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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What Am I Doing?

I consider my a "philosopher in training," among other things.  So I often ask myself what is philosophy.

If I were writing for Wikipedia or the Journal of Philosophy, I might answer by interviewing philosophers, by getting descriptions from the various schools and departments of philosophy, or by examining statements or best practices of the great philosophers of history. But I'm writing for myself after many years of studying and doing philosophy. Like Dewey's Pedagogic Creed, I just want to sum up what I believe philosophy is and should be.

For me philosophy is systemic critical inquiry.

Inquiry:   As Aristotle said, philosophy begins with wonder.  It is an ongoing enterprise of asking what and why.  Philosophy uses the method of science to achieve knowledge, namely, experience, insight and hypothesis, and verification through experiment and peer review. Philosophy does not supplant or overrule science; it builds on and furthers science by integrating, classifying, and critiquing science.

Critical inquiry: As Kant said, philosophy is questioning the conditions for the possibilities of all human activities, including science, for example by reflecting on the methods, directions, and complementarities of science, art, religion, and ordinary language. As critical inquiry it continually challenges the dogmas and conventional beliefs of all our enterprises. I see much philosophy being done today not just by academic philosophers but by literary and art critics, science writers, and journalists.

Systemic critical inquiry: As Dewey said, philosophy is critically inquiring into the whole human endeavor and its results. It considers the holistic context. It proposes trends and categories within which human activities take place. It identifies the worldview of our era and of the ones preceding us, the paradigms within which our symbols, beliefs, formulas, and expressions take meaning. It raises questions concerning the direction of humanity in the universe.

Philosophy uses, supports, and maintains reason in human affairs.  It does not displace or denigrate the emotions which are often the stimulus for our actions.  Indeed it carries its own passion for life, beauty, justice, and meaning.  But it does temper and modify emotion and passion so that it continues us on our way to further life, beauty, justice, and meaning.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Love of Naming

I just finished reading Terrence Beacon’s excellent book: The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain.  It summarized, critiqued, and pushed forward all that I have been studying for 50 years in philosophy and science. 

This reflection (I have so many after my reading) is more personal and theological. 

___________________________

Please do not believe in things or person or entities or gods or causes or concepts or words or doctrines.  Just know them for who and what they are.

Realize that we give existence to all of them.

I exist through you and you through me.  When you sculpt my image and say my name, I exist.  We are existence and all that is exists through us—including nations and heroes, religions and gods, arts and beauty, sciences and truth, our worlds and our very selves.  

Naming confers existence.  When our bodies acquired the ability to name, we achieved existence along with the cosmos.  Indeed, in the beginning was the Word.

Not that there was no before-existence; there was matter and energy and light and life.  But they did not stand out as beings, entities, persons, and forces until we had the wondrous power to name them and each other. 

Such a wholly, holy power is the ability to name.  Naming creates and destroys.  It creates us when we acknowledge the power humbly with respect.  It destroys us when we use the power arrogantly unaware of its limits. 

Loving is giving me name as a person, autonomous and interdependent, with the power to name.  Your naming agrees to be limited by my naming.  We choose to name our world and each other together. 

Violence annihilates in me and in others the power to name.   Since our power to name is interdependent, destroying in others the power to name results in the destruction of the power to name in our selves. 

God is Love.  We who live in love live in God and God in us.  Love is no supernatural entity out there apart.  Love is the transcending act of us being named and naming. 

My Love, I am not, nor can I be, a person without your giving me name and so recognizing me standing apart from everything else in the cosmos.   You give me my being in the cosmos, in memory, in place, in relation with all others.  This is the reason you are my goddess, my creatrix, my grace, the one who shapes my image, the one who calls my name and grants me the power to name you. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Religious Instinct

Last night we experienced the Black Nativity at H Street Playhouse.

Gospel and Soul at its height.  We are still floating with the music, the dance, the energy.  Thanks, Langston Hughes.  Thanks, Theater Alliance.  Thanks, great cast, all of whom we met afterwords.  What an angel you are! I told the woman who played Gabriel.  I believe, I told a lead of one of the spirituals.  And Joseph and Mary, Alvin Ailey would be so proud.

How so very important is the gospel to the African American community with its salvation and liberation message as well as its code for abolition and civil rights!  But also its ability to make people feel good about themselves even in oppressive situations.  Maybe an opium, as Marx said, but one needed for survival.  Yes, what a friend we have in Jesus!  Yes, God gives us all we need.

Even as a non-theist and non-Christian, I acknowledge and experience that good news with great relish and appreciation.

As an avid reader and thinker in philosophy and science, I cannot but accept that there is indeed a "religious instinct" in most of us -- throughout our species across the boundaries of culture.  "Ab esse ad posse valet allatio," assert the scholastics.  From the existence of religion in all its manifestations, we can argue to a potentiality (e.g. instinct) for it.

But where does it come from, the philosopher of science in me asks.

Yale Professor Paul Bloom has demonstrated that in child development and the dawn of the "theory of mind" and the firing of "mirror neurons," i.e. a sense of other selves with feelings and awareness, these attributes are sometimes attributed to events and inanimate objects.  Thus a sense of supernatural entities develops often interpreted through the stories of the child's culture.  This is the "accidental" foundation for gods and religion.

Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga, Director of the Sage Center at UC Santa Barbara, points to the evolution-selected "interpreter" of the brain's left hemisphere that is wired to find explanations and put order in the chaos of the emergent possibilities of the universe.  And so we affirm a First Cause, an original Logos, a Designer, or some Power beyond nature to make sense of it all including us.

I incorporate both of these in a theory of perception or consciousness from which develops a sense of self inextricably connected to others and to objects in the world in relation to a history and a future.  It is a dynamic, emerging, transient sense that can be properly labeled as a sense of transcendence--in the here and now, but continually passing beyond it in our developing communication with others.  This dynamism is the power of language, science, art, and, yes, culture and religion.  It is Aristotle's "wonder," Lonergan's "unrestricted desire to know," Frankel's "search for meaning," Bergson's "√©lan vital," Otto's "idea of the holy," Hegel's "dialectic," Neitche's "will to power, "Tillich's "ultimate concern," Dewey's "quest for unity" and "religious attitude."

The fallacy of course is to identify this dynamism of human being with any thing, person, cause, narrative, or entity.  From this fallacy comes the illusion of the absolute and delusion of the perfect that closes the book, stops revelation, and destroys the dynamism.

