Political Identity, Myers-Briggs, Spiral Dynamics

I’ve written off and on about the relationship between politics and personality.  It seems obvious to me that there are two distinct ways of viewing the world… or actually there are many distinct ways but I tend to simplify it into two.  Myers-Briggs is the best single system to understand the nuances.  I’ll limit this discussion to the four functions: the Perceiving functions of iNtuion (N) and Sensation (S); and the Judging functions of Thinking (T) and Feeling (F).   The following is me speculating according to my present understand which is incomplete and everchanging (I’m an INFP afterall).

(I’m going to assume anyone reading this already has a basic knowledge of the subject.  If you don’t have a basic knowledge and are interested to learn more, it’s easy to find numerous summaries through search engines or by going to Wikipedia.  Or else you could look at my old posts… there is a decent summary of personality types that can be found on my About page and I’ve also written about Spiral Dynamics many times before.)

I’ve read of one argument that points out a cultural difference.  Asian culture tends to emphasize the Perceiving functions and Western culture tends to emphasize the Judging functions.  Basically, what this means is that we Westerners prefer clear conclusions and results.

There is an easy way I’ve come to understand the difference between Thinking and Feeling (but keep in mind I’m somewhat biasing my interpretation according to ST  and NF).  Thinking is about separating, analyzing, seeing the parts… whether of things, ideas or people.  Feeling is about connecting, relating, seeing how the parts fit together.  Thinkers believe people should serve principles.  Feelers believe values should serve people.  The difference is who or what gets the blame.

A simple example is that I’ve heard a conservative say that abstinence should be taught in schools even if it was shown to be ineffective towards preventing pregnancies and STDs.  The principle was important and we must strive towards (and enforce this striving upon others) even when we fail.  It’s because we fail that we need to enforce principles ever more strongly.

I just explained the difference between iNtuition and Sensation in the concluding comments of my previous post (My Response to the News):

Conservatives ‘fear’ change because they tend to want the world to stay the same or else to return to some idyllic past.  Conservatives are interested in the concrete reality of the present which is built on a sense of continuity with the past.  They’re more comfortable with what is familiar.

Liberals ‘hope’ for change because they tend to want improvement and progress.  Liberals are interested in imagined possibilities that even though not entirely real in the present have the potential to be real in the future.  They’re more open to new experiences.

These distinctions are important, but they’re hard to clarify in terms of everyday reality.  I think that our culture is shifting from a Judging mentality to that of Perceiving.  Whether or not that is the case, it seems difficult to make a clear distinction between the functions.  According to American politics, iNtuition and Feeling have become identified with eachother and likewise with Sensation and Thinking.  In the past, the American ideal was the ESTJ, the man of power and action, the authority figure who takes control and gets things done.  But this is shifting… towards what it isn’t clear.

There is a mix of issues that is hard to distinguish.

Certain social situations place greater value on particular personality traits.  In the patriarchal agrarian society of early America, a practical-minded ESTJ had a great advantage.  With time, however, we as a culture have come to value the abstract and imaginative abilities of iNtuitives.  The NF idealist has particularly come into its own in 20th century America with the growing emphasis on civil rights and with the renewed sense of democracy after WWII.  The individual who can take care of himself is less useful in the (post-)modern complex world.

Another confusing factor is that conservative Sensors will naturally idealize what is or what was no matter the specific social context.  Sensors idealize the past agrarian culture of small town America partly for the simple fact that it’s where our culture came from.  But put a Sensor in Russia and they very well might idealize Stalinism.

It’s just a matter of how the person perceives the world.  The Sensor perceives the concrete which is grounded in what is known and familiar.  The iNtuitive looks past what is and perceives what is becoming or what is possible.  They have a hard time simply accepting things just the way they are.  So what it worked in the past.  The present isn’t the past and we must change as all of the world is always changing.  The Sensor would agree the world is changing but would see this as a negative, something to be resisted.  The big picture and wild dreams of the iNtuitive mean nothing to the Sensor.  What can realistically be done right here and now?  We can’t ignore the past, but must work with the way things are.  Humans don’t fundamentally change.  What worked in the past will still work or can be adapted to present circumstances.

Society develops and the 21st century will be different than the 20th century.  The Sensors of the 21st century will idealize the 20th century and the iNtuitives will be looking further into future possibilities.  The Sensors are the brakes and the iNtuitives are the gas, and so history lurches as the two fight for control.

