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Thank you for being so kind as to feature the website on your blog, Michael. Before expectations rise up too high, though, I would just like to point out that only the first phase of the website (Self Knowledge) is ready. The other phases (Ideal Society, Current Society and Transition) still need to be developed.

I noticed that parts of the site are still under construction. But it's a good start!

This web site sounds like a great idea.

A lot of problems in human society are not materal they are mental. The standard of living of many people today is so much higher than in the past but we still have a lot of problems. There is no need for people to be unhappy or in conflict when all their material needs are met.

People are unhappy because their values lead them to be. Many of the institutions of our society contribute to this problem. Politicians polarize issues for personal gain. The entertainment industry panders to our lowest impulses to make money for itself. Corporations use psychological tricks to get people to spend money on things they don't need. The food industry pushes foods that have caused an obesity epidemic.

If people would recognize their character is a better meausre of self worth than is their net worth, if the mass media and entertainment industry would reinforce spiritual values like love, tolerance, forgiveness, understanding, it would help so many of the problems we have in our society.

There are so many voices today that promote selfish, confrontational values that it can be hard for people to even remember to think about higher values. Personally, I try to avoid entertainment and media that has a negative message and I look for things that have a positive, inspiring, uplifting message.

In my past I have also found that sometimes going spiritualist churches and at other times going to a zen center for services or talks can help keep me centered on spiritual values and resist the more mundane influences surrounding me.

Anything, like the linked web site, that encourages people to think about their values, reflect on role models, and look for fufilling ways to live will help counter the negative forces that are so prevalent in society today.

Alphabet, you make a more mindful and spiritually focused existence sound sooooo nice. But I totally enjoyed Cowboys and Aliens yesterday (it was AWESOME!). I must have flunked NDEr school.

Well spoken, jshgfcre98ijyds.

Little something I’d like to clarify:
There are so many voices today that promote selfish, confrontational values that it can be hard for people to even remember to think about higher values.
Bold mine.

I find that selfishness/self-centredness works. The challenge is not to resist being selfish, but to find what is truly in one’s best interest. On the Self-Reflective Society website, in the section Self-Knowledge | Analysis | Circumstances | Using Relationships, I have explored the dynamic between pursuing one’s own interests and looking after the interests of others. I’m hoping that it will help bridge the divide between exploiting others and self-sacrificing for their sake by showing how relationships can be made to works for everyone.

Dear Michael,
I'm a blog reviewer for Hachette Publishing; Mulholland Books, Little, Brown..etc., Simon & Schuster and other publishers. I saw your books on Amazon this morning and wondered if I might review one or two of them. Would you email me at:
thebookishdame at aol dot com to talk further about it? Thanks
Deborah/TheBookishDame

It sounds like the kind of thinking that originally inspired communism. And maybe Christianity and Buddhism also. The desire to stand back from the mad race of progress, to extricate oneself from the spider's web of complexity, to renounce the cruelty of competition -- these desires are pretty old.

This website's author obviously feels his way is better, that the general public are selfish conformists. I don't agree. Our society's problems don't result from ignorance or selfishness. Our problems result from our cleverness and our technological success. We have triumphed over all other species and have over-run the planet.

So I very deeply disagree with the whole premise. It seems utopianist and judgmental and very wrong.

Thank you for providing a critical view of the project, realpc. You are right, I do think that a sizeable majority of the people conform to social norms in most areas of their lives. I’ve come to this conclusion from personal experience as well as from what I’ve read of the research in the field of psychology.

You can take our dietary habits as an example. Most people I’ve discussed the subject with haven’t given it much thought, but make dietary choices out of unconsciously formed habit. When the subject comes up, they rationalise these choices – start out assuming that they are correct and look for ways to justify them – instead of starting from more basic premises and reasoning their way to a conclusion of what they should eat.

I’ve noticed similar behaviour in many other areas – religion, economics, judiciary, child rearing, and so on.

What I’m curious about is which aspect of this do you find judgemental? Is it the view that conformism is prevalent in our society, the view that we would be better off without it, or something else?

Hrvoje,

I like what you have done so far. I agree with your premises. I have bookmarked your site and lok forward to further development.

