The Holy Order of Hell’s Angels

How to keep yourself together – writ large

A previous post posited that the primary concern of any organism is keeping itself together, in good form and function. To do so it must have means of fighting against the ravages of the physical tendency toward entropy and the ravages of active attacks by other agents on its person or its energy and material resources.

I contend that a hierarchical society is simply another level of organism. This is not a metaphor; it is a literal truth that must be fully comprehended in order to understand the common mechanisms and likely evolutions of societies. A hierarchical society is an organism whose body; whose form and function, is held together by informationally mediated constraints on interactions between the members of the society, and informationally mediated constraints on the society’s interactions with its environment and its neighbours. Instead of the shin bone being physically connected to the knee bone, and having the shin’s degrees of freedom of movement constrained by the knee’s pressures on it, the members of a hierarchical society are constrained to move (direct their lives and their energies) only in certain directions, within certain bounds, by constraints that have both an abstract informational component (laws, or moral tales) and a hard physical component (law enforcement actions, or active shunning or welcoming rituals). The society member, whether a person or a sub-organization such as a corporation, is constrained by the regulatory mechanisms of the society (its laws and norms and the teaching and enforcement of those), and by the economic paths of least resistance that the particular complex economic process structure of the society affords.

Just as multi-cellular collections of organs (higher animals) come in various species, we see several types of hierarchical human societies of various shapes, sizes, and specialized forms, such as extended families, religious groups, social clubs and interest groups, criminal gangs, corporations, militaries, political parties and nationalist factions waiting in the wings, democratic or autocratic state governments, and actual full-fledged constitutional states, including federations.

Biology shows us, however, that different higher animal species are variations of common themes, and that, at some level of generality, different animal species are just emphasizing different tactics for solving what are essentially common problems of:

  1. “food” (energy and material) gathering and transformation,
  2. security and shelter (avoidance of energy and material structural loss), and
  3. reproduction (avoidance of pattern breakdown due to entropic processes acting on individual organism bodies.)

Hierarchical societies all have the very same general problems to solve.

1. Resources and metabolism
To solve the challenges of resource gathering and transformation into usable forms of energy and material, societies create monetary systems, and enforced regulation of business exchanges, to allow for the development of stable, organized, complex “metabolic” (economic) processes of resource gathering and production of goods and services needed for the functioning of the society and its members. And societies defend and extend their frontiers by organized projection of force, to ensure a stable supply of resources from the surrounding environment into the society.

2. Security and shelter
Societies all have semi-permeable membranes (physical and/or legal borders) which have precisely the same function at the general level as cell walls, or as skins with orifices of multi-cellular organisms. They form a boundary inside which the members of the society can interact with protection from both internal disorder, and external attack.

To quell internal disorder, policing and jurisprudence operate together as an immune system within the border. The physical border, or societal membership/citizenship criteria, serves to make it clear when and where such law applies and how it is to be administered. The border is usually drawn at the physical or legal-membership-definitional edge of the territory that can be policed efficiently or legitimately, given the governance techniques and technologies of the society.)

To forestall external attack and tame the frontier regions of the environment, including the disempowering of adjacent rival societies, societies maintain a border patrol and an expeditionary armed force. The border patrol (physical or legal, depending on the variety of society) serve as the gate-keepers of the semi-permeable membrane, determining who gets in or out, determining what forms of commerce and information can flow across the border, and how much that commercial flow of resources can be taxed at the border to go directly toward maintenance of the hierarchical order within the border.

The expeditionary armed force acts pro-actively or re-actively against real or perceived active threats from adjacent societal agents that would “steal” the society’s external resources, or even attack the society’s border for purposes of invasion and usurpation of the authority of the society over its members.

3. Reproduction
Reproduction is just a specialized means for continuation through time of the essential information pattern of a life form. A society’s essential form is its core informational patterns. There are two major forms of these core societal information patterns; stably recorded constraints (laws and norm stories), and loyalty-building identity symbols and stories.

To continue their particular system of effort aligning, conflict moderating constraints, societies write down their laws, and create institutions for the study and maintenance of those laws. They elevate the central, general laws (those that state the aspired-to ethos of the society) to the position of a sacred constitution of the state; that which must be defended at all costs, by force if necessary. As well as laws, each society has a surrounding body of looser, more informal constraints, in the form of norms. To continue their norms, societies use curricula in their youth education systems, they tell moral tales to each other in the form of literature and mass media, they celebrate exemplary citizens who embody the norms, and they publicly vilify those who deviate from the norms.

To continue their loyalty-building identity symbols and stories, societies develop and maintain symbols such as flags, anthems, and sports teams. They develop and promulgate foundation myths and celebrations around foundational events and around historical triumphs over trials that tested the society’s ability to survive. They turn heroic nation-builders or saviors (pivotal leaders and warriors), into national treasures and symbols; embodiments of the mythic core ethos of the society.

A corollary of the hypothesis that a hierarchical society is an advanced form of organism, facing the same survival problems common to other organisms, is that we should expect all successful forms of human hierarchical society to be variations on a common theme; to be essentially the same as each other, in their general form and function; to exhibit a similarity driven by their common need to confront common categories of challenges to their continued existence.

If we look beyond variations in their size, color, niche, and tactics, we will find that the logic of form and function of all human hierarchical societies is shaped by their overall strategy for overcoming entropic degradation and active resource re-patterning threats originating from their membership and their neighbours.

All successful human hierarchical societies will exhibit common core organizational patterns designed to confront and overcome the continual organism or species survival problems of

  1. energy and material resource acquisition and processing,
  2. security and shelter for efficient peacable organized complex internal “economic” metabolism, and
  3. “reproduction”, or more generally continuation and passing down through generations of members, and to sub-groups, of the essential identity information patterns and essential activity-constraint information patterns that define the society.

We should find that extended families, religious groups, social clubs and interest groups, criminal gangs, corporations, militaries, political parties and nationalist factions waiting in the wings, democratic or autocratic state governments, and actual full-fledged constitutional states, including federations, are much more the same as each other in form and behaviour and evolution over time, much more similar to each other in the types of benefits they confer on their members, than they are different from each other.

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