William Faulkner, A Fable:
‘Bah,’ the corps commander said again. ‘It is man who is our enemy: the vast seething moiling spiritless mass of him. Once to each period of his inglorious history, one of us appears with the stature of a giant, suddenly and without warning in the middle of a nation as a dairymaid enters a buttery, and with his sword for paddle he heaps and pounds and stiffens the malleable mass and even holds it cohered and purposeful for a time. But never for always, nor even for very long: sometimes before he can even turn his back, it has relinquished, dis-cohered, faster and faster flowing and seeking back to its own base anonymity. Like that out there this morning–‘ Again the corps commander made the brief indicative gesture.
‘Like what out there?’ the division commander said; whereupon the corps commander said almost exactly what the group commander would say within the next hour:
‘It cannot be that you dont even know what happened.’
‘I lost Charles Gragnon.’
‘Bah,’ the corps commander said. ‘We have lost nothing. We were merely faced without warning by an occupational hazard. We hauled them up out of their ignominious mud by their bootstraps; in one more little instant they might have changed the world’s face. But they never do. They collapse, as yours did this morning. They always will. But not us. We will even drag them willy-nilly up again, in time, and they will collapse again. But not us. It won’t be us.’
Bruce Springsteen, Badlands:
Poor men wanna be rich, rich men wanna be king,
And a king aint satisfied till he rules everything.
Human Brain Appears ‘Hard-wired’ For Hierarchy
Human imaging studies have for the first time identified brain circuitry associated with social status, according to researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) of the National Institutes of Health. They found that different brain areas are activated when a person moves up or down in a pecking order — or simply views perceived social superiors or inferiors. Circuitry activated by important events responded to a potential change in hierarchical status as much as it did to winning money.
“Our position in social hierarchies strongly influences motivation as well as physical and mental health,” said NIMH Director Thomas R Insel, M.D. “This first glimpse into how the brain processes that information advances our understanding of an important factor that can impact public health.”
Caroline Zink, Ph.D., Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues of the NIMH Genes Cognition and Psychosis Program, report on their functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study in the April 24, 2008, issue of the journal Neuron. Meyer-Lindenberg is now director of Germany’s Central Institute of Mental Health.
Prior studies have shown that social status strongly predicts health. Animals chronically stressed by their hierarchical position have high rates of cardiovascular and depression/anxiety-like syndromes. A classic study of British civil servants found that the lower one ranked, the higher the odds for developing cardiovascular disease and dying early. Lower social rank likely compromises health through psychological effects, such as by limiting control over one’s life and interactions with others. However, in hierarchies that allow for more upward mobility, those at the top who stand to lose their positions can have higher risk for stress-related illness. Yet little is known about how the human brain translates such factors into health risk.