Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Dissertation Online

For those who are interested, my dissertation, "Evolutionary Aesthetics," which is really about the emergence of everything, with specific focus on literature, can be found in its entirety online at:

Many of the ideas on this blog can be found in it in much more detail, and the origins of some other ideas found here have their seeds in this dissertation.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Constitutional Carnage

So apparently the Supreme Court has decided that the intent of the Founding Fathers (one of the most important considerations in things Constitutional to date) is no longer relevant. I am refering to the recent Supreme Court decision that essentially allows the government to seize anybody's property for anything they want to do -- including for corporate interests. Not surprising (to me, at least) is that it was all the liberal judges (and a few conservatives who are just as villanous here) who supported government being able to take land to hand over to corporations. It does not matter if the government forces you to sell to build a stadium or to build an industrial park -- these are corporate interests, and are typically used only so that the government can get more tax revenues. Who cares if poor or middle classed people are thrown off their land?

The Constitution allows for Immanent Domain, which means that the government can use any land it needs to for public works -- though they do have to pay fair market price for it. Of course, that "fair market price" is typically below what you could actually get for a given piece of land. The Founding Fathers did this to ensure that the government could not just seize land whenever it wanted to -- that it had to have very pressing reasons to do so, and that there was no other option but to do it. This was meant to ensure that property rights were secured against the government. But now, with this ruling, the government is essentially allowed to take any land it wants at any time for any reason -- and business can now threaten people with going the government route in order to get any land they want at low, low prices. Quite a discount the Supreme Court is giving corporations! Of course, this ruling is in the fine tradition of interpreting the Interstate Commerce clause, which was intended to prevent states from erecting trade barriers against other states and thus to create a free trade zone within the country, to say that the federal government had control over the national economy and all trade between states. Now, they not only have control over commerce between states (meaning, the entire economy for all intents and purposes), but they can just take your land whenever they want, and hand it over to their corporate buddies. This should make things even more corrupt. It was bad enough that elitist liberals have been moving the poor out of their neighborhoods and into public housing, where they can finally be culturally and morally destroyed (all in order for those same elites to have a more pleasant city-living experience), and have a tendency to decide to build roads through poor neighborhoods (this is happening in a town in Maine) just to get rid of the neighborhoods (the road could be built around the neighborhood). But now, they can take poor people's land and give it to corporations. True, this will result in more tax money, meaning these same liberals will now have more money to help the poor they have displaced -- but the poor will still be far worse off than they were before the liberals had them kicked off their land. But of course, poor people with land clearly don't need help, so it is necessary to put them in a situation where they will need help.

And beyond all this, this is a situation that is ripe for corrpution. If people have a problem with corporations giving money to politicians now, just wait. What could be a bigger favor than taking land away from people for "the public good" -- in this case, meaning, for corporate interests? I've had several people tell me that the United States is doe for a hard fall. They have typically been talking about our foreign policy -- but with this ruling by the Supreme Court, I know they are right, if for the wrong reasons. This is a move into fascism -- something liberals have been trying to do for years, with their economic policies and political correctness codes. And it is something the American people should not put up with. Several years ago, Milton Friedman came up with an Economic Bill of Rights for the Constitution. I think it is now time we adopted it, before the Supreme Court decides to interpret more or the Constitution in the opposite way it was intended by the Founding Fathers. Unless we do, we will continue to lose our freedoms. Because unless we have the right to own property and have that property protected from seizure from others, including the government, then we have no rights at all. Because then if the government does not like what we say or do, they can just take our homes under the auspices of "public use," and pay us next to nothing for it. And with things like property taxes, they can raise them so much, that they can run us off our property anyway, seizing it without paying because we could not pay our taxes. Quite the corrupt system we are developing here. Soon, the only ones with any rights will be those who could pay off the right politicians. And of course, all of this "campaign finance reform" has done nothing more than ensure that corruption get worse and worse (we need to return to the old system of anyone being able to donate anything they want -- but it is all open and transparent who is donating to whom).

