This essay provides a definition for the category of posts called “Social Insanity.”
Let us first start with the definition of “sanity”:
Insanity, by definition, is the opposite or absence of sanity: 
- As complete darkness is the absence of all light, so complete insanity is the absence of all sanity.
- As darkness exists wherever there is a lack of complete illumination or light, so insanity exists wherever there is a lack of complete sanity.
- As darkness is the absence of light, so insanity is the absence of sanity.
Sanity is Essential to Life
The primary function of every living organism is to survive and propagate itself into the future. Any living organism that fails to do either inevitably dies forever. Thus any living organism that exhibits a continuing pattern of behavior contrary to its primary function of survival and propagation is not exhibiting sound judgment (not acting sanely); therefore it can be considered insane. For example, when we learn of someone who drinks Drano for breakfast we exclaim, “That’s insane!” because we know that Drano is a poison that will inevitably harm and kill that person.
In order to accomplish the objective of survival and propagation, every living organism must be of sound mind
- To recognize the realities of threats to its existence and undertake the appropriate response for continued survival
- To understand the proper method of propagation into the future and execute the act of propagation.
In short, every living organism must exhibit and practice “good sense and soundness of judgment” (sanity) to discern reality from unreality; otherwise it surely dies.
For example, if a gazelle sees a roaring lion nearby, fails to recognize it as a threat, ignores it and does not flee, the gazelle will make a tasty meal for the lion. Similarly, if a male gazelle insists on attempting to mate with another male gazelle or an elephant, it will be unsuccessful in self-propagation into the future and cease to exist. In the above examples the male gazelle ceases to exist forever because it failed to recognize reality, ignored the truth and nature of its own existence, and didn’t practice good sense and soundness of judgment. In short, the gazelle’s action was insane. Although one doesn’t normally think of gazelles as being “insane”, the term fits well.
Sanity is Essential to a Society’s Survival
Every living organism is made up of individual units:
- A person is a living organism made up of individual cells. If the individual cells fail to recognize the presence of harmful bacteria within the body, then the appropriate defenses aren’t activated and the entire body ultimately succumbs to a mortal illness and dies.
- A society, or culture, is a living organism made up of individual people. If the individual people fail to recognize the presence of destructive activities within the society, then the appropriate defenses aren’t activated and the entire society ultimately succumbs to a mortal illness and dies. (The Trojan horse is a classic and vivid example of this error.)
Thus one can see that a society is a living organism just as a person is a living organism. Therefore, according to the nature of every living organism, the primary function of a society, or culture, is also to survive and propagate itself into the future. Any society that fails to do either inevitably dies and disappears.
As with the example of the gazelle, in order to accomplish the essential mission of survival and propagation, the society must be of sound mind to recognize the realities of threats to its existence, to take valid and effective preventative steps, and to understand the proper method of propagation into the future. It must exhibit and practice “good sense and soundness of judgment” (sanity) in order to discern reality from unreality; otherwise it surely dies. As with our gazelle, a society that refuses to act sanely, but rather acts insanely, will inevitably die. Where are the societies of the Assyrians, Persians, and other superpowers of their day? Dead and long gone, because they failed in their primary mission to survive and propagate.
Horses and Dogs
Not all horses are alike, although all comprise the same parts. Some are highly prized thoroughbreds; others are not.
Not all dogs are alike, although all are made of the same parts. Some are prized for their speed; others for their ability to assist the handicapped; still others for their ability to hunt.
The desirable characteristics of horses and dogs are determined largely by their pedigree, or heritage, and passed on to future generations largely through genes and DNA. But pedigree alone is insufficient to continue the heritage: Training is required as well. Racehorses must be trained to win. Show dogs must be trained to win. The winning family heritage of many generations quickly dies when the next generation is not taught to win, in spite of outstanding genes and DNA.
Not all families are alike, although all comprise similar people. Some families are generous; others not so. Some families are gifted artists; others not so. Some families are successful; others not so. The dominant characteristics of a family are heavily influenced by its pedigree, but continuing success is achieved only through proper training, passed from generation to generation through the family culture. Desirable social characteristics such as honesty and hard work must be cultivated (note the same word root as in “culture”) and must be reinforced to maintain the family pedigree. By contrast, undesirable social characteristics such as dishonesty and laziness must be discouraged to maintain the family pedigree. The winning family heritage ceases to exist when it is not properly cultivated and passed on to the next generation. It simply dies.
It is the same for societies. Each new generation must be cultivated to continue and exhibit the desirable social norms and values – the culture - that have differentiated the society and made it successfully survive for many generations in a hostile environment. Failure to do so will result in societal failure and collapse, and ultimately societal death.
Consequently there are two critical requirements for a society’s long-term continued existence:
- Physical reproduction of each successive generation to assure propagation
- Cultural reproduction of each successive generation to assure continued survival (and flourishing) in a hostile environment.
Any society which fails on either count faces certain death. Consequently sanity (good sense or soundness of judgment, or soundness or health of mind) dictates that every society’s primary focus must be successful reproduction both physically and culturally. To do otherwise is social suicide and insanity.
- It is inadequate to reproduce the population without reproducing the culture: The inevitable result will be cultural death.
- It is inadequate to reproduce the culture without reproducing the people: The inevitable result is physical death.
Both must be maintained for a society to maintain its identity into the future.
Culture and Society
Culture, then, is to society as DNA is to a human being. As DNA defines the characteristics of a person, so culture defines the characteristics of a society. Just as it requires careful selection and reinforcement of desirable genes and DNA to continue the pedigree of a thoroughbred into the next generation, so it requires careful selection of desirable cultural values to continue the pedigree of a society into the next generation.
