The great Jewish sociologist Erving Goffman realized that when we meet a stranger for the first time, the tendency to judge him by appearances is as irresistible as it is ineffective. An incident, which could happen to any citizen of the world hit by Covid-19, would be to find ourselves at a stupid police stop, with a couple of nondescript police officers interrogating us about compliance with the restrictions imposed to control the pandemic. It could happen that one of the two policemen, when verbally requesting our documentation, evidently showed that he was stuttering, since this is a very visible (or audible) defect. And yet, the other bland policeman, asking us about the origin and destination of our journey, could possibly be a pedophile, but as there is no external indication of this, we mistakenly perceive him as being just another bland policeman. After a few days, it is very likely that we will remember the stuttering policeman and forget the bland policeman. This is because our perception, which works to solve the problems we had when we were hunters in the savannah, is programmed to remember the highly visible and forget the nondescript.
For an ordinary citizen, the anecdotal event is to have suffered through a stupid police stop with two policemen. However, to a sociologist, we have passed a police stop with three policemen. The first policeman is the stutterer, the man with a visible defect, which makes him DISCREDITED (worth less, socially, than a non-stuttering policeman). The second policeman is, in the absence of visible defects, the NORMAL one, who is just as we expected a nondescript policeman to be, and who matches the stereotype we see on television and have stored in our memory. But there was a third policeman, hidden from our perception under his uniform: the pedophile policeman. As ordinary citizens, we will only become aware of our lack of insight if the photograph of our second police officer, caught in one of the periodic raids on pedophile rings, appears in the upcoming news bulletins. To a sociologist, the second policeman, the one who questioned us, is not a NORMAL policeman, he is DISCREDITABLE, because he has a hidden defect that threatens his social identity. Any sociologist is capable of discovering within an apparently monolithic group of people, three universal subsets; the NORMAL, the DISCREDITABLE and the DISCREDITED.
Since 2017, the Me Too movement has unintentionally carried out excellent sociology field work. One of the best included the tenor, Plácido Domingo. The subject in question, until 2017, after more than 4,000 artistic performances, was considered a NORMAL citizen, worthy of having received the Spanish "Príncipe de Asturias" Award for the Arts in 1991, and worthy of being hired by respectable institutions such as the San Francisco Opera, or institutions with a Nazi past such as the Bayreuth Festival. The life of the tenor, like that of each one of us, developed through various social interactions with many individuals, in various private and professional contexts. For a few people who interacted with Plácido Domingo, he ceased to be the NORMAL individual they met in their first meeting. Instead, he became, based on newly acquired first hand information, a DISCREDITABLE individual, someone who has something to hide about his identity from the general public. In 2019, eleven women, led by singer Angela Turner Wilson, managed to get the Associated Press agency to publish the testimonies of some of their interactions with the famous tenor, which revealed his hidden identity, that of a disgusting stalker. From then on, Plácido Domingo became a DISCREDITED individual, both by respectable institutions and the general public.
What difference is there between Placido Domingo's life as a NORMAL person and as a DISCREDITED person? The same that exists between being dressed or naked when we go shopping at the supermarket. He supposes, upon meeting any of us, that our gazes will immodestly fixate on his person. He faces anxiety as to whether he will be rejected (the majority) or if he will be forgiven (Teresa Berganza and Alí Khamenei). For us, the NORMAL people, the example of Plácido Domingo helps us overcome the complexity of the everyday world and reinforce the internalized social controls that are essential for the stability of the world in which we live. For the pedophile policeman, however, the fall from grace of Plácido Domingo or Harvey Weinstein, warns him that the essential problem in his life is the management and control of dangerous information that a few friends may have about him.
Hate is a social emotion that has been adaptive from the Stone Age to present day, facilitating the cohesion of human groups. Hate can be reasonable for many women, to focus the efforts of organizations like Me Too, aimed at fighting individuals like Plácido Domingo or Harvey Weinstein, who threaten the existence of women and oppose their well-being and equality. Hate is rational to the extent that it helps us distinguish between normal and abnormal, and between what is our own and what is foreign. But hate is a crude social emotion housed in a brain designed to solve Stone Age problems, distinguishing only between biological individuals. In general, the social emotions of today's human beings, derived from our hunter-gatherer ancestors, are still not able to recognize that a biological individual is a consortium of various identities. By harboring multiple identities in the same body, one could be both a magnificent tenor and a disgusting stalker. Human beings, in the current state of our evolutionary development, do not have brain mechanisms sophisticated enough to provide different treatment to the magnificent tenor and the disgusting stalker when they coexist in the same biological individual.
In biology, there is the term "PLEIOTROPIA", which is a phenomenon by which a single gene is responsible for different and unrelated phenotypic effects or characters; for example, albino mice tend to be sensitive and pink-eyed. As sociologists, we cannot help wondering if, as happens in the genes (our owners), the various identities of an individual are correlated in some way. For example, is it possible to hypothesize when a tenor is also a disgusting stalker, when compared to the arithmetic average, that he is a better tenor over a normal tenor? Could it be that the dissonance produced by having a hidden identity makes the DISCREDITABLE more virtuous in some of their other identities? A general law of least effort governs both the cognitive and physical activities of the human individual. Humans are cognitively greedy and the norm of our vital behavior is to obtain the maximum result with the minimum effort. Therefore, any innovative, creative or virtuous individual is a rarity whose origin is suspect.
Nobody has explained where human creativity comes from, nor has anyone explained the amazing phenomenon of CULTURAL ALTRUISM, whereby, with the extra effort of a few creative, innovative and virtuous people, 7 billion absent human beings enjoy a Star Wars-like civilization and technology that looks like it came from the Gods. We emerge from the complex interrelationships between genes and the environment and we become individuals who harbor a consortium of identities, which are sometimes dissonant with each other. As noted by biologist Robert Sapolsky, we live in a body and think with a brain that were designed to solve problems that almost no one has today. Throughout ninety percent of the existence of the human species, we have lived as hunter gatherers in small bands of nomads. Today's primitive peoples, like the hunter-gatherers of antiquity, are gripped by the envy of everyone against everyone, and the atrocious egalitarianism in which they live. The sensation is that any individual improvement is at the cost of an individual injury. To progress, our ancestors had to overcome the envy of everyone against everyone and hide individual success. This is the origin of the DISCREDITABLE social group, which sheltered all those identities which have historically needed to be camouflaged from the sight of the majority. Erving Goffman emerged in the opposite direction as did Plácido Domingo, in a trajectory that we usually refer to as social progress.