Thursday, August 12, 2010

We are who we are by whom we choose to imitate, or imitation leads to identity

The recent news in science is the dethronement of the gene. Whoever wanted to have his genome decoded can spare his money. Apparently our genes aren't graved in marble, they are more like Lego- proteins can log on and modify activation. Wonder what Darwin would make of this.
The bad news is that this makes us much more responsible of who we are- the food we eat, the environment we live in, the challenges of life- all will take its toll. (For holistic medicine, this isn't news)
So far for the physical part.
Intelligence too, it seems, can be shaped by education ( so far for liberalist ideas of leaving markets and societies to themselves and that the best will win..) Or, let's say, the way you deal with your intelligence. Whoever took an intelligence test must have realized that most of them are pretty mathematic, and that anybody trained in similar exercises will have better results (and I'm not even talking about the problem of language and instruction, different logics etc.)
So we can train to think. But what do we want to train at? For most of us our world today isn't shaped by the question of accessibility to information, but by the value we attach to that information and by the time and money we are willing to invest to digest this information. This is a large quantum leap from last generations who still had to take information in the moment they were confronted with it.
Actually, this choice has always been valid. Intellectual information might have been scarce in former centuries, but environment information was always too abundant to be completely decoded. Humans are the species that has the most choice as to what information shapes its thinking.
Contrary to most animals, babies are born unable to cope alone and they stay this way for a long time. Their capacity and desire to learn is proportionate to their dependency. ( interesting question: does dependency condition learning targets?). And their primary focus for learning is the person who is vital, the feeder and carer. With growing independence they look around and take in their environment- but here too they are influenced by the caretaker: The people who have physical power over a baby have also the power over the environment it is exposed to.
And the baby learns by imitation, it chooses to imitate the caretaker and thus its world is defined by the caretaker.
Later in life other people become important- family, friends, schoolmates, teachers, all people that our youngster chooses to attach attention to. And in school the kid learns to imitate the teacher- even if he/she is asked to develop her own reasoning- the independent reasoning is allowed in a framework constituted by culture and customs.
The more the growing child discovers society, the more he/she decodes the important inherent messages that are vitally important for him/her to be part of or at least to interact with society. Questions of rank are dealt with: Who is considered important, by whom and why? What are the contradictions concerning society in what is said to be as compared to reality? (Whoever talked to a child above 10 will notice that these subtle hidden distortions are a frequent subjet of observation and critique).
In Occidental societies it is also vital for the adolescent to answer the question: who am I? detached from answers that social, race or family belonging could give.
The mind deals with these questions through observation, evaluation (often conditioned by the values acquired through imitation in younger ears) and choice. Choices, especially in teenage years, tend to be black and white. I am this and I aint that.
How many careers have been shaped by an admired teacher or by a convincing role-model!
That leads to a specific behavior: Imitation of those who represent what I am (or what I aspire to be) and differentiation from those who represent what I am not. Groups are chosen, give clear, visible or hidden signs of clanship and thus shape the identity of their members. With the choice of group comes the attitude towards society. Even groups that 'refuse' mainstream trends have strong clanic identification codes.
Interestingly, the values and attitudes that come with these groups aren't static. They are usually influenced by group-leaders and who becomes a leader represents an ideal archetypal representative of what the group stands for and its values. But this only works as long as the individuals in the group are projecting their individual need for self-esteem on a leader. If the individual is given a proposal that seems more attractive to his need of self esteem change can be quite sudden. Societies that have lost a war adapted to the winner's culture quite fast, underdeveloped countries tend to adopt external signs of value of developed countries.