The dynamism of the human mind or soul is a wonder indeed and the source of many wonders in science, religion, civilization, and love and art--including the wonder of the Black Nativity and the wonderful story it sings and dances.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Faith and Science

Headlines in the Washington Post (Health and Science Section):  Einstein, the sky is falling! Or not.

Joel Achenbach wrote an excellent article on the excitement and turmoil in the scientic community regarding the finding of a particle that may be faster than light.

These findings could undermine our present worldview and doctrine on the origins and workings of the universe now so dependent on Einstein's verified theory of the constant speed of light.  But whether these findings, now subject to rigorous testing, turn out to be so or not, the whole episode demonstrates the superiority of science and its method.

Scientists, professionals and we amateurs (remember: "amateur" means lover of ____), who are open to and even excited by the possibility of the overturn of scientific doctrine, demonstrate a faith in the "unseen" that outstrips any religion.  This is a faith that is not identified with its beliefs, doctrines, dogmas, rituals.  It is an openness to wonder more than I have seen in any god-talking preacher or politician who claims to be a believer.

They who cater to and therefore reinforce old beliefs based on some ancient book or authority or private untestable revelation are the real "unbelievers." They who would stop or turn back human imagination and understanding by their "true beliefs" destroy the wonder, mystery, and, yes, holy in humanity and the universe.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Zen and Faith

Last Sunday our senior minister told the story of comparative religions specialist, Huston Smith, who told the story of his 30 days with a Zen Roshi in Japan.  He found it almost impossible to sit in meditation for 12 hours a day and when he would have his daily meeting with Roshi, he always got the koan wrong.  At the end of the 30 days at his last meeting with the Roshi, he complained about his lack of learning about Zen.  The Roshi said:  “Oh the meaning of Zen.  It is simple.  It just means total gratitude for all that has come, total service to all that is now, and total responsibility for all that is to come.  And I am grateful that you were here.”

That not only is Zen; it is the essence of faith—whether religious or secular.  It is what St Paul talked about in his “faith, hope, and love—but the great of these is love.”  Faith situates us in the past, tradition; and acknowledges that we are all who came before us.  Hope orients us to the future:  the world as it could and should be.  And love commits us to all to which and to whom we are not related.  Faith as gratitude.  Hope as responsibility. Love as service. 

But they are all one in the fullness of existence—our being now, our being here, our being with, our being whole.  In other words, total presence in memory, in consciousness, in relationships—all integrated in the whole. 

I am my memory, my place, and my relationships.  So as I age and my memory starts to slip, as I begin to lose position in the world, as my relationships get smaller and fuzzier, and I become more scattered, I realize that I am indeed on a trajectory from being to nothingness.

Then I remember the words of my own Zen Roshi when we lived in Hawaii.  “Let your ego shrink,” he said, “to nothingness.  Or let it expand to embrace the cosmos.  It is the same.”

So as I let go of my memory, my position, my loved ones, my consciousness, and my whole self, I begin to enter and embrace the cosmos.  I start here, now, and with you in total gratitude, service, and responsibility.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Catholic Social Teaching (again)

The biggest problem I have with the Roman Catholic Church is that it does not apply its tradition in social justice teaching to its own institution. I say this as a way to compliment the Church through its Pontifical Council on Peace and Justice in its latest restatement of that marvelous tradition.

Apparently people on left and right are energized by this statement: TOWARDS REFORMING THE INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL AND MONETARY SYSTEMS IN THE CONTEXT OF GLOBAL PUBLIC AUTHORITY. 

Long title--but the message is not new or radical and is very consistent with the Catholic tradition.  It condemns liberalism (which means worship at the altar of the free-market).  It also decries the growing inequality, an equality that was just documented by the US Congressional Budget Office.  It asserts ethics in technology, politics over economics (much as the anti-totalitarian Hannah Arendt did in her writings).  This does not mean making government bigger or lesser.  It does mean putting the public interest ahead of private profit.  And it means making sure that government serves the public interest over private profit.  And a global Church would definitely see that as a global interest--and so call for global institutions to facilitate this.

I read the review of this statement by George Weigel (The Catholic Difference) or by the National Review and I wonder if they read the document.  I know they do not agree with the well-researched and Catholic theology based 1986 letter "Economic Justice for All" by the US Bishops because it did not sync with their neo-liberal values.  But this recent statement is certainly in sync with that letter as well.  

Disagree with Catholic teaching from officials, theologians, and pastors.  I sure do.  But I do very much appreciate the social justice teaching of the Church.

(A compendium of that teaching can be found here.)


Friday, October 14, 2011

Integrity over Authenticity

A recent NYT blog "Authentic, get Real!" by Stephanie Ferguson quotes many political candidates advertising their "authenticity" and notes how important it is that they play that role to the hilt.  Voters want to see candidates believing what they are saying or at least coming across that way.

Kurt Goldstein and Rollo May were the psychologists who introduced me to the "social construction of the self" and the notion of "roles" that the human person takes on in self-development.  I learned from them and then from many others that there is no "authentic self" (pace Sartre) or real "thine own self" to be true to (pace Shakespeare).

The human self develops or, some would say, creates itself through interaction with other people--in response to parents and siblings, in play, in school, in work, and especially in speech and listening.  The developing person assumes, sometimes to accept and other times to reject, various roles in diverse situations.

The self is not an eternal soul that always existed and will always exist in some Platonic or other type of heaven.  (You can accept such supernatural entities if your religious beliefs demand it--but don't identify them with the self.)  "I am my body" with all its complexity including evolved and evolving consciousness as Catholic Philosopher Gabriel Marcel asserted against Descartes.

The self is the conscious organism learning to adapt or to adapt to its natural and social environment through time.

Therefore, I would argue against a principle of ethics like: "be authentic" or even "be sincere."  (Though I might urge some politicians to "get real")

I think that integrity is much more important than authenticity or sincerity.  A good friend who recently died, John Rohr, used to say.  "Sincerity is one step away from vice and probably across the line."  John and I used to argue a lot at the University of Chicago where he was getting a degree in Political Science and I in Social Ethics, he from the right, me from the left.  He did not put sincerity or principled very high in his list of virtues.  On that we totally agreed.

Political figures are often accused of "flip-flopping" and are loath to show any inconsistency.  But is the inconsistency a result of honest learning and change of judgment based on new evidence?  Consistent and immutable principles and judgments are the bane of politics and the closure of public space.

