Essays and Theories
The Resource Differential Intolerance Ratio
The gap between the very rich and the poor; do we see the evolutionary connection?
William A. Spriggs
January 5, 2002
"The very rich are different from you and me."
F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby
First, what is a resource? In evolutionary terms, it is a very broad brush-stroke term that means anything that will assist you in getting your genes passed into the next generation. Resources can be biological -- abilities or features related to one's body and or mind. This could mean appealing hip-to-waist ratio for women and tall muscular body types in males; in both sexes, it could include healthy skin and straight white teeth; mentally, it could mean the use of cognitive ability, temperament, confidence, emotional expressive skills (understanding others and our own), and very importantly -- understanding and utilizing organizational and socialization skills required with group living. Resources can also be physical -- "stuff" -- outside things the body and or mind evaluates, acquires, and retains -- like earning a humungous eight-figured salary to owning homes with more rooms that you will every need. Hopefully, as research continues in evolutionary psychology, more emphasis will be placed on internal or external resource labeling.
The infinite combinations of resources we processes, both mental and physical, are further interwoven into the various cultural groups that we live in at our particular location on planet Earth. The evolved cultural environments are important as they serve as "anchors" or "beacons" in which we humans use as reference points of familiarity on our evolutionary voyage, and thus, take on the importance of becoming "safe" before we explore into other venues; an organism will not take a step unless it is "sure" that it is safe to do so -- unless one is foolish or "brave" (which may have more to do with socialization or innate mating objectives than courage).
As our species evolved and we become aware of other large group cultures on the planet, we have also come to understand that they can also be broken down into even smaller identifiable groups -- all evolving from local environmental "pockets." We have also come to realize that there are groups, not necessarily the majority in numbers, that have a controlling and dominate influence on all other groups. This influence indicates to social scientists that this group is at the top of a hierarchy; hence, control and dominance places this group on top, and those that have the least influence, are placed on the bottom. In evolutionary terms, the group with the most influence has more possibilities and flexibility in directing the outcome of any evolutionary changes. That's the good news. The bad news is that the group with the most influence may be leading us down the wrong evolutionary path. Possessing "stuff" like a giant SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) that burns fossil fuels as if there were an endless supply and spewing filth into the air that we breath and contributes to the demise of our sperm counts; a decidedly important consideration regarding reproduction. If we heading for biological extinction while driving an SUV, then it's nice to know that we are at least riding high in traffic which makes us feel superior to the other monkeys who can't afford the likes of our magnificent carriage.
It is obvious, even to an uneducated observer, that we can make our first assumption regarding resources -- "stuff" -- and the influences that they have on our societies: that some groups and individuals within each group possesses more "things" then other groups. This "difference" of resource ownership between those that have these resources versus those that do not have them creates a differential ratio. It is from this point that I will then focus on what I believe this differential ratio means in the vast scheme of things in modern political terms. The important task that I request from you in this short essay is that you remain focused on one consistent thread: that in your ancient brain, evaluating, obtaining, and retaining resources is very advantageous to the passing of your genes, and not having them is could be very detrimental to that goal.
The current argument (in 2000 and beyond) swirling around evolutionary psychology these days is the work of Geoffrey Miller, in his book, The Mating Mind. Miller has brazenly argued that Darwin only got part of Natural Selection right, and that it is really Sexual Selection (Darwin's idea also) that is driving the whole show. And that means that all the physical "stuff" that you see around you -- such as poetry, tall buildings, elegant cathedrals, eight-figured salaries, fifty-roomed mansions, cultural emphasis on beauty and health, and so forth -- resources -- are nothing more than "peacock's feathers" meant to attract the opposite sex into selecting someone for gene transference. But, regardless of the debate whether Sexual Selection is really the dominate force in evolution over Natural Selection, we still are left with the species' evaluation of, acquiring of, and the retention of "stuff" -- resources -- by both males and females -- as one of the most important catalyst elements in the equation of human behavior; and as such, I argue, that these three mechanisms are so important and universal across all cultures that they most likely are set as behavioral modules in our ancient brains. In this essay, I am in search of establishing that a "gap" between those that have "outside" resources and those that do not have them at the same level can create social unrest that could lead to violent outbursts in group behavior if the gap is too far -- and that we seek to avoid as it does no one any good.
