“Society” is a big lie

How often have you been put on the defensive by someone claiming that something is “harmful to Society?” How many times have you been tricked into arguing that something isn’t going to “destroy Marriage?” If you’re like me, you’ve heard such statements often enough. Usually from the moral police in response to some behavior they personally disapprove of.

I’m sick of such statements. Not just because they’re stupid (as I will try and show), but because they have a powerful emotional value that tends to override our rational responses. Have we ever really stopped and analyzed such claims? Imagine aliens from Mars who hear a statement like “Pubs will destroy society.” The rest of us will say things like “No it won’t!” or “Please show me how it will destroy society” or even “Destroy in what way?”

Society - just a collection of people

Society - just a collection of people

But guess what the Martian’s response will be? They’ll simply ask “Society? What’s that?”

And we stand speechless! How do we tell them what society is? The reason why we can’t explain it to them, is because it doesn’t exist! We made it up. Like the bogeyman.

It may seem easy to define it as a collection of people (as the dictionary does.) So far so good. But when you say “This will harm society”, what does it mean? That it will harm every single individual in that collection? That it’ll harm the majority of people? Let’s say only 49% are “harmed”. Does that mean “society” is also harmed? Will 49.5% be enough?

We use “society” as a noun. As in “This is a society.” But what are it’s characteristics? I challenge anyone to give me the characteristics of society and which characteristics are harmful and why. Individual people can be harmed, though we must understand what it means to “harm” someone. But society can never be harmed. Because it’s artificial. A fiction. A convenient tool usually used to control others.

I’ve found that the best way to counter these statements is to force the person to provide specific examples. I got this inspiration from the Supreme Court when it struck down the cases against Khushboo for her remarks on pre marital sex. It simply asked her accusers to show a few examples of people who had been “harmed” by her remarks. Those accusing her were stumped! It’s very easy to say “This is harming society” but it’s notoriously difficult to give even two examples :D

The same goes for those who say that legalizing homosexuality for example will “destroy marriage.”  Simply ask those who say this to give even one example of a marriage breaking down just because homosexuality has been legalized. It’s possible that someone is a closet homosexual and that the freedom to be gay will lead a homosexual to walk out of a false marriage. But that means it was doomed even before the legalization. No one becomes gay just because it’s legal!

Narrowing down like this helps because it forces the moral police to become specific and demonstrate actual harm. It forces them to use rational evidence instead of emotional hooks that work because of fuzzy concepts. And it effectively pulls the carpet out from under their feet. Try it!

What do you think of this post?
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Comments

  1. Community living is a convenient arrangement. And since man is a social animal (or so we’ve been told) we are part of a society, whether we like it or not. Not all of us are the same, we all have different mindsets and are entitled to opinions.

    No one can dictate what’s wrong or what’s right to us, it is a matter of perspective. And I have observed the definition of right and wrong keeps changing as we grow older and see more of life.

    Reply

  2. I think people have a hard time defining what society is, because it's not this single entity. It's something made up entirely of institutions, family, marriage, schools, etc. So you could say that society is just something where you have these parts the connect to each other. So you could say it doesn't exist and that it exists everywhere. :P

    Like you, I don't understand how things like legalizing homosexuality and same sex marriage will destroy society, seeing how marriage itself is something that's part of society and the definition of marriage has changed throughout history.

    Reply

  3. I think Martians or any aliens that have advanced to the extent of deep space travel, landing in and adapting to other worlds, will have some idea of what “society” is- they may use different terms for it, but it will exist in some form :-)

    -Jai

    Reply

    • In reply to Jai_C

      Probably :) – I was using that as an example of how weird the concept seems to one who's hearing it for the first time. We speak of society as if it has a life of it's own.

      Perhaps advanced aliens would have left it behind them by now…

      Reply

  4. VISHAL SHARMA says

    Hello sir

    I think the conduct that secures majority of the people's interest can be defined as acceptable in society. But the things that are harming our culture and ethics is harmful for the society.

    Society is nothing but we the very part of this world. Yes! as interests of the people change, there comes a change in the society. Hence there comes a change in the acceptance for something or rejection for something in the society.

