Exploring the Social Imagination

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

C.S. Lewis "Mere Christianity" Beyond Our Social Imagination

What is interesting about Christianity is that it asks people to think beyond the world that they see, to think beyond their 'social imagination'. How? Christians believe in a God that is unseen, and that he is the Creator of all things seen and unseen.
To support this notion that Christianity goes beyond social imagination I point to the writings of C.S. Lewis who embraced this and wrote perceptively on Christianity in his book, "Mere Christianity".  In the chapter, Beyond Personality, Lewis tells us that we must never imagine that our own unaided efforts can be relied on to carry us even through the next twenty-four hours as "decent" people. If He (God) does not support us, not one of us is safe from some gross sin. On the other hand, no possible degree of holiness or heroism which has ever been recorded of the greatest saints is beyond what He is determined to produce in every one of us in the end. The job will not be completed in this life; but He means to get us as far as possible before death. That is why we must not be surprised if we are in for a rough time. When a man turns to Christ and seems to be getting on pretty well, he often feels that it would not be natural if things went fairly smoothly. When troubles come along, illnesses, money troubles, new kinds of temptation, he 'man' is disappointed. These things, he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his bad old days; but why now? God is forcing him on, or up, to a higher level: putting him into situations where he will have to be very much braver,or more patient, or more loving,than he ever dreamed of being before. It seems to us all unnecessary; but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us.The command Be ye Perfect is not idealistic gas, nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command.  He said that we were 'gods' and He is going to make good His words... if we let Him. Lewis writes, ... let me borrow from George MacDonald. Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on... you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But, presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that huts and does not seem to make sense. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace which He intends to come and live in  (Lewis 1952: pg 174)
Lewis also writes about how incredible His imagination is - the Creator. Lewis points to when we were in the womb, first a blob of cells, then a kind of tadpole, then a another kind of simple creature which we would in that simple form have likely been content to be just that... but He (God) did not stop there, He kept going, He created us human, man and woman, He created us in His image. He created us social and to live with Him in His Incredible and Gigantic social imagination!
C.S. Lewis - Mere Christianity: MacMillian 1952

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Atheists and Progressives- Theirs is not a Christian Morality!

The Social Imagination of the Christian knows what he/she ought to do.
Firstly, let us understand the differences between different groups and their ideas about morality or justice. We can start with the Greeks, and this means starting with Homer. The first thing to say is that the gods and goddesses of the Homeric poems behave remarkably like the noble humans described in the same poems, even though the humans are mortal and the gods and goddesses immortal. Both groups are motivated by the desire for honor and glory, and are accordingly jealous when they receive less than they think they should while others receive more, and work ceaselessly to rectify this. The two groups are not however symmetrical, because the noble humans have the same kind of client relation to the divinities as subordinate humans do to them. There is a complex pattern that we might call ‘an honor-loop’ (see Mikalson, Honor Thy Gods). http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/religion-morality/ According to Cicero, Socrates (469–399 BCE) was the first to bring philosophy down from heaven, locating it in cities and even in homes (Tusc.V.10) Greeks and Romans had religion. In as much as atheists like to think that ideas of morality and virtue and ethics are innately human logic, evolved overtime, they are misinformed. Western thought on morality, virtue and ethics largely arose from Greek/ Roman philosophy/ political thought. Where did they get their ideas from? Socrates said that such thought was brought down from heaven. In that way, in each and everyone is the knowing of what we 'ought to do'. We know the difference between selfish desires and unselfish. When faced with a choice, we know what we ought to do and often avoid that 'ought to' in our selfish desire to run away from responsibilities.
Of course, some think that this 'ought to do' exists in the human naturally.  I suppose Plato discussed this Socrates as the question appeared "if one is just by choosing justice, then what is one by not choosing justice if by not choosing justice, the one gains more by not choosing justice. And, then justice for who? Justice for the group, another individual or the one. Which would be more important? If one was wealthy, well connected, then wouldn't his value alone in society be more just than a mere peasant's.  After all, his money helped to build the city, his money helped to provide jobs, his money helped to bring about civilization: the arts, science, and the idea of civics.  We see here a kind of honor loop. Yet, morality is this honor loop is defined as that which is virtuous behavior on part of the one, again if the one is making life better by building up the city, then he/she is a moral and just person, right? No of which has anything to do with what one ought to do. Because what one ought to do is not the desire for honor and glory of the self; but, the desire for the glory and honor of God's creation which includes all men. I suppose that even this can be argued in that the wealthy man does this as he/she spends his/her money to build up all of society. Isn't that Bill Gates?
How then is ancient Greek/Roman philosophy any different from the Christian perspective? As C.S. Lewis writes, the difference lies in the Golden Rule of the New testament "Do as you would be done by", in this every Christian has always known what is the right thing to do.  Is that so much different though from what we have been talking about? Building the grand arena which all could come to as a Roman citizen seems moral and virtuous, yet how did it get built? Senators living in splendid homes while others live in shacks; but because they gave their money to build such things and they represent the civic quality of life, they have a right in their virtuous position, right?. Who is moral and who is virtuous? I suppose that the ancients would argue that both are - the Senator and the peasant or average "Joe". The Senators are moral and virtuous because they represent the law- the Republic and the peasant is because they accept it. This is the honor loop. Yet, considering both groups, is this still doing what ought to be done, doing as you would have others do to you? Yes, if we accept the honor loop. No, if we break that loop. No, if we accept that every human person has always known what is right and what ought to be done, then we could not accept that just because some have more others should accept less, is this what the one would have done to them.
Yet, progressives are of the mind set that the means justify the end. If some are higher and others lower, this is justified in the end...then justice for all is done. Christ came to say that justice belongs to the one, and justice is served to him/her in honor of the justified one because he/she is moral and virtuous and knows what they ought to do as it would be done to them. Progressives want social justice at the expense of the individual. Christ came for all. You cannot sacrifice individual justice for collective justice.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Do Our Choices Determine Who We Are and How Others See Us?

