Settlement Hierarchy & Community: The Street & the Neighbourhood as Emotional Regulation

2021.11.27 12:04 TheRetroWorkshop Settlement Hierarchy & Community: The Street & the Neighbourhood as Emotional Regulation

This is in relation to your characters and city-building (and is written in a very rough informal essay format). This is largely in the modern context, though it can easily be applied to fantasy/Middle Ages works -- or the future/sci-fi, in some given direction.

Abstract:
My theory would be that all humans are biologically, politically, and emotionally organised into such 'block' groupings on average (a small, local neighbour), regardless of the state, system, and scale, be it within a small town or large city. Their focus would be on the street level (typically a single postcode/unit or two at most), and within the familial context, regardless of the distance. You can view this as the 'modern clan'. Social science and biological research and findings, such as that of anthropology, suggest that humans evolved in tribes or clans, which were extended families of 1 or 2 families, of around 150 people or fewer, and that the average settlement across time was a hamlet or village consisting of 250 people, consisting of a few extended families, typically ford (river), valley, or coastal-based (port), for trade, resources, and/or protection.
As a result, you may have noted the endless wars and tribal differences between separate neighbourhoods -- especially larger neighbourhoods, which constitutes a union of multiple small neighbourhoods; thus, forming an identifiable singular communal structure -- and the individuals and families thereof, due to this major biological and cultural diversion.
In this way, it is actually best to have some spatial distance between settlements as to avoid such regular conflicts and conditions, which is one reason why cities (100,000 or more people, typically) are so innately flawed and damaging to human beings. And, one must always remember, as the Americans say, 'all politics is local'. Never identity with the state or government or nation as such at the cost of your individual, localised existence. Never identify with any given abstracted or non-localised group at the cost of your own individuality. Focus on your own family and home, your own street, and your own neighbourhoods/micro-community/culture, and try your best not to engage with any kind of warfare with other neighbourhoods or otherwise groupings -- and do not identify yourself with some abstracted community or settlement too far beyond your own locale, and not at the removal or detriment of your own settlement hierarchy and place within it (not only to ensure emotional regulation, but also overall stability and peacekeeping for yourself and others). This only leads to group warfare and group identity politics, along with general tribalism and negative feed-back loops centred around the darker emotions, motivations, and regulatory and political systems once you begin to pit groups against groups, and cease to treat yourself as an individual within a small-scale network, but a mouth-piece within a larger, collectivist machine (meaning, such abstraction tends to take an extreme moralistic, philosophic, political, and governmental shape and direction).
I posit, therefore, that according to this Darwinian rule of 250 people per face-to-face cultural unit coupled with the 80/20 rule (pareto principle), no matter how small or large your town or city is, you will only ever interact with 250 people -- the same 250 people -- on a regular basis, and rarely interact with anybody else, and you will only ever utilise 20% of the physical space 80% of the time (meaning, you will utilise 80% of the physical space just 20% of the time). This roughly translates to you staying and engaging with your own neighbourhood of 250 people and a few streets, regardless of the scale of the wider settlement structure. Indeed, the 20/80 rule also applies to the footprint pattern within your own home, or your usage of your work building, your interaction with your car, and/or your usage of the applications on your smartphone.


Full:
Where is the cut-off point, where is the 'other' found? At what level of analysis do you cease associating and identifying with your fellow countrymen? Your closest neighbour? Your neighbourhood? Your county? Your street?
Imagine the smallest possible border: your bedroom. You border, let us say, your brother. This constitutes your own society, your own space, but realistically, you should not be going to war with your brother, you should be united within the framework of the home, and even beyond. But how far beyond? After all, brothers at war is the oldest story of human conflict -- Cain and Abel. And, the story of family feuds between neighbours is not much younger. You can see it all the time, and it's hell on Earth, and may cripple entire communities. Further, a true settlement must be at least a roadhouse, which is at least two people and a singular, housing unit of some kind (house, refuelling station, bar, bed and breakfast, motel, etc.). These are typically mixed-use premises (of a single dwelling) and feature just one nuclear family, typically near a major road in a sparsely populated area or an isolated region, such as a desert, that services the passing travellers. (Technically, these tend to be between 2-5 people.)
