Archive for the ‘ Sociology ’ Category

The State of the People

What people? You might ask – and I might answer “The American People!” But I wouldn’t say that, because it would make me look stupid.

Everyone knows the American People are no longer, and have not been for some time. And anyone who speaks of them, is a shameless politician, out to get our vote.

Sensible Americans are now out for themselves – at the expense of everyone else. But they will not come right out and say so. This has to be deduced from their actions.

And their actions, frankly, are ambiguous. They miss having a national identity – but they don’t see any way of getting it back.

They live in a global economy, tied together by a global TV, and a global Internet – with no way of controlling this.

They live in a world that is controlling them – not in a world that they are controlling. And this trend has been developing for some time – as our machinery has become more powerful and better connected. With a quantum jump in the Fifties with TV, and then the Computer.

This is such an impossible situation – we cannot accept it. But scream at the top of our lungs “No, No, No!” And refuse to support such a world.

But this world does not need the support of most of people in it – it can get along nicely without them. Note that I said most of the people – who are useless in the Computer world.

These people will continue to exist, and continue go to their shopping centers – but will also feel less and less important, and get less and less money – because they will be less and less important!

The stage is set for lots of social instability.

The Appeal of Destructive Behavior

The appeal of destructive behavior is built into the Human species – and manifests itself most readily in war.

Usually, this behavior is referred to, in the abstract – as violence.But I prefer the more general word – destructive. We can see this most readily during times in the past, when groups of people destroyed each other – and themselves. They were possessed by a destructive frenzy.

We have to ask ourselves “What precipitates this destructive frenzy?” In our times, it seems to be – unconscious dissatisfaction with the present situation, coupled with the inability to understand it.

People become unhappy with the way their world is treating them – but are not allowed to consciously experience this – so it gets shoved into their unconscious. Where it festers, until it explodes.

Our first learning experience is as small children – most of what we learn, we learn in the first three years of our lives – and probably even before we are born. The fetus knows very well, the attitude of its mother to it.

If a small child is treated badly, what can he (or she) do about it? This is a huge decision, and everything depends on it. He will try to adopt other people’s solutions.- which usually, is to deny the problem exists – and, as part of this solution, move it into their unconscious. The rest of his life, he will live with this time-bomb buried in his mind.

If we are rejected, we adopt different personalities, that will be accepted – but we never feel satisfied with them – and social instability builds up.

The only solution is a complete restructuring of society – which is going on right now, with a move towards a Software economy. Whether this will save us, or not – remains to be seen.

The Bosses at Sheaffer Pen

I grew up in Ft. Madison, Iowa – a typical Midwestern Industrial town in the late Forties and early Fifties – with the Santa Fe Railroad in the West End of town – and the Sheaffer Pen Company in the East End of town. There is nothing in Ft. Madison now, and its buildings stand vacant.

But I want to talk about back then – from information I have to piece together myself, since no one else wants to talk about that time.

Sheaffer Pen was formed – to capitalize on a new invention – the Fountain Pen.You could fill the pen with ink, using a collapsible bladder, and write with it for a long time, before you had to refill it again. Everyone had to have one, and a factory was build to manufacture them.

And a new social organization was utilized to do this – the Bosses, that ran the plant.

The workers did Piece Work – they made a piece of the Pen. These workers did routine work, the same thing, over and over – supervised by a Boss – later to be called a Manager. The Bosses were organized in a hierarchical manner – and everyone knew the importance of each Boss.

Two things appeared at the same time – Piece Work and the Bosses – and the Corporate Culture that accepted this as inevitable. Workers were not to think on their own – someone else would do that for them.They just showed up for work – and were shown what to do.

They functioned as robots, in effect, easily trained and – after a Century of Labor Bargaining – were decently paid.

The factories are now gone, but the hierarchical management system still exists. Although it is being challenged as inefficient, compared to Computer-Controlled systems.

The people that write the software that controls these systems – do have to think, and think very accurately. For which, they are very well paid.

People Smarts is being replace by Software Smarts – called Artificial Intelligence – or AI.

Out of Touch with Reality

I am sometimes this way myself – who isn’t? But I try to not get too far out of touch. I am a firm believer in Reality, and I worry about people who are not in touch with it.

I had a strong taste of this, when I was married for five years. Beth was out of touch, and could not be helped with her problem. She seemed to think her reality was better than the real one – that she was not interested in at all.

Since I insisted on staying real – she kicked me out of her life – no doubt thinking that this solved her problem. It did not, and four years later, she killed herself.

Her situation was typical, she was in deep pain – but not aware of this. When people are this way, their behavior is erratic – they will do anything to relieve their pain – trying one thing after another – but none of them work.

No one can tell them “You are crazy!”Even though they certainly are. All we can do is watch, while their condition worsens.

This also applies to groups of people. They can go crazy also – completely crazy, and self-destruct. This has happened many times in the past – and is happening now, in many places.

Visual vs Audible

This distinction was made by Marshall McLuhan – a strange genius that made a big impact back in the Sixties, but has since been forgotten.

As I recall, he posited that we started as auditory beings, talking to each other. With the advent of written language, we changed enormously – and became Civilized, living in large communities. Capable of great good or great evil – often mixed in together.