To really understand why conservatives and liberals come to their respective values, one would have to look at social development models.  Spiral Dynamics is a good example.  Conservatives are less open to further development than iNtuitives or else they’d rather have development happen more slowly.

A large part of the population is still in the Blue meme which emphasizes social order and hierarchical authority.  The Blue meme represents our recent collective past.  It’s the foundation the modern world is built upon.  Liberals often forget this and underestimate the power of influence it still has on society.  Obama has fallen into the same liberal intellectual trap that many Democrats have fallen into.  Most people don’t value the intellect over everything else.  The ideals of objectivity, rationality, and intellectual fairness are still fairly new to the human species.  Most modern people have some intellectual ability, but most people aren’t primarily influenced by intellectual arguments no matter how logical and factual (this is why experts tend to make bad debaters).  Obama needs to touch upon the emotional core of the argument or else fail.

Liberals forget that emotion and intellect need not be opposed.  In Myers-Briggs, it’s taught that we should strive to accept our inevitable differences all the while striving to bridge the divide.  Similarly, if one wants to convince the public of a particular change, then it’s best to ground it in the past… which interestingly is what Obama is now trying to do by switching to a moral stance.

Obama Calls Health Plan a ‘Moral Obligation’
By JEFF ZELENY and CARL HULSE

“These struggles always boil down to a contest between hope and fear,” he said. “That was true in the debate over Social Security, when F.D.R. was accused of being a socialist. That was true when J.F.K. and Lyndon Johnson tried to pass Medicare. And it’s true in this debate today.”

My Response to the News

C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help in Plan to Kill Jihadists
By MARK MAZZETTI

One official familiar with the matter said that Mr. Panetta did not tell lawmakers that he believed that the C.I.A. had broken the law by withholding details about the program from Congress. Rather, the official said, Mr. Panetta said he believed that the program had moved beyond a planning stage and deserved Congressional scrutiny.

“It’s wrong to think this counterterrorism program was confined to briefing slides or doodles on a cafeteria napkin,” the official said. “It went well beyond that.”

I wrote about this story previously, but this is new info.  It seems that the argument for it being withheld from Congress was false.

Current and former government officials said that the C.I.A.’s efforts to use paramilitary hit teams to kill Qaeda operatives ran into logistical, legal and diplomatic hurdles almost from the outset. These efforts had been run by the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, which runs operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.

Paramilitary hit teams… oh how it brings back the memories of America’s dark past.

In 2002, Blackwater won a classified contract to provide security for the C.I.A. station in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the company maintains other classified contracts with the C.I.A., current and former officials said.

Over the years, Blackwater has hired several former top C.I.A. officials, including Cofer Black, who ran the C.I.A. counterterrorism center immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks.

C.I.A. operatives also regularly use the company’s training complex in North Carolina. The complex includes a shooting range used for sniper training.

It sounds like the CIA and the former Blackwater are so entangled as to be inseparable.  Big government and big business melded together… fascism anyone?

Some Congressional Democrats have hinted that the program was just one of many that the Bush administration hid from Congressional scrutiny and have used the episode as a justification to delve deeper into other Bush-era counterterrorism programs.

If we were to go by American history, then there probably were and are all kinds of covert programs being hidden from Congressional oversight.  In my previous post about this story, I pointed out that it’s hard for Congress to serve it’s purpose of oversight when it’s left in the dark.  How does the Congress oversee an agency whose practice is to control info and keep it secret?  The only reason we see this info now is because there was a change in CIA leadership and the new guy didn’t want to get in trouble for the wrongdoings of the previous leadership.  However, even he didn’t know about this CIA program even after being head of the CIA for several months.   It was a secret even from him.  The CIA even lacks clear internal oversight.

A Nuremberg for Guantánamo
By GUÉNAËL METTRAUX

AT the end of World War II, the Allied powers found themselves in charge of thousands of captured enemies, many of whom had committed unspeakable crimes. Some among the victors thought that the prisoners should simply be shot. Others, including many in the American government, steadfastly insisted that these men should be subjected to criminal proceedings. Thus the Nuremberg trials were born, tribunals that meted out justice for some of the 20th century’s worst atrocities while demonstrating the return of the rule of law on the European continent and the superiority of democratic values over Fascist lunacies.

