Archive for July, 2009

The Science of Culture

July 30, 2009

Harris, Marvin (1979). Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

This book is a complicated and academic read with profound implications for the understanding of what drives the constant changes in cultures that we call evolution. Harris has written numerous books that are essential to our understanding of what has happened, what is now happening, and what may be happening to America  in the near future.

I will discuss Harris’ pertinent concepts and observations as they become relevant to my own writings in my Boiling the American Frog material.

V.T.M., 7/30/09

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America’s Self-Destructive Immigration Policies

July 30, 2009

Malkin, Mischelle (2001).  Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing

Michelle is well known for her detailed research and authoritiative publications and commentary. She provides a wealth of information and data that powerfully documents America’s neurotic and self-destructive national policies on immigration. Amazingly, there has been little change in America’s immigration controls since this publication in 2001.

V.T. M., 7/30/09

“The Doors to America are Still Wide Open”

July 30, 2009

The following quotes represent the first two paragraphs of Michelle Maulkin’s book, Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores (p, 3).

 

“Crave death….Make sure that nobody is following you….Bring knives, your will, ID’s, your passport….Pray:  ‘Oh God, you who open all doors, please open all doors for me, open all venues for me, open all avenues for me.'”

“These were some of the handwritten instructions found in September 11 ringleader Mohamed Atta’s abandoned luggage. If he could send a message from hell–where he surely went after he piloted American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center–Atta would have good news for his band of homicidal brothers around the world: The doors to America are still wide open.”

Value of a Reseach Strategy

July 30, 2009

The following quote is taken from Marvin Harris’, Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture (p. 77).

“The value of a research strategy does not reside in the profundity of its epistemological viewpoint or the luminosity of its abstract theoretical principles; it lies in the cogency of its substantive theories. Only the capacity of a research strategy’s theories to penetrate beneath the surface of phenomenas, to reveal new and unsuspected relationships, to tell us why and how things are what they are, can justify its existence. Furthermore, what we want from a strategy is not just a list of disjointed, isolated, and mutually irrelevant or contradictory theories, but and organized set of consistent and concise theories; not the definitive answer to every conceivable question, but tentative answers to important questions over broad and continuously expanding frontiers of knowledge.”

A Piercing Observation

July 30, 2009

Piercing Observation 2. 

After an abnormal psychology lecture on various personality disorders, I found myself in the elevator with a young female student from my class.

She was a walking pin cushion of exhibitionism. She sat in the front row with low-cut tattered jeans and a high-cut tight tee shirt which displayed her bare midriff. Her pierced navel sparkled before me for the whole semester. This was only mildly distracting to me. But it was very difficult not to be troubled when she dug and pinched the inside and rim of her pierced navel, extracting what appeared to be small amounts of effluent associated with healing or, perhaps, infection. Though I would never do so (wink), others may wonder if she had inflicted other, less observable, piercings upon herself as well.

The enclosed space of the small elevator enlarged the young ladies features. Her face was festooned with several pierced gold rings through one of her eyebrows, her ears were rimmed with many decorative piercings, there was a pierced gold ring at the flair of one of her nostrils, and as she spoke to me silver flashed from the center of her pierced tongue.

She was dead serious as she explained the she understood the lecture, but there was just one thing that was not clear: She wanted to know what was mean by the term “masochism”.

I struggled mightily to maintain my composure. I had a job to do, after all, and I did not wish to embarrass the young lady. I did not want to be unkind.

My poker-faced answer was: “Masochism is a word used to label a condition in which an individual finds pleasure in recieving pain. In some cases, the receipt of pain can even be sexually arousing”.

The young laddie’s eyes widened, the door opened, and she exited muttering an elongated and fading, “ooooh, I seeee.

I don’t know if she really saw. But I do know this:

Its hard to learn while contemplating your belly button.

Billy Budd, 12/30/01

Self-Defeating Civiliztions

July 28, 2009

Civilizations, like individuals, who do not accept reality and make the neccessary adaptations—–

Invariaby undermine and defeat themselves.

V.T. Mawhinney

6/30/82

July 28, 2009

 
The survival of freedom itself is at stake, and that future is by no means certain” (pps. 10-11).  
 