Sadly, I think that most people are herd creatures and need to be told what to do and think (maybe these are Danison's souless humans? ;-)

But seriously, we talk about freedom and the home of the brave and so on and so forth, but then we devolve into mindless conformity; ostrasizing anyone who doesn't follow the conventions to the T. All out of the same fear that a herd animals experience when isolated from the flock.

This leaves our society vulnerable to manipulation by "the wolves"; politicians, big corporations and authoritarians (witness the miltarization of our police forces).

It also makes it very difficult for new ideas to take root and grow.

Our technology may be 21st century, but our mindset is still the same one that burned witches at the stake in the public square (no, we don't burn people any more - I guess that is some kind of progress - now we just cut off their funding, refuse to provide opportunity, fry them in the press, socially isolte them and punish them in some many other ways of varying degrees of subtlety.

Glad you are helping to bring these serious social phenonema to the forefront.

"I do think that a sizeable majority of the people conform to social norms in most areas of their lives. "

Yes that is very true. They conform because it is much easier. I tend to be a non-conformist in certain areas of life, including health. It takes so much thought and effort! I have dedicated so much of my life to questioning and understanding certain things. I am very glad I did, and I felt that I had to do it. But I think the conformists are generally happier and their lives are easier.

There will always be a minority who are like me and like you, who question what everyone else is doing and look for better ways. But I don't think we should judge the majority for their "mindless" conformity.

Yes you might help society by raising awareness about health and nutrition. Maybe. But the information has been around at least since I was young and most people manage to ignore it.

I have focused on most are health and nutrition because of health problems I had when very young. The result is I am now almost 60 and my health is great. Most people who were healthy when young have gone downhill, but I didn't.

I also focused on religion vs. science, because I needed to know if science had really made religion obsolete or irrelevant. It was hard work and took a very long time, but I answered the questions for myself. No, science has not validated materialism or made religion irrelevant.

I am glad I found out, although I have never been able to convince a devout materialist.

I am also devoted to questioning the medical industry and its drugs. Most people don't want to look at what is really happening.

Anyway, the point is yes there is value in reflecting instead of always conforming. But I am very wary of any movement that seems to look down at the "ignorant public." The public is riding the waves of "progress." And progress is not the answer, it is the problem.

This thread brings to mind my conundrum about being anti-consumerism. Sure, most people don't need the trinkets and gadgets that Western capitalism tries to sell us. On the other hand, where would the people be who sold us these things if we didn't buy them? Technologically, we've reached the point where the world can mass produce food very cheaply. What is society supposed to do when population outstrips actual jobs? Back in the good old days, the "wise" told us technology would improve the lives of the working person, giving them "more leisure." But it hasn't worked out that way. Now the unemployed are treated like dirt, even though technology was supposed to make their lives "better," and those with jobs worker longer and longer hours. Or is it all working out like Marx predicted? It sure seems so lately.

Realpc:
But I am very wary of any movement that seems to look down at the "ignorant public."

It is very important to me that the movement doesn’t come across like that. I know that it is in some sense unavoidable, but I would like to minimise the likelihood of provoking this kind of reaction while remaining committed to its goals. Do you have any suggestions on how we can do that?

Kathleen:
This thread brings to mind my conundrum about being anti-consumerism. Sure, most people don't need the trinkets and gadgets that Western capitalism tries to sell us. On the other hand, where would the people be who sold us these things if we didn't buy them?

This brings to mind my own conundrum, Kathleen, where I feel that I’m increasingly being forced to choose between economy and ecology. It’s a painful choice. I go with ecology because the economic limitations are artificial and self-imposed; it’s in our power to remove them.

Maybe there are just too many of us for individuality to be viable. I often think this is the case.

"It is very important to me that the movement doesn’t come across like that. I know that it is in some sense unavoidable, but I would like to minimise the likelihood of provoking this kind of reaction while remaining committed to its goals. Do you have any suggestions on how we can do that?"

If you look down at people they will notice. As long as you believe that greater education and knowledge will help solve the world's problems, you will inevitably, at least subconsciously, look down at the less educated.

Since I do not believe greater knowledge and education will solve the world's problems (and will actually just create more problems), I don't look down at the less educated.

