The Scarcity of Smiling People
I think I did a disservice to the Russian people in my recent blog where I said that I cannot find smiling people on the streets of Moscow.
What I said is still true but my conclusions were wrong.
I do not see smiling faces in New York, or London, or any large city for that matter.
You want to see a smiling person, go to a very small hamlet, to a village where life moves slowly. I bet that if I went to a small Russian city I will find people smiling to me on the street.
I remember coming from New York where I studied to Los Angeles in 1967. What pleasantly surprised me was how people on the street smiled at me. I was not used to it in New York.
But it is history. No one smiles in Los Angeles anymore. It grew too big. The rush hour is not an hour long anymore. It is a rush day and night. To see people smile, come to small Santa Barbara, but hurry up because it is growing too.
I think that there is correlation between the size of the population of a city and whether the people smile or not in that city.
The more populous the city, the more crowded are the roads; the more hurried the people seem to be and the more scorning faces than smiling faces one will encounter.
So it is not just Moscow.
I read years ago an article, I have lost the reference, which described an experiment conducted with mice or rats.
They put rats in a box. As long as there were few of them, they acted “normal.” When the box became over crowded, their behavior changed drastically. They became much more sexually active, including the rate of homosexual intercourse. Furthermore, they started killing each other.
The common denominator to such behavior, the increase in sexual behavior and the fatal attacks on each other, is I believe the struggle for survival. On one hand, to survive, the mice try to diminish their numbers by killing each other and at the same time, fearing extinction, they increase copulation.
Is that what is happening in large cities with humans?
As population increases, let us say, measured by people per square mile, crime rate increases, aggression increases, smiles disappear, community singing is a relic of the past and loneliness and depression are normal mental diseases.
Taking a cue from the rats, as the planet is becoming more and more populated, should we conclude that a nuclear holocaust is inevitable? It will be one way by which population will be regulated. Will incurable diseases that are resistant to any drugs proliferate?
If the twentieth century was the bloodiest century of human civilization, as people killed, murdered other people more than in any other century, is it just a preamble to what will happen on a much larger scale in the 21st century?
Is there an exit from this predicament?
Here is a thought.
As the numbers of people increase, the value of any one individual decreases. It is Economic Theory 101. When there is “inflation” of people, their value decreases. When people are scarce, their value increases.
I remember going on a walking safari with my two sons in 1991 in Boputswana, on the border of Namibia.
We walked and canoed with a guide without seeing another human being for a week. When eventually we came across one, we treated him like we would treat a lost close relative or a best friend we have not seen for a long time.
We need to educate people the value of human life. We need to value life more than ever before. Art and the humanities should play a major role more than ever before.
As our numbers increase we need to consciously work on overcoming our subconscious tendency to destroy ourselves.
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes