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Human Social Distances

I read the Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. It's billed as a revisit of ancient ideas with modern sciences. Kind of a check of selection of wisdoms common to several major world religions.

One aspect that really struck me was how much of it was useful information for understanding the social world around you. I guess that makes sense; your ability to manage your own happiness is dependent on making sense of the environment you are in. There were a number of those type of ideas, but today I'll just focus on this one, from Chapter 9.

Axes of Social Distance

There are two fairly obvious axes of social distance: I'll call one tribal closeness and the other class/status hierarchy. I think of tribal closeness as being about the people you know and are comfortable being unguarded with. Ordered by increasing distance you have your immediate family, your close friends, maybe work colleagues, then neighbors and acquaintances, people with the same accent or speech patterns, the folks you share national identity with, and then the others are most distant on this axis. On the other axis, for a middle class person, below them is the poor and we can debate if it should or shouldn't be the case but often race plays a part. On the same level are people of similar wealth and neighborhoods, or professions. Above are the wealthy, and political leaders, the pinnacle of those receiving class respect are presidents, kinds, high religious figures and officials, etc. It plays out in different ways too, age or family seniority. There are many ways.

There is a third axis, one that doesn't get a lot of attention in the United States because of how secular the country is. It's the divinity axis, sort of how holy or spiritual or maybe even selfless or altruistic a person or act is. This is another axis of social respect.

That's it. Does it sound right to you? What's missing here, is there are 4th or 5th dimension of social distance needed or do these 3 cover it?

I think that attractiveness and brute strength probably both get reconciled into the class/status hierarchy.

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