The World Is Ending Again!

“Whether the response is lashing out, turning inward, tuning out, or giving up, Americans are becoming increasingly paralyzed by disagreement, disillusionment, and despair. Indeed, many Americans seem to agree these days on only one thing: This is the worst of times.”

R. Putnam & S.R. Garett, The Upswing (excerpt)

Along with a revised edition of the classic Bowling Alone, a new book has come out by Robert Putnam. With his new work, Shaylyn Romney Garrett joins him as co-author. The title is The Upswing with the accompanying subtitle of “How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again.” The basic premise appears to be that the mood at present resonates with the complaints and fears of an earlier era when the mood soured in the decades following the Civil War. As Americans headed into the next century, many voices lamented the end of an age, as if a new age would not follow (John Higgs, Stranger Than We Can Imagine).

Based on their generations theory, William Strauss and Neil Howe would give a simple response. This pattern has repeated many times over. But living memory is so short. In fact, it’s the loss of living memory of the last cycle that drives it to swing back around again. The old is made new again, as if a foreign land never seen before. That is why it requires an historical awareness to realize we’ve been here before and what to expect as we move into the next phase. Even as we are in the Crisis that turns the wheel of the Fourth Turning, something else is emerging upon which different social institutions and collective identities will be built. 

This cyclical view of humanity and society is the most ancient of understandings. But in modernity we have falsely come to believe that there is endless linear progress into the unknown and unpredictable. That is the empty pride of modern Western civilization, that we are unique, that we have broken the chains of the past. Maybe not. Jeremiads of moral panic about decadence and decline usually presage moral revivals and rebirth (Jackson Lears, Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920). That has been the pattern, so some argue, for centuries now. Is there a reason to think this time will be different?

In every generation that reaches this point in the cycle, there are those who confidently declare this time will be different, that this time it will be permanent, that further change is now impossible, that further innovation has ended, that the vitalizing force of society has been lost, that the younger generations aren’t up to the task, maybe even that we’ve entered the end times. Yet, so far, these predictions have been disproven over and over again. We act out what we suppress from awareness. So the more we deny the reality of cycles the more we become trapped in them. Our historical amnesia dooms us to falling back into patterns we don’t see.

* * *

‘The Upswing’ Review: Bowling Alone No More?
by Yuval Levin

“Drawing ingeniously on a vast array of data—economic, political, cultural, social and more—Mr. Putnam and Ms. Garrett persuasively demonstrate that Gilded Age America suffered from civic and social strains remarkably similar to our own. Then they explore how, from the final years of the 19th century until the end of the 1950s, an extraordinary range of forces in our national life, in their words, “shaped an America that was more equal, less contentious, more connected, and more conscious of shared values.” Finally they consider why, all of a sudden and without clear warning, “the diverse streams simultaneously reversed direction, and since the 1960s America has become steadily less equal, more polarized, more fragmented, and more individualistic.” 

“They chart this path from “I” to “we” and back again to “I” across essentially every facet of the American experience. Drawing some lessons from the Progressive Era, broadly understood, they suggest that a return toward a culture of “we” would need to involve a restoration of civic ambition directed toward pragmatic, concrete, incremental changes. That means building new institutions to address new problems, and it means paving paths from shared frustrations toward accommodations and reforms that could endure. It means devoting time to local service organizations and religious and professional groups, and talking less about how things got so bad and more about how to make them better where we are. It means fighting corruption and combating despair. And it means helping a rising generation think about its future, rather than drowning in debates about past feuds and divisions. 

“But the key, for Mr. Putnam and Ms. Garrett, is to move from broad categories of action like these to specific instances of practical organization and engagement. This is why the example of America in the first half of the 20th century can be so powerful. It is a positive answer to the question that threatens to debilitate anyone looking to turn things around in contemporary America: Is revival even possible? The authors make a strong case that a recovery of solidarity is achievable.”