Many years before understanding that there could be a biological connection between outside "stuff" and emotions, Eric Hoffer mused upon this theme in his 1951 book, The True Believer, which carried the theme about radical and revolutionary movements in history and why such events took place: "There is a tendency to locate the shaping forces of our existence outsides ourselves. Success and failure are unavoidably related in our minds with the state of things around us. Hence it is that people with a sense of fulfillment think it a good world and would like to conserve it as it is, while the frustrated favor radical change". p. 16, Perennial Library, Harper & Row, 1951. We all have a sense that something is there, but as of yet, no one has really been able to identify it. But is my argument, that understanding the evolutionary forces behind our brain's architecture can provide us with a glimpse of that identity. We humans sense and know that "tension" exists because all one has to do is listen to our political leaders on talking-head television shows or pick up a newspaper or a business-oriented magazine and there is this "problem" resonating with all who participate or report.
Since the major tone of this essay is identifying this gap and the stress that is created between those that have resources and those that do not, I think that we must pause just for a moment and ask ourselves, does our ancient brain include a responsibility to those who are "poor"? And if so, how much should there be, or not be? Before human politics, there were religions that established the responsibility of the wealthy in regards to caring for the poor. So we know that there is a basis for the organized charities that are found around the world today. Before that, in our deep history, altruism and alliance assistance towards those less fortunate most likely evolved from the human ability of empathy -- the ability to place oneself in another's mental or physical perspective. I argue that empathy breaks down into two views after the initial emphatic perspective is taken: Either "helpful" or "damaging" -- "positive or "negative" -- with variations along a continuum. The first, a "helpful" view; the projection of oneself into that person's frame of perspective and understanding that the person we are evaluating is not in a positive position because of something that happened to the individual, or something that the individual did in regards to outward behavior that places them in negative straits. In this "helpful" perspective we understand that the person in "trouble" could be ourselves, and if we offered assistance, perhaps that person may return the favor sometime in the future if we found ourselves in a similar situation. It has been established in evolutionary psychology that we do indeed, keep a "mental" record of the favors we have done for people, and whether or not there has been a response from the recipient for our efforts -- positive or negative. Many in evolutionary psychology argue that because of our altruistic behaviors, we tend to form more alliances and associations with those who have similar behaviors, and thus, we slowly evolved upward from the slime of competition that still visits our more primitive cousins in the animal world. The negative side of this alliance formation building that helped us leave the jungle is that modern alliances act as selfish individuals and sometimes only assist "their own kind."
But our human species is far from perfect, nor highly evolved. The second view that flows from empathy is that of "damaging" or "negative" -- or even a new modern word -- "Schadenfreude" – Scha.den.freu.de -- (German, for taking pleasure in someone's misfortune). The damaging or negative view is that of not wanting to be in that person's position, nor offering any assistance that would help that person escape from their negative straits. With Schadenfreude, one merely does not offer any assistance with the suspected motivation that one’s place in the hierarchy can be advanced merely by "doing nothing" - (avoidance of a cost). In other words, one can receive a "benefit" by doing nothing that would "cost" them anything (at least, that is what they think).
