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It turns out Other People are necessary....

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You refer a lot to 'Other People'. What are they exactly? Why do you keep mentioning them? What do you mean when you talk about Other People? What difference do Other People make to me anyway? Why do I care? Sorry if this is a stupid question.

It's not a stupid question at all. Although the definition of Other People might seem to be obvious, in fact the existence and nature of Other People is one of the most baffling phenomena any of us ever have to face.

The deep problem of 'who and what the hell are these Other People I keep running into?' is one that most of us never completely satisfactorily solve. I won't claim that I can solve it for you, but we can point out a few features and attributes of these mysterious beings in hopes of easing your way with them a bit.

First, we'll start by recognizing that Other People are one of the most common constituents of your universe. Of course, other elements like oxygen, light, dirt, and fuzzy things are important too - but no matter how you slice it, your environment is bound to be shot through with Other People. Thus your evolutionary brain has come up with strategies to deal with this fact.

First, it notes that Other People are people like yourself - but they are different because they are not you. And based on this simple observation, your brain, if it is working correctly, has neatly classified the entire spectrum of humanity that has ever existed into two clean categories, which it refers to as 'Me' and 'Other People'.

Now of course if you have an ambitious brain, or if it gets bored, or if it has a problem to solve, it will often frequently break down the large Other People category into sub-categories based on race, height, proximity, sex, and a whole bunch of other factors. Such as Mean People and Nice People. People Who Do Not Like Me. People who belong to My Family. People Who Have No Fashion Sense. People who are Smarter Than Me. People Who Live Somewhere Else. Your brain loves coming up with these sub-categories because it gives it something to do to while away the time and it also makes the world a bit more predictable and sometimes less threatening. Because your evolutionary brain has noted several important qualities about Other People. To wit:

  • Other People are unpredictable.
  • Other People are necessary.
  • Other People are dangerous.
  • Other People are hard to understand.

These inherent qualities of Other People are very exciting, but gosh they make things harrowing. So your brain is engaged in a constant struggle to make Other People less unpredictable, less necessary, less dangerous and less difficult to understand.

One of the ways it does this is to make up Generalizations, Stereotypes, and Prejudices that slice the teeming mass of Other People into smaller, more manageable categories. Then it makes predictions about the behavior of Other People in these categories and attempts to understand them and so on in hopes of rendering them less dangerous and less necessary. Like this: Gay Men are Effeminate (Prediction) because they are like women (attempt to understand) which makes them easy to beat up (less dangerous) and means that I don't have to care what they think (less necessary).

The fact that your brain's Generalizations, Stereotypes, and Prejudices are frequently wrong doesn't stop your brain from generating and using them. Because the fact is you need them.

It's a complex, difficult world out there and you need some way of categorizing it. The best you can do is to try to make your Generalizations, Stereotypes, and Prejudices as accurate as you can, based on real observation, and not misled by general Mass Social Generalizations, Stereotypes, and Prejudices. That way you won't get caught off guard when some gay man who doesn't like being called effeminate beats the shit out of you! And weren't you clever to avoid that disaster by paying close attention to the real world and ditching baseless Generalizations about gay men in favor of practical Generalizations about People Who Look Like They Might Beat Me Up! God, you're good.

Anyway, since Generalizations, Stereotypes, and Prejudices are handy and your brain likes them, and since your brain already believes the world should be divided into the two clumps of Me and Other People - we are going to make it very happy by generating a whole bunch of fun Generalizations about the entire clump of Other People based on the 4 major Generalizations above. What fun! Let's dive right into this exciting endeavor!

Generalization #1: Other People are necessary.

Way back when evolution was screwing around with various attempts to make a human species, it realized that it had run into a major Situation based on its initial design specs. And that was these individual little human units couldn't possibly survive on their own! Fuck! Not much fur, no claws, can't fly, can't climb, can't run very fast, and they are saddled with helpless infants to boot. Fuck!

