‘Teach Our Children Well’— On Deconstructing the Curriculum of the West

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The West is a vast testimony to childhood botched to serve its own purposes, where history, masquerading as myth, authorizes men of action and men of thought to alter the world to match their regressive moods of omnipotence and insecurity. (Paul Shepard, Nature and Madness,126)

The rapid globalization of commerce, communication, and community forces us now to question many of the assumptions underlying our social and cultural institutions, including entrenched pedagogical presuppositions and educational institutions. We are urgently required to address the challenge of education in an increasingly resource-constrained world characterized by escalating anomie and rising levels of violence, random as well as systemic and institutional. The task for educators and educational institutions at all levels is to reassess their missions in light of such global trends – political, social, economic, and cultural. The world of our great-great grandfathers is not our world; and the task before us is to understand the impinging realities of a rapidly unfolding crisis. Unfortunately, that may require overturning some of our most sacred assumptions about educating children and young adults. Today, I wish to begin a dialogue concerning our assumptions and their impact on human maturation as well as our current cultural trajectory.  We begin then with a critique of the nearly hegemonic control exercised globally by what has been called the “Curriculum of the West.”

Background

What are the primary practices and tools used to educate the youth of today across the modern world?  In America we had a phrase for what transpired in primary school when I was just a child growing-up in New York State. It was called learning the “three R’s” – “Reading, (w)Riting and (a)Rithmetic.” In short, we learned to draw distinctions through the effective manipulation of numbers and words on a page – literacy.  An educated person was one who could read and write, and confidently do longhand multiplication tables, of course.

The earliest stirrings of this pedagogical strategy may be traced back almost 6,000 years, to the implementation of plow agriculture, the emergence of the first cities, and the storage of food surpluses in the garrisons of the ancient Near East. After all, the first signs of literacy emerged then, with written lists to account for stores of grain and other supplies made by scribes for the kings of the earliest empires and nation states (Jack Goody, The Domestication of the Savage Mind, Cambridge U. Press). Specialization and domestication were symptomatic of, and intimately conjoined with, these changes in communication technologies. Somewhat later in this nascent history, more analytical tools provided impetus to the forward march of civilization, finding critical refinement in Aristotle’s syllogistic and the rudimentary founding of the sciences. Again, I will refer to this nascent trajectory as the ‘Curriculum of the West,’ a trajectory that only achieved full self-consciousness during the period of European Enlightenment, with the birth of rationalism and elaboration of modern scientific method, eventually leading to industrialization, hyper-specialization, and rapid technological innovation, along with increasing objectification, commodification, anomie, and yes, violence.

With Europe, and most especially America, leading the way, the path charted and engineered by this Curriculum spawned a dominion-seeking hegemony that has overtaken the globe, socially, economically, and culturally. This ascendancy has unleashed a hierarchy of values that is lightning fast, wide ranging, virtually unchallenged, and spreading insidiously; artfully enabled by those very technologies to which it has given rise.

Not long ago, the West was convinced that this trajectory would lead to the apex of an historical legacy, the best in scientific, technological and cultural advancement, as well as political and economic leadership.  What America had achieved, so it was imagined, was a dream come true.  It was this ‘American Dream’ that has been held out to (or perhaps thrust upon) the rest of the world as the meaning of the ‘good life’ – the proper end of an educated citizenry.  Moreover, while cheap energy, in the form of fossil fuels, dutifully served as the lubricant of this apparent cultural ascendancy, recent recognition that world oil extraction has peaked surely signals the prospective collapse of this dream, and with it, the potential dissolution of its core institutions including, if not especially its educational institutions. The trajectory of the Western Curriculum, characterized now by increasing violence, accelerating energy decline, and global climate change – a trajectory that was set in motion with those first city walls – is possibly nearing an apocalyptic conclusion.

Unpacking ‘The Curriculum of the West’

In his work over the past forty years, Professor of History, Marvin Bram, sought to demystify the unraveling of that ‘subtle knot’ constituting the human condition prior to the emergence of civilization in the Middle East approximately six millennia ago. I would like to unpack his discussion in some depth.

The expression, “Curriculum of the West,” suggests modern humanity’s adherence to a specific linguistic and epistemological framework exemplified by the defining tool of civilized consciousness – the syllogism.  According to Bram, a univocal semantic (A = A), together with a unidirectional three-part logistic (Universal –> Particular –> Consequent), lay at the basis of a mode of reasoning that would form the backbone of an entire worldview. The syllogistic form would become the “foundation-layer of both the internal and external life of the West.”  The syllogism informs every type of engagement with our world – moral and religious codes, social or legal codes, and material or scientific laws. It epitomizes a mode of thinking that elevates the practice of distinction-making or analysis above all else, over the equally human capacity for distinction-dissolving, participation, or fusion. The worldview informed by the syllogism’s influence has become global, affecting perception, speech, action, as well as one’s overall relations to the environment and to other people. Yet, as Bram notes, these two capacities – originally complementary modalities of our internal life – found a primal and natural equilibrium in totemic consciousness and its pre-civilized social unit, the kinship-based tribe and clan.

Totemism is that internal and external state of human affairs that is vertically unisubstantial [of-one-substance] and horizontally plurisubstantial.  It binds persons to other persons so as to multiply substance and maintain amity, and it binds communities to nature to the same ends.  It is the world-picture of what we will be calling equilibrium kinship. Perhaps no human arrangement has worked so well, for so long, over so much of the planet. (Recovery of the West, 30)

As Bram continues:

Due to this primal equilibrium and humankind’s natural capacity for participation – becoming the Other in a distinction-dissolving apperception – totemic (tribal) decision-making was never simply a matter of casting votes or negotiating a strained consensus, but rather, and more significantly, it was an exercise in being of one mind, in short, of fusion.  Nor was such participation restricted to the human community… Fusion permitted persons to become other animate, and inanimate, beings… So the web of obligation and privilege would finally involve every human member of the society and much of the natural environment within which the society made its home. (Recovery, 38)

However, in all post- or non-totemic communities, i.e., modern civilized societies, where both the sciences (natural or human) and law (religious or social) reign supreme, distinction-making has already gained ascendancy over distinction-dissolving capabilities; differentiation, supremacy over fusion or participation. Certainly, we still find some symbolic modes of participation today (religious), and some remnants of fusion are still visible in vestigial form (empathy). Yet, in terms of daily commerce, the reality of fusion is a nonstarter in modern culture.

This propensity for drawing distinctions or making “cuts” in the plenum has become like a malignant cancer spawning a hyper-rationality, driven by the deductive and predictive capacity of the syllogism, dominating and manipulating the environment, invading all other ‘tissues and organs,’ spreading itself globally.

The origin of civilization in the Middle East about fifty-five hundred years ago is probably the decisive moment in human history. The significance of that origin-moment for internal life is that distinction-making and distinction-dissolving competencies, which had been mixed and proximate for about thirty-five thousand years, were now being forcibly sorted and distanced from each other, the distinction-making competencies ascending in importance, the distinction-dissolving competencies descending in importance.