Let's do a quick example: One of your clan member falls from a tree and severely breaks his or her leg. You evaluate the situation and, 1). If you're more advanced socially and understand that the unfortunate person could be you or a close family member, you empathize in a positive way and perhaps plan to assist or eliminate the misfortunate circumstances surrounding the individual through a positive behavioral mechanism. Or 2)., If your less socially evolved, you only empathize to the point that you understand that the person made a big mistake and will likely be eliminated from the competitive circle in your clan. Hence, you become "happy" over the prospect that you will advance in the hierarchy of your clan -- something that you know will make passing your genes "easier" because you might inherit that person's resources. What the "negative" person does not realize is that others in his group are observing this same scenario and are making a "mental" note of all individual behaviors in the group concerning this accident – who "helps" and who does "not help," thus setting into place future interpersonal actions within the clan -- which of course, ultimately involves resources exchanges, and thus, the passing of genes. Who would you like to deal with in the future?
Well, at this moment, you may want to make the announcement that all we humans have to do is "pay things forward" in order to bring about a better world. But advances in human evolution are like a turtle sticking its head out to explore the world around it; advances are made slowly. If something startles the turtle that it perceives may be a threat, it instantly "returns" internally to its protective shell. The same thing happens with humans; take away a good harvest, and replace it with famine in a distance rural province somewhere on the planet and suddenly you can find the cruelest of human behaviors "returning" to the savage behaviors that most likely evolved from our ancient past to ensure genetic survival. Such behavior as the killing of someone to obtain food, the selling into slavery or prostitution of one's own children -- or even worse, but thankfully very rare, cannibalism -- are recorded realities in human history.
Fortunately, our modern world is evolving at a rapid pace and when there is armed conflict or famine on the planet, we as a species appear to be more and more willing to react to such behaviors and events across the globe as worldwide communications spread news of these events around the globe in an instant. In November of 2001, armed Pakistani militants staged a suicide attack on India's parliament; the resultant act caused India to accuse Pakistan of giving safe harbor to terrorists; both countries exchanged political and military verbiage and placed trade restrictions on each other. Events began to spin out of control, and both sides began the dangerous act of building up troops along each other's boundaries in preparation for war. By mid-December, 2001, war seemed very imminent and inescapable between these two nuclear powers as both sides began exchanging small arms fire. But the international community, being informed of the situation hourly because of the already large presence of foreign press in the region due to the war in Afghanistan, put intense diplomatic pressure to bear on both countries. On December the 29th, Pakistan arrested the leader of this terrorist group, and for the moment, as I write these words, the event seems to be defusing a notch or two downward.
But the point being argued here is that some scientists speculate that our planet is evolving its own brain, and that these forms of electronic communications are merely the newly created "nervous system" communicating a very serious situation somewhere on its "body" and sending this information to the "head" (the brain) and requesting information as what to do next. Looking back at our deep history, I predict that primate studies done in the future will solidly confirm that the chanting and hooting done by our primate cousins are a form of language that announces the status of all others in their perspective clans and gives information vital to survival of the group; who's healthy and who's not; where resources can be found; who's up and who's down in the hierarchy, etc. I believe that these advances in modern Homo sapiens global communications can also be seen as a form of "jungle floor" communications of hooting and panting -- letting others know the status and conditions of others within the "clan"; we just don't understand the depth of our connectiveness yet. The wonderful positives from our evolved past and the continued positives of increasing information exchanges between the "in-groups" (those that dominate cultural influences), and the "out-groups" (those considered submissive and lacking in influences) around the globe through modern communicative processes, is that overall, humans do care more about each other than not because they understand the "total" picture that helping others is morally, the right thing to do. Overall, I argue that as we humans "see" the plight of our fellow humans, we empathize and do understand that being "helpful" and altruistic is the preferred path. But, as I have argued in this essay, I see Homo Sapiens’ immediate future as being endangered because of the gap between the rich and the poor and the resulting "feelings" and behavior mechanisms that are emerging around the world about this gap.
