So, how would people actually live in a mature culture? As an aside, one of the disadvantages of digressions (my last few posts) is that I forget where I was. My current blog contributions are also complicated by a lot of traveling during the summer. So some will be short, others longer. In addition, in the next few posts, I will always end with “Your thoughts?” as a way to encourage your own ideas as to how we could live.
In my work with anger management, I have always maintained that there are two important considerations:
- we are emotional beings, and
- we can have clarity — it’s optional.
We are pain avoiders — that is almost the definition of biology (all of life moves towards pleasure, and away from pain). In this, we are driven by our emotional needs and our other-than-conscious needs, and we have great difficulty overcoming these needs so as to have clarity of options. We are thus frequently in internal conflict with ourselves; we are frequently in external conflict with others, especially in regards to the needs of the individual versus the needs of the group; and we have great difficulty with conflict (for most people, it is filled with pain).
And for literally millions of years, we have been hunter-gatherers, and it is only in the past few thousands of years that we have shifted to civilization, gathering in large groups so as to take advantage collective action. It is only in the past few hundred years that we have become technological. Who we are as human beings is determined by the millions of years, not the superficial gloss of the recent past. And if we are to be at peace with our world, we must live into who we are, not who we think we should be.
I’m currently re-reading Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon. Stapledon was described as the greatest mythologist in science fiction, deeply influential in that genre; Last and First Men is a three-billion-year history of mankind (in 300 pages!). Stapledon notes in the fiction that it took more than two billion years for man to give up the processes of misunderstanding, self-centeredness and ill-will — definitely a long journey — hopefully we can actually mature faster than this, we need to do so.
So, who are we? In addressing this question, I have been deeply influenced in particular by three books (each one is a fascinating exploration, and I recommend each highly):
- Rupert Ross, Dancing With A Ghost: Exploring Aboriginal Reality
- Ross explores the underlying basic whereby Aboriginal culture of Canada remained largely as hunter-gatherers, and did not become a culture of domination, but rather emphasized non-interference.
- Louis Herman, Future Primal: How Our Wilderness Origins Show Us The Way Forward
- Herman explores the nature of the society of the San Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, our closest living relatives to the original hunter-gatherers. He suggests that they are also the longest surviving direct democracy in the world.
- Andrew Schmookler, The Parable Of The Tribes: The Problem Of Power In Social Evolution
- Schmookler explores how the impact of power dynamics has been the single most important determinant in the development of civilization, eventually leading to the dominator culture of modernity.
Herman, in particular, points out that the original Socratic intention of politics was the search for the good life, attempting to answer (and balance) two primordial questions:
- How shall I live? and
- How shall we all live together?
(This is certainly not how I think of politics today!)
Herman also names four components that bring satisfaction to human activity:
- the pursuit of self-knowledge and personal growth;
- honest, face-to-face discussion that enlarges and qualifies personal understandings;
- communication within small democratic communities of trusted equals; and
- a collective, cooperative weaving together of a big story — a narrative of meaning — that helped the individual find his or her particular place in the ever-expanding shared big picture.
The underlying purpose of my blog is to challenge the human issues that support accelerated climate disruption. I maintain that these issues are the same factors that have created the risks of nuclear holocaust, overpopulation, and other major environmental disasters. So my remarks on a future mature culture are applicable to all this.
To be continued.