Rate of Moral Panic
Technological Fears and Media Panics
The Crisis of Identity
The Disease of Nostalgia
Moral Panic and Physical Degeneration
Old Debates Forgotten

16 thoughts on “The World Is Ending Again!

  1. This is all fine and good, however you can lead a horse to water but you cant make it drink, and this specific horse wont drink because of two reasons in my opinion;
    1 there isnt a shared storyline of whats happening in the world, people are living in different realities sometimes under the same roof.
    2 there isnt enough moral capital or “karma” to have a favourable outcome.
    I think the fallacy of sunken costs apply here as well, as people who have invested years of memories and emotional attachment to the past will not simply rebuke what they hold, and have held to be true for years whether in politics or whatever, thus the analogy.
    If only there was a button to reset to 2003 before the Iraq war, or a personal reset button to take back every mean word we said to others, and undo every bad deed we did.

    • Cyclical patterns don’t require shared storylines. It doesn’t require shared anything necessarily. In Strauss and Howe’s generations theory, there is a cycle of four generations. Part of what drives the cycle is the reaction of one generation to the preceding generation that raised them.

      This necessitates common historical influences and social conditions to create a national cycle. Major events like Civil War, Great Depression, etc ensure alignment across a large population. But it doesn’t require any single understanding of those events.

      I’m not exactly sure what you mean by moral capital or “karma”. But if I understand correctly, I doubt that is needed either to keep the pattern repeating. These population dynamics aren’t moral in nature, no more than the population dynamics of pine beetles or deer.

      It’s not a matter of who holds onto the past versus those who let it go. It’s not that simple. There are many reasons the past influences us, including biological factors like epigenetics. Even nutritional stores and deficiencies can be passed on intergenerationally.

      Even if we weren’t a traumatized population, there would still be cycles. This is a product of the modern nation-state that creates collective conditions of social identity. So, it’s not so much a seeking to escape the wheel of karma. It’s more simply to become aware of the proces to respond to it in a healthy way.

      Our inability or refusal to deal with the past is maybe why, as some argue, we keep repeating the past. It creates an unhealthy culture and mentality that is prone to the reactionary and authoritarian, much of it having to do with a superficial nostalgia that is detached from the past, in being replaced by historical amnesia and historical revisionism.

      There is difference between being aware of societal patterns that one can more consciously navigate and simply reacting out of old cultural habits of fear, anxiety, and trauma. The existence of cycles does not necessarily mean being trapped, any more than we are trapped by gravity. It’s just knowledge to be used.

    • So, it’s not only that we are repeating the past but repeating it in predictable ways. But once you see the pattern itself, it creates the possibility of responding in new ways.

      The past remains what it is and the driving force of a cycles might remain as well. Still, slight shifts in attitude and choices could transform the results for the next iteration of cycle.

      This could alter the conditions of future generations and allow society to go in new directions and enact a healthier culture. What was a trap of collective unawareness can become an experiment toward innovative potential.

    • there isnt a shared storyline of whats happening in the world, people are living in different realities sometimes under the same roof.

      You may appreciate Monbiot’s realizations in regard to the fevered attempts to displace a powerful story with facts and figures. The facts and figures, he notes, “just bounce straight off.”

      A listen to the memes circulating today reveal a lot of “Change the Story, Change the World” imperatives, which I personally find appealing having been a major in English Literature, not to mention having an ancestral heritage overflowing with excellent stories and storytellers.

      There is a danger, however, and that is this: we have a tendency to forget that myths are myths and can actually become trapped in them when we do.

      I’m sure you’ve heard the joke: “It’s called ‘The American Dream’ because you have to be asleep to believe it.” ~ George Carlin

      Needless to say, that particular “dream” has turned nightmare for the vast majority of us and, of course, there is much talk about “myths” and “myth-making” today. The “Restoration Story” Monbiot is trying to write likely won’t turn out any better due to the fact that — if we’re listening, we know — we are actually moving on from the kind of “Hero’s Journey,” restoration stories that have predominated the West for so long and toward a new one: a story of Generation and Regeneration (and Mutation) far more akin to the book of Genesis.