This makes perfect sense to me – and I have added to it my own observation, that in the 19th Century, all this Development got out of hand. This, I have to say, is my own observation, and has not become popular – because it puts much of what happened from the middle of the 19th Century to the middle of the 20th Century  in an unfavorable light. When we like to put these times in a favorable light.

These troubles began with the American Civil War, WWI, the Depression, WWII – and the Holocaust.

It seems to me that one of the reasons for these problems, was our reliance on visual thinking – when much of our social interaction remains audible. The Nazis, for example, were audible thinkers. As is Trump.

We need both, as I can see easily where I now live, in Costa Rica – in Latin America. The people here are friendly toward other people – a huge contrast to North America, where they are not. But they are not familiar with the concepts of Objective Time and Space – and remain in Subjective Time and Space. And remain poor.

North America remains rich – but these riches are endangered by a social collapse – which is caused, in part, by trying to use visual processes to cope with auditory problems.

This is easily seen in our laws – that keep getting longer (hundreds of pages long) – and less effective. Written laws cannot cope with auditory problems.

Back in the Sixties, I knew a guy who worked for the Congressional Printing Office – that printed the Congressional Record. He and his fellow-workers used to get some good laughs out of the stuff they had to print.

The most important result of our collective audible thinking is our decision  to be either constructive or destructive. This is the fundamental attitude on which everything else depends. Right now, we are self-destructive.

As I am writing this, I am also watching a video Barney Frank and Paul Krugman on Financial Reform. A video, with its subtitles, is both visual and audible – and can be watched anywhere.

This is also true of MOOCs and Webinars – that combine the technology of Television and the Computer, and usually try to make technical and social changes.

Will these powerful new technologies save our ass? No, because the mass of the people are not interested in, and not affected by them.

A social (and economic) collapse with the election of Trump is happening – and is necessary to get rid of the dysfunctional behavior we have become stuck in.

Hopefully, this collapse will not go too far – because recovery from a deep collapse, such as the Fall of the Roman Empire – took  a thousand years. This one will take at least 20 years, however – for a new generation to become disillusioned, and to try some new ideas.

The Human Mind

This continues to fascinate and baffle me – as it should. I am alarmed by the many people who are not interested in it at all. How can they not be interested in themselves?

The answer seems to be, that they are interested in something derived from the mind – but is no longer human itself. Words fail me here, what on earth am I talking about?

We have no words for this – but can easily see it in action, in the way people treat each other. Perhaps a story would help.

I was married to a beautiful, intelligent – but crazy young woman, back in the Sixties. I was working for the Army, at the time – helping to develop its version of the Atomic Bomb. We decided that she should work also – so I got her a job working for the same place.

The first morning she went to work, I got an emergency call from her supervisor – asking me to came at once, because she was upsetting the office – with her strange behavior. She had freaked out – because the office atmosphere was more than she could handle, emotionally.

She could tell, instinctively, what an office was really like – a cruel, inhuman place, and she wanted no part of it.

Most people have no problem with this – and fit into an office easily. Their minds have been altered, so they are no longer human minds. But are the something else, I am trying to describe.

These people hate people – although the word people refers to something different in their minds. It may refer to a member of the opposite sex, a different religion, or a different race. Anyone who is perceived as different, in some way.

They become destructive – because they see the world around them as different from themselves.

Our Big Problem Now

Back when I was working in Silicon Valley, in the Nineties – I had many therapists. They have every kind imaginable there – the demand is so immense – with a new kind being invented every week.

But they all talked around the Big Problem – as if it didn’t exist! I was reduced to asking myself – if I was crazy, or they were?

I won’t keep you guessing, but lay it right on you:

Most people are not able to be themselves. To put this slightly differently – they have, and are continuing, to self-destruct.

They can be themselves in small ways, but not in big ways. When they get close to the boundary between the small and the big – their defense mechanism kicks in, and can produce some shocking results, that are sometimes fatal to themselves, or others.

And therapists, who should be helping them with this – will not. They think they will be squashed like a bug, or some other terrible thing, if they do. They won’t be, they will simply be ignored – and lose their social standing. But they fear that worse than death.

In short – people are scared, and scared to death.

How did this terrible fear develop? What made society more powerful than the individual?

First of all, when did this happen? That is a question we can answer with some certainty – in the middle of the 19th Century. When Industrialization matured. This produced both good and bad results – but made organizations, particularly the Railroads, very powerful. And individuals, by comparison, less powerful. The result was WWI – where Industrial Power made itself felt, for the first time.

People, at the time, knew nothing of Industrial Power – they just went to their deaths in massive numbers. And accomplished nothing by their dying. This set the pattern for the next Fifty years – WWI, the Depression, and WWII – all one continuous event. From which people learned little – but did learn that war was profitable. And continued it with the Cold War – from which, I profited personally, as an Electronic Engineer, specializing in Radar.

This is when the Organization Man was born. This type of person needed only one skill – the ability to climb the organizational ladder, using whatever means – fair or foul.

He was not afraid of being big – instead, he identified with it, and became bigness itself.