My favorite part of the film Collector of Bedford Street was when the community banded together to help Larry. Larry, an intellectually challenged individual, was very depressed. He was surviving because of the support of his 80+ year-old uncle, who would not live forever. Larry knew that when his uncle passed on, he had no support. He could not make it on his own. He also did not want to be a burden, so one day he left his home and his community, running off with a homeless man, telling his neighbor Alice never to look for him and that now she was free from him.

His neighbors, upon hearing this and recognizing the problem, banded together one night and planned what they would do. They set up a trust fund that would provide for Larry after the death of his uncle. Larry, a challenged and distressed member of the community, was not left alone. His community came to his aid when they saw he was in trouble.

Community mentality is one major contributor to humans’ position as the ultimate species.

The film is a testament to the power of a connected and engaged community that cares for its members. Larry was an active member of the Bedford Street community. He was always asking them to donate to some new charity. I believe that Larry, though intellectually challenged, has had a greater impact and was more “profitable” to his community than me. His community did not forget this.

Community extends across species. One sees it even in Collector of Bedford Street when Larry learns his IQ score is 62 (this is the .5th percentile, meaning he is more intelligent than 0.5% of the population, given a mean IQ of 100 and a standard deviation of 15; in other words, it’s a very bad score). He was very saddened to hear the news, and his dog saw this and came to support him. It appears that empathy and community is not isolated to humans.

Consider the video above. Cooperation is seen in all species, from the lions to the water buffalo. The water buffalo are the most impressive. When one of their young was threatened, the entire herd came to its aid, and collectively chased the deadly lions away. No individual could accomplish this; the pack would turn any individual (such as the mother) into an additional meal. But collectively, the herd had the power. Community is critical to survival in a cruel world, and defending members of the community is a fundamental mammalian trait.

This is truer for humans than any other species, so deeply programmed that we are barely aware of it. Community mentality is one major contributor to humans’ position as the ultimate species. One needs to look no further for evidence of this than the words you are reading now. Language exists for no other reason than communication between multiple individuals. It is a highly sophisticated means for the transfer of ideas from one individual to another. It thus gives individuals the power to expand not only their own thinking but the thinking of others, and advance them all to capabilities that no other species can attain.

Individuals in isolation don’t need a sophisticated language, and if one lives in isolation for extended periods of time, he begins to lose his capacity for language. (I find it entertaining that libertarians, who at least on the surface deny the authority of the community and society, use to spread their ideas the tool that is evidence against them.) We will all advance when we recognize that we are not meant to be alone and that we are meant to both help and be helped by those with whom we live.


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