Vision #1

Vision # 1

Prelude to a Vision

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”.

What is the truth about our Nation’s present state and its direction of change? We all would like to remain hopeful for a bright and lengthy future for America. Indeed, there are some grounds for hope: We are a strong and vibrant population. We can be justifiably proud of our cultural heritage, and of many of our recent accomplishments. Hopelessness, and its self-fulfilling nature, must be rejected at all costs. Certainly, there are grounds for a hopeful future. But I judge that this is true only if a significant and active percent of this culture’s citizens will perceive the reality of our deteriorating condition, understand the principles that fuel our downward spiral, and then move in all ways possible to use those principles to reverse these destructive trends.

“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 it. The survival of freedom itself is at stake, and that future is by no means certain” (pps. 10-11).

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. I did this, as an overload, and continued my work as a university professor.

The following years of “practicing what I preached” within the crucible of countless hours of therapy with troubled children, adolescents, 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.

The Vision

The following account may sound strange or mysterious, but it is not. History is full of individuals who have immersed themselves in the study of complex and perplexing problems and who have then been suddenly struck with what they thought were important insights. This happened to me and I will leave it to you and others to decide if I am right or wrong.

It first came to me as I drove the familiar riverside road to my workout at our local YMCA. The images did not appear all at once, but they began like a punch in the stomach. First, a main form appeared and then its many details arrayed themselves across the next few days. It was like a computer graphic that included categories of behavior, human age demographics, and other kinds of data that I had studied and it became “alive”: It moved and changed through time and its history and projections told an ominous story about the past five decades of America’s cultural evolution—and our future.

The image appeared as a large rectangle-like box. But it wasn’t really a rectangle. The top of the “rectangle” sloped upward, from left to right in my visual field, like the side of an increasingly steep hill. Within this odd geometric form were four sections separated by vertical partitions. Each partition contained one age segment of our population. The age segments were infants, children, teens, adults and the aged population. The size of these segments crudely approximated the proportions that they would represent within the United States and their sum represented 100% of our population.

Our population’s birth rate has declined steadily since WWII and infancy lasts only one year. Therefore the infant’s segment represented the smallest proportion of the whole. Next was the children’s segment which extends for the next 11 years and is therefore larger. Adolescence extends from 13 years of age until 20 years and therefore appears about half the proportion of the children’s segment. The life-span of adults has steadily increased due to the better nutrition, healthier environments and the increasing power of medical technology. The adult life-span comprises the largest proportion of our population. It includes the adult population (ages 21 to 66) and the aged population.( Age 65 and over).

At the bottom of this upward sloping space were arrows symbolizing that all of the individuals in each of these age segments grew older and moved one way (to the right) through all of the categories as if they were on a conveyor belt. Of course, as this the population moved through the age segments, some individuals of all ages “fell off the conveyor belt” when they died and were therefore removed from the population.

Figure 1 represents the first image among several that emerged.

I will show you the next image next Monday.

1 Decompensation Model Revised


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