Continuing the thread from my last post, this week I’ve got a few more (hopefully, more coherent) thoughts on small groups. A lot of the wording here is from various Wikipedia articles; I think I’ve got enough commentary to make it “mine”.
When we talk about small groups, particularly for our (survivalist) purposes, we’re talking about small-ish “social units”. Social psychologists define these as “a number of individuals interacting with each other,” with five characteristics:
- Common motives and goals. For us, this would be survival–making it past the next trial or tribulation to come down the line, ideally in as good a shape as possible.
- An accepted division of labor/roles. Let’s face it: some folks are better at some things than others. My wife is far better with the emergency medical–she’s got the training. I’m a fair hand at construction/manufacturing. Some people are born leaders. Everybody should know their purpose in the group, and (ideally) everybody should have a backup, or two.
- Established status relationships/rank/dominance. I talked about this last week. A hierarchy is a must, otherwise you end up as a squabbling mob. It doesn’t have to be permanent–in fact, I recommend determining a method of changing the hierarchy as the need arises–but you do need one.
- Accepted norms and values, with regard to matters relevant to the group. In essence, you’ve got to have a coherent “reason to be a group.” You also need a goal, or a set of them–and a list (even a largely unwritten one) of things you are and aren’t willing to do to accomplish them.
- Development of accepted sanctions (punishment–or praise) if and when the norms are violated (or respected). You’ve got your “moral code;” what do you do if one of the group breaks it? How do you react if someone goes off the reservation, so to speak?
They also list a trio of sources for “intragroup conflict”–what we laypeople would call “infighting”:
- Task conflict.
- Process conflict.
- Personal conflict.
In order, these are essentially: disagreement on the goals, disagreement on the means to achieve the goals, and disagreements between individuals in the group for other reasons. Unfortunately, there’s no one “magic bullet” for solving any of them. Being the liberal that I am, I prefer peaceably talking them through and coming to consensus; being the realist, I understand that now and then, problems need to be solved by fiat, as they arise. There are books and articles on this by the boatload; a little research would certainly not be amiss.
Another thing to think about when looking at groups is the size of the group. Different people here are going to have different ideas. Look at the “mainstream” preppers out there–you’ve got everything from individualists, to the folks with the luxury underground condos for them, their families, and a hundred or so of their closest (richest?) friends.
I believe I’ve mentioned Dunbar’s Number before: the maximum number of social relationships that an individual can keep track of; it’s generally cited as “about 150,” or the size of a village. Any more than this, and we humans tend to self-segregate into smaller “villages”. It’s also been postulated that we can only maintain a cohesive group that size if we’re under a substantial threat–i.e., subsistence survival. We’ll call that the upper limit, then, and consider it a bit extreme.
At the other end, there’s a number associated with human memory and territoriality: Seven, plus or minus three. In essence, this is the maximum number of things the average person can put into short-term memory; this is why phone numbers are the way they are (seven digits, with a three-digit area code). Seven to ten is a pretty good small group size; too much more, and you again start developing sub-groups, and the whole thing falls apart. This is also a pretty robust number of people in terms of spreading out the “load” of learning the things needed for survival… No one person will end up needing to know it all.
All of this speaks to doing your planning well before calamity strikes. Find or form yourself a group of like-minded people, and discuss how you’ll do various things. Much of the above also imagines a TEOTWAWKI-type scenario, which (in my world-view) is a bit of an exceptional case; think about what you’ll need individually/as a family/as a group-subset, in the event of something more likely (localized disaster, etc.). But in all cases, think things through, plan things out, and get yourself at least mentally prepared.
Okay, that’s my thinking on the topic for this week. I’ll probably come back to this again in future, as more things occur to me. This was fun, and an interesting thought problem; does anybody else have a direction they’d like to see the discussion here go?