We live a social reality. Max Weber wrote extensively about the classification of men and the choices they make - rational choice. For him, in comparison to Marx and Engels, rational choice was the key to understanding status groups, understanding the difference between the rich and poor, understanding racial and ethnic discrimination, understanding how we set ourselves apart from others and the natural tendency to want to do that.  How do men make rational choice? They make choices based on the amount and quality of information that they have at hand. We are only a composition of socialization process which begins with mother and stems out from there to father, siblings, peers, community and including teachers. In fact, one can say that the socialization process lasts a lifetime; hence, you are not really the same 'person' you were a year ago given the amount of social networking and social interaction one engages in over a year or any period of time. With that in mind, we make decisions based on the information we have gotten through social interaction including these days - media. This is what social workers, social engineers or social framers know and political science students learn.  What? That when given information as 'true or useable' through shared experiences that prove positive, we will make the choice to buy that thing, be with that person or group or live in that place, go to that school etc.  Dr. E.FGallion
The classification of men into such groups is based on their consumption patterns rather than on their place in the market or in the process of production. Weber thought Marx had overlooked the relevance of such categorization because of his exclusive attention to the productive sphere. In contrast to classes, which may or may not be communal groupings, status groups are normally communities, which are held together by notions of proper life-styles and by the social esteem and honor accorded to them by others. Linked with this are expectations of restrictions on social intercourse with those not belonging to the circle and assumed social distance toward inferiors. In this typology we again find Weber's sociological notion of a social category as dependent on the definition that others give to social relationships. A status group can exist only to the extent that others accord its members prestige or degrading, which removes them from the rest of social actors and establishes the necessary social distance between "them" and "us."
Empirically there are fairly high correlations between standing in the class and in the status order. Especially i capitalist society, the economically ascendant class will, in the course of time, also acquire high status; yet in principle, propertied and propertyless people may belong to the same status group. At certain times, an economically weak element, such as the East Elbian Junkers, may exercise considerable influence and power because of its preeminent status. Generally, as much pos-Weberian analysis of American politics has shown, political behavior may at times be influenced by men who are fearful of losing their status or who bridle at not having been accorded a status they think is their due; such influence may be as powerful as class-determined modes of political behavior.
In Weber's view every society is divided into groupings and strata with distinctive life-styles and views of the world, just as it is divided into distinctive classes. While at times status as well as class groupings may conflict, at others their members may accept fairly stable patterns of subordination and superordination.
With this twofold classification of social stratification, Weber lays the groundwork for an understanding of pluralistic forms of social conflict in modern society and helps to explain why only in rare cases are such societies polarized into the opposing camps of the "haves" and the "have-nots." He has done much to explain why Marx's exclusively class-centered scheme failed to predict correctly the shape of things to come in modern pluralistic societies.
In regard to the analysis of power in society, Weber again introduces a pluralistic notion. Although he agrees with Marx in crucial respects, he refines and extends Marx's analytical scheme. For Marx, power is always rooted, even in only in the "last analysis," in economic relations. Those who own the means of production exercise political power either directly or indirectly. Weber agreed that quite often, especially in the modern capitalist world, economic power is the predominant form. But he objects that "the emergence of economic power may be the consequence of power existing on other grounds." For example, men who are able to command large-scale bureaucratic organizations may wield a great deal of economic power even though they are only salaried employees.
Weber understands by power: the chance of a man, or a number of men "to realize their own will in communal action, even against the resistance of others." He shows that the basis from which such power can be exercised may vary considerably according to the social context, that is, historical and structural circumstance. Hence, where the source of power is located becomes for Weber an empirical question, one that cannot be answered by what he considers Marx's dogmatic emphasis on one specific source. Moreover, Weber argues, men do not only strive for power to enrich themselves. "Power, including economic power, may be valued 'for its own sake.' Very frequently the striving for power is also conditioned by the social 'honor' it entails."
From Lewis Coser, 1977:228-230.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Social Imagination... Unheard of Thesedays