Integrity means "whole" from which "health" comes.  Integrity is the interconnection of all the parts.   It is resolution of all competing tensions.  A person with integrity is one who "has it together."  If you encounter a person with integrity, you meet everything that's there, you get what you see, you are in touch with the whole person.  Integrity also means complexity, pulling together many facets.  A person who relies on simple slogans or wages war with bumper-sticker sayings may hold fast to what he is saying, may be principled and authentic--but has little integrity as far as I am concerned.

I suppose when people say that a person is the real thing that's what they mean.  Sure she has facades, plays different roles, communicates differently to different audiences, changes opinions, makes mistakes, but she is willing to learn, is not an ideologue, and acknowledges her changes and differences and mistakes.   That is a person with integrity.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Political Myers-Briggs

"Why can't we all just get along?"

Our politics have become brutal.  And our body politic is suffering.

Anger can be a great motivator if it leads to taking responsibility and collective action.  But when it just blames and calls names (stupid, hitler, traitor, fascist, communist, racist, class warrior, enemy of the people, elitist, greedy), it reverts to cynicism which is the loss of collective power and an invitation to nihilism and even violence.

Unfortunately those who have tried to compromise, to stop the blame-game and get something done, are considered weak, losers, and unrealistic.  Sad.

As an old organizer, who accepts that people are motivated by economic self-interest, community recognition, cultural values, and spiritual meaning, I am searching for a tool that might contribute to the reestablishing of our commons, our citizenship, and our country.  I am exploring the Myers-Briggs personality indicator which has been so useful to me when I directed or managed small and large organizations.

The Myers-Briggs tool and its derivatives, especially when facilitated by a competent third party specialist, promotes team work in a family or work setting.   It helps all members of the group understand their own and each other's acquired preferences in seeing and judging the world without any negativity and in fact with lots of affirmation for how differences contribute to the whole team, company, project.

The tool starts with a self-test in which the participants answer and then score a series of questions that ascertain whether they 1) process more interiorly or exteriorly (Introvert/Extravert), 2) focus more on facts or on vision (Sensing/Intuiting), 3) value more feelings or intellectual coherence (Feeling/Thinking), 4) are quick to make a decision or are more prone to keep looking at the evidence (Perceiving/Judging).  The participant considers the results and the description of the personality to which these results point to see if the shoe fits.  Then the participant shares the results with others to discuss what this means for the team or the family or the company.

There are no pure types, but all of us find ourselves somewhere along the continuum of these four polarities.  There is no right or wrong here just understanding.  This is not in any sense a "fix" of a personality type--again just an understanding of oneself and others in this here and now.

For example I found that I tend to process things out loud (high E) even well before any decision.  I learned that when I was the director of an organization, I needed to warn subordinates so that they would not take what I was saying as what I really thought or wanted.  Also when I was director of a small planning organization, I realized that I had surrounded myself with big-picture visionaries (NTs), and I needed to value and add to the concrete, data-based SPs.  Myers-Briggs, while based on Jungian insights into human personality, is merely a tool.  If it works to foster cooperation, great!  If not, try another tool that has been developed to assist self-understanding and teamwork.

Now can we divise a similar tool for our body politic?

Perhaps, but with a few adjustments.  Here are the four polarities I propose.  They are based on the four motivators of human behavior I mentioned above.

1.  Related to economic interests:  Free market/Social responsibility

Are you more interested in an unrestricted marketplace where you need not look over your shoulder or consider implications or in how your producing and consuming is affecting others and society as a whole?

2.  Related to cultural values:  Relational/Traditional

Do you have fixed values that apply to human nature and tradition or are your values more relative to the time, the situation, the persons, the consequences.

3.  Related to affiliation in governance:  Executive strength/Community consensus

Are you more inclined to have a strong leader with institutions of authority or to have broad emerging leadership among changing institutions?

4.  Related to philosophy: Pragmatic materialist/Idealistic spiritualist

Do you find meaning in day to day concrete process of living and acting or do you find meaning in a more idealized past or yet-to-come time and place?


As in Myers-Briggs, I state the polarities without any negative judgment as ranges of political personality or, better, public character.  None of them are either-or.  Yes, pushed to extremes or "pure types" there might be some negativity inferred--again depending on your perspective and your own relative place along the continuum.

I think they can be applied to public officials, candidates for public office, to parties, to citizens, to advocacy or special interest groups, to political commentators, to lobbyists, to polls and pollsters, to communities and maybe even nations.  But again this is not a "fix." People and publics do change.

I am developing the test that could be used to ascertain the style or type or public character of a person, group, or community.  I want to propose it as a way to diminish accusation, blame, and name calling and inform citizens as to the style of themselves and of candidates so they can make a more informed decision based on what they judge to be best for the community or nation or public at this time and place.

But perhaps that exposes my own preferences and public character. So let me come to terms with that so that I can reduce the influence of my biases in developing the tool.

Without yet taking my undeveloped test, I would guess that I am an SRCP, i.e. stress social responsibility over free market, relationality over tradition, community consensus over strong leadership, pragmatic materialism over spiritual ideals.  I know I tend to be a social democrat ("socialist") economically, culturally a "libertarian" not caring about sexual orientation, methods of birth control, free sex, religious principles, politically a "republican" promoting interdependent publics over mass democracy, and a progressive "pragmatist" eschewing religious or philosophical doctrines that claim the truth or any absolute.

But that's me.  In a republic, it is important that I recognize that my qualities are also limitations and I need around me others who are less like me.  For example, when I was teaching high school, I remember going into the families of students who were more authoritarian or rigid (the child had to address the father as "sir") or more tolerant or loose (the child could argue with the father).  Both worked well.  Both produced well-adjusted creative children.  Indeed both had limits as well as freedom; indeed as the Philosopher said you cannot have one without the other.  Both were evidences of love and respect.

So I do need people who listen and respect my preferences but also who challenge them.  At times and places I need to accept deregulation of the market.  At times and places, we should be less tolerant of certain behaviors like pornography that is often not victimless.  At times and places, our community needs a stronger executive less prone to populism, polls, and interest groups.  At times and places, I do admire those who are intending an ideal future or take ideals from the classics.

And certainly our body politic needs a balance-in-tension without going to the extremes of free-for-all marketeering or top-down controlled economy, libertine or state imposed culture, dictatorial or anarchic governance, one-dimensional or fantasy philosophy.  Perhaps a political Myers-Briggs could be a tool to promote this balance-in-tension.

I am hoping that with such a Public Character Tool (I'll try to come up with a better name), we can foster a better public space and return power ("the ability to act in concert") to all of us.

