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Of Mice And Men (And Urbanisation)

People who become more free tend to have less loyalty towards a collective such as an organisation. Instead, these people will show greater loyalty to real people that they know at a personal level within their family and the direct community. In a recent article I speculated regarding this shift in loyalty that maybe we would see a slowing down of urbanisation. Furthermore, humans are now far more capable of working from anywhere and those people who become free agents seek personal relationships above becoming part of the mass in a city.

Some quick research does indeed show that while urbanisation is indeed continuing, the trends do show that this growth is slowing down, particularly in more developed nations. Thinking more upon this may have been the reason why a comment regarding the Mouse Utopia Experiments caught my eye.

The Mouse Utopia Experiments were some highly interesting experiments conducted by John Calhoun around the 1970s. In these experiments, mice had a constant supply of drinking water, food, and nesting material in a limited area.

While the initial population boom may have been expected, it was what happened next that became so interesting. For eventually the mice stopped breeding, and the population rapidly declined to the point where they would have completely died out since they were no longer interested in breeding. The anti-social aspect of this behaviour is undoubtedly fascinating. Some mice, while still lethargic, turned aggressive. Others became what was called “the beautiful ones”. These mice didn’t fight and didn’t breed. They spent all their time preening themselves and making sure that their coat was in excellent condition.

Now there are quite a few limitations when it comes to making any connections with humans although Calhoun certainly did attempt to make quite a few of these. You can hear a few of these in the video linked. Now video comment sections may not always contain the most inspired commentary, but one insightful comment certainly caught my attention. ‘Five Five’ writes:

“The society of mice changed because of overpopulation. Each mouse now has too many other mice to interact with. That means each mouse has less value as a friend or partner. If there are two people in a cage, they will either become enemies or friends, or they will ignore, but one thing is for sure, the other person in the cage is very important to them in some way. If you put 1000 in the same cage, suddenly it becomes a free for all. The neighbor doesn’t matter because if I don’t like him I can find somebody else, and I can keep trying because there are so many people. At the same time, every other person also places such a low value on me, the same way I do on them. This creates a society in which nobody can become close to each other anymore because there is this perception that someone out there is a better person to spend time with than this flawed neighbor of mine. So if there are 7 billion people, why bother with anyone less than perfect? And so, finding nobody perfect (and we never will), we eventually realise it isn’t worth spending time with anybody at all. And at this point, you become a beautiful one, or you decide enough of this, and you lower your standards and be more real with people and give them more chances to make things right in your relationships”

So are we seeing Five Five’s thesis being played out in current society? I think there is a strong case to be made for what we are seeing played out in our current state of gender conflicts. We have seen the rise of more and more women choosing to remain single and childless, and men likewise have moved towards opting out of relationships as can be seen in the MGTOW movement.

The Youtuber, Alexander Grace, makes the point in a recent video that our modern over-saturated access to members of the opposite sex has made finding a partner far harder and less desirable. He notes that single rates have jumped by 20% in the last decade for 18–29-year-olds.

The way that human sexuality generally works is that the beauty of young women is attractive to men. A woman then usually has a collection of suitors vying for her attention from which she makes a selection. This selection is often based on the man’s status in particular as well as a number of other attributes. In former times, there was a more limited pool of suitors for women to choose from due to the fact that most people lived in small villages or tribes. In that situation, it was easier for people to settle on a mate.

However, in today’s culture, a woman can easily garner significant amounts of male attention (think Instagram, etc.). And because women can receive so much attention, it becomes tempting to believe that this attention will last forever. Women feel they can put off settling, because, they’re getting so much attention.

For men, it’s the other way around. Many feel that women’s standards are set far too high. Men can feel that they need to be extraordinarily impressive, even to have a chance. The result is that many men are just giving up on women altogether.

So while in our modern times we are able to connect with more and more people, it is this very fact that means that we lose out on more personal connections, weakening our ability to form secure family units.

A central message in my writing is; don’t focus on impressing the world, don’t take all your feedback from the world. Instead, focus first and foremost on the personal. Start your life by examining the relationship you have with yourself and then extend it out to those people you have a personal connection within your family and community.

This is why I am so keen on promoting concepts such as ‘free learning’, as the best way of education, and ‘free agency’ as a way of working. These ways of living life give us the freedom to first and foremost pursue meaningful relationships.

Just like the mice in the experiments, it seems that as a society we got so excited by our growth through the agricultural and industrial revolutions not realising that along the way we began losing some of the most vital parts of our humanity — that of personal connection.

Now one note here: I am not against the industrial revolution and the agricultural revolution, not at all. I think these have been a fantastic benefit to the human species. I also reject the typical call to reject our technology and return to the state of an animal to be ruled by our instincts alone. We should not look down disdainfully at the past, but we should take note of the lessons learnt so that we don’t make the same mistakes.

We are a complicated species, but some of our fundamentally human attributes remain our ability to explore, to learn, and to understand. So may we heed the warning form “the beautiful ones” who spent their final days preening themselves out of existence and hope that we can recapture the importance of the person beside us.