[…]

An international criminal tribunal would not answer all the legal questions surrounding the war on terrorism. But by putting its faith in the law, the Obama administration would send a potent message to both its supporters and its enemies. By giving a fair trial to the Guantánamo detainees, the United States would reassert its core values and demonstrate the supremacy of those values over the evil that has been challenging them.

Oh, what a lovely dream!  An America dedicating itself to justice, civil rights, and faith in the law… could such a thing be possible!?!

Sadly, there is a reason the US government doesn’t want to support international military tribunals.  There are many people of many countries (including politicians and leaders) who would like to see a number of Americans sent to trial for war crimes.  If we decided to subject citizens of other countries to fair trials, that might just lead to other countries demanding the same in return.  That is a can of worms that even Obama wouldn’t want to open.

Priority Test: Health Care or Prisons?
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

The United States is anomalous among industrialized countries in the high proportion of people we incarcerate; likewise, we stand out in the high proportion of people who have no medical care — and partly as a result, our health care outcomes such as life expectancy and infant mortality are unusually poor.

Choices always have to  be made about how limited money is spent.  For that very reason, the way America spends it’s money seems bassackwards.  Even if you assume that even the majority of criminals (who, by the way, are non-violent) can’t be rehabilitated, wouldn’t it make more sense to spend the money on people you can help?

¶The United States incarcerates people at nearly five times the world average. Of those sentenced to state prisons, 82 percent were convicted of nonviolent crimes, according to one study.

¶California spends $216,000 annually on each inmate in the juvenile justice system. In contrast, it spends only $8,000 on each child attending the troubled Oakland public school system, according to the Urban Strategies Council.

¶For most of American history, we had incarceration rates similar to those in other countries. Then with the “war on drugs” and the focus on law and order in the 1970s, incarceration rates soared.

¶One in 10 black men ages 25 to 29 were imprisoned last year, partly because possession of crack cocaine (disproportionately used in black communities) draws sentences equivalent to having 100 times as much powder cocaine. Black men in the United States have a 32 percent chance of serving time in prison at some point in their lives, according to the Sentencing Project.

I like statistics.  Nothing like facts to put ideology in its place.

Indeed, education spending may reduce the need for incarceration. The evidence on this isn’t conclusive, but it’s noteworthy that graduates of the Perry Preschool program in Michigan, an intensive effort for disadvantaged children in the 1960s, were some 40 percent less likely to be arrested than those in a control group.

Above all, it’s time for a rethink of our drug policy. The point is not to surrender to narcotics, but to learn from our approach to both tobacco and alcohol. Over time, we have developed public health strategies that have been quite successful in reducing the harm from smoking and drinking.

If we want to try a public health approach to drugs, we could learn from Portugal. In 2001, it decriminalized the possession of all drugs for personal use. Ordinary drug users can still be required to participate in a treatment program, but they are no longer dispatched to jail.

“Decriminalization has had no adverse effect on drug usage rates in Portugal,” notes a report this year from the Cato Institute. It notes that drug use appears to be lower in Portugal than in most other European countries, and that Portuguese public opinion is strongly behind this approach.

For many many reasons, punishment just isn’t a very effective method.  To put it in laymen’s terms, it doesn’t give you much bang for your buck.  Besides, for a supposed Christian nation, we seem a little too much in love with punishment.  If Jesus was here, he wouldn’t approve.

“There are only two possibilities here,” Mr. Webb said in introducing his bill, noting that America imprisons so many more people than other countries. “Either we have the most evil people on earth living in the United States, or we are doing something dramatically wrong in terms of how we approach the issue of criminal justice.”

It makes me happy when someone states the obvious.

Obama Calls Health Plan a ‘Moral Obligation’
By JEFF ZELENY and CARL HULSE

“These struggles always boil down to a contest between hope and fear,” he said. “That was true in the debate over Social Security, when F.D.R. was accused of being a socialist. That was true when J.F.K. and Lyndon Johnson tried to pass Medicare. And it’s true in this debate today.”

Hope and fear may not be the best way to put it, but it’s not entirely inaccurate.  Research shows that liberals and conservatives tend to be of two distinct personality types (Ernest Hartmann’s thin vs thick boundaries, Myers-Briggs’ Sensation vs iNtuition functions, etc.).

