BUILDING A WISE SOCIAL PARADIGM
© 2015, Dr. M. Lynn Lamoreux
A Work in Progress: If you have a question or comment, or if you find something that needs to be referenced or defined or linked, and is not so indicated, please let me know.
I hope the colors come through onto the FFF page. (oh, yuck, they didn’t, ask me for a pdf if you want to see it as envisioned. If you wait until tomorrow it will have pictures.
Words in green, to be defined. In red, provide reference, In blue, provide link
Fingers and toes stiff with cold, I sit in a cabin in a canyon, trying to squeeze enough energy out of my little solar system to operate a computer. Outside, cedar and pine softly sigh as the canyon breathes gently in the energy of the sunrise that finally bestows its welcome heat and light upon my desk. I watch as bubble after bubble forms at the bottom of a glass of cold water that is sitting in the sunlight.
The sun shines everywhere . . . (even) to the ravines and valleys of the mountains and streams.*
I step outside to warm myself.
Any person who believes that she has the right answers, doesn’t.
No person is God, and whatever it is that gives me these insights first thing in the morning when I wake up – that also is not God. Neither is any human knowledge or insight, because the human brain is not physically big enough to encompass the whole reality of God. Unless possibly God is using this vehicle of the Biosystem to implement Its vision/mission.
Because of our ignorance relative to the mind of God, it is critically important for humans to acknowledge the wisdom of age. Wise elders know they are not Gods (consider the Dalai Lama). Wise elders understand human limitations among the powers that generate our environments. And some wise elders can teach us to ask wise questions. Actually, everyone can contribute to the human process of generating wisdom, both individual and communal wisdom, because dumb questions are almost always as helpful in this process as are wise ones. That’s a good thing, because extremely few human young are wise.
In India, I understand, the custom is or was (Joseph Campbell) for sages to answer or ask questions for discussion and consideration. In the North American Onandaga (Oren Lyons) it is or was the custom for the wise women to select the chiefs (who could be removed for cause) and the chiefs to discuss tribal concerns in terms of what is best for the whole community unto the seventh generation. (I have heard that the Dalai Lama considers 700 generations as part of our communal obligations.)
In the corposystem, whoever is more powerful decides all the answers, usually before the questions have been raised. The corposystem will cite “Evolution,” which it defines as “survival of the fittest,” as its authority to behave in this fashion. However, the corposystem fails to define “fitness” in its claim to authority, and in any case, survival of the fittest is NOT how the “Law of Life” functions to maintain the Biosystem, though the corposystem has unfortunately trained us (both the “good guys” and the “bad guys” – that means you, whoever you are in our western culture) to believe that survival of the “fittest” is how the world works.
It’s not. It may be how the corposystem functions; it is not how the world works, or even the universe for you who prefer to study physics rather than the more complex and, therefore more confusing and interesting,world of Biology.
Unfortunately, in our culture, because we do understand the corposystem quite well, we believe in survival of the fittest as re-interpreted by the corposystem, and we use that meme to define evolution, which is not the same thing. At least not unless we can define fitness, and that would require us to study the Law of Life.
But we don’t study the real Law of Life because we believe we already know.
This unexamined assumption seems to be so engrained in the world view of both the “good guys” and the “bad guys” that I believe it to be the fatal flaw of our corposystem culture. For more information, I recommend “Powers of the Weak” relative to human power, and I recommend my chapter on the Law of Life, relative to Biosystem power.
1 – In short, if we decide to sustain ourselves within the only home that we have, we require a different paradigm, and the new paradigm must conform our human power to the Law of Life. Or, if we can’t do that, then we must define fitness in a way that conforms to the welfare of the Biosystem and to the human wisdom that is available.
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Wisdom fact-checks everything it knows – even its own insights. In my generation we tried to embed that bit of wisdom into the rule of law of the corposystem (Precautionary Principle) but the corposystem refused to ask the right questions because the answers to these questions would interfere with profits, and the defined primary purpose of every corporation and even the UN is to behave in ways that generate the power of money.
2- The second task of our new paradigm, therefore, must be to define our new human paradigm around a more sustainable human quality than money. Perhaps wisdom?
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Wisdom seems to be a creation of the human mind, and the human mind is just another system (all of LIFE is built around nested systems) that functions as do all systems by generating links, in this case among bits of biochemically encoded information, including knowledge, inborn (inherited) instincts and the world view that is given to us by our environment.