Posted below is an incredible story that I had to share with my blog readers. The story below is amazing on many levels. The first is that a marriage can last a lifetime. In modern social imagination, that seems odd. Yet, in the story you will read that it is possible - one can give live with the same spouse for an entire lifetime. You will read that a couple can have the same imagination about love, marriage and raising children. They can have the same imagination about how to get through hard times. Americans rarely experience such things, marriage that lasts, love that never ends and is unconditional, and the joy of raising children together as husband and wife = mom and dad - the same husband/wife, the same mom and dad from beginning to end. We live in a throw away culture, that is in love with 'new' and hates 'old'. We love new things, and we want to have fun. As if any other kind of living or imagination is useless, has no purpose, no value.
I wanted to share this story because it is not about new things or having fun. It is about a full life filled with sorrow and with happiness. I have been to the Ukraine and lived in eastern Europe for a number of years. You cannot believe the level of poverty in some places yet people are always happy to share a meal. You would not expect to see the residue of War, not the recent but of long past. It is hard to understand that if there was such conflict in the past, why don't people try to work things out today. As Americans, it is easy to say that. But Europe is a different world. People there have a deeply embedded consciousness of 'being in' or 'connected to' a place. So deeply embedded, they are willing to fight for. I took my husband to eastern Europe, he loved the old towns and how people seemed to live a symbiotic relation - past and present. There was a kind of 'recursiveness' everywhere.  I wanted him to know that though old towns are charming, they were often destroyed and people too. I took him to the eastern border to see the extermination camp - Sobibor... what remains of it. It is hard for people to believe the hardships that many people had suffered during WWI and WWII. For today's generations, they are pages in a history book. But, for many memories are still present or have left a vivid impression as one can still see in Warsaw. As a listener of Moody Radio, valuing the programming so much; hence, I wanted to share this story about Pastor Erwin Lutzer's parents who came out of such hardships.

A Tribute to my Mother by Pastor (Dr.) Erwin Lutzer
After having served her generation by the will of God, my dear mother got her wish and went home to heaven on January 1, 2012, a month after her 103rd birthday. By any measure, mother was a remarkable woman. She was a hard worker who gladly sacrificed for her family; she had a focused love for God and intolerance for sin. She was a woman of prayer, a woman who understood better than anyone else I know, both the eventual terrors that await the unsaved and the glories of heaven reserved for those who belong to the King of Kings. She loved Christ passionately and has waited with a longing patience for her entrance into the heavenly kingdom. And what an entrance she will have!
Mother was born to German parents in the Ukraine in 1908 and after World War I began in 1914, the Russian government, fearing that the Germans within its borders might mutiny, forced them to become refugees to places like Afghanistan or Siberia. Incredibly, her father (my grandfather) had actually come to the United States to make preparations to bring his entire family here to Chicago. But when the war started, he immediately made plans to hurry back to be with his family. Providentially, he was able to catch the last passenger ship back to Europe; after that the ships were used only for war material. If he had been stranded here in the US, my mother’s family would have had to manage the hardships of Siberia on their own. How thankful they were that he was able to return in time to be with them on this long and painful journey.
Meanwhile, the trip to Siberia took weeks (the large family had only one horse and wagon) and when they arrived at the Volga river they were loaded onto barges and from there herded into freight cars for the long train trip to the northland. The entire family (with about six or seven children at the time) lived in one room; later they moved into a basement. Life was not only very hard but also dangerous. Remember, not only was World War I in progress, but so was the Bolshevik Revolution. Often there was fighting outside of their small quarters and the family had to stay indoors.
Mother recounts the deep grief she experienced when her younger sister died, and because of the fighting, her small wooden coffin had to lie on a back porch for a week (my mother was about 8, her sister was 6). Finally, when there was a lull in the fighting, my grandfather buried her in a grave along with another body. But my grandmother was grieved that her little daughter was not buried in her own grave, so to please her, my grandfather dug up the coffin to bury the little girl in her own shallow grave. Mother was very close to her younger sister and wept for days in her grief.
When the war ended in 1918, the families were able to return to their homestead. Then the decision was made that my mother and her older sister would go to Canada to seek a better life. Just imagine: my mother was 20, her sister was 22. When they said goodbye to their mother and father, they knew they would probably never meet again. Later they learned that my grandmother lay in bed for three days, mourning the loss of her precious daughters whom she expected to never see again (about 32 years later they were briefly reunited when my parents visited Europe).
I will not detail all the hardships that mother and her sister experienced in Canada. Soon after they arrived, they were separated, working for various farmers. Mother loved to hoe the garden, she said, so she could pour out her soul in lonely weeping where no one would see her.
As God would have it, the sisters then ended up working on farms that were close to a small town with an evangelical church. My mother and her sister had a strong desire to be “born again.” They had been baptized Lutherans but knew that their baptism could not save them. When evangelistic meetings were held, my mother was gloriously converted. “It was as if I was in the holy of holies” she recounted later.
My father was attending the same church. He also had been born in the Ukraine back in 1902, and his story was similar except that his family had to migrate to Afghanistan. There his mother and older brother died. As a boy of 14, he threw himself across the bed and thought he’d never stop crying. But when his family returned to their homestead, he bravely came to Canada alone to work for a farmer who was willing to sponsor him.
My father had become a Christian while in the Ukraine. Now as he attended church, he couldn’t help but notice the two young German women who had just arrived in the area. He knew of my mother’s conversion and she had heard him pray, so she knew he was a firm believer.
One Sunday he asked my mother if he could walk her home and along the way he asked if she would marry him! My mother said she’d have to think about it, but within 3 weeks they were married at a farm on July 25, 1931. The marriage lasted for 77 years, until my father’s death 3 years ago at the age of 106! (A word to the singles reading this: don’t use my parents as an example of how long you should know each other before you marry!)
In our home the Bible was read every morning and prayers were offered, rain or shine, followed by a song sung by the family; my mother’s favorite was “Take the name of Jesus with you”. I was the youngest of 5 children, and as my sister put it, “I got away with blue murder.” My parents were desirous to protect us from sin (out on the farm there were few opportunities to get into trouble, but boys will be boys!). My Dad was a very hard worker but often sick in those early years, telling us that he was dying (evidently he was having panic attacks which he obviously outgrew!), so mother helped by milking cows, she grew a garden, washed our clothes and cooked for the family. In the fall she helped with the harvest, canned food for the hard winter and made sure that we had warm clothes. I simply don’t know how she did it. When hail took our crop away she and my father and we as children got on our knees to thank God for his goodness. “We still have food to eat” my father said. And that was enough.
At Mom and Dad’s 70th anniversary I asked my mother if she knew the names of all of her great grandchildren (I think the number was about 25 at the time). She waived her hand and said, “Sure, I have a prayer list and I bring them before my Heavenly Father every day!”
My mother and father were plain people who taught themselves to read (they had at best a grade 3 education back in the Ukraine), and to speak English. They were free of all hypocrisy or pretense; what you saw is what you got. They were fastidious in their honesty and although they were frugal when spending money on themselves, they were very generous with others. Even in retirement they gave virtually all of their money to Christian ministries. They showed hospitality to those who were in need. The legacy they left us is not in worldly goods but in their example of faith, hard work and Christian virtues. I’m prejudiced, but they just don’t make them that way anymore!
“Thanks, mother. I owe you more than I could ever say. For the times just the two of us were at home in the farmhouse while the older children were in school, when you watched me play on the floor, you read to me, loved me, prayed for me. And when I needed a lap to sit on, you were there. Only heaven will reveal who you were and all that you did and the prayers you offered on my behalf. Whatever I’ve been able to accomplish in my life, I owe it all to you…I’m your last born, your “der kleine” (“the little one”) as you affectionately called me in German.
And yes, mother, we shall meet again.”
Erwin Lutzer

