Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Farther Reaches of Human Nature by Abraham Maslow

Viking Press, New York

From this book I only sought to learn about the relationship between Maslow and Rogers. Instead I found a fascinating chapter in which he recounts a lecture by his colleague, Ruth Benedict, where she discusses a way of quantifying success in a society or community. This is synergy, which defines cooperation between people, specifically support, which makes communities strong and resilient and able to live happily and spiritually.

Much of the book works around the topic of self-actualization which is the core of much of Rogers’s work where there is a direction of life and a point of living in every organism, which gives us all reason to be optimistic about each new day.

A successful person is viewed has having self-actualized, meaning reached out in all directions to have met their potentials, and possibly more. One would expect self-actualization, synergy and the all-important empathy, to be components of successful persons and viable communities. There is probably much to be learned from people with these qualities which can be applied to the Information Society and the underlying technology community.

Synergy has been linked to technology by the life works of the engineer Buckminster Fuller. Self-actualization, however, has been only recently attached to it as an extension of the Techniques concept (May).

(Self actualizing people)
P 43-46
The people I selected for my study were older people, people who had lived much of their lives out and were visibly successful. When you pick out fine and healthy people, creative people, saintly people, sagacious people, then you get a different view of mankind. You are asking "what can a human become?"

Being-values: Self-actualizing people are, without exception, involved in a cause outside their own skin, in something outside their selves. The are devoted, working at something, something which is very precious to them -- some calling or vocation in the old sense, the priestly sense
**Maslow, who may have "actualized" the rebellion of the 60s, here evokes old-school values
They are working at something which fate has called them to somehow and which they work at and which they love...
**Here he gives fate, or even guidance from above, a contributing role to self-actualization
They devote their lives to the search for what I have called the being values, the ultimate values which are intrinsic...
Being values: these include truth, goodness, wholeness, acceptance, spontaneity, uniqueness, completion, justice, rightness, simplicity, totality, beauty in form, beauty in function, playfulness, and identity.
Humanistic therapists help "counselees" move and grow toward self-actualization. Children, who seem little more than snotty, would love to have something to devote themselves to, to be patriotic about.
Self-actualizing means experiencing fully, vividly, selflessly, with full concentration and total absorption. At this moment of experiencing, there is wholly and fully human, this is the self-actualizing moment.

Youngsters suffer from too little selflessness and too much self-consciousness; they should be come totally absorbed so they can forget their poses, defenses and shyness. It is an ongoing process, it means making each of many little choices, and it means to make each of these choices a growth choice.

There is a self and the self has to emerge. Most of us, most of the time, listen not to ourselves, but to interjected voices of authority, parents or tradition. The process of the emergence is "listening to the impulsive voices."

(Function of behavior)
P 201-208
Ruth Benedict struggled to reconcile the various behaviors of Native American tribes she studied with her own gut-feeling of what was good in a society and what was bad. In the beginning she could only define cultures as having lots of affection, or the opposite, lots of hatred. Initially she described cultures as being secure and insecure.

Eventually, in comparing cultures, she determined that the external behaviors of cultures did not determine whether they were secure or insecure. It was the motivations behind the behaviors that determined this rather than the over behavior itself. There was then a much more subtle power at work defining a society than could be determined by observing superficial characteristics.

Eventually, after tallying all the characteristics of the cultures, she determined that there were cultures that worked well together and those that were internally combative. A single term became the measurement of cultural effectiveness that was synergy; a society had either high or low synergy, or something in between or, as in our own complex society, a mixture of the two on different planes.

High synergy "provides for acts that are mutually reinforcing" whereas low synergy "provides for acts that are mutually opposed and counteractive." In "high societies with high social synergy where their [customs] insure mutual advantage from their undertakings, and society with low social synergy where the advantage from their undertakings becomes a victory of one individual over another." "The majority who are not victorious" must do as they can to survive. (Benedict)

In specific terms, she defines the siphoning of wealth as being the economic system of a high synergy society, and the funneling of wealth associated with a low synergy society. Siphoning refers to the ability of society members to place a spoon in the community pot of wealth where the better standing members of that society contribute to that pot. The funnel system found in low synergy societies produces the opposite effect; all the wealth tends toward individual members who benefit from a phenomenon where wealth attracts more wealth. Increased concentrated wealth guarantees that the increased leverage will further increase that concentrated wealth until the majority of the society members become so poor that they can no longer support the system and the economic equilibrium of the system slows, or possibly crumbles, as a result of the imbalance.

