As we ponder human nature and our ability to comply, one way­ward thought. We really have no useful per­spec­tive. Whether through seige, inva­sion, or great vis­i­ta­tion of plague, the many once walled cities of the world were sub­ject to bunkering down off and on for cen­turies. There were plague vis­i­ta­tions that kept people locked inside their homes and cities for years… com­pounded by actual famine…

Do you know how people die in the US from lit­eral star­va­tion? Com­pli­ca­tions of pro­longed mal­nu­tri­tion? Plenty. Star­va­tion? Sta­tis­ti­cally zero.

Enforce­ment was often much cru­eler, but the indi­vidual fear that self-enforces was also much greater, too. The idea that human beings are too undis­ci­plined has more to do with the con­text of our behav­iors than any­thing. We no longer exe­cute people for not dis­closing their symp­toms, we no longer seal the doors on build­ings rav­ished by plague so that the 500 or so afflicted inside can be left to die that the 10,000 out­side might live and the city not be brought to ruin.

The reality is that we have sur­vived these peri­odic events due almost entirely to irra­tional fear, over-reac­tion, and inhu­mane util­i­tarian cru­elty… and that was all pre-Ben­tham, boys and girls.

That is not the people we have largely become, but our fear is also less acute than that of our ances­tors, our stress response by rel­a­tive degrees less rou­tinely tested, such has been our level of rel­a­tive secu­rity for so long. We really are less dis­ci­plined than they were, not because our nature is dif­ferent, but because the envi­ron­ment within which it oper­ates is an unbridge­able chasm of dif­fer­ence.

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