Archives for posts with tag: community

Culture is to human communities what DNA is to biological species.

It transports vital information from one generation to the other. Hence providing a venue for survival.
Furthermore, both culture and DNA can change in time. Hence providing a venue for evolution.

The difference between culture and DNA being, of course, the fact that culture is way more fluid than DNA.
DNA changes only once for each generation – what you get at birth is what you’re taking to the grave, while culture is in constant flux.
No individual organism has anything to say about their genetic information but almost every human is capable of learning almost anything.

Now for the historical part.

Stage one.

Veneration of the elders. The elders were the depositories of the common knowledge. Hence everybody took good care of the ‘data bases’.

Stage two.

Somebody learned to write.
Elders were no longer indispensable. More and more information could be ‘warehoused’ in alternative ways.
A structure was needed to manage the new ways of dealing with the vital information.

Stage three.

The state is born.
At first the structures which insured that culture was passed from one generation to another had been rather empiric: kingdoms, monasteries, etc.
Soon after the Enlightenment things had become more rational. Cultured people became nations and the academic scholars gave us the state. As the structure charged to make sure that culture and people stay together. Hence providing for the nation’s survival.

States who had been in constant contact – read rivalry, kept each-other fit. Or else.
States ‘removed’ from reality – geographically, by becoming too powerful to care or both, had experienced a natural decay. The people at the top of the food chain had forgotten about those at the bottom and those at the bottom had lost faith in their leadership.

States too weak to survive – for various reasons, have succumbed while those too powerful for their own sake have eventually imploded.

Psychology to the rescue.

Culture is more fluid than DNA for a reason.
DNA follows exclusively the laws of nature while culture is heavily influenced by us.
We, men, are the measure of all things.
All life heavily transforms the place it inhabits.
So do we, humans. Only we do it willingly. On purpose, that is.

Now, that we have amassed so much information – about life in general and about how we relate, as agents, to the entire process, we have reached a reckoning moment. What next?

Are we going to choose the path of the cuckoo or that shown to us by Hokule-a?

Covid-19 is a good eye opener.

While socially distancing to save our asses, we have the opportunity to use our brains.
And understand how many people contribute, ‘under the radar’, to our well being. To us leading a civilized life.
As civilized as we, as a community, have been able to put together.

This morning I realized how much we owe to the garbage collectors.
To those who clean up our cities.
To the people who make it so that we, the socially distanced, may continue to entertain the illusion of leading a normal life.

A transformation so drastic that somebody needs to have been at both ends of the process in order to accept that what came out was the same thing as what went in.

The Universe has already went through Metamorphosis 0.1 and 1.0.
The ‘Big Bang’ and the apparition of life.

We’re witnessing Metamorphosis 2.0.
Awareness’ coming of age.

Individuals becoming aware not only of their own awareness but also of their place in the order of things.
Communities becoming aware that each of their individuals are paramount. That ‘no one left behind’ is the only thing that keeps the community together.
Individuals understanding that each of them is equally important yet none of them indispensable.

Individuals and communities alike opening their minds to the fact that none of them might exist without the other.

And no, this is no joke! Alas…

Populism is scientific because its ‘adepts’ have a very rational behavior and use scientific tools to increase the appeal of their public messages.
And, on the other hand, populism is scientific because its advent is perfectly explainable given what we currently know. About our society, about our brains, about our psychology….

Let me start from the beginning.
In Thomas Kuhn’s terms, the last 60 or so years have witnessed a tremendous paradigm shift.
Science has replaced religion as the main paradigm and ‘religion’ has been demoted to  ‘religions’.

Science becoming the main paradigm means that we have grown confident about our knowledge. We might be aware that we don’t know everything yet but we continue to believe that we’re able to learn everything. That if we are diligent enough we’ll sometimes be able to look under every rock that is.
This attitude has led us to search for ‘perfection’. ‘Efficiency’ has displaced ‘redemption’. We have ceased our quest for salvation and are now obsessed with ‘buy low, sell high’. In other words, ‘make the most of it but strain yourself as little as possible’.

