Cultural tension force and the Human Operating System (HOS)

Humans naturally group together to form communities. Culture is the connecting, unifying skin that automatically grows over these communities, reflecting them, defining them, and binding them together. They are now a community organism, existing through one lens as their normal human selves but through another lens as a massive individual, autonomous self as unaware of us as we are of it. 

What the Hell are you talking about, Hugh?

The Human Operating System or HOS is the innate battery of automatic and mostly unconscious behaviors that humans display by default, a handful of tiny cultures may not use these defaults but defining anything by the exception to its rule is being perversely counter-intuitive on purpose. It’s a demand that we ignore most of what we see going on in favor of something that is barely going on at all.

Tension force is homeostasis generated by opposing ideas. You could visualize it as the reason why both teams in a tug of war don’t simply fall on their asses.

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For me, this is like finding a shred of an ancient scroll in a clay pot: Thrilling, but poignantly incomplete.

I love bedtime stories. Listening to the voice of someone I love telling me a story at bedtime carries me along like a gentle river, and the moment of drifting off is exquisitely easy. It’s unburdened by the thornbush of anxious thoughts where we so often find ourselves after turning off the light.  I also love reading bedtime stories. If there was some way that 17 year old Isaac would allow it, I’d be happy doing it now. It’s a very sweet way of being together and sharing a world. I always found it relaxed him into naturally talking about what was happening in his world. This was never the reason for reading, just a very nice side effect. Nothing else allowed him to confide his feelings and concerns so easily. We’d pause the story and explore his situation for a while.

Between the days of reading baby books and the days of reading novels, I nightly made up stories out of thin air. He was very small, but old enough to understand and love a detailed, wide ranging story. He initiated it with a passionate request that I make up a story. I suppose it went on for two or three years ( I didn’t have him full time, but often). If you imagine doing this it feels daunting and doomed to failure. Waiting for a story to collect in your head is useless. The opposite of telling a story is worrying about what story to tell. The secret is to simply begin.  Obviously you need a character or situation as the first domino but you can grab one off the endless racks surrounding us and just jump.

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In the film “The Matrix”, the agents were the guardians of the status quo: The avatar embodiment of defending their hive. When aware of a crime, the ordinary humans nearby would violently morph into agents and jump into action.

Just like us.

Every one of us can be triggered into becoming Agent Smith, and probably has been multiple times. Embodying Agent Smith means sufficient pressure on your “that aint right” nerve to pop out of our usual peace preserving, deferential, social style into “Stop that immediately!” intervening authority. Unlike the agents, we don’t have a flat, universal scale of good and bad. We have one spectrum of “How much do I disapprove of this?” and a related “How much am I going to express that disapproval?” Imagine a naked person wandering through your neighborhood holding a beer. You notice and immediately go alert like a watchdog because this person has wandered out of social bounds and become unpredictable. Automatically you are scanning for story and probabilities. Are they drunk? Hurt? Crazy? Just don’t give a fuck? The spectrum of response is something like this:

Meh. | Passively watching | Yelling a joke at them: “Did you forget something?” | The scowl | The yell from the sidelines | The run up and ask if they are OK | The run up and angrily confront them | The call 911 | The Whup-ass

There are human communities where wandering naked with a beer evokes nothing more than “Hey, Hugh.” and others where you might very well be killed. A parent beating a child in public will immediately attract an angry, protective crowd…here. An immodestly dressed woman (by local standards) may get a glare here, or a beating there.  Social norms are set where the response gradient settles toward a dense single color. It is the point where most people would dare to respond without fear of violating another norm, and a flash mob of strangers would likely mirror their mood. Where the gradient becomes a solid, that is the center of gravity for cultural opposing force. It is the social dew point or flash point.

It’s one of those emergent effects of scaling up a personal reaction to a community level. While some cultural powers reinforce these standards from above, like all emergence it is a bottom up phenomena.

Do not pick those flowers. They aren’t yours.


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