Conservatives ‘fear’ change because they tend to want the world to stay the same or else to return to some idyllic past.  Conservatives are interested in the concrete reality of the present which is built on a sense of continuity with the past.  They’re more comfortable with what is familiar.

Conservatives seem to be more pessimistic.  Research shows that pessimists have a more realistic grasp of the way things actually are, but because of this they tend to get stuck in whatever situation they find themselves in.  Another positive of pessimism is that it allows the acceptance of (even maybe necessitates the expectation of) human failure.  At its best, this can be a very compassionate attitude.  But the dark side is that if people can’t change you might as well just punish them and lock them away instead of trying to rehabilitate them.

Liberals ‘hope’ for change because they tend to want improvement and progress.  Liberals are interested in imagined possibilities that even though not entirely real in the present have the potential to be real in the future.  They’re more open to new experiences.

Liberals seem to be more optimistic.  Research shows that optimists have less realistic grasp of the way things actually are, but because of this they tend not to get stuck in whatever situation they find themselves in.  Another positive of optimism is that it allows for hope and even determination… no matter how often people fail, there is always potential (many successes only come after hundreds of failed attempts).  At its best, this can be a very compassionate attitude.  But the dark side is that if people are unable or feel unable to change unrealistic expectations are unhelpful and possibly dangerous such as if unrehabilitated criminals are released.

Even though the two attitudes balance eachother, America has always been a country of hope.  If there is any single defining ideal of America, it is definitely the ideal of hope.  At the same time, America’s being a young and less stable (or more dynamic if you prefer) country contributes to a constant fear of what we’re collectively becoming.

What is a Mythicist?

The biblical scholar Acharya S (AKA D.M. Murdock) in her blog has posted a couple of links to articles she wrote about mythicism (and she also has many other articles on her Truth Be Known website about mythicism and related subjects such as astrotheology).

What is a Mythicist? by Acharya S

I have created two new articles:

What is a Mythicist?

The History of Mythicism

These articles deal with the third option in the believing versus non-believing debate as concerns various religious traditions, specifically Christianity and bibliolatry in this case.

I appreciate those articles.  A major problem of discussions is that many people don’t even know basic definitions.

There is only one issue I’d like to see clarified further.  As I see it, theories about myth and theories about history inform eachother but aren’t dependent on eachother.  They should be discussed separately rather than conflated.

In terms of Jesus mythicism, I think it’s irrelevant whether an actual person existed because we can never know.  Mythicism definitely undermines historical claims, but it doesn’t entirely disprove the possibility.  Even though I think the evidence is extremely weak to say the least, there are rational arguments for a historical Jesus because it always depends on how the evidence is interpreted.

The problem with conflating theories about mythology and history is that it creates an all-or-nothing polarization.  This just leads to heated debate that too often lacks nuanced understanding.

I for example am strongly in support of mythicism but mostly indifferent of whether or not Jesus is historical.  To feel strongly about one doesn’t necessitate I feel strongly about the other.  Even if Jesus were somehow proven to have actually lived, it wouldn’t change my mind about mythicism as the stories about Jesus would still only have a loose connection to any supposed history.

A person could simultaneously think that there was both a historical Jesus and a mythical Jesus.  They could do this by accepting that there is a distinction between the Jesus of scholarship and the Jesus of faith.  Maybe the two understandings of Jesus simply have nothing to do with eachother.  I was raised in New Thought Christianity and I can tell you many of the Christians I grew up around didn’t have a faith in Christ that was dependent on history.

Thomas Verenna: Character and Scholarship

The blogger hambydammit on his blog Life Without a Net posted a book recommendation of Thomas Verenna’s new book Of Men and Muses (here).  I’ve left a few comments:

 – – –

I understand he is a friend and so you obviously have a different kind of relationship with him than others who’ve known him from online. Even so, I think it’s unfair of you to imply that only one person ruined his credibility. I’ve seen him around in many discussions and he has a way of irritating all kinds of people and let me say it has nothing to do with being smarter than everyone else. He apparently lacks certain practical interpersonal skills.

I originally knew of him through his alias and didn’t know his real name. I accidentally came across his blog without realizing who he was and he acted like a righteous know-it-all. He seemed unable to admit when he didn’t know something. That isn’t to say that he isn’t intelligent. I generally agreed with much that he said, but he just had such a disagreeable personality… or at least that is how he seems online… maybe he’s more easygoing and friendly in normal life.

