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'Lord of the Flies,' Revisited

yes, never seen Lord of the Flies’… I am a Humanistic person whose peak experiences shown me our Goodness. This has been the case all my life, which is quite surprising since I have an artistic, somewhat melancholic temperament. nd a open to my/our ‘darkness’ too…

Give a person an all-round (humanistic) education and s/he will flourish and be their best selves, or is more likely to…

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Nonsense.   As a former teacher at the High School and Junior High level, I can attest with great certainty that humans are just as selfish – and as unselfish – as dogs.  The biggest difference between humans and dogs is that the latter are far more honest.

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Golding’s point, as Garrett Hardin’s point about the tragedy of the commons, was not that this would happen, it was it could happen if people didn’t heed the warning and reform society to avoid it.

Though normally as on the mark as he is entertaining, I have to wonder about Hightower here; along with Bregman he misses almost everything important. Isn’t it obvious the book is not about children, but about adults acting out their dysfunctions in society? Adults are made dysfunctional by society and their dysfunctions make society what it is. It comes as a set. And as Paul Shepard points out in Nature and Madness, mental illness often takes the form of caricatured childishness. By putting his allegory in the form of a story about a society of children in the wilderness, Golding unleashes the mental illness at the heart of our society, making it starker and drawing that connection in reverse—deconstructing civilization. Unfortunately, like most people he didn’t understand psychology and so couldn’t deconstruct enough to help much.

Healing and sickening crises of illnesses happen in waves, though civilization and we in it are never healed much, but are mostly held by the ratchet of a slightly less ill society (like the function of Democrats in the Republican drive toward fascism). It keeps us from recovering much even during the best times, ensuring there will be more bad times. During the worst times–not necessarily materially hard but often worsened by such stress—individuals and society take a nosedive into damnation, the worst case scenario and inevitable end of this illness. Children aren’t born infected; they’re born with a template of development that has to be filled in by caregivers, from the personal (parents, other close caregivers and “authorities”, siblings, friends, etc.) to the great and impersonal (politics, the economy, war, religion…).

Tasks of development–achieving what’s called “agency”, for example, or being attuned to the child so s/he can learn to attune and connect–require responses within a certain narrow range out of all possible responses, or the abilities that come from fulfilling the task are stunted, warped or detoured. That makes completing subsequent developmental tasks harder, and while there can be recovery from this with enough wise and loving help, in our society, sick and stunted from top to bottom and from myths to news, it’s much more likely to go ever more wrong as the child grows.

Adults too often end up lost, feeling out alone on a limb, even so far out they’re Republicans, where lack of attunement (aka empathy) can be mild or severe, on a continuum. The worst cases can be classified as Wetiko disease, aka malignant egophrenia (Paul Levy).

Driven into chaotic rule by warlords by children infected with an especially virulent strain of Wetiko, Golding’s society is on its way to fascism because the children don’t have the experience or institutions to prevent it. Neither do we, any more, a fact almost but never quite usefully or with understanding pointed out by the many recent articles about the after-effects of Trump’s reign. Golding’s allegory has lessons for us, though they’re not enough to avoid its horrors.

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Any time I read about the TotC claim, it was presented, even when quoted rather than interpreted, as a “does” rather than a “could”.

I know very litte about the “flies” story (never read the book or watched the film because I’m not a fan of psychopathy) but the outcome for any isolated group usually depends on prior socialization.

The Tongan kids were socialized in a coöperation-oriented society, so they had shared expectations that problems can be solved by working together.

Contrast that with Phil Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment, in which young adults, raised in a US-individualist-authoritarian subculture, expected conflict over control rather than negotiation about coöperation.

Similarly with Jones’s “third wave” experiment – the young adults there had been socialized all through school with one message: obey the one in charge, so they naturally looked for someone to obey.

The type of experiment exemplified by Stanley Milgram’s “Obedience to Authority” series was at first completely banned in the hysteria that followed publication precisely because the original experiment exposed how thoroughly we’re socialised into surrendering our will to even the most threadbare claimant to Authority. Watered-down versions are now allowed because the very banning made academics start thinking hard about what was being banned and why…

If we want to survive, we’re going to have to re-socialize ourselves to be autonomously coöperative rather than fearfully-obediently continue to stand around waiting for a Leader to obey. The System will make us suffer for our lèse-majesté, so we better resolve upfront to be tough and take care of one another.