But human species has an inbuilt capacity to integrate learning and change. When an individual becomes aware of conditioning, of his own unwanted limitations or of the hidden unwanted limitations of society, he/she tends to rebel against this frame. If he/she can attract a sufficient amount of imitators that agree with these ideas the group will form a clan with its own values, rituals and external signs. Gradually,if this group is sufficiently important, its specificities will influence mainstream with the help of leaders of mainstream opinion( people, publicity etc.) who are always on the look out for new element to profile themselves (the human attention is only given to new as opposed to usual- hence the need for constant renewal). Of course this taking over can also happen in a negative way, in refusing the specificities in order to limit mainstream from the influence, especially if the group is judged to be too dangerous (understand: threatening values and customs of mainstream too fast, or challenging the social order of mainstream society)
Which way influence will take depends largely on the capacity of the group to be aware of their own conditioning. That takes information and a lot of courage, since peer pressure will always go in direction of the established opinions of the group.

this is a man's world ( and it's going right down the drain..)

Few people doubt that we are facing a major shift in society- a quantum jump or so to say. Everybody feel that things can’t really go on like they do but somehow there doesn’t seem to be a clue how to jump. Too much at stake and not enough instability jet. So we seem to fall what in Spiral Dynamics ( is described as a Meme trap- frantically doing more of the same to dig our hole deeper instead of jumping.

There are whole fringes of population who have so far surfed on the waves of doom who perfectly know that the times of abundance won’t be forever but: Hey, while we’re at it lets surf on the edge and take what we can. Investors and financial experts who should have learned a substantial lesson are back to business as usual and sometimes make you wonder if they really believe in what they say or are just hoping that it will transform into self fulfilling prophesies by way of spreading the word.

One thing that isn’t integrated into spiral dynamics ( no wonder because it wasn’t the meme of the time- Graves did his theory in 1946, and science hadn’t come up with the discovery of neuroscience and hormonal biology) is the subtle interaction of feminine and masculine memes.

What are masculine and feminine memes? Mainly stereotypes of behavior and thinking often triggered by hormones and enhanced by circumstances of culture of the two complementary parts of the higher forms of life- males and females.

The idea of a male is of a fighter, aggressive and astute( physically or verbally), assertive, who will conquer and defend his territory and his social position. From a caveman’s point of view this made evolutionary sense: in order to survive you had to defend your horde against other tribes and compete for the chance to reproduce . Nature favored their analytical skills, strength and expert intelligence, that is the capacity to learn from past experiences. The hormone favouring such behavior and present in larger quantities in males is testosterone

The idea of a female is that of reproduction/ creation ( beauty being closely linked to fertility) and of care and of culture/ social nets. In the stone age, fertility, health and care for the newborn as well as social cohesion were essential for the survival of the horde. Nature favored empathy, feelings driven and intuitive intelligence, that is the capacity to decode signs in an unconscious automatized way. The hormone favouring bonding and empathy and present in greater quantities in females is Oxytocin.

The stone age is a long way off our times and in between there have been changes of memes in history. With agriculture it seems that female memes became more important, cities tended to more male memes of hierarchy .

Christianism established a dominancy of male memes in Christian societies which was mainly not due to its origins but to its instrumentalisation and interpretation in the early centuries .

The dominant meme of the last century is that of mercantilism- money rules the world. The idea of trade and exchange in itself seems rather a female meme because it is based on social contacts. The idea of the conquest of markets, of the competition for profit on the contrary definitely belongs to the masculine memes. We can even ask if mercantile aggressivity and business success aren’t a substitute for the need for war in order to conquer, secure territories and supply and to clarify hierarchy. ( Or in a more cynical way: if commercial wars didn’t add a modern variety to the age old game of war).

Through commerce and communication these values of economic and individual success, of gaining markets and self esteem have spread throughout the world and its attributes of success are commonly accepted and valued as such even in cultures that officially condemn its originators.

In line with the increasing virtuality of communication the conquest of markets and new territories has become a game that isn’t won not in the production halls of companies all over the world but on the virtual floors of financial markets. Where in former times the expected future profit and the part of profit that was given to shareholders ruled the prices at the financial markets, theses are today more and more influenced by probabilities of price rises or falls and bets on these. And that is the trap of the meme of our time. In a world dominated by male memes, decision makers dig their own holes in reinforcing the male side .