To be continued.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Returning Ahead

Today I start a new regime.

Now retired and settled in Takoma Park, MD, each morning I will run or bike and then write.  My focus will be the "New Ethics" which I have already studied and treated extensively.  My writing will consist in dialogues with old and new authors, reflections on events, responses to readers (real and fictitious), or just big and little thoughts that arrive in my morning meditations.  I write primarily for me--to hone my thinking and writing skills; but I welcome anyone to overhear the conversation I am having with myself and insert herself in that conversation.

Here are some ideas I want to discuss:

The myth of authenticity.
The care of self--a dialogue with Michel Foucault.
Truth in Politics.
Res Urbana and Civil Society.
Ethics over religion--a dialogue with Richard Dawkins.
A Political Myers-Briggs: why some of us are far right or left out?
Ethics and Consumer Morality--a dialogue with Zygmunt Bauman
Singularity, Empathy, and Promised Land--a dialogue with Jeremy Rifkin and Ray Kurzweil
Language, Consciousness and Conscience--what neuropsychology has to say about ethics.
Enemies and Friends--what evolutionary anthropology has to say about ethics.
Is there an American Ethic--a dialogue with John Dewey and Richard Rorty?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Elements of Change

Want to change the world?  Or the nation?  Or just your city or neighborhood or your school or business or whatever?

Change of course begins with dissatisfaction with the way things are perhaps because they are painful or maybe because you see so much more possibility.  Change, therefore, also begins with hope.  Why bother with change if you are OK with the way things are or if you think you can't do anything about them?  The organizer knows this and in her dealings with people personally and collectively "rubs raw the sores of discontent" and helps people envision a more beautiful, just, and meaningful situation.

Change has many elements: 1) personal values and attitudes; 2) symbolic systems or paradigms; 3) activities, processes or projects; 4) social structures or institutions. 

My conclusion is that, while all these are integral elements of change, it is the 4th that is most important for substantive and sustainable change.  Structures of behavior or institutions, or what I like to call collective addictions, need to be the focus and outcome of change.  Indeed, "transformation" means altering forms or structures.

I find that there are many excellent business, labor, and non-profit organizations and their leaders who do the first three, but don't go to the 4th.  They advocate for projects or for a group of people or for their organizations, which is fine.  But it is not transformation. 

1)  Many change advocates are evangelists trying to save souls, get individuals to change their ways, go through therapy, become whole.  This approach focuses on personal values and attitudes.

2) It was the great philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn who demonstrated that the scientific revolution (and really any great transformation) is a matter of paradigms or the symbolic systems within which formulations and formulas take on meaning.  Change artists often focus on the operative vision and the symbols.  Einstein was very clear that imagination was the driver of science and that transformation was a matter of new imagination.

3) It is the experiments and strategies, the actual trial and error and learning on the ground, that make a difference.  As Marx said: "philosophers have only interpreted the world.  The point is to change it."  That means getting down and dirty, hoeing, seeding, planting, weeding, harvesting, and starting all over again.  It also means letting your values and neat diagrams and interpretations flow with actual experience.

4) But in the end it is the "form" in transformation, the structures in our society, the patterns of our behavior, the institutions, the social and material infrastructure that must change for change to be enduring, meaningful, substantial.  And the change agent must keep her eyes on this aspect of change when she is talking values or symbols or projects.

Personal behavior, interpretations, strategies are totally shaped by the structures in which they occur: policies, laws, rules, geography, patterns of incentives and disincentives,

Want to change the political polarization in California?  Focus on the districts and how created.  Change the counterproductive initiative system.  Build local systems of accountability.

Want to promote investment and jobs in Valley communities, focus on regional governance and industry structures.

Want to promote health, foster education, diminish poverty, avoid recidivism?  Focus on the structures (including housing, employment, neighborhood, classroom, health systems) of equality.   Look at our patterns of land use, transportation, and income.

I think transformation is a combination of policy-making and community organizing.  Policy-making includes values, visions, and projects; community organizing includes leadership development, constituency building, and action to make policy happen.


Yes, personal leadership, new imagination, and hard experimentation are needed, but if the focus is not on social structures, the institutionalization of our collective behavior, there will be no transformation.  Maybe some saved souls, some bright ideas, and some good projects, but no transformation.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Analog or Digital?

A few months ago I considered entering an essay contest being run by a science magazine.  The topic:  Is the World Analog or Digital?

Then I realized that this was for someone much more experienced in Geekery than I am.  Perhaps a dissertation for a PhD in computer science or electrical engineering.  Yet it is an intriguing question whose answer may say a great deal about who we are.

The question presupposes some concepts from science:
  • Mass: matter and energy convertible.
  • Energy:  things happen, bodies move, change is.
  • Light: particles and waves.
  • Electromagnetism: sparks, electrons, neurons, sight, radio, TV, computers, and of course
  • Analog: "continuous electric current with varying intensities; and 
  • Digital: "packets" with numerical values ultimately formed by 1 and zero, on and off switches.
A digit is a finger.  And since we use our fingers to count, a digit by extension is a number.

Analogia in Greek means proportion from "ana," a preposition meaning "among" or "between", "by" or "alongside,"  and  "logos" meaning "speech" or "reason."  Analogy is taking one thing and comparing it or showing its proportion to another.  Something is analogous when it can be measured by something else. 

We are switching all our electric toys from analog to digital.  Computers are digital and as we use computer chips in our watches, our music and video recordings, our telephones, our pacemakers, our cars and planes, and our TVs, we give up our analog cables for digital ones. 

In an earlier blog, I contrasted the analogous mind from the univocal or literal or simple mind.  The analogous mind recognizes the role of imaging, comparison, and ambiguity in our understanding of our world and ourselves.

But the distinction here is different.  From neuroscience, we know that both the analogous and the univocal mind are also digital.  Like light itself, it seems that brain activity can be understood as measurable waves or as countable and interacting particles called neurons.  So is the wave vs particle understanding of the cosmos a demonstration of the limits of human knowing or of a fundamental structure of reality?  Or both--i.e. the limits of human knowing is due to this fundamental sructure of reality?

Yes, but so what?

While the distinction between analog and digital is different than that between analogous and univocal, I draw the same lesson.  Imagination rules. 

Language, art, religion, philosophy, science, math, all knowledge start in the imagination and, if judged to be true, end there as well.  The human experience is mediated through images.  The medium is the message.

