Raven 76: Gossip

Mockingbird shows up today for the first time. It's not hard to believe that Mockingbird would like to gossip. It's unusual for a mockingbird, though, that he would feel remorse about that.

When early humans lived in bands of about 150 or less, gossip was a primary tool for social cohesion. Despite being sometimes divisive, the practice of monitoring the behavior of various third parties, and moralizing about it with various second parties generally helped keep group members in line. As a social species, it's what we do. That's why it's fun. A group of over 150, however, is too large to monitor and moralize about. Hence, gossip magazines today generally have a list of about 100-150 celebrities they're tracking. Groups larger than 150 need other tools for promoting social cohesion: shared ritual, story-telling (origin myths, morality tales), group music-making -- in a word, religion.

It's all dirt, though, right? Dirt is dirt.

Porcupine was leading an orientation to the practice when Mockingbird dropped in. During the question period he said, "I have a tendency to gossip. I know it can be hurtful, yet I can't seem to stop."
Porcupine said, "It's fun."
Mockingbird said, "Yes, but at the expense of others."
Porcupine said, "Dirt is dirt!"
Bob fell off the wagon.
Susan lost her job.
Sally's Dan is flunking out.
That Keith is such a slob.

Sympathies and judgment
Served up over tea.
So nice to not have those folks' faults, but
What do they say of me?

So nice to not have faults like those
Except I fear I do.
I share in all those named above
And several others too.

Anxiety is thus sustained,
Throughout the system felt.
Someone, perhaps, must do that job,
But maybe someone else.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon

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