Anyways, I won’t judge his scholarship based on his personality. I’ll check for some more reviews of his book and see what others think. His name is well enough known in the onine biblical studies community and so publicity shouldn’t be a problem. This book will be the test of whether his scholarship can actually stand up to criticism.

 – – –

Sounds like you have a balanced attitude. I have a couple of responses to Verenna.

First, many people have criticized him of making dishonest and misleading statements (from plagiarism to claiming he knows what he doesn’t). I can’t verify many of these criticisms, but in my own dealings with him he does seem to lack humility and an openness to new perspectives. He certainly doesn’t take criticism well and practically invites people to dismiss him in his own dismissal of others.

Second, I do give his scholarship a chance as Robert M. Price reviews his work positively. I respect Price, but I mistrust Verenna’s using Price as a reference for his own views. Verenna dismissed out of hand the work of D.M. Murdock all the while admitting he had never read her work, but in the same discussion throws out the name of Price. The problem is that Price changed from criticism to praise once he read Murdock’s work and even wrote an introduction to one of Murdock’s books. Verenna’s attitude toward Murdock (who has more respectable credentials than he does) demonstrates an intellectual sloppiness not to mention an unfounded righteousness that is just plain annoying.

So, I’m mixed. He does have some intelligence and there is potential that he might add something worthy to the discussion of biblical studies. For me, the jury is still out. I’ll keep my eyes out for further book reviews before deciding whether to buy this book.

 – – –

I generally agree with your attitude.  I’m not a fan of web drama and haven’t directly been involved with the conflicts involving Verenna, but it seems that Verenna himself wasn’t shy about web drama and at least in the past was a willing partner to some of the conflict.

I tend to ignore criticisms if I only hear them once or only from one person.  However, the criticisms of Verenna involve large numbers of people in very extensive discussions on respectable forums.  It’s hard to ignore.

Even so, I still would’ve not given much credence to it all if he didn’t act the way he did in the discussions I had with him.  I judge him on my personal experience (when I didn’t even know who he was and so I wasn’t judging him based on any preconceived biases about his character).  It isn’t ad hominem.  He in fact dismissed authors he himself admitted to having not read.  So, that much would seem to be a fact.

It is clear to me that he does (unless he has remedied the situation by further study) lack knowledge about certain issues he speaks about authoritatively (and so that fairly places doubt on his scholarship in general).  If he hasn’t read Murdock, he shouldn’t claim to have a worthy opinion.  Both Price and Murdock have more credentials than he does, and Price respects Murdock.  None of this is ad hominem or mere web drama.  This is a fact, but I’m open to this fact being revised (by either his recanting his uninformed judgment or else by informing his judgment on this matter).  I truly hope he has studied further since I last interacted with him, but in order for that to happen he’d first have to humbly admit he lacked knowledge about it.  Personality issues only rub me the wrong way when they influence a person’s intellectual ability.

Valid criticisms can’t be ignored as just web drama.  It’d be much easier to ascertain the worth of Verenna’s scholarhip if he himself had originally ignored (rather than fed) the web drama.  His scholarship is mired in web drama because of his own actions.  As a counter-example, Price has managed to remain above the fray of web drama and his scholarship is clearly respectable partly for that very reason.

However, it does appear that Verenna is trying to become more respectable.  I wish him well in that endeavor.  Maybe this book is a step in that direction.  If his scholarship is worthy, then I’m more than happy to consider his viewpoint.  So far, I’ve looked around at the book reviews and haven’t seen any in-depth analysis of what he writes about.  He does seem to have a few people who strongly support him and so I’m hoping one of them will go into more detail.  I look forward to seeing more discussion.

 – – –

I understand your perspective.  I don’t care that much about the web stuff other than I tend to look at multiple viewpoints when researching a subject.  It’s basically impossible to do a web search about multiple perspectives without coming across web drama.  I mostly avoid web drama and it was an accident that I came across Verenna’s blog.

I’m more interested in the questions than specific answers.  At the same time, I’m interested in how questions are asked and how answers pursued.  Specifically about Verenna, I am extremely curious about the subject he writes about and my views aren’t too far off from his.