We can refer to a pre-verbal experience as did Dewey and Merleau-Ponty and followers, but that is not a temporal before words and symbols and formulas, but the very unspoken, unattended background experience of ourselves in the act of encountering our world through those images.  So even our pre-verbal experience begins with imagination.  Digital bits make up words but prior (not temporarily) is the continuous modulating current of the analogous.


Analogous thinking (inference from particular to particular), it has been said, is the first order of thinking from which come induction (inference from specific to general--e.g. science) and deduction (inference from general to specific--e.g. logic or mathematics).  This is why Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge and really the driver of science and all knowledge. 

Digital world or analogous?  Both.  But imagination is first.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Macro Trends -- Post 8: Empathic Civilization

I am skipping to my 6th macro trend which I call "Empathic Civilization," after the book by Jeremy Rifkin who has spent a lifetime of writing on entropy in social systems (our fourth macro-trend; see macro-trend post #7).

In this book Rifkin describes a race occurring between the breakdown of our human systems (including destruction of our biological habitat and our social order) and the culmination of our movement to empathy in which we humans act in concert, based on our shared sense of vulnerability and consequent commitment to ensure universal community, justice, equity, and freedom.

I heard David Sloan Wilson discuss the role of "meaning systems" in communication and community building.  In other words, to have an empathic civilization, we need a shared meaning system.

I propose that humanity and its survival today begs us to develop a shared meaning system.  Meaning systems are expressed in "belief systems" and our diverse belief systems, which rationalize narrow clan and class interests,  are not only tearing us apart, they are holding us back from achieving our potential; and, more, they are destroying us.

I also propose that a shared meaning system for our time and world needs to have the following characteristics.  It needs to:

1) capture our imagination, be attractive and exciting, be a compelling story;

2) allow for and support many belief systems, a range of religious teachings, economic ideologies, political systems;

3) have global expression and influence though inclusivity, not domination;

4) affirm parts in the whole and whole in the parts; encourage us to act locally in communities and regions where we can have the most effect on the globe and the universe.

5) be compatible with new science and technology, open to inquiry, scientific method, and transparent communication systems;

6) balance resources, supporting new evolutionary progress without destroying the conditions for human existence;

7) constitute a ground for moral behavior, a base for a universal ethic;

8) value above all human freedom (boundaries that foster personal and collective decision-making); power (ability to fulfill potential personally and collectively); equity (dignity of every human person);

Each of these characteristics need to be further developed into a compelling narrative.  And yet once expressed and accepted, it becomes a belief system competing with other belief systems.  And history goes on. 

Also while I think cultural values are motivators for human action, so are political affiliations and economic interests.  So developing a shared meaning system needs to be coordinated with political (community) organizing or public building for socio-economic justice.  I for one do not buy the "clash of civilization" marketing piece that centers on culture.  This doctrine just repeats the same tired belief system that hopefully we are outgrowing.

But I think it is worth exploring our diverse belief systems and try to hone in on a shared meaning system "behind" or "underneath" our diverse belief systems.  Isn't that what the United Nations, cultural exchange, liberal or humanities education, and the search for cooperation and peace are all about?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Gathering Storms/Macro Trends 7: Entropicalization

I call the tendency of social systems to dissolve unless new energy is continually interjected "entropicalization."  It is applying the second law of thermodynamics to biology and sociology.

Entropy has often been called the law of disorder.  While the first law dictates that there is never a loss of energy in our universe, the second indicates that the propensity is towards dissipation and uniformity even towards equivalence (0th law) or absolute zero (3rd law).  Entropy is a potential maker since potential is the dfferential between hot and cold; for example the sun distributing its heat to the colder surroundings including our earth.  Some speculate that entropy may explain gravity the main driver of the form of our universe.

And entropy explains time and its arrow.  We know that a whole egg can become scrambled, but a scrambled egg cannot become whole.  The whole comes before its dissolution. 

So how explain self-organizing systems, i.e. life?  Life seems to go against the second law.  We sometimes call it "syntropy."

The biologist Ludvig von Bertallanfy though showed that living systems pay their "entropy debt." That is, they use up (and dissipate) more energy than is used in organism ordering.  So syntropy becomes a more efficient means of entropy.  Rod Swenson calls this the "law" of the maximum entropy production.  Nature, when conditions are correct, goes the way of self-organization (life) because of the potential created for more entropy production.  So entropy becomes the driver for both disorganization and organization.

I get lots of reflections out of this which I will state without elaboration:

1.  Seems gloomy, but the end of our universe (whether big chill or big crunch) is maximum energy dissolution.  Of course that's probably 15 billion years or so from now.  And we don't know if ours is the only universe out there our even if ours is contained in another which just may work differently.

2.  Seems obvious, but we self-organizing systems contribute to greater entropy production.  Just ask Mother Earth and notice our propensity to foul our own habitats leading to our own extinction.

3.  Speaking of propensity, we also note evolution's drive to not only form self-organizing systems, but also to maintain and grow them.  This Swenson calls this "the principle of fecundity": life's desire to take up all available space, e.g. bacteria, weeds, cockroaches, humans.  "Be fruitful and multiply!!"

4.  This propensity has become conscious in human evolution, genetically selected as a higher level survival and thrival tool (though, we have discovered, at a very high risk).  We have achieved the ability to imagine, to use images to deal with each other and our environment.  With this ability comes the capacity for self and other knowledge, for remembering the lessons of the past and anticipating the future, and for transcendence and transformation.  Bergon's elan vital, Lonergan's "unlimited desire to know," Meister Eckhart's universal love.

5.  With consciousness, i.e. the center of narrative gravity (Dennett), comes choice in how we use images to deal with each other and our world.  We project our images and can manipulate them.  We can reify them (eg idols) so they actually hold us back or even destroy us.  The elan vital can also be an elan mortal.  Freud's death instinct, Heideggar's "being towards death." 

6.  We therefore are a dangerous species, on the one hand limiting and even countevalling the amount of entropy in the bio-physical and social world, and on the other hand hastening it.  Both inaction and wrong-headed action will hasten the destruction of our habitat and species.  Harden and close the cell wall and it dies; open too much or remove the cell wall and it dies. 

7.  Crisis (fundamental choice) is our destiny.  We live in tension.  We are tension between past and future, self and others, interior and exterior.  We are a tension between the potential and actual--the reduction and growth of entropy in our bio-physical and social universe.  Take that tension away and you exist no more.