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Living in the Flesh... what does that mean for the Social Imagination?

What does living in the flesh mean? It means living in the world, everything in the world that has to do with engaging our fleshy senses. We should live according to the spirit in the flesh. In every man/woman's life there comes the situation as C.S. Lewis points in which he/she finds themselves having to make a choice and he/she knows in a moment - right from wrong and they know the 'right' option to choose. A man is not an animal; because, an animal would simply respond to what suits him/her needs in the moment and move on. Animal choices work like that because they are simple programs. There is no right or wrong choice for them in their natural state. If they are hungry, they get food by whatever means. Man is able to discern from advantages in the flesh and desire advantages which are unseen. Advantages such as joy which is unseen. It means that in man is the feeling that he/she ought to help/rescue/share. As Lewis writes in 'Mere Christianity' there is a 'third thing' which tells you that you ought to follow the impulse to help and suppress the impulse to run or take. Lewis also says that inside man there is a  knowing when to take up what he calls the first thing 'desire' for self gratification, and when not to and when to run 'the second thing' and when not to. What is that governs these options/things? The third thing - the spirit in man- his God given spirit.

Lewis recognizes like I do (as a sociologist) that there are things we learn from parents and teachers - Rule of Decent Behavior. But even in saying that, whose 'decent' are we taking about. In order to compare our 'decent' from someone else's we would have to acknowledge that there is a  model. Again, whose model. Some argue that it is what works for people in a place. That can be true but then no model is created out of that as in any place what works there does not create a universal or absolute model to make comparisons. Yet, somewhere in man there is an idea of what is decent and what is not. We would have to be taking a bird's eye 'fleshy' view in that case... the case that allows us to arrive at what is decent in one place and decent in another. But, by doing so, we fail as what is fleshy for me is not for you and hence no model or absolute truth can come out of that. However, the spirit - the third thing, because it is also inside and yet something greater than the first aspects of man's desires, made known to him/her as it is in him/her, does allow for and move man into 'third thing' application as in 'ought to do'. It is the spirit that discerns as Lewis said. The knowing when to reject fleshly desires and reject fear - run, in accepting the unseen advantage in doing what 'ought to be done'. This we see played out in American films all the time- the hero... the impulse desire (third thing) to save Private Ryan; that is not living in the flesh but in the spirit - what I may call the true 'social imagination'.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Fractal Social Reality

For too long, social scientists and their sociological theories have offered us the idea that the individual is the source of his/her own society; and hence, fractals though able to explain natural phenomena may not be applicable to human research. Social phenomena may be so complex that the sum of the parts are much more than the whole, that human interactions and meanings are building blocks but also create whole new structures that we call society. That is not true; there are no ‘whole new structures.’
If sociologists take an absolute position regarding society as an entity over and above the individual then Fractal reality is what we experience. Take for instance the fact that we cannot imagine anything beyond what we already know. Aliens look like compositions of what we already know, human constructs whether roads, buildings, computer programs contain pattern, repeating pattern and those patterns are socially constructed. One might say that math is at the helm of our constructs or science better yet; but as far as the sociologist is concerned or should be is that reality with its math and science is only that which we agree upon, including what math is and science is. We can even apply that to fractals, and of course we should because society and social life is a fractal experience. Read Castoriadis or Hofestadter.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Social Imagination - No Place in a Gray World

