Thursday, October 8, 2009

Post No. 137a: A Funny Thing Happened to Us on the Way to the Forum



Those of you who have spent time with us in our forum know that this site is not even remotely as entertaining as the musical comedy film and stage musical whose name we have co-opted above.

Although we hope that you are occasionally entertained, our real goal is to suggest that we look at issues (both personal and societal) in a different way, out of the hope that we will be able to generate innovative solutions to problems in an increasingly complex world. Most recently, we focused our message on College Students, since it is their generation which will take over what the Baby Boomers have left, and it is their turn to assume a leadership role going forward.

Little did we realize that, while navigating a used book store a couple of months ago, we would come across a book, “New World New Mind,” published in 1989, which provides solid biological, historical and social science research to support many of the positions we took for the past couple of years.

The subtitle of the book is “A Brilliantly Original Guide to Changing the Way We Think about the Future.” Back in 1989, the authors proposed, as reflected on the back cover, “…revolutionary new ways to close the dangerous gap between our current mind set and the high-tech world we’ve created.” Many of the things that they predicted have occurred in the intervening 20 year period.

If our leaders had paid more attention to the evolving world as described by authors Dr. Robert Ornstein (co-author of “The Healing Brain”) and Dr. Paul Ehrlich (author of “The Population Bomb”), we might have been well on our way to solving some of the world’s current problems. We as humans also need to have a much better appreciation of the difference between individual logic and group logic. Recognizing that the evolutionary development of the human brain is an important factor in how we view the world and function in it should assist us in improving it.

Starting today, we will provide you with daily excerpts taken from “New World New Mind.” Our original pieces will take a back seat for the time being, unless something in the news or something we observe prompts us to share our personal thoughts. Each day you will gain some better insight into evolutionary human development, and how we might use that information to make better decisions about our current world and how we plan for the future.

It is only Common Sense that in trying to address problems, we examine all possible causes for behavior and conditions, particularly those scientific in nature, and that we utilize all possible resources available to us. That's what Ornstein and Ehrlich have done in their book.

What will undoubtedly surprise you is how all of this applies to our everyday issues and problems, both personal and societal. We know that you will be as fascinated by this innovative approach to life as we are. [All of this is copyrighted material, and we are simply sharing some of it with you.]

Chapter 1 – The Threat within the Triumph

“IT ALL SEEMS to be happening at once. A small group of terrorists murder a few Americans far away - and fear of getting murdered changes the traveling habits of millions. But Americans continue to slaughter more people each day with handguns than all the people the terrorists have killed up to the writing of this book. No one does anything about it.

“People swamp AIDS testing centers, desperate and anxious to know if they are carrying the virus. If they have it, it will likely kill them. Can society even care for AIDS victims?

“Meanwhile, populations explode, stockpiles of nuclear weapons grow, budget deficits mount, our education becomes more and more obsolete, and the environment – on which our very existence depends – deteriorates. But most people’s attention is fixed upon eye-catching “images,” such as the taking of the Iran hostages, horrible murders, airplane crashes, changes in stock prices, and football scores. Cancer terrifies us, yet we keep on smoking. Oliver North testifies that he lied – yet his good looks and smooth talk lead many people to propose that he run for President.

“And the President operates the same way. Ronald Reagan, by his own admission, perverted an important U.S. global policy because his mind was similarly fixed on another set of hostages. He said, ’I let my preoccupation with the hostages intrude into areas where it didn’t belong. The image, the reality of Americans in chains, deprived of their freedom and families so far from home, burdened my thoughts. And this was a mistake.’

“Why does the growing budget deficit attract relatively little attention while the comparatively meaningless stock market ‘crash” makes headlines? Why do many popular writers yearn for a return to an education suitable for Oxford men before World War I, when the world has changed in critical ways to a greater extent since World War II than it changed between the birth of Christ and that war? Why do the numbers of nuclear weapons expand astronomically but largely unheralded, while a small girl trapped in a well commands the front pages? Why do we collectively spend billions on medical care while neglecting the simple preventative actions that, if we took them, would save many times the lives?

“We believe it is no accident.

“All these things are happening now, and are happening all at once, in part because the human mental system is failing to comprehend the modern world….”

4 comments:

  1. This book was already written back in the 'seventies--it was called "Future Shock". This book, in fact, gets written at least once in every generation.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Having read both volumes Rodak, we'd have to disagree with you on this point. "Future Shock" had more to do with future events, in a predictive sense after an examination of patterns and history. "New World New Mind" is more about evolutionary biology, the human brain, and how recognizing that our brain was programmed for events earlier in the evolution of humankind, we can make adjustments to plan for the future, and become more aware of changes (events) which take place more slowly but potentially have a very significant impact on society. This is more of a science based book.

    On a very basic level, New World explores how American society can tolerate 39,252 deaths associated with automobile collisions in 2005, or 438,000 smoking related deaths in 2008, both instances where we "killed ourselves," and yet devote more resources and energy to fighting terrorists, who have killed far fewer US citizens. The authors claim that our brains have been programmed (not by media experts or even spin doctors) to pay attention to certain things and not others.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ah, so I should have been alluding to Konrad Lorenz, rather than Alvin Tofler! Okay, so you caught me being snarky. Fair enough.
    My point would be that we don't "tolerate" traffic deaths, or even smoking deaths. Ralph Nader made a career out of trying to force car makers to make safer cars. We've passed seatbelt and car seat laws, and speed limits and more legible signage. We launched endless campaigns against drunk driving and stiffened the penalties, etc. That's not "toleration." But, that said, our economy is so based on our being able to drive long distances to work, and having our stores supplied by truck, etc., that we really have no economic choice but to continue driving.
    As for smoking, there, too, we have passed all kinds of taxes, rules, regulations, and laws to make smoking both difficult to do anywhere but at home, and very expensive. At some point, however, the big money limits the legislation, and the peoples' concept of their rights complements the efforts of the lobbyists; tobacco stays legal for now.
    Is this biology? Or is it bid'ness-as-usual?
    Although the War on Terror is bleeding the general population like so many Masai cattle, there are a lot men with friends in high places (like the Oval Office) becoming billionaires by investing in the War on Terror. Again--biology? Or bid'ness-as-usual?
    Many Americans probably would have enthusiasically cheered nuking Mecca on September 12th, but only the dullest among us continue to support the war(s) today, once the anger has abated. But nuking Mecca wouldn't have been cost-effective in the long-run for Big Oil and Big Munitions, so we didn't do that. I guess the biology doesn't kick past a certain tax-bracket?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Having read both volumes Rodak, we'd have to disagree with you on this point. "Future Shock" had more to do with future events, in a predictive sense after an examination of patterns and history. "New World New Mind" is more about evolutionary biology, the human brain, and how recognizing that our brain was programmed for events earlier in the evolution of humankind, we can make adjustments to plan for the future, and become more aware of changes (events) which take place more slowly but potentially have a very significant impact on society. This is more of a science based book.

    On a very basic level, New World explores how American society can tolerate 39,252 deaths associated with automobile collisions in 2005, or 438,000 smoking related deaths in 2008, both instances where we "killed ourselves," and yet devote more resources and energy to fighting terrorists, who have killed far fewer US citizens. The authors claim that our brains have been programmed (not by media experts or even spin doctors) to pay attention to certain things and not others.

    ReplyDelete

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