So are our lives, our existence, our social order, our world, our future, our morality all derived from the second law?  We definitely need to expend energy to keep ourselves going, but just the right kind and right amount.  Neither laissez faire, nor total control will lead to happy results.  Tell that to the teetotallers and the teapartyists!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Gathering Storms/Macro Trends 6--Entropy

Students of Humanity have often noted the 'drive' in us not merely to survive, but to thrive.

Augustine, in a neo-Platonic language system, called this tendency a divine spark trying to return to its source.  Thomas saw this inclination it as an attraction to the final cause and neo-Thomists took up the case for intelligence as the capax infiniti or the unlimited desire to know.  Bergson discovered the "elan vital."  Heideggar identified this predisposition as temporality--the tension between past and future.  Phenomenologists uncovered intentionality-- the propensity out to the environment and onward in time.  Merleau-Ponty revealed transcendence in the very human act of encountering others in the world through symbols.  Teilard de Chardin described our human drive as evolution become conscious of itself and so to further itself.

What is this mysterious penchant of humans to reinvent themselves, to idealize the future, to act to make ourselves and our world better wshich seems to be the fundmental principle of moral behavior and the standard of any universal ethics?

Like Bergson, Chardin, and evolutionary psychologists, we might attribute this dynamism in human nature to evolution.   Natural selection has produced a brain that is genetically constructed to be fruitful and multiply like all self-organizing, i.e. living, beings, but also, through the ability for creative imagination, to consciously and deliberately project ourselves into everything everywhere.  But the question is how and why natural selection did this (unless you simply stop inquiry by attributing some divine purpose to natural selection.)

So what is this transcending drive in us, the experience we encounter in peak moments, the eureka experience of the scientist, the sacred experience of the arist, the experience at the root of every authentic religious founder and tradition, and the experience of ourselves in connection to the all in all?

Then I discovered the writings of Rod Swenson and the "law of maximum entropy product,"   the link between physics and biology, and how human evolution is indeed the universe gong its way.

Next time:  Entropy and the capacity for the infinite:  why the human mind is a manifestation of universal entropy.  And what all that means.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Gathering Storms 5: Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil's Future is quite possible I think.  Certainly not to be dismissed or ridiculed.  It could be the next evolutionary step for our species.  But is it desirable?

Virtual immortality, transcendence, and cosmic unity sounds like heaven or paradise or nirvana--the ultimate goal of all religions.  But is heaven and its everlasting chorus with the angels, paradise with all its virgins, and nirvanic unity with the divine or universe a utopia or a dystopia.

For me it would be the latter.  I reject heaven, paradise, nirvana, and the post-biological Kurzweilian future and here is why. 

To be a body that has evolved with, not beyond, its "ultimate" limitation, vulnerability, and difference is the condition, the sine qua non, of personhood, of empathy, and of love--none of which do I want to give up for myself and my loved ones.

To be a person means to be limited, that is, not perfect, incomplete, finite.  To strive for perfection may be good, but to reach it would be bad.  To be a person also means that you are not totally transparent.  There is something there that is incommunicable even to yourself.  The scholastic definition of person contains the notion "incommunicabilis."  That's why I think gods, but not God, are persons--fictional though they may be.

To have empathy requires vulnerability and vulnerability to death--one's own and others'.  It is the sense of shared vulnerability (perhaps due to those mirror neurons in our brains that might be duplicated in machines) in a body that is sein zum tode or "being unto death" that now defines humanity and perhaps the best hope for humanity--which is a fragile empathic civilization. (I like Jeremy Rifkin's vision for Empathic Civilization much better than Kurzweil's Singularity prediction). 

And love in all its kinds demands relationships among limited, vulnerable, and diverse persons. Love, as personal or professional friendship, as intimacy and especially sexual intimacy, as responsiveness to family and clan, as communal solidarity, and even as universal communion implies differences, diversity, and yes death.  Love is relational, not identical. (I am tempted to say analogical, not digital.)

The future is now in our tension beyond ourselves, not in 2045 or any specific time to come and certainly not in the "end times," the "rapture,"  "heaven,"  or "the singularity."  If we choose immortality, I think we abandon eternity which is intentional existence, the now intending and in tension between past and future, self and other, inner and outer.

Transcendence is not in some other time or place when and where everything will be all in all, when there will be universal transparency and where we will be identified with divinity.  Transcendence is now in the experience of our transcending bodily-based existence accepting and using our limitations and vulnerabilities to envision and take the next steps beyond, but never totally beyond, ourselves.    No tension, no transcendence.

Finally complexity and chaos, not the simplicity of complete union or communication, are required for beauty which is the patterning that emerges, reforms, and reemerges fractal-like in our perception and symbolic and so bodily-based interaction with our environment and our universe.

Love, beauty, transcendence, empathy, personhood, and eternity is now in our fragile, limited, bodily, tensional, terminal existence.  Yes, I feel them now in the very writing of these passing words and limited communication I make for myself, you, and the world.  I do not wait for 2045.

Gathering Storms 4: Virtualization

I identified six gathering storms.  The first (that I want to discuss) is Global Virtualization.  This encompasses 1) the geometric growth of information technology and 2) the blurring lines between human and technological evolution.

My guide to the first is Adam Brate who in Technomanifestos presents the thoughts of the founders and developers of the infotech revolution.  The progression in capacity in hardware (processing and storage) and in software (computation and programming) is not linear, but geometric and on a curve towards infinity.  Current practitioners of information science and technology are providing both visions and warnings and advocating ways to both promote and intervene in the progress.

My guide to the second is Joel Garreau who in Radical Evolution presents the thought and experiments of those who are linking mind and machine.  He offers four scenarios for the human/computer world: 1) heaven--the utopia of Artificial Intelligence engineer and entrepreneur Ray Kurzweil, The Singlularity is Near, where there is co-evolution of human and machine beyond biological base and limits, the ability of humanity to live almost forever through machines, and so humanize the universe; 2) hell--the Matrix where humans are actually controlled and undone by the monsters they have created; 3) prevail--a condition of peaceful co-existence where we slow the curve and keep control of our tools, but remain biologically based and limited; 4) transcend--a condition in which humanity achieves ever increasing union and knowledge but maintains its physical and biological base.

Ray Kurzweil is getting lots of press right now because of his book The Singularity in Near which I have read and his new movie Transcendent Man which I haven't yet seen.  Recent article in the Economist and this week's Cover article of Time feature him. 

