Success and societies

Sunday, December 9, 2018

5 a.m. Let’s address people’s request for clarification of something you said on February 17, 2006. In the context of the challenge of our time, you said “a society’s accumulation of wealth is not necessarily to the benefit of any but a predatory few. (And this is how it always has been in uncontrolled society. Remind us sometime to speak of the models that have succeeded.)”

The fact that you did not intend to copy the first part of the paragraph shows that you were misconstruing what we meant, at least to some extent.

[The complete paragraph read: “The death of materialism as an operating principle leaves your time at a loss. The poor cannot look to achieving your American standard of living. Americans living it – and Europeans – know that it isn’t an answer to meaning anyway. And the hypertrophy of concentration of wealth demonstrates in any case that a society’s accumulation of wealth is not necessarily to the benefit of any but a predatory few. (And this is how it always has been in uncontrolled society. Remind us sometime to speak of the models that have succeeded.)”]

The maldistribution of resources and rewards is a symptom; it is not itself the problem.

I see it, as soon as you say it. Materialism sets accumulation as the measurement, and is itself the problem and would be even if distribution were fair or exactly the same for one and all or were mitigated by periodic redistribution or even my draconian levelling.

Let’s not move in that direction, because that is a very large topic that will blur the point. That is, assuming you want the question answered.

We do. And I thought, writing it down, “For all my reading in history, I don’t know what you are referring to.”

That’s because you are looking for examples to answer the wrong question. It isn’t about result; it is about process. You don’t live in “result” except as preparatory ground for further “process.”

You mean, I take it, that past results are the determination from which we exert free will in the present moment.

More or less. You might say, people who are satisfied with past results attempt to preserve them; those who are not, attempt to change – that is, undermine, overthrow – them. Naturally the result is a state of war, either cold, hot, or sporadic. But this deals more with temperament than with ideology, because depending upon the issue under consideration, anyone is for maintenance (conservative) or overthrow (liberal) – and nobody is on only the same side of the maintenance / overthrow fence on every issue.

Thus, people defining themselves as liberal or conservative are misleading themselves?

Let’s say they are blurring the issue.

Would you care to clarify the issue?

You are – anyone is – liberal or conservative in approach to any given concern, and of course this is not limited to politics or statecraft. You may be more often liberal than conservative, or vice versa, but if you once realize that we are describing temperament – inclination of mind, call it – rather than a rigid membership in this army or that one, suddenly you realize that the presumption of incompatibility, of a necessary tension between opposing forces is not the same as a necessary tension between opposing people.

I don’t think it’s clear yet.

If everything could be accurately weighed according to its position on a scale established on any one issue, then yes, you’d have two (or more) populations divided beyond hope of reconciliation by compromise or by increased understanding. But since members of Army A (so to speak) are actually also members of Army B on a different issue, it should be clear that what is happening is people grouping by comfort-level more than by belief or even vested interest.

Was that last bit right, “vested interest”?

It was. Now, let’s not lose sight of the question we’re looking at. It wasn’t, liberal v. conservative, it was models that have succeeded. And we meant, not (as you assumed) models that have succeeded in restraining greed or imbalance etc., but models that have succeeded as societies.

It’s true, I did think you meant the former.

Your times encourage you all to think in terms of fixing something broken. That is why you experience yourselves as at war. That sense is what fuels the opposition, automatically and continuously, on both sides.

Instead of looking at societies that have succeeded in fixing something (that is, in undermining or overthrowing something that exists), let us look at a couple of attributes of a successful society. This is not an inclusive list, and of course does not describe a perfect society, for such society does not and cannot exist.

Because –?

Because there are too many kinds of people, with too many kinds of needs, for one size to fit all. A society that is stable and prosperous and relatively equitable may necessarily be somewhat stifling to a certain kind of person, or, one might say, to a person at a certain time of life. Swiss security may come at the price of Swiss smugness. Scandinavian concern for universal welfare may come at the price of an implied and accepted conformity. And so forth. And of course the opposite applies equally, and in fact not so much “the opposite,” which implies a binary polarity, but various differing ways of being. Any excellence implies a corresponding defect somewhere, noticed or (more usually) not.

So, a society that may be described as having succeeded need not be described as being perfect. As we say, that is not and cannot be the case.

“The best is the enemy of the good.”

It always is. To search for an impossible perfection is to automatically reject what is. Now, this can be good or bad; we’re merely pointing out that it must be so. (And, of course, by “good or bad” we really mean, in this context, pleasing or displeasing to the observer.)

