Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Vision Quest (4.2.09)

"When the foundations are being destroyed,
What can the just person do?"
(Psalm 11:3)

I've been thinking a lot about trust.  And how it relates to this crisis of identity in our nation.  A crisis precipitated (in part) by this economic meltdown.  A meltdown precipitated by the deceit and selfishness and greed of unscrupulous financiers, whose only allegiance was to the almighty dollar and their cronies in crime.   What Matt Taibbi described as:
....a completely insane, horribly skewed set of societal values that puts a premium on greed and severely undervalues selflessness, communal spirit and intellectualism...
So I started by thinking about positives and negatives.  And how important trust is to civil discourse.  And how mistrust and dishonesty undermine civil discourse, as I wrote to someone last week:
One of the things that is very bothersome in our society is this sense that people should be admired for their ability to hoodwink. As if society were one big poker game and the ones who were best at bluffing should be held up as exemplars and emulated.

We have gone far from our "dreamtime" ideals. And that is the thing we need to address, I think. It pertains in every area of society - including the Cafe. That's why pretense by users ultimately undermines civil discourse.
Which leads to the question of what qualities we, as a society, really value.  And what must be discarded if we are to pursue what really matters.  We've been circling this question for some time:  What really matters?  And how do we figure that out?  How do we conceptualize this?

Here at the Cafe, Larry has been pondering too; recently with starwalker:
Larry said:
For the last few months I have been writing here at the Café and thinking about the dimensions of the crisis of culture that is our current discontent... Something has to change but I have been stuck on how to position the problem in a way that allows a solution. My guardian angel gave it to me. Love, for all of its importance, is not enough if the relationship is abusive of one's spiritual integrity. If one looses the latter then the former becomes destructive. Sometimes one must leave a familiar lover and move on, in order to love well again, in order to endure.
And starwalker responded:
What is the love we may need to abandon in order to preserve our spiritual integrity?

I believe that these are the important questions. We are in need of some fundamental NEW way of conceiving our world. The choices aren't how to survive, they are WHAT will we preserve and WHAT will we let go.
And others are pondering too.  I hope you'll read this wonderful, short illustrated story, And the Pursuit of Happiness, which ends with a description of the writer's trip to a New England town meeting, where she anticipates:
I imagine it will soon be filled with all kinds of characters venting their fury and perceived injustices...  But no.  People speak their mind with grace and civility.  They listen with respect. ...

The enterprise is based on trust....
Love.   Integrity.   Trust.   Identity Crisis.  Those words jogged my mind ... reminding me of something. 

And suddenly it popped into my head.

Trust versus Mistrust.  That's the first of Erik Erikson's Eight Stages of Development.   Ego Integrity is the last stage.   Love (Intimacy) is in the middle.   As is the "identity crisis" - something which interested Erikson particularly, especially in relation to the "vision quest" of Native American spirituality. 

So for a week or more I've been pondering the various uses of this theory:  It's going to come in very handy, I think, in helping us to answer the questions:  what to keep - and what to discard.  As well as how to analyze what's benefiting or impeding that process.  In effect, I'm going to take this theory of individual development and apply it to politics and a whole lot more.  Because here's the thing:  The very qualities which foster development at earlier stages are manifested by individuals who have successfully navigated the last stages.  In effect intimacy, self-less giving and ego-integrity foster the qualities we prize at the earliest stages.  So that what's necessary for successful development of children (certain qualities of care-giving and integrity), are also vitally important for a well-functioning society, for honest and trustworthy institutions and caring communities. 

So let's take a brief look at Erikson's theory.

It's a very simple theory - based on 8 sets of opposites (a series of 8 conflicts to navigate), yielding 8 stages from infancy to old age.  Plus, each stage builds upon the next.   So, for example,  failures in early stages are cumulative - leading to problems negotiating later stages.  It's a theory that works for development, for understanding problems in mental health, and also, I'm going to suggest, for what goes wrong (or right) in society, in institutions, in communities large and small - even here at TPM Café.

In a nutshell below are the eight stages or conflicts, Erikson posits, that all of us must navigate in our journey from infancy to old age.  I've italicized the positive qualities on the left.  And you may also want to pay special attention to the negative qualities (on the right) - since my own contention is that these are the very maladaptive qualities arising or being sown by negative forces within our society, in communities large and small, including TPM Cafe.
Erik Erikson:  Eight Stages of Development
  1. Trust   vs            Mistrust
  2. Autonomy   vs    Shame/Doubt
  3. Initiative  vs       Guilt
  4. Industry   vs       Inferiority
  5. Identity   vs        Confusion/Negative Identity
  6. Intimacy   vs      Isolation
  7. Generativity vs  Stagnation/Self-Absorption
  8. Integrity   vs      Despair
To get a more detailed view of Erikson's stages, his life, and how he came to his theory,  I recommend this article, written by a professor who seems to have a good grasp of the subject matter.  It also includes a much more detailed chart, which provides an easy way to see the positives and negatives associated with how a person resolves the conflicts within each stage.

I plead with you to read the article
- all on one simple web page. In particular the beginning.  Because I think we, here at the Cafe, are engaged in a "Vision Quest" - for the heart and soul of America.  And let me make one thing very clear:  We are not talking parties here.  We are talking Wisdom:
For example, here is Larry, describing the spiritual dimensions of this vision quest we've collectively undertaken:
The only motivation for this great task should be justice and love for those who suffered and for those who will be spared if the truth can be displayed for all to see.
Ok, so where am I going with this?  I was trying to do it in one post.  I've concluded that's impossible.   So let's stop here, for now, with a list of some of the qualities which accrue to a person (or a community - cuz that's my thesis here!) when the conflicts at each stage are successfuly negotiated:  hope, cooperation, purpose, competence, loyalty, love, selfless giving, wisdom.  Along with 1-8 on the lefthand side (above), these, I believe are the qualities we are searching for.   (And our adversaries are seeking to undermine them by sowing poisonous seeds of the opposite qualities on the right hand side - 1-8 above.)

And one last thing.  Here are some links I've been gathering.  Evidence related to the positives (we want to keep) and the negatives (we want to avoid).  I'm sure you can come up with more examples.  This will give you an idea of what to hunt for.  And notice.  And analyze.

Also see:  Systemic Deception and the Breakdown of Civic Trust.

To be continued.....



Lots of substance here, Thera, and I'm packing to get on the road for work. I'll read it when we're in tonight and I get some quiet.
Already recco'ed...
You're holding the Vision Quest banner. :)
"So I started by thinking"
This simple step is the most powerful force in the universe.
An amazing post, TheraP. Just wanted to say that before I clicked on the further reading you've provided.
Bless you, tpmgary. That is high praise! I am humbled.
Time after time
I tell myself I'm so lucky
To be reading you
I only know what I know
The passing months did show
You give me hope so young
So new
And time after time
You'll hear me say that I'm
So lucky to be reading you

Sammy Cahn says Hi.
TPM Cafe - full of treasured folks like you. I give you my heart, dd. :)
What did Bob Dylan say?
"Steal a little, and they put you in jail. Steal a lot, and they make you king."
Nice post, TheraP.

Thank you, SuperBowl! :-)
Great post Thera! Still working my way through the links, but am already looking forward to the next chapters. What a question, and what a way to approach it!
This is one of the hardest tasks that's ever fallen in my lap! But I think it will stand us in good stead... so long as nobody bails - we need all hands on deck here! ;)
Funny... you and I are on the same wavelength, Thera. I have been recently thinking about the spectacle, and how we the people have historically ceded the perception of power to the few who rule. The hands of labor and the votes of the masses fashion and power American progress, but the masses perceive themselves as spectators on one or the other side of a battle between Gog and Magog.
I think the lack of trust is in ourselves, individually and collectively. Until we can see human life as a web of energy that propels from an engine of preconceived notions, then our preconceived a priori notions (irrational beliefs) will be shaped by consumer culture. We will continue to see CEOs as the power when that CEO would be no one without the labor to manage. We will continue to see the yacht as the symbol of a executive's privilege and not see the cold truth that the men and women who engineered and built the yacht can not afford the fruit of their labor. We will see a commodity as a thing apart from human effort and project our desires and fears upon them. In other words, we will dither away in Theme Park America without realizing that it is designed to reflect our imagination.
Glad to find we've caught the same wave here, Zipperupus. A couple of blogs back I said that I thought change would have to come from the grassroots. And that the power of the web may be the way it comes.
Lacking trust. Yes, often people look outside themselves for solutions. Too often. "We are the People we've been waiting for" as the Native American Proverb goes.
But also I believe that forces are arrayed against us - sowing mistrust, disrupting trust. Disrupting groups of people working together. Disrupting a lot of the qualities coming from those early stages... as if they want to undermine the foundations, prevent us from strengthening and extending them. So I see a two-pronged task here. One is combat the negative forces; the other to foster the positive forces.
It took me a lot of personal wrestling to get to the vantage point where I could "see" the problems well enough to see the way forward. (I literally took nearly a week off from blogging - as I allowed myself to dwell with the difficulties and consider things like trust and safety and common purpose and so on.)
As for consumer culture shaping things, yes, that goes back to my long blog on systemic deception. Without realizing it, I've been circling this for quite some time. I'm still feeling my way forward.
Please join in with any ideas you have or any critiques. Your comments are always much appreciated.
Commodities. Desires. Fears. Wow, that makes me think of Carl Jung's comment that we should trace all our fascinations (or fears) back to their origin within ourselves. But of course advertising tries to bypass our thinking. And we've now arrived at the commoditization of everything - including persons. Thanks for reminding me of that. I'm going back through some of my blogs and see if there are nuggets that now pertain to this task I did not want - but must take on.
Peace be with you.

