The Price of Modernity


The Price of Modernity

At the time of the birth of our Nation, the actions, rewards and punishments among the population were largely in conformity with the principles and laws of psychology. I will grant you that some of the punishments used to keep population behavior in check were coercive and primitive by reasonable standards (stockades, hanging, burning at the stake). Never-the-less, much else was good.

To begin with, predominantly, the population as “God Fearing” and God Worshiping. At the very least, they tended to be so in public…and given that towns and cities were generally much smaller…more was “public” than is the case in modernity.

Because standards of conduct were more uniform, citizens tended to accept, befriend, and reward those who spoke and behaved in ways similar to their own and there was more similarity, less public deviance within the population. Citizens tended to shun, criticise, and isolate themselves and families from others who were behaving badly or simply behaving very differently they were. As we know this lack of tolerance of variability of deviant behavior can be beneficial or destructive to the common welfare. This matter hinges upon what kind of variability or deviance in behavior we are discussing: A topic for another discussion.

Churches, schools, businesses, and professionals were less numerous and more local. Mistreatment of others during social or economic interaction was more likely to lead to increasing rejection and censure and the loss of status and wealth of the offender.

More often, those who broke the prevailing moral codes,  or went against common mores and folk-ways within communities were likely to suffer severe social and economic censure and hardship.

At the community level, politics were more simply democratic. At State and Federal levels politics were more Representative Republic in nature, though still based upon the citizen’s vote. More than now, citizens personally knew their political leaders and representatives. More than now, these politicians were held to Judeo/Christian standards of conduct and evaluation.

At all levels,  faith-based congruence of morals and values was more wide-spread among the population and its political leaders. The evidence of this can be seen in the religious symbols indelibly carved into the stone of the  oldest buildings housing the Judicial, Legislative and Executive branches of our Federal Government.

More than now, the sociocultural whole was governed by the rewards and punishments of more closely knit social interactions among citizens and their leaders.  Of course there were individual deviants (criminals, flim-flamers, rapists, child molesters, cheaters in marriage, etc., but they were more likely to be discovered and punished quickly and harshly. The death penalty was more administered more swiftly and with great regional awareness.

Those who behaved well were more likely to be recognized and rewarded socially, economically, and politically.

Within the bounds of self-selected contexts, population behavior was more closely controlled. The controls came in the form of more consistent punishments and rewards administered by other citizens and smaller more efficient governmental agencies.

Spiritual control was exercised at a more personal level by citizens and churches. Sinful behavior was censured, even ex-communicated from churches and stigmatized in communities on earth. The after-life held the powerful and more widely believed controlling consequences of rewards in Heaven and punishments in Hell. For the true believers, which were more then in America than now, citizen’s most private behaviors were believed to be well-known to their God and great and unavoidable consequences were expected. It is important to remember, that in the realm of religion and its influence on behavior, belief though faith is reality.

All of this is to say that, at all levels of existence, the Early American Socioculture was more in synchrony with important laws of psychology such as The Law of Effect (consequences–rewards and punishments–control behavior); Principles of Social Learning Theory (various forms of social influence including the power of Modeling and Imitation) and also Laws and Principles of Temporal Contiguity (emotions and behaviors that occur together in close time tend to become hooked together and occur together with increasing frequency in the future). In simple terms, they become “habits”.

To be certain, life was difficult in those days. There were sad injustices inflicted by the majority upon the minorities. Life was short and too often harsh, back-breaking, and brutish.

It is a happy occurrence that with the reduction of these negative aspects of life in contemporary America, we have enjoyed physical, demographic and modern technological growth and development.  

It is a horrific that these developments have also destroyed much of our spiritual foundation for successful evolution and simultaneously greatly impaired our natural and widespread application of the laws of psychology that historicallyhave sustained the high quality of our citizen’s behavior patterns.

With all of  this has come the decline of Western Civilization and America.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.,  4/1/13

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