Evolution had created a species not particularly adapted to any environment except an environment consisting largely of others like itself. A species that needs each other to hunt and eat, and mate, and care for their young. 'There's no fucking way these things are going to outlive cold weather', evolution said to itself, 'let alone predatory animals, and lack of food and big volcanoes and everything else unless these suckers cooperate with each other. You stick a group of them together cooperating and yeah, they've got a shot at bagging an animal big enough to feed them - but one of them on their own, no fucking way! They'll never figure it out individually, they've got to figure it out collectively.' 'Fuck! evolution continued, 'we'd better build a whole bunch of Cooperation Incentives into these suckers or this whole evolutionary experiment is down the tubes - and soon. Damn!'

And that's exactly what it did. It started piling on the Cooperation Incentives like a motherfucker. It developed a whole huge Social Brain for you. It gave you lots of chemical incentives to guide your behavior. It created Love, and Loneliness, and the Universal Human Longing for Goodness, and Compassion, and Insecurity, and Sex Ecstasy, and Bonding, and Patriotism, and Sentimentality, the desire for Friendship, and Language Chattiness, and Hatred of Rejection, and Fear of Abandonment, Happy Sharing, and Neediness, the Longing to Be Understood, and Social Conformity, and Social Reality and a whole bunch of other things to force you crave Other People as much as you will crave anything else on earth. Other People make you happy, as happy as you can ever be. Other People make you miserable, as miserable as you can ever be. And you want them, have to have them.

Your evolutionary brain is so insistent on the necessity of Other People that it makes itself melt when they are not around. You are so tuned to Social Reality, a reality conditioned by Other People and their shared perceptions, that when isolated from them your brain will go nuts. It will howl and scream for Other People until in its desperation, it will start firing randomly and give you hallucinations and delusions and all sorts of bizarre suffering.

A long time ago, some Quakers in America decided that what criminals wanted was to be alone and isolated from Other People so they could commune with God and wash away their sins and so on. Boy were they wrong! They isolated a bunch of petty and not so petty criminals in prisons designed to keep them away from all human contact and the whole fucking lot of them promptly melted and went insane and couldn't even function as criminals in a prison any more. They had to let the ones who hadn't died of loneliness go, because they couldn't fucking figure out how to deal with a bunch of helpless, melted insane people anymore.

Even though you may not be a criminal, you are still built so that you can't even perceive reality, the world itself, without Other People. You can't tell the hot desert from a beautiful oasis without Other People. You can't tell if you are fucking nuts or not without the assistance of Other People. You need them constantly to adjust and calibrate your perceptions because your evolutionary brain figures that without them you are toast and it's not about to start processing reality correctly without them. Fuck that! It wants Other People.

Your brain is so tuned to Other People that if you were a little infant born into a world without human love and touch you'd starve yourself to death even if you were being fed. It's usually called 'failure to thrive' and you just wouldn't process the food you were given, because your brain is pre-set to believe - no love, no life, forget it, I'm dying. I am fucking outta here, life is not worth living without the warmth of the Other People.

If Other People are so necessary to even your most basic physiological functioning, then naturally they pose a huge danger when they go away. Damn! that's scary, that going away and leaving you isolated business. Gives your evolutionary brain chills all up and down its spine. Terrifying dangerousness!

You are therefore pre-set to engage in all kinds of strategies to keep Other People from going away and leaving you alone. You will conform, you will cry and beg and scream 'don't leave me!', you will wheedle, and connive, you will act like Other People the best you can. You will obey, you will tolerate all kinds of shit, you will hide anything in yourself that seems like it has the effect of making other people go away. You will cooperate, you will share, you will follow rules. You will lavish affection, you will try to be polite, you will try to be lovable, you will pipe down, speak up, or whatever the fuck else they tell you to do. You will try to make friends and if you can't you will try to hide the fact that you can't so that no one will know you are defective and unworthy and decide that they now they really all have to fucking go away. You will lie about yourself and anything else you think will help. You will make do with a little when you want a lot.