My ruminations come from my daughter's recent discovery of Disneyland... her parents certainly never mentioned such a thing, and she's only seen a couple of Disney films. But, evidently through social osmosis, she has discovered Disneyland and now believes it to be the fulfillment of all her wishes. I mean, we don't even have cable television. It led me to discover that there's a lot of things we can protect our children from, but consumer culture is not one of them. It permeates our lives and we have to develop a relationship to it... in that way it is similiar to the Catholic Church in the dark ages.
So I wondered why consumer culture could have the God-attribute of omnipresence, when I realized that it is rooted in symbol and how we are educated to relate to symbol. And the symbols that rule America are infantile.... by which I mean that boundless ego that in its helplessness demands that the world serve its needs. Can you see where I am coming from, Thera? That consumer culture and American Empire is one big infantile fantasy being played out because the gratification structure is pre-verbal. We see a thing and only think of what it provides for us, i.e., status, satiety, escape, etc, and we can not associate the thing with humanity. We can not see a washing machine as a thing made by prisoners in China, or roads as a thing built by workers at collective taxpayer expense. So the lack of trust comes from this dissociation. Nothing in the world is human, it arrives as if by magic and represents us and communicates our status and serves our needs.
My hope is that there is that creeping awareness of that human energy that should arrive when we realize that Empire is just another word for helpless infantile paranoia.
Totally. I understand exactly where you're coming from . (I wrote it about in that one blog.) That consumer culture "uses" the very issues which I use in therapy. I use them to help people - to help them "see" and choose for themselves. The advertisers and as you say the consumer culture which even transcends specific advertisements "uses" these very issues to make people want things, to make them think these things will solve everything or make them happier or better liked and so on.
Yes. And that we can't protect our children from the society around us. Not totally. Although your daughter is also exposed to you. And values. And we can only hope that mitigates these other influences.
Yes, exactly. You are within those upper stages wanting to pass on not only values but the ability to "think" and make wise choices.
Very helpful comments. Make more of them - if they come to you!

Very good discourse here Zip. Thank's for your take on your daughter's, (and our), induction into the Disneyland of desire we call American, (consumer), culture.
Now there's a keeper of a phrase:
the Disneyland of desire we call American, (consumer), culture
We can not see a washing machine as a thing made by prisoners in China, or roads as a thing built by workers at collective taxpayer expense. So the lack of trust comes from this dissociation.
Fantastic! Yes, we are played in this consumer culture by disassociation. The politics of the Reich does this as well. How much separation has been created because of pro-Life groups who ignore every other life but that of the unborn. How much separation has been created by the stigmatization of liberals? How much separation has been created by the lunatic characterizations of environmentalists? In the end, it appears to me to be the display of brute strength versus perceived weakness, both of which are more illusions then reality.
I like where you're going here. How they're dividing us - against our will. Unnecessary divisions - how do they benefit us? Very good. :)
Can I offer my (cribbed) two cents--from a person I've quoted more than once: John Winthrop.
Love is the bond of perfection. First it is a bond or ligament. Secondly, it makes the work perfect. There is no body but consists of parts and that which knits these parts together, gives the body its perfection, because it makes each part so contiguous to others as thereby they do mutually participate with each other, both in strength and infirmity, in pleasure and pain. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
What I like about this is the responsibility is mine in the first instance. I can't wait until someone else "makes nice" and then reciprocate.
Which means you're "up there" in those stages, amike! Of that I had no doubt. You're able to set before us ways of becoming more reflective, more selfless. And clearly Winthrop is urging the very qualities of these higher stages that I'm suggesting are supportive of community. Qualities that impart wisdom. That foster trust and help to generate caring communities and bring people up into productive citizens, who will then do the same for later generations.
What I'm concerned about is that the qualities Winthrop urges have been subverted by this insane focus on greed and deceit and manipulation - and the idolizing of those who succeed via these methods - which are ultimately destructive of communities.
Thank you for that wonderful quote! :-)

Amike yours is so beautiful. I still have to add something much more basic that was on one of those origins of the universe docs on History or Discovery.
It hit me. Whenever two humans interact, elements of both infuse into the other.
I suppose this ends up being metaphor as Julian Jaynes might say. But we seem to be touched. Literally.
I am fascinated by the net. I am a salesman for TPMCafe, of course. But I meet people here without seeing their facial expressions, their picture, their bodies, their circumstances.
Yet, I get lured into a strong feeling that 'I know them.' Some are four time zones away and even farther.
They talk about anthropomorphism. In Anthro we would hear lectures about how man cannot be 'interpret' what are pets are thinking, because we see what we wish to see. I remember those cartoons as a kid, the real cartoons where all the figures really moved. Before Flintstones...
Then the totems of course.
And this line came on cable last nite about two bodies colliding.
We cannot help but pick up something when connected to another human being and they cannot walk away without picking up something from us.
Although we live in a nation with 300 million people and on a planet with 6 plus billion, this idea of people 'colliding' really got to me. Then TheraP's post and then you.
You would have been my favorite professor.
I really like your theory there, dd.
One of the places I'm going with this is to affirm the importance of the relationships we establish here at the Cafe. Some have tried to undermine that, to mock those relationships. This is very destructive of community - whereas establishing trust and truthfulness and friendships here is very constructive of both community and an ability to work together for positive goals.
People "colliding". I like that!
I realize what I'm doing is no more than what others have said and done. But sometimes we need to refound or reconceive things - especially when they've been under attack. And I now consider the crimes done under bush and the financial frauds and so on to be attacks at the very root of our society.
Wonderful comments here!

We need more collisions. It was Obama's reaching so many people that brought them back into politics and voting. The vote was not the end but the beginning. Find someone and collide, gently of course.
Gregor, when you walk down the sidewalk of life STAY ON THE RIGHT SIDE FOR CHRISSAKES (blesses himself) I mean I will walk down the sidewalk--since I have no car--and I am on the right side and then somebody comes toward me walking on their left side which is my right side. I know this gets terribly complicated.
But they are coming right at me and I have to step onto the street or else i would be walking on the left side and, I mean, I just CANNOT DO THAT!!!
Like I used to tell Johnnie. Practice what you preach, bro. Anne "The American Jezebel" Hutchinson
Know what one must turn away from ...
. . . yet what must be fully understood

And the key is how one understands and attains the balance point.
From the video linked below:
"Evil is the exercise of power to intentionally harm people psychologically, to hurt people physically, to destroy people mortally, or ideas..."
On the otherhand...
Good is the exercise to intentionally help people.

Philip Zimbardo: How ordinary people become monsters ... or heroes (video)
If one cannot face what evil truly is, one can never understand the greatness of the true heroes who help, nor ever attain that delicate balance to what one may face in their daily personal adventures to help themselves by helping others.
When you find the time in your busy schedules, please watch Dr. Zimbardo's presentation. It does have some very graphic visuals, but they're quite necessary to the overall subject matter.
If you can't look it in the eye, you cannot defeat it!
Thank you and ... love ya' Thera . . .
Thank you for your wise words, and the link of Zimbardo, but especially for these words:
If one cannot face what evil truly is, one can never understand the greatness of the true heroes who help, nor ever attain that delicate balance to what one may face in their daily personal adventures to help themselves by helping others.
In solidarity, OGD!
I like Zimbardo's idea of teaching children to be heroes. I really like that idea! And you know, it reminds me of something others here at the Cafe have discussed at times. Being brought up Catholic, in the 50's, we were taught in parochial schools that someday we might need to stand up to authorities who would try to force us to renounce our faith (our ideals) - and in effect they were training us to be martyrs, should the need arise. (the fear of communism at the time....) But I wonder if that explains why there are so many leftists who have that kind of background - a background which had prepared us to stand up to authority.
(Of course, little did they expect that later we would stand up to the Church!!!)
Can't wait for the next installment.
Deep, touching and wonderful stuff here!
Thanks for your touching comment. And may these ideas continue to see an echo in your own writing...
Larry, Larry, Larry. Fargin' broom.
It isn't just about throwing things out or personal choices, Thera, it is about tolerance, too. Good grief. People have been lied to so thoroughly and so well for so long, it has become expected. Accepted.
It's about not tolerating it anymore. From everyone, including ourselves.
No, The Kids Aren't Alright. And, why is that? Until we deal with that issue, the rest is pretty much, a conceit. I think if you ask most people they understand the differences and would choose the positives of your eight steps, yet for some reason, up is down, black is white, ignorance is strength, war is peace, and freedom is slavery. Why is that?
How will it help to choose "good" if our cultural definition of what is "good" is actually very, very bad?
There are forces at work here that must be dealt with, and dealt with harshly.
(sharpens pitchfork)
We have been sold a lie, and it is time to confront the liars.