The significance of the origin of civilization for external life is that social relationships that had been controlled by equilibrium-kinship conventions for about thirty-five thousand years were now being forcibly re-ordered into anti-kinship, bureaucratic and hierarchical conventions.

Equilibrium kinship would everywhere on earth be replaced by civilization. The history of the last fifty-five hundred years has been the story of that replacement, of what has been lost and what has been gained in this or that place, at this or that time. (Recovery, 32-33)

“Most modern societies know, or believe they know, why they cultivate making distinctions” in their citizenry (29). Yet, they willingly ignore what is lost in that process, along with the vast but emptied hierarchies to which it gives rise. The mental and verbal habits that emerged with the birth of literacy, the exclusive cultivation of the syllogism above all else, and establishment of the first social and scientific laws, created deep fissures leading to increasing levels of abstraction, alienation, and disequilibrium – personally and socially. As these hierarchies became more articulated vertically, and horizontally more plurisubstantial, the parts of the hierarchies became emptier in both content and meaning (46). Concomitantly, the life of the increasingly isolated person shrank, being reduced, specialized, and abstracted; the individual learned to live a divided life of anomie, as an emptying part in an empty institutional hierarchy (48). This signaled the end of kinship as the basis for amity and for social relations.

As Bram concludes:

‘Equilibrium’ in ‘equilibrium kinship’ establishes the balance of distinction-making and distinction-dissolving. ‘Kinship’ in ‘equilibrium kinship’ establishes the social conventions that such balance brings about.  Kinship means that most of the people you know or will ever know are related to you.  They will be the only people who will affect your life, and whose lives you will affect… Kinship will be your over-riding social reality, subsuming to itself everything disequilibrium-civilized persons regard as political and economic activities, professional and educational activities. (Recovery, 36)

However, with the emergence of big agriculture, the birth of cities, the rise of standing armies, the establishment of political, religious, legal, and economic hierarchies, the exigencies of institutional education, and the grand dominion of the syllogism, came an end to equilibrium kinship, the tribes and clans, as a sustainable socio-economic model.

Kinship, Hierarchy and Education

With Bram, we will characterize the 35,000-year-long pre-urban era, often called the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods after their technologies, the kinship era, after its form of social organization.   He writes:

‘Kinship’ means that what urban peoples call political, social, economic, and cultural arrangements are made not by specialists or professionals, usually strangers to most persons, but by the elders of clans.  Authority rests in elders who are known to you, not, say, in elected or appointed persons who are not known to you.  Genetically modern humanity had little or no need for political institutions like states, social institutions like cities or schools, economic institutions like markets, and cultural institutions like museums or orchestras for most of the time human beings have occupied the planet.  There is no reason to believe that these absences represent deprivations, or that their later presences in the forms we have them were inescapable.

The post-kinship era, characterized exactly by presences like cities, schools, and markets, was inaugurated between five and six thousand years ago in present-day Iraq.  Alexis de Tocqueville remarked of nineteenth-century America that the nuclear family by itself cannot resist the impingements of modern political and economic institutions: the father, mother, and their children must be surrounded by some intermediate, protective body of persons in order to be safe from unacceptable levels of control. In fact, those modern political and economic institutions could not have been created in the first place unless the original protective body of persons, the clan, was broken into its constituent and susceptible parts, its nuclear families.  The first civilization, in the Middle East, and all subsequent civilizations elsewhere, were constructed on the break-up of their pre-urban clans.  “Kinship” means the clan and the village; “post-kinship” means the nuclear family and the city.

In the kinship era, children were raised by the clan and they were further enculturated by the clan.  Uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, granduncles, grandaunts, all joined parents and siblings in raising a child.  Break the clan, and the parents alone raise the child, and further enculturation is given to the school and teachers – in the first civilization, that of Sumer in Southern Iraq, called “school-parents” – who are strangers to the child.  There can be no deeper difference in how human beings grow up.

Let us look at one deeply problematical additional aim, one that lies beneath virtually all school curricula…  The aim is competence in analysis – analysis in reading non-fiction and fiction texts, analysis in the social and natural sciences, and analysis in mathematics.  The basis of the analytical procedures common to the humanities and the sciences is the syllogism; we have this from Aristotle more than two millennia ago, and it has remained the case to the present day.  Reasoning syllogistically is commendable unless it drives out other uses of the mind. Unhappily, inside the schools and largely out of them, reasoning syllogistically has indeed driven out other uses of the mind. What of imagining richly rather than syllogizing?  I doubt that any primary- or secondary-school teacher would say that he or she actively discourages imagining richly, but, after all, syllogistic reasoning is testable, and imagining is not.  And since tests are proliferating and classroom time is short…

We recommend the following action:

…regarding elementary and secondary schools, curricula [should] be revised to put the cultivation of imagination in balance with the cultivation of analysis.  This is not to say that strengthening art and music programs will do the trick.  They should be strengthened.  But whole courses of study in fundamental practices of imagination must be installed at every level.  Just as the kinship world provides insights into the imagination and violence, it speaks to curricular balance.  Let strong new programs call for the practice of imagining that one is both oneself and another – an animal, a practice children take to in an instant, or another person, the practice that lay at the heart of the kinship world, and deserves to ground any fully human community.  To feel one’s own inner life and the inner life of another person may be the apex of that use of the mind we’re calling the imagination.  It is not at all difficult to construct exercises that strengthen this faculty.  At the same time, the analytic faculty can be strengthened more efficiently – efficiency being a hallmark of analytic success – such that the school day can actually be shortened. The lengthening of school days and school years, along with the current testing craze, are signs of the adult world’s failures of imagination.  A shorter school day can mean more student involvement in the community, in particular with public libraries.  Teachers can then spend time freed for them in afternoons to tailor the next day to each individual student; one-size-fits-all curricula insult children and only confirm again an adult-world failure.  Finally, the imaginative and analytic faculties will stand to each other in a relationship better than simple balance.  Because of the grounding status of the imagination that permits identification with others, we will have a “curriculum of kindness,” children achieving analytic competence that is always in the context of their deeply understanding and helping each other.

A Philosophical Interlude

We “first-worlders” tend to believe that our institutions, along with the analytical skills that built them, represent the best of human intellect, that they demonstrate our unquestionable historical advancement and justify our global supremacy. As a correlate we therefore believe that education in distinction-making and analysis should be the overriding, if not, our sole pedagogical concern; to segregate, separate, and dissect everything until we can clearly define all the moving parts.  In this respect, we feel that we have overcome the more primitive, undeveloped aspects of the origins of our species; a position we believe is clearly demonstrated through our evident dominion over a purely objectified nature.  In his Introduction to Metaphysics, Martin Heidegger challenges this assumption of the modern temperament.