We live in a hostile world. Enemies abound in all spheres, and survival is a daily battle. Therefore one can expect enemies of a society to attack and try to kill it by destroying it physically in a traditional act of war or by destroying and subsuming its culture into a foreign culture. In either case a society unable or unwilling to defend itself dies.
Any willful act to compromise the core mission of a functioning society to survive in this hostile world is contrary to the society’s best interest and represents a case of social insanity. Similarly, any willful act by a society to thwart propagation of its culture into the next generation encourages its ultimate demise and is a case of cultural insanity.
A society may die for reasons beyond its control, in spite of “good sense or soundness of judgment” (sanity). For example,
- Death due to inability to defend oneself against overpowering enemies is normal. But unwillingness to defend oneself is abnormal; it is insane.
- Death by ambush or surprise is not unusual. But consciously ignoring an obvious threat and carelessly being caught off guard is suicidal; it is insane.
- If someone thrusts a dagger into your heart and you die, that is normal (but undesirable). Thrusting a dagger into your own heart is suicidal, abnormal, and insane. Similarly, a society that succumbs because it consciously ignores its internal enemies and dies of self-inflicted wounds is not acting sanely with “good sense or soundness of judgment” but dies as a result of social insanity.
As we have seen, any conscious societal decision or action contrary to satisfying the prime function of the society – its continuing survival – is an act social insanity. Survival requires that a society
- Recognize the realities of threats to its existence and undertake the appropriate response for continued survival
- Understand the proper method of propagation into the future and execute the act of propagation.
We have also seen that the second point may be further broken into the following subsidiary requirements:
2a. Physical reproduction of each successive generation to assure propagation
2b. Cultural reproduction of each successive generation to assure survival (and flourishing) in a hostile environment.
Let us now examine these critical elements essential for a society’s long-term continued existence, and provide some representative signs of social insanity:
Requirement for survival
Examples of corresponding social insanity
|1. Recognize threats and take effective defensive measures||
|2. Understand and execute propagation|
|2a. Physical reproduction of each successive generation to assure physical propagation||
|2b. Cultural reproduction of each successive generation to assure survival (and flourishing) in a hostile environment||
Starlings and Fish
The concept of social insanity may be a bit abstract, so a visual may be useful:
Consider a flock of starlings in the air. How many times have you noticed every member of the flock suddenly veer and change direction in unison?
…or all the fish in a school do the same thing?
How about a buffalo herd on a wild stampede?
…or people on a wild stampede from a soccer game?
…or a spontaneous riot after some well publicized event or sports event?
All these situations illustrate a process of social decision-making. In each case every member of the group suddenly – for no apparent reason – participates in a mass decision to take an action such that the group appears to act as a unified whole, an integrated living organism. Sometimes such decisions are harmless or even beneficial (as in the case of birds swerving to avoid an obstacle), but oftentimes the decisions are disastrous to the group.
Consider, for example, buffalo and human stampedes. The stampedes cannot be stopped even if the majority of the buffalo herd’s members go over a cliff and are killed in the process or a number of humans are trampled underfoot. Clearly such behavior is contrary to the best interests of the group based on good sense and sound judgment; hence the behavior is irrational or insane – especially if the stampede was sparked by a small, even an imagined or unreal threat.
The same exact phenomenon occurs in human society and culture. Humans instinctively follow each other; that is how fashions and trends develop. People on a wild stampede from a soccer game are little different from a herd of buffalo. A spontaneous riot after some well publicized event or sports event is not unlike the flock of starlings. Viral internet videos are high tech displays of the same phenomena.
The book “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” by Malcolm Gladwell examines how minute trends begin and grow into uncontrollable social avalanches – not always with beneficial outcomes.
The Bible describes people as sheep who blindly follow the one out front. If the leader makes irrational and insane decisions, the followers will do the same. That is a common source of mass hysteria, a form of social insanity.
Societies are made up of individuals, and a society’s collective decision represents merely the sum of individual members’ decisions. (Voting is a formalized version of this process; viral internet videos represent an informal version of this same process.) Fortunately, most people make rational decisions most of the time, resulting in the group’s collective decisions generally being rational. However, if enough influential members of the group – a society – make irrational decisions, then the whole society is likely to descend into mass hysteria and insanity. Some examples follow:
- Jonestown kool-aid suicide
- H. G. Wells War of the Worlds radio show (Also National Geographic article)
- 1950s alien invasion fad
- Heaven’s Gate suicides
- Mayan Calendar end of the world scare.
- …cults and much more.
In all these instances a group – a society – collectively chose to believe something irrational and unreal. In some cases, as in the case of Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate, the final outcome was death for the entire population. These are two clear examples of how insane actions based on insane group decisions result in the group’s permanent death.
Could today’s social social stampede related to political correctness, statism, Christophobia, and homosexuality be manifestations of mass hysteria and social insanity? Certainly something to be examined, for
All is not as it looks!
- Relatively permanent disorder of the mind; state or condition of being mentally deranged
- A defect of reason as a result of mental illness,
- Utter folly; stupidity
However, any decision or action that fails to meet the requirements of sanity must be, by definition, insane.
 Some may ask, “How about the soldier who willfully lays down his life for his comrade? Is he insane?” Not at all. He is performing his assigned function to preserve the life of the greater living organism of which he is a member: The army. Just as a body may have to sacrifice individual cells and body parts to defeat the threat of a real (potentially fatal) illness, so at times the army may demand personal sacrifice of individual people to defeat the attacks of a real (potentially fatal) enemy army.
 What are “desirable” social values? They are the core values that made a society successful in the past. A society departs from wholehearted support of those values at the peril of its own existence.