I somehow answered below, bwak. ;)
You are a smart cheeken, bwak. Therein lies the crux of the equation. Being able to decipher which side of the two-headed coin is which, and being able to transverse the 'razor's edge' off which lies prejudice, self-righteousness, and delusion.
And you summarized it so well, amigo!
And where is Larry, by the way? I'm missing his contribution....
Paging Larry!
People need to hear we have sharpened pitchforks, but we will gain their agreement when we earn their trust. In order to do that we have to find a way past the ingrained disassociations. The colorful pictures painted by the Reich need to be sliced through to enable the mesmerized to see the truth.
Today Gingrich is in a post here about a characterization of Obama in a "War on Churches". Seriously, is this a war? Ask a soldier if this is a war. Is Obama out to subjugate churches, or simply the idea some churches have that the world has to bow to their interpretations of a divine being(s)? It would be useful to laugh at these declarations instead of allowing them to be taken so seriously. War? This country has not seen the face of war in 150 years. Sure we sent soldiers overseas, but there has not been any war here in the US. May it always be so, but we have to associate with each other, we need to collide gently to avoid it. The sabers are rattling.
Thera, your thoughts are so amazingly relevant. What a perfect framing.
I'm young, so my scope only extends so far. But I have experienced enough--in school, in athletics, in work--to observe that your thesis is as valid and sound as anything I've seen. I think you are brilliant to extend Erickson's theory of development to the collective level.
Whether a team in sports, a classroom composed of students and a professor, a group of colleagues at work, or a fellowship of bloggers, these eight levels provide the perfect conceptual framework for understanding the group dynamic and the group performance. Thera, you are so lucid!
I haven't examined the links yet, but I look forward to doing so. I just wanted to jot down my initial reaction.
I know this is a totally "me too" response, so let me try to add something. This article is the first that comes to mind.
It posits that our development as a species is founded, not upon our super brain power, but how broadly we construe the family which raises our children. It finds cooperation to be the basis for our evolution. I think that's true. But I think that--as Erickson's model suggests, and as you so boldly extend it--TRUST is logically prior to cooperation. So, I think your thesis may expand even further than you intend. It may not just account for our individual and collective behavior, but our evolution--past and future--as well.
Satyagraha (and I know what it means!), you are brilliant too! And to have the perspective of a younger person is extremely helpful here.
And thanks a million for that link. And the further ideas. As I stated above, this theory simply came to me - unbidden. And thus the more we can help each other to understand its ramifications, the better for all of us. My work here is never something I think of as "my own" - but is "knowledge for sharing" and for "extending".
Please, if you have further thoughts or ideas or links, just stop by and drop them off.
This is a "work in progress" here.

Merci beaucoup!
A few more cents. I just picked up on the national identity crisis thread in the argument. As I read stage five, I'm struck by how this rings true of our country today!
I want to focus on one particular strand: anarchism. Anarchism seems to be the quintessential consequence of repudiation. As an ideology, anarchism allows members to delay ego formulation and instead "fuse" with the "nobody" role.
What's fascinating to me, is that--as far as I can tell--this is exactly the mindset into which the majority of the neo-conservative/MSM conservative movement is regressing. Take Glenn Beck for instance. "This is not socialism! This is fascism!" It reeks of the malign "nobody" identification. And this is most interesting because this movement was--only a few years ago--maladaptive/fanatic.
So, I think to answer one of the many questions which your post raises, FIDELITY is THE QUALITY we need now more than ever. If these conservatives wish to have a constructive impact, they should take a page from the Saul Alinsky handbook. "Work through the system--not against it." Unfortunately, that is a rational argument--one full of subtleties and nuance. I guess then, the question becomes, how can we keep reactionaries from moving out of the "nobody" identity and into the "bad" identity.
Satyagraha, you are becoming indispensable to this endeavor! You are excellent at taking a framework and both seeing into it as well as seeing where you can place it, like a frame, around contemporary problems. Kudos!
You have put your finger exactly on some concerns I have as well. Whether one chooses a negative identity or one chooses to brand someone with a negative identity (which I'd actually see as trying to "shame" them - so the behavior of the MSM or rush or whomever is really way down the totem pole there) - yes, it amounts to a deceit, both upon the person being so branded and upon the society, which may swallow the deceit.
Please keep thinking and feeding us your ideas. Because, as I've said over and over, this is a group endeavor here. We're all working along, trying to understand and apply our ideas to what's going on - with the hope it will illumine the problems and solutions may arise.
Carry on!!!! :-)

Well, Ms. Bachmann expresses the "nobody" role pretty well herself.
Bachmann: "Do We Want To Be Free, Or Do We Want To Be Slaves?"
Sounds like the "bad" role is not too far behind...
Plus, she's making a "forced choice." That is never good. It's like bush's "you're either with us or against us".
A false choice is a way of forcing a choice. You pick only two alternatives. When there might be hundreds or dozens. Or at least a handful. And you phrase it as if "choice" - this moment - is necessary. And there are only two to pick from.
Real analysis takes a very long time. Propaganda takes a sound bite!
So, first of all, she's assuming you're either dependent (a slave) or independent - and what happens to interdependence? Which is essentially what we're discussing here. Community. And how we get there.
I've gotten off the track a bit....

