It is unfortunate for the gods that, unlike us, they cannot commit suicide.
I can speak with myself, even play theater, but alone I can't truly comfort my soul.
(Ibrahim S. Lerak, Notebook)
The meeting of the circle took place as usual around the table in the restaurant. We were all but still had the impression that someone was missing. The diner was there, but for some reason we didn't really see him. This was a provoking joke because the subject of the speech was precisely "Social Invisibility".
César reacted well and started the discussion: Who didn't say once in life "I wish I would be invisible"? Normally is expressed to watch some indecorous or forbidden things or to enjoy some pleasures free of charge. Invisibility can be also needed in some delicate moments when we wish not to been caught in flagrant evidence, the moment in which we wish society would not see us.
There are many ways to exclude people in society besides prison. Some have a modern name: mobbing, bullying, xenophobia... all ways to show that someone is not accepted, but is seen just only obliged to leave. This -the exclusion of society- is not new. Ostracism is already documented in the year 506 BC. The name derives from the Greek ostraka, referring to the pottery shards that were used as voting tokens. Yearly the Athenians were asked in the assembly whether they wished to hold an ostracism. If they voted "yes", then an ostracism would be held two months later. In a section of the agora citizens gave the name of those they wished to be ostracized to a scribe, and they then scratched the name on pottery shards, and deposited them in urns. The person who was the most nominated would be banished, provided that the total number of votes cast was at least 6,000. Interesting is that the person nominated could be anyone, without having done anything special. As long as at least 6000 people wanted him out he had ten days to leave the city and not return in ten years. If he attempted to return, the penalty was death. Notably, the property of the person banished was not confiscated and there was no loss of status. After the ten years, he was allowed to return without stigma. It was possible for the assembly to recall an ostracized person ahead of time as it was the case with Pericles' father Xanthippus, Aristides 'the Just' and Cimon.
Is clear that ostracism threatens the survival of the individual who suffers it. Was used to control socially problematic group members and act as motivating force to keep people obeying some controversial norms or to eliminate those who didn't follow the will of the group. Indefinite ostracism would mean social death, what in ancient tribal cultures is the equivalent to individual death as the group is needed to survive. But what if instead of ostracism the penalty would be social invisibility? Can the individual survive? Let's see a first easy case because there is some research done on the existence of declared invisibility within existing romantic relationships. Often referred to as the "silence treatment", i.e. putting yourself sulking, not talking and ignoring the couple. It is very frequent in intimate relationships. About 70% of the couples studied in the research recognized use or suffer this manipulation tactic. The goal is to end unwanted conduct and the pressure is so strong that ends soon in peace or at least what we could call armistice within the couple. Chronic, repetitive ostracism results in depression, health problems and psychological alteration. The lack of being recognized as member of a society implies a useless life of the individual. Precisely this is why the social invisibility could be adopted to force individual to accept the rules. A strong punishment would be needed for those breaking the rules and having contact with invisible people.
There are two ways of being invisible to society:
.- The person "simply disappears" from all registers and has to survive alone during the time of the penalty. Being recognized by the rest of people by a mark or whatever visible by everybody, nobody could have any kind of contact with the banned person. Would be a kind of "this person is a ghost". If somebody would think is positive for the condemned as it would be easy to steal or go to the movie or ... then, would be mistaken. Ghost don't exist, we don't see them, so we can shoot, hit, occupy the empty space. Would not be easy for the invisible. And would be no benefit for the society also.
.- Society can profit the invisible individual by letting all equal in work and life of the punished except considering him as a person to whom is possible to talk. Rather a machine without brain. Being obliged to still be productive for the society but impossible to communicate (would need a change of work, but maintain activity). Resignation appears when you can't communicate because nobody sees you, when you are alone. Mental disorder appears when you feel nobody wants you and rejects you every moment and in every place without possibility of escaping.
Exaggerated? What is happening with mobbing in adults? is similar and brings in extreme cases to suicide. What is happening with teenagers in Facebook? Worst punishment is to be excluded from the group: is total invisibility. And in the companies where employees are just numbers? In all cases the self esteem is broken, the consideration to the own personality is not existing and the capacity to contribute (in fact to be valued) is ignored.
First instinct is survival but without the group we are less than nothing and are brought to disappear physically or mentally. Society can learn from this power. Has not used it yet to a total extent of possibilities. But it can come soon. Control by emotions and fear of exclusion is a lethal weapon for individual personality.