Within the past ten years or so we have seen a ground swell of demonstrations mobilizing and attacking global conferences in various locations around the globe protesting what has been called "globalization" -- the integration of trade pacts between nations in order loosen trade and manufacturing restrictions. What is evolving is that dominate cultures are clearly requesting and receiving permission to set up manufacturing plants in submissive countries and allowing submissive countries the right to sell back to the developed countries, without any trade restrictions, the very products that it used to produce back home -- but of course, at a much lower cost -- thus "benefiting" the customer in the dominate country.
Proponents of globalization argue that commercial expansion into the underdeveloped worlds helps lift the poor from their desperate straits because they bring jobs; and with those jobs comes the ability to purchase the advantages that have been made in science, medicine, and technology; all modern advances that the dominate cultures have invented, and through its beneficence it believes, cascades these improvements upon the poor. Perhaps, it also assuages the wealthy class’ sense of fulfilling the "obligation" that religious customs have dictated as their "responsibility." The problem that this canard develops is that the wealthy individuals who move capital and mobilize labor in these undeveloped countries get even more wealthy in the country where they remain, while the vast majority of those they "help" in the new country are only given the semblance of improvements based on comparable benefits in the dominate country that they abandoned. Showing images of people lives' being improved by replacing a one room shack with a dirt floor "moving up" to a bricked one-bedroom apartment with a television set, or receiving their first immunization shot is a feat worthy of praise, but somehow the image is muted by the cries and images of the unemployed standing in the dole line of the abandoned countries. Owning personal property and striving to make the best of the world around them may have been a valiant rallying theme of emerging Capitalism in the past, but falls silent and resentful when debt and obligations are still due with no way to pay for them regardless of individual efforts -- a local environment depleted of any job opportunities is a desolate area; political idealism falls on deaf ears when parents who once had good paying jobs and health care benefits see their child in pain and they remember that "in the old days" they could have done something about the situation. The middle class in the dominate cultures that have lost their jobs to those in the underdeveloped countries understand the hypocrisy of a billionaire telling them that they are improving the lives of poor people in poor far-away locals while giving the lecture from an opulent fifty-room palace located in some gilded gated community. The emotion of hate and anger is all too present in most of the thoughts of middle class who once knew "the good life."
Capital argues that they are "taking risks" and need to be rewarded for taking those risks. Give me a break -- these are not the early days of investing in exploratory corporations of the 19th Century that sailed uncharted waters in search of "promised" riches in faraway lands. These expansions into undeveloped lands are mostly about manufacturing products that the world's population has already established as needed and are milking profits from their sale; third world countries offer environments stripped of regulations that employers find a nuisance -- like fire sprinkler systems, or wheel chair accesses -- that subtract from their already multimillion dollar salaries. This is about finding the cheapest labor and exploiting these people to the hilt while abandoning and screwing labor in the old manufacturing based countries where they left.
The anger and demonstrations that are growing with increased vehemence at global conferences are not being raised by those in the underdeveloped environments who are "benefiting" from the new jobs where they work 12 hour days, but in countries where there are groups of individuals who have been screwed by the loss of industrial jobs. Think about it. Having a home with a mortgage is a wonderful and exciting passage in life which gives many of us the will to wake up every morning and then endure long hours of toil; losing a job and then that house because of that job loss is an excruciating and painful humiliation; the emotions that they raise leave an indelible and damaging mark upon one's psychological sense of well-being.
This leads us to the essence of this short essay: The Resource Differential Intolerance Ratio Theory. This theory is about emotions tied to the loss or reduction of outside resources that one perceives beneficial to oneself, one's family, and one's local environment based upon prior ownership; these emotions can range from mild -- easily managed, to violent and dangerous -- extremely difficult to control, depending on the particular circumstances within the culture. If loss of a resource is perceived as the next step before death, expect the violent and dangerous behavior (protests, looting of merchandize and food, and actual violent actions toward privileged members of that culture ("Life, Liberty, Fraternity, or Death" -- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities). Along a similar line, but in the opposite direction of behavior, the Resource Differential Tolerance Ratio is the peaceful coexistence in which members of a submissive economic class will allow the dominate wealthy classes to continue to accumulate that wealth within a definable local environment without a grievance being raised. And if you look at all modern cultures, you will find separation between socioeconomic classes, and that variable and definable behavior mechanisms can be predicted regarding their relationships toward each other (at least that is my speculative argument). In America, the distance between the two poles is vast as many multiplies exist between them. (this vast middle class -- or perhaps more ably defined as, buffer zones, it is what makes the USA so great because of this great diversity gives others more roads in which to travel).