I definitely do not think experts in psychology and sociology are going to help your cause.

I have no opinion on where human civilization is heading. All I know is, we are part of something infinitely greater than ourselves and we have limited control over what happens. All we can do is try to be of service in some way, while making the best of the short life we were given.

Just the idea of trying to start a movement to save the world is suspicious to me. I realize you mean well and want to help people, but at the same time it seems ego-driven to some extent.

"I feel that I’m increasingly being forced to choose between economy and ecology. It’s a painful choice. I go with ecology because the economic limitations are artificial and self-imposed; it’s in our power to remove them."

You are kidding yourself if you think you can live in this society without damaging the natural environment.

Let's remember that "the natural environment" includes tsetse flies, malarial mosquitoes, the Ebola virus, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, forest fires, tigers, sharks, wolves, etc., etc.

I have no problem with controlling the natural environment for human benefit.

I'm not saying there aren't ecological problems that need to be addressed, but let's not kid ourselves: We're infinitely better off in a high-technology civilization than we would be in a state of nature.

Sometimes I think we in the affluent West have become spoiled, and don't appreciate the enormous value of things like electric light, running water, central heating and air conditioning, automobiles, airplanes, telephones, the Internet, and on and on. We romanticize nature because we're safely insulated from it. We glamorize the nontechnological past because we don't have to spend hours every day chopping wood, toting well water, and squeezing laundry through a wringer. We are, in a word, spoiled.

Michael said:

"We're infinitely better off in a high-technology civilization than we would be in a state of nature."

Well, you've gone and done it, Michael. I thought I could spend a relaxing Sunday night without debate. 'Til I saw this. :o)

It's one of my favorite topics, really.

If "we" means you and me, then you're right. All we've ever known is living in a world with houses, hospitals and computers, and to strip of us those things would be like taking fish out of water.

But it sounds like you're saying more than that. Unless I'm mistaken, you're saying that, in general, our quality of life today is better than that of our ancestors of thousands of years ago. Is that right?

In fact, INFINITELY better, though I'm not going to take you too seriously on that.

Think about it--you're saying that for hundreds of thousand of years, homo sapiens was lacking all the technological advantages we're enjoying now, and if only they could have had them, their lives would have been so much better. Ah, those poor, poor, people.

Now I admit it--there was a period of my life in which I probably was, as you say, romanticizing nature. I assumed that for much of our history--and again, I'm talking about HUNDREDS of thousands of years, not just a few millenia--mankind was so much better off.

But now, I tend to see things differently. The truth is, though there are clues here and there, I think it's an impossible question to answer. We have no idea what it FELT like to live back then. But if I had to guess, I'd say maybe the quality of life was about the same. Better in some ways, and worse in others.

You'll notice I capitalized "FELT". Because that's what quality of life means, right? What it feels like to live and breathe from moment to moment. Not how LONG you live, but how satisfying your days are.

(And that should be especially true for readers of your blog, knowing as we do, that life AFTER the body, is probably better than life in it.)

I know--you're going to point to dentistry, and safety from wild animals, and how easy it is to store food for when we need it, and a million other things. And I admit, many of them are very good things indeed.

But let's look at the other side of the coin. Let's talk about hunter-gatherer societies that we've been able to observe in their unspoiled state (rather than the agriculturalists we've become in the last 6000 years or so).

The argument has been made, and quite successfully, in my opinion, that the hunter-gatherer mode was the one best suited to our overall happiness. These were people who earned their daily living by walking through the woods, fishing, and hunting.

And us? We spend 50 weeks a year sitting at desks so that we can get two weeks off and go . . . walking through the woods, fishing, and hunting.

Isn't it obvious by now that every time we add a technology we gain AND lose at the same time?

I've certainly done without technology for periods of time and it can be challenging, but it didn't make me less happy. I've chopped wood, hauled water and lived in the bush. Yes, I enjoy technology sometimes. But I don't always miss it.

After spending three months in the wilderness as a teenager working at a fly-in fishing lodge, I hated coming back to the real world. I hated the noise and the crowds. I cried the first time I tried taking a city bus to university. Most people go a bit nuts when they go into the wilderness for any length of time, but there are a few of us who are fine in the bush but who are never really able to make the return trip.