 
What is the truth about this nation’s present state and its direction
 
 
Section 1: Could It Be True?
 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1. The Vision: A Daydreamer’s Nighmare
 

 

  This anecdote is actually not true of frogs. However, the story hints at the truth about human beings under many circumstances. Unlike the story of the “frog in the pot”, human beings actually do show an amazing capacity to adapt to environmental and social changes that slowly increase in their damaging qualities. Tragically, the deferred consequences of this chain of adaptations can be ruinous and even lethal to both individuals and societies.

 

A few years ago, a sickening sweet odor suddenly was present in my home town. It was soon clear that it was a by-product of a new ethanol plant operating on the outskirts of our city. There was an uproar of complaints about the nausea and breathing problems that some citizens attributed to the plant’s emissions. An elderly lady wrote to our newspaper telling a folksy tale about how one could boil a live frog to death, in a shallow pot, without the frog ever leaping out. She maintained that all one had to do was increase the heat of the water very gradually, in stages, and the poor frog would finally boil to death without “twitching a muscle”. The lady felt this was the mechanism behind our failure to react effectively to the poisoning of this nations air.VTM

Fall, 1979

 

B.F. Skinner, The greatest American psychologist of the 20th Century warned about the common tendency to mistake society for culture when he wrote:

“We tend to associate a culture with a group of people. People are easier to see than their behavior, and behavior is easier to see than the contingencies which generate it”

Substitute the word rule for the word contingency in the last sentence of this quote. Roughly speaking

Cultural Evolution
The behavior and products of a population and its institutions are its culture. Changes in the behavior patterns and products of a population and its institutions is cultural evolution. All cultures evolve. Some evolve in ways that strengthen the odds that their societies will live long and well. Others evolve in ways that lead to the decline or collapse of their societies. I use the terms decline as relative terms to identify a society’s own significantly weakened, diminished and vulnerable state–compared to its former more effective baselines of performance. Decline is a condition in which a society’s individuals and institutions are no longer able to effectively deal with its various problems (crime and other population behavior problems, family disorganization, governmental ineffectiveness, resource management, economic problems, and foreign aggression or invasion, etc.). Decline is not likely to lead to the total disappearance of modern large and complex societies (as it did with the collapse of the Incas or Aztec sociocultures). The actual Collapse of a socioculture may follow a period of decline. For modern complex societies, collapse may occur when socioculture becomes increasingly vulnerable to chronic debilitated functioning and eventual conquest by, and assimilation into, other predatory cultures.

I am very sad to tell you that I believe America is now showing strong indicators that it is well into an extended period of decline.

 B. F. Skinner hinted at what is needed for a culture’s evolutionary success when he said: “The evolution of a culture is a gigantic exercise in self-control.”

How do you think America is doing in the area of self-control?

Regarding the stunning changes in American culture over the past few decades that I will document in the coming chapters, there are no simple unidirectional causes. What drove these great changes? Was it the car? Was it the television? Was it was the pill? How about working mothers? I wish the causes were that simple and singular. There are only fiendishly complex “swirls” of many causes that interact with each other and then fold back upon themselves, to create even greater causal complexity. For example, as a practicing psychologist I have witnessed the effects of a changing American culture upon families and children. And, reciprocally, I have also observed the effects of the changed families and changed children back upon our society and culture.

As our apparent fifty-year cultural decline continues to deepen, it is alarming that both of our political parties have failed to reverse the key elements of our decline.

The burning question is: Why is everything failing?! The smoldering answer is: Because great and powerful forces of change move undetected beneath the surface of our consciousness and beneath the surface of our common, day-to-day observable experiences. Scientists have long known that the most precious secrets are those that are hidden by what we commonly experience and think we understand. This has been true for physics, astronomy, economics, anthropology and psychology. It is also true about the present declining state of America’s socioculture. The interacting causes are plain to see if only we can look at them from a special perspective.

Generally, the cultural things that we see are only reflection of a host of underlying causes that are both unseen and poorly understood by almost everyone. It is my aim to make some of these hidden causes of our collective behavior patterns clearly visible and understandable. I believe that educating the voting public about cultural design changes that will benefit or damage their loved ones is the key a better future. For America to live long and well, the voting public must understand the relationship between our own, and our policy maker’s, culture-changing decisions that provide immediate gratification to millions of people and/or the our government, but also lead to delayed painful or disastrous consequences.