For that is the basis of this theory: Our ancient brains understand that having resources is a great benefit, and not having them is a detriment; that is why the middle class admires the wealthy class because it believes the myth that if they work and play by the rules, they too, can enter these elevated levels and enjoy their advantages. Some actually obtain this goal, but most likely, statistics will prove the myth exists for all but a few; this motivation is similar to buying lotto tickets -- its not the money one seeks, it’s the freedom from the daily struggle for survival and the emotional stress that comes with those trails and tribulations. This perceived ability to "move up" in the hierarchy and take the place of, or become, an elite member of a particular hierarchy and receive the benefits that go with those positions has been the basis of our evolutionary motivation behind observing and evaluating members of those groups; its OK to be envious of the dominate and wealthy class; to dream or wish of wealth and to do actual activities toward achieving those goals. The only problem that exists with these desires is that they were suitable for our ancestors in their deep history; we as a species have not yet reached that cognitive moment of realization that we are all one clan that occupies the same planet and that competing amongst ourselves to acquire the most "stuff" is detrimental to others less fortunate members of our "family." I brazenly predict that some day we will reach that goal -- when, I can't, nor won't predict.
But despite our species glorious future, we still must live in the reality of today; our ancient brains at our local environments understand and except that some in our groupings will have more then others; some will be alpha folk; others will be outcasts; it's OK to have a wealthy class and a gap between the rich and the poor in our present day societies -- but I argue to a ratio point; beyond that point if the gap ratio exceeds tolerable limits, there lies danger for the safety and soundness of that society. I also argue that this gap can and should be measured; resources then, which are recognized by our ancient hardwired brains, are still recognized and acquired today through resource acquisitions skills that evolutionary psychologists agree were dominate for millions of years -- Alpha males, willing to fight for resources and the "right" to dominate over submissives; females that select these males as the best genetic vehicle for their children; alliances between alphas and betas to form "comfortable" positions within their own hierarchies, which then control and retain resources. All of these, of course, then lead us to an evolutionary group approval "consensus" (tolerant group view) of what has evolved as being acceptable at that moment in that local environment's timeline -- but remember, all is in flux and constantly changing depending on the data received by the brain.
What is a tolerant view? A tolerant view is when the submissive groups will not protest in any manner, and hence, would be presumed to be "satisfied"; any intolerance can then be measured by various methods in modern society; the most accurate would be "listening in" eavesdropping -- "spying" is also an appropriate word) on casual conservation at local gathering places and noting the tone and subject of the conservation can yield the best information (Robin Dunbar) is the noted leader in this method); conducting "instant" polls at various local environments and recording the variations; noting specific references in printed and televised media concerning any views on intolerance by totaling stories related to job losses, home foreclosures, unemployment benefits, welfare attitudes; the tabulation of paragraphs or specific words tied to intolerance would be the main objective. (although one should be careful with these two latter institutions as they are usually now owned by conglomerates that reflect the views of highly ranked members of a dominate culture -- and any view that would argue against or threaten that vaulted and privileged established position would be severely restricted. Basically, what I am saying is that we need to listen to the "hoots" and "pants" of the demographic majority that lives on the "jungle floor" to truly judge the "pulse" of the people. (for a good citation on "Big Media" and their negative effects, see The Making of a Movement: Getting serious About Media Reform, by Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, The Nation, January 7/14, 2002, p. 11)
Now an important matter must be made: Since the desire or motivation to move "upward" in our society is most likely set behaviorally in our ancient brains, then chemically, much of our emotions must also be connected to developments concerning movements within hierarchies that relate to these movements. It is my belief that this tolerance and intolerance resource ratio that I am attempting to quantify is based solely on emotional "ups" and "downs" that people "feel" as emotions tied to resource evaluations, acquisitions, retention and losses; these emotions serve as barometers of intensity measured by the brain, and such, help to determine one's course of action, whether positive or negative, in evaluating a situation within one’s local environments.