Which makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

A lot of sense… mainly when you no longer perceive the guy next to you as being a full-fledged member of your community. Your religious community, that is. Of your church.

You see, ever since Emil Durkheim, the sociologists have been aware that religion was not so much a story about the making of the world as a ‘common ground’. The ‘common core’ shared by the members of a given community. Which ‘common core’ makes it possible for those who share it to have respect. For themselves and for the other faithful members of the community. By sharing that common core, the individuals find their bearings in the ‘wide, wide world’ and, thus, know how to behave relative to their ‘neighbors’. With enough mutual respect among the individual members that the community is able to function. To survive, that is.

We no longer have that kind of community.
Our primary allegiance is no longer towards ‘church’. Most of us consider themselves primarily as members of a nation – something governed more by formal laws than by public sentiment, and only secondarily – if at all, as members of a ‘religious’ community.

Now, putting two and two together, it’s very simple to understand that in the given circumstances ‘populism’ was inevitable, right?

Too many of the would be leaders have no qualms about how they get what they want.
Power.
‘Buy low, sell high’ is the current mantra, remember? Accepted by all of us. Buyers, sellers, by-standards…
Too many members of the general public are willing to accept promises which are in line with their own expectations, even if those promises being put in practice means a lot of misery for OTHERS. Who cares about those others, anyway? They are not members of OUR ‘church’!

I’ll let you decide how sustainable is such a situation. I was going to use ‘community’ instead of ‘situation’ but it would have been horribly wrong. We no longer live in communities. We only happen to live in the same place.

For how long?

I believe you are already familiar with this meme.
Here’s what I’d have used as a caption:
The older I get the more I realize that during my last days I might depend heavily on those around me.
Hence I started to treat them fairly, just as I expect them to treat me towards the end of my life.
Most of them responded in kind.
Therefore the older I get, the more I enjoy life.

black driver pulled from job

The Root reports that a customer “asked that no black delivery driver be sent to her home” and that a manager decided to “honor” that request.

As most of you already know Maslow’s five leveled pyramid can be simplified into a three three tiered one: Physiological needs, Relational needs (safety, emotion and esteem) and Self Actualization. Maslow said that you cannot skip any one of this levels, for instance you can not deal with your emotional needs on an empty stomach. And who cares about self actualization if he doesn’t know where he’s going to sleep tonight?

Well…intuitively we have to admit that Maslow’s words do make some sense…

Studying this example we can draw some interesting conclusions on this subject.

For instance simply climbing to a certain level doesn’t mean one is mature enough for it.

The customer had certainly satisfied her basic needs yet she has some deep emotional problems.
OK, I can imagine that a person can be so ‘dense’ as to be able to make such a demand but no second thoughts after you produced such a frack-ass?
“”I got a right to have whatever I want and that’s it,” the woman said. “No, I don’t feel bad about nothing.””

But the most interesting examples here are the manager and the driver.

Lowe’s is not at all a small operation. Rising to management level is not a simple thing and should provide some security and self esteem to an individual. Enough for that individual to start thinking with his own head. After all that’s what managers are supposed to do, right? That would also help that individual bring himself up to date – ‘self actualization’, that is…
Was that particular manager capable of fulfilling his duty? Lowe’s didn’t think so… Me neither, on different grounds though.

Let’s see what the driver has to say:
“”To me, it just ain’t right for a business that we work at to go on with the woman’s wishes,” Brooks told the news station.
“It was one of those things like, ‘These guys will get over it, they’re tough guys, they’re delivery guys,’ ” Brooks said. “And that’s kind of where I just had to put my foot down and say I couldn’t do it with them.””
So a “mere” driver has more guts than a manager…
No matter if the manager shared the customer’s racist feelings. He had to have the wisdom to understand that catering for such kind of wishes – specially in this manner,  is extremely bad for the company. And for himself as an employee of that company.
So he should have solved that situation properly, not botchedly – he was a manager, remember?

“Despite the letdown, Bradley added that he won’t be missing any time at work.
“I mean, I gotta work,” he said. “I’m going to keep going to work like I’ve always done. But I would think Lowe’s would take it into consideration to think about what they’re doing next time.””