You're are off track, TheraP. A track is two rails and you have offered a 3rd option. You are going in a different direction then the one Bachmann proposes of only two options. You have left her track. That's what we need to do, derail these fantasies the Reich proposes.
Boy, bwak, you've touched on so much here, I'm calling for reinforcements...
I hope others will chime in here. Because you've really found the holes, the cracks, in what I've said so far. Which helps me.... as I haven't begun to write a sequel.
Yes, how come people would "theoretically" or verbally choose the positives in the developmental stages... but actually may go along with the herd, cheating on exams and shoplifting and padding resumes with falsehoods and so on. And, of course, how does that contribute to the overall sense that "the good" has now become the "profitable," the "powerful," the "showy" or whatever.
I'll think on it, bwak. I hope you will to. And please.... I'm calling for extra HELP! Because bwak has poked at the rough points - in this here vision quest!
Ok - it all goes back to the lies, as you say, bwak. And the liars. And the systemic deception I blogged about before.
Boy.... I sure have a lot on this plate I've been handed by fate!
It gets back to what I was TRYING to say on tolerating perfidy, Thera. I'm pecking at the edges of it, but I can't quite get there. You always get me a little closer, but what I am mostly aware of is a slow burning anger.
Ever building.
It's getting dangerous, I feel it, and I am afraid for my child and all children.
Lying is not healthy for children and other living things.
Lying and deception = the breakdown of trust. And if you take away the foundation, the building gradually crumbles.
I so agree. That is why, even users here at the Cafe who dissemble or use pretense or lies eat at the heart of the trust we all need.
Yes, lying destroys trust or leads to mistrust. And you're right. We must confront the lies.
I can understand the slow, burning anger. I too am concerned for the next generation - and the next and so on. And what do these filthy rich liars think will happen to theirs?
That other post I referenced (now at the end of the blog) quotes you..... on perfidy.
I think the only solution is groups of people. I'm thinking out loud here. But one of the things that some of these "unhelpful users" have tried to do is assault the group of us working together. Those of us trying to undo the lies are a collective danger, apparently, to the forces of darkness. That would explain the efforts to mock friendships and accuse some of following or others of having blind followers.
The Power of the Group, which is intent on doing good. Many efforts have been made to disrupt an destroy the group. I really can't imagine we're all that important.... but yet... it would appear that we are like a counterweight or something and if enough of us band together and enough bands communicate and cooperate... then possibly that might appear to be a threat.
I say we carry on!!!!
Carry on.... Blossoms of the desert!
Carry on - playing an digging and thinking and cooperating. And staying honest. Keeping each other honest.
What say you bwak?
I say
We shall march shoulder to shoulder. Clicks, not Cliques!
Tolerance of perfidy seems class and status based. If you are poor and live in the wrong town, 3 strikes and you're out. Meanwhile, the same Milken junk-bond wunderkinds are given license to create perpetual motion wealth devices every few years without consequence. You possess an ounce of crack and get a mandatory few years in the pen... You help finance and train death squads that control the drug trade and you get appointed in every GOP administration since Nixon.
Our nation is fundamentally unjust.
Yes, thanks, that's getting closer, yes. I think that those who have never "lived on that side of town" ignore it and/or dismiss it as some sort of whining.
To their peril, I am afraid. At this point. To their peril.
Good points!
Boy do we need prison reform!
"...but what I am mostly aware of is a slow burning anger. Ever building. It's getting dangerous, I feel it, and I am afraid for my child and all children."
- Anger. I am fuming, personally. But what I see is an unmistakable lack of it. Not nearly enough. What I do see is the things you get when one has a sense of something gone quite wrong, but where blame is hard to place: anxiety and undistilled hostility and hatred. Anger is healthy. It is what you get when social bonds of respect and duty are transgressed. But it presupposes the existence of those bonds. It presupposes the recognition by all parties that such bonds exist. It involves treating the other as a social agent responsible for the harm he might cause. And that recognition has fallen to the wayside somewhere along the road. Maybe I'm missing something out there, but all too often in reaction to the current crisis I see a bitter shrug of the shoulders, accompanied by an attitude of 'what do you expect Them to do...'. The very idea of social trust being grounded in the individual's sense of basic human decency has been eviscerated to the point where it was largely supplanted by another base: a fragile sense that somehow the pursuit by all of their enlightened self-interest would bring into being some emergent good of social development; 'trust your baker not to poison you because you might sue him', as it were. Even Obama exculpated all parties in the Leno interview; "the 'dirty little secret' of the financial crisis is that no one is responsible - everyone has some degree of deniability, everyone has an excuse - 'x played by the rules', 'x miscalculated in setting up the rules'." In effect, "stop trying to pin the blame".
Hatred, on the other hand, is what you get when those fragile social bonds of sensed mutual responsibility disappear. It is a wholly destructive force. Anger seeks reparation or remorse to heal relationships, hate just seeks annihilation. So that's the tendency I fear.
Just a side-point as a coda to these thoughts. I still have contact with the financial world. And you get a sense in the banks, that their current relationship with the government is just one more business transaction. And a vastly successful one so far (to all appearances). Their 'negotiations' have led to more or less all their demands being met, a result which merely confirms their sense of being in the right. The anger that is out there is clearly insufficient to getting any serious change in how the System works. So, a little more rage, please. It's only a reaffirmation of the social bonds which need so much healing.
Maybe I'm missing something out there, but all too often in reaction to the current crisis I see a bitter shrug of the shoulders, accompanied by an attitude of 'what do you expect Them to do...'.
I think we need to always answer that question with several answers. Bury them with options other then the ones we should have "expected". For instance, we are repetitively told the mortgage lenders did nothing illegal when they sold the ARMs to people who were taking great risks. Fine, it was not illegal or we cannot prove it. I will condemn them in the court of public opinion. To me their action was reprehensible. It was predatory lending. It was a conscious effort to deceive when these people were trained in risk and aware of what qualified a person for a loan and what did not. These people made loans and sold them before the ink was dry. They skated! This is wrong. It will alays be wrong. Sure, it was not illegal but it was wrong and people need to admit this instead of somehow shrugging it off and perpetuating the acceptance of the process of lending to people not yet ready to take out loans of that magnitude.
It also needs to be noted that some were taking reasonable risks but could not plan for losing their jobs, or the health tragedy that occurred, or another unforeseen financial crisis. This may help dissolve the disassociation created by characterizing the financial crisis as something created by slackers, who are somehow not like you and me.
GZap, this is giving me a thought and perhaps reaching into the past as TheraP is angling for on one strain of thought.
Go back....way back. There was a breakdown of trust right from the very beginning. Buying Manhattan for $24? Really. What businessman with any morals at all would offer a price like that? It's insulting. It started right there on that day, the hoodwinking, the getting away with it, the bullying, the riding roughshod over anyone else trying to live morally according to their culture. We were f*cked on day one.
And I mean ALL of us...not just the Indians. All of us that weren't part of the 'elite'.
If it were right, the country would not be making so many concessions to the Native American people.
Interesting, though, that it was not until the White People made it to the Pacific that Chief Seattle pondered,

How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us.
If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?
What I am asking is that you put aside the blame. When there is blame, there is enough to go around, so along the lines of the Chief Seattle's remarks, one has to ask whether the Chiefs on Long Island accepted money for something that was not theirs to give? I say this with the same question to the White People, it was not the government's to take either. The entire transaction is a fabrication created by people to possess land belonging to neither one.
Here is the rest of Chief Seattle's discourse on the issue of selling the land to the government.
Your point has honor and I wanted to address it in my comment but would have ended up with about a yard and a half of blather and thought it would be better left to another thread for another time.
I will try to make my point short and sweet. From what I have read, studied, heard and conjectured, the early interactions between whites and natives were just simply doomed because there was a total lack of cultural knowledge about the other on both sides.
And also,
I admire much of what Chief Seattle speaks. There are many such eloquent speakers for their respective nations. :o)
I think the Whites were wrapped up in their "superior" Christianity and their concept of what civilized meant. Civilized was more about technology then heart. I believe the Native Americans had open hearts and we should always remember that. I believe their openess was related to their desire to be so, to struggle constantly to be so. Whites would do well to undertake that struggle more often and hav emore respect for those who do.
I think we need to acknowledge all the breakdowns in trust. Acknowledge that. Understand how destructive that was. Whether to Native Americans or Black Americans or the Chinese brought to build railroads or the Japanese interned during WWII. Many things like that. Not to caste blame - since at this point those who did so, for the most part, are long gone. But to see where we've been. Feel a sense of the harm done, the legacy we now deal with. In order to go on. It's like the person in AA or NA. At a certain point they make a fearless accounting of their past life. It's part of being honest, of facing truths, however painful. It's the same with the state-sponsored torture and so on. Some of us are ready to do this. Others may never be ready. But it's part of where we've come from - and we need to acknowledge that, to learn from it, I'd say, before we can go on.
Some of that is happening right here. And that is beneficial.
yes, thanks for that Gregor! Somewhere we unlearnt the art of moral judgment, both in what we expect from ourselves and from others.
Obey, this is a stunning comment and an important contribution to the cause here. You have got it exactly right! And it explains the unease so many of us feel. The unease that the basic bonds of social relationships and the civic enterprise have been so undermined and at times even destroyed that there is an undercurrent of seething rage. And you have to wonder if this nation will endure or has simply already reached the tipped point and entered the "decline of empire."
I'm going to reread and think a great deal about what you've said. You've crystalized for me things I've been thinking about - and that only intensifies my concerns here.
I cannot thank you enough for this comment.

Thanks Thera. I'm glad that you can glean some sense from my awkward mode of expression. :0P
It's a lot of half-baked thoughts compressed together, but I'll try to unpack them as we go along...
Thank you TheraP for your work and your words.As I watched Dr. Zimbardo's presentation It brought back the memory of 1976 when our class discussed this very experiment.Back then it was only about how far ordinary people would go to do bad things to others in compliance to an authority figure. Dr Zimbardo takes it so much further in the complexity of it than just the authority figure, to state that the situation,the anonymity,the enabling system are also factors.I have never looked at those wearing white lab coats or authority figures with unquestioning awe or obedience since those days.
Im just an ordinary guy who lives out in the country, but Ive seen things in the wild that may apply here.One thing is the pack mentality. Animals act completely different when they are in a group than when they are alone.A wild pig will usually run away if he is alone, not so if he is one of a pack, they are aggressive and dangerous. Even domesticated dogs change when they are strayed and join other strays to become a pack.My friend who takes care of 400 acres was riding his 4 wheeler when he came upon a group of dogs.He turned to speed away but they would not have it. They chased him with snarling,snapping ,barking and intent to do harm, he barely got away. The pack that chased my friend were not wolves they were former pets who had banded together and sort of became of one mind. Emboldening one another,
enabling one another, doing things they would never do alone.I also think it has to do with who is the leader of the pack,these dogs would not have attacked had the leader not made that choice. He got to be leader because of his aggressiveness,they follow his authority, but how got to be the most aggressive is another question.I'm sorry for the long post,a shorter version would be just to say I think the group dynamic also plays a huge factor in these matters.
Very helpful, Don. Never apologize for length. That's on of the things I actually love about the Cafe (as opposed to HuffPo, for example). There is no arbitrary cut-off here. Your words are very helpful.
A group can be very powerful. For good. Or for bad. I spent 8 years teaching young children. I know how easy it is to help children form a caring community - and how other teachers wielded cruel authority instead.
Very, very helpful words. If you have more ideas, please come back and give them. As I've said above, this is a work in progress. I rely on the community here for feedback and ideas, hints, guesses.