Stuff is stuff; physical things come, go, and evolve throughout our historical timeline; a 1929 Model T Ford is quite stylistically differently and evolved technologically from a 2002 Ford Explorer, but the emotional pleasure that a 2002 male "attaches" to this modern machine is most likely just as pleasurable as when the 1929 male got behind the wheel of his new toy. The emotions that our brains attach to these resources, I argue, can still be considered to be the same as our deep history ancestors and have barely evolved, but have "adjusted" and been made to conform to the social display rules of the local environments -- rules determined by the dominate groups that have passed beliefs -- memes and culture -- down from generation to generation. Unfortunately, the prevailing thoughts that seem to winning the evolutionary culture race at the end of the 20th Century is the humorous phase: "Those who end up with the most toys, wins the race." It seems that comfort and safety of being is culturally attached to "stuff" -- and in too many cases, involves "things" that members of the dominate culture can manufacturer and sell at a profit to those of the submissive classes, through massive advertising campaigns -- whether they really need the "stuff" or not
So this brings up, what I consider to be, a very important point at prevailing cultures -- If emotions adjust to social display rules of the local environments, then emotions attached to resources are then confined to location, location, location -- any emotions attached to "things" are relative to location. A blue collar worker in America who gets laid off temporally for a "seasonal adjustment" from a major auto manufacturer assembly plant knows that income flow will become restricted and thus he or she must make "temporary adjustments" to accommodate these changes; along with these adjustments, most likely, come negative emotions at the "loss" of resources. These resource losses could include cutting back on restaurant dinning, movie going, or eliminating one's cable television connection. Although these would be considered temporary reductions, and hence, a sense of "loss," they would most likely produce parallel negative emotional feelings in a German auto assembly worker who totally lost their job. The reason for similar negative emotional feeling despite two different and varying scenarios would be that in Germany and Europe there are vast social safety nets that are in place to soften the blow of unemployment. Hence, the complete loss of a income stream in a European country would not have same the negative emotional impact as it would have on their American counterpart which most likely would be more traumatic. But, that of course is speculation; both have the same ancient brain that is adjusted to their local environment, and one must "eavesdrop" in on casual conservation in local taverns, coffee houses, or places of public assemblages in both locations and compare frequency of keywords and "passion" attached to the subject matter. The most troubling sign that science should look for, of course, are clear indications of "social unrest."
Since we can acknowledge that negative emotions occur with the perceived loss of resources (intolerance) and tend to flow toward "happy" and positive (satisfied or tolerant) when we acquire and retain them, we can make a major assumption in regards to the Resource Differential Theory: that any loss of a perceived resource will produce negative emotions attached to that loss; that an attempt to replace those negative emotions with positive emotions will take place; and that the failure to attain those positive emotions could direct the individual toward more "desperate" alternatives.
The modern method open to our ancestral brain usually means replacing those lost resources through behavioral mechanisms that can assist in the attainment of that goal. In the case of our American auto assembler, that means a return to the work room floor and the resumption of the income flow or in the case of our German auto worker, that means receiving full pay benefits while being retrained. In the case of groups of individuals that have no alternative, our ancient brain does what it has always done -- survive at all costs. And that means looting and stealing if necessary. Another assumption in the theory: That there must be a perceived or actual movement toward "improvement" in a return to the positive emotional state for there to be an improvement in the emotional state.