That isn't the same as living 200 or more years ago. Even back then most people lived in civilized communities. For the most part, as a species we need to live in groups. But for some of us, it's nice to have some space.

This post on Mark Vernon's blog offers, I think, an interesting take on the above posts by Michael and Bruce:

http://www.markvernon.com/friendshiponline/dotclear/index.php?post/2011/08/14/Temple-to-progress#comments

Thanks for chiming in, Sandy. I can tell you understand what I'm saying. And I'm not surprised to hear you speak so fondly of the wilderness. I've spent time on your website and seen your beautiful photos.

Simon, that site you linked to asks the question I'm raising here: is progress real?

Well, if you focus on certain aspects of our lives you can certainly find reason to say that our civilization is more advanced.

But if you look in other directions--including at the sorts of values Sandy was hinting at--you'd have to say we've gone backwards.

I see it this way: technology, when looked at broadly, is not about progress. (Nor is history.) It's more like an artistic endeavor. And art doesn't improve. It just changes.

"The argument has been made, and quite successfully, in my opinion, that the hunter-gatherer mode was the one best suited to our overall happiness."

The hunter gatherers spent 20 hours a week hunting and gathering. The rest of the time they spent on self mutilation (tatoos, piercing etc), ingesting hallucinogenic drugs, and intertribal warfare.

I don't think we have advanced as much as people think.

As human or (any other species) population increases beyond the natural carrying capacity of the land the environment will be degraded. This is a natural phenomena. The human civilizations with the worst ecologic problems are the least developed. The only alternative that is safer for the environment than technological development is depopulation.

"The argument has been made, and quite successfully, in my opinion, that the hunter-gatherer mode was the one best suited to our overall happiness. These were people who earned their daily living by walking through the woods, fishing, and hunting."

"And us? We spend 50 weeks a year sitting at desks so that we can get two weeks off and go . . . walking through the woods, fishing, and hunting."

"Isn't it obvious by now that every time we add a technology we gain AND lose at the same time?"

I agree. And I definitely do NOT think we are happier with all the technology. We are destroying the planet and making ourselves sick. We evolved to live in small tribes and to have close and lasting emotional attachments. Most of us don't have that now. The only remaining stable social group is the married couple.

Yes we have some advantages and we don't die from infections. We don't have to hunt for food -- well big deal, maybe we liked hunting for food.

Anyway, happiness is relative. We have not improved our lives with technology. We made technology because we are the clever creative animal, and we can't help building things. We can't change our nature, even if we wanted to.

But I very much disagree with Michael Prescott and everyone else who romanticizes modern technology. Technology is fun and we are doing what homo sapiens does. But for every benefit we got from technology, we lose something.

"The hunter gatherers spent 20 hours a week hunting and gathering. The rest of the time they spent on self mutilation (tatoos, piercing etc), ingesting hallucinogenic drugs, and intertribal warfare."

They danced and sang and made art. They were human beings, cooperating and competing like other social animals, but they were always aware of the spirit worlds. You can make them sound good or bad. But I think they were so much more in touch with the real reality than we are now.

I don't romanticize the hunter gatherers, and I also don't romanticize us. Life was hard then and it's hard now. Life was fun then and it's fun now.

Now we have depression and anti-depressants. We have endless hours of TV and traffic jams. How can anyone think this is better? It isn't better or worse, it's just different.

Good stuff, realpc! Thanks for filling in some pieces of the puzzle I left out. I remember, from years ago, that you and I have important things in common, but forgot exactly what they were.

I wish I had more time to write this morning. jsh, for one, needs a good spanking for demonizing hallucinogens (as he calls them). :o)

Off topic, but I had to let you knwo that I finally got around to downloading your book Stealing Faces on Kindle (actually, iPad).

I knew I was in trouble when, at work, I found myself stealing off into the restroom and speedreading chapter after chapter. Good job!

And the $.99 price tag is a treat. I noticed you have more than one of your books in the Kindle Top 20 under mysteries/thrillers.

Is that paying off significantly for you? (Off to download the next novel...)