The fundamental error that underlies [modern sciences, natural and human] is the opinion that the inception…is primitive and backward, clumsy and weak. The opposite is true. The inception is what is most uncanny and mightiest. What follows is not a development but flattening down as mere widening out… a perversion of what is great, into greatness and extension purely in the sense of number and mass. The uncanniest is what it is because it harbors such an inception in which, from over-abundance, everything breaks out at once into what is overwhelming…. (165)

Here Heidegger overturns the commonly accepted view. This world of ours, the product of modern scientific analysis and technological acumen, rather than representing a development may really betray a sort of regression – a truncation, abbreviation, or reduction of the original richness and fullness of existence to mere numerical coefficients, mere extensions in space-time. The world has become emptied out by modern consciousness, reduced in simplest terms to a set of mathematical equations or legalistic codes.

In his later work, Heidegger was prepossessed with this state of affairs and with the curious relationship obtaining between thinking, being, and truth.  He came to believe that the original condition of human dwelling was obscured by the analytical habits of modern consciousness, and that truth lay somewhere hidden in a collective forgetfulness. In fact, he came to rely increasingly upon a concept of truth as “unconcealment” or “disclosedness,” seeking thereby to articulate the original intertwining of thinking and dwelling – a condition of openness that he termed Gelassenheit.  He recovered our concept of truth from its ancient roots in Greek myth, deriving rather circuitously from the word lethe, the river of forgetfulness, one of the five rivers of the underworld in Greek mythology.  The term lethe in classical Greek literally meant “oblivion,” “forgetfulness,” or “concealment.” The word for “truth” on the other hand, from whence Heidegger rescues the concept, is aletheia (ἀλήθεια), meaning un-forgetfulness, un-concealment, or disclosedness. The event of truth would be exposing that which had been essentially concealed or hidden and letting it again shine-forth.

It is this condition of forgetfulness that Heidegger wants so desperately to reverse in his final writings; he wants to disclose what was previously forgotten and covered-over at the origins of modern thought even prior to Aristotle.  It is for this reason that he looks to Greek mythology and to the pre-Socratics to help excavate the ground of this forgetfulness, and begin to uncover the rich origins of human dwelling, of participation and fusion, of that primal openness (Gelassenheit) to the mystery of our own embodiment.

Concluding Reflections 

In his work, Nature and Madness, Paul Shepard writes:

Learning… does not mean preparation by logical operations with dialectical and ideological ends, by art appreciation or creativity, nor by overviews of history and cultures.  It means a highly timed openness in which the attention of the child is pre-directed by an intrinsic schedule… It is a pulse, presenting the mind with wider wholes, from womb to mother and body, to earth, to cosmos… (110)

The more we require our educational institutions to develop only a child’s capacity to draw distinctions, the more we create the conditions for our ultimate collapse.  Clearly, this world-made-by-syllogism remains committed to capital, commerce, and consumption. It is a world encouraging competition and breeding systemic violence.  But, we must recognize that these are the results of a path taken not so long ago, and that it may not be in our best interests to continue on this road.  Distinction-making leads to separation, alienation, and conflict.  It leads to a mindset of me against you, buyer against seller, us against them; it leads to fear, abuse, and war. It concludes with conquest, with domination. It requires the objectification of the ‘Other’ as much as the objectification of ‘Nature’ – resources, natural or human – to be used, spent and discarded.  It leads to commodification and subjugation of one’s fellow man.  And it will lead finally to our own demise.

So how do we educate our children today?  Do we continue to encourage, indeed demand distinction-making and analysis above all else? Do we focus only on the skills required to generate capital and sell products, conquer an enemy or beat the competition?  Or do we focus on educating the whole person, with a careful eye to cultivating imagination and the possibilities of fusion or participation, to our pre-histories and the diverse legacies of human embodiment?  Do we move to expand control without restraint, or do we first think about the world we want to inhabit and the world we want to leave to our children’s children?

I close, as I began, with a final quote from Paul Shepard.

White, European-American, Western peoples are separated by many generations from decisions by councils of the whole, small-group nomadic life with few possessions, highly developed initiation ceremonies, natural history as every man’s vocation, a total surround of non—man-made (or ‘wild’) otherness with spiritual significance, and the ‘natural’ way of mother and infant.  All of these are strange to us because we are no longer competent to live them—although that competence is potentially in each of us. (120)

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53 Responses to ‘Teach Our Children Well’— On Deconstructing the Curriculum of the West

  1. Malthus says:

    Really interesting Sandy and fun as it gives me a chance to increase my vocabulary. Reading your article I was especially interested on your take on “civilized education. Like the following. “Totemism is that internal and external state of human affairs that is vertically unisubstantial [of-one-substance] and horizontally plurisubstantial. It binds persons to other persons so as to multiply substance and maintain amity, and it binds communities to nature to the same ends. It is the world-picture of what we will be calling equilibrium kinship. Perhaps no human arrangement has worked so well, for so long, over so much of the planet. (Recovery of the West, 30)” Having just watched a wonderful and magical movie “The beasts of the southern wild,” a wonderful metaphor of modern life and human wildness. The words of the little girl called Hushpuppy tells her imagined beast of domestication and destructive civilization “Aurochs” giant pigs with horns, “I must take care of my own.”

    • kulturcritic says:

      I love helping with vocabulary, Malthus. If only I could help myself with Russian. BTW – I think folks are afraid to comment on this post! LOL

      • malthus says:

        I don’t know about being afraid as it a very deep subject that I am sure most will comment after they ponder everything you have written. It just really happened to fit with the movie I mentioned I just saw.

        Check this web site about learning languages by a Russian engineer, Dmitry Slomov is a language learning consultant, a tutor and the author of the Russian Language Course – Lessons with Dmitry

        Contact Dmitry at: http://www.courseofrussian.com/en/contact.html

        I just the other day downloaded a free eBook by him “How to Master Successfully Any Language of the World.” From free eBooks.

      • Ivy Mike says:

        Good write-up, Sandy. I was just away for a few days being re-educated on the reason I don’t attend church, even if I miss the music. Get a bunch of really nice folks together, put them in a church building, stir once or twice, and you get an EPA Superfund strength Toxic Shit Hole.

  2. Brandon says:

    this is my first comment, but i have been following you for awhile; i loved this essay, i am the parent of a 3 year old and a 1 year old. i am convinced that the way i was ” formally educated” was anything but effective. this essay resonates very loudly with me and my “parenting” perspective. I am determined to let my children learn through exposure and practice and to see the similarities in most things as they are more plentiful than the distinctions between them. it is still early but many of our contemporaries marvel at the amount of information our son (the three year old) is already able to understand and then synthesize practically. they all say he is way beyond his years; i say he is just right and on pace given the space we give him to explore in.

    thank you for the positive reinforcement and the weekly sharing of great ideas.

