The Sociable Animal

An Achievement of Social Cooperation

I recently discovered this quote:

"Humans are social beings and discovered long ago that social cooperation is the greatest means for attaining human needs and aspirations."

I don't mean to be unkind but I admit I laughed when I read it. That opinion of mankind is a very common one, which has always bewildered me. I wonder if those who hold that sentiment really believe it has any factual relationship to the featherless bipeds that occupy this planet. Have they read any history?

There are some creatures that enjoy a certain kind of sociability, like sheep, cattle, some birds, bees and ants, for example, but most other creatures are mostly individualist and solitary and only get together during their version of Sadie Hawkins day.

Now those creatures we regard as sociable are not at all like human beings. They do not round up others of their specie to sell as slaves, they do not intentionally torture, maim, and kill others of their own species. In fact the sociable animals are nothing like human beings.

Mark Twain once performed an elaborate experiment to test the hypothesis that man is a sociable animal. It is described in his essay, "The Lowest Animal."

This is the part of the experiment pertaining to human sociability:

In truth, man is incurably foolish. Simple things which the other animals easily learn, he is incapable of learning. Among my experiments was this. In an hour I taught a cat and a dog to be friends. I put them in a cage. In another hour I taught them to be friends with a rabbit. In the course of two days I was able to add a fox, a goose, a squirrel and some doves. Finally a monkey. They lived together in peace; even affectionately.

Next, in another cage I confined an Irish Catholic from Tipperary, and as soon as he seemed tame I added a Scotch Presbyterian from Aberdeen. Next a Turk from Constantinople; a Greek Christian from Crete; an Armenian; a Methodist from the wilds of Arkansas; a Buddhist from China; a Brahman from Benares. Finally, a Salvation Army Colonel from Wapping. Then I stayed away two whole days. When I came back to note results, the cage of Higher Animals was all right, but in the other there was but a chaos of gory odds and ends of turbans and fezzes and plaids and bones—not a specimen left alive. These Reasoning Animals had disagreed on a theological detail and carried the matter to a Higher Court.

What Social Cooperation Produces

Now I do not doubt that human beings discovered "social cooperation is the greatest means," to many things. It is certainly how governments come about, how wars are promoted and carried out, how political parties, labor unions, criminal gangs, and terrorist organizations are formed and function.

Though I have searched for it throughout history and all modern sources, what I have not been able to find are any examples of, "social cooperation," that have produced a single thing of value either to the individuals so organized or to any others.

On the contrary, every real benefit to mankind has come from individuals, and Only Individuals who refused to be socially organized. If the history and record of human behavior is evidence of humans being, "social beings," perhaps it would be better if they were some other kind of beings, since, with rare and infrequent exception, human history is dominated by the kind of horrors, cruelty, and squaller that would make the devil blush.