Now, we come to the most important part of the Intolerance theory and that is the perceived gap and the emotions that swirl around that gap that is created due to changing circumstances between these groups. Once again, you must place yourself as an observer in that deep history place of our ancestors and observe the "gap" between the dominate in-group vs. the submissive out-group as a resource gap unfolds and becomes larger. What do you observe? Is there peace and harmony at all times? Or does a "tolerant" view of the in-group by the out-group change for the negative because they know that they could be losing the genetic transference race? Can you understand the hoots and pants saying, "What about us?" "Are you going to let us die?" What does the body language tell you? Of course, the above is highly speculative, but can it be all that wrong? Have we, as observers of human behavior, noticed that some people will not go quietly into the night? That some people will not lie down and cease to exist because others think that they should not exist because they view them as submissive and "inferior"? Have we not observed that the passion for life is so strong that it will force us to return to the primal violence that we left behind in order to continue?
"The very rich are different from you and me," as F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote in his novel, The Great Gatsby, and their position in the hierarchy places them at a extremely advantageous positions to rearrange humans and capital like chess pieces on a game board in the form of profit and gain. I am not going to get into an argument whether the rich achieved those positions on their assumption of their own biological superiority of being the "fittest"; that is not my goal here. The question that I now raise that is suitable for us in 2002 is: What if the submissive class achieves a level that is acceptable and remains the same in regards to their resource retention and becomes "comfortable," but the dominate and controlling group begins to move away from the submissives in regards to wealth accumulation? What if statistics prove that the "rich are getting richer, while the poor are getting poorer?" Well, it depends on whether or not the "poor" or submissive classes "perceive" themselves as "losing" resources or "losing ground" in their daily struggle for survival. If a family lives in a nice suburban home with a TV, VCR, two car garage with a Ford Exhibition parked outside because it won't fit in the garage, should they feel "poor" if they know that the rich folks ten miles away in the gated community have much, much, more in regards to measured wealth standards of 2002?
Perhaps not at this moment, but what if the immediate environment changes? Things may be going well as far as the family cited above is concerned as their lives unfold, and they may even feel optimistic about the future. But, what if the textile mill shuts down where both the male and female heads of this particular family work and it throws both of them out of work? Do you think that the family heads will have to "reassess" their goals about the future? Would they feel depressed? Would they feel anger? Would the loss of health insurance coverage for the family make them feel insecure? Would they lose their SUV, their TV, their VCR, or worst yet, would they lose their home? Is there a threat of losing everything that they worked for? Is there a threat that the survival of the family is at risk? What emotions do you think the male or female family head would feel at a time like this? What emotions do you think the children would feel at a time like this? What do you think is the "tone" or consensus views of the people within the town that is effected by the shut down textile mill? If the executives of the textile mill receive enormous "golden parachutes" while the family cited above receive no departing severance, would the submissive out-group perceptions of the dominate in-group change toward the rich living in the gated community down the road?; would the views be tolerant, remain the same, or become intolerant? Would anxiety turn to anger to protest to violent revenge? It is my argument all along in this short essay that the view would turn at least, intolerant. What I am searching for is an elusive "trip sequence" that causes the out-group submissive classes to go from "comfortable" to "anxious" which then cascades into negative emotional outbursts. What I am searching for is the series of events within the local environment that would cause the out-group to go from positive perceptions to negative emotional perception of the dominate in-groups; for it is the cultural heritage that dictates to the in-group that along with privileged rank, comes responsibilities to those less fortunate. Or has this now changed? As for quantifying this emotional slide from positive to negative amongst the submissives, it would be a difficult task as every location of the planet would have its own "emotional tone" and "group consensus" attached to that environment, but it in this day of fast computer connections, it is a task that is not impossible either.