In both types of societies, hard work and the accumulation of wealth is the primary step to developing standing in the society.

In a high synergy society, the wealthy gain respect by supporting the society by helping those less fortunate, poverty stricken by bad luck, for instance, or sickness or old age. In the highest synergy societies, the ultimate measure of wealth and source of pride was to give away all possessions to the needy. Such a society would then guarantee that even this wealthy generous person would in the end be supported by this system if they should ever falter, or when, they themselves, become old.

In a low synergy system, greed is the key characteristic of the successful and the result is a far poorer culture where there is much less life and happiness in the population and the cultural symbols are more representative of harshness and control rather than generosity and happiness. Key vital statistics, such as interest rates, crime, substance abuse and health are much lower in low synergy system than one that is high in synergy.

Our own society is one that is mixed in synergy. We encourage success in individuals but then use the benefits of success in a variety of ways, some low and some high in synergy. The central re-distribution system of our society, or as Benedict would say, "the siphon", is taxation. Some taxes are collected in ways that are generally beneficial for the bulk of society both rich and poor. We support health and educational systems and defend the nation as a unified front in event of attack. These taxes are proportional to income so that the resources of the wealthy can be "siphoned" for the greater good. Other tax systems, such as local property taxes virtually guarantee that only the wealthy will benefit from the resources of the wealthy. This is clearly evidenced by the disproportionate (and embarrassing) difference between schools of different taxation districts. A neighborhood replete with mansions will have palatial educational edifices and one that is racked with poverty will have schools which more resemble corrupt prisons where children are daily debased by both the administration and resident criminal forces. As further evidence of low synergy in education, these same schools will exist within the same tax districts, meaning that the wealth siphoned for the greater good, as in high synergy, is then "funneled" giving those who have even more as defined by low synergy. The process of controlling district lines to reinforce this low synergy practice is called gerrymandering and the only legal description for it is "corruption." Hence we live in a society of mixed synergy where low synergy is actually a crime but is, for some reason, tolerated even encouraged systematically. Of great concern in our society would be the spread of disease; drastic differences in health care, presumably also affected by low synergy funneling could mean the sudden spread of a disease, which, like the plague of centuries ago, may not stop at the gates of the mansion owners.

** This low and high synergy equation helps define confusion in government. It breaks down very simply, the most important role of the government is to protect the people, but in a legal perversion sometimes referred to as "corporate personhood", the government instead attacks the people as the bequest of corporations and other institutions of wealth and control. The maximalized copyright and patenting laws of the last decade are an important example but not a new one. Watts, the inventor of the steam engine, and the inventor of the flying shuttle were unable to collect much if not all the royalties due them for the courts were more greatly influenced by "clubs" of industrial owners. As an expedience to bypass the need to corrupt the courts, the copyright and patent laws have been perverted so much that they would not be recognizable to original lawmakers who sought to protect inventors and writers.

**low and high synergy have been applied to science and information in a more direct way by Buckminster Full who engineered the futuristic foundations of a purely high energy society, controlled by a high synergy political system which, through electronics, allowed direct access to the decision making process. Nowhere in Fuller's synergy is found the now necessary computers of communication, yet his society would entirely rely on ICTs to function.

As part of the introduction of Benedict’s synergy concepts to society in general and in particular sociological applications, management concepts have been created to try to encourage generosity within the corporate structure where giving responsibility when appropriate would then foster greater productivity creating a much better bottom line. More generally referred to as "delegating power", it is a form of paradox where "the more power you give away the more you have." Needless to say, this is not a new concept, it has been discussed since antiquity in the East and these practices are often preceded with the word "Zen" revealing the influence of the Buddha. Bible belt societies would refer to this as behavior “mighty Christian" proving that generosity is a key tenant of Christ's teaching. Both these spiritualities could only be defined as having exceptionally high synergy, at least as meant by their namesake founders.