My career as a psychologists has been similar to that of other professions that constantly expose their workers to the tragedies, pain, and loss which have become an increasing part of life in America. I, like countless others, have been quietly traumatized for decades by the damaging effects upon my clients and their loved ones wreaked by their own personal responses to our increasingly damaged culture. But the effects of such trauma can be channeled into a force for good, and that is my intention in this book. I will tell you about what we now know about human nature and the scientific principles that change our behavior and that of our culture. I will also present a clear and understandable explanation of important aspects of the sciences of human behavior and what they can tell us about the decline and possible recovery of our culture.

 A contingency is a rule that specifies the relationship between some behavior and some consequence. For example, a child may hit another and be rewarded or punished. An adult may start a business and make money or go broke. A city may legalize gambling and make money, but may later suffer more crime and damage to its families. A government might legalize pornography, drugs, and prostitution and enjoy increased tax revenues, but later suffer the greater costs of increased damage to its population. All of these are examples of some behavior done by individuals or groups of individuals, and the consequences that may follow as a result.   

Regarding the “Boiling the Frog” fable and the story of poor old Bowser, a similar chain of events happens to individual humans within their cultures. When small, slow, incremental changes in their culture occur it will seem as though the changes do not matter, or perhaps that there have been no real significant changes at all. To the different generations that age with their cohorts across different but slightly overlapping time-frames, the changes across time will be harder to detect. Older populations may see the changes within the younger population’s time-frame as extreme, or even aberrant but to a younger population it can be perceived as the very comfortable norm.

America has been called the Great Society–and it is certainly that. Our society is a unique place, a population, and a great number of institutions that function together so we can live our lives with greater security and success. Among the many important things a society does, is to provide a supportive infrastructure to its citizens who have and rear healthy children. Although we Americans generally do not have children in order to perpetuate our own society, our having and rearing healthy children is essential to our societies’ survival.

 All societies have cultures. For our purposes, culture is not a place or a group of people. It is the behavior, actions, practices, and the material creations of the people and institutions in a society. 

In my writing, I will use the terms society and culture as defined above. Sometimes, often when I wish to speak of the combination of these two forces, I will use the term: Socioculture.
 
These cultural changes can show in very maladaptive and damaging behaviors within our population and can result in a steady erosion of our culture’s viability. When I use the word viability, I mean the ability to remain strong and effective and avoid decline and collapse. Like the fabled American Frog, or old Bowser the cat, citizens and policy makers within the failing culture may carry-on to the end as though all is well and nothing is wrong.

 The purpose of this book is to analyze relatively recent culture-wide rule/policy and population behavior changes from the perspective of their observed or likely delayed effects upon the viability of our American Culture. I will admit that there is much unknown about such matters. However there are many scientific principles, from a variety of fields, that are very well known and I remain astonished and saddened that most of us know little or nothing about them. I am convinced that we can use these principles to reverse America’s sociocultural decline. 

It is way past time for us to organize the most robust principles of our relevant sciences into a general understanding of how our past and present self-destructive cultural practices have caused the obvious and stunning social problems we face today. This kind of self-understanding is exactly what our culture (and others) need to live very long and productive lives. Nothing should be more important to Americans at this time–nothing could be more important to humankind.
Just as we were once poised to travel to the moon, and “one giant push would get us there”; so it is with our “cultural space ship” which carries us and our dear families’ linage to the future. We presently do not know enough about the evolution of cultures to achieve the full attainment of our most sensible hopes and dreams for our beloved children and their offspring. But, given what is known, there is no excuse for the depth of our collective ignorance about such matters, or for the present sorry state of cultural affairs that we have accidentally determined for ourselves. I believe that with one big sustained educational push, we Americans could do spectacularly better at securing a brighter and more promising future.

Prelude to a Vison

In the introduction to his book, Imperial Stars: Republic and Empire, author Jerry Purnelle refers (pps. 3 & 4) to Niccolo Machiavelli, in The Discourses, who described six kinds of government. Machiavelli considered three kinds of government to be “good” but he noted their tendency to be corrupted and to become “very bad.”

“Thus monarchy becomes tyranny; aristocracy degenerates into oligarchy; and popular government lapses readily into licentiousness. So that a legislator who gives to a state which he founds, either of these three forms of government, constitutes it but for a brief time; for no precautions can prevent either one of the three that are reputed good, from degenerating into its opposite kind; so great are in these attractions and resemblances between the good and the evil”. Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses.