Back to Spiral dynamics: More of the same digs a hole and makes the system unable to do the necessary quantum leap- ie do things radically different. When we observe financial markets- which have become the backbone of our society- we notice that decisions are made on more and more complex mathematical models ( which apart from their inventors most specialists don’t understand) based on complicated calculations of probabilities and extrapolation of past experiences. Except that in the end all decisions are based on humans and behavioral science teaches us some new insights:

1. After the fall we distinctly remember that ‘we knew it all along’- memory is proven to cheat on us to give us the impression that we can master hazard

2. The more complex a system is the more elements in it carry small risks. The sum of a multitude of small risks isn’t a small risk.

3. Humans tend to use up the capital of increased safety, when risks are reduced in taking up more risks ( Taxidrivers with ABS brake systems drove more dangerously, consuming the increased safety)

Translated into the financial system this means that any complex combination can carry a systemic risk that can crush the whole construction. Any attempt to secure the system will lead to increased recklessness that will consume the advantage. People, especially those who are convinced by their own intelligence will carry own in believing that they can forsee and master pending doom.

I’m not even mentioning the fact that complexity and innovation continuously recombined possibilities in this world into new situations that cannot be compared to former ones- extrapolating for entirely new circumstances isn’t only of no avail but a system that is based on extrapolating will only look out for known clues and discard those it considers of being without any importance. Which is a typical problem of hierarchies.

If the usual male-meme procedure of analysis and planning how to get from point A to point B based on expert intelligence is obsolete what is there as alternative? What can enable us to make the necessary quantum leap?

Saturday, April 11, 2009


somehow I ruefully came back to Xanga- must be the lazyness....

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Prehistoric Visions

In the morning twilight between sleep and awakening on the first day of the year this thought shaped in my mind and raced through its neurones as a certainty:

The prehistoric move from hunter to farmer was spiritual and linked to the mystery of the female.

A woman menstruates and can give birth, the physical relation being occult to the caveman he finds a magical explanation:

The earth gives birth, life in shape of little insects and larger animals crawls in its inside and a 'dead' heap of turf can give life to worms... Mother earth therefore is the power of creation and linked in a mystical way to the woman, herself able to create life. The link between both is the menstrual blood. Blood that carries the essence of life. The monthly shed blood is given to the earth as a bond. The woman gives her blood as natural sacrifice from the dark internal cavern from which life comes forth into the light and that in a rhythm linked to the light of the moon. She doesn't do it voluntarily it happens to her, the magic happens and is larger than her- divine. Through this sacrifice she acquires from the earth the boon to give life. ( proof is that without this sacrifice she doesn't conceive and when she has conceived the sacrifice is suspended because the power of the blood is now in her). woman is keeper of this power, she is priestess of creation of the endless cycle of life and resurrection of life.

Man doesn't have this force in him, his means of serving the Mother Earth are different. Either he imitates the menstrual blood ( see Aboriginals' men's rituals ), or he sacrifices himself so that his blood and body can feed creation and make it grow. ( see my blog entry on ritual sacrifice of the leader in prehistoric times) Maybe he sacrifices a part of his body to acquire magical power ( pictures of mutilated hands in prehistoric caverns).

But man has another magic, the magic of the hunt. The link between him and his victim. In prehistoric times any killing created a bond in between the slayer and his victim with certain obligations to the slayer so as to not disturb the creational and resurrectional cycle of life. Man can offer through this magical link not his own blood but that of the animal he slays. And there is an animal that is synonymous for virile forces, muscles, strength, impetuous, armed with horns, and in communion with the earth since it feeds on its fruits- the bull.

There are numerous engravings left from prehistoric times showing the slaying of a bull with a moon (= equivalent to the menstrual blood), by a lion or a man ( the lion being an eater of flesh represents the slayer) through a ritual knife and out of his wound grows a plant.