      I have no patience left for those who say we should just do away with myths, folklore, etc. altogether. (Perhaps they think they are just too “evolved” for them anymore. I don’t know what’s going on there, to be perfectly honest.) A great many of our stories are considered classics for a reason: they are vehicles of truth passed on from one generation to the next. (“Kernel of truth,” anyone?) Those truths remain there for the asking and we would be foolish to ignore them.

      • That has been on my mind. The cyclical view of time and reality itself is a narrative, as is linear time. And maybe it could be better communicated through narrative as well. That is the failure of a post like this. It doesn’t show what it means to experience the world as cycles within cycles.

        Talk of theories is too abstract. But for those of us born in a linear worldview detached from the cycles of nature and cosmos, how do we viscerally experience what it means for reality to be cyclical? Historical time is a bit of a Hero’s Journey, isnt it? A modern revolution has come to mean a heroic defeat of the past.

        We’ve lost the sense that a genuine revolution is possible in the oldest sense. A revolution as return, renewal, rejuvenation, and regeneration. Each age is something entirely new that eliminates the age preceding it. Maybe our difficulty in envisioning the future has something to do with our lack of feeling connected to the past.

        • I am quite confident that even as the oceans boil, and the hurricanes beat violently against our once safe shores, and the air sweats with the heat of impending doom, and our fists protest the denial of climate justice, that there is a path to take that has nothing to do with victory or defeat: a place we do not yet know the coordinates to; a question we do not yet know how to ask. The point of the departed arrow is not merely to pierce the bullseye and carry the trophy: the point of the arrow is to sing the wind and remake the world in the brevity of flight. There are things we must do, sayings we must say, thoughts we must think, that look nothing like the images of success that have so thoroughly possessed our visions of justice.

          May this new decade be remembered as the decade of the strange path, of the third way, of the broken binary, of the traversal disruption, the kairotic moment, the posthuman movement for emancipation, the gift of disorientation that opened up new places of power, and of slow limbs. May this decade bring more than just solutions, more than just a future – may it bring words we don’t know yet, and temporalities we have not yet inhabited. May we be slower than speed could calculate, and swifter than the pull of the gravity of words can incarcerate. And may we be visited so thoroughly, and met in wild places so overwhelmingly, that we are left undone. Ready for composting. Ready for the impossible.

          Welcome to the decade of the fugitive.

          From: A Post on Facebook by Bayo Akomolafe

      • To return to my last point, the premodern percepton of a cyclical world was lived experience. It was not an abstract theory and scientific data to be researched, analyzed, and debated. They saw cycles everywere in the world around them. The wind and rain, sun and moon, the clouds and the stars — all were living patterns that repeated and were largely predictable. But they also were narratives embodied in the physical world and visceral experience.

        The myths and folklore played out in natural phenomenon. Much of this symbolic thinking, astrotheological and otherwise, was incorporated into every major religion. But the moderm mind that inherited those religions has lost touch with the very origin of the religious impulse. The symbols within these ancient texts translated into modern literalism get lost from vision and forgotten in shared understanding.

        I’m often reminded of an earthquake in southern Calfornia where residents of Los Angeles experienced total blackout. Emergency services were unsurpisingly inundated with calls, but the nature of the calls was odd. People kept asking what were the strange lights in the sky, as it scared or disturbed them. It took a while for the authorities to figure out that these were city folk seeing the stars for the first time in their lives.

        The human mind evolved with these patterns. Yet now they’ve become alien to the modern mind. That is to say the modern mind is alien to itself, does not know itself, can’t recognize the shared reality of human nature as part of a living world. There are few modern Westerners left who have an intimate familiarity with the natural world around them, beyond some vague notion of changing seasons. We go on celebrating ancient seasonal holy days without recognizing that they were once the worship of solstices and equinoxes, sometimes combined with lunar cycles.