My primary concern is with the slide of our Republic of the United States toward a widespread state of hedonism and licentiousness. Jerry Pournelle,familiar with such cultural evolutions from the early Greeks and Romans to the present, addresses this trend:

 
“Democracies endure until the citizens care more for what the state can give them than for its ability to defend rich and poor alike; until they care more for their privileges than their responsibilities; until they learn they can vote largess from the public treasury and use the state as an instrument for plundering, first those who have wealth, then those who create it.
The American people seem to be learning that fatal lesson. The last Forty years have seen the United States reject the temptations of empire, but nearly succumb to the seductions of democracy. We have reached the abyss, but not yet taken the last step over
 
Perceiving the reality of our condition is not so easy as it would first appear. Often what is perceived is but a reflection of other hidden, underlying, events and structures. So it is with the great complex mix of events that now threaten America.
 
It was 1983. I had been reading intensively in the field of psychology ever since I declared it as my psychology major in 1963. I had obtained my Ph.D. in 1971, and had began to teach psychology at Indiana University South Bend in 1970. My area of specialized interests were Learning, Child Development, and Behavior Modification. By 1979, I had written my first book on parenting and teaching children. It had already become apparent to me in the early 1970’s that certain cultural changes (population mobility, fewer extended families, fewer nuclear families, fewer children, maternal employment, infant and daycare centers, etc.) had robbed many of America’s parents of a common understanding of what children need to grow to be healthy adults. Many parents simply did not know what they needed to do to help their children achieve this essential outcome.
 
Little did I know then, that an unanticipated event was about to occur that would change my perceptions, goals, and creative actions for the rest of my life. I was asked to join a private practice on a part-time basis.
The following years of “practicing what I preached” within the crucible of countless hours of therapy with troubled children, adolescents, and adults, and families was a powerfully transforming experience. It catalyzed my thinking about what I had learned in all of my studies, my university teaching and my personal research. So many things that I had learned were now directly connected and highly relevant to the very real human problems I was then trying to solve in my tiny corner of America.

As you may know, university professors often accuse counselors and psychotherapist of seeing a “biased world of only trouble and misery”. Counselors and psychotherapists accuse university professors of “living in ivory towers”, dealing with problems only in the abstract, and being highly impractical.

In 1979, I began to live in both worlds and I believe the combination of these worlds has allowed me to see things more clearly than many of the professionals who work exclusively in either one of these domains. In 1983 the combined results of these experiences spontaneously and suddenly arranged themselves in my thinking and in a mental-visual form that stunned and motivated me like nothing else ever has.

 

 

 

 

  

Uncontrolled Immigration Will Destroy A U.S. Wellfare State

July 14, 2009

7/7/09

The following data are quoted from Mark R. Levin’s Book, Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto (pps. 154, 155, 156). The data he presents were based upon figures taken from the U.S. Census Bureau the Center for Immigration Studies in March 2007.

  • The nations’s immigrant population (legal and illegal) reached a record of 37.9 million in 2007.
  • Immigrants account for 1 in 8 U.S. residents, the highest level in eighty years. In 1970 it was 1 in 21; in 1980 it was 1 in 16; and in 1990 it was 1 in 13.
  • Overall, nearly one in three immigrants is an illegal alien. Half of Mexican and Central American immigrants and one-third of South American immigrants are illegal.
  • Of adult immigrants, 31 percent have not completed high school, compared to 8 percent of natives. Since 2000, immigration increased the number of workers without a high school diploma by 14 percent, and all other workers by 3 percent.
  • The Proportion of immigrant-headed households using at least one major welfare program is 33 percent, compared to 19 percent for native households.
  • The poverty rate for immigrants and their U.S.-born children (under 18) is 17 percent, nearly 50 percent higher than the rate for natives and their children.
  • 34 percent of immigrants lack health insurance, compared to 13 percent of natives. Immigrants and their U.S.-born children account for 71 percent of the increase in the uninsured since 1989.
  • Immigration accounts for virtually all of the national increase in public school enrollment over the last two decades. In 2007, there were 10.8 million school-aged children from immigrant families in the United States.
  • The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that 9 percent of the population of Mexico was living in the United States in 2004. Fifty-seven percent of all illegal immigrants are from Mexico. Another 24 percent are from other Latin American countries. Fifty-five percent of all Mexican in the United States are here illegally. By 2050, Hispanics will be between 29 percent and 32 percent of the nation’s population.

End of Mark Levin quote.


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