    Reply

    • In reply to VISHAL SHARMA

      But often what is acceptable is plain wrong. For example, the majority of people want homosexuality to be illegal.

      Reply

      • VISHAL SHARMA says

        In reply to bhagwad

        Yes ! you are right here. All people should have their own freedom to choose what is good for them or not. Sometimes society don’t accept even right things.

        But Mr. Bhawad, people who take toxins also want it to be legalized ! Actually society is not against the individual freedom. But society is afraid of the notion that can start prevailing among others if bad things get legalize. Live in relationship is becoming quite common in metros. And it’s up to an individual whether he/she want to indulge in such type of relation or not. In short period it seems to be beneficial but in long term it just create black blots on characters. That is why society is against it.

        No doubt, no body becomes gay just because it is legal. But it is quite possible that youth starts to go that side just to drive pleasure. In that case it will produce just more complex diseases. At young age it is only charm that attracts heart the most. Young minds neglect cons that come after a little while of pros.

        Sometimes our narrow thinking hinders our speed. But sometimes due to this narrow thinking, we are able to walk steadily for a long time.

        Intellectual minds must be able to analyze the reasons that why society is against or is in favor for something. There is no need to follow the things blindly. There is a need to interpret every situation with deep thinking. More, we should be rational.

        Reply

      • In reply to VISHAL SHARMA

        You bring an interesting point. Toxins have a demonstrated physical negative effect on a body. There’s no dispute over that – which is why they’re banned. Things like homosexuality, pubs, or what not are liked by some and disliked by others. There’s no scientific repeatable proof that they’re harmful. And so there can’t be a law regarding them.

        Also, cigarettes are allowed aren’t they? And there are places were marijuana is legalized. The idea is that each person is totally free to spoil their health if they want to. Their body belongs to them and they have the right to ruin it.

        Now each person has his/her views on live in relationships. But if they want to experiment with their life as adults then no one has the right to stop them. Even if 95% of people choose such a mode no one has a right to stop them. And this makes sense no?

        Our lives belong to us – not to anyone else. I lived in with my wife for a year before we got married – and that too only because we needed some legal proof for travelling together etc. I’m healthy. I pay my taxes. I’m well employed and don’t have mental conditions. If others want to do it why should they be stopped?

        Reply

      • VISHAL SHARMA says

        In reply to bhagwad

        Its very good that we talked on this topic. The points u raised are interesting …

        I liked that. And I am on the conclusion that if I like to live according my own will then nobody has right to stop me, unless I make harm to some one others life.

        Reply

    • In reply to VISHAL SHARMA

      You know, there was a point in time in America where it was believed that inter-racial marriage was harmful to society and people agreed with it. And when you talk about people’s interests, what people specifically? Since homosexuality is viewed as wrong, then where does that leave homosexuals?

      Reply

  5. It always strikes me as odd that the people most likely to rage about harm to society are the one’s who most often point out that, at least here in the US, we live in a republic, not a democracy. Yet it is these same people who jump up and down and throw purple-faced fits when their “democratic” rights get trampled by rulings which favor minority rights in such cases. Defend the rights of “society” as long as it’s the societal image they want and not some other thing that expands boundaries and consciousness or leads to more tolerant behavior among us social animals.

    After we get done defining society and how it can be harmed, let’s see if we can’t figure out how to shackle that other imaginary entity, the corporation, and make it cause less harm too.

    Reply

    • In reply to Thurman

      That’s a very interesting observation. I didn’t really think about the difference between a republic and a democracy until you just brought it up. Then I went and did some reading and I understand now…

      The US, India and most of Europe are republics and not democracies. That means mere “majority rule” doesn’t work. And so the entire “do what’s good for society” argument has to be scrapped…

      You know, I’ve learned something today… :)

      Reply

  6. I think that the only thing that is harmful to society is ignorance.

    Reply

  7. Glad to have been of service, and I must agree with Hari, ignorance is perhaps most dangerous of all. Especially the willful variety we seem to have in abundance everywhere these days

    Reply

  8. Great idea, actually, to ask for specific examples. But guess what? Some folks cannot be quietened even by such sensible questions. Its like they are so adamant and daft too, that nothing can change their narrow mindset!

    Reply

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