“He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god.”
This excerpt comes from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who lived from 384 to 322 B.C. It can be found in his book titled “Politics,” but the quote itself speaks volumes to me as it is a simple understanding that can be related to how we perceive people in our daily lives. When we break down his words, “sufficient” implies there is plenty according to modern definition, but in my opinion, it could mean much more during the time period this quote was uttered.
Society is our collective way of life that allows a population to act in a unified manner. Humans, like all living creatures, are tribal, which is an inevitable trait that functions to maintain specific criteria to ensure a form of survival. Take lions, for instance — apex predators in the wild, except for within their own species. Male lions have a much lower life expectancy due to the pecking order.
Pecking order is “a hierarchy of status seen among members of a group of people or animals, originally as observed among hens,” according to Oxford Languages.
Research shows that male lions will often be challenged and cast out of their pride or leave the pride after reaching a young adult age to create their own. Females will usually remain but may join another pride. But other literature says all male lions leave the pride at the age of 3 and often challenge other males in other pride to push them out and claim it for themselves while killing the cubs to ensure their genetic dominance. The cycle may vary, but the dangers are always lurking, from pride to pride of being challenged.
A question not often thought of as I believe the answer is right in front of us. Each part of the world harbors a unique culture and population of humans, where it can also be dissected even more with various distinctions across continents, down to the country, state, city, town, neighborhood and home. Not one is the same, but more closely related to its neighbor. Take the United States for example. We often say we are American but forget the unique culture of the state we were born in with minute differences compared to others, each acting as a tribe with many other tribes within it.
To explain this concept would take much time and effort over a period of time, which would not be able to fit in this column alone. However, one question to explore is what happens to an individual who is cast out of this tribe or community of ours?
In my opinion, when one feels they are not part of a social group, there is a disconnect from the moral foundation of that community. With that disconnect, an individual may feel depressed, as depression is about feeling useless and not having a purpose. People want to feel like they have a purpose and are useful in ways that contribute to the progress of others. It is in our nature for the survival of a group, like ants locking arms to form a bridge for resources. But without that feeling, one becomes an empty vessel for other influences outside of the sect of a tribe.
Imagine today where we have so many influences coming across our television screens, phones, tablets, radio, outdoor advertisements, what’s the newest trend, what music sings about and what movies. Imagine a child who grows up in a world like this who has or feels ousted out of the social circle. And this brings me back to Aristotle’s quote.
A person who is sufficient — meaning they can live solitarily — will act outside of the social circles and slip between its gaps. This, I believe, is where suicide and chaos come from in man. When one feels they have nothing, no purpose, they will either choose a path that leads them to another realm or create their own tribe — even if it means dying in the process.
We truly need to do better at looking after our children and each other to ensure there is no disconnect. This will require a stable foundation of values and principles and guidance from elders and parents to bring those lost from these tribes back into the fold. Beasts and gods do not require each other, nor do they care for the life of others.
Excerpts from Aristotle’s book Nicomachean Ethics:
“The good of man is the active exercise of his soul’s faculties in conformity with excellence or virtue.”
“Neither by nature, then, nor contrary to nature do the virtues arise in us; nature gives us the capacity to receive them, and this capacity is brought to maturity by habit.”
News Editor Richard Holm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-410-7054.
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