know how common that is. I suspect it is not particularly rare. But it cannot be very common or it would not seem remarkable that autistic people are able to perform that well. In other words it seems I am able to access a part of my mind that usually only autistic people are able to access. If this weirds people out, it is understandable.
Another reason people take little interest in what I am saying is that nobody agrees with me. As soon as I broach the subject I am marked as an outsider. The tribal mentality switches into automatic shun mode. And a final reason is that as soon as I broach the subject the urban mentality perceives me as a threat and goes into automatic shun mode.
I suspect that nobody is pure. The most aggressive racist, who is consumed with antipathy for those of a different race, probably is obsessed with uniting his own race. That person is capable of engaging in both mental states at the same time. The most rapacious globalizing plutocrat probably has a maiden aunt with a petunia garden that is in the way of a much needed superhighway and spends a significant amount of effort trying to preserve her little sentimental world. Everybody functions in both modes. So everybody is tempted to ignore me for both reasons. No wonder it is a hard sell. Here I offer a way to end hatred and prejudice and yet maintain the very things each of us holds dear, but people can only entertain the idea with great effort and are not disposed to make the effort. If my purpose were not important I would give it up. But it is much too important for that.
The other side of the hatred and prejudice coin is loneliness. A lot of us are not around loved ones as much as we would like. But it goes deeper than that. A lot of us are bitterly homesick without knowing why. My own home growing up was spectacularly sweet and loving, wholesome and filled with intellectual riches. My father somehow contrived to turn the dinner table into the School of Athens, where a lavish array of philosophical, scientific, social and contemporary issues were eagerly and passionately debated.
One day I was having lunch with some other doctors. By evil chance I told a story. “My big brother came home from the fourth grade one day and Mamma asked, ‘What did you learn in school today?’ He said, ‘What do the Islands of Langerhans produce?’ Not to be bested she said, ‘Coconuts.’ He said, ‘Insulin.’ Ha, ha, ha.” The silence was deafening.
One of them ventured, “Coconuts is right, isn’t it?”
Another said, “Insulin is made in the pancreas.”
“Yes,” I said. “In the isles of Langerhans.”
One of them said, “Islet cell tumor.” He was right. The little clusters of cells that make insulin in the pancreas sometimes produce serious tumors.
Another blurted, “It’s islets of Langerhans, not Islands of Langerhans.”
“Give him a break. He was in the fourth grade.”
Autistic people have a great deal of difficulty understanding what is going on in other peoples minds. I had no trouble. I looked into their eyes and saw scalding wrath.
I lost them with the first line. When they came home from school their mothers were not there to greet them. Much less did the mother ask about school. Their parents only wanted to know about grades. As for the fact that the child and mother were matching wits, it was not even on the radar screen. As far as being tricked in their own professional field of competence by a fourth grader, they probably didn’t mind at all.
But even I was homesick as a child. There was something missing. I didn’t know what it was. I had this melancholy, sometimes rather sweet yearning for a past I had never had. We were a nuclear family, a wonderful family, the very best. And I had splendid friends. But in my heart there was an empty place for my village, a village that had never existed, for the little social group where everybody knew everybody, where nobody left and nobody came, a community that would long outlive me. In this land in this day and age very few have it. We are all forever strangers.
If we can fix it, if we can recover the tight little social order, we can do far more than simply escape extinction. We can come home.
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