  3. Mushin says:

    Sandy,
    As normal you press the flesh in distinction~making that has become a meaningless mantra of faster, better, cheaper bulls%$t in an ever narrowing inferno of competitive buying and selling of one another in a fearfulness of “get money or eat dirt.” The violent root emanates in the pedagogical strategy where we first learn to be proud of right answers in the authority of the parent, teacher and belittle the imagination of the wonderer interested in the deeper learning experience of self realization in living. The social cultural milieu and matrix is a demand for obedience and negate this imaginary wondering by saying to survive a child must conform for social, economic and political cultural purposes. How sad it is we have reduced children to economic transactional configuration and where Micky Mouse and Big Bird in fantasy land continue the onslaught of their deeper imaginations in fictional characters which turn into violent action figurines of gaming by middle school and the imagination is lost in the battlefield of competitive arrogant aggressions.

    I recently visited my 3 year old grand daughter Julia and ask her to tell me stories. Like a streaming fresh spring of water she would recite encounters she is having in her imagination for 30 minutes at a time. I would tickle the stream with a questing here and there, which would open up another vast landscape and future horizon in her storying telling experiences. After 30 minutes or so she was so excited in who she was that she had to pounce on top of grandpa until we were laughing in the deep parts of our bellies together. Of course, this became a daily encounter during my 10 day visit.

    One day I was riding in the car with my daughter and her, and her mother and I were conversing about some human concern which I can not even recall. And Julia pipes up from the back seat “Grandpa you take of the small problems and I’ll take care of the big ones.” WOW!

    I felt like I had finally got my marching orders by the leading imaginary queen~ship in my clan. The distinction~dissolving experience was life changing and created clarity regarding the small ontological observer error happening in this 6,000 year old curriculum of the western civilization and in a mood of joyful concern I found some pay dirt in transforming the nuclear family socialized point of view in the truth of reality. Imagination in our children simply needs our attentive listening, questing, and watering by grand parents loving attention welcoming the communitarian sense of a child belonging in a valid manner of dignified legitimacy~in~coexistence. In short, we need to dissolve our prejudices in distinction~making and love our children’s imaginations, and stop seeing them as learners and teaching them to be violent in the taken for granted representational assumptions we parachuted into in this swept along historic cultural drift of insanity as cognitive agents.

    So, my Julia offered me a healing and deep rooted distinction~dissolving experience of problem solving and decision making that was concise, directed and releasing fearful concerns in relation to the exponential creative collapsing opportunities you so masterfully point to in all your posts. The question arises for grandpa what wisdom do I have to share with her that will help her navigate and become a leading voice in solving the big problems she so courageously says she can handle easily?

    Everything you said in this post points to an ontological observer breakdown requiring an immediate distinction~dissolving unitary epistemology that connects human learning to our 3 million, 2 million, 35 thousand year deep rooted kinship as human beings in social clans designing unity in interactive social communications, relationships and community. Is that an honest authentic reflection of what you offered as the author? I am interested in engaging in this distinction~dissolving notion seriously as an encounter and attending to this human concern of learning with children. My invitation to engage can happen privately or in public, and I am comfortable with your choice. I am committed to creating a child central pedagogical strategy of distinction~dissolving because I do not see how you (i) (we) (us) can presently reform or revolutionize the current cultural mental representational assumptions in western civilization without a renaissance in distinction~dissolving to an agreed upon unitary epistemology of “sense~making” of what it is to be a human being? So, your post is not a trivial provocation in conversation, rather an opening to dwell deeper in live speech reflections.

    You said “This propensity for drawing distinctions or making “cuts” in the plenum has become like a malignant cancer spawning a hyper-rationality, driven by the deductive and predictive capacity of the syllogism, dominating and manipulating the environment, invading all other ‘tissues and organs,’ spreading itself globally.” So lets attempt in this appreciative inquiry and dialog to “cut” to the root of “what is i~singing” in the plenum at “zero point” in a unitary epistemology as a distinction~dissolving agreement between you and I. I submit that the basic fundamental constitution of any society is two or more people agreeing to a triadic shared third niche in their human experience. The questioning of which comes first the rooster, hen and egg is unimportant in the chaotic crisis, and the triadic unity as observer’s is essential which means there is a “zero point in the plenum” we are denying in conscious awareness as Homo sapiens amans amans.

    Your referencing “Heidegger rescues the concept, is aletheia (ἀλήθεια), meaning un-forgetfulness, un-concealment, or disclosedness. The event of truth would be exposing that which had been essentially concealed or hidden and letting it again shine-forth.” This smacks me wide open to the unitary epistemology of Autopoiese and I offer “The Self-Poetizing Earth: Heidegger, Santiago Theory, and Gaia Theory” by Henry Dicks as an answer called grace!
    http://ephilosophy.uoregon.edu/Dicks_SelfPoetizingEarth_EnvPhilSpring2011.pdf
    Later Mushin

  4. derekthered says:

    i ain’t skeered, not one bit, you did a good job. i would just say that those who survive the coming cataclysm will have learned a lesson that mankind (and womankind, let’s not forget the ladies) won’t forget for a very long time.

    if i may be so bold.

    castles made of sand.

  5. northsheep says:

    Having meditated critically for some time on the reductionist approach that dominates modern science, I see in it an obvious manifestation of your Curriculum of the West. It takes reality to pieces and derives predictive power from manipulating small pieces in isolation. Inevitably, a general pattern has emerged where technologies based on purely reductive science work for a while as expected, then start to produce unexpected and often unwanted results, outcomes that at least from a reductionist perspective are a surprise and are therefore labeled “counterintuitive”. As this pattern has become more obvious, even frightening because it threatens survival of our species, other ways of doing science are struggling to replace reductionism, ones that pose problems broadly enough to account for likely ripple effects and nonlinear change. Let’s give this approach the catch-all label, systems thinking.

    Instead of searching for distinctions, systems science looks for causal relations and builds feedback structural models in the attempt to understand how the world functions in wholes. It acknowledges the uncertainty that is intrinsic to complex systems, and thus opens a role for the imagination of multiple scenarios. Marxian dialectics is but one example of systems thinking that has been around for over a century.

    Here is my question for Sandy and others: is systems thinking still a manifestation of the Curriculum of the West? Or merely a small step toward feral understanding? Or is it an alternative to the Curriculum of the West, a legitimate way of learning and connecting with the ways of the world? To address big problems requires big picture perspective; can this approach help us get at “the plenum”?

    As a farmer, I have found that systems thinking cuts through a lot of the bullshit of distinction making, compartmentalized science. To give just one example from many, the reductive method proved that synthetically produced nitrogen makes crops grow fast, and it was promoted on that basis alone. The resulting constellation of negative ripple effects: soil compaction, toxicity to soil biology, nutritional losses and even toxicity in food and feeds produced and widespread water pollution could have been easily predicted by applying systems science to the problem.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Systems thinking certainly might help; but Karl, it appears to me to be an inverted form of reductionist totalitarianism. It is the synthesizing of disparate sciences in order to reconstitute “systems” where we once had territories, environments, in other words, full plenums of non-reductionist relations. It seems that a systems approach reconstitutes relations at a higher order of complexity, robotic, sterile and manipulative. However, it may be our only near term salvation.

