In light of the recent bit on hypertension and hunter-gatherer bands I got to cogitating on the latter a bit. Supposedly bands are egalitarian. This does not mean that they don’t have leaders; there are always brash extroverts who make too much noise with too much ego and are easier to abide, when it isn’t dangerous, than to kill. And there are always introverts who stay in the background until the extroverts lead the band into danger and they step froward to dispose of the extroverts and lead the band to safety.
So I have been considering the ‘hazing killing’ of a Floridas A&M drum major in this context.[Link] Originally marching bands were small affairs, about the right size for a hunter-gatherer band, with a small “b”. There was also the Band with a capital “B” that was 2-4 times bigger and reflected the spouse and goods exchange pool. The Floridas A&M band is larger than the latter but it shares some aspects of the hunter-gatherer social organization.
First of all, we have to recognize that a marching band is relatively egalitarian. Yes, there is a band director who has authority, but that authority has to be largely limited to academic matters. If the hand gets too heavy ways are found to dispose of the director. And a drum major, as the grade indicates is more of an administrative than a command figure.
Now a marching band is clearly not a hunter-gatherer band in that it does not exist primarily for food gathering, but it does exist as a way of life and since many of its members are on scholarship, survival is definitely a part of band culture. So a marching band will share some social traits with a hunter-gatherer band.
And that includes a very strong, well defined, us-them, in-group/out-group behavior. So a new member of the band is not really a member until accepted as such. And because membership carries survival responsibilities, unlike the boy scouts or a professional society, loyalty and culture sharing must be firmly demonstrated before real membership is accorded. And until this is accorded the newcomer is a pariah or worse.
So despite all the grrr brrr about inhumane treatment and racial prejudice, which is only inaccurate in terms of misunderstanding what humane means and how the race boundaries are drawn, what seems to have occurred here is natural and beneficial. Not legal, mind you but those laws are the laws of a different organization that has no regard for the needs of other organizations. That is the nature of organizations; they only respect others that can hurt them badly. Organizational cooperation is strictly survival and pain avoidance.
So if you are an administrative newbie among a band of performers you cannot be effective and retain your welfare if you are not accepted as a member of the in-group. In such circumstances, risk of loss of life is acceptable, and in this instance, unfortunate. But then we all do stupid things for short term goals.
But we don’t do a very good job of understanding being human.