Here's another part of the Intolerance Theory that I need to present: Both the rich and the poor can only perceive and develop "conceptual views" about each group that they can physically observe. The old adage, "out of sight, out of mind" rings loud and true. And once again, the establishment of these conceptual views must be claimed as the evolved mechanisms from our ancestral deep history; millions of years of physically observing each other from observable distances would strongly produce conceptions relative to observations (which unfortunately also contains "stereotypes" or snap judgments based solely on race, ethnicity, body type, or "price scale" of clothes that one wears).
So, if we fast forward to today, if neither the rich nor poor are not aware of each other's existence, then there would be no emotional attachment, positive or negative, toward either group. Since the wealthy have much more resources at their disposal, it is easier for them to move to locations where the poor can not locate or physically see them; the evolutionary mechanism of "moving up" in the hierarchy has evolved into "moving away." If they remain where their are, the wealthy can build walls and fences to keep others out, or they can pay others to physically patrol their perimeters as "gatekeepers" and these individuals (most likely beta males) would then make decisions as to who can pass into their "exclusive" circles. (Close inspection of both these communities -- rich, gated communities -- and isolated ghettos of "inferiors" -- will easily show that each group will develop their own in and out-groups – all with their own display rules and cultures. The major difference, of course, is that one will find more "polite" behavior in the rich community as opposed to the "down and earthy" behavior of the poor communities -- remember, the architecture of the brains are the same -- its just the local environments are different to which the brain adapts).
Another rule of the Intolerance theory concerns the larger community. It is my belief that despite the emotional justification felt by any individual within a group, those opinions, expressed or internally felt, merely reflect part of the combined dynamic of the group. Hence if the larger community group has a favorable or tolerable opinion of the rich, then one individual with a negative perception of the rich who voices that opinion loudly would only be considered as "disgruntled." What is needed is a critical mass of opinion that would merely "trigger" and "resonate" with other individuals holding similar views. Hence the rule: Tolerant or intolerant views can only occur if "critical mass," "buzz" is reached with groups and occupies a majority of conversational mechanisms within that group. In our modern societies, one way in which this flow of conversational mechanisms, and thus, public opinion can be influenced, is to control and dominate the modern media methods of information distribution. (I did mention that above). So, one other method that the rich can do to improve their "status" is to create favorable 'buzz" about themselves in their own controlled media. Hence, what the submissives see, and thus perceive, is information that has been controlled and "massaged" by dominate groups.
Will it work forever? No. And the main reason would be is that the elite, who are stuck in their own universe, must struggle even harder to maintain their position in these isolated and gilded hierarchies; and that requires more resources be drained from whatever area that can be found -- and that usually means exploiting the poor in underdeveloped lands or laying off employees that have been faithful to them for generations in their own developed countries. In fact, a good political argument can be raised that evolutionary forces of "advancing within the hierarchy" of their own lofty positions, pushed the wealthy to seek profit and gain in places where regulations and unions were not a factor.
So, despite being bombarded with positive images of the wealthy and the benefits that they bring to the world, it will never smooth over the thought of a family losing its source of income by a closed textile mill; of not being able to prevent illness to their children because of the loss of health insurance; nor the loss of a home that gave them emotions of comfort and safety. Shattered dreams cause indelible scars to any individual's mental state of well-being, and if enough of their fellow group companions are experiencing the reality that surrounds them in their local environments, the ancient brain of our submissive ancestors will rise up and ask the question aimed at the dominates as they have for millions of years: Why do you get to live and I don't?
And that, I believe, is the "spark" that ignites violent protests and actions. It is not wealth that is the problem -- that can only benefit societies -- it is the gap.
Let me leave you with Charles Dickens and the opening book in The Tale of Two Cities, which of course, was his fictional account of the French Revolution: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us...
Let me also conclude that research in evolutionary psychology has come to an interesting conclusion that should be mentioned to the very rich: The architecture of your brain is not different from yours and mine, but your is pomposity is bigger.
Copyright, Evolution's Voyage and William A. Spriggs 1995 - 2011