January 1, 2011: Reflections on the Philosophical Notions of Republicans
“We Irish think otherwise.” Bishop Berkeley
Political Leanings Revealed by the Eyes
It may be time to take the phrase “political viewpoint” literally. A new study suggests that liberals are more likely than conservatives to follow other people’s eye movements.
People normally respond to “gaze cues,” or the direction that another person is looking, by glancing to see what caught that person’s attention. The new study, to be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, finds that liberals respond much more strongly to such cues than conservatives. The finding is the latest in a series of clues that liberals and conservatives may be subtly different on a biological level, said study researcher Michael Dodd, a psychologist at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
“Across a variety of tasks, we are beginning to find a consistent pattern where conservatives are more responsive to threat/disgust, more responsive to angry faces, and less sensitive to gaze cues than liberals,” Dodd wrote in an e-mail to LiveScience. “Liberals, on the other hand, are proving to be more responsive to positive/appetitive stimuli, more responsive to happy faces, and more sensitive to gazes.” Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience
Reflections on the Philosophical Notions of Republicans
When Chatalhoyuk in Central Turkey was the leading edge of agriculture, metallurgy, ceramics, trade, and art in 5800 BCE, the residents decorated the walls of their rooms as if they were an unconscious recall of Paleolithic caves with their parietal art of animals. When the Renaissance, from Italy to England, was the leading edge of the new culture of international trade, capitalism, poetry and painting, it took backward nostalgia to new heights by quoting not an image but an entire civilization–the classical Graeco-Roman civilization with its mythology, art and literature. When Victorian England was leading the world in the Industrial Revolution, it fell in love with neomedieval art and Arthurian fantasies of knights in shining armor—armor that warriors in the Dark Ages most certainly never wore.
We all recognize that we are living in an era of enormous cultural and technological change. Our children and grandchildren seem mutants to us. They live in a culture of electronic interruptions, have the attention span of humming birds, and move with astonishing speed from text messaging to lap tops and video games, as they play in fantasy virtual worlds and drop into chat rooms at the same time, or do their homework with their earphones on and iPods playing post-industrial noise. Silence for them is a barren and forbidding ice sheet that kills all life as they know it.
The old men and women in government–and this now means people in middle age–live in a very different world. Just as the Renaissance nobility quoted Graeco-Roman civilization, politicians now quote the eighteenth century world of farming, slavery, and communication as slow as a postman on horseback or a letter on a sailing ship. In a world of thermonuclear weapons, electronic, genetic, and nanno technologies, these politicians and commentators celebrate free markets, free enterprise, and small government. They lament the intrusion of Big Government into the private sector. In an age of electronic collectivization, with Patriots Acts and medical technologies now moving into our bodies, they speak of personal freedom.
Freedom to them means having an automatic rifle instead of a police force, a car instead of trains and public transport, smoking cigarettes instead of quitting, obesity and diabetes instead of nutrition, environmental poisoning instead of environmentalism, danger in the work place and toxic products in the stores, and enormous defense budgets instead of government regulation and support for public infrastructures, health and education.
The problem here is that what the Republicans believe in is historically false. Big Government is the economic jet engine that provides liftoff to the whole economy. The Chinese understand this, as do the Japanese, for it was Big Government that fostered the conditions that made them rich in the first place.
And as it was with them, so it was with us. The post office and civil order were the first structures that enabled an economy to come forth in the eighteenth century; in the nineteenth century the infrastructure was the railroads. Big Government appropriated lands, moved Native Americans out of the way with Federal troops, and gave sweet deals to the Vanderbilts, Leland Stanfords, and other robber barons of capitalism that enabled them to become rich.
In the twentieth century, the interstate highway system was paid for by the National Defense Act; this intrusion of Big Government into the private sector, along with the GI Bill, gave us the post-industrial world of the automotive suburbs, shopping malls, and credit cards. The Red Menace of the nineteen-fifties programmed us all to be so afraid of the incompetent commies of Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s China that we spent billions of Big Government money on defense industries. The research and development costs for the military transport airplane served to create the Boeing 707 that became the foundation of the massive global tourist industry. When we shop on line now, few stop to think that the Internet was created by the Defense industry’s DARPA and was not pioneered by private industry. In truth, Republican businessmen know this, and that is why they spend billions on ads that lie about their opponents, and create campaign financing laws that enable them to take over and own the Big Government they deplore.
The problem is that like bats that cannot see objects in the light, physiologically, humans simply cannot see the present. When we look up at the stars we see the light of the stars as they were millions of years ago. When we look out at the present social and political landscape, we do not see the world as it is, we see a distorted image of the past. In fact, this is how human memory works. Think back on your childhood experiences, and you will notice that you remember them not as you experienced them, but how you now reconstruct them. And the more you recall an experience, the more it becomes like an icon on your computer desktop: an accessible image that stands for a whole file of experiences: Proust’s Madeleine that stands for Combray. You see yourself as a child walking with your mother, not from inside your eyes, but externally, the way a movie camera would record it. So it is not surprising that the Newt Gingrichs, the Sarah Palins, and the Michele Bachmans cannot see the present but live in a dangerously simplified illusional world.
When the rate of technological change exceeds the rate of human perception and the processing of understanding, we have an adaptive discontinuity, a structural uncoupling of organism and environment. One conclusion we can possibly draw from human perception and the nature of memory is that we are a dysfunctional species headed for extinction. The people who govern us and who make decisions that affect us all–the Boehners and the McConnells–are simply not intelligent enough for the civilizational challenge at hand. Not only can they not exercise wisdom and understanding over complex systems, they cannot even perceive the world they live in.