As a kid I didn't get to watch TV in the summertime. I spent summers with my grandparents up north and although they did have a TV, you could only get one channel on it. The only show they ever watched was the evening news.

Being a kid, I was usually told to go play outside unless there was a storm outside, in which case I did jigsaw puzzles and played scrabble with Grandma. I spent those summers outdoors swimming and hiking, not indoors watching TV or playing video games. I never thought I was missing out on anything.

BTW, Bruce, many of the pictures on my blog were taken in a city park. I'm fortunate to live in a city that has protected green spaces within city limits. There are Moose, Bears and Coyotes in that park, all within the city. I think that kind of urban planning makes a lot of sense. I still miss the true wilderness areas and try to get out of the city when I can. But there is something about backyard bird feeders, wildflowers and green spaces in urban areas that nourishes the soul. I've shown pictures of the park to my neighbors who are sometimes shocked to realise they live within a few blocks of that and have never gone for a walk there. They often just see it as undeveloped space, instead of as a place that is fine just like it is.

Thanks, Mark, for buying Stealing Faces, and for the kind words. Yes, the 99 cent price point has made a big difference in sales. Even though the price is low, the royalty isn't bad, and you make money on volume.

"demonizing hallucinogens"

You are projecting your own fears into my writing.

"You can make them sound good or bad."

Hunter-gatherers can be made to sound good or bad if you don't know anything about them. Study the native american tribes and you will find that objectively some were honest and pacifists, some where theving, murderious, torturers. They were preying on each other long before they taught the european settlers about genocide.

The Winning of the West, Volume 1 - 4
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11941
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11942
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11943
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11944


Astoria, or, anecdotes of an enterprise beyond the Rocky Mountains
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1371

The Adventures of Captain Bonneville, U. S. A., in the Rocky Mountains and the Far West
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1372


jsh said:

"You are projecting your own fears into my writing."

I don't get it. You said:

"The rest of the time they spent on self mutilation (tatoos, piercing etc), ingesting hallucinogenic drugs, and intertribal warfare."

Maybe "demonizing" was a strong word, but unless you meant to praise self-mutilation and intertribal warfare, you're clearly suggesting that hallucinogens are a bad thing.

"They were preying on each other long before they taught the european settlers about genocide."

I don't have time this morning to get into those linked excerpts. Can you perhaps give me a hint of what you mean by teaching Europeans about genocide? And are you talking about Native Americans as they behaved in the 19th-century, after prolonged mistreatment by Europeans, or as they behaved before we began to systematically destroy their civilization?

One of my favorite examples of hunter-gatherers is the Australian Aborigines, one of the oldest indigenous populations. Of course they've gone downhill since they, like the Native Americans, were encroached upon by Europeans, but their way of life for hundreds of thousands of years is fascinating and inspiring to me.

I don't think there's much evidence of warfare with the Aborigines.

"There are Moose, Bears and Coyotes in that park, all within the city."

That's quite a park! I've lived in NYC and L.A., both of which are proud of their huge park areas. But moose and bears? Not quite.

I assume the wildlife is running free, as opposed to being in a zoo? I mean, we do have one of those.

I know you're pretty private as far as revealing information, but I'd be interested in learning more about that park. Sounds unique.

But then, I've never been to Canada.

Are you sure you're not seeing *ghosts* of moose and bears? :o)

I don't see anything wrong with inter-tribal warfare. That is how tribes maintained the territory they needed. All animals defend their territory. One reason there is so much poverty in Africa is that the Europeans prevented inter-tribal warfare, causing the population to explode.

Native Americans were tough. They weren't fat wimps like so many modern Americans, who never have to kill their food or defend themselves. What is wrong with being tough and brave?

Bruce, the animals are in their natural habitat, not in a zoo. No, they aren't ghosts. Unless it was a ghost moose that took out a few fences in our neighborhood a few years ago. It isn't that unique a park. It's just green space and those are the sorts of animals that belong in it. Seeing them isn't all that common. But they really are there.

Deer are much more commonly seen than moose. They have a special fondness for apples and there are lots of apple trees around here. There is a beaver dam on the creek just behind the local soccer field. Raccoons are often seen wandering around the neighborhood at night. Wild turkeys, herons, woodpeckers, hawks, owls, and too many other birds to mention are very common sights. (I counted six blue herons on the pond in the park today.) I've seen weasels, muskrats, and shrews along with the more typical chipmunks, groundhogs, squirrels and bunnies. And let's not forget skunks.