The social imagination has no place nor purpose in a gray world. The only place or purpose it has in a black and white world with shades of gray in between. I am not taking about skin color. I am talking about  how the social imagination is moved to stretch the imagination. What does that mean? It means that in a relativistic 'gray' world as the one that is being created by liberal progressives where everything is a shade of gray, there is no reason to aspire to anything, to want to be like someone else, to be moved by someone else's idea, music, art or literature. There would be no reason to produce those things knowing no one would be inspired by your art, music etc. It is someone else in our world that is unlike us, different from us that stirs our imagination to be either like them or unlike them even more than we already think. Either way, social dynamics come into play and social engagement produces social effects. Sometimes, good and sometimes not so good depends the opposition. Even conflict stirs the social imagination. In a gray world, what would social imagination have to do? After all, mine is as good as yours in a gray world.  Would it be? Would social imagination even exist in a gray world. The answer is No. Yet, this is the kind of reality that the liberal progressive seeks as it sounds nice because it sounds like everyone is beautiful, caring, happy, and dedicated and motivated. The question is to what would anyone be dedicated to, motivated toward, happy about, care about???? Let alone, would beauty even exist. You cannot know beauty without knowing what is not beautiful. Great things have been accomplished in the 'black and white' social imagination. Why/How? Because, it is distinct, it reveals what is ideal. There maybe shades of gray between the black and white but they exist in transitory. They are the illusion. The ideal is what is real and or realer. Because, without them nothing would be real.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Atheists Among US

Atheists among us. It is not our problem. Why not let them think that way? Well, for the Christian social imagination, that is problematic as a defender of Christianity and the sense of duty to convert - open people's eyes to the truth. The Bible tells us that "He was in the world,, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." John 1: 10-12 Therefore, we can as Christians accept that there will be those that will not receive him.
The latest applause for atheism can be found on the internet with declarations by young and old who state that science is what in their mind makes sense. What about science makes sense for them is ridiculous for me. Why? Because the idea that something comes from nothing is ridiculous. That life as an accident of the cosmos is for me more abstract than believing in and accepting 100% in a creator. The analogy is a computer program, all the characters in the program have been created and programmed to behave, some programs of higher tasks could someday have 'free will' through applications in quantum computer operations. Might we assume that such a program could/would seeks its creator? Yes, and we as the programmer wouldn't we be disappointed when it denies that a creator exists and that their existence was a fluke. Speaking as a Sociologist, the best argument against science as the end all argument concerning God as the creator is that science is a social creation, that all of life, which we experience socially, is only a creation in our mind, based on social encounter and what it means for and to us. All kinds of encounters including those which cause group discussion about existence. With that in mind, there will always be two schools of thought; just as we read in the Bible and as a computer programmer could expect... some will embrace the creator and some will not.  Does that mean science has no application? Science, as having a purpose or point in the question of whether or not a 'creator/programmer' exists, is irrelevant. The question simply is - Do you acknowledge the creator? Those that acknowledge the creator will likely be 'saved' by the creator and be moved to the next level.  It would be wise by the creator/programmer to save all creations/attributes and or simple programs running but not all those with 'free will' will choose to be saved and to continue. So, what about atheists among us? Exactly.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Food/Eating and Etiquette in the Social Imagiantion.

We all know or should know that food is an important part of everyday life and has contributed to the growth of cultures. Someone once said, "The plow gave way to civilization the formation of societies and all science". What that quote means is that society as we know it socially evolved  through agriculture and gathering around the table. So it is not surprising to know that the development of utensils to eat with came out of that as well. The place where people settled and 'got' civilized was largely through eating together what they produced together in that place.  Place then as it is today had/has much to do with shaping people's food consumption. As people settled in a place and grew what plants successfully in that place shaped their culture- their being and sharing social reality in a place. As cultures grew more sophisticated in what they produced, cooked and shared, so did the tools they used to eat with.  So, when you set down to eat your next meal you can to a great extent thank the Greeks, the Romans, the French, and the Chinese for helping to bring to you the ability to enjoy the delights in front of you. One of the oldest utensils ever used by man is the spoon. You thought that it would have been the knife right? Well, the spoon actually was the first as cavemen and their descendants would use various shaped shells to scoop out their food and eat. The hands worked for roasted meat but the spoon came about to get things that the hands just could not hold. Archaeological evidence shows that the earliest spoons were made of shells (sea shells and snail shells) and even pieces of wood that were slightly curved. The most far reaching design of a spoon came from the Romans. They developed long handles with round and oval ends to help hold the food better. Due to the vast Roman Empire and the influence they had on cultures, the new spoon designs took off. The first ones though made of shell and wood continued for many centuries. Over the time the rich were able to have gold and silver ones. But the development of tin and pewter in cutlery brought the most advanced spoons into the hands of the masses. Forks have become one of the most basic of our dining instruments.  They date back as far as the Greeks, but originally were created with two tines as a spearing utensil.  Dining was not the intent of the first fork creation.  Cutting and serving was the main purpose in which two tines worked wonderfully.  By the seventh century it was common place at the tables.  Originally, like most things, it was the rich who had them first.  They were very ornate.  Yet Europe was very slow to adopt this tool.  Many comments were made that God created hands and that was good enough for them.  Eventually, small forks could be found to retrieve messy foods so that the hands could stay relatively clean.  As the years rolled by, the forks were used more and more.  It was in the seventh century that forks with four tines were developed.  The inventors saw that when using the two tines, food could easily slip through it.  The addition of two extra tines kept the food on the fork.