Don, if you did not read my post just before this one, on torture, I recommend that you look through that (you can click on it right at the top of the screen for this post - or click my name and scroll down to that blog). In the comments section there I discussed a lot about Zimbardo and Migram in the context of the state-sponsored torture and you might find that discussion helpful. (that part is in the comments - but pretty early in the comments, where somebody asked me some questions)
Again, thanks for your comments.
In all honesty, TheraP, I am having trouble wrapping thought around your theory. I've read it 3 times and visited the links. It's either too big for me or I am missing the obvious. It wouldn't be the first time. Or maybe it is the vision quest thing throwing me off because a vision quest is a personal thing more than a communal thing. I am having a block with this I think.
Folks are commenting and it's clear they are getting the gist. I'm a little jealous...or maybe envious is the better choice of words...because I can't put a finger on the question. I mean THE question. Simplification would help me, friend, because all I am these days is a simple gardener and the desert isn't blooming for me. :o)
You are correct, dear flowerchild. A vision quest is an individual thing. But this is related to what PseudoCyAnts has taught us to call "the Dreamtime of America" - and I'm taking what is generally an individual thing (the vision quest or the stages of development - in which "identity" is just one stage) and I am suggesting.... that we could make use of a theory and a "quest" which apply to individuals - but stretch it, stretch our minds so we can consider applying it to the group. As if we, as a group, are together seeking the vision.
Now, according to how the Lakota Ogalala conducted the vision quest, the teenager had the "vision" but the elders "interpreted" the vision and drew from it the "role" the person would pursue for the rest of their life. Thus, even within that society, the vision quest was only partly individual - but very much endorsed within the community.
I'm sorry if I've confused you. Because honestly I want your input. I want you to help us understand more about the vision quest. Even if you can't see how that might apply to a group, you are the person here among us who knows the most about Native American spirituality and the role of the elders in passing that along.
This is a new idea I'm advancing here. I'm taking the theory and the idea of the vision quest and stretching them. In an effort to see if that helps us in resolving our "identity crisis" as a society.
Does any of this help? Even if your mind can't stretch to imagine what I mean, ask one of your elders. Because, think about it. What if our national identity has never really reached back to the people, the culture, which preceded the settlers? What if you have something to contribute to help us learn a better way to be "community"?
Take your time. This idea is something that's been building with me for 2 weeks now. It may take you a while. But you may find that "something" comes. Maybe even in a dream. (I literally had a dream last night - and then did some thinking in the middle of the night - that made this post better. And it came in a dream.)
So let yourself dwell with this problem. And see if something comes. So it's like various people with "vision potential" - sharing that with others and working together on behalf of the larger society.
Peace. You can do this!

Where do I look for CyAnt's Dreamtime? I'm guessing this was before my time here.
I have some understanding now. Migwetch for showing me the focus.
Come to the chatroom tomorrow night. Friedday night
I can safely tell you there.
Okay. :o)
Flowerchild, I used to find great difficulty in this idea too. Here are few hints...
Visual hint:
Cinematic hint:
Michael Clayton
Literary hint:
(And this one is pretty direct--the first 20 pages or so references collective vision quests specifically)
Non-fiction hint:
David Bohm - On Creativity (Especially the introduction)

I want you to help us understand more about the vision quest. Even if you can't see how that might apply to a group, you are the person here among us who knows the most about Native American spirituality and the role of the elders in passing that along.
After thinking on it overnight I have this to say:
I am still having trouble with the vision quest title. I mean, I KNOW what a vision quest is. I have participated in a ritual/ceremony of this kind as an adult woman several times.
Vision quests are utterly personal between the dreamer and the Elder. (Think doctor/patient privacy) Vision quests do not stretch to include community.
I do understand what you are aiming for though, and it is myself that is bogged down with this distinction. My spiritual core cannot allow me to accept this reference, but whatever or however the rest of you feel is your choice and is not within my provenance.
Simplification: starwalker's comment:
... [to] preserve our spiritual integrity... The choices aren't how to survive, they are WHAT will we preserve and WHAT will we let go.
Oh, shit. Are you talking about Seventh Generation stuff?
Yeah. I'm gonna need to talk to an Elder. This will take time.
I'm going to bed now and dream.
I don't know what 7th generation stuff is. So that must be it!
I look forward to your dreams.
Seventh Son - Willie Dixon
Well now everybody cryin' 'bout the seventh son
But in the whole round world there is only one, and
I'm the one, yes, I'm the one
I'm the one, I'm the one,
I'm the one they call the seventh son
Well I can tell your future before it comes to pass
And I can do things for you that make your heart feel glad
Look at the skies and predict the rain
I can tell when a woman's got another man
I'm the one, yes, I'm the one
I'm the one, I'm the one,
I'm the one they call the seventh son
Now I can hold you close and I can squeeze you tight
And I can make you cry for me both day and night
And I can heal the sick and even raise the dead
And make you little girls talk out of your head
I'm the one, yes, I'm the one
I'm the one, I'm the one,
I'm the one they call the seventh son
Now I can talk these words that sound so sweet
I can make your little heart even skip a beat
I can take you, baby, hold you in my arms
And make the flesh quiver on your lovely bones
I'm the one, yes, I'm the one
I'm the one, I'm the one,
I'm the one they call the seventh son
Well now everybody cryin' 'bout the seventh son
But in the whole round world there is only one, and
I'm the one, yes, I'm the one
I'm the one, I'm the one,
I'm the one they call the seventh son
I'm the one they call the seventh son
I'm the one they call the seventh son
I believe that what FlowerChild was really referring to is the concept that one should always consider the consequences of their actions out unto the seventh generation ahead of them. It is similar to the of leaving the lightest footprints behind possible in your path through life.
Very perceptive. And certainly the answer! May we all make use of that wisdom. Thank you.
Well, not exactly. :o)
What I mean is this:
I am Seventh Generation. We are all Seventh Generation. Seventh Generation is taking place now. It it not seven generations in the future. The Seventh Generation, or Seventh Fire, reference stems from Lakota and Anishinaabek prophesy.
The prophecy in part states, "the Seventh Generation would come together to Mend the Sacred Hoop, restore the Spirit of the Nations, and unite all Nations to heal our Mother Earth."
Oh, I love this!!! Thank you, flowerchild. Thank you!!!
Yes, I love the idea of all of us coming together to mend society and all of creation.
These are the gifts of knowledge received from the 7 Grandfathers in Anishinaabek culture. (Not to be confused with the Seventh Generation.)(Or the Seven Fires) (Or the Seven-Eleven.) :o)
Hi Flower. I knew you were going to like this.
Do you mind if I steal this for my Chivalry?
The Grandfathers are always happy to have their gifts spread around, dd. :o)
Thank you, flowerchild. This is very helpful. It's always beneficial to see how differing traditions define what's necessary to pass along.
In Buddhism there are the 8 Noble Truths.
This is deep. I’m with Erikson that culture could be a nurturing part of our existence but have to say that in our current culture I experience all his eight stages of development in various ways still, positive and negative, sometimes on a daily basis. If this makes me crazy, sorry. The urge to resist oppression and inequality seem like a natural part of being a human being, and at the moment very strong. What matters now in our public lives are our legal rights, ethics (the lying liars must stop) and empathy for the others that suffer alongside us – whoever and wherever they may be.
I think a really valuable part of Erikson is the middle part – the psychosocial modalities list = something to act upon. Very simple list – something like a vision. The spirit of our country can be lifted, and from there we might find our center. Being a mix of complex cultural and genetic characters, (to accept myself and others,) I grew to think we humans must promote equality of dignity.
“When the foundations are being destroyed,
What can the just person do?"
(Psalm 11:3)”
to get, to give in return. to hold on, to let go. to go after, to play. to complete, to make things together. to be oneself, to share oneself. to lose and find oneself in another. to make be, to take care of. to be, through having been, to face not being. - Erik Erikson
To be a real human being is to understand empathy. If we include this idea and feeling in all political and economic discourse we could create something new and good. Yes we must help each other get thru these times. Appreciate. Laugh. Relax when you can because this Depression is a rough ride. I do appreciate your post and links and it took me a very long time to glean. I hope I didn’t entirely miss the point. It is such a good discussion and I look forward to more. I am ready for the long road. Thank the gods we turned some of this crazy matter into computers. There are so many good people here. We can make it work. Thanks.
Dear stratofrog,
You not only got the point, you led us straight to the heart of the matter. I completely agree with where you led us. To Empathy. That is the key. And yes, that is why, if you navigate the conflicts Erikson lays out, you never really leave them behind - you always have access to them. And yes, that's the source of empathy. And that's why, I think, wisdom is so important to arrive at. And I think you're helping me with where to go with my next post - when I get there (which may be some days... this one took me days and days to write!).
Now I think of two things. One is mirror neurons - and actually satyagraha helped with that too (her link). Mirror neurons are our source of empathy. Our ability to put ourselves in the shoes of another. Our ability to empathize with each of the conflicts. And to CARE about those coming behind us - to want to assist them and pass wisdom along to them. And yes, all aspects are available to us. And how do we control or channel the negatives? That's very important!
The other thing you made me think about is people who DON'T take the conflicts along with them. Who never get beyond them - but deny that. Think bush. The man makes decisions - but doesn't really take the consequences into account. Never revisits them - no matter what. He's a person who lacks access to the struggles the rest of us face on a daily basis. The anguish. The regret. The sorrow. Yes, the joys and the peace and so on. But all of it. (and he leaves that out ... and maybe that's where the problem lies - those who lie and dissemble and avoid and blame everyone else - but never really care about anyone else!)
Which reminds me of that wonderful story/poem from Justice Putnam about Jesus, the man of sorrow, who "feels it all".
I feel that way. I feel it all. Sometimes it is more than I can bear. In the sense that I must spend time alone - and delve deeply into bearing it. For I can do no more. And speak no more at such times. I can only feel and "weep" metaphorically. (and that poem I posted earlier this week... speaks to that)
That is why the Cafe is so wonderful at this time. We can draw upon each other's words and ideas and metaphors. And it all helps.
Thank you for clarifying and focusing the heart of the matter. Bless you for that!
Because in these times we all need something to hang onto. Each other of course. But sometimes we need a central focus. At one point I was thinking of beatitudes... but of a modern sort. And you have named them. Thank you!
Well . . .
This take us right back to what you quoted in your comment above.
It's very interesting, OGD. I did my dissertation on "cognitive expertise in psychotherapy" and one of the things I found is that the more expert therapists (when compared to the novices) owned the same issues they found in their patients - dependency, aggression etc. In other words, the capacity to view oneself as "just as human" as the next person is a very important capacity related to empathy and also to wisdom I think.
Your participation on this thread is appreciated more than you could know. :)
This is all nice but between our lawmakers, government in general and the financial community the line has been transgressed in ways that don't allow going back. Those in power are at too great a risk to think they might ever truly consider an honest system. This will never be fixed in a civil or conventional way. Of that I am certain.
You may be right. I don't deny it. But in the face of this, I return to that quote from Psalm 11: What does the person who seeks justice do - when the foundations are shaking and everything may tumble down? You can't just leave the field. And I think stratofrog, right above you, has given us the key - in the quote box.
We can't just throw in the towel and let mayhem take over. We must do what we can - for ourselves and our brothers and sisters - in the widest sense of that term. I'm even thinking of how St. Francis referred to animals and even inanimate objects as "our brothers and sisters".
Please join us in this endeavor.