        The world is dead to most of us now. The restless trajectory of linear time does not allow for that profound immersion in vitality, the knowing sense that one is at home in the world. The human mind has receded into the skull where it is ridden with fear and anxiety of what lies beyond, ever seeking for the promise of some distant heaven or utopia but struggling to see the beauty and hope in the present. Narrative is what gives meaning. But what meaning can be possible in a world where narratives have been reduced to entertainment media and political rhetoric, if not outright propaganda?

      • To return to my last point, the premodern percepton of a cyclical world was lived experience. It was not an abstract theory and scientific data to be researched, analyzed, and debated. They saw cycles everywere in the world around them. The wind and rain, sun and moon, the clouds and the stars — all were living patterns that repeated and were largely predictable. But they also were narratives embodied in the physical world and visceral experience.

        The myths and folklore played out in natural phenomenon. Much of this symbolic thinking, astrotheological and otherwise, was incorporated into every major religion. But the moderm mind that inherited those religions has lost touch with the very origin of the religious impulse. The symbols within these ancient texts translated into modern literalism get lost from vision and forgotten in shared understanding.

        I’m often reminded of an earthquake in southern Calfornia where residents of Los Angeles experienced total blackout. Emergency services were unsurpisingly inundated with calls, but the nature of the calls was odd. People kept asking what were the strange lights in the sky, as it scared or disturbed them. It took a while for the authorities to figure out that these were city folk seeing the stars for the first time in their lives.

        The human mind evolved with these patterns. Yet now they’ve become alien to the modern mind. That is to say the modern mind is alien to itself, does not know itself, can’t recognize the shared reality of human nature as part of a living world. There are few modern Westerners left who have an intimate familiarity with the natural world around them, beyond some vague notion of changing seasons. We go on celebrating ancient seasonal holy days without recognizing that they were once the worship of solstices and equinoxes, sometimes combined with lunar cycles.

        The world is dead to most of us now. The restless trajectory of linear time does not allow for that profound immersion in vitality, the knowing sense that one is at home in the world. The human mind has receded into the skull where it is ridden with fear and anxiety of what lies beyond, ever seeking for the promise of some distant heaven or utopia but struggling to see the beauty and hope in the present. Narrative is what gives meaning. But what meaning can be possible in a world where narratives have been reduced to entertainment media and political rhetoric, if not outright propaganda?

        • I question that it is dead to most of us now or, perhaps better put, I question the degree to which it has been nourished all along and revived in us as a species.

          Maybe I’m just looking in all the right places to watch it sprout and grow and the degree to which it has been revived is actually minimal, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way. Might it just seem that way when all we’re looking at is the cracked concrete plastered over the face creation which the “concrescence” is nonetheless flowing through?

  2. Neither me nor you decided to exist, so in the deepest abstract sense we are trapped, everything else is up to us.

    “These population dynamics aren’t moral in nature, no more than the population dynamics of pine beetles or deer.“
    I would add the variable of human emotion to be human specific, and the variable of time.
    Now if there was no cheating or lying in society for 50 years, later a crisis happens, then that would be a unifying crisis, similar to the 50s when people had seen the horrors of war and decided to be better people overall, not to mention the marshal program which was a massive dose of karma into the country -ignoring geopolitics at the time-

    So in short, when people are living well they think happy thoughts, and take the best advantage of a crisis to better themselves and their society. When you add hate to the mix you get a worse society.

    We cannot all live above they fray and understand cycles of societal change, we need a simple story to follow for our everyday lives. Besides I question the methodology of the authors research, for ex its true that we can read ancient Egyptian language, but how can we understand how it felt to be a part of society at the time? How can we know peoples thoughts and feelings? Even if we read someones diary from far ago, we are bound by the limits of linguistics.