The first question is, “a society that succeeds” – at what? No society succeeds or ever could succeed at everything. So let’s start by saying a society that succeeds at giving its members a sense of participating in a true community, not a bunch of unrelated individuals like a sack of shot. A tribe does that. Your American Indians, your aborigines in Australia, your primitive peoples all over the world: primarily held together by a sense of being an extended family. Tied usually by mutual interdependence. Highly motivated and regulated by what you might call a social sense of humor, that renders certain social offences not so much wrong as ludicrous. Invisibly governed by a shared assumption that every member is a member for life. You can see, perhaps, that this description has nothing to do with economics or technology or ideology or state of civilization. The Oneida or Amana or Mormon communities functioned in a somewhat tribal fashion. The Amish. Immigrant ghettos to a lesser degree, in so far as we concentrate on them looking out for one another as brothers among strangers, so to speak.

The “success” we are looking at here is a sense of being included in a community that cares about you. Such community could exist on a larger scale, but of course it becomes more difficult to maintain a tribal closeness among thousands, let alone hundreds of millions. America’s secret (that it has to a large degree lost sight of) was the huge number of overlapping societies its members could belong to.

I vaguely remember reading about this, years ago.

Consider us your version of NZT.

Very funny. [This refers to the drug in the Netflix series “Limitless” that gave users access to everything they had ever experienced – until the drug wore off –.]

But we aren’t really kidding. What is access to guidance but access to more of your mind? The fact that we offer you something you read or heard or experienced long ago doesn’t mean we don’t exist, and doesn’t mean we’re out of material. Or do you think this is all random?

It’s 6 a.m. We haven’t gotten quite what I thought we might.

Impatience again. This isn’t a ten-minute exploration, unless you choose to truncate it. By now you have learned that side-trails are not really lost time.

I have.

To finish for the moment. If you can belong to various organizations, you can experience different levels of membership. You may be a newbie in one, a master in a second, a willing worker in the ranks in a third. Same “you,” same lifetime, but many different levels of experience, hence many different satisfactions. You don’t have to measure yourself by only one yardstick, hence an obscure existence in one may be balanced by frustration in a second and perhaps by excellence in a third. It makes for balance for everyone. Enough for now; we’ve barely begun.

If you say so. Our thanks, as always.


7 thoughts on “Success and societies

  1. Wow!
    I have my freak tangent on this – due to reading an interview of a neuroscientist researching something like cognitive strategies. Although about AI it is relevant for the less artificial intelligence, too. What I understood was something like this: A strategy of winning is not the most succesful strategy. Winning is a niche phenomenon. You need a playing-field and some rules. Winning in soccer or stock market or fist-fighting are all completely different and there’s no-one who can be best in those simultaneously. A more universally applicable strategy is an exploratory strategy where you just experiment and pick what works and scrap what does not work. You learn slowly but this makes you able to move in any terrain. A stock-market shark is like a mowing robot that needs a lawn. What happens when there is no lawn or stock market? Getting stuck is clearly a problem for humans as well as machines.

    One thing we humans have gotten badly stuck with is something like that old picture of a bunch of researchers palpating an elephant in the dark and all, of course, reporting different observations. What do we humans typically do? Stop finding out about the elephant and start quarreling who is right and who is wrong. All want to be right-they want to win the argument. And doing this means the little energy there is to find out about what is out there goes into a monkey fight.

    I think we humans have a long knowledge of harmony that, in a way, supports us. We are put to a task to move and change now. Revealing what we are under pressure. And can we forge some new way for us? Those who are content with playing the game of winners and losers will keep on doing that, but there is no compulsion to participate.

    The article is here

    1. I re-read the wired article and remember that when I first read it it put me truly in a spin: intuition says there is something big and the logical brain gets into overdrive. But now that things have settled somewhat, it looks to me that what Friston describes will bring lots of understanding to brain functioning, but just like Newtonian physics, it is just a subset of something vastly bigger and ultimately mysterious. The expectation of finding some ultimate truth is in itself an obstinate demand that the vastness of what is would organize itself so that it would be fully visible in our limited human understanding.

    2. Re-reading what Frank wrote. And realizing what they say about society holds also for the private insides that will have all those different parties, too. And the challenge is to be a good shepherd to the multitude – not defeating one at the expense of others.
      Maximizing some form of gain becomes completely futile when the reality of the inner multitude is accepted. But we have this story – or is it a religion? That money can compensate anything. Or at least being the winner in something. Absolutely everything can be sacrificed for these: material gain and winning. Both are completely meaningless.