    • derekthered says:

      i tend to agree with Sandy’s reply (the apple is in the mail). here’s the rub, systems thinking is used to soft-soap the realities on the ground, to put up a facade of caring and responsibility, such as in BP’s adverts about the Gulf oil spill. is systems thinking merely a refinement in the methods of control rather than an acceptance of limitations?

      • northsheep says:

        The systems thinking I know makes an explicit acknowledgement of its limitations. That’s why I said it assumes uncertainty of outcomes, not prediction. It proposes the possibility of insights from the discovery of futures of varying probability based on present or changing structural relations in a system. It’s one way of trying to capture a sense of how the world functions in wholes (whence it’s in the holistic tradition) and how things might respond to our interventions. I know this is abstract, but I don’t think it fair to inject a detailed explanation on the subject into this discussion.

        • derekthered says:

          hmmmmm……..
          the intervention is pretty much done. the mere fact of fracking, the processing of the tar sands, all of the extreme lengths we are going to in order to keep our machines running, all of this pretty much blows holistic thinking out of the water. i think that karl north is onto something by trying to imagine some sort of powerdown. whether in 20-30 years, or 300 years it’s got to happen. suppose we mine asteroids? suppose we find an asteroid composed totally of uranium? well, once we use it up we are stuck with the nuclear waste.

          i’m not trained in anything, but i know it’s 51 degrees in February, with a north wind, it wasn’t like this 30 years ago, ever. climate change is real, i have seen it in my lifetime. no real winter, if we’re lucky we will have the wet season and dry season, if we’re lucky.

          • northsheep says:

            Ya you’re right, it’s a little late for holistic thinking and timely interventions. The mother frackers got theirs in first!

            Thanks, by the way, for your soliloquy on children and violence. Children can certainly teach us a lot, through our mistakes, on ways back to the feral.

            Karl

            • derekthered says:

              so, are you that Karl? i was about to tell you there are some good articles on systemic thinking over at Karl Norths website. give me a bit of time i will read more of them. don’t ever be hesitant to point out any errors on my part, ignorance can be remedied. one of the things to be lost in collapse is knowledge, human society is built upon collected knowledge, it’s fascinating. hey, if i hadn’t read books? wouldn’t know half what i do.

        • kulturcritic says:

          At the risk of repeating myself… I will repeat myself. After all repetition is the meaning of life!

          Karl

          Thank you for such a thoughtful response to my poeticizing. One thing we do know fairly well (and yes the results are precisely a product of hyper-analytical thinking) is that the genus Homo has been around for at least 2 million years, and Homo sapiens for 200,000 years, and fully modern humans for 40,000 years. We also know that in these relatively egalitarian, kinship based unit (bands, tribes) there was also a dynamic interplay between community and territory (as you suggest); how could there not be? Of course they used and to some extent adjusted their surround. But that interplay was grounded in a psychological and epistemological framework that we can fairly well surmise was different than that what we maneuver with today. Bram calls it a balance between dissolution and fusion of boundaries; that is as good a description as any I have seen. However, there are other ways to qualify it. We hyper-analyticals do our best to separate and segregate all we can, and yet, never are satisfied with the results. So be it. I will stick with Bram’s language right now. You speak of organisims and environments, as if the two “things” were indeed separate entities, magically brought together by our systems-thinking them together. They are not! We need to imagine back, beyond the “cut” that established these two things – Thing One and Thing Two (Dr. Seuss) – back to the more primal experience of co-inherence or intertwining, or being-with, the pre-concious intentionality of the body. (I would ask you to read Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances; and then read Maurice Merleau Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible. There is something deathly wrong with distinction drawing by itself… death by 1,000 cuts, by analysis! Imagination is what we need in order to fight off that enemy and relearn participation and fusion. I again state that systems thinking is a pure product of post-distintion-making thought, attempting after the fact to reconnect the dots it had so successfully created. It is a nice way of “imagining” the world… reintegrated, and working clockwork as divinity intended (St Thomas, et al). But, it is as I said, an 11th hour attempt to square the circle by taking all the pieces built-by-syllogism, and then layering them to make a whole cake. You need as well to relax the death-grip that analysis has on you, and allow yourself the simple play of fusion, of participation. We all know you are a great analyst, now show us your living soul! Faithfully, Sandy, kC

  6. Mushin says:

    Very concise response from a farmer in touch with successive approximated linear reductionist distinction~making of entrepreneurial bulls%$t with no future sustainable planning and now dealing first hand with all the unintended consequences of broken promises in total confusion.

    I submit a pure~play grounding for “systems thinking” actually begins with autopoietic realization~in~living of the “observer” reconstituting the feral primordial reality and enacting embodied humanness within the complexity of knowledge making in diverse fields of systems thinkers in western curriculum as “observers of the observer” reflection! The creative collapsing opportunity I see present is a collaborative system thinking clearing for learning for our mutual liberation between the undeveloped growth at the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) and the top of the pyramid (ToP) that is an ownership society of content knowledge that has exhausted it’s coercive patronizing controls in failed knowledge management based on the error owning exclusively content management (i.e. proprietary intellectual property including holy books and all representational theoretical assumptions in science).

    Why The American Empire Was Destined To Collapse, Nomi Prins Interviews Morris Berman
    http://carolynbaker.net/2012/03/09/why-the-american-empire-was-destined-to-collapse-nomi-prins-interviews-morris-berman/

    “There is a story, probably apocryphal, of a Native American scouting expedition that came across the starving members of the Donner Party in 1847, who were snowbound in the Sierra Nevadas and resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. The expedition, which had never seen white people before, observed the Donner Party from a distance, then returned to base camp to report what they had seen. The report consisted of four words: “They eat each other.” Frankly, if I could summarize the argument of Why America Failed in a single phrase, this would be it. Unless Occupy Wall Street (or some other sociopolitical movement) manages to turn things around in a fundamental way, “They ate each other” will be our epitaph.”

    The facticity in our living is solely dependent on you (I) (WE) (US) gathering our human trust P2P, C2C, G2G, based on an agreed upon unitary epistemology as a foundational understanding of society in real~time pure~play as human beings, not robotic action figurines based in economic transactional configurations in “dead speech” institutional organizational living. I assert 90% of our everyday human attention normally is in a rested state of homeostasis in caring for one another and is not about political cultural economics. It’s only when you have the economic systemic cultural 2008 shocking collective PTSD disruptive event that caring, feeding and nurturing in the vast numbers of our humanity fall into distrust, hopelessness, and confused collective cultural resignation and despair. It’s a breakdown and the event breaks us open to questioning previous taken for granted patterns as observer’s and seeing what is missing and the design planning necessary to make damm sure it never happens again for our children and grandchildren.

