This installment of the Grub Street Philosophy begins to explicate our beliefs, as expressed in installment one.
We, at Grub Street, believe in the primacy of the group. Individuals are of interest as members of groups, actors who play out-group themes. The belief is group, first, but not at the expense of the individual.
Families, friends and formal organizations, such as the church or media, fashion the individual. We are, as Georg Simmel wrote, the product of the groups we attend.
As a species, humans are ill equipped for solo life. We've no weaponry, such as fangs or claws, to defend ourselves and the pet cat can fend us off, at will. Our sole defence is our wit.
A talent to think fast and learn well allowed our species to endure, half a million years ago, in Africa. Inherited from ancestors was a group instinct. We plied this instinct well and it drives us, as Simmel wrote, today.
The group sets limits for individuals. Inside the limits, we're free to act as we wish. The possibilities, of our actions, are almost infinite.
The 12-tone scale, similarly, shapes the almost infinite nature of music, in Western Culture. Chaos rules where limits are absent. A woman or man, without limits, is as jarring as a musician who is unaware of the 12-tone scale.
A child, for whom parents neglected to set limits, is feral, wild. Often, she or he fails in life, denied the chance, the right, to individuality. Often, not always, the feral child, as an adult, may retreat into a world of substance abuse or a life of meaningless routine.
"Often" and "not always" are the keys. Groups, sources of social support, prevent feral children; setting limits, which enable individuality. The potential, of social support, knows no boundaries.
Limits or rules can go too far. Fundamentalism, in any form, inhibits progress. Einstein didn't know about the limits of physics that claimed E=mc was wrong. These are exceptions, which confirm the rule.
Heralding the primacy, of the group, does not degrade individuality, but reveals its source. T. Conrad Gilliam cracked the genome code, in 2000. He made the most significant contribution to the species, so far. He did so after years absorbed in education and laboratory work, that is, in groups. On his own, in the most advanced laboratory, Gilliam might have cooked hot dogs over a Bunsen burner, but little more, no matter his organic intelligence.
Groups enable individuality, setting and enforcing limits. Inside the 12-tone scale, an infinite amount of Western Music appears, daily; to ignore this limit is to try the taste of the audience. Individual acts, similarly, thrive in the same way, in groups.
We hope individuals post their ideas. Groups enable thought and action, that is, ideas and writing, by making the infinite rather finite, and thus workable. Ideally, our postings will range, widely, reflecting freedom of thought in all areas.
Streeter Click is editor of GrubStreet.ca.
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