**To quote our most popular popular singer, John Lennon, "the love you give is equal to the love you get."

**Having mentioned Christianity and Buddhism, I feel compelled to relate an experience with an old-school Jew of NY background who I feel was the most synergistic man I ever met. His name was Sydney and he owned a small public park near Santa Barbara, California, called, El Cid Park, an appropriate play on words. I was working as an oil-rig diver and on my days off I could not feel but happy when ever he came around. Anybody could hangout at El Cid Park despite the low synergy attempts of the other local landowners to close it to the public. On site was a trampoline system, which, for a price could catapult you very high in the air as were benches and a used bicycle business. Police infiltrated constantly, practiced racist repression but they could not impact the synergy of Sidney’s spirit. Further infuriating the low synergy controllers, was the fact that he owed two self-storage complexes adjoining the park, where the "parkies" could establish themselves as residents in Spartan cells for a few dollars in an otherwise high rent district. The police skirted the laws of the land constantly, yet fortunately refrained from the violent practices which we have associated with the city to the south of Santa Barbara which is Los Angeles. Sid to me struck a cord with me that brought back a lot of the culture that made New York City special during its brief renaissance during the 60s and early 70s. I now wonder if Sid was a student of synergy, his generosity was complete, yet, despite common experience, it actually strengthened him rather than weakened him against the low synergy practices found in American suburban sprawl. Or maybe he was naturally on the level of Christ and the Buddha guided by the fate mentioned by Maslow in his definition of a self-actualizing person.

(All good and no fun)
P 315
Maslow is credited with popularizing humanistic thinking so much so that he is given credit for "kicking off the 60s." While he carried out studies on LSD, it appears he was no fan of partying and may have been moralistic to a detrimental and isolating degree. In this way, he may have departed Roger's concepts of self-actualization, to the point of wanting to punish "good old fun." His "B" values of successful self-actualizing included such examples of wholesomeness that would imply that projects unfinished are a total waste where the means would be more important than the journey, totally contradicting Rogers, and that perfection is a goal in of itself, a trait practiced by the suburban home-ist Martha Stewart and deplored by most of today's therapists. Mumford too would question these thoughts as he attributed the concept of work for works sake as one of the primary evils in our society and the phony moral justification used to promote "wage slavery."

Here he cites Nelson Algren's statement "politicians and intellectuals bore me" as they don't seem real. The ones that seem real are "whores, thieves and junkies, etc." He labels Algren's statement as hatred and "counter valuing" or the Nietzschean ressentiment, presumably a very bad thing. Well, no doubt the lives of whores, thieves and substance abusers are very real, they feel reality's harshness with every moment as the low synergy forces of today’s tactical enforcers track them down and concentrate them into maximal prisons designed to destroy the minds with the unusual practices of isolation and humiliation. Whores and thieves live in their squalor largely as a result of the funneling of resources away from their needy families. There are heroes and heroines who remain strong in our culture centuries after their deaths as heroes who had just those occupations. The two most familiar names are Robin Hood, quoted for his therapeutic openness, and Billy the Kid, the "regulator" who sought to re-establish fairness in the west through his method of siphoning which was bank robbery. Less known would be Christ's "girlfriend", Mary Magdalene who was reputed to be a prostitute. Highly self-actualized successful people know right from wrong, whereas unsuccessful people suffer from "value-confusion." My assumption of Algren from this statement is that he enjoyed observing the harshness of the reality of those lives. Maslow himself founded studies based on the use of LSD which contradicts his moral bend. Malsow clearly contributed to the openness of our society in significant ways, and may have kicked of the revolution that was the 60s, but from this book it seems that was Ruth Benedict, his mentor, who actually got out and experienced "the journey" while Maslow allowed his brilliant thinking to be skewed by the isolation of the psychotherapist’s environment.


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