I guess that I’m just not sure at the moment what his scholarship offers in respect to the scholarship of others.  There are quite a few active authors who write about mythicism and who are critical of literalism.  Is he adding new insight… if so, precisely what insight?  Or is he writing for laymen and so bringing clarity to a complex subject?  Either insight or clarity is worthy, but a little of both would be wonderful.

I would buy his book right now, but I’m not as yet prepared to spend the money and time on it.  Sadly, I can’t read everything that catches my attention.  I truly am hoping that his book sparks discussion because then I could better see what he is bringing to the table.

The Darkness of God

I came across the view of God as described by Pseudo-Dionysius (AKA Dionysios or Denys the Areopagite).  It reminded me of Thomas S. Hibbs use of Blaise Pascal’s theology to gain a deeper understanding of Noir.  Hibbs focuses on the idea of God as hidden.  This also connects to various other writers I enjoy who comment on Noir especially in terms of Gnosticism (to be specific Victoria Nelson and Eric G. Wilson).  Along with all of this is the ancient connection of the divine with fear and terror, the experience of God as an overwhelming force such as what Job faced.

However, trying to write in detail about all of that in a single post would be more effort than motivation and time at present allows.  So, I’ll just share the following passage from Denys Turner’s book The Darkness of God: Negativity in Christian Mysticism (pp. 24-25).

Denys is quite emphatic about this and he repeats the warning on several occasions, so fraught with dangers did he consider a limited theological vocabulary to be.  In a pioous vocabulary of unshocking, ‘appropriate’ names, lies the danger of the theologian’s being all the more tempted to suppose that our language about God has succeeded in capturing the divine reality in some ultimately adequate way.  Tactically preferable is the multiplicity of vulgar images which, because they lack any plausibility as comprehensive or appropriate names, paradoxically have a more uplifting efficacy: ‘Indeed the sheer crassness of the signs is a goad so that even the materially inclined cannot accept that it could be permitted or true that the celestial and divine sights could be conveyed by such shameful things’.

There is good practical sense in this.  A ‘golden and gleaing’ God is too like what we might choose to praise; a God ‘enraged’, ‘cursing’ and ‘drunk and hungover’ might have greater power to shock us into a sense of divine transcendence by magnitude of the metaphorical deficiency.

Punishment/Reward, Good/Evil, Victim/Victimizer

I was talking to a friend last night and we had a very long discussion that covered many subjects: suffering, mental health, meritocracy, plutocracy, movies, noir, gnosticism… and whatever else.  One of the first things he brought up was a book he read recently.  The book is Alfie Kohn‘s Punished by Rewards  which, as I understand from my friend’s explanation, is about the problems of the reward/punishment methodology of behaviorism.  It sounded interesting in particular as the author supposedly was analyzing the scientifc research and found it didn’t support behaviorism’s effectiveness.  I’ll have to look into this further as I don’t understand enough at present to come to a conclusion.  Instead, I’ll share this short video of Alfie Kohn speaking about the failure of punishment.

My point for blogging about it other than it being interesting is that I came across some similar ideas from a field other than psychology.  I was perusing a blog simply titled Theologies which is written by someone going by the name Marika.  I read the post Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Christian ethics.  I’ve come across Bonhoeffer’s name many times over the years, but have never read any of his books.  Anyways, below is some of Marika’s post:

The first rule of Christian ethics, according to Bonhoeffer, is that there is no such thing as Christian ethics. The knowledge of good and evil is a result of the fall, and the return to God means abandoning all our knowledge of good and evil. […]  The knowledge of good and evil means that we start to see ourselves not in terms of our relationship to God, but in terms of our capacity for good and evil. […]  Instead of trusting God to show us what sort of people we ought to be, we set ourselves up as our own judges.  Shame is the sign of this disconnection from God: it is our recognition that we are estranged from our origin. 
 Alfie Kohn says that punishment merely focuses the mind on the punisment itself rather than what the punishment is supposed to be about.  The punished person looks for ways of not getting caught in the future and they obsess over a mentality of blame and retribution.  The punished person ultimately wants to become the punisher…. when I’m older, thinks the child… which reminds me of Derrick Jensen’s analysis of how most victimizers were once victims.  Bonhoeffer would, however, argue that the only way out of this vicious cycle is to turn to God.
 