      1. Hi Kristiina – Frank`s always superb… But please, wonder if you to have read “The God of Jane” and two other books titled as: “The Nature of the Psyche”. And “Psychic Politics” too….There`s no end to it.
        LOL, from one neigbour in the western region (no snow here along the South-West-coastline as yet)…. P.S. As to have understood by now as a fact, that is NOTHING can become “meaningless” my dear (sniffing my own finnish bloodties)….laughing.

        BTW: Did somethig very funny last month – as my sisters are at an International website/blog, called MY HERITAGE (headquarter in Forth Worth/Texas). When a member you can get your DNA from a laboratory there. They send you the boxes with the remedies, and you are returning your DNA to the Texas Laboratory. And they giving you the procedure on Video with the results.
        I have received my DNA profile last week, and could not but laugh (according to Seth it is a joke because the science today do not know about the existence of each cell-structure as indvidual consciousness in atomic/electromagnetic forms – forming their own universe). Well, ANYWAY, it was FUN doing it ! The results from the DNA Laboratory in Texas, was very specific. I have even received a chart & map over the areas & countries were my DNA belonging forever. A DNA-test counted as 100% certain.
        A good laughter, because I have always “known” it INTUITIVELY.

        1. Some Finnish genes waving at you Inger Lise! Or since I have not been tested, mostly Finnish. And yes, got carried away on meaningless. A dead end might be a better expression. We often end up in dead ends and then have to figure out how to track back.

          1. Absolutely agree Kristiina – about the experience of dead ends. Hm, when thinking it all over….impossible to be all happy ALL the time or ? A good laughter does it of course.

            P.S. “My Heritage” gave an overwiev in general about the procentage DNA in Norway only – and told 14.4% of the original Norwegians came from Finland…. the Finnish Heritage of old.
            Of course it is well-known along the Swedish (farstretched) & Norwegian border and up to the border of Finland (no fences on the Swedish/Norwegian border). The peoples from Finland crossing over to the Danish/Norwegian border as far back in time- long time before the 17th century and settled there (making their own farms) in Norway. My sister is married to one of them. His family to have lived on the farm in 470 years by now (along the Norwegian/Swedish border).

            My maiden last name is Finnish, and very rare in Norway – and to believe my family-name to be the only one left here in Norway. If interested my “Finnish” history goes like this (it is in the national university, the library)-
            Once upon a time back in the 17th century when a war was going on between Denmark/Norway (in union) against Sweden (Sweden to have begun it)… A very poor middle-aged woman from FINLAND(who was living as “a Finnish-Swede”, as many folks did back then in Sweden)….she went crossing over the border (a lonesome and remote trail through the woods and the hills) over to the border of Norway to tell a Norwegian Garnison/army settlement (a Norwegian troop situated far away, a LONG way to go, it took some weeks for her to go and reach the Garrison) only TO TELL about what she had heard about A SWEDISH plan in detail. She came upon the Swedish army in the forest without being seen, and heard about the attack of the particular area in Norway.
            The poor Finnish lady to reach the Norwegians with the message in time and therefore the Norwegians made a plan for the ambush of the Swedish troops (they were far too many than the small norwegian troop there). Sweden was a country of mighty power back then, and four times the inhabitants of Norway (Denmark, and the Danish troops too far away)…. But, because of the brave little Finish lady – the Norwegians made a plan how to manage the attacking Swedes… And they managed to capture all of them without any fight….as along the route the Swedish troops had to stop for to a rest nd to “require” food: Remote areas of course, and there was only two places the Swedes would do that exactly, and thereby, as such, the Norwegians placed some pretty ladies there – ready to serve the Swedish troops kindly with the food and A LOT to drink of the ALCHOHOL. Well, well, guess what happened? As usual, the Swedish soldiers drank as much as the 356 soldiers fell asleep – there and then, ready to become captured by the Norwegians thanks to the Brave Lady from Finland. BTW: There is raised a memory-monument for hers when in the same place she came to warn the Norwegians. LOL (smiles)
            As Frank, I LOVE old history since my childhood.

  2. Wow, what a story! A strategically thinking ancestor, and a female and a finn, to top it off. So juicy that an army troop was defeated without any military fighting. Thinking out of the box. A perfect example of creatively flipping the odds in a very difficult situation. And that having the mightiest army does not really guarantee anything. Thank you for this! Some significant ancestry you have!

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