Schismogenesis and me

Schismogenesis and me
By Paul Fischer
Anth 342

At a young age, in warlike cultures, the children are exposed to militaristic ideals. Aztec children are surrounded by weapons literally from birth, Spartan children worked in military school starting at the age seven. These cultures simulate a harsh living environment for their children to prepare them for the rigours of both life and war. Even today, children are removed from their parents and indoctrinated with certain  ideals in public schools from an earlier and earlier age. Yet everyone comes from a unique background in the way they are raised at home.

For me, going to school meant learning that certain feedback loops in my discourse with other people could not be perpetuated. In fact, this is true of most kids, who have unique interests in the home or develop fear (such as of the dark) before coming into social contact with their peers and quickly adjusting to the norms. This is the earliest form of schismogenesis, whereby the kids are separated from society by various experiences they have which change the way they interpret societal feedbacks.The ways in which children fail to adjust to the norms still leave them fitting into the normal bell curve for every trait. There are a couple specific examples I can think of that disengaged my participation with the feedback loops as well as some that  stimulated me into reversing the effects.
First moving to Little Rock, Arkansas in first grade, my pronunciation of my name, Paul, was significantly different than any other student in the class was familiar with. During recess, as I was introducing myself to various other kids, some of the older ones told me that there was absolutely no way my name could be pronounced AND spelled that way. Somehow, with the deep southern drawl most kids had there, the way they said Paul emphasized the “u” as well as the “a” resulting in a word that was not my name. I have the distinct memory of being really  disgusted with these older kids who were simply unable to imagine of a name they didn’t know, and were arrogant enough to dictate their botched version of my name to me.
The social consequences of this interaction probably weren’t serious, since I don’t remember anything beyond my feeling of complete disgust with the other kids. This emotion does suggest, however, that my experience with this particular set of parameters (complementary schismogenesis, or older foreign children) discouraged me from interactions with them. This is not necessarily the standard response, however: many people or groups that are forced to submit and cut off feedback loops, even when they disagree, see this as a form of domination and seek to deliver a sort of retribution to their oppressor. An example of this would be Union leaders who let the workers take a pay cut in order to maneuver into a position where potential strikes would hurt the company much more.
As a kid, I was also obsessed with baseball. I knew every stat, spent every spare moment trying to live up to my idol, Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves. By fifth or sixth grade, my little brother and I were out, rain or shine, to play baseball every day. At this point we lived in Vermont, so in the winter we would be playing catch with three feet of snow! When I played Little League, I was third base and third batter for the South End Yankees. We did all right, but weren’t quite the best team.
Baseball, along with other team sports, is a form of schismogenesis on a more macro scale. The kids are divided up into teams, which should be mostly equal, in order to compete for the recognition associated with winning. This is termed symmetrical schismogenesis, in which both sides are held to the same rules (as opposed to the older children earlier, they were able to disregard my opposition because of their 8 or 9 year old wisdom must be better than a 5 year old’s) and compete against one another in competition that does not achieve a goal but seems to rank one group above another.
It is possible that symmetrical schismogenesis is necessary to create the distinctions that allow us to cut off the feedback loops by submitting to someone who is recognized as higher. The societal role of sports is to level the playing field by regulating rules and equipment, thus allowing us to differentiate between different groups ie. “The Braves are the best team, the Mets suck.” Remembering that, it is somewhat of a surprise to find that almost none of our nominal judgements are made based on achievement in games, but based on things such as social standing, money, and power that can be inherited and is definitely not controlled to be equal in all things.

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