Monday, 31 August 2020

100 Days - one and sixty: Dunbar number


I found 'This Book is Full of Spiders' by David Wong in the big charity warehouse when we went looking for tea plates. It is the second in a series, bit of a first spoiler for the first book (John Dies at the End) because John appears in this one too. It is a book that screams 'please make me into a film', lots of very tense scenes of people crawling into the unknown with flesh eating spiders that most people can't see. I really enjoyed it, which is strange because I hate horror films. Maybe I don't have a vivid enough imagination to transform the words into images in my head, though I did have to turn the light on when I went for a pee in the middle of the night (which I don't usually bother to do). David and John battle against both the spiders and the authorities who plan to obliterate the whole city to destroy the spiders. What was interesting about the story was the way people infected by the spiders were so quickly dehumanised and how it became acceptable to kill them rather than try and cure them. The infected people have their behaviour taken over and they are quickly described as zombies and combined with a news blackout where people inside the infected area cannot communicate with the outside so have no means to assert their humanity. David has a conversation with the doctor about the Dunbar number, a theory that primates have a limited number of individuals that they can include in their social sphere, and thus who they think of as 'real people', and how easily we ignore, or lack empathy for, the suffering or experiences of anyone outside this number. The wikipedia page is interesting but David Wong's article on Cracked called 'What is the monkeysphere?' is a more accessible explanation of how it operates in human society. 

Chatting to Monkey the other day she was bemoaning the fact that the most viewed articles on the BBC was Katy Perry and Orlando Blume's new baby and the fact that Sarah Harding had breast cancer. Then it occurred to us that of course people know so much about such celebrities that they actually consider them part of their own Monkeysphere. It is the other side of the same coin that saw a horrific response on the Daily Mail to reports of a migrant young man drowning in the Channel; people who not only lacked sympathy but actively dehumanise people who are so desperate. It explains the huge outpouring of grief at the death of celebrities, but the utter indifference to starving children in Yemen. Yet another aspect of how fucked up our society truly is. It's just taken me a couple of hours to write this drivel and I have not managed to articulate quite how the book, despite its style and content, was asking interesting questions about human beings and how they relate to each other. 

I have been feeling very despondent and unmotivated again recently. I deactivated my facebook this morning to try and focus on real life more. The gym is going well, the mutual support and encouragement is very important, but I am managing to go by myself on mornings when I have an early start. Tish and I went this morning and there were loads of new exciting machines moved into the space. The local lockdown might be lifted in the next week or so, but going to Cornwall seems unlikely. The garden is drowned. I had to empty water out of the pond as it was overflowing. The water butt is full, but nothing needs watering. 

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.


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