Reflections on Kurzweil to follow.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Liberation Day 4

I am begging all my friends, partners, fellow sojouners to listen to Chris Hedges on his latest book Death of the Liberal Class.  Please listen to http://castroller.com/Podcasts/BigIdeas/2134418

This is a remarkable lecture at the U of Toronto that is a recall to vocation for me.  Here is an analysis of the American cultural, economic, political reality and the failure of our liberal institutions: university, church, unions, nonprofits to acknowledge and address it.  Please listen all the way through the Q & A. 

I would love to discuss this--the diagnosis and the prescription, and the values that shape both.

This frames my work and I hope our work towards liberation day in America.  

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Liberation Day 3

Yesterday we went to LA to visit Jack.  We also went to City Hall to participate in the "Solidarity with Wisconsin" rally.  About 2000 people there--lots of speeches, some songs, some celebrities.  Like old time religion.  But maybe it's a start to change we can believe in.

But also some name calling--some attribution of evil intentions or souls in the hearts of the bad Republicans on the dole of the corporate elite.  (While I think the dole part can be demonstrated and behaviors can be opposed, evil intentions and souls and hearts cannot or at least should not.  It's none of our public business.)

The name-calling at the rally was minimal, certainly not as much as those saying Obama is a Muslim terrorist or a Nazi and we who do not believe in them are "nuts" or "idiots."  An article in the LA Times today quotes people (the other Michelle and her rival Sarah and of course Rush) as accusing the first lady of being a hypocrite, trying to get government to coerce good eating and exercise habits and endanger citizens by urging them to walk.

"Civility" and "civilization" of course comes from the Latin "civitas."  "Civitas" is often translated as "city" or "state."  It is the Latin translation of the Greek "polis" from which we get "politics"--often translated as "city-state" like classical Athens--and better translated as "public realm."  It is the place where people come out of their private households to discuss with, argue with, persuade fellow citizens with both thoughtful argument and emotional passion on the shape of the polis and on collective action for public welfare.

"Ad hominem arguments" have no place in the polis or civitas.  Disagreement, persuasion, passion backed by logical argument and science do.

When we citizens argue for our point of view by calling others who disagree bad names.  When we label them "evil" to stir up hatred for them, we not only commit a logical fallacy, we undermine the civitas, the public order, the nation.  We open the public space, not to collective speech and action, but to physical force or violence or simply passive silence.

Bernie's cousin Vern,  whom I like personally, disagrees vehemently with my politics.  But we can never carry on a conversation.  He would just pass on to me "bumper sticker" unfactchecked emails and when I would try to counter with an argument call me a "socialist" (which is not a bad name to me, but is for him), "nuts," "duped by idiots."  I tried over and over to have a civil (though admittedly passionate) discussion with him.  But I only received ad hominem arguments--i.e. name calling.  So no more conversation.

Nothing kills a republic like the kind of "politics" that is now being exercised--especially by many of the tea party enthusiasts who have a valid point of view and even some good positions.  Those positions are more in the interests of the haves than the have-nots than I would like, but that's certainly what the res publica is all about as Madison pointed out in the Federalist Papers, his defense of a strong central government.  But the name-calling, the we vs them, good vs evil mentality,  just undermines it all.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Liberation Day 2

 (A break from "Coming Storms")

I am thinking again of Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Iran.  It is like 1848 when all the capitals of Europe experienced "revolutions."  Regimes were thrown out by popular uprisings.  Unfortunately, in a very few years they were all reestablished.  But it still did lead to some additional movement towards democracy and maybe some additional rights.

Why are not the youth and their allies on the streets in the USA?  Well, there is Wisconsin.  Is that a beginning?  There was also grass roots energy behind the Obama election and the Tea Party movement.  But like all "revolutions" we just elect our masters and turn over power to them. There was authentic revolutionary discontent in the Tea Party movement but then they let themselves be defined by Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Rand Paul, and Glen Beck--pure defenders and products of the established regime.  And the Obama movement wound up in an election in the same old structures.  I experienced their appointments--safe and reactionary.

I go back to my original distinction between "revolution" and "rebellion"--or really Albert Camus's distinction.  Revolutions revolve back.  Rebellions like Sisyphus and Prometheus are on-going.  Jefferson and Trotsky were advocates of perpetual revolution.  Each generation must wage its own.  No absolute state, no utopia. 

The US is I think in a condition that begs revolution. It is totally controlled by corporate based plutocrats who shape the values, the perspectives, the behaviors, and the leaders of the existing social order.  They often decide who will win elections--most important they decide what will happen no matter who wins elections.  They set the limits for any change that might affect them--e.g. health care, taxation, military equipment, contributions, foreign aid, business, communications, energy.  They do not form a party or "interest group."  No need for that since they can generally shape what any party does and also support the think-tanks, magazines, and media that represent their regime.

I don't blame the Obamaists and the Tea Partiers for getting caught up in the electoral process since I think the blame game is unwinnable.  Also the electoral process is important, but that's not where the revolution is.  The revolution is redoing the constitution, i.e. the social order (I don't mean rewriting the American Bible) so that there really is freedom and justice for all. 

That will not happen through populism (e.g. mass movement or democracy) which just changes players in the same game with the same owners.  Populism is like the NFL--huge cheering crowds with the owners choosing the coaches and players and the rules of the game.

Social justice will be achieved only through republicanism--that is the creation of publics, localities in which people educate themselves in the interests and values of each other, develop their own rules, exercise leadership collectively, and continually learn from and connect to other publics.

Hannah Arendt described these publics occuring in the townhalls of the American colonies, the soviets of Russia, the societies of France, and in civil society institutions of developing countries.  She also described how the townhall, soviet, and societe traditions were overcome by centralized domination of economic concerns.

Jefferson, a member of the landed plutocracy, was no democrat and like many of the founders of America distrusted the masses.  But he was a republican intellectually and morally and had faith that people who thought, spoke, listened, and acted together, could continue to change.  He, and the other founders, knew that the American Constitution as written as well as the constitution as actually performed were very flawed leaving out the rights of many people (e.g. blacks, native Americans, women), trade-offs necessary to create a strong central government.

His republican hope, and ours, is that people by meeting, speaking, listening, and acting together would continue the progression of humanity towards greater freedom and justice for all.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Coming Storms 3

I am getting ahead of my story.  But before I discuss each of the coming storms and their unique convergence in our century, I think the big story may not be the six or so storms coming, but the mounting reaction to them.  "The action is in the reaction."

And to each of these forces are extreme reactionaries who will be in struggle (sometimes violent) with each other.