    So, to reverse this deathly cannibal spiral of extinction I (you) (we) (us) must awaken ruthlessly to being the creators of the current run~a~way global culture of pain, suffering and death as a society. And even more important Sandy is your notion of “distinction~dissolving” as the primary clearing for learning event in the realization of the zero point plenum. If western curriculum representational indoctrinated reductive assumptions are based in 6,000 years of cultural “observer errors” (a cultual matrix of bulls%$t based in power to exclude and appropriate as ownership in leadership) there is no higher order of complex robotic sterilization possible for human survival much less thriving unless the observer error in entrepreneurial distinctions are dissolved in the zero point plenum. Entrepreneurial inventions based in wrong headed notions only accelerate the exponential Titanic Effect of the observer error finding better, faster, cheaper ways of eating each other. Instead of codified written theoretical texts we must embrace the aboriginal feral kinship of being relatives in the web of life’s biosphere as a living specie in touch with the land, water as the source of all life, air as a shared living experience owned by all, and dignity in a manner of legitimacy~in~coexistence for all living systems species including microbes, bacteria and viruses. And this all happens in “live oral human speech acts” P2P, C2C and G2G in natural law = momentariness as human beings.

    Who among us today does not want to live another second, minute, day, year, decade, century, millenium or eternally? We are witnessing human suicide as a major causation of death where autopoietic agents in systemic systems can no longer cope with the conditional situation. The family farmer has been replaced by systems and in India 250,000 peasant farmers committed suicide drinking the pesticide they were sold in broken promises of a better future. We are structurally designed from the beginning to thrive in our humanness and become deathly ill when treated as robotic rats in a 10% ownership global economic casino based on ROI capital. So, we must “cut the shadow bag in Plato’s Cave” and embrace the esoteric wisdom of our human reality that we were never created to live in pain and suffering, rather to adorn the presence, beauty and wonder in one another including the biosphere, and that includes my farmer friend in wondering who in the hell is behind this current ignorant planting scenarios turning his caring stewarding of the soil and feeding the people into toxic battery acid killing the earth and it’s people.

    “God Made a Farmer and the Superbowl Made Him a Future Hero”
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/02/04/171056911/-god-made-a-farmer-and-the-super-bowl-made-him-a-star

    • kulturcritic says:

      Mushin (order of the earth)… would you mind telling me what the hell you are talking about up there?

      • malthus says:

        We as a species do everything we can to forget the fact that everything we do has no importance whatsoever and we all die. Death is the determining factor that runs our lives. We hide, pretend that what we do and believe is important, we deny and all the while go insane because of the fact that no matter what we do, what we say, or what we believe we still die. Civilization has covered the fact of death, compartmentalized it, sanitized it. There is a hunter gatherer tribe in Malaysia that believe that we call reality is the shadow world and what we call dreams are the real reality. Could be.

  7. James says:

    We have evolved to do what we have been doing, which is to become an information, tool-evolving malignancy that finds great “temporary” success in eating the ecosystem. As the food runs out and the earth’s homeostatic mechanisms are destroyed or greatly altered, we will recognize the nature of our activity more fully. We spend billions studying the cancers in our own human systems and yet ignore our own deleterious relationship upon the ecosystem. We like being cancers, growing and consuming advantageously until collapse.

    We have gone a long way from where we began, but our vaunted progress will end as resource scarcity makes the cancer’s clonal variants turn upon and eat each other. It’s already happening.

    There is a precedent for human systematic education within the cells of our bodies. They use amino acids to make enzymes and infrastructure while we blindly use all types of toxic substances and processes to create the tools of own defeat. The cancer began when man picked up his first tool from the environment and has advanced and become more aggressive and complex with the surpluses gained. Humans have been pressed into a systematic organization and management for which they are unprepared. It will not last much longer, as it is an uncontrolled, metastasizing cancer. It took us away from the natural vectors of death that formed us and will drop us back into a despoiled environment that we no longer recognize and where hardships will be magnified.
    Will our reality parsing minds, suitable for information and tool use then have any substrate to grow upon? Will the cancer grow again? Perhaps not.

    • kulturcritic says:

      “We have evolved to do what we have been doing”… but this does not say we needed to evolve this way, James. It was a choice of sorts, a path taken. Though I cannot disagree with your conclusions, I would question the term “systematic education.” There certainly is nothing unnatural about kin-based (organized… i.e., intentional) training or initiation of the young. But there is something unnatural about bureaucrats (strangers) teaching your children. It is as meaningful as 12 strangers in a jury box, along with a blind judge adjudicating your life and death based upon some abstract legal precedents and hermeneutics. At least it seems that way to me, right now.

  8. derekthered says:

    i read Bram’s essay with interest having had violence be a huge part of my life. under fear of opprobrium i will say i have suffered it and handed it out (so sue me). i have often wondered how much effect my tormentors experiences had on shaping their lives, plenty i’m sure, just as i have had to come to examine my own psychology in order to do a better job raising my children. i will let you all into a bit of my world, i am a single father of three, and since i’ve been Mr. Mom there has not been one instance of out of control physical violence, seriously, not a one. i have had to respond to my children’s tantrums and acting out with patience, reason, and time; and yes, even love. every time the kids would break something, or punch each other, it puts it right in one’s face, yes i taught them that, i did that. it’s a long road into the light, but it’s worth it. that’s what it took for me, being responsible, not that i am some sort of shining example, but perhaps my little domestic disaster points the way our society will have to go to get out of our predicament.

    unfortunately we live in a society that celebrates violence, all the while making it a big taboo, what a mixed message, otherwise known as a mind-fuck. while society puts out the message of the intrinsic value of every person, the entire economic system works to undermine that message. economic insecurity breeds anger and despair, desperate people get scared, which leads to violence. doesn’t matter if they aren’t really that bad off, just that they perceive that they are. of course the entire panoply of teevee, billboards, and flashy cars works to make people feel like losers, a veritable witches brew of festering bile and discontent (apologies to the witches).

    yup, once you are down in it, it’s hard to separate what is human nature, and what’s artificial garbage caused by our alienating living conditions. i am still intellectually puzzled by the question of violence, if it is a part of our nature, if it is sometimes acceptable, or not. i would think that in a group, where all depend on each other, the inter-dependency would tend to squelch nascent tyrants.

    i’ll tell you one thing though, what’s so horrible about violence against the helpless (children or otherwise) is that they are hurt by the very people they look to for protection, it’s an ugly thing, tends to produce unbalanced individuals, and insane societies.

    • kulturcritic says:

      I have a 3.5 year old boy, Red; I am 60 now… and I do not know how anyone survives this… I am just hanging on by my teeth. kC

    • javacat says:

      This is a powerfully honest post.
      The last paragraph caught me: the shock of betrayal on top of the hurt and abuse. What does that knowledge do to the abuser and the abused?

      • derekthered says:

        anxiety attacks, night terrors, what do they call it? attachment disorder, pretty much the whole gamut of behavioral problems. people talk about “forgiveness”, when really it’s just a question of damage control. a prolonged period of normalcy is the best medicine, unlearning the behavior. but enough about me, what about me?
        this is what our world will go thru when it all breaks down, same as the individual, outbreaks of craziness, because when you’ve been crazy normal seems strange.