Parks like this are fairly common in Canadian cities. One of the nicest ones that comes to mind is Stanley Park in Vancouver. (No, that's not where I live.) My neighborhood park is very modest by that standard.

Wow--you're lucky to live so close to such a great park, Sandy. And that's what I've often thought as I've looked at your photos.

Years ago, when I used to drive to my piano students' homes, I once saw several deer on the property of one of my students. That was a pretty magical moment for me.

I have added descriptions of the Ideal Society, Current Society and Transition sections, as well as an outline of how the website would be used once it is fully ready (under Overview | How to Use this Website). Hopefully this will clarify what I’m trying to achieve with the Self-Reflective Society website and the role that research in the fields of sociology and psychology has to play.

The whole idea of an ideal society is impossible. Changing one thing leads to unexpected changes in all parts of the system, and those changes may be very different from what you intended. For example, if you emphasize individual freedom, there will be less security and vice versa. You can't have things both ways.

You can't have a society that provides security, and also maximizes personal freedom. You can't have a society that emphasizes innovation and creativity, yet discourages competition.

All successful current societies maintain an uneasy balance between security and freedom. Going too far in either direction results in problems, which are solved by heading back the other way.

Maybe you think that our problems are caused mostly by ignorance, greed and short-sightedness. That is what most progressives believe. If you think hard enough, and if you educate others to your enlightened point of view, problems will gradually be solved.

I think you are very wrong. Any time you manage to solve one problem, you will create several others.

I do gather that we disagree on this subject, realpc. :-)

The Self-Reflective Society project rests on a simple premise – that society should serve our needs instead of us serving its needs. For this to happen, we need to know what our needs are (i.e. acquire self-knowledge and be authentic) instead of having society tell us that.

If you disagree with this, then I would like to know what you think the relationship between us and society should be. If you agree, then I really don’t see what the problem is. You might object to how I’m going about it, but you seem to be objecting to the very idea of doing anything at all.

I don't object to doing anything at all. Most of us do things we hope will be good for the society, as well as for ourselves. Most of our intentions are good, and often our contributions have value, of some kind, to someone. Where you are wrong is in thinking you can come up with general ideas that benefit society as a whole. As if there is a superior way of looking at things. There isn't.

The idea that society should serve our needs instead of us serving its needs makes no sense. We are the society and the society is us. The society creates us and we create it.

And knowing what our needs are makes no sense. Each of us has many different, conflicting, needs.

You seem to think we should try to be more conscious and aware, less automatic. You probably think we should all be Seekers. You seem to not realize that people are not all the same.

I think I have always been a Seeker, and it is not the most pleasant way to live. The average person who accepts things as they are and doesn't constantly try to understand is probably much more content.

There have always been Seekers, and Finders. And have they made the world any more peaceful or pleasant? Did the teachings of Christ or Buddha, for example, make the world any better.

Absolutely not. Human society becomes more complex, but that doesn't necessarily mean better. It is more violent and dangerous now than ever.

Reflective, spiritual people might find inner peace and calmness, but they do not make the world more peaceful. Being reflective is a personal choice and lifestyle. It is not for everyone, and you will never be able to change anyone's basic nature.

And even if you could somehow change people and make them all reflective, it wouldn't solve the world's big problems. No one, no matter how long they reflect, will ever find a way to fix things up and make them "nice"

Because life is inherently a series of problems and challenges. You can't bend life to your will and your fantasy of what it should be. We all try to find our way somehow. We might have a little advice that can help someone else now and then. We learn from our experience and mistakes and find ways to be happy.

But we never develop a system for all to follow that will make life easy and fair and pleasant for everyone.

Okay, I've tried to post a response three times now, and nothing's happened. Ah, well...

You’ve made a number of different points in your post, realpc. Please let me know if I’ve missed anything.


”Where you are wrong is in thinking you can come up with general ideas that benefit society as a whole. As if there is a superior way of looking at things. There isn't.”