What about your neighbour, then. This is clearly the first major border-line: between your home and the house next to you. Some would consider this sufficient, especially if they hate their neighbour for some given reason. However, the Biblical narrative, too, suggests that you must not go to war with your closest neighbours at all. I believe this is in keeping with sociality, Darwinism, and humanoid evolution, along with the relevant available studies, social science findings, and otherwise social reports and data-points. No matter who your neighbour is, you must get along; otherwise, everything will fall apart, and you may crush not only your own emotional regulation, but the emotional regulation of those around you, and God only knows how just far that can extend and how crippling it can be to the entire local community as a result. You see it all the time with angry, fighting neighbour, and family feuds.
Expanding the modern settlement hierarchy again, we form the street. This is your street, and the street of your closest neighbours. A few houses and a dozen people on average (traditionally seeing just one or two families, surrounded by their extended families). This may be the first major cut-off point we can identify, though it's highly common to further identity and extend kinship and relations with the streets directly adjacent to your own. Anybody with any experience with living on both terrible and wonderful streets, from an emotional, social standpoint, knows the profound differences to be found. It can actually be sufficient cause to re-locate or to be driven insane if the street is unstable enough. These are almost always nested within a wider settlement and governance framework. These connected street micro-cultures form another structure: the neighbourhood. Of course, the neighbourhood is again a clear cut-off point, though it is not the end-point by any means. Neighbours are so complex that they are not defined by area or any logical, objective measurement system, but by subjective, social characteristics. Darwinian and urban planning findings suggest that the average British neighbour would be a relatively small area consisting of around 10 streets (with houses on both sides), where such is defined as, 'the spatial units in which face-to-face social interactions occur -- the personal settings and situations where residents seek to realise common values, socialise youth, and maintain effective social control.' If we assume an average house unit of 2-3 people and anywhere from 4 to 20 houses per street (one side), with an average being around 6-10 (we shall take 7), then we know that a neighbour constitutes around 140 houses and 280 people. (Such neighbourhoods are also called 'blocks' within modern, urbanised contexts. The average American 'city block' also equates to around 300 people within a housing framework.) (Of course, an exception to this rough 'street rule' is the cul-de-sac. We will treat most cul-de-sacs (around 7 houses) as a single street/unit, and large cul-de-sacs (14+ houses) as around 2 streets/units.)
My theory would be that all humans are biologically, politically, and emotionally organised into such 'block' groupings on average (a small, local neighbour), regardless of the state, system, and scale, be it within a small town or large city. Their focus would be on the street level (typically a single postcode/unit or two at most), and within the familial context, regardless of the distance. (Or, the building-level in the context of large shared housing units, such as apartment buildings, which tend to be equal in population to an entire street.) You can view this as the 'modern clan'. Social science and biological research and findings, such as that of anthropology, suggest that humans evolved in tribes or clans, which were extended families of 1 or 2 families, of around 150 people or fewer, and that the average settlement across time was a hamlet or village consisting of 250 people, consisting of a few extended families, typically ford (river), valley, or coastal-based (port), for trade, resources, and/or protection. (Historically speaking, there would be fairly large distances between settlements, and very few people would ever interact with anybody outside of their own settlement. Likewise, re-location was extremely rare, and still is if you study the American worker migration patterns and inactive/broken mill and mining towns, etc. -- where millions of jobs are open across America, yet very few people want to leave their own dead, emptied-out town/community for such work. The same is true for England.)
As a result, you may have noted the endless wars and tribal differences between separate neighbourhoods -- especially larger neighbourhoods, which constitutes a union of multiple small neighbourhoods; thus, forming an identifiable singular communal structure -- and the individuals and families thereof, due to this major biological and cultural diversion.
At this point, we could be dealing with 560 people and many extended families (2 neighbours, 14 streets, and 280 houses). For more populated knighthoods, we could be looking at closer to 1,000 people across 2 neighbourhoods. As a result, 3 neighbourhoods or two larger neighbourhoods could see anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 people, and many extended families, and endless individual houses. Too many to identity and readily associate with; too many to actually form a sub-community as to regulate your emotions and form any kind of familial bond with. It is also at this stage that political and government divisions are drawn as a result of these familiar, biological sub-system differences (such as the disgust system and the behavioural immune system, showing its true complexity and variance at the individual and family-level. For more on this, study the works of Mark Schaller and Jonathan Haidt). As a result, it is also at this point that you will begin to treat those outside of such neighbourhood structure as 'other', and completely disconnect yourself from them, viewing them as predictable and forgettable entities. You may notice yourself doing this if you pay close attention to your own behaviour and actions and thoughts when walking around the town or city, or even travelling to school. You will notice that you do not engage with most of the people you see, and you barely even take notice of them unless they stand out in some manner. (Such neighbourhoods of 250 people tend, in reality, to constitute a large village (200+ people) or form a sub-district of a town. Naturally, these tend to be in rural areas with shared histories and wider cultures, though not always. The village suits best in our context, where the average village (150 people) is also commonly known as a 'tribe' -- anthropologists regard the number of around 150 specimens for tribes as the maximum for a functional human group.)
