The powerful emotions that arise when our operation faces competition with a much larger farmer appear to be hard-wired. What's worse, I believe cash rents have introduced a level of arbitrariness that creates what sociologists call an unstable hierarchy. The results take a toll on our performance, happiness, and health.
Regardless of the type of hierarchy, subjects' brains were influenced by their place in it. Just viewing a picture of a "superior" player activated an area in the frontal lobe that is associated with making judgments about people. The effect was more pronounced in the unstable hierarchy, with brain regions implicated in emotional processing and social anxiety chiming in.It would explain why many guys I know don't even like to read articles about BTO's. Acknowledging our sensitivity to status, and learning to cope better may become a much higher priority for us. These emotions are not just powerful, they are very hard to ignore. They affect our decisions, and bleed over into other areas of our lives. It is not, perhaps, an Oprah-esque pursuit to understand how they evolved and why they can be disruptive in modern situations. They are obviously part of our human inheritance.
The study "confirms that our brains are exquisitely sensitive to position in the hierarchy," says epidemiologist Michael Marmot of University College London. "If the hierarchy is stable, we seem to ignore those below us but focus on those higher up. If unstable, and we are in danger of losing status, areas of the brain linked to emotions are aroused." [More]
Therefore, maybe we need better defenses from competition than simply expecting preferential treatment because we are established farmers and community members.
I'm not saying good community standing isn't important and without its own rewards, just simply it hasn't appeared to be a sufficient counter-strategy to date for competing with large operations.
[via Andrew Sullivan]