The human mind grows, during our lifetimes, more wise (if conditions permit it) using different ideas, understandings and facts that are in the conscious mind, and in our instincts and memories as well, making a web of cross-connections, as is true in any naturally evolved system (Law of Life: Levels of Organization, Systems). When questions are asked or the when some problem is confronted, the ideas, understandings and facts make cross-connections that generate a whole Worldview that is greater than and different from all the inputs added together. All world views are rational within the environment many world views are not wise, perhaps if the environment changes or our education is flawed relative to the current environment. Because no two environmental experiences are the same, therefore no two world views are identical, and, as Joseph Campbell has said, (get accurate quote, the mind can run on to flights of fancy)
I believe this self-sustaining mental system is the probable source of mysticism, religion, and the answers to questions asked, and the insights that I get in the morning after a night of dreaming. In other words, I believe these various kinds of “aha” experiences are very likely emergent properties of our brain system. Therefore our wisdom or lack of wisdom, especially in humans, is dependent on our education, and is very firmly attached to our rational world view, because without a rational world view we cannot sustain our “self.”
However, we are human, not the Biosystem, and we cannot impose our human emergent insights upon the system of LIFE, because LIFE is bigger, stronger and has a lot more systemic interactions than we have, and it doesn’t care what we think (as other humans actually do, regardless of what they may say). The Biosystem ignores our desires and opinions; it only follows its own Rule of LIFE.
In other words, whenever we believe ourselves to be omniscient or omnipotent, we are not being wise or realistic. Wisdom is not big-headed, it is not power unless it is put to use within an appropriate environment. Wisdom is well- informed, and does relate itself to our (changing) environment, but it is not useful to the community unless we-the-community agree TOGETHER to use it.
Individual wisdom is an emergent quality or characteristic of one individual, but communal wisdom can emerge at a higher level if the individuals involved remain connected by useful discussion or questions or education. Communal wisdom links the qualities that are available within the whole community by the asking and answering of questions (and their discussion) until the entire community becomes wise at a higher level (or not), and perhaps that is the definition of “fitness” – an emergent property of the community as a whole that is necessary for our survival within the Biosystem.
The corposystem, to the contrary, imagines itself to be fit because it was temporarily strong within the environment in which resources were plentiful. When the environment changes, if our wisdom is not up to the task, then we become no longer fit. This is now happening.
3- Thus the third characteristic that must be considered in building our new paradigm is a broad one – education in all its forms – and it must be guided by both the Law of Life, which IS our higher power, and those human instincts upon which we want to base our new human social paradigm, to replace the unsustainable themes of the corposystem, power, growth and money.
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We-the-system only can work with what’s already in our system or available in the environment, so it’s very important that our wisdom must be fact-checked and/or tested by experience, preferably the experiences of many individuals over long periods of time (history), and/or by the scientific method (which is basically the same thing, codified). And it is also true that human wisdom cannot be omniscient because, for the most simple reason, we don’t have enough neural connections, even as communities, to understand all the connections of all the universe. Much less described the links. And certainly not to know the future, except in terms of the past and present.
How does this relate to the Law of Life (that is, to the natural processes that generate time and change)?
My first answer would be to recognize how those processes work as it has been shown by our fact-base, which is provided by science and history. That is, to apply factual/experiential questions to the basic root processes of nature that we cannot change, that created humans in the first place. To do that, I must have in my head an understanding of those processes. Then at that point I ask the questions, I ask them via science and history and of LIFE and whatever else is knowable and relevant.
4- Our fourth task must be to develop a reliable fact base list-for-discussion of things we cannot do even though we can imagine them. Our fact base will change a bit as the environment changes, but at this time the number one criterion must be to avoid further overpopulation of humans because overpopulation is likely destroy any chance we have of building a sustainable new paradigm.
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What happens during overpopulation events? Because there is no doubt we are experiencing an overpopulation event, and no rational person who understands simple math can deny that is a fact. I answer this question as it has been observed and recorded by science and history. Very briefly, among other things, the social network/system/interactions break down. This is happening to us now.
For many decades I have asked the question: why are we knowingly colluding in our own destruction, in the face of all the scientific knowledge and the history and wisdom that all proclaim clearly that we are using our technologieal power to destroy ourselves, at a time when we have already available the technological power to save ourselves?
I can answer in many ways, but it’s important to say that our overpopulation would not have happened in a stable society that had maintained respect for science and for its own wisdom, and of course that answer brings us to question education. But education, also part of the social system, also breaks down in overpopulation events.