TheraP, I just found this blog and I would so dearly love to have the time to contribute to this really interesting conversation you've initiated. Unfortunately I can't do this right now (work calls!) but I'll return to it as soon as I'm able to and I look forward to a NEXT installment.
I look forward to your comment, starwalker. No matter how long it takes, the blog is here. And I will continue to check for responses. As this is really the only way I can carry this forward. On the backs of all of us!
I always read your posts with delight as you peel back the issues of our society like an onion. It may smell and burn at our eyes but it adds so much to the flavor of the stew.
Perhaps I think in too simplistic terms...but being a boy scout for over 40 years and spending much time training others to lead young men it has always amazed me that so few understand the Native American "vision quest" and why it was such an integral part of many of the seperate native tribes evolution. See Seaton's "Gospel of the Redman"
The Boy Scout oath leads with "...duty to God..." but when I teach other adults how a non-denominational worship services should be conducted they glower with me when I tell them that the Boy Scouts say duty to God without ever identifying or restricting what that means... The "Great Spirit" can mean many things.
I have much more to say but space restrictions and my desire to read your second part of this will cause me to wait.
Love the way you think
Please give us further information on that. Because my second installment is very dependent on the further thinking we're all doing here.
And never apologize for being "simplistic". Indeed, an ability to see to the "heart of the matter" is indispensable. It helps us keep our eye on the ball. And unless we do that, we're likely (as Larry's first quote above... and the comment it comes from) to lose our integrity because we've been betrayed by our desires.
Do, please, tell us more. At whatever length would be helpful. Or put it in a blog, if you like, and flag that here.
Thanks for your help! I cannot do this thinking alone. (though at times I must seek solitude in order for the ideas to settle and the "heart of the matter" to rise up to the surface)
Holy Mystery: Great Spirit. Why should we presume to "package" what is beyond our ken?
Thank you for your kind encouragement. And especially for your further assistance. Please...

No.. just no.
This is terrifying emotional nonsense (and a crass misappropriation of the term "vision quest". You just fucking cannot make the vision quest a shared activity).
This search for meaning may not have caused the financial crisis, but is just as surely one of the significant problems in America.
Ok, you don't have to participate....
Thanks for adding your comment . . .
Your solitary comment adds so much more to the discussion than may meet the eye on first glance.
How perceptive. I think we need to code the comments here along Erikson's scale.... ;)
This is terrifying emotional nonsense
Karl, thank you for your honesty. We are treading into uncharted waters with a group vision quest, if you will, and I see that you do not care for this term. make up your own, then. We are seeking an emotional response to a social problem and whether we can successfully harness a group's emotion in a meaningful way. We all know this has already been done in destructive ways. It may be that we create something now very meaningful and good that will be torn down later. But that is no reason, IMHO, not to build it anyway, or at least try to build it.
We all assume Jesus had good intentions and what He built was originally great. If He is/was omniscient, He would have known what would come of it, but He built it anyway.
Okay, I can see I am goading an atheist here, but as I studied Russian History, it is truly remarkable how the most radical had a religious fervor for their missions and lived like monks, self-deprecating, self-denying monks! They lived and died for something they believed was greater then themselves.
Maybe it was time to tear down the autocracy. Maybe they were right in doing that, but it has taken nearly a hundred years for Russia to return to anything resembling a civilization worth imitating and I would argue they are still not there. So, maybe I have to conclude it was not worthwhile to tear it down. It would have been better to renovate it.
Wonderful call to service, GregorZ! :)
I cannot just make up a term and have the problem go away. It is not an issue of terminology but specifically the approach you are trying to manufacture here.
The problem is the search for meaning, attempting to apply ill-fitting analogues, and an excessive reliance on emotion* and spirituality. Trying to make it a quest.
By the by, it would probably be wise to not assume "we" agree on anything about Mr. Christ, starting from his existence, but at least be aware that according to the scripture the church accepted into the Bible he did understand how things would end.
* Empathy and emotionalism are not the same.
I'm going out shortly. And before I return this thread will be "off the charts". And I just want to thank all those who contributed and those who read but sent "good vibes" to those who are working on this.
And for anyone who is still thinking and not sure what to write yet, please be assured that I will read all the comments, no matter when they are posted. And your input matters. Not just here but in the grand scheme of things.
Peace to all. This has been a very productive thread. I'll be as interested as you in what comes of the next installment....

One of the most under-reported stories yesterday (IMO) was a statement that Michelle Obama made at the girls boarding school. She said something about the importance of respectful relationships. She cited that in her parents, she saw what a respectful relationship between a man and a woman should be.
Carry that forward to the group. We all learn by observed example, conscious or not. Awareness of our responsibility that we are examples of expected/accepted behavior is one of the keys to elevating the moral level of the group.
Sadly, what seems to be repeatedly reinforced is that often you can get away with morally unacceptable behavior. Behavior that includes violating trust, violating accepted moral codes, violating laws.
I'm looking forward to your next entry on the subject.
Lovely comment. And how true. Thanks for your contribution. :)
I appreciate the thought and earnest moral searching that went into this piece. But I would like to play a few dissonant notes.
Thera says we are experiencing “a meltdown precipitated by the deceit and selfishness and greed of unscrupulous financiers, whose only allegiance was to the almighty dollar and their cronies in crime.” This puts far too much emphasis, I believe, on the individual moral failures of certain capitalists, and not enough on the structural problems, legal inadequacies and institutional deformities of the American capitalist order. So long as we stay focused on the trees of the alleged moral depravity of individuals, and respond on that individual plane, whether with outrage or compassion, to the moral or spiritual failure of other individuals, we will miss the social forest. The chief problem is not immoral or amoral individuals. Rather, we have a legal-economic system in the United States that is bound to produce the kinds of outcomes we are seeing now.
Thera’s analysis suggests that our chief response to the challenge is to work on the moral and spiritual improvement of individuals. This is the “bad apples” theory of social problems. It suggests we have a system of laws and institutions that are capable of working fine, and will advance humane values, so long as we have humane individuals manning the positions of this system. I don’t believe that is the right diagnosis of the central problem we are facing. We have a bad system. That system hones and fashions the mores of the people who are constrained to work within it. It establishes the basic framework of rules and constraints, of incentives and norms, of what is required and what is permitted, and the outcomes we get are pretty much those that we should expect when ordinary human nature is combined with these flawed structural design features of the social and legal order. If we want better outcomes, we need to act politically to change that order.
I worry that this kind of psychological and spiritual discourse, in response to a social problem like the one we face now, is another expression of Americans’ extreme individualism, and consequent apolitical politics. In its own way, the discourse suggests “it’s about me”. It asks, what can I do to make myself a better person? But it’s not about me. It’s about us, collectively. The chief question is what can we do, working collectively, to improve the social order.
I don’t believe the focus on individual spiritual improvement is either practical, or would achieve the desired results. That’s because you can stuff self-actualized Ericksonian saints in the mouths at one end at the corporate system, in their personnel offices, and after passing through the goose of the corporate-based system, those saints are going to wind up in a few years time at the other end, hustling and scamming and running pyramid schemes. The system we have created is a bundle of inherently competitive and anti-social incentive structures, and it produces people who are driven by those incentives.
We can’t wait for a religious revolution, or a new Great Awakening. We can’t wait for everyone to become self-actualized or to achieve enlightenment, or to experience their truest inward vision. We need politics and wide-ranging social reform.
The other day, somebody posted Obama’s comment from 2008 about a reporter’s question about “going green.” Obama said that we’re not going to solve climate change because “I changed a f-ing lightbulb.” He said it was about something larger that we do collectively. Repairing American society, which is broken and defective, is not about changing your personal spiritual lightbulb. It’s a different kind of project.