    • To speak of life as a trap is to use a metaphor based on an early technological invention. And it’s a powerful metaphor because of its ancient origins and widespread use. But there are many other metaphors. Depending on which metaphor we take for granted, we’ll perceive quite differently the world and our place within it. The thing is, if we aren’t conscious of the metaphors we are using and aware there are other metaphors, then indeed the metaphor of the trap will trap us. So, as always, we should choose carefully in how we speak.

      As such, language might play a role in creating, forming, and sustaining certain social patterns. For example, having a word for a social construct might help to formalize the category within cultural knowledge and so exaggerate it within social experience. Before a conceptual term for generations was invented, was there a strong enough experience of generations that could have influenced collective human perception and behavior in forming generational cycles? That is an interesting thought to contemplate. Our ideas about humanity can shape or even determine the expression of our humanity. This kind of thing is explored in linguistic relativity and other fields.

      As for emotions, many other animals have emotions. The most basic emotional responses involve brain structures shared by mammals and reptiles. And the more complex emotional responses involve brain structures shared by most mammals, although it varies greatly. This relates to what could be called ‘culture’ among many mammals where shared behaviors are passed on through teaching and modeling, not genetics. But, yes, there is an entirely different degree of culture proper that is found among humans. And this does affect emotional experience. Lisa Feldman Barrett, in How Emotions are Made, writes:

      “In short, we find that your emotions are not built-in but made from more basic parts. They are not universal but vary from culture to culture. They are not triggered; you create them. They emerge as a combination of the physical properties of your body, a flexible brain that wires itself to whatever environment it develops in, and your culture and upbringing, which provide that environment. Emotions are real, but not in the objective sense that molecules or neurons are real. They are real in the same sense that money is real— that is, hardly an illusion, but a product of human agreement.”

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2017/07/23/useful-fictions-becoming-less-useful/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2020/03/11/to-empathize-is-to-understand/

      Well, there is always some cheating and lying. That would be true even in the most tightly bound tribe of close kin. The cycles that some claim to have observed repeating in the past appear to have continued in the presence of imperfect human behavior. It’s not a matter of absolutes but what generally dominates, a culture of trust or mistrust. That is to say, in everyday relations, will people treat each other as part of a shared social identity and public good or not. In either case, people can be inspired to unify or otherwise be forced and manipulated to do so. The question is will they unify around a healthy sense of community or around authoritarian demagoguery and violent oppression.

      I also probably wouldn’t frame it as happiness versus hate, per se. It’s more to do with overall stress. Even at low levels, continuous stress can cause trauma, much greater than a single event of major stress. That might be socially constructed and experienced as any numer of culture-depedent emotional states. An example is ‘han’ in Korea that, among many over the past century, hs come to be considered as part of an essential ethno-nationalist identity, maybe as a psychological compensation for what is felt to be lost:
      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Han_(cultural)

      By the way, I wasn’t suggesting we live above the fray. If anything, the complete opposite. In greater knowledge, understanding and awareness, we might be able to more fully embrace and immerse ourselves in these socio-cultural phenomenon. Instead of being or feeling trapped, we could choose to accept the world as it is (and feel more at peace with it) in order to better grasp what else might possible within present conditions as they change over time. Otherwise, we might just find ourselves endlessly drained by the stress and trauma of a world we don’t understand, as if we are victims and, then, we could come to think of the metaphor of a trap as reality itself, rather than one metaphor among many to be chosen.

      We might consider what other stories we could tell as a society? A good place to start is with the language and metaphors we use, as those are some of the main building blocks of narrative. The cyclical worldview, is a different kind of narrative. It once was a common worldview but many modern Westerners threw it aside as false and meaningless. Maybe we’d be wise to rethink the linear narrative that has come to rule our mind. It wasn’t that long ago when even Americans had a more cyclical sense of the world (Lines and Circles by John Demos). That was at a time when people were more in tune with the natural world and so that is wherefrom they drew many metaphors, such as in observing the repeating patterns of seasons and the repeating movements of heavenly bodies. This extends back in time with the apparent astrotheological origins of many religions, including the Judeo-Christian tradition.