Moreover, in the social imagination, how we eat is socially determined and what we eat as well. Food has a sociological significance that far outweighs the attention it has received. The willingness to share food, for example, 'potluck supper' defines membership in social groups. Affirming, who is who, what they bring and how much. There are so many interesting aspects of behavior that are directly food related. For instance, consumption patterns, nutritional trends, lay beliefs and practices, eating disorders, shortage and plenty, as well as the impact of technology and dining out.

Tara Tober, a University of Virginia graduate student in Sociology said boldly "Sociologists have largely ignored food until recently, because it was seen as just biological, something we needed to survive". "But it is very much social when you think about what we eat, who we eat it with and where we eat it."
Tober said that the surrounding society influences the development of individual taste, explaining why some foods are very much identified with nations, such as kimchi in Korea or tea in England or potatoes in Ireland. Some ethnic groups eat foods that other ethnic groups sternly reject. "Taste and preferences are socially shaped," Tober said. "They are not as individual as people think." Even though globalization has broken down some barriers and introduced people to new foods.  And, “despite modern mythology”, Tober said, “national studies show families have dinner together an average of five days a week”. Excerpt from - You Are What You Eat: A Course at the University of Virginian, by Matt Kelly 2008.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Meaning, Choice and even Science

For me the social imagination is the most fascinating phenomenon. The moon and stars and the Milky Way too are interesting phenomenon, but the social imagination beats them all.  Why? Because, without it, reality as we know (in the social imagination) would not exist, no moon, stars or Milky Way. As I have said many times over, what things mean to us as Americans do not mean the same to others in different parts of the world. We make choices based on what people,places and things mean to us. How do we get meaning? It comes to us through the social imagination; I oughta know I wrote a 300 page dissertation on it. Before I wrote, others did too. I name them all in my thesis: Max Weber, Charles H. Cooley, Albert Schutz, Berger and Luckmann, Castoriadis, and Pierre Bourdieu to name a few. I list Weber first because he is my guru on the topic of choice and then Cooley for 'meaning'.
What may seem incredible for most people to imagine is that even 'our' science is just our imagination of some kind of order that describes what we are imagining. Western civilization let us just point to western social imagination is rooted in the idea of the individual. This idea came out of Roman/Greek political thought and Judeo-Christian traditions. Max Weber wrote that the man with this kind of socio-cultural heritage has the world view of 'mastery/rejection' over the earth.  Mastery comes out of Judeo-Christianity as does rejection. Christians are told that they have the responsible authority over the earth (*See Genesis) = hence, mastery. And, rejection means to reject what is and create something new. This 'rejecting' goes with mastery. We can reject the 'tree' as just a tree and create furniture, a house, a simple machine = catapult i.e. We can make choices that suggest superiority over another man's choice as in results of which choice was more successful.  Western man likes to associate with the better choice in order to fit in. It suggests to him/her certain choices produce better effects in mastery. Of course, there are some similar religions that Weber observed regarding mastery. But, the difference lies in the attention that the individual gets for being able to master his/her behavior, his/her thoughts and actions that produce successful outcomes for the good of the whole.  Christianity is a direct result of this take on individuality. Again, our science is based on that same world view that Weber observed. This week, a probe landed on an orbiting comet. Amazing, but for me the more amazing aspect is why would we (international project led by Western scientists- European Space Agency) even imagine doing it. It is still about world/cosmic mastery. "I think that humans have to go into space more and take ownership of the solar system,” says Denton Ebel, chairman of the division of physical sciences at the American Museum of Natural History, calling efforts such as Rosetta “the logical next step” of human space exploration."
One could argue that Americans and Europeans work with people from other countries on projects. True. In my research I was curious if Americans/Europeans when in contact with other cultures over a period of time would adopt other cultural aspects. They did not. What is interesting for me is that when we have a 'western' science team, others can be on board, but they are doing what the western team wants to do. Meaning, choice and science in the western social imagination is about and observed in western world mastery.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Meaning is Everything in the Social Imagination!

The biggest short comings that people have of others is this - what someone/something means to you does not mean the same to me and this is the root/heart of all social/cultural conflict. Does this mean that social reality is totally subjective? In the liberal/progressive imagination, I would say definitely yes. However, in many cultures/societies, social reality is based on objective truth even absolutes. Which means essentially, that we all know what this or that means implicitly, intrinsically, inside and out. With that knowledge, that everyone here knows this or that in the same way, the depth of meaning is equal/mutual, trust is locked in, confidence in the system rises and expectations are high knowing that we can expect this or that kind of behavior, things run more smoothly in that kind of environment, there is no second guessing "what will they think of me, will they like me, will they bully me for who I am, will I be able to fit in, etc. The United States is on the border of social schizophrenia (a mental state marked by disorganized behavior).  Meaning is the very fabric that holds together culture, society or a community. We have to agree on what this or that means for us and to us. Even simple gestures can mean different things to different people. Look what Putin did in China, he gave the first lady of China his coat and a international scandal is on the front page.