Either way, we need to stop the Supreme Court from making these kinds of decisions. IF that takes some Amendments to make it clear what the Constitution actually means, then that's what we should do. Unfortunately, I wouldn't hold my breath on the government trying to restrict any power it's given. Every other government in the world stopped gaining power over the people only after a war or a revolution. It is too much to hope that we can do it more peacefully than that?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Spiral Dynamics

It seems that conservatives, libertarians, and liberals are all talking past each other. It is as if each group has their own way of thinking that excludes the others – whether it is because they consider one of the others less complex, more interested in feeling than thinking, or they consider what the others believe to be complete nonsense. If this is the case, is it possible for these groups to be able to talk to each other at all?

Don Beck and Christopher Cowan in their book "Spiral Dynamics" lay out a hierarchical theory of psycho-social development that may perhaps explain why these groups are talking past each other. In other words, they develop a theory that explains both the psychologies of individuals and the social structures of individual societies – and show that different people, and different societies, think in particular ways for particular reasons.

What they – and I, with some modifications – propose is that human societies go through spiraling cycles of new levels of complexity, switching between individualistic and collectivist forms of social organization. This is often preceded by individuals who lay the groundwork for the new social organization. And even when one form of social organization is left behind, there are people who continue to think that way. And, to make the situation even more complex, we continue to have aspects of the lower levels holding up the new levels of complexity.

But that is all very abstract. What we need are details. Basically, Beck and Cowan suggest that we start off in survivalist mode – what helps the individual survive is what we do. This is really the level of purely animal survival: food, drink, sleep, and sex. Next we develop into the roving bands/tribal mode – this is in the present day both athletic teams and the family unit, and is the kind of thinking we mean by "family values." This is the level of ritual, traditions and symbols. At its worst, it is the level of racism, superstition, and fear of change. Once this level becomes repressive, we get development of the powerful individual mode – this is in the present day in rock stars and rebellious teens in general, as well as in gang members. In the past, this was ancient Greece during the Iliad and the Odyssey, and Rome during the Roman Empire. This is the time of heroes and strong leadership, storytellers and mythology. To the extent that these two groups exist in the modern world, liberals have a tendency to label them as victims and to try to leap them – and sometimes those in the next level – into their kinds of societies. Since you cannot skip levels, since each level develops naturally out of previous levels, this is inevitably disastrous.

The next level is the level of authority and order. This is the realm of modern-day conservatives and those on the Right. At this level, it is believed that the world gains meaning from doing your duty, respecting traditions and heritage, and obeying the religious laws. Conservatives believe in good and evil, right and wrong, in sacrificing now for the future, love and charity, and in patriotism. At their worst, they fear trespassing upon the ordained order, are nationalistic and tend toward theocracy and authoritarianism. Many are royalists and, in the United States, have Puritan tendencies. Historically, this was medieval Christianity and the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle.

Following this is the development of capitalism and science – the realm of the modern-day libertarian, or classical liberal. There is strong support for reason and science. Such people and societies are optimistic and willing to take risks and are highly pragmatic in dealing with the world, even if they are idealistically pro-freedom in political issues. Such people and societies support personal rights and liberties, and were responsible for abolishing slavery – the irony of the most capitalist country in the world being the last to abolish slavery does not negate this fact. In fact, Emerson, whose thinking exemplifies this level of thinking, was a staunch abolitionist. Other thinkers at this level include Adam Smith, John Locke, Lord Acton, Voltaire, Machiavelli, and Descartes. At its worst, it promotes deterministic thinking and results in alienation.