In respect to global virtualization, the nearing Singularity, i.e. info technology reaching such an exponential speed that the new "superman" is being created, and the understanding that the Matrix is all there "really" is will bring out contemporary Luddites to destroy our computers and undo the internet and the Technophiles aiming to issue in a utopia without limits where the tool becomes the master.

As for global secularization and the ascendancy of science, already the battlefield is being staked out by the old time Religionists or fundamentalists who demand sworn allegiance to the absolute truth as it is written by divine authors in Bible or Constitution and cynical Nihilists who mock those looking for some transcendent meaning by which to live and act.

And so on:

global regionalization:  tea party nationalists and ethnic terrorists.

global entropicalization:  denying ostriches and resource controlling capitalists.

global urbanization: top-down planners and laissez-faire developers.

global civilization:  alien-phobes and individual rightists

I know there is a lot to explain here. 

But the gist of it:  Our globe is changing really fast economically, politically, culturally.  There are tremendous dangers and opportunities.  New battlefields are being drawn.  Our children and grandchildren could be on these battlefields or may experience collateral damage.  They need to be prepared.  Not to react.  But to act creatively. 

I am convinced they will look back on these times--as we do the 1960s.  These will be their times.  They will organize and act.  They will make mistakes as we did.  But they may also move the world and humanity to the next stage--as we did.  I hope so.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Coming Storms 2

The six storms that I see coming over the seas and about to converge into a perfect storm for our 21st century are:

1. Virtualization--by this I mean the blurring (erasing?) of the lines between the virtual and the real as well as between the human body/mind and computer/internet.  This raises the huge question of the meaning of "reality," "knowledge," and even "human." 

2. Secularization--the postmodern mentality finally in place with its ultimate irony, relativity, ambiguity.  This raises the question of the meaning of "transcendence," "morality," or even of "meaning" itself? 

3. Regionalization--the marketplace of goods and ideas beyond traditional boundaries (e.g. nation-states) into interdependent regions.  This raises the questions of "value," "justice," and "equity." 

4.  Entropicalization--the dissipation of energy (or the shift to new energy resources), the change (or desecration) of habitat, the undermining (or renewal) of the conditions for species preservation.  This raises the questions of "nature" and "survival."

5. Urbanization--the migrating and resettling of humans into large settlements that diminish the reality and sense of the rural and the wild.  This raises the question of "society" and "community."

6. Civilization--empathic consciousness, the move to instant communication, universal data availability, the collapsing of space and time.  This raises the question of "consciousness" and "history."  


1 and 2 principally affect our emerging Culture; 3 and 4 the new global Economy; 5 and 6 the Politics of the 21st century.

Each one has a prophet or reporter to whom I will make reference when I discuss them. 

None of these are new.  Put "Global" in front of all of them and see them in symbiotic relationship effecting our culture, economics, and politics, converging into our 21st century--our space, our time, our social order--and the importance of these to my children and grandchildren--and to yours--will come clear.

A demain!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Coming Storms 1

I have been on "sabbatical" for a month, getting mind, body, spirit in shape for my next attempt.  Reading lots of books and articles and blogs in new science, postmodern philosophy, new urbanism, and contemporary political-economy, I discern six huge trends coalescing, descending upon us like the perfect storm.  They have been coming for a long time and the weather watchers have been pointing them out.

Storms cleanse the earth and the air, enrich the soil, and bring nourishment for new life.  They can also be terribly destructive wiping out forests, leveling buildings, and flooding habitats.  As I see these storms coming and combining, I worry for my children and grandchildren and theirs.  I want them to be ready.

The six storms that I see coming relate to the generally accepted dimensions of human being, namely culture, economy, and politics.  Let me say something about these just so I can better describe the storms.

What is most definitive of humanity is our unique ability to make patterns in chaos by using forms that we have created.  Our peculiar way of dealing with our environment is through images, including metaphors and stories, that put data together in a way that is useful to our survival and advancement.  In other words, it is our imagination--not separate from, but a means to our understanding and knowing of ourselves, each other, and our world.

What that means I will elaborate later because it is key to answering the huge questions being raised by the coming storms.  This "most human" capacity is being examined assiduously by evolutionary psychologists, neuro-scientists, and biological anthropologists.  And their theories and experiments are casting more light on our special ability to make images and symbols to organize, perceive, and act in our environment.

Why there are three dimensions of human being, culture, economy, and politics, can be explained by looking at this special human capacity/activity.  I will show you this in the next blog.

But all this is just preliminary for understanding the coming storms and their import for our future and that of those we love.

A demain!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Today is Liberation day. Congratulations to the people of Egypt and to all people of the world who risk for social, economic, racial, political liberty, equity, and justice! And especially to the young people who led this revolution.

My Brookings Institution newsletter came today advertising Generation in Waiting a book that captures the situation in the Middle East and perhaps many "developing" regions where young people between 15 and 29 comprise over a third of the population and most of the unemployment which runs around 15%. Most have come to the cities for education and work but have been frustrated with the lack of outlet and reward for their talents.

"While today’s young men and women are more educated than previous generations, educational quality is poor. Moreover, these youth face diminishing opportunities to secure good jobs, access credit and housing, achieve financial independence, and form successful families," says the Brooking's summary. http://www.brookings.edu/press/Books/2009/agenerationinwaiting.aspx?p=1

When I looked at the fact sheet, I saw it mirrored another "developing region," here in the United States--our own San Joaquin (a.k.a. Central) Valley, California. I look at the situation of our youth who are emerging in society just as we are no longer investing in institutions that can most assist them. We are more concerned with our private, immediate short term gain, than with our long term future. We want to relieve ourselves of our private financial debts, and forget our debts to our children. We want to free ourselves from personal taxes, rather than tax ourselves to fulfill our obligations to our children.

The children of Egypt saw the way out was to move from society to the public realm. The old way of wealthy elites buying elections and running governments needs to be upended. When will the youth of this Valley and this country understand the same? The answer is not running for office in a corrupt plutocracy in which you have to accept the values of the plutocrats to achieve office.

You don't enter the public realm by taking office in a plutocracy. You enter the public realm by appearing with others to bring down the plutocracy. Many young people in the US felt they were doing this in the Obama election: "Yes, we can-si, se pueda" "Change we can believe in."

But Obama is not the answer--and of course he was the first to say this. Power is in people appearing together in the Tahrir and Tienanmen Squares and Grant Park and Washington Mall. The best thing that Obama could do now is catch the spirit of the youth of Egypt and facilitate a similar revolution here. Yes we can!