      • derekthered says:

        upon further reflection i would add something more direct, then i want to close the subject. all you can do is apologize, there are no do-overs, no going back, all anyone can do is deal with the present, the past is gone, the future does not yet exist. the curse of linear thinking can play games with your mind. many people are trapped by circumstance, you must do the best that you can. i decided what i wanted to be and pursued it, when you have been in these dysfunctional situations eventually you get so sick of it, and who you are, that you decide to change. it’s called hitting bottom.

        it’s not about me. i read fear in so many people, today the cashier at the local food mart was so nervous he made the wrong change, i smiled, looked right in his eye and gently explained his error; i was glad that i could make him smile, probably his first day on the job, the error was in my favor; these poor minimum wage cashiers are responsible for shortages. there’s lots of people under stress in today’s world, when things get even tighter understanding people and counselors will be needed, in droves.

        one of the things we can do is psychologically prepare ourselves, and attempt to understand the effect this society has had on people. i’m glad i have suffered, it makes me more able to empathize with the suffering. it’s really tough on these young kids, college costs are insane, and they read the news about the dearth of jobs and career opportunities. gonna be a bunch of hurting people out there.

  9. javacat says:

    Wow. There’s a lot here, and much I’d like to respond to.

    One quick thought for now: As distinction-making and distinction-dissolving competencies were forcibly separated and differentially valued, did the status of males and females within a culture, within a society under a parallel change?

    Today, at least, we more often view the rational/analytical as a more male attribute and the bringing together/collaborative social as a female attribute. This would certainly lend itselt to a greater separation of the sexes–the world at large for the men, and the home for the women–accompanied by shifts in power and respect and perceptions of the value of each groups ‘contribution’ to society. It’s an easy leap to (male-dominated) corporate hierarchies, religious structures, and politics. And, if the femae aspect is not valued, how much easier is it to limit, control, and abuse?

    • derekthered says:

      the whole subject of male/female is fraught with snares and pits. in a hunter gatherer society perhaps the men were the hunters (although Jean Auel and Ayla might have something to say about that), but then maybe not. anyone who has viewed “Haywire” with Gina Carano, World MMA Champion, who did all her own stunts, had better think twice about helpless females, she kicks butt, and looks great in an evening dress.

      yes, brute force can dominate, but you can never control people’s minds, not completely, you might cow them down, mess with their minds, but hopefully in the end they will rebel.

      men probably began dominating women as a genetic strategy, to insure the continuance of their own genes, then hierarchy came along and institutionalized it, and not just power over women, but over other people. it’s important to remember that it’s some men who lord it over others, and then others learn by example, women too can get caught up in the power play, the whole thing snowballs.

      • javacat says:

        Snares and pits, exceptions and examples, for sure, and if one stays within the dominant culture, then the only way to get ahead is to play by its rules. Hence female power suits in business. There are more differences within a group (gender, race, etc.) than between. That said, while I’m not indicting an whole gender, I think that there are tendencies and trends.

        Brute force is one kind of power and may remain an original base. It instills control beyond the physical, affecting perception and interpretation of experience. Brute force, or its threat, need be used only a few times before the knowledge of it infiltrates the victim, and is no longer needed. Extending that idea, as different kinds of forces–physical, emotional, political, religious–are layered, generation after generation, we no longer consciously realize that there was another way of being. Some part of us remains aware, I think, but tapping into that knowledge can be an elusive effort.

        • derekthered says:

          yup, yup, and yup. brings to mind O’Brien in 1984 and the Principles of IngSoc (going by memory here) where he says that the proles will have no way of voicing their discontent, but just an inchoate feeling of things being not quite right.
          i know what i would miss most about industrial civilization, coffee and cigarettes, plain and simple, though neither one is good for anybody……..
          like animals who have been caged for a long time and are afraid to step out of the cage, or as Red said in Shawshank, institutionalized.

        • Ivy Mike says:

          …different kinds of forces…are layered…

          I concur. Let’s look at it from the viewpoint of one of my lovely Scottish Highland heifers.

          Layer 1: Brutal invasion (Stannard, 1997) of North America by beef and wheat culture. (Manning 2005, Diamond, 1997)
          Layer 2: Property rights laws.
          Layer 3: Sheriff with guns.
          Layer 4: Electric fence.
          Layer 5: Dependency on farmer for hay bales in the winter, and changing pastures when grass is growing (They love my hay and when I switch the fence gates!)
          Layer 6: Dependency on water source. (They love my breaking the ice!)
          Layer 7: Domestication into docility by culling the “rebellious.” (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

    • derekthered says:

      i can’t tell you how many times i have responded to my kid’s and other people’s problems analytically, immediately jumping to the “solution”, when all they want is some empathy, some attention, and a hug. lot’s of times all people need is companionship and a sounding board, they are perfectly capable of solving their own puzzles.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Interesting reflection on male-female, Java

  10. northsheep says:

    I see the need to inject a cautionary note into this discussion. It is easy to make and agree on a critique of civilization. After all, there exists by now a vast and impressive literature on the subject to draw on. But attempts to imagine and live alternatives draw on a historical record that is thin. We know little of the culture of the Paleolithic, which has left few traces. The anthropological literature (I was trained in social anthropology) of contemporary foraging cultures is itself a variety of interpretations by human products of civilization (anthropologists) of foraging groups who are often themselves battered/protected by civilization. Hence attempts to describe alternatives are prone to idealization (Garden of Eden thinking) and flowery philosophical language which, shorn of concreteness, tends to abstractions that are difficult to interpret.

    An example of the Garden of Eden thinking in environmentalism is the Sierra Club notion of pristine wilderness. But primitivists often describe foraging societies in the same way, as if they were/are floating through their environments, simply adapting, not changing anything. From modern evolutionary biology and systems ecology we know differently. All species, including humans, not only adapt, but construct and manage their environments. Environments encircle something, so it makes no sense to speak of environments without the organism(s) they surround. Instead, it conforms more to reality to see organisms and environments as existing in a feedback loop, a spiral over time of each influencing the other. The book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles Mann contains a nice summary of the extensive management of North American ecosystems by indigenous peoples, including purely foraging societies.

    What I am getting at is the question: How are we to understand the world and its dynamics? Bram proposes a balance between distinction-making and distinction-dissolving methods. But in much of the primitivist literature only the latter is valued. There is an implicit, and sometimes explicit, rejection not only of all scientific methods, but of the very sort of language we use to discuss these issues here. This implies that intuition and experiential knowledge are alone of value. Does that mean it is counter productive to be peering into cells, ecosystems, and societies to ask what makes them tick?

    In part this is a response to Sandy’s “we once had territories, environments, in other words, full plenums of non-reductionist relations.” How do we understand the latter? They are not just “environments”, are they?