Was the menstrual blood and the bull blood necessary to make plants grow? Did it enhance the growth of plants through the contained minerals and thus created the myth that the mystery of creation of Mother Earth could be mastered if only there was sufficient 'fertilizer ' in shape of bodies or blood ? Does the plant thus become sacred, spiritual food or sacred grain that can be sown by those who came to seek it at the sanctuary? Was the beginning of agriculture the adoption of a rite?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Neo Poppers

During the boring eighties when economy slowed down there developed a new youth segment in Germany as answer to the nihilist punks: the popper.

The popper was everything the punk wasn’t: clean, shaved, with neither too long nor too short hair (actually the favorite male popper haircut looked pretty much like the favored style of the Hitlerjugend), addicted to conservative luxury and brand cloth, apolitical, listening to mainstream pop-music; in short a popper looked and breathed the middle-upperclass kid. Poppers were the nightmare of the family budget, due to the kid’s demand on brands and a red flag in the eye of any political leftist group.

The segment dissolved into mainstream before long. Recently I feel there is a revival in Western society which is quite surprising. I don’t know if there is a new term for the phenomena, I’ll call it Neo Popper.

The Neo Popper is young, beautiful and rich. And he loves it- more so, it becomes his reason for living.

Being rich in former times in Western societies was frowned upon by Christianism. In Catholic dogma the poor was nearer to the kingdom of God and in Protestantism you could be rich out of merit but you were not supposed to boast about it or to expose it too much.

I know of noble families where estates and servants were kept but rest of candle-wax collected out of chandeliers and molten into new candles- not because out of financial need but because of the sin of waste. And I’ve seen several specimen of old European noblesse walk around in cloth patched and torn that even a beggar would refuse, again a sign of horror to waste. French bourgeoisie traditionally walks around in excellent brand cloth, but they are worn long beyond their fashionable life, as a matter of fact they often are chosen because beyond fashion. New things were frowned upon- they looked suspiciously nouveau riche. And nouveau riche meant you had no culture and that you would be ignored by the establishment ( see Molière’s bourgeois gentilhomme on that)

Until the Neo popper. The Neo popper is luxury advertising come alive. Imagine somebody jumping out of an advertising for Vuitton or Chanel , trying to live every second of his life as if he/she were a living example of publicity dreams come true. It is almost as if the luxury industry had invented this clientele to keep their market alive.

Maybe some people who dispose of lots of money have always looked down upon the less fortunate, but this time the sole reason to despise the less rich is money. To have or not to have banknotes is a sign of distinction for the Neo Popper- an important sign. My daughter recently showed me a blog whose owner is obsessed with the quantity of luxury goods he buys or with the money he is offered as pocket money. It is interesting that this guy needs to constantly rub it into his readers as far as photographing the produce or the money he is talking about and questioning constantly- do you have the same? Apparently the Neo Popper is a kind of Vampire- for his existence he doesn’t need blood but envy.

A bestseller out is called ‘Hell’ and tells the story of a Neo Popper: luxury as only value, no limits- apparently a life as living advertisement can be hell.

Fault of the parents or mirror of society? The popper syndrome in former times revealed aspirations of belonging – it was predominant in social spheres that dreamt of ascension the youth of the middle classes and in upper-middle classes from developing countries. Parents that supported the exterior signs of belonging secretly hoped that it would lead to a better standing of their offspring. Contrary to the criminal ghetto youth scene that tries to cover their inferiority complex by flashy or sportswear luxury brands, the Neo Popper rather uses consumption as statement: I consume luxury therefore I’m special and rare.

Today the youth harboring neo popper attitudes seem to be more cynical and very aware of their privileged position. In a world of constant change where nothing stays the same and the admired of today are blamed tomorrow the Neo Popper needs to hold on to the illusion that he will always be on the winning side, because he possesses what apparently is the ultimate value- money.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

in memoriam

Tuesday evening died

Michel Kipoke,

who has sacrificed all of his free time ( and I sincerely hope that it doesn't turn out that he sacrificed his life for the cause) to peace in the Great Lakes region for Initiative of Change. May his soul rest in peace and may his memory be honored forever in the countries he worked for. He was a true example of servant leadership.