Here is the US, this might be seen not as gallant but as sexual harassment or a national embarrassment given that everyone knows in the USA that every feminist in America is responsible for her own warmth and coat. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Decadent Emperors: Powers and Depravity...Big Government likes Grazing

Social Engineering is not an incredible feat. It has been practiced for a long time. Before, I tell the connection between then and now (as you read, you likely get it from the start), I want to comment on a popular morning which showed the hidden agenda of the progressive left; now being propelled through basic food consumption. Most Americans are being fed the 'grazer' mentality in that it is better for you. The grazer eats little tid-bits throughout the day. What kind of food are they grazing on? They are being advised to graze on snacks, simply ....puffed grains as the healthiest. Not that grains, or puffed grains are bad for you but I can tell you that I have had more problems eating puffed grains than eating chicken or fish or lean pork. Effectually, what this grazer lifestyle does is break down the family and causes individuals to graze 'wander the buffet of the progressive agenda' like herds on the plain but not of the wide open spaces, on the plain of big government. Grazing, whether food or politics, or ideologies,  is a strategy that causes people to detach from old ways of thinking, old traditions... to detach from each other culturally and from any shared socio-historical politics. Its aim to so allow Big Gov to spread out and bring in more people that it can't feed people so they devise a plan for them to feed on less while making them more dependent and lacking in richer identity. Isn't it enough to be a citizen? Caracalla thought so. Who was he? Does it matter? 
Caracalla was a ruler of a huge empire. He thought it wise to spread the borders of the empire thinner and thinner - farther and farther; gathering more and more people. Caracalla welcomed them all. On the surface this looked generous but as citizens they were now subject to taxes which they would not otherwise have to pay. Caracalla may not have been aware that his reform (to spread out and be all inclusive) contributed to the de-stablization of the empire. he may not even have been aware that the Empire was being de-stablized all the while he was in power. The granting of citizenship to more and more people outside the city/state/nation was part of 'his' larger process; so was the Oriental influence that was beginning to color the lives of ordinary citizens so was the popular 'ism' of the day which had held the upper classes for many generations, inducing them to scorn traditional ways and admire only that which was Modern; so was the extent to which barbarians, some of them only very superficially civilized, were occupying important posts. The once conservative, sturdy nation which stood for government for the people and by the people was turning into an amorphous monster that sprawled all over the world and no longer knew its own identity.
 Adapted from a segment out of the book - The Decadent Emperors: Powers and Depravity in Third-Century Rome, by George C. Brauer Jr.

You see, Rome had the same plan... get people grazing and not paying attention. However, the longer they fail to pay attention, the weaker they get and the foundation that held up Rome, crumbled away beneath the feet of the powerful.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A View on the Separation of Church and State

Speaking from a sociological perspective, it is a good idea to have separation of church and State. The two are totally different entities. This does not mean that a State cannot be based on or supported by the doctrine of a religion/church or faith. However, it is important that these two social institutions remain separate because they are fundamentally different. The State is an entity called government, whether by the people or not, reins in or controls society in order to benefit the common good which in many societies observed throughout history this has been the case; and quite often those in government positions have a family history of being in government and or are members of the ruling elite. Given that, to impose upon people what you think is good or right is to their (ruling elite) benefit then and not the churches.  Most people reading this are passionate spirit believers and cannot accept that the real strength in bringing people to Christ is to rest in Him and that is faith which is about accepting God’s grace. Living under the law was removed at the cross.  All too often, Americans turn to the law (listen to Dr. Erwin Lutzer’s program on Basis for Morality, What the Cross can do and Politics Can’t - online radio program 'Running to Win') The fault of Americans is the idea that suffering is bad and hence we turn more and more to the law to end suffering. We rally together to stop suffering.  That is why we have lobbyists... groups lobbying for law to stop suffering that we feel we are undergoing and if only given power in the State our suffering will end... Hebrews thought and did just that in the past.
Our Founding Fathers experienced opposing views on the role of the State and thankfully realized that as long as the State does not take control or take sides and allows for all people in the State to practice free market and what they believe, that life will be as fair as it possibly can in this fallen world.  That is why, any State funded public facility or place cannot show favoritism toward any one religion over another. They can all be represented equally or not represented at all by the State.
Can people of the State go into public facilities, ministering? Based on the above, the answer is no.  Is this problematic for the Christian? Yes and No. Yes, because he/she is required to minister the word of God. I would argue that one can do that through behavior which sends a message that can be as clear as a bell of any scripture; and therefore, it is not problematic for the Christian. As I Stated above, rest in the Lord.  I would add though and even stress that it is problematic for the Christian who is a zealous in his thinking and even repenting as this often leads them to think that by his/her own works and pressing upon others his/her view of scripture is doing the will of the Creator.  Handing out shoe boxes, even to children, is not the same as the ‘roadside Samaritan’ which shows us that situations will come to us or be made available to us in which we should be prepared for and thus will know it is the right situation to minister.  Many ministries today seek to radically change the individual’s situation.  Is that their job? Christ Jesus is the Savior.
Many will argue that this is what we are called to do. I know from my own experience that radical approaches do not work.  Neither does the approach to go with gifts. There is no benefit for the Christian or the non-Christian as such offerings can lead to the receiver believing  more in the bearer of gifts than in the message intended which is to tell everyone that they (by themselves) can reach out to the Lord. 
As a child, I believed in Santa Claus and did not want to accept that my parents were the ones giving the gifts.  One could argue that ‘Santa’ is like Jesus and the missionary like the parents. I also know that as a child, getting those presents from ‘Santa Claus’ was special. Did I truly believe he was the provider? No, because I already had a Christian background. I was able to appreciate that my parents were the ones behind the scenes as I knew that they were spirit filled and chose to give gifts. Yes, this is the missionary’s idea too. But, they forget that if the receive does not already have a Christian background, the message can be received differently. However, children are exceptional in that they can often see past the veil of deception and they see the true spirit in people. That’s my opinion.  What worries me is that such gift giving could turn parents and children against each other as the parents could be insulted by the missionary who is doing for his/her child.
Yes, we want suffering to stop. Feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, including children, is a job to be done by all; but, we as Christians have to be and should be most careful as to how we go about doing it. Why?
 Ask yourself, are you a Christian because a missionary/pastor/neighbor gave you gifts every year at a certain time or are you a Christian because you were introduced to the Creator of Heaven and Earth simply through His word you gave to believe in the Lord God Jesus Christ, without candy/gifts.  Give a Bible and tell those who can read to Read Acts 17:24 to all who cannot. People need to be encouraged to reach out to the Lord and seek a relationship with Him.  Like Mike Brown says “you think about that.” 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Get Your Facts Right!