To throw in Gnosticism for good measure, Marcion would say the punishment model should be left in the Jewish scriptures and not forced onto Christian theology.  Jesus didn’t preach punishment and was definitely against the hierarchical relationship between the person punishing and the person being punished.  Interestingly, Bonhoeffer puts his criticism in the context of knowing God which is precisely what the Gnostics were all about.

Fear-mongering and Scapegoats

I don’t have much to say other than to share a simple observation about human nature.  In the online comments section of my local newspaper, many people seem angry, even righteously angry.  Quite a few people are aggressive to the point of trying to start arguments.  People bicker and act dismissively, and civil behavior apparently is the exception to the rule.  The majority of posters comment already posturing for a fight and everyone is constantly trying to draw the lines of who is on what side.

All of the negativity depresses me and I feel myself drawn into it.  It’s not a matter of whether I can hold my own.  I’m a better debater than many of the people commenting, but I’d rather just discuss than argue.  Why is that so difficult?

My sense is that there is a lot of fear.  That is basically what I get from all of the bickering.  Look past all of the intellectual rationalizations, ideological justifications, social game-playing, and psychological personas… look past all of that and what lies beneath is a bunch of people afraid of the world.  And it’s not just here.  People walk around with this fear all day long and it usually remains hidden behind a social facade.

It’s understandable.  There is much to be afraid of.  The world is a scary place.  I’m full of fears myself.  The problem is that the fears seem misplaced or rather projected.  People begin with their fears and then look for something to explain why they feel so afraid. look for something to blame, to scapegoat.

I realize this is completely normal human behavior.  People have been doing it for at least as long as civilization has existed and probably longer.  But it’s still sad.

It just seems like humans always need an enemy, a bad guy.  It really doesn’t even matter who gets tagged ‘it’… except to the person who gets to be the scapegoat.  The even more weird part is that it’s also a part of human nature to embrace the role of scapegoat.  When someone is seen as an outsider, they start acting that way.  It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It’s a play and there is a role for everyone.  We fall into our scripts and the show begins.

 – – –

In case anyone is interested, my thoughts are loosely inspired by the ideas of Arnold Mindell. I’d recommend Mindell’s books, but you can find some info about his ideas on the web (Amy and Arny Mindell website). He analyzes relationships and social roles, and he specializes in conflict resolution both on the small and large scale.

His basic theory is that there are basic roles that have to be fulfilled in any social situation or else the social dynamic gets stuck. The problem is that oftentimes there are certain roles that nobody wants to play. This either leads to collective frustration as this aspect has no outlet.

If no one willingly accepts a particular role, then sometimes it’s forced onto someone. Or people sometimes find themselves acting in a way that seems out of character and it could be because they’re unconsciously playing some role in that situation.

My Online Adventures

I became interested in the Internet through researching ideas which is what I do even without the Internet, but the Internet has made it much easier and more enjoyable.  The first topic I web-searched to a great degree (by which I mean obsessively) was Tarot which led me to MBTI.  I was only vaguely familiar with MBTI and was happy to learn more about it as I was already deeply interested in Carl Jung’s ideas. 

This search for info led me to an INFP discussion forum (INFP is my MBTI personality type).  It was utterly amazing because it was a large group of people who had a similar way of thinking and communicating, but it kind of spoiled me for more general forums I’d later join.  I had some truly awesome discussions there, but some of the members I interacted with on a regular basis ended up moving on.  I came to learn how informal web relationships are.  Most people don’t really want to connect.  I do want to connect, but when someone asked if I’d like to meet in person I realized I had my limits on how much I wanted to connect as well.  I’m somewhat of a loner and am contented with my few close real-world relationships.  However, I look for something different in my on-line friendships that my everyday relationships can’t satisfy.

Anyways, the INFP forum and other MBTI-related forums were just too specific.  My mind wanders and my intellectual hunger wasn’t being sated.  I went looking around.  I’ve since belonged to many forums: Beliefnet, Truth Be Known, some Integral Theory forums, and various Atheist/Agnostic forums.  I realized no single group would satisfy and groups took too much effort and time for what usually turned out to be too little benefit.  I started considering blogs as I really just wanted a format to express myself without constantly worrying about what others thought.  I first tried My Opera because the only blog I was following at the time (Quentin S. Crisp’s Directory of Lost Causes) happened to be there, but I quickly realized that it had too many foreign language blogs for my taste. 