      Your questioning of methodology is perfectly fine and fair. But I’d point out a couple of things to keep in mind. There is no single theory of cycles and no single methodology to research them. Troves of data have been gathered, analyzed, and organized by historians, archaeologists, social science researchers, anthropologists, philologists, linguistic relativists, demographers, pollsters, etc. Strauss and Howe have their generational theory uses a wide array of data. Peter Turchin has another theory based more from a biological understanding of population studies. There is a more historical approach of Walter Scheidel. And then there are numerous economic and business cycles that use a variety of data and such.

      The other thing is that it’s not as if the linear worldview came to rule our society because of a superior methodology. It simply became a compelling thery under the destabilizing conditions of modern industrialization. Narratives don’t become highly successful mind viruses because of evidence-based rational argument. And such narratives won’t lose their grip over our psyche because of better analysis. All of these theories are interesting in awakening our imagination to the radical possibility of other ways of seeing the world, other ways of being and relating. One might argue that something is shifting in society such that a longing for a return to a cyclical narrative to make sense of a world that no longer makes sense according to linear narratives.

      That was part of my motivation for writing this post, even though I didn’t bring up this angle in the text. I was intentionally keepng the piece simple to make a specific point. But one thing stood out t me and I did want to mention it. Dozens of other recent scholars have come up with cyclical theories. They seem to be responding for a need and desire for a new kind of understanding. The largely forgotten ancient view feels increasingly relevant again. But it so far still hasn’t received much attention. This might change. Putnam is the first internationally famous public intellectual to point to this kind of repeating pattern, even if his focus is more narrow than others. Simply suggesting that we’ve been here before deeply challenges the modern American mind.

      I’d clarify one last point. Even the cyclical view is a social construct, no more objectively real than the linear view. Also, these are unlikely to be the only kinds of organizing views possible. The Piraha, for example, don’t seem to show evidence of either a cyclical or linear understanding of the world they live in. Interestingly, neither do they have any theology, mythology, storytelling tradition, or artistic practice. Yet, as simple as there culture may seem to us modern Westerners, they have encyclopedic knowledge about the natural world within their traditional territory they’ve lived in at least for centuries. Their focus is present-oriented and they have no conceptual terms for ‘past’, ‘generations’, and such. Time as cyclical or linear maybe is not all that significant for them. The Eternal Now seems to be good enough for their purposes.

    • I do appreciate you challenging my take on all of this. It is helpful. In responding, I’m forced to clarify my thinking and formulate more fully ideas. Admittedly, it can be frustrating trying to explain something to others when there isn’t a shared set of terms, ideas, understandings, and experiences. But it’s worth the effort. The topic is fascinatng.

      To be honest, I’m not entirely certain about my ultmate opinion on cycle theories in general. They resonate with me to some extent as there is an intuitve sense and aesthetc appeal. But obviously, the metaphor of time as circular would mean something different today than it did centuries ago, much less going back millennia. The theories being presented now are a first step in the possible development of a new worldview. Take them as preliminary and maybe even prescient of what is to come.

      We still have to deal with what caused the shift in the first place. Our fall into historical linear time was itself a traumatic experience of rupture. The wheel of time was broken. Revolution, having once meant an astrological revolving and return, regeneration and renewal, came instead to be associated with revolt and overturning in permanently destroying what came before. With that change, creative destruction became a popular concept, both among capitalists and Marxists. The rupture that once was feared has, for some, become idealized.

      In considering other possible metaphorical paradigms, that is why it could be useful looking to entirely different social imaginaries. Maybe we won’t return to cyclical worldview or maybe we’ll come to a more integral understanding that allows a more fluid relationship to multiple metaphorical constructs. That said, Piraha culture is interesting all on its owne. The temporal metaphor they use may be simply that of the immersive, multi-directional field of sensory perception, in which people and things as phenomenon appear and disappear.