So the driver has a clearer view of the situation – including his own standing – than the manager…

What’s going on here? Did Maslow got his pyramid upside down or the whole world has turned over and is now standing on its head?

Maybe that is the whole ‘self-actualization’ thing. Being able to use wisely the amount of autonomy one happens to have at his disposal.

Nietzsche was somewhat right only he went bonkers before he was able to shed some real light on what was going on.
The point is that God didn’t die on his own. We killed him. Twice. And while the first time we were capable to fix the situation now we seem incapable to ‘make the right thing’.

Let me explain myself.

I have no way of knowing if it was God that created us or not. That’s something for others to decide.
For me it’s enough that I see no evidence to support the first hypothesis except for some ‘testimonies’ provided by people with vested interests in the matter. I find those testimonies highly biased. Nor do I find any need for a Deus ex Machina kind of explanation for anything that exists in this Universe. Modern science has done a good enough job in explaining the world to me.
On the other hand the second hypothesis is absolutely impossible to demonstrate. So, why bother?

What I do know, for sure, is that at least one kind of God does exist. The one that has been created by us, people, a social representation whose existence stems directly from our mental relationship with Him – the One who supposedly created us.
The mere existence of this ‘virtual’ God had two very important consequences. It brought us democracy and it provided us with a coherent way of understanding the world – a common Weltanschauung in German terms.

I’ll make a short break here to elaborate a little. The common lore is that ‘God made us in his image’. This means that, basically, we are equals among ourselves – we’ve been all cast in the same mould, right? – and that each of us has a spark of divinity in him. Quite a heavy responsibility – being of a Godly nature – don’t you think? Hence the ‘do not kill/judge’ commandment. Who are we to play God towards other Gods?
Also partaking in the same Weltanschauung was what offered us the possibility to act as a community, to help each other. For a while at least but it was good while it lasted. After all none of us could have done much by himself.
In fact none of us is able to survive for long by himself, let alone thrive solitarily. Not even today, with all the modern technology that we now take for granted.

We gave birth to our first generation of Gods, made exactly into our image, good and bad together, during the Antiquity. The Greek, Roman and German Gods were our look alike-s and shared our unruly behavior. Some of them even occasionally shared our beds. Then, at some point, we got cocky and abandoned them. Our philosophers thought they knew better than that and that they could come up with comprehensive solutions all by themselves. That’s how absolute authoritarianism ended up having official blessing from the Academia while the adoration of Gods was left for the unsuspecting masses.
All hell broke loose from that moment. For some 6 centuries after Plato had wrote his Republic the Mediterranean Sea had been a string of empires toppling one another.

Until we came up with a different kind of God. One that first and foremost told us to stop quarreling – for we were all brothers – and start living in communion. Until we killed him also.

Not that we haven’t been forewarned. Pascal, the French mathematician, told us that it is completely irrational to reject the existence of God. If, in reality, God doesn’t exist the believer looses nothing and the non believer gains nothing – except for the lame satisfaction to be able to brag ‘I told you so’ after death. Conversely, if God does exist, then the believers are going to inherit the world while the non believers have dealt themselves the worst hand ever. Meanwhile, by living in a world structured by the presumed existence of God both believers and non believers enjoyed the two consequences I mentioned above – equality among people, even if only in theory, and the ability of doing things in concert, a lot more efficiently.

Now, that we’ve killed God for a second time – the murder described by Nietzsche – we’ve lost it again. Only this time we didn’t lose just the hypothetical after-life, we’re gradually transforming this one – the only life we have for sure – into a bloody nightmare.

And if you don’t believe me do as Lesek Kolakowski suggests.
“Let us simply compare the godless world of Diderot, Helvétius, and Feuerbach with that of Kafka, Camus, and Sartre. The collapse of Christianity that was so joyfully awaited by the Enlightenment took place almost simultaneously with the collapse of the Enlightenment itself. The new, shining order of anthropocentrism that was built up in place of the fallen God never came. What happened? Why was the fate of atheism in such a strange way tied to that of Christianity, so that the two enemies accompanied one another in their misfortune and in their insecurity?” (God in a godless time, 2003)

Now why can’t we make the small effort to understand what Pascal told us? Why is it so hard to understand that we are spoiling the beautiful life we might have if only we kept pretending that God existed and behaved accordingly?