In case his passing away doesn't have natural causes

I curse anyone who has decided or has been involved in getting him out of the way.

May your subconscious nag on your intestines, let your heart root, may disease make you suffer the same fate. May you die like king Midas, covered with gold you gained out of the wars of others, but unable to feed yourself with the food of mankind.

You who stand in the way of a lord of peace, who wickedly uses poison, who is an arrogant lord of war shall have to answer to the Lord in his darkest hour. And this darkest hour will come, all the gold of the world will not be sufficient to keep man's fate from you. Then you shall face the truth of your mean and petty soul and recoil in horror.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


After you've finished worrying about yourself it's time to worry about the future of your kids and your parents.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

individual and collective myths

We are all great story tellers.
Most of the time, though we don’t use our talent to the benefit of our environment but we use it upon ourselves. We are our own fascinated listener.
Mostly our own private stories deal with the past and our implication in it.

We tend to transform the truth a bit so that we can keep up our self-esteem as shining hero. Anything going wrong tends very much to be the fault of bad circumstance or of incapable and incomprehensive people.

If we have a low self esteem we tend more to go for the: 'oh no! I did it again- that is the proof for my incapacity' storyboard.

Our own private story gets stored away in our conscious memory- the truth often is buried in the meanders of our unconscious. We use our story to keep up our persona, to communicate about ourselves. The more time goes by, the more we tend to believe our own story and slowly it will become part of our own private myth- the myth of our existence.
In that way we adapt our memory contents to the archetypical context of our subconscious. Hence the unconscious ‘recognition’ of archetypical fairy tales and myths that has been put forward by Bruno Bettelheim.

The construction of myth functions on individual level as well as on collective.
In that case the myth is the glue that keeps a community together, that explains its reason of being, its origins and its beliefs.
What comes to your mind when you think of your parents? Your grandparents? Your children? Your wider family? Stories! Stories about problems, stories about events, stories about experiencing together. Those family stories create the family over generations- some can date back hundreds of years.
In my family it’s the ancestor that created a foundation for fun during studies for his descendance; the great aunt who resembled a Madonna in a polish church, who was probably painted with a lost ancestor as model; my grandfather who would saw the branches of the Christmas tree only to fix them again in a more orderly way- the more those stories go back in time the more fantastic they become. The more recent stories deal with more common events- I and my brother remember a confrontation of our usually so calm father with an American hotel owner or the capacity of my mom to always chose the worst plate in a restaurant.

It is those stories that will keep the memory of the clan alive, that will transcend generations- that will represent the family myth.

Lucky the company who has a real foundation myth- like Apple or Tata. The whole style of management and identity of the company is built on that foundation myth.

The historic truth becomes less and less important as years go by- historic accuracy is more and more exchanged for symbolic content that serves as foundation for belief.

Myths serve as basis and carrier of collective conscience. A myth can even do something even more fascinating- it can transmit special powers to people or places. The knowledge of the myth then charges the collective belief in such a way that the power of belief transfers a sacred identity unto people or places.

During my travels in Israel I encountered many places that were attached to a foundation myth. In the end, it wasn’t important if the mythic event really took place at the same spot- the power of the believers charged a place like a battery with sacred energy that can be experienced.

A sacred space is a space where the rules of reality ( or let’s say of the world out there) don’t apply. It has its own rules, its own magic- In a sacred space windows open to our unconscious. That is why any problem of sacred space is so difficult to treat with logic and realistic means. Rational thinkers suddenly become deaf to the voice of reason in such a place- if they are believers.
A sacred space needs constantly to be kept alive by believers- take away those who trust in its powers and it is just another piece of land. What would Lourdes be without the hoards of ill believers that come to the cave to seek healing?

A sacred space needs a founding myth and a keeper or keepers that will keep the myth alive for the existing or potential believers.
And somehow everybody is a believer, even if it is in the almighty power of the market or of technology, and as such we all create our sacred spaces.