You will feel pretty sure you are loved and accepted - and then you will wonder anyway. You will remind yourself that the Important People in your life love you and are not going to go away - and then you will remember everyone else who doesn't love you and who will go away. You will worry. You will bite your nails before big tests as you brain considers what will happen to you if they decide you fucked up the test and you can't be in school anymore and you'll have to go away and be by yourself. You will agonize. You will try to perform. You will try not to fuck up. You will try to catch on and wonder if you ever will.

At times you will think you are going to crack under the strain. The terrifying constant pressure of trying to conform, fit in, and be accepted will seem to grind you into a thousand pieces. If necessary, you will develop counter-measures. You will rebel, reject, pretend you don't care, hunker down, give up, despise, resist, hate, prize your individualism, swear that you will never be defeated, struggle, squirm. You will rationalize, argue, sacrifice, ponder, compromise. You will struggle for attention, and for verification of your existence. You will say 'Fuck it! Fuck you all!' and then you will try again. You will do anything you fucking have to to survive in a world where Other People are necessary.

In short, a major part of You, Your Social Brain, and all the rest of your body is wholeheartedly dedicated to the ongoing drama of keeping you from Getting Kicked Off the Boat.

Whatever kind of hell Other People put you through, you love them, you fucking love them, and you want them to love you too.

And the amazing thing is that this is just You! All this struggle, all this drama, and you are just one person out of billions. The exact same fucking struggle is going on in every single Other Person on the planet. In some Other People, the struggle is furious and visible and in some it's subdued and hidden. But it's there. How can all that angst fit on one tiny planet? It's a miracle.

And since we love miracles here at, we are going to delve into Your Amazing I Am Different Module, a fascinating little physiological nodule near the back of your head whose primary function is to help you generate your fair share of angst. The Amazing I Am Different Module is a motherfucker of a Cooperation Incentive. When evolution decides to try to make you Cooperate it doesn't fuck around.

It usually doesn't feel like a Cooperation Incentive though, it feels Isolation Hell and Oh My God, I Am Such A Lonely Freak, I Will Die and so on and so forth. Now we are going to delve into why evolution and your personal I Am Different Module treat you so badly and make Other People so unpredictable, dangerous and hard to understand, but we might as well note a shocking fact right at the outset:

Other People Have I Am Different Modules too! How Other People could possibly feel different from Other People when Other People are in fact Other People is one of those paradoxical mysteries of the Universe. But it happens.

Other People are secretly convinced that they are not 'Other People' but in fact 'Me' and that You, instead of being 'Me' are actually Another Person! Yes, it's true, Other People are completely ignorant of the fact that they're Other People! Obviously, they're seriously mistaken because they couldn't possibly be 'Me' since you have already taken that job and are very busy being 'Me' and worrying about Other People.

This is a strange fact - that each Other Person is operating under the ridiculous assumption that you are not 'Me' - they are! Go figure! How these Other People came up with the idea that each of their own little worlds revolves around them and not You will always remain a mystery. And yet they all have it.

Using our advanced higher mathematics and logic skills, we now have to come to the conclusion that you can't possibly be different from Other People, because you are Other People! This is one of those philosophical mind-twisters that can be fun to contemplate when you're high. Just a tip.

The fact that logically you can't possibly be different from Other People because you are one is not going to keep you from feeling different, though and generating angst. Because evolution and your brain have decided that this angst is very very useful in keeping your ass alive and they are not about ditch something useful just because it's logically ridiculous.

In order to figure out why Angst is Your Friend, why it's useful and how you can maximize its value, we are unfortunately going to have to talk a lot about onions. We don't shy away from those kinds of tough assignments here at though, and in the following page we fearlessly tackle the Amazing Green Onion of Human Differentness.



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