You can, however, combine multiple neighbourhoods into a harmonised social and political sector. These tend to be towns or suburbs (fewer than 1,000 people), and a collection of these suburbs form a small city. Technically, an isolated small town would actually be either a large village (small town) or a township (medium-sized town). A larger suburb would be a sub-district, and would have over 1,000 people, and be a sub-communal and geographic area of a city or even a large town. However, since you are into the thousands of residents once you move beyond the suburb/locality (large neighbourhood/collection of neighbourhoods), you will need to start creating more complex social and governmental networks and frameworks to ensure stability and cohesion. This is almost always within the context of a town, ideally, says Plato and others, consisting of 5,000 people (not that 5,000 actually is ideal at all, or any greater than 250 or 150). Beyond this isolated town or sub-district, it becomes impossibly difficult to keep this familial connection, emotional regulation, and extended identification. At this stage -- town, city, region/county, etc. -- it becomes increasing low-resolution (meaning abstracted, tribal, and simple-minded). You start to identity with your town (let us say, 50,000 people) as a whole, beyond your own locale, without any grounded, familiar context or connection, which leads to group conflicts and classifications, and isn't sufficient for a true harmonising, regulating, stabilising force or long-term plan or framework. This only gets worse the more you abstract up. You may, therefore, notice that many smaller settlements share just a few extended families, even today (this is more so the case for more rural area).
Although it's true that people organise themselves into groups and townships and extended family networks in a given locale, and try to maintain control and stability within that group by classifying all external groupings and individuals as 'other' and everything within the group as 'in-group' or 'kin', as this would naturally be the case, roughly speaking, and offers profound emotional regulation and safety, it is not the proper framework for your life, nor the proper level of analysis for your own improvement, more so in the modern age due to such interconnectedness. You need to try and align all of these levels of analysis to your own life and locale the best you can, and to only identity with your entire town, city, or nation so far as it is in keeping with your localised existence, and only in the relative context of necessarily unifying yourself with the wider geographic region for the sake of protection from invasion or otherwise major, external threats (either foreign or domestic). I posit, therefore, that according to this Darwinian rule of 250 people per face-to-face cultural unit coupled with the 80/20 rule (pareto principle), no matter how small or large your town or city is, you will only ever interact with 250 people -- the same 250 people -- on a regular basis, and rarely interact with anybody else, and you will only ever utilise 20% of the physical space 80% of the time (meaning, you will utilise 80% of the physical space just 20% of the time). This roughly translates to you staying and engaging with your own neighbourhood of 250 people and a few streets, regardless of the scale of the wider settlement structure. Indeed, the 20/80 rule also applies to the footprint pattern within your own home, or your usage of your work building, your interaction with your car, and/or your usage of the applications on your smartphone.
In this way, it is actually best to have some spatial distance between settlements as to avoid such regular conflicts and conditions, which is one reason why cities (100,000 or more people, typically) are so innately flawed and damaging to human beings. And, one must always remember, as the Americans say, 'all politics is local'. Never identity with the state or government or nation as such at the cost of your individual, localised existence. Never identify with any given abstracted or non-localised group at the cost of your own individuality. Focus on your own family and home, your own street, and your own neighbourhoods/micro-community/culture, and try your best not to engage with any kind of warfare with other neighbourhoods or otherwise groupings -- and do not identify yourself with some abstracted community or settlement too far beyond your own locale, and not at the removal or detriment of your own settlement hierarchy and place within it (not only to ensure emotional regulation, but also overall stability and peacekeeping for yourself and others). This only leads to group warfare and group identity politics, along with general tribalism and negative feed-back loops centred around the darker emotions, motivations, and regulatory and political systems once you begin to pit groups against groups, and cease to treat yourself as an individual within a small-scale network, but a mouth-piece within a larger, collectivist machine (meaning, such abstraction tends to take an extreme moralistic, philosophic, political, and governmental shape and direction).
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