At 6/29/2012 7:29:05 PM, drafterman wrote:At 6/28/2012 10:03:42 PM, Tnkissfan wrote:
And there you have it. One more reason to Dismiss atheism for its utter lack of human decency.
I've been thinking about this, and I have a more thorough reply:
In the 1960's an anthropologist was spending time observing the !Kung tribe in southern Africa. As a token of his appreciation of their cooperation and tolerance, he decided to provide the Ox for a traditional annual feast.
Being no hunter, he instead decided to purchase an Ox from a farmer.
The response was ... less than warm. Upon seeing the Ox, the tribesmen (and women) mocked him mercilessly. They criticized the Ox for being too old and too thin whose little meat would be too tough. While the bones would be good for soup, the tribesmen craved meat and fat for their feast, to give them strength and to send them to bed with their stomachs full.
The anthropologist, according to the tribesmen, knew nothing of cattle and had been duped. And they did not get their own Ox, since they were depending on anthropologist. This year's feast, then, would be a miserable failure due to his poor choice. Furthermore, with so little meat to go around, fights between the tribesmen were bound to break out.
Needless to say, these comments concerned the anthropologist to no end, and he was a nervous wreck up until the day of the feast. Upon carving the Ox, it was revealed to be full of meat and fat, just to the liking of the tribesmen. When he pointed this out, they continued to ridicule it as being too thin, all the while laughing uproariously.
The anthropologist, suffering weeks of torment, was apparently the butt of some community-wide joke. At first, he thought it was just him. Some joke the !Kung play on outsiders. After consulting with others, he found out that this is something that happens all the time among warriors and hunters. It is something they do amongst each other as a matter of course, as a social custom. He asked why. The response?
"Arrogance ... When a young man kills much meat he comes to think of himself as a chief or a big man, and he thinks of the rest of us as his servants or inferiors. We can't accept this. We refuse one who boasts, for someday his pride will make him kill somebody. So we always speak of his meat as worthless. This way we cool his heart and make him gentle."
What is the relevance of all this? It illustrates a real-life example of a practical and calculated application of mockery. Not to simply service some entertainment value, but as a method of social control. In this manner, it speaks as an additional response to the OP; Mockery is one, among many tools we use to influence the behavior of others. Specifically as a matter of discouragement.
With the specific example, we can see what value mockery has over some sort of logical argument. Such a proud hunter would already be a person who is heavily motivated by emotion. He would not likely be swayed to gentleness if presented with an appropriate syllogism. Mockery speaks right to the emotional core.
There is no denying that people are more easily manipulated by appeals to emotion than reason. This is why appeals to emotion are considered fallacies; they can convince us to accept accept something as true that hasn't been sufficiently demonstrated as true. However, it is also a fallacy to say that an appeal to emotional necessarily results in a false conclusion. Indeed, given the explanation, the goal here is a valid one: to keep people in line, on the same footing, and in a state of mind where they are less likely to kill someone else.
I've used terms such as "manipulation" and "social control," which are certain to carry negative connotations, but this is not the case. In living and functioning in a society, being able to influence other's behaviors is a necessity if that society is to be sustainable. Most commonly, we think of laws in this regard. However, laws are not the only methods of influencing behavior. The natural responses of individuals, below the legal level, also do that. Mockery, praise, encouragement, disappointment - these are all responses we use to encourage or discourage behaviors. There are many things which aren't illegal but are, nonetheless, undesirable.
For example, take shunning. If there is a member of your circle of acquaintances who lies, cheats, and is all-around an unpleasant person to be with, the other members of this circle will likely expel him - shun him. This is, essentially, a defensive maneuver for the protection of the rest of the group. Mockery, or shaming, is a similar method. Less severe than shunning, the target stays a member of the group, but are made to feel bad about their actions in order to discourage them from repeating them.
This, I feel, relates to the quote waaaay up top. Denouncing mockery as pointless and useless is essentially denouncing the utility or validity of informal methods of social control. But, without such methods what are we left with? Only the law. Only the official, formal laws put into place to say what is and is not appropriate behavior. Ironically, it is this thinking that depicts people as lacking basic decency.
This somewhat Hobbes-ian view of humanity suggests that, without laws, we have no guidance for behavior and would descend into chaos. It basically says that we don't have decency to lack.
In contrast, by acknowledging mockery as a valid and useful method of informal social control, I do not rest the integrity of society solely on the abstract concept of laws. Even without them we would be able to govern ourselves as the preexisting social norms would continue to exist.
I would seem, then, by mocking, I demonstrate a higher opinion of humanity in general.
 Richard Borshay Lee, "Eating Christmas in the Kalahari," Natural History, December 1969, pp. 14-22, 60-64
Awesome post drafterman!
"In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act."