Let's Prehend
A Manual of Human Ecology and Culture Design

THE GOOD LIFE, "Let no crisis go to waste." Rahm Emanuel

The collapsing economy offers opportunities, proportional to the degree of crisis, to direct humanity toward the good life. But images of the good life seem sorely lacking. Discussion often dwells on economic recycling, personal subjective issues, occasional references to global, ecological and religious issues, but rarely to the promotion of objective human values.

Subjective human values are of little help with this problem. If you ask someone what they value, you get a synopsis of their psychohistory, perhaps a glimpse of the popular images of the day. Objective human values are not so commonly accessible. Surely scientist, philosophers, gurus, and clergy have been opining the issue for millennia, yet in our common discourse, little development is evident.

Our rationalist tradition is little help. Truth, proof, certainty, and agreement are easier on simpler subjects, but humanity it surely the most complex system in the (known) universe. This unfortunate quality of mind prefers simpler subjects and tends to severely simplify and reduce complex issues. Objectivists try the same approach but unlike scientists, try to push past the reductionism.

Imagine a parameter with rationalism on the left side and objectivism on the right. As rationalists we prefer definition, truth, and understanding, but as scientist-objectivists we acknowledge that description, certainty, and understanding are too much to ask. We must endure the discomfort of having our images constantly expanded and refined, never offering security and comfort. All fields of thought show this parameter. For example, religions struggle with belief, faith, and loyalty on the left, contracted, side, and awe, gratitude and empathy in the expanded mode. Consider this parameter in psychology, sociology, economics and politics. (CED*)

An easy approach begins with considering human values for babies. They are not yet able to articulate or rationalize, yet the seem quite able to make their needs known. They need constant attention to temperature and nutrient, but most important they need elaborate affection and stimulation. Never in our evolutionary history have neonates been so isolated and deprived of human interaction. For millennia, babies are constantly attended by mother, adults and children in the immediate household. Our Modern Abstract Culture (MAC*) trends toward increasing isolation, a poverty of babyhood. Typical pathologies include not only neglect, but TV. The infant, beginning her interpersonal life, is exposed to images of people who do not respond in any way. Worse yet, the images are often grotesque cartoons, a tragic pathological compulsion of children's programers. The children's initial interpersonal process is truncated - there's nobody there. TV is a major contribution to our epidemic of autism. In one recent survey, almost half of babies up to two years old have a TV in their sleeping room. One nursery school teacher complained, "When I speak to them, they just turn away, as if I were a TV". Therefore, the first requirement of this first stage of life is a residence with plenty of people at the ready. Genetic relatedness and cultural tradition is helpful, but humans easily adjust to quasi extended family roles if the architectural structure is appropriate.

Little children need to be watched constantly, and attended and played, when awake. The tragic isolation in MAC not only neglects positive mental and physical development but also continues an undercurrent of loneliness. Time-out isolation makes matters worse. In contrast, common spanking reasserts physical and emotional intimacy and security. Child abuse is increasingly unlikely in the extended family context, simply because there are plenty of caring people at the ready. In Organic Social Life (OSL*) people care for each others children.

The Reconstruction of Organic Social Life (ROSL*) requires careful attention to architecture, community design, and urban planning. Thousands of people are devoted to such projects, most of them underutilized but at the ready. The cohousing movement is basic and deserves increasing attention and support. Humans are astute at selecting the best options, and the conscious mind follows this adjustment. "If you build it, they will come". As the quality of life improves, the economy will be saved, though the numbers will shrink. [LIBERTYVILLE*]

In OSL middle children implicitly assume care giver roles. Tending their youngsters begins learning responsibility and empathy, traits postponed and neglected in our compulsively age segregated MACs. Countless scientific studies indicate that nursery schools are better than staying home with mother. But that suggests that even compelled age segregated (CAS) group process is healthier than the poor child isolated with a lonely mother. Nursery school is a small step toward quasi extended family households.

The tragedy of age segregation continues its pathologies in common schooling. Not only do the children not learn to care for the youngsters, but they do not identify with their more empathetic and responsible elders. This basic mechanism of maturity, learning caring and responsibility from elders, that sustained human life for our evolutionary life, is now damaged and broken. Modern humanity suffers this dearth of maturity and responsibility, and this lack portends the end of human culture and life.

Worse yet, given the deep human disposition to identify with tribe, segregation by age isolates the peers into their own quasi tribal life. Children shift their loyalties from fragments of family to the tyranny of peers. Age segregation that seems to have begun when Martin Luther decided to teach the masses to read the bible by themselves, to the dominant mode of the `civilized' world. Being a northern European rationalist, Mr. Luther assumed that age was the most certain generalization one could make about a child. (L. L. Whyte "The Next Development of Man.")

Politically, this CAS promotes the basic immature basis for mass teenage frenzy, fascism, brutal immature conformity, and pervasive narcissism. Humanity's challenge to address the needs of our degrading supportive ecosystem cannot be addressed by the governments based on of masses of immature people.

Economically, the essence of "limited liability" is a manifestation of CAS. Irresponsibility manifests as `externalization of costs'. Contraction of empathy manifests as increasing disparity of rich vs poor (GINI - Gross Income Inequality Index). The abstract term "freedom" encapsulates the threat of enslavement to trivial pursuits and oppressions, and the opportunity to deny the meaning and responsibility of life. This MAC abstraction is elaborated and compelled by corporate law and associated institutions that manage modern societies. Don't blame human nature, those qualities that quickly adjust to circumstances and "outrageous fortune" and the Internalization of Corporate Ethic (ICE*). This institutionalization of immaturity is deeply unstable at every level, from starvation, unemployment, wars to the denied global warming and breakdown of humanity's ecological support systems. Crisis invites opportunity.

Young adults, graduating from the tribal security that schooling offered, suffer the trauma of loneliness, isolation, unemployment, and, you know, whatever. Increasingly, they return to the family home, but this is a small alleviation of the cultural breakdown of OSL. The military offers a continuation of teen tribal identity, and economic pathologies such as the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) supports it. If they do succeed in mating and making a new nuclear family, they suffer insecurities only partially alleviated by plenty of money. The nuclear family is a transition mode from OSL to the ultimate loneliness of isolate single person households.

Adulthood is increasingly stressed by MAC: Adults are stressed with more responsibility and less security, fostering an undercurrent of desperation and rage, as well as mental and physical ill health.

Aging in a dying culture adds agonies. Because of CAS and the inherent dislike of old people, elders have little to do. Isolated and segregated, they are deprived of their evolutionary tasks of support and guidance. Whatever maturity they may have achieved is ill used or wasted. The elders live on in depression while the youngsters suffer their lack of support and guidance.

Let's consider the Reconstruction of Organic Social Life (ROSL*) as humanity's main task and challenge. But given the elaborate management of present global culture and polity, nothing can be done without much deeper crisis than we commonly imagine. Humanity's Managerial Institutions have almost no options except to protect, maintain and expand its pathological systems. Yet, as the crises deepen, we are obliged to develop Images of Sustainable Cultures (ISCs). Because of our current intellectual pathologies, Culture Design (CD), seen through the false focus of rationalism, seems authoritarian. Even the word "totalitarian", meaning total responsibility for human welfare, has a frightening connotation of rationalist authoritarianism. Given the pervasive denial ideology (DI), culture design is often seen as a radical threat to freedom, even though it is the most appropriate task.

For a theory of the evaluation and diagnosis of these complex systems and an assortment of images of their application, see letsprehend.com.

[* refers to letsprehend.com, a Manual of human Ecology and Culture Design.]

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