 The Social Imagination is Fascinating

 Get your facts right

By Ben Hirschler
LONDON (Reuters) - Italians and Americans score worst when it comes to correctly assessing basic facts of modern life, such as what proportion of the population are immigrants or Muslims and what percentage of teenage girls get pregnant.
Swedes and Germans do best, although even they consistently get things wrong, according to a survey of 14 industrialized countries released on Wednesday.
The analysis by market research organization Ipsos MORI shows how far perceptions stray from reality across a range of issues as people struggle to get a precise handle on aspects of society that are seen as risks or worries.
Levels of immigration -- a hot-button topic in many developed countries -- are overestimated everywhere but the United States veers further from reality than most, with an average guess that 32 percent of the population are immigrants when the reality is 13 percent.
Italy fares even worse, with an average guess of 30 percent against a real figure of only seven percent.
Italians are also spectacularly bad at estimating the number of old people in the country, believing that 48 percent are over 65 years old. In reality, the over-65s make up a fifth of the population -- a relatively high figure but no higher than in Germany and considerably lower than in Japan.
Teenage pregnancy is another issue where people everywhere get the sums badly wrong, reflecting the difficulty of assessing occurrences that are relatively rare.
Americans think 24 percent of girls aged 15 to 19 give birth each year, when the real figure is just 3 percent, and even the sensible Swedes are badly out, believing the annual teenage pregnancy rate is 8 percent compared to the actual 0.7 percent.
"People are just not very good at math and they find it particularly hard to make estimates about very large numbers or very small numbers," said Bobby Duffy, global director of the Ipsos Social Research Institute.
"It seems people remember vivid anecdotes about things, regardless of whether they are describing something very rare."
Health experts have bemoaned similar perception problems in the current Ebola outbreak, where public alarm over a handful of cases in the United States is at odds with the real risks. This topic was not covered in the survey, which was conducted in August among more than 11,000 people across the 14 countries.
Estimating religious groupings in society is another area where perception is seriously out of kilter with reality. Like other controversial topics, it is a subject where media coverage is likely to play a role in exaggerating misconceptions.
People hugely overestimate the proportion of Muslims living in their country, with the French putting the figure at 31 percent, when the real figure is 8 percent. The British guess at 21 percent (real figure 5 percent) and Americans estimate 15 percent (real figure 1 percent).
Even in countries such as Hungary, Poland, South Korea and Japan, where fewer than one percent of the population is Muslim, people put the figure at four to seven percent.
By contrast, majority-Christian countries tend to underestimate how many people count themselves as Christian.
The ramifications of widespread ignorance about basic measures of what is happening in society are unclear but they could potentially influence behavior and undermine rational political debate.
If, as the survey found, people routinely underestimate the proportion of the population that votes in elections, there may be a persistent downward drift in voter turnout.
Similarly, if people are not accurately assessing the impact of policies in areas such as immigration, then action by governments may not influence the political debate as expected.
Much of the disconnect may be down to "emotional innumeracy" when answering, according to Duffy, who believes people may be sending a message about what is worrying them as much as trying to reply to the questions correctly.
"Cause and effect can run both ways, with our concern leading to our misperceptions as much as our misperceptions creating our concern," he said.
(Editing by Gareth Jones)