100% correct. At the end of the documentary you see that they live in classic cliche islander fashion, right off the beach. During the documentary the young men talk about how they learned by watching their elders. Essentially, they just moved to the next town over and started a fresh homestead. One even joked that they could move back there because of population pressure in their current village.

For us, modern city dwellers, it would be more like Tom Hank’s “Cast Away”.

Thanks for the additional experiment information.

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Excellent points. Thanks

But it’s unimaginable to me that anyone outside the right wing in this era of denial of reality, and reinventing reality as whatever the right wing wants it to be could reimagine The Tragedy of the Commons as a wrong prediction rather than exactly what it was, a conditional warning.

Like any number of other books of the time–The Population Bomb, The Closing Circle, Silent Spring… The Tragedy of the Commons and the conversation around each, contained a number of parts:

  1. true stories of what had happened;
  2. true stories about what was happening;
  3. allegorical/futuristic fiction that literally said “this happened” but only an idiot or a ideologue attempting to rewrite history a la 1984 (or post-Inconvenient Truth 2007) could think or pretend it was anything but a cautionary tale, a story about what might happen…if…

Part of the reason people have been able to disinterpret the tragedy as people are doing here is because the solutions—strong, truly democratic government or benign socialism or communism—were then so obvious they hardly needed to be mentioned, but have since been so completely drowned out of the conversation in the US by the relentless shouting of fanatical capitalists that they’re not even thought of now. Thus, those who are iconoclastic enough to even think about the tragedy just assume it’s a done deal. People now are literally more able to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.

Climate denying delayalists often—to the point of excruciating boredom now—try to discredit computer models used in climate projections by taking one of several runs of a model (typically low, continuing as-is, and high emissions scenarios) point out that that particular scenario didn’t happen IRL, and pretend that that shows the model was wrong and invalid and therefore climate science is wrong. Completely absurd, moronic, despicable lying, ie, aimed only at 2 groups: those willing to pretend to believe anything no matter how ridiculous, and those who know nothing about science, climate, modeling, or the lunatic right wing. This strikes me as the same tactic. So have at it, I think I’m done.


Don’t get mad at me! I was only reporting what I’d read, namely that “Hardin claimed” that commons could not exist and must be sold off. To me that was crap, but I didn’t know whether it was coming from him or the writers I was reading. I just now read Hardin’s ~https://science.sciencemag.org/content/162/3859/1243 and can say with certainty that the crap was coming from the ones who “quoted” or “interpreted” him, not from him.

It’s good you’ve now actually read the source material and didn’t continue using straw person arguments misquoting it. Thank you. Many of the trolls I’ve argued with on the net and in person have refused to admit they were wrong even when it was completely, perfectly, blatantly obvious they were.

I said I was done because that conversation is pointless and frustrating; with your misrepresentation of the source material, it was very much like arguments I’ve had literally thousands of times, butting heads with climate-denying delayalists and ARFs (anti-renewable fanatics) with virtually no positive outcomes. They simply persist no matter what. Thanks again for not doing that.

Well, I suggest you don’t know your own nature fully!

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well’ by Saint Julian of Norwich refers to our truest nature, but I don’t need to get religious.
Think about good people in society, Dr King, or Mandela: what or how were they so ‘good’ so courageous? They are also human! It is to do with what they had uncovered in themselves!

You humorously mention dogs (I love dogs) and their honesty, -well, sincerity I would say… Well, that’s a clue: those who can be really honest with themselves and caring for themselves, as one is to others, makes the difference.
A Humanistic person is well-aware of the darkness, our fears, our selfishness, etc. but they uncover something must more alive, innocent…It is up to you what you perceive and what you let grow of in yourself! We are all made of the same stuff, but some of us at least tend to their growth consciously

I have worked with all sorts of children. In general, those that are anti-social (i.e. horrible humans) are always unhappy, and always have not had their needs met!
It makes sense!

Why are you here by the way, people who are not on the Right generally have a more benign and whole-istic view of human-nature! I think Trump supporters see themselves and all of as vermin, so better take what you can for yourself!.. sorts thing

Google Guardian he real lord of the flies…what-happened-when-six-boys-were-shipwrecked-for-15-months

Statistically, half of humanity is below average — and from what I’ve seen average ain’t that great . . .