Friday, June 04, 2004

our unconscious collective

couple of posts to a sociology list about our "sleeping" collective, that if awakened, we could really change the way things are...

posted on 6/2/04:

I try and get students to realize that simply by "going through the motions" each day they create the structure of our society...coming to class they maintain the institution of education, buying stuff, they maintain the institution of the economy, paying taxes, they maintain the institution of gov't, etc. I try and emphasize that WE are society, it is not something "out there."

I think that if a one-day national embargo against Exxon, Mobil, whomever worked, i.e., around the country NO ONE bought any gas from Exxon, Mobil, etc., people would have tangible evidence that it is US that is the economy, US that is "the market," etc. Getting this to occur is quite another matter, as evidenced by it not happening yet.

I do think that most people need to witness the effects of our collective behavior to truly get a sense of how we "create" society through all of our daily actions.

As such, IMO, we really CAN create any society that we want -- it is simple to do something different, but it is not easy. This is true for individuals and especially true for groups/cultures (the not being easy part).

I also get students to think about group arrangements that support human thriving (a "good" family, a Buddhist monastery, some schools, etc) and ask them to identify what it is about those arrangements, the cultural content of those structures, that consistently promotes and maintains human thriving. Once we identify those, then I say, "Well, all we got to do now is get those things going on a national/global basis..." How does that happen? Everyone acting in accordance with what we identified, creating that kind of social arrangement every day through their daily actions.

Simple, but not easy.

In short, we create the current structures, why not create some different ones? As sociologists, we know how structures are created, the question is, what KIND of structures should be created? This past weekend I presented a workshop on "Human Rights as Organizing Principles for Family/Community Life" at a home-schooling conference. Granted, they are eruo-centric and could use some updating, but IMO, the UDHR is one place to start.

posted on 6/3/04:

(My perspective was challenged as being naive and individualistic)

This is not what I was saying. I was saying something similar to Marx, actually, and that is, if we as a collective realize that we ARE a collective and we can use our collective power to create something (which is what we do anyway), why not create something that truly promotes human thriving?

I do, however, think that individual actions can and do make a difference. Do they radically change the social structure? Guess it depends on whom the person is that is acting. I suspect that ANY action could have a profound effect given the right circumstances. I am surely not going to stop doing things that I think are beneficial simply because I think they won't make a difference -- isn't this characteristic of the apathetic malaise that infects our culture currently to some extent?

I think that if there is naiveté in this perspective it lies with all of us whom think that we can do nothing and so we don't. Again, the issue is the "class consciousness" that needs to occur -- doesn't really matter what the trigger is, what matters is that it arises.

I certainly don't think that classroom teaching is the sole way of getting the world to be different. In fact, I think that "education" has little effect in making things different. The factors that I am familiar with, that, IMO, DO have an influence are desire and motivation.

Right now, many folks' desire and motivation are purely self-centered -- "Gotta get what I want and need and make sure no one gets it before me or takes it away once I get it" -- this is the American way, yes?

Hard to think about others and making the world a better place when you are obsessed with getting all you can before you die (and rising gas prices, the threat of terrorism forever on the horizon, etc.)

Education can only have so much effect on this kind of orientation to life.


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