Sure there is. If you want to accomplish a certain goal, engaging in action that brings you closer to that goal can be reasonably considered superior to engaging in action that takes you further away from it. And I’m not sure by what criteria you would conclude that repeatedly pursuing a goal that, when realised, makes you miserable, is just as good as pursuing a goal that, when realised, leaves you feeling happy and fulfilled.


”The idea that society should serve our needs instead of us serving its needs makes no sense. We are the society and the society is us. The society creates us and we create it.

And knowing what our needs are makes no sense. Each of us has many different, conflicting, needs.”

That we have many different, conflicting needs doesn’t mean that we are just as well off not knowing what those needs are.

I will give you an example of what I’m getting at. Have you read the book Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture by Juliet Schor? Here is the book description:

“Over the last fifteen years children's spending power has mushroomed to an estimated USD30 billion in direct purchases and another USD600 billion of influence over parental purchases. Advertising and marketing has exploded alongside expenditures and now totals more than USD12 billion a year. Ads targeted at children are virtually everywhere - in schools, museums and on the internet - and strategies for capturing the child wallet have become ever more sophisticated. Marketers are intruding into a child's most private space, organizing stealthy peer-to-peer viral marketing efforts, and using high tech scientific research methodologies. Together, these trends have led to a pervasive commercialisation of childhood in the West. By eighteen months babies can recognize logos, by two they ask for products by brand name. During their nursery school years children will request an average of twenty-five products a day, by the time they enter primary school the average child can identify 200 logos and children between the ages of six and twelve spend more time shopping than reading, attending youth groups, playing outdoors or spending time in household conversation. On the basis of first-hand research inside the advertising industry, BORN TO BUY lays bare the research, messages and marketing strategies being used to target children, and assesses the impact of those efforts.”

I consider this a prime example of being conditioned into serving the needs of the society in which we live. So yes, the loop where we create the society and the society creates us still holds, but it doesn’t mean much if we start out being products of society and never get in touch with our basic nature.


”You seem to think we should try to be more conscious and aware, less automatic. You probably think we should all be Seekers. You seem to not realize that people are not all the same.”

I don’t expect everyone to be a seeker. I certainly don’t expect a ten-year-old kid to strive to live authentically; fitting in is so much more important at that age. The longing for authenticity develops later in life, if it develops at all. What I have an issue with is suppressing that longing, which is what our society currently does.


”I think I have always been a Seeker, and it is not the most pleasant way to live. The average person who accepts things as they are and doesn't constantly try to understand is probably much more content.”

I agree that questioning and striving to understand is the more difficult route to follow. It is easier to just accept society as a given and live within its constraints. This doesn’t make the latter approach more fulfilling, however. Pretty much everyone I know gets frustrated by those constraints with greater or lesser frequency, and additionally experiences disillusionment and even despair because they feel powerless to change them.


”Human society becomes more complex, but that doesn't necessarily mean better. It is more violent and dangerous now than ever. “

I have no idea how you have come to this conclusion.


”...you will never be able to change anyone's basic nature.”

I’m not trying to change it, I’m trying to reveal it. Currently it lies hidden beneath layer upon layer of social conditioning.


”And even if you could somehow change people and make them all reflective, it wouldn't solve the world's big problems. No one, no matter how long they reflect, will ever find a way to fix things up and make them "nice"

Because life is inherently a series of problems and challenges. You can't bend life to your will and your fantasy of what it should be. We all try to find our way somehow. We might have a little advice that can help someone else now and then. We learn from our experience and mistakes and find ways to be happy.

But we never develop a system for all to follow that will make life easy and fair and pleasant for everyone.”

I’m not trying to create a society that has no challenges. I’m trying to create a society where the challenge is to find ways of expressing oneself authentically instead of suppressing one’s nature in order to fit into society.

" I’m trying to create a society where the challenge is to find ways of expressing oneself authentically instead of suppressing one’s nature in order to fit into society."

And by the way, the very fact that you imagine YOU can create a society says a lot. In your imagination, you have no limits. You are like a great god who can create societies. You are a typical utopianist living in a fantasy world.

oh that's nice, my whole comment disappeared, after I spent an hour typing it.

comments disappear. waste of time

i answered everything, and now it's gone. shoot.