What you said:
But it’s not about me. It’s about us, collectively. The chief question is what can we do, working collectively, to improve the social order.
That's the point of the blog! That - and what to do to get there.
Seems like you didn't really read the links. Or ponder carefully what I've been saying (here and in previous blogs.) And drew a conclusion that doesn't seem warranted or wasn't seen by others who read the same blog.
So give us your ideas about how to do that!

Thera, the links all seem to relate to changes we might make in people's personalities, outlook or psychological or spiritual well-being. I'm talking about changes we can make to the laws and rules by which we are governed and organize our lives.
But that's not what you said in what I quoted, is it? You apparently want to keep changing the subject.
This, I say: Go in peace.
Thera, why are you so impatient? It is what I said. I argued that we need to focus on changing the legal rules of our economic system, not the attitudes of individuals.
Well . . .
If individuals don't understand the morality of the need for the rules in the first place, those folks will only find ways to work around those rules.
I only lock my door to keep out the people who aren't thieves.
So an attitude adjustment would be a very important place to start, if one were too expect the rules to be followed.
Perfectly put OGD!
Thera, I just read Systemic Deception. My God. Beautiful. Gathering my thoughts. Dropping them off here in a bit...
I don't know where to start, so I'll just start.
Systemic Deception. I felt the exact same way. I used to dabble in this idea called market-anarchy (based on a theory of human action called praxeology). I went to Auburn University--an Austrian economist's dreamland--home of the Mises Institute, a libertarian think-tank. It had a certain appeal. It was and is internally consistent. I was a recovering neo-conservative at the time, so consistency was a step forward.
I gradually saw its incompatibility with reality. More though, I saw that it took the blindfold off justice and forced her to make--what Thera calls--"forced choices." Only much later did it dawn on me that market-anarchy was much more than an idea. It was the reality we were experiencing under the last administration. The government was not the grounding for the legal system; the government was a leverage mechanism and its owners controlled a majority of the shares along with absolute decision-making authority. I could never express that as well as you Thera. But it hit me hard, and it hurt. Market-anarchy was not a normative theory. Market-anarchy was a DESCRIPTIVE theory.
So that leads to advertisement as the central messaging of the State--which was not a government, but a HOLDING COMPANY. After all, what is a State in which the economic/financial system holds dominion over its legal system? And so who has the loudest voice?
Anyway, I'd like to try to tie Systemic Deception very directly into the Vision Quest. To do that, I think we need to add another dimension to Erikson's theory. Then, once that extra dimension is brought to the collective level--to join with your thesis--I think our task will be easier. In spite of some people's opinion that our Vision Quest is group-think and/or superfluous, let me be clear. I am following Thera's lead, and yet reasoning on my own. This is INTERDEPENDENT thought processing--not co-dependent on the one extreme or isolated rumination on the other. A Vision Quest is not a dogmatic process.
Let me start by linking Erikson's theory of development with the theory of multiple intelligence. It is no coincidence that both contain eight levels.
The theory of multiple intelligence accounts for why someone can score 150 on an IQ test and yet cannot catch a baseball. Or why someone can master calculus but cannot speak above a 3rd grade level. Or why someone can captivate an audience for hours but not introspect with any clarity whatsoever for more than five seconds. I think you get the picture.
Each form of intelligence is like a mode of perception. Each mode has particular qualities and comes in handy in different situations. Here's an overview.

1. {Visual-Spatial} Think of a baby who realizes that their body is a separate entity from the rest of the world. This is the most basic form of [reasoning]. It's the first movement of the mind.
2. {Logical-Mathematical} Think of a child who begins to compare and contrast. "This toy is more fun than that toy." This is the most basic form of [abstracting]. It's a form of prioritizing and choosing. The child is no longer purely reactive.
3.{Verbal-Linguistic} Think of an older child with more complex desires and obstacles. This is the expression which more accurately represents those and more successfully brings about satisfaction. It is [signaling] whether by pointing, speaking, or eventually writing.
4.{Bodily-Kinesthetic} Think of [physically moving] in uniform way. This is tying shoelaces, hitting a baseball, running without falling.
5.{Intrapersonal} Think of thinking. This is [introspecting], trying on roles, trying to fit in somewhere, trying to understand yourself.
6.{Interpersonal} Think of [interacting]. This is forming friendships, bonds, communities.
7.{Musical} Think of rhythm. This is [patterning] and the recognition of similar differences and different similarities. This is the creative form of intelligence.
8.{Naturalistic} Think of all that is. This is natural intelligence. It's [extending] oneself while understanding one's limitations. It's recognizing that one literally grew out of the earth and so is no more and no less than an extension of it and that from which it came.
I think that this is pretty sensible. This theory has a very intuitive feel to it. It may not be 100% correct, but it works--and, I think, it works very well.
What follows is still a work-in-progress. I am not stuck on these relationships, but I do think they fit.
1. Oral-sensory stage/ crucial relationship: mother/ continuum: trust-mistrust/ virtue: hope.
Corresponding form of intelligence: {Visual-spatial}/ mode of perception: [reasoning].
2. Anal-muscular stage/ crucial relationship: parent/ continuum: autonomy-shame/ virtue: willpower.
Corresponding form of intelligence:{Logical-mathematical}/ mode of perception: [choosing].
3. Genital-locomotor stage/ crucial relationship: family/ continuum: initiative-guilt/ virtue: purpose.
Corresponding form of intelligence:{Verbal-Linguistic}/ mode of perception: [signifying].
4. Latency stage/ crucial relationship: neighborhood and school/ continuum: industry-inferiority/ virtue: competency.
Corresponding form of intelligence:{Bodily-Kinesthetic}/ mode of perception: [physically moving].
5. Adolescence/ crucial relationship: peers and role models/ continuum: ego identity-role confusion/ virtue: fidelity.
Corresponding form of intelligence:{Intrapersonal}/ mode of perception: [reflecting].
6. Yound adulthood/ crucial relationship: partners and friends/ continuum: intimacy-isolation/ virtue: love.
Corresponding form of intelligence:{Interpersonal}/ mode of perception: [interacting].
7. Middle adulthood/ crucial relationship: household and workmates/ continuum: generativity-stagnation/ virtue: care.
Corresponding form of intelligence:{Musical}/ mode of perception: [patterning].
8. Late adulthood/ crucial relationship: mankind/ continuum: integrity-despair/ virtue: wisdom.
Corresponding form of intelligence:{Naturalistic}/ mode of perception: [structuring].
Now, IF you accept the above correspondence--and I realize this is a big IF--then we can move to the collective level. All we have to do is think in terms of collective perception. For instance, what a group of people see, how a classroom of students are taught algebra, the language a group of people use, the way a basketball team runs their offense, the dialogue of a group--or a Vision Quest, the way different cultures treat their members, the band playing together, construction workers building a skyscraper. None of this implies group-think.
It is my belief--and clearly the point of Thera's post--that the United States either isn't very collectively intelligent or has skipped a step in development. It's a near ridiculous claim to say that we aren't collectively intelligent. In many ways we are the most collectively intelligent country--especially through innovation. But, it seems to me that in our 243 years of existence we have, so to speak, rushed to the center of the stage without all the necessary props. Or, as it were, without the proper cast of characters. We seem to have skipped our adolescence and maybe more. We may have left some very crucial parts of development--necessary forms of intelligence (as I'm suggesting). We may not have vision or this self-awareness thing understood as well as we would like. If the previous president's election and re-election doesn't suggest foggy vision, role confusion, lack of reflection, etc., I don't know what would.
Granted the current president's election is a movement in the right direction. But he cannot navigate his constituency alone. His whole administration cannot do that. We must, as a people, pay attention to what's happening, REFLECT on what has happened, and understand why we are where we are. That is a function of the {intrapersonal} and {visual-spatial} forms of intelligence individually--and collectively, it is the function of dialogue, cultural investigation, cultural transformation, collaborative critical thinking, and collective vision.
I had a dream several weeks ago. I stood on a lawn and looked across the street. What I saw was the most magnificent set of trees I've ever seen. The branches spiraled. The stems were hardly visible, but the leaves shined with a blinding yet dark shade of green. I felt like I was part of those trees. And as I experienced the affinity with the trees, I turned around and saw the same trees behind me. I focused on one in particular and the world felt complete.
I like to think that civilization is a tree. Each branch is a different nation or culture. Each stem a different family. Each leaf a person. But we're all connected to the same trunk, the same roots, the same soil, and the same sun.
Some advertising agencies promise "your world delivered." They make you feel that you are your own tree or that you should be. They do all of this, and they make money, which makes more money, and more money. They even, as Systemic Deception suggests, make money grow on trees--their own trees.
But this isn't a repudiation of capitalism or the System. It's a repudiation of our own awareness as a collection of people. It's our responsibility to see what's happening, how it happens, and how we got here. It's also our responsibility to see how and what we don't see.
As Thera suggests, mistrust is endemic in our culture. Most of us hold an epistemic subjectivism or epistemic relativism that keeps us from understanding the importance of our place in the world. We are truly but leaves connected to stems connected to branches connected to the very same trunk and roots. We cannot lose that perspective. It is limiting in a sense yes. But only in THIS way--through the stem, the branch, and the trunk--can we feel our limitlessness and our infinite possibilities.
Because we often miss this reality, we lose touch with what matters. We lose sight. I would suggest we literally lose sight. If the first stage of development implies hope in our world as a whole and multiple intelligence corresponds to Erikson's theory, then it is our {visual-spatial} intelligence which is compromised. Because of our mistrust in the whole, we literally cannot see reality.
But it is not advertising which obstructs our view. It is our belief in advertising. It is our faith that the almighty billboard will impart wisdom. But this is a fault in ourselves, not in the System--which is ultimately an extension of ourselves anyway. If we disbelieve in advertising, and we raise that disbelief to collective awareness, then money will be spent elsewhere--perhaps even in a positive place!!!
That is my vision.