Next is the development of egalitarian thinking – the realm of the modern-day Left. In fact, it was in the first expression of this level in the French Revolution that the terms Left and Right were first developed. It is equally interesting that the Left represented a new level of collectivist thinking beyond capitalist thinking, and the Right represented the old form of collectivist thinking in the Royalists and religious thinkers. At its best, liberalism emphasizes being socially responsible, caring for all people, finding ourselves, and treating workers well. It promotes pluralism and relativistic, postmodern, multidisciplinary thinking. At its worst, like all collectivist thinking, it promotes feeling over reasoning. And more, having much of its thought based in Marx, it leads to welfare states, socialism, communism, and even fascism, is anti-hierarchy, and is redistributionary. It is in fact deeply conservative of the status quo, and supports anti-free speech codes like political correctness. In opposing free speech and other individual liberties, people at this level tend to be in agreement with conservatives more than they are willing to admit.

Now, each of these levels tend to be exclusionary, rejecting each other. Those above reject those below as being too simplistic, and those below are just plain confused about what is going on at higher levels. But there are two levels (so far – more will emerge over time) above the egalitarian level – the integrationist and the holistic. The integrationist is a return to individualism, but it also sees the values of each of the levels below it. People at this level attempt to create a society were all of these levels can work together – both the individual psychologies and to develop a more integrated society. Thus, it tries to promote environmentalism, capitalism, religion, heroic individualism, and families simultaneously. Beauty, truth, and ethics are united into one way of thinking. Knowledge and competency are emphasized, as are fluid, nested hierarchies and interdisciplinary, chaotic, fractal thinking. This level is the first truly self-aware level, and there is no longer any fear of yourself or the world. Nietzsche may not have been the first of such thinkers, but he’s the transitional figure that allowed for this kind of thinking to emerge. And as for holistic thinking, which is only just beginning to emerge, we have such thinkers as Frederick Turner. Everything is understood to be connected to everything else, there is interest in wholeness of existence, and patterns and living systems are emphasized. Such thinkers are interested in bringing holistic order to the entire society – and thus supports a kind of holistic hierarchy, or holarchy.

This is but a brief outline of how the different forms of thinking evolved. I think if we come to understand how different forms of thinking emerge, we can stop speaking at cross-purposes to each other. The lower levels are all necessary parts of our thinking, and each level is needed to help us develop a more complex and just society. But conservatives, libertarians, and liberals won’t be able to do it. That is up to the integrationist and holistic thinkers, whose thinking is more complex, and who understand the value of each of the different levels.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Greetings from Greece

At the present time, I am sitting in my apartment inAthens, Greece. Now, for those of you reading this who don't know, I don't live in Greece -- I live in Dallas, TX, USA. But I am a week into my month-long vacation in Greece. So far I have seen the Agora with the Temple of Hephaestus, the Acropolis and Erecthion, the Temple of Zeus, and the Theater of Dionysus. The latter has impressed me the most -- but perhaps that is because of all the work I have done on tragedy.

Coming to Athens, one immediately comes to understand the ancient Greeks better. The sun is very intense -- far more intense than it is even in Texas. It is hot in Texas, but the sun is not really all that intense -- especially after you experience a truly intense sun. It is comfortable in the shade -- neither too hot nor too cool -- but the sun's intensity heats you up quickly. The sky is an intense blue, and the sunlight reflects off of everything. It is worst in places with shiny white marble -- which the ancients would have experiences quite a bit, with all their temples and important buildings being build of white marble. So you get a combination of intensely bright light and intense sunshine on your shoulders, neck, and head. Further, you do not realize until you come here just how steep the hills are. The Acropolis is on an extremely steep, tall hill. The Athenians had no choice but to be in shape, having built their city here.

It is strange how comfortable I feel here in Greece. I don't speak the language -- so grocery shopping has been very interesting, to say the least. Fortunately about a third of everything in Greece is in English, so I've been able to get by. The only thing missing in Greece is my beautiful girlfriend, Anna. I wish she could have come with me -- but I had already planned and made all the arrangements for this before I even met her. But from now on I'm most certainly taking her with me wherever I go.