      Time as a field of experience. That could be a useful and compelling metaphor that might gain memetic hold. Adapted to a larger field of experience in the complexities of the modern world, maybe that is a metaphorical frame in which the temporal metaphors of circle and line could co-exist. One could put many spins on it, such as the more Eastern approach of Buddhism and Taoism. Eastern religion and philosophy shares with the Piraha a more bundled understanding of the mind: porous, fluid, and shifting; extended, enactivist, and embodied. Buddhism has an explicit theory of the bundled mind that has much explanatory power.

    • I was thinking about how this relates even to the hard sciences. According to relativity theory, there is no scientific basis for why time should flow forward, rather than backward. But that is based on the metaphor of time as a line. Maybe the emerging scientific understanding of time requires a different metaphor. So, it’s not limited to our social view of tiime. Another metaphorical frame could apply to many areas of research and application.

      Let me throw out some other fascinating tidbits about the Piraha. Their language is considered unusual because it lacks abstraction and recursion, but there are many other interesting things. It has no past or future tense, and they have no historical sense in maintaining knowledge of generations outside of living memory. There language doesn’t allow complex assertions and speculations about causation. They’re limited to direct declarative statements of experience and the experience of those they personally know.

      They have the word ‘xibipiio’. It refers to things going in and out of existence. And they get excited about liminal experience, of that boundary of experience when some appears or disappears, such as a canoe coming or going around a bend. And they love to endlessly stare at a flickering candle. That also might make a good metaphor for the Piraha sense of time, a flickering candle. Could you imagine experiencing reality as a flickering in and out of existence. When something is not in your field of perception, it simply does not exist. They have no sense of object permanence. The whole world is flickering in and out.

  3. Comments:
    1. this is an interesting blog—but quite long articles, and i j normally only read long prose pieces or books outside (not on the internet)–basically for entertainment or to learn ideas i don’t usually think about (which usually is on border of philosophy and foundations of math’/science and simple applications of mathematical reasoning to social and personal problems).
    (i have 2 blogs–actually 4— and 2 FB pages–by mistake–i just wanted 1 of each. i guess i forgot my blogs/Fb pages and made more. but i wonder why write on them when so much has been written.
    in a sense i’m like the piraha–i’m not too big into leaving some legacy for humanity (eg a pile of trash, or maybe a large family who are living free in jail. ) . I’m sort of reconsidering—maybe all my writings should be preserved for perpetuity in the ‘cloud’ even if it means it requires all the electricity produced on earth—people can just use candles.
    Also i could see some statues and monuments –the old ones are sort of out of date–Liberty, Washington, jefferson…

    this is somewhat heretical in the sciences but i view sapir whorf principal or linguistic relativity to be loosely connected to quantum logic and relativity theory and other areas –in math–as well as philosophy (eg moral relativity). Many scientists want to completely distance themselves human or social issues (with the one exception that their academic and research jobs should be funded). .

    I assume some of the material on Piraha is from Everett–maybe some quoted. I’ve just read reviews or short pieces. . the longer stuff is quite interesting—i imagine there were many groups like piraha and may still be a few, but of course they are dissapearing.
    i would say while they may not ‘mainitain knowledge of generations outside living history (eg their grandparents…) ‘ in a sense they do. some indigneous people seem to sort of look at nature–old trees, rocks, ,mounttains, streams….–as ancient relatives and old neighborhoods. they may not have a scrapbook or history book but they have forms of them in their environment.
    also i think the usa is more polarized than 10 (or 100 or 200) years ago–or about the same—its more like maybe a whale–it goes under water for awhile and comes back up again. sometimes you see it and other times you dont but its still there. now you see it. (Putnam may not because he’s in the ivory tower–he’s somewhat percpetive but also somewhat (or maybe more than somewhat) out of touch. I only read reviews of his books. One of his books i read a review of –‘our kids -the american dream in crisis—-seemed more in touch— because it actually interviewed people outside the ivory tower. Putnam seemed to imply in ‘bowling alone’ that if all americans went back and joined bowling clubs and maybe go to chuirch everything would eb great. maybe a few could go to harvard like him and study social problems and show the cure is for people to bowl more and get social capital while harvard deals with financial capital and intellectual capital.
    i once skimmed julian jayne’s- bicameral mind’—interesting idea but like almost all psychology/social history its more a plausible scenario than a scientific theory. E T Jaynes (see wikipedia) has a similar name. as i noted math/physics and social sciences are related to me, so these are just different dialects of smae thing. i conisder math and physics as just dialects of same thing. .