I gradually saw its incompatibility with reality.
That's where I'm going next! (lovely quote and example)
Multiple Intelligence. Fascinating addition. (I have the original book on that!)
And I'm going to incorporate Piaget's processes of assimilation and accommodation. They are what bump us up to new ways of thinking (exactly what happened to you at Auburn - where you assimilated info to the point that you could see... wait a minute, that way of thinking is not working!)
I like your description here:
This theory has a very intuitive feel to it. It may not be 100% correct, but it works--and, I think, it works very well.
Yes, in my view what we're doing here is not trying to "prove a theory" or fit everything "into" a theory - but we're looking for "usefulness" - for theories or frameworks which are "useful". (And I'd add to that, since you mentioned above how the theory you dabbled in "took the blindfold off justice" - that the usefulness needs to encompass ethics - it can't be an amoral means of following a pattern blindly.)
Consider changing 2 and 4 - from multiple intelligences. Bodily comes earlier. (Mirror neurons... babies are "copying movements" mentally before they actually can physically do so.) Logico-Mathematical comes later (see Piaget). Plus, each of these plays into the next. And I'm not sure they are really sequential as you're positing. But that's on first blush. For example, music. I have many important memories related to music beginning very, very early in my life. 2,3, and up. Music is bodily too - for very young children. You sing. You dance. I taught myself to play a couple instruments.
Adolescence, you're absolutely on target. The frontal lobes are maturing and allow for self-reflective thought.
What I'd do with the 8 modes is to consider them like another dimension (or set of demensions). So consider Erikson's theory as a time-line, so to speak. And the modes as some kind of "space" in which the sequential development occurs. So that the developing person has these various "spaces" to explore, to move in, to inhabit. (I'm not sure how to describe it, because as I write this I'm working my way down your wonderful comment.) As I understood it, the theory of multiple intelligences was never posited as developmental or sequential so much as "extensive" - extending to the idea that our thinking has "dimensions" - which we can develop or not.
Here's another way of thinking of that. Different ways of learning. 8 different types of thinking that correspond to different ways of learning. And, ideally, maximizing that - so that all people are free to explore and develop each.
And if you take those ideas to the collective level, you have a society where education is life-long and you offer all of these possibilities for every child, every teenager, every adult, and into old age. Think, for example, how programs for the elderly provide music and movement, art, play games, do puzzles. (I was on a cancer ward Sunday afternoon - and found that they have this wonderful community room with all sorts of jig-saw puzzles! What a wonderful thing to provide for patients!)
Back to your idea of the multiple intelligences. And the problems of our nation. What if we as a society have overvalued some things? What if we have mistaken "the best and the brightest" - by only looking at some modes? And not considering others. (self-reflection being a biggie! god forbid we allow ethics to creep in!)
You have pegged bush very well. Indeed, to my mind he acted as an adolescent in terms of role confusion and negative identity - but was really stuck in Stage II - someone who never really learned to cooperate - whose shit was always cleaned up, so he never had to become potty-trained, who never learned the word "no" - so he just did what he wanted and expected the rules to be changed - just for him! (That's where my theory is leading me to with bush!) Haven't put your part in yet, but clearly he's "physical" and loves exercise but god forbid he would ever second-guess himself and use those frontal lobes! (I've redefined stage 2 into "cooperation" being one of the things that comes out of it as I honestly think that's the meaning of the tasks for the child. The child learns to be a separate being, while accepting social guidance... a very tough thing to learn, but essential for humans. After that, a child can learn to play - and accept rules - and formulate rules for imaginative games.)
What a beautiful dream you had! And to share it with us - what a gift!
Ok. I'm writing this, again, as I read your comment. How about if we used the image of a tree? Each society as a tree. The tree is growing - that's the development part. And the branches are, possibly, the modes. (just taking a stab at it here!) In your dream, the branches intertwine) So that along with development, you have this beauty of intertwining branches and the beautiful leaves.
Organic images are often best. You can only take any one of them only so far, but it's helpful for "seeing". And yes, "seeing" things anew or aright is what we're after. So it indicates how stunted a tree could become if you lop off branches, entire parts of the tree - or if you prune incorrectly. And pruning versus keeping is what we're discussing here. So a healthy tree, which can spread out in all directions. Versus a stunted tree. (again, just an image, but following your "dream")
It's our responsibility to see what's happening, how it happens, and how we got here. It's also our responsibility to see how and what we don't see.
BINGO! I love your mind!
And the end of your comment comes back to where I am going with the next post. (there may be a series of them, I think) And that is the Value of Mistrust. Strange as it may seem. The value of a "basic bullshit detector". (and where that leads us - as a society, in our thinking, even to how creativity and invention operate)
Bless you, Michael! You are a wonderful addition here. I sorely miss quinn's absence at the moment. And I miss Larry weighing in on this post. But your emergence as a key theoretician here is priceless!!!
Thank you so much. I thought I'd need to think for a week before I could write the sequel. But the ideas came in the middle of the night. (that is unless they change over the next couple of days or so...)
Oh my!!! Where to begin... again!!! Your idea that the modes of perception are like eight different dimensions/spaces!!! Wow!!! I'm not as well versed in string theory or M-theory as I'd like to be, but I'm pretty sure it posits 11-12 dimensions. If we add our usual 3 dimensions plus time, we end up with 11-12 dimensions. So, yes, I totally agree that it is misleading to think of the modes of perception chronologically. It's also much more aesthetically pleasing to think of them as spaces!!! Wow!!! Beautiful!!!
The tree as a society and the Vision Quest as a pruning!!! Yes!!!
The value of mistrust... this is not something I considered--that probably suggests a bit of gullability on my part. I think you're right. Mistrust is most definitely valuable.
Oh man!!! I cannot wait for your Part II!!!
Ok. And just reading your little response here reminds me of neurons. We are born with ever so many. And they get pruned - the connections between them get "pruned" - and that's the modes. If we only operate in a few, we lose connections to other modes, so to speak.
And that gives us a lovely image of trees in our minds.... Think of it as seeing a forest from above.
Just think. We are literally allowing our neurons to grow new connections - as we work on this! Or we're strengthening ones we have. Not only that, but as we work on this, the "bad guys" are simply ruling us out as "nut cases" or can't keep up with us (to try and rebut this in any effective way) OR if they truly pay attention, their neurons will be affected to such a degree they will find themselves agreeing with us!
I have no idea where this is taking us. But far, far from what our friend above - who is so intent on his ideas he has now put his disagreements up as a blog - can conceive of. If only this task were as simple as just changing laws..... Well, we have laws on torture... and how did that work out? Etc.

Responded below... oops.
Exactly! Like OGD said, the perception of the rules matters more than the rules themselves. Obama said something similar in The Audacity of Hope, if a legal document is not followed then it amounts to nothing more than ink on paper. Our friend above's claim amounts to this: we need better ink for the paper! Um... OK...
The forest from above!!! I just yelled "holy shit" out loud as that registered. Perfect!
"Holy Shit" - like from a "Holy Cow"? ;)
That's exactly the kind of shit I had in mind!
Posted by MBH in reply to a comment from TheraP
April 4, 2009 2:55 PM | Reply | Permalink

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