I have 3 points to make here. And possibly more. As I'm thinking partly on the fly. But in brief I hope to discuss the Declaration of Independence, some important foundational concepts from the Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget, and creativity/inventiveness - as they pertain to "mistrust" and to this "vision" quest for how to decide what to keep and what to discard.
Using Erikson's theory, I'd like to suggest that the Declaration of Independence arose out of both trust and mistrust. Trust within the group of people who discussed and signed the declaration. But "mistrust" as the fertile ground out of which the "rebellion" of the colonists sprang. (Other stages, of course, enter in as well - particularly Generativity and Wisdom/Ego Integrity.)
Mistrust is like a Basic BullShit Detector. Too much of the quality is not good and a huge amount of it = paranoia. People who stay in an abusive relationship don't have enough of it: They stick around when others would have bailed long ago. But enough of it (to help us notice when something or someone is "off kilter") is hugely important as we navigate life. I'm going to suggest that the leaders who signed on to the Declaration of Independence had "just enough" of that BBSD (or, if you prefer BBD - take your pick!) to conclude it was time to bail on British rule. They'd taken enough abuse. And weren't going to take it anymore!
And the question today is - how much more are we going to take? And how far have we strayed from our "Dreamtime ideals"? And for "dreamtime ideals" you can consider the founding and continuing ideals of America or the founding and continuing ideals of any spiritual tradition or whatever ethical or social ideals you'd like to hang your hat on. But the question remains. At least for me and clearly for others as well. Example: By the end of bush&cheneyco, approximately 80% of the population felt the nation was seriously off the track. And apparently that has already turned around a bit - so that many Americans are now viewing us as starting to head in the right direction. Even so, after having so seriously betrayed our ideals (having tortured, for example) and having so seriously undermined not only our economy but the economic situation around the world (yes, I know it wasn't just us... but still), how can we truly get back on track as a nation? Are we already headed for a "fall of empire" or can we right the flaws which the previous administration exposed (or seeded) in what we thought was a pretty well functioning Constitution? This is the reason I'm doing these blogs - it is a multi-layered task.
Declaration of Independence. Let's take a look at the preamble:
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
Right away, the document suggests a need to refer to "the opinions of mankind". I take that to mean the "wisdom" referred to in my last post and in the comments. And right away, without really saying where they're getting them, the declaration refers to certain truths, certain rights, and asserts that the purpose of government is "to secure these rights".
Next, the document goes on to a very important premise:
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Now, since some (here) have questioned the very process of considering what to "hold" and what to "discard" and the search for what are the truths upon which we make such decisions, I refer back to the Declaration of Independence, the idea that there are certain "rights" or ideals that people can agree on and that the purpose of government is to secure them. And I must admit, that along with many others (here and elsewhere) I have come to seriously question a society, a government, which instead of ensuring rights of persons has come to uphold (instead!) the rights of corporations, as well as those of the rich and the powerful, in such a way that too many persons are suffering - not just economically, but under our judicial system, in detention centers outside the US, in terms of health care and the environment and education, etc. I may have started out in the last blog by indicting the financial mess, but anyone who's read my posts for a long time knows that I have wider concerns than just an economic melt-down. And also that I'm coming from a larger perspective than just what's good for America.
Back to the Declaration of Independence:
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them [i.e.,the people] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. -- Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
Mistrust underlies the declaration: Due to "a long train of abuses and usurpations"- "a history of repeated injuries and usurpations" - and then comes a list of them. (It's worth following the link and reading the abuses, paying special mind to their similary with recent events.) A long train of abuses. Followed by an appeal to "the Supreme Judge of the world" ... "in the Name, and by Authority" of the people (it actually says "good People") and it ends with "a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence". Now you may or may not have any belief or trust in a supreme judge of the world or the protection of divine providence. (It matters not to me.) But for me to consider the task of looking for "truths" - in terms of a "spiritual quest" - is certainly in line with our forebears and is not a task to be mocked or taken lightly. Seek these "truths" in whatever manner you choose. I call that a spiritual undertaking. (One which Erikson would term related to his 7th and 8th stages for sure - in addition to the 6th, which relates to our common endeavor in doing so).
So, a bunch of men got together - in an atmosphere of trust in each other - but with a common "mistrust" - after "patient sufferance" of many abuses. And they embarked on a rebellion, of which we are the heirs.
Now, how do people get to a point where the "political bands" have been so stretched that they are seen to be intolerable or impossible to hold any longer and that a revolution ensues? This is an important question. And for the answer I will go to Jean Piaget, whose studies of the development of cognition have been so valuable - to psychology, to education, to me personally during 8 years as a teacher of young children long ago. Piaget posited two central processes for how children learn, how they adapt. They learn by assimilating information, taking it in. (They learn words, colors, letters, numbers. They learn by looking and playing, manipulating objects. They take in information.) But they also behave like little scientists - testing the conclusions, the interpretations, the very information they are "fed" or take in on their own. So do we. And when concepts or understanding are stretched to the breaking point - beyond where a theory or framework makes sense any longer, children (and WE) either have to go along in a kind of alternate universe believing the unbelievable or they/we spontaneously find ourselves thinking differently. Piaget called that process accommodation - a process where our minds "accomodate" to factual reality, to new ideas, to a new paradigm. This process is very similar to how Kuhn described what happens in science, where there is a "revolution" in thought.
Ah.... now you're following me. Revolution in thought. And that, my friends, is what I think happened around the time of the Declaration of Independence. And it's happening now.
You put up with or assimilate till you (or your categories) can't take it any longer. And then, you accommodate to the new reality - as you now see it. Your mind changes.
And that, I'd like to suggest is what happens in creativity, in inventiveness as well. And it happens in human development too, thus the stages. People, looking at a situation, see it has problems or possibilities. And they come up with novel solutions, new inventions, new ways of thinking and feeling, including music, art, dance, poetry and so on. Dickens' story of Little Dorrit is currently being presented on PBS Masterpiece Theater. A story of a family in a debter's prison. A story of the wealthy preying upon the poor. A story which came out of Dickens' own history but which, sadly, is mirrored to some extent in our own society. Art anticipating life.
We must face it all.
There is so much more to say.... to be continued...
There seems to be some confusion in the first comment below about "rights" as discussed in the Declaration of Independence. The document never says there are only 3 rights. It merely "enumerates" three, after declaring "that all men are created equal" and "endowed" with "certain unalienable Rights, that among these are" - followed by the familiar three we all know so well. That "among these' indicates that there are many rights they never bothered to enumerate. Apparently for the document it was far more important to enumerate all of the abuses suffered and to indicate that the government's duty is to secure our "rights" - without naming all of them. Thus these blogs - in an effort to understand what are the important truths and rights, which WE the People expect our government to protect. We have a right, and perhaps in these dark days, even a duty, to enumerate them for ourselves.
Also, apparently some would read into the Declaration of Independence a desire to be freed of government altogether or to limit the size of government. Please help us with a quote from the document itself... if that is your reading. For I cannot find it there. Indeed, the document seems to say that laws and government should be designed for the public good, whatever that might be. That we have many rights - not enumerated there. And laws can be made to ensure those rights. (Think health care.)