MIT scientists like Ray Kurzweil see this adaptive discontinuity as a crisis that can only be overcome by shifting from biology to technology, by replacing slow thinking humans with fast-processing computers; but computers only perceive the world that their programmers understand, and what they don’t understand is the world of nature and human culture. What the technologists did not see by not being able to look in your eyes was a whole world of subtle and sub-visible presences as well as invisible forces. In the world of art and the literature of wisdom, it is often slow thought, multiply parallel processing, and the imaginative application of a concept from a strange domain into a familiar one that generates the creative process of insight, innovation, and transformation.
A bird sees four dimensions of color, but humans see only three. We see continuity in 24 frames a second, but a bird can see 240, and so they can fly in swarms and move or change directions in a flash.
The people who run for political office or the people who govern us do look into our eyes, but they can only see dollar signs or threats from hysterically imagined enemies and are the wrong kind of animal for the evolutionary crisis we are in. We are not facing a political problem, we are confronting the problem of politics.
Neither the Sarah Palins nor the Ray Kurzweils can save us–nor the Pope or Rev. Huckabee. What is called for is an evolution of consciousness: a new organism that is conscious of a new surrounding nature of subvisible and invisible energies and beings and thus is capable of bringing forth a new world of visible forms in transformative art, living architecture, and compassionate polities. Once we moved from hierarchical feudalism to middle class capitalism; now it is time to move from a materialistic capitalism of objects in markets to a symbiotic exchange of energies in an ecology of consciousness.
William Irwin Thompson (born July, 1938) is known primarily as a social philosopher and cultural critic, but he has also been writing and publishing poetry throughout his career and received the Oslo International Poetry Festival Award in 1986. He has made significant contributions to cultural history, social criticism, the philosophy of science, and the study of myth. He describes his writing and speaking style as “mind-jazz on ancient texts”. He is an astute reader of science, social science, history, and literature. He is the founder of the Lindisfarne Association.
His book, Still Travels: Three Long Poems was published in 2009 by Wild River Books. Order a copy from Amazon.
Works by William Irwin Thompson
Memoir – Farewell Address at the Lindisfarne Fellows Conference
Memoir – Pilgrimage to Lindisfarne: 1972
Memoir – The Founding of the Lindisfarne Association in New York, 1971-73 – Part I
Memoir – The Founding of the Lindisfarne Association in New York, 1971-73 – Part 2: A Community in Fishcove, Long Island
Memoir – Building a Dream – Part One: Lindisfarne in Crestone, Colorado, 1979-1997
Memoir – My Dinner with Andre Gregory: Lindisfarne-in-Manhattan, 1977-1979
Memoir – Building a Dream/The Shadow Side Part Two: Lindisfarne in Crestone, Colorado, 1979-1997
Memoir – Building a Dream/The Cathedral Part Three: Lindisfarne in Crestone, Colorado, 1979-1997
Memoir – Conclusion: The Economic Relevance of Lindisfarne
Memoir – Raising Evan and Hilary: Reflections of a Homeschooling Parent
Memoir – Sex and the Commune
Memoir – Raising Evan and Hilary
Memoir – With Gregory Bateson’s Mind in Nature
After Heart Surgery: Hokusai’s Great Wave
A Lazy Sunday Afternoon
Nancy Grayson’s Bookstore
On Reading “The Penguin Book of English Verse”: on my iPad and Exercise Bike
Wild River Books/Poetry – Nightwatch and Dayshift: Cezanne
Anatolian Days and Nights and the Cultural Evolution of Spirituality
And the Votes are In: The American Elections of 2010
Avatar – When Technology Displaces Culture
Bedtime Story for a Civilization
The Big Picture: Reflections on Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines
The Big Picture, II
Child Abuse and the Catholic Church
The Digital Economy of W. Brian Arthur
From Shamanism to Religion, Part Two
From Religion to Post-Religious Spirituality, Part Three
From Religion to Post-Religious Spirituality: Conclusion
January 1, 2011: Reflections on the Philosophical Notions of Republicans
January 6, 2011 – Part Two: The Etherealization of Capitalism
Nature and Invisible Environments
Of Culture and the Nature of Extinction
On Nuclear Power
On Religion – Part One
On Religion and Nationalism: Ireland, Israel, and Palestine
On Transnational Military Interventions
A Pagan Ur-Text of the Lebor Gebála Érenn
Part 1 – The Shift from Industrial to a Planetary Civilization
Part 2 – The Shift from an Industrial to Planetary Civilization
Part 3 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – The Recovery of a Cosmic Orientation
Part 4 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civlization – The Global War for Drugs
Part 5 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – The New Jerusalem
Part 6 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Catastrophes as the Spur to Institute Tricameral Legislature
Part 7 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Complex Dynamical Systems and Tricameral Legislatures
Part 8 – The Shift from a Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Israel and Palestine: Sic transit gloria mundi
Part 9 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civlization – On Sarah Palin and the Technocratic Society
Part 10 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – On Conspiracy Narratives as Expressive of the Transition from the Nation: State to the Noetic Polity
Part 11 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Global Awareness and Personal Identity
Part 12 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Conclusion: The United Nations
Political Meditation for the Fourth of July, 2011: Can We Shift from Empire Back to Republic?
St. David’s Day, 2011, Technology and Social Change
Saint Patrick’s Day, 2010: Us and Them: Identity and the State
Some Reflections on Hurricane Sandy and an Outline for a New Civilization
Technical Hubris: and the Sinkhole of Obama’s Centrism
Television and Social Class
Thanksgiving Day, 2010: The Uses and Abuses of History
The Elections of 2010
Thoughts on My new Kindle App: on My Mac iPad