Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Politics and Innocence: A Humanistic Debate by Carl Rogers

Saybrook Publishers, Dallas

While intriguing at first this book did not provide much applicable to either humanistic studies or the Information Society. Instead it provided insight into concerns that Rogers had about human communities that I believe were unfounded. Global evidence of historical hatreds, Rogers believed, would become magnified in large American cities. Even the nature of beings themselves, he felt, would cause strife when brought together in large numbers. His evidence was a maze type rat study. Despite his paranoia his resulting suggested remedies were precisely those I would recommend -- hiring humanistic planners such as Buckminster Fuller to consult with the population in making democratic decisions on urban planning. In fact, I bet Bucky could have made a neat little rodent community if he wasn’t so busy designing components of our future.

P 26
Our great cities concern me deeply, but the facts are well known and I will not bore you with them. Our large urban centers are seemingly ungovernable, choking on their own traffic, becoming insufferable garbage littered ghettos, and are rapidly becoming financially as well as psychologically bankrupt... In this incredible influx into the cities, it might be well to consider some lessons learned from a study of rats. (Imagine me evoking a rat study!) A cleverly design experiment with a large number of rats had a variety of areas. The outskirts had narrow entrances, where a dominant rat could keep others from entering and the central area was available to all and could not be dominated. All the rats had ample food and water and were free to breed as they wished. A few findings give me pause.

The rats multiplied, of course, but in the areas controlled by dominant males overcrowding was not excessive and life was reasonably normal. In the central, uncontrolled area, there was serious over crowding accompanied by poor mothering, poor nest building, high infant mortality, bizarre sexual behavior, cannibalism, often complete alienation, some rats behaving like zombies, paying not attentions to others and coming out of their solitary burrows only for food.

More ominous, the central area for all its bad conditions had a certain magnetic pull. [The scientist] called it behavioral sink, the rats crowded together in it ... the more rats feeding there, the more would crowd in ... females in heat would leave the protected areas and head for the central area, sometimes not retiring at all.

Perhaps we city dwellers are inhabitants of behavioral sink, cannibalism and all, what we need to do is unleash creative innovators like Buckminster Fuller, designing [communities] fro human beings and human and life, not simply for profit.

**The scientist did not build a city, cities have apartment buildings. My own gerbils lived in a big cage with wine boxes in it which they fashioned into homes, they were as happy as I was growing up in my apartment building. What the scientist did was build a Nazi concentration camp or a Mexican prison. The rats self-actualized as I would have expected, they wanted to fuse into a group, but did the scientist provide recreation, birth control, a variety in diet or any of the natural amenities provided by nature to rats. Rats are adapted to living in human society, not a product of it. Maybe a more appropriate study animal would have been musca domistica, the house mouse, a creature that has matured with humanity over the millennia, stable, calm and excessively adept at avoiding cats.
Many wild animals have adapted well to our societies and have learned all the skills we have, such as crossing through traffic, disputing the validity of the incestuous environment this scientist created. Raccoons are the stuff of legend, many living quite happily in NY's Central Park, but also foxes live in our midst and of course there is the homing pigeon, a gentle, social and highly intelligent creature, it boasts a natural navigation system that our aviators still envy.
Animals amaze me when they group. If there is no danger of a species eating another, they congregate without distinction, enjoying each other's company without discrimination; they are magnetized to the group as this study showed in its flawed way. Rogers should have gone with his initial instinct and ignored this rat study.

P 28
(Ethnic frictions)
To be sure there would be frictions between races, ethnic groups, between persons with very different value systems, in these human cities. The behavioral scientist could help with workshops on communication with emphasis on the contributions each group could make.
** It almost seems like Rogers is making work for his therapists, which actually would probably be a lot of fun. But the concern is hardly necessary, in my entire life in New York City; disputes based on old hatreds have been so rare that they made the news when they occurred. The city is a violent mixing bowl, highly mobile and unrelenting; time and space are so disrupted that it is almost impossible not to self-actualize and be your own unique universe. The Broadway IRT line seems to have defined rock and roll fifty years ahead of the Rolling Stones. In fact the Independent line "A" train may have inspired the concept of "jazzy madness." One of the liveliest and most perennial jazz standards is named after it.

The best examples of cross culture fusion that Rogers would liked to have facilitated (wouldn't we all) are in art and music. With music it is fairly easy to combine stanzas especially considering that music was no doubt our first, and still our favorite, Information Communication Technology. One rhythm would broadcast to another drummer, that drummer would answer with his and the rhythms would fuse and then seek other drummers to communicate with. Art is a little more complicated, but the mass exodus out of Europe as a result of the WW II into America and the American response to it was highly organized communication, comparison and, most important, exhibition. As Mumford states, photography is the most elusive yet telling of all visual arts. It was a photographer, famous from his work during WWII who created the global central exhibition hall, the Museum of Modern Art. It had modest beginnings, no doubt, but it would be hard to imagine a more influential art institution today.


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