Does anyone else have a guilty enjoyment of magazine quizzes? I remember buying the occasional Cosmo in the ‘80s to waste a few minutes finding out if I was meek or tough; gullible or appallingly gullible – and often coming home to find my (male!) housemates had nabbed the mag – and quiz – first.
So yesterday I was drawn to the BBC’s quiz on disgust: “Test Your Morality”.
And I was really rather disgusted by the experience.
For starters, it wanted to know my class.
I have no idea. (My granny left school at 12. My Dad was self-employed. My Step Mum remembers seven-course dinners in Dublin’s grandest hotels in the company of posh people.) If anyone demands to know, I usually say I am an academic.
Academic wasn’t an option on the tick boxes. Nor was “other” or “really couldn’t give a flying f***”. So I clicked on one of the middle-ish boxes.
(I have the same reaction when computer forms ask for my title. Why? Fair enough, some people prefer to be addressed as “Miss” or “Doctor” but some of us prefer not to use titles at all: equality. I put “whatever” in the OTHER box if there is one.)
The results said “Your sense of wrongness is higher than average”.
(You don’t say?)
Apparently the quiz explores the “Human Superorganism Theory of Morality”.
This [new*] theory states that human society behaves like a single, huge organism. This organism has functions like reproduction, memory and waste removal that have parallels in individual organisms and even individual cells.
[It] suggests that all moral actions are based on the fundamental need to ‘police’ society in order to keep the ‘superorganism’ functioning properly – we are all ‘unofficial policemen’ by virtue of the fact we make judgements about how others behave.
*A bit like that bit in the bible (Corinthians): “For the body is not one member, but many”? But just not as elegantly explained.
In other words, your personal morality may differ from that of other people because you fulfil a different role to them within the superorganism.
If the theory is correct, you are more likely to be one of the people who helps the superorganism deal with threats to its wellbeing by policing the ‘bad’ behaviour of others.
Apparently I want to punish them, too. But, doing the test, I was assuming an appropriate punishment, probably restorative.
On the plus side, my sense of anger is lower; confrontation isn’t my thing. (But you should see me on the rare occasions I do lose it, kids.)
My disgust is apparently lower, too. Except for “extrusion offences” – that’d be the dog poo question, then.
What I wanted – and didn’t get – were actual scores, preferable blobbed onto a graph that showed “the population” so my differences might make sense. I think very visually so I prefer graphs for data results and verbal comparisons are useless.
What did interest me was the “Small Town” theory – that people who come from somewhere small enough to know a good proportion of their community will be more aware of local morality and more willing to police it, whereas in cities people are not so willing to become involved.
I was left with a few questions of my own:
If we all have roles in the superorganism, are there times those roles go wrong?
Are the CEO and senior bankers like cancer cells, killing the body that feeds them?
Are all those on benefits like obesity: unsightly, embarrassing, holding us back, weighting us down? They could be muscle, healthy, sleek, productive.
Is Cameron’s “big society” meme a symptom of some kind of delusional mental illness? And is most political newspeak the superorganism’s flatulence?