All the world’s stage, with lots of people acting like jerks. (I’m just playing.)

Metaphors help me think and I usually feel self conscious about this. Anyway. Here’s one. We can think about groups and milieus as a kind of drama. There’s a cast of characters. Different individual people may move in and out of different roles, and in doing so they may shift the roles somewhat, but the roles and the individuals aren’t identical and the departure of a person doesn’t mean the role will go away. I think this happens sometimes. As in, I think there are roles in groups, in the sense of character types. A lot of humor is based off of this, where the joke expresses a very succinct summary of these kinds of dynamics in some milieu or organization. (How many indie rockers does it take to change a lightbulb? You mean you don’t know?) At their best, jokes about this stuff can help illuminate group dynamics in ways that people didn’t understand before or in the case of stories/dramas/sitcoms/whatever they give people a set of references, characters to think with.
I wonder where the roles or scripts come from, and how people come to play certain roles. To put it another way, collective entities can develop a group culture, which is to say, develop a kind of personality that is sort of like the tone of a story – or rather, they develop a cast of characters with people coming to play one or more of those characters. How do these characters develop and how do people become one or the other character? There’s no single answer to that, of course, there are a lot of factors and a lot of people making decisions, and yet the result of all that can still add up to a pattern. And these patterns can have a fair bit of momentum to them, as they’re made up of a lot of people’s habits and habitual responses to each other. I think one thing that can go on sometimes is a kind of repetition of a dramatic sequences – the sort of fight where a lot of people watching, maybe even the people playing the active roles, have a sense of “oh, another rerun again.” (I think a lot of families have these dynamics. One family member makes some kind of remark, another replies with another predictable kind of remark, and leads to a conversation that feels familiar to everyone, whether for good or bad.)

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