    • Mushin says:

      Most anthropological comments of aboriginal peoples such as North American Indians is written by western curriculum ethnographers as observers using approximated statistics of data to make correlations and inferences in the culture. Your reference to 1491: New Revelations Before Columbus by Mann makes the point that the oral languaging of sustainable cultures for 25,000 years are reduced to statistic data in comparing aboriginal peoples to so called civilized peoples. The example of how in European culture metal was used for war while in aboriginal Native peoples for adornment.

      Since 2004 I have been engaging with the Lakota Native Scientific Oral Life Way that is at least 25,000 years old and the blood line is still intact today while codification of language is into other languages is in its infancy. What I see missing is a collaborative clearing for learning for our mutual liberation where their languaging is validated in western curriculum anthropological archaeology as a living languaging not dead symbols. This is especially interesting in regards to systems thinking and the notion that human perceptions are linguistic such as colors, forms and content. It appears to me as an “a” rational animal that these oral languaging peoples may have some old view points worthy of further collaborative learning?

      “The Lakota Paradigm” by Jhon Goes In Center who is a western scientist as well makes the relevant point in a 10 minute presentation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nysi8S8R1Uo Maybe part of the answer is “we once had oral languaging rather than contract politicians who lie!

      The dignity, beauty and adornment quality of oral languaging is lost in translation in my assessment and good place to regain our feral roots of kinship.
      Thanks

    • kulturcritic says:

      Karl

      Thank you for such a thoughtful response to my poeticizing. One thing we do know fairly well (and yes the results are precisely a product of hyper-analytical thinking) is that the genus Homo has been around for at least 2 million years, and Homo sapiens for 200,000 years, and fully modern humans for 40,000 years. We also know that in these relatively egalitarian, kinship based unit (bands, tribes) there was also a dynamic interplay between community and territory (as you suggest); how could there not be? Of course they used and to some extent adjusted their surround. But that interplay was grounded in a psychological and epistemological framework that we can fairly well surmise was different than that what we maneuver with today. Bram calls it a balance between dissolution and fusion of boundaries; that is as good a description as any I have seen. However, there are other ways to qualify it. We hyper-analyticals do our best to separate and segregate all we can, and yet, never are satisfied with the results. So be it. I will stick with Bram’s language right now. You speak of organisims and environments, as if the two “things” were indeed separate entities, magically brought together by our systems-thinking them together. They are not! We need to imagine back, beyond the “cut” that established these two things – Thing One and Thing Two (Dr. Seuss) – back to the more primal experience of co-inherence or intertwining, or being-with, the pre-concious intentionality of the body. (I would ask you to read Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances; and then read Maurice Merleau Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible. There is something deathly wrong with distinction drawing by itself… death by 1,000 cuts, by analysis! Imagination is what we need in order to fight off that enemy and relearn participation and fusion. I again state that systems thinking is a pure product of post-distintion-making thought, attempting after the fact to reconnect the dots it had so successfully created. It is a nice way of “imagining” the world… reintegrated, and working clockwork as divinity intended (St Thomas, et al). But, it is as I said, an 11th hour attempt to square the circle by taking all the pieces built-by-syllogism, and then layering them to make a whole cake. You need as well to relax the death-grip that analysis has on you, and allow yourself the simple play of fusion, of participation. We all know you are a great analyst, now show us your living soul! Faithfully, Sandy, kC

    • Ivy Mike says:

      We know little of the culture of the Paleolithic, which has left few traces.

      We know plenty by observation of other social animals, mammals in particular, wolves specifically.

      “The closest approximation to human morality we can find in nature is that of the gray wolf, Canis lupus.”[1]

      Savages (natural human dwellers of the forest) familiar with wolves agree. So do the civilized.

      “Newly arrived Protestant ministers drew between the savage paganism of the Indian and the wolf.” [2]

      Consider the ravens. ~some long-haired Greek-Cynic street preacher who got the death sentence for questioning the curriculum, circa A.D. 30, verse 40, chapter 4, The Jefferson Bible
      _______
      [1] Wolfgang M. Schleidt & Michael D. Shalter (2003) Co-evolution of Humans and Canids, An Alternative View of Dog Domestication: Homo Homini? Evolution and Cognition. Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 57-72.
      [2] Barry Lopez (1978) Of Wolves and Men. Scribners. p. 170.

      • derekthered says:

        much of the discussion here seems to be about regression, especially when comparing humans to animals, we’re different, we’re the smartest so far, that we know about, a greater degree of self-awareness; although, you’ve got to wonder, there are some pretty smart critters out there, who knows? saw a show about whalesongs, certain species sing all together, maybe an oral history, just saying; but the impressive part? they can hear each other over the entire Pacific basin, righteous stuff.

        i propose that we have a tendency for abstraction, you could just as well point the finger at writing, the mere creation of symbolism, as one prime driver of the development of all human society, and let’s not forget Moses, Hammurabi, and their codes.

        i understand that if a tree falls in the wood there are air vibrations, but not sound, because naming something is our word for it, really an abstraction; maybe wolves have their own word, dunno, not like I’m the Once and Future King. no matter if any creature has a word for it, it still is, and if we amuse ourselves to death, eventually nature will run it’s course.

        what’s weird? if you want to really go totally organic? we know too much, in the back of everyone’s mind? Mr. Sun will go Red Giant, the only way our species will survive for Billennia? space travel, but it’s not gonna happen if we can’t figure out the alphabet.
        looks like some of our greatest strengths as a species could be our Nemesis, make a great movie, yeah that’s it, I’m a Movie Producer……………..i

        but we are where we are, the smart money is gettin’ out of town, somewhere remote.

      • kulturcritic says:

        We also know quite alot about the Paleolithic!

  11. Geran Wales says:

    Sandy, do you know John McCumber’s book Metaphysics and Oppression? It uses a Heidggerian methodology to trace the development of the West’s cultural institutions. An excellent book on the history of philosophy.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Thanks, Geran. No, I was not familiar with the book. I will check it out. You know, Heidegger gets alot of flack for his apparently warm embrace of the Nazi regime; but he still has much to offer us on this road to perdition.

  12. John Bollig says:

    The major issue is that the ritual violence against women and children is the
    Western curricula.

  13. malthu says:

    In the words of firesign theater, we are all bozos on this bus. Just thought I would throw that bit of wisdom in. Have a good day every one.

  14. Ivy Mike says:

    This was a good laugh; the new headline should be Chinese Communist Mandates Capitalist Curriculum-of-the-West to Ensure Docility.

    China tightens concert rules after Elton John’s ‘disrespectful’ Beijing show
    Officials considered ban on foreign artists without university degrees, after star dedicated gig to Ai Weiwei, say sources
    byTania Branigan in Beijing
    The Guardian, Sunday 10 February 2013

  15. derekthered says:

    what i’m talkin’ bout
    http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/02/13/earth-buzzing-asteroid-worth-195-billion/
    i’m not any sort of space biologist, but wasn’t “The Andromeda Strain” about a space borne disease?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Andromeda_Strain
    sure, haul that rock back down here, christ.

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