And then I think about human youth. Especially human youth in overpopulation events. They lack both wisdom and history (especially in our culture that is intentionally erasing these things). They believe themselves to be right (or wrong) by the criteria of their own immature world view, without accessing other wisdoms, and so they set about to “fix” things all over again in the same ways that didn’t work the last time we tried. This is probably an evolved advantage to the species, because wisdom can be very set-in-stone and relate to a historic environmental reality. When the environment moves toward change, then new ideas are imported into the system by the young. But, as in all things natural, sustainability lies in maintaining the balance, and as a culture in this paradigm we are not even trying to do that. The young are simply doing more and harder what is required by the old corposystem paradigm that is based in power and money obtained through growth. That paradigm is what caused our current difficulties, so I say (over and over and over —) — it won’t work. But there are so many young that the elders cannot be heard above the fray.
With overpopulation comes a vast breakdown in (among other things) the balance (without balance within the Law of Life, remember there is no hope for sustainability) between wisdom and the “right/wrong” worldviews of youth. Another thing that happens with overpopulation is a breakdown in the balance of power to make things happen, because in spite of the corposystem denial, true power lies more in numbers and in behaviors than in money (or wisdom).
Therefore, rather than the elder explaining why this way doesn’t work, and how we have tried it this way so many times through the millennia and eons, and what we can determine of the expected results using computers and good data and science and the precautionary principle – in spite of all this, the cycle merely repeats and repeats, because the youth can’t hear. They are determined to learn by their own experience, and human experiences include a component of instinct that is biochemically encoded in the body and therefore does not change in response to elder wisdom.
Even progress (if any) is not either/or, good/bad. It’s a cycle in time, which is to say, spiral, and it depends NOT upon what we do to change anything now, but primarily on how our behaviors change the environment in which the next generation grows its own world view.
And that is how overpopulation leads to cultural breakdown. NO MATTER WHAT YOU TRY SO HARD TO DO TO STOP IT. The balance is lost (in the human situation) between wisdom and the forces of of change.
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While I was writing the above, Bitsy worked out the main part of the trail the packrats use to get into the cabin. Bitsy and I sent them packing last year, and the wise adults remembered that experience. But, as always, this year’s youth are taking the risks, exploring new territories and increasing the population in the cabin, even in the face of the inevitable outcome. Bitsy is now outside following the trail the other way. Pack rats are not as smart as humans, but they are very fast, so she may not get them.
Humans can think about the trap we have fallen into, and think about the difference between a planned, co-existence within the Biosystem, and our accelerating corposystem battle against the Biosystem, that results in massive suffering, if only we are wise enough to make that choice. If we do choose, that will be evolutionary history; but it cannot be done by working within the corposystem paradigm. Quite a few groups are trying, but it’s too late. It won’t work fast enough to prevent incredible overpopulation and massive acceleration of the violence required to maintain the corposystem growth paradigm. We humans have run out of eons in which to make up our minds whether we would rather have a struggle for fame, fortune and human power, or a reasonably comfortable and peaceful new social paradigm that is sustainable unto the seventh generation. Or the seven hundredth.
If we want to IMPLEMENT a new paradigm, the necessary first step is to reduce our population to a level that is sustainable, and proceed now to do this in a compassionate way before the war arm of the corposystem ratchets up to a level of conflict that we cannot survive. Because saving all human cells is impossible in any case, and if it were possible it would ONLY INCREASE OUR COMMUNAL LEVEL OF SUFFERING.
If we continue to refuse the option of reducing our numbers, then the Law of Life will do it for us – already is. We will find the BIOSYSTEM solution a good deal more painful than asking well defined questions, based in science and history and the wisdom traditions, discussing the answers, and working together as only humans can to transform our intelligence into action. These are our strengths – right now we are riding our weaknesses into oblivion. But all the wisdom and intelligence and technology in the world is only play-time in the absence of behaviors that impact the Law of Life. As far as the Law is concerned, not deciding is the same as deciding to not.
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And while we were having fun thinking, the migrating hummingbirds have come back to the canyon today, and some kind of flycatcher bird is building its nest in the gable of our cabin. The sunpower charged up both my laptops, and now the sun is setting, the cold air flowing up the other side of the canyon, and I pull on a couple of layers of sweaters. And Bitsy ALMOST caught her prey — right before my eyes!!! Not a packrat. It’s a squirrel, living under the house, a ground squirrel, probably the same one I saved from drowning in the water tank last year. And it reminded me pack rats can carry Chagas disease; Peromyscus mice, Hanta virus; ground squirrels, the black plague.
Instinct is not an option, knowledge is useful; wisdom is a choice.
(*Paraphrase from Lotus Sutra. I think there is something like this in the New Testament and the original Bible. And the Lotus Sutra sounds to this basic biologist a lot like the concept of emergent properties.)