Why is it so hard at least to fake some respect for those who happen to share the planet with us?
Fake respect is not as good as the genuine one, of course, but is a lot better than the huge amount of scorn that is publicly traded these days.
Even more important is that if we won’t have to use so much energy in maintaining a force field to protect us from being drenched in scorn we’ll may be able to imagine a better world than the one we currently have to deal with.
And, who knows, maybe we’ll have time to discover how beautiful we really are, inside our armors.

A new (representation of) God would be born this way.

god-is-dead

Lesek Kolakowski, God in a godless time, 2003, http://www.firstthings.com/article/2003/06/visions-of-eternity-7

People glimpse fragments from the surrounding reality and then use their newly found understanding to gradually change it.
They do this in three, successive, steps.
The first has a lot to do with happenstance – the right man at the right place, the second involves a lot of ‘due diligence’ and the third depends very much on how those who end up in command of the new understating relate to the rest of the people.
Sometimes some of the people who ‘happen’ to ‘stumble’ on new information/experience something really new feel the urge to communicate to others what has happened to them.
Usually the information gleaned/sentiments experienced during this first step are so new that there are no socially sanctioned symbols that can represent them faithfully so the individual trying to communicate the entire experience has to find a novel way to make it understandable for those around him. This is art.
The second step has less to do with actual discovery and is more about systematization of information already at our disposal. Something like charting a newly discovered territory. Even if we have to adapt our existing tools to the new task – some of them had been discovered during the first step but that means they are already here when we start the second one, here the job to be done is more about reason than inspiration. This is science.
And now, that new information is available – even before it was widely disseminated – people start to use it. Some of it is used straight away/as it is/honestly while some other is used to keep ‘the others’ in the dark or to alter their perceptions in order to fit the goals of the ‘user’/’entrepreneur’/spin doctor.
Usually this last way of using newly found understanding has perverse consequences. The ‘user’ becomes arrogant and starts to believe he has somehow become a (demi)God while the people kept in the dark/unwittingly exploited sooner or later become aware of what is going on – and sometimes express that in artistic ways.
At some point the equilibrium is regained, either through  a  a series of oscillations that ’embrace’ it – a revolution – or through small steps in the right direction – evolution.
(Usually, as the distance between a given state of facts and the perceived point of equilibrium becomes wider then people gradually loose hope in evolution and start to consider more revolutionary methods.)

Three questioned bothered me while watching this:
– What drove that crow to behave like this? Who was bored to death, the crow itself or the small devil that seemed to poses it?
– Why is it that so many of us think this is funny? (I couldn’t stop laughing myself!)
– When is it that a photographer should stop shooting images that might interest (or not) some future viewers and help those who were, involuntarily, ‘modeling’ for him?

Yeah, I know, it would have been rather strange to see a man defending a dog against a crow… and sometimes it is impossible to help everybody, specially during a war or a major crises… but…

Maybe we, the watchers, share some of the responsibility for what’s going on during our lifetime.

This post is dedicated to my friends who do not yet accept that rituals still play a huge role in our lives.
No matter if we are religious or not, in the conventional sense of the word, we all feel something special when witnessing rituals being observed.

To me this is a powerful proof that we need to belong, that our need to be an accepted member of a community is ingrained somewhere deep inside us. And for good reason because none of us would be able to survive on its own for more than a very short time.
In fact this is the real meaning of ‘religion’.
“Religion (derived from the Latin religare, meaning ‘to bind’) binds people together.”

From time to time religious teachings become perverted, in most instances by precisely those who were supposed/’entrusted with the divine mission’ to preserve and pass them on to future generations. We shouldn’t allow these manipulators to destroy our livelihood.

Maybe time has come for us to understand the entire process and to rebuild religiosity/togetherness on mutual respect?

https://www.youtube.com/embed/HW3QVLlK-kE?feature=player_embedded
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0W7YdKYPl0
https://www.wordnik.com/words/religare

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