"When the foundations are being destroyed,
What can the just person do?"
What can the just person do?"
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.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?
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.
Here at the Cafe, Larry has been pondering too; recently with starwalker:
Larry said: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:
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.
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. ...Love. Integrity. Trust. Identity Crisis. Those words jogged my mind ... reminding me of something.
The enterprise is based on trust....
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.
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.Erik Erikson: Eight Stages of Development
- Trust vs Mistrust
- Autonomy vs Shame/Doubt
- Initiative vs Guilt
- Industry vs Inferiority
- Identity vs Confusion/Negative Identity
- Intimacy vs Isolation
- Generativity vs Stagnation/Self-Absorption
- Integrity vs Despair
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: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.)
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.
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.....
a comment from TheraP
April 4, 2009 2:55 PM | Reply | Permalink