    • I sometimes write shorter pieces. But I do have a tendency to put a lot into my posts. It’s not so much by intention, though. It’s simply how my mind works. I easily see connections between things. So, even when I start off with a simple thought or observation, it can quickly grow. It’s just the way I am and I don’t know how to be otherwise. I don’t have expectations that most others will appreciate my style and that is fine.

      There is something admirable about the Piraha. They definitely don’t become attached to things or even to people beyond immediate relating. When someone dies, they’re just gone. Nor do they build things to last. Their shelters are as simple as possible while keeping rain off their heads. And they put no value in possessions, even when they get something like a metal hatchet from a trader. They use what they need and then discard it. Not even food is saved for the future, although sometimes it will be preserved to trade for something.

      Your hereticism is fine around here. I won’t judge or be dismissive. I suspect there is more to language than mere words, that the ancients were on to something when they referred to language as a spiritual or creative force (e.g., The Living Word), sometimes personified as a deity (e.g., Saraswati in Hinduism). Philip K. Dick has some descriptions of language as a visionary experience, and a regular theme in his writings is the close relationship between language and reality. William S. Burroughs, based on a Gnostic sensibility, had great respect for the power of language within mind and reality.

      Yeah, most of what I’ve read about the Piraha comes from Daniel Everett. I’ve read other anthropological writings about other tribal cultures and languages. But, besides Everett, there apparently hasn’t been anyone else writing in-depth about the Piraha from firsthand observations. They may seem like an extreme example to our modern minds but I’m not sure they are unusual by evolutionary standards. It’s quite possible that, as you say, many such tribes once existed, maybe even having been the norm. Certainly, in the anthropological literature, one can find similar tribal people. I have another post in the works that mentions different examples.

      I like your take on knowledge. There are many ways to experience knowledge as part of the world. Many tribal people do have a much more expansive and extended identity that includes or overlaps with the world around them. This is combined with an intimate and detailed knowledge, such as explained so well by Lynne Kelly in writing about traditional mnemonic systems. It’s not mere information that they maintain but a radically different way of being or rather inter-being, the amorphous plurality of the bundled mind. This is reality experienced as relationship.

      Polarization is difficult to think about. It’s not clear what most people mean or think they mean when speaking about it. I see no evidence of polarization of political ideology and public opinion, at least not among the majority of Americans. But I do see polarization in other ways. The population is emotionally polarized, although this might have more to do with a general schizoid mentality that is as much about internal division. The greatest divide is the class war. Where views and interests are truly in opposition are between the ruling elite and the dirty masses. Most Americans agree with each other but not with the elite. Then again, most elite share a basic level agreement as well.

      Julian Jaynes considered his own theory to be more of a set of separate hypotheses. No single hypothesis was dependent on the others. So, each had to be taken separately. Proving or disproving any one of them couldn’t tell us anything about the others. The four hypotheses involve: (1) consciousness being based on language, (2) the existence of a bicameral mind, (3) the dating of such a mind, and (4) the importance of hemisphericity in the brain.
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2016/11/07/beyond-that-there-is-only-awe/

      Some of these hypotheses are testable and falsifiable, while at least one might not be. But it should be noted that aspects of the theory have been scientifically studied or otherwise verified with the accumulation of scientific evidence since the book was written. Our knowledge on such matters is greater than is generally recognized beyond the specialists who study such things.
      https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2014.00249/full
      https://www.julianjaynes.org/resources/supporting-evidence/

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