Divided Loyalty

Societies, and their members, choose the boundaries of co-operation and competition

A conventional multi-cellular organism is held together physically, by the chemical bonds that glue its molecules and cells together, and at a higher level by the constraints on freedom of movement that the adjacent solid physical parts of the organism place on each other.

A society as organism, on the other hand, is held together by the agreement of its members to co-operate with it, and with each other under the society’s established terms and conditions. More precisely it is held together by a complex regulated network of institutionalized, conventionalized, or legislated agreements that govern, civilize, and protect everyday life and livelihoods within the society.

We have explored various mechanisms that a hierarchical society uses to obtain and retain agreement. For one thing, it demonstrates security
to its members. For another, its regulation of its economic system manifestly enables wealth creation (energy stockpiling) by allowing
efficient complex resource gathering, manufacturing, and distribution processes to flourish. Thirdly the society creates and promulgates
moral stories and myths to provide ideals of civilized,
co-operative, and benevolent-leadership behaviours (heroic behaviours),
and to discourage selfish or treasonous behaviours (villainous behaviours).
And fourth, it enacts and enforces laws to curb egregious forms of
antisocial villainous behaviours.

In summary, these mechanisms can be described as the carrot (security, peer regard, monetary reward) and the stick (law enforcement, shunning) methods of behavioural alignment or agreement maintenance.

A key difference between a societal-level organism and a biological
multi-cellular organism is that the constituent parts of the organism;
the members and subgroups of the society, have more autonomy and
more freedom to move and to re-organize, than is the case within a
biological organism’s body. Both types of organisms have order-regulatory,
homeostatic mechanisms, as we have discussed, but the society’s
regulatory mechanisms are relatively weak, considering the strength of
independent information processing and independent will that human
beings individually possess.

This level of freedom within societies is enough to allow society members
to “think outside of the box”; to dream of alternate hierarchical
groups to the prevailing powerful one. In particular, if the
current group, with its particular boundaries and membership criteria,
and its particular ethos and economic techniques and security techniques, seems to be producing only rotten carrots and wielding a broken stick,
some society members will be actively plotting to arrange things into
one or more alternatively defined or bounded or governed societies.
Society members are always implicitly gambling that they are signed
up with the right state; with an effective state that will save them
energy for a given survival probability level. When a society’s economy
becomes weak, or its authority corrupt or ineffective, members
will look to place their chips elsewhere.

At any time, among any large set of people, there are an essentially
infinite number of possible differently defined hierarchical groups they could agree to get together in
. Unfortunately, competition for resources and taxes, and conflict over incompatible behavioural norms means that
there is only room for a few groups to be “actual” and powerful
at one time. There may be more than one group governing a person,
but not that many more than one, and those groups need to be of
different spatial scales or have different, orthogonal jurisdictional
domains, to avoid conflict.

A given person may be loyal to a greater or lesser degree to
several different societal groups simultaneously. In many cases,
this won’t be problematic for the person, because the groups
are of different scale and the loyalties not incompatible
(for example, being a citizen of both a city and the surrounding
nation), or because the groups do not have substantially overlapping
jurisdictional domain ( for example, adhering to one’s religion,
and identifying as a loyal citizen of one’s secular nation-state.)
In each of these cases, the pair of hierarchical societies
do still compete with each other even if their interests don’t
seem to overlap, because they are competing for tax (a share of
the person’s organized energy production) from the single person,
but this revenue competition can often be negotiated.

In some important cases however, a person’s divided loyalties to different hierarchical groups are of grave concern to the person and their societies. Consider the case when a person is a member of a smaller regional state, and the person strongly identifies as belonging to that ethnic or cultural group, but the person is also resident within a larger nation-state that has subsumed the regional state. (This sort of subsumption /annexation
happens all the time, due in general to the natural growth
tendencies of hierarchical societies over historical time, as
explained in a previous post.)

In such a case, the citizens of the sub-state may wish
independence. If the sub-state has been subsumed for a long time,
and membership in the larger state has been an economic success
for the sub-state, then it may be that the sub-state members
become assimilated, and grudgingly accept their new or dual
identity. But should the wound of annexation be fresh, or should
the larger nation be oppressive, or on the other hand ineffective
at either security or economic welfare, then secession will be
an active goal of many of the sub-state’s members.

The subsuming nation-state (and probably a majority of
its indoctrinated citizens who are not from the region in question)
will treat ideas or plots of secession as something to be combatted; as villainous, treasonable, and punishable,
because the sub-state is now part of the larger-state’s body
and identity, and separating it will be like losing a limb,
in terms of disruption of the nation’s integrated economic
form and function. Also a successful secession will be a
severe loss of face for the authority regime of the
larger nation (whose major goal is, remember, to “keep it together”
and to keep it functioning as an integrated complex whole), and this
loss of face (and of “threat credibility”) may lead to further secessions and substantial chaos and re-organization of the nation’s constitution and
boundaries. It may dissolve the nation entirely, leaving a set of
alternate, initially smaller states/nations in its place.

To sum up, a human being is a member of several different societal groups of different scales and different jurisdictional concerns. Often, these groups can co-exist by negotiating the physical or logical boundaries of their jurisdiction with each other so as to minimally step on each others’ toes. But sometimes, for reasons having to do with not fully resolved historical change, a person finds themselves expected to maintain loyalty
to two competing societal groups. Such a person has power in their hands, because the direction they move in; the society that they decide to support
at the expense of the other, may gain power and independent existence,
and its rival society may lose power or its very existence,
depending on the sum of such loyalty assignments among its populace.

We should expect the loyalty assignments that members give to competing hierarchical societal groups to be influenced by both historical allegiance (historically ingrained identity perceptions), and
also, in large measure, by present-time economic and security service-effectiveness of the societal groups in question. A state providing rotten carrots (a poor economy, or economic injustice) or wielding broken sticks (an ineffective or inefficient oppressive internal security and defense regime) is likely to be replaced from within by secession or
revolution, or from without by invasion and subsumption. A hierarchical society, a nation-state, is only stable to the extent that its members believe in it and agree to it and work for it more strongly than other people, or even the same people, believe in an alternate arrangement of affairs in the region.

Explore posts in the same categories: politics, sociology

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