I wanted to still be able to connect with people to an extent, and so I looked for places that offered blogging services along with social networking.  At first, I considered Ning because I already belonged to some groups there.  The problem I saw with Ning is that blogs seemed pretty isolated there.  There really weren’t too many other options that fit what I was looking for, but I kept looking and comparing.  I was also worried about newer start-ups that might not stick around and so I was trying to determine sites that had been around for years.  I finally settled on Gaia.com.  It had a good balance.  I was initially attracted to the fact that it had a very active Integral community.  I did enjoy it quite a bit and participated regularly in one of the groups.  I met some nice people and it was there that I developed my blogging abilities.  After awhile, though, it too felt confining.  It was really a site dedicated to people wanting to improve the world.  I have nothing against improving the world, but it really isn’t the reason I spend my time on-line and definitely not what I blog about for the most part.  Besides, the cynical side of my personality really grated with the large number of New Age types there.

So, I decided that I just wasn’t going to find a community of people who were similar to me.  My interests are just too diverse.  It was an amazing experience whenever I met a person who shared even a small percentage of the same interests, but that happened too rarely.  I was just tired of trying to connect with others.

I turned to sites that simply specialized in blogging.  I decided to instead use the blogging platforms themselves as the standard of my decision instead of anything to do with social networking.  I now was simply looking for an easy way to post my writings that gave me enough options to play around and personalize my blog.  I looked back at My Opera and checked out my old Live Journal account, but I mostly focused on Blogger and Word Press.  I posted the same thing on all of these blogs and compared their specific functions.  I did that for several months and Word Press won.  That is the story of how I ended up here.

However, I still crave discussion.  I wish more people would comment and I wish the people who comment would return a second time.  A single comment a discussion does not make.  I’m not trying to drive traffic to my blog because I’m not trying to make money or anything.  I just figure there has to be other people like me with similar interests, and at least a few of them would be interested in discussion.  I don’t know if such people are fewer than I imagine or if it’s that they’re unlikely to find my blog for whatever reason.  As far as I can tell, my posts often come up in search results and I definitely show up in Word Press listings.  People visit my blog on a daily basis, but why do so few leave a comment?

I suspect most people aren’t interested in discussion and especially not of the deep intellectual variety.  Even other deep intellectual types don’t seem all that interested in discussion.  Most people seem content to do their own thing in their own blog.  The people who seek out places to comment are often spammers and trolls.  It depresses me a bit.  I comment in other people’s blogs all of the time, but it doesn’t usually lead anywhere.  Most bloggers don’t respond back and certainly don’t try to connect in any way such as commenting in my blog in return.  This is partly explained by the statistics.  I was reading that 96% of bloggers haven’t posted in the last 4 months.

Partly to satisfy my need for discussion, I’ve been commenting in the online version of my local paper.  That is somewhat more satisfying as I actually know some of the people commenting and the subject matter is a bit more personally relevant.  However, I’m not much of a news junky and so I just enjoy the interaction and I even partially enjoy the stupid debate.  There are a couple of intelligent posters which comes close to offseting all of the opinionated ignorance.

I did recently connect with some fellow bloggers here on Word Press.  I’m feeling inspired to make my blog more interesting and new-person-friendly.  I wrote up an extensive ‘About’ page, a ‘Favorite Posts’ page, and finally got around to adding the blogs I visit to my blogroll.  I was thinking I should clean up my categories because they’re a bit of a jumble.  Also, my theme is rather mundane.  I picked it for practical reasons as I liked the way it was set up, but I should look at other options again.  If I ever feel extraordinarily motivated, I might add a picture to my banner.  It was only recently that I even got around to adding the icon of my kitty.  It sure is a lot of work.  If I was a motivated person, I’d probably be doing something in the real world rather than blogging.  lol

To further break out of my isolated slump, I joined Technorati and Blog Catalog.  I’ll see how that turns out.  I doubt it will make much difference.  Blog Catalog looks like it could potentially be a place to connect, but there is a lot of crap to wade through.

I’m happy to have a blog anyways with or without regular discussion.  I used to journal which got boring after a decade of being my own audience.  Blogging forces me to be more thorough and careful in my thinking process.  It’s good practice to have something that motivates me to write on a regular basis.  I enjoy writing and that is the important part.