Sorry about your lost comment, realpc. I unsuccessfully tried to post three times yesterday before I got one to stick. I think the problem was the line break tag; TypePad didn’t seem to like it.

As for the characterisation of me that you did post, it’s only partly accurate. Yes, I am an idealist who is trying to create the best world that he can conceive. No, I don’t think that I can just bring it into being. Doing so will require networking and collaboration of a large number of like-minded people. This is what I’m involved with at the moment. For the record, I don’t expect society to become self-reflective in my lifetime.

I’m not sure why all this is bothering you...

This is not "bothering" me. I strongly disagree with your thoughts and I am debating them. In my opinion this kind of grandiose thinking is not helpful at all. At times it has been destructive. I guess it's human nature to feel god-like and to feel we have answers to big questions.

I have almost the opposite perspective. I believe we individuals are part of something greater, on many levels. The society is greater than each of us alone. The universe is infinitely smarter than any of us. I have a spiritual perspective.

And I guess what really bothers me is that you are obviously "looking down" at the society from what you feel is a more evolved level of consciousness. I am very much opposed to that way of thinking. For example, Ken Wilber classifies people according to a color spectrum, with the less evolved on one end and the more highly evolved on the other end. I have heard of this in other spiritual frameworks. I think it is utter BS. Really just a way for the "reflective" person to feel they are above the crowd.

None of us are really above the crowd. There are different types of people who focus on different aspects of life. Life necessarily involves struggle and suffering. The Buddha looked down with compassion at suffering humanity. He wanted to show them how to escape life permanently. Jesus was similar.

You can reject the world and try to escape, or you can try to accept it. Or you can do something in between. But you CANNOT remake the world into something you imagine would be better.

”And I guess what really bothers me is that you are obviously "looking down" at the society from what you feel is a more evolved level of consciousness. I am very much opposed to that way of thinking. For example, Ken Wilber classifies people according to a color spectrum, with the less evolved on one end and the more highly evolved on the other end. I have heard of this in other spiritual frameworks. I think it is utter BS. Really just a way for the "reflective" person to feel they are above the crowd.

None of us are really above the crowd. There are different types of people who focus on different aspects of life. Life necessarily involves struggle and suffering. The Buddha looked down with compassion at suffering humanity. He wanted to show them how to escape life permanently. Jesus was similar.”

There are two different issues here. One is whether there is a progression to the states of human consciousness. The other is whether that progression, if it exists, implies certain value judgements.

I don’t think there can be any question that a progression exists. This can be easily seen by comparing the cognitive abilities of a baby, a child and an adult. At least early on, cognitive development is driven by neurological development and socialisation, which give rise to the progression.

The contentious question is whether we can infer any value judgements from this. I agree that we can’t. Being an adult is not inherently better than being a baby or a child, it is just different. Which is better is a matter of personal preference and cannot be generalised.

It seems to me that you are claiming that there is no progression to the states of human consciousness because you don’t want to make value judgements about it. This is both unnecessary and counterproductive. It is counterproductive because comparing states of consciousness can yield useful information. While no state of consciousness is superior to others in general, it can be superior in specific contexts. If you want to live in the moment and look at the world with eyes of wonder, you’ll find a child’s state of consciousness better suited to the task than an adult’s one. If you want to help others by providing counselling, on the other hand, not being able to look at a situation from other points of view (as is common with small children) will be a serious impediment.

Social design is just another such context, albeit vastly more complex.


”You can reject the world and try to escape, or you can try to accept it. Or you can do something in between. But you CANNOT remake the world into something you imagine would be better.”

Why not? It has been done before. Abolition of slavery and women’s suffrage are two relatively recent examples.

Jenny Wade's excellent book Changes of Mind traces the stages of consciousness's development in a very clear fashion. I don't think there's any doubt that there are levels of consciousness, and that reflection, meditation, mindfulness - whatever you want to call it - is usually necessary to make the transition from one level to the next.

"I don't think there's any doubt that there are levels of consciousness"

True, but some would say an atheist fundamentalist good at math had a high level of consciousness, so spiritual awareness is not necessarily winning votes.

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