Exploring the Social Imagination

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

God and Country

God and Country
There is much discussion today about whether or not religion should be part of a sense of nationhood...  nationalism- sense of being a member of a nation/country; and, whether or not God and country go together as the best practice. For a long time, people in this country thought so. There is much argument that any religion which includes the belief in 'God' (the maker of heaven and earth) is not important when it comes to a nation 'sense of country'.  Ironic is that we do practice civil religion. What is that? Emile Durkheim observed it as the mixing of 'scared beliefs' with that concept of 'state'. What does civil religion look like in the US... it is recognized in our social doctrines 'documents' i.e. Declaration of Independence and the Constitution including the Bill of Rights. We find in those documents and in our practice of social capital our idea of the individual who is a kind of underdog, an overcomer of the world. Where does this idea come from? It comes from Christianity. Max Weber recognized this a long time ago when he made observations/studies of different religions and their world views.  The Judeo-Christian religion has as its sacred the 'hero/savior'... in that anyone can be a hero - self sacrificing for the one (as revealed in many mass media productions i.e. Saving Private Ryan) and at the same time understood as simultaneously helping sustain the common good.
Has that civil religion been good for America? Americans would think so. Is God necessary for a positive functioning society/ a country? I would answer that depends on who is running the country. If we are talking about a republic then I would say yes, the belief in the same God is necessary since we are talking about government for the people and by the people. The belief in the Christian God is best for this kind of social entity. Why? Because, whether we have an organized church (as many perceive religion to be) or not does not matter as long as we as a country/nation recognize that where there are two/three gathered in His name, we have church. This idea,in my opinion, is the very foundation of a democratic republic as it suggests that 'we the people' gather together and we are able to as we recognize in each other the same creator/motivator/purpose/goal.  It also recognizes and accepts that out of a small group (grass roots collective) there can arise a hero/savior.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Forgiveness in the Social Imagination

Forgiveness in the Social Imagination.

Peter asked Jesus, How many times must I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Jesus answered, 77x's. Matthew 18:24

Even if you are not a Christian, and or not believing in a creator, the practice of forgiveness is still essential for a well functioning society. Why? Because this act of forgiving allows a person to socially fix what is wrong between social actors. It allows social actors to move forward together and not apart or separate. It overcomes corruption and provides a foundation for the practice of the common good.

Unforgiven acts committed by people (in this fallen world, we all do things that hurt other people) do not allow people to move forward toward peace, harmony, common good, greater endeavors. It is difficult for people to forgive, they think that by not forgiving they have accomplished something greater. This is false logic. Or there are those who say that they can forgive but only if people to pay for what they did; either by money or incarceration. That is not forgiveness, that is only malice... getting back. At this moment, I usually hear 'But... but what if, but that is not fair if we just let people do what they want, get away with' ...
And what should be done! Throw them to the lions??? Would that be enough, probably not. Yet, a lot people would like to live by the Old Testament "an eye for an eye". That was the social imagination when people lived under the law of Moses, when there was no forgiveness.
Today, we can thank God our Lord Jesus Christ that our sins have been forgiven. Because of that knowledge, people unless they are sick (mentally ill), understand immediately when they do something wrong or hurtful (sin no matter how wicked) and what they desire and need is to be brought back to the fold, brought back into the social imagination (God's imagination), and in order to overcome what they did by being forgiven. As a sociologist, what is the most vital aspect of forgiveness when it comes to society's positive functioning is that it makes a way for people to repent... Rethink!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Absolutism vs Relativism

A metaphor for discerning between Absolutism and Relativism.

There were three umpires discussing their approach to the game... doing their job. 

The first one said, "when it comes to balls and fouls, I call them as they are."
The second one said, "when it comes to balls and fouls, I call them as I see them."
The third one said, "when it comes to balls and fouls, they ain't nothing til I call them." 

Which one accepts that an absolute truth exists? 

The relativist is always seeking the truth but that truth is always their truth... and so I ask what is seeking truth about??? Good question. They answer is that it is the seeking. Or, I have heard that it is about growing... but, I say No, that is really denying growth. How is growing up in your own truth growth? If anything it only means that you are changing your mind and will continue to change your mind. That is not growing! 
If you tell a person of the relativistic view that they actually seek an absolute, they will deny that too; which is obvious that they do seek an absolute... mmm their own absolute which is not anyone's.. guess then that it is not an absolute. Their justification is that they seek an ultimate self truth which they can only know. I say that is sad... because ultimately there is no sharing in that. Why??? Because if I have my 'own' absolute truth it can never be yours cause you already have your own. They don't get that either. 

What is absolute truth? The Word of God! The creator of heaven and earth and all things seen and unseen!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rationality... Really????

What does it mean to be rational? We think somehow that there is a given rationale for everything existing on its own somewhere out there waiting to be discovered by a rational thinker. Who is a rational thinker anyway? It is a person who waits to see what everyone else is saying and then either goes along with them or rejects what they say and provides his/her own social view depending on the advantage they speculate they will have either from agreeing or not and if not, what advantage they may gain by introducing something else... and that something that they introduce is not alien or isolated or 'new'... it too comes from the same social complexity as just described. 
Too often my colleagues fail to realize that what is rational/rational choice is simply the best of various irrational choices available to us and there are plenty. A rational choice is simply deciding which of those irrational activities or behaviors will have the best outcome. So to ask ... What are the various aspects of rationality??? one may well ask what are the various aspects of irrationality and what impact do they have on decision-making, we might well ask what are the aspects of irrationality and how do they impact making decisions in a manner calculated to yield maximal benefit. Because, that is what really happens. We go from irrationality to something which we agree to be the best of those and call it rational... essentially that is right. 
You see, we live in a social reality which is composed of information socially imagined, obtained and exchanged. All information is correct in the moment of exchange because it is all we have to go and make a choice to use it not knowing that any other alternative exists. We can of course suppose that other alternatives do exist which maybe in fact better choices but in the moment when decision is called for, we can only act on the information we have and treat it as true and correct. Even in cases, when we are quite sure we have accurate information, it can still change and believe me it does. A new report comes out, a new study was done and or miscommunication of information was revealed and thus the cause of misinformation...
You see, living in a social reality there can only be what is called agreement reality. A group of people, whether it is either a town/village community or a scientific community does not matter because what matters is how they together decide what something is and what it is not. When agreement is reached, that becomes the norm and part of social reality.
With such knowledge social engineers can manipulate reality... which is really quite easy today given the  vast and speedy social networking and telecommunication the masses are engaged in daily. 
Social engineers can also apply the Sabido Methodology. The Sabido Method is a methodology for designing and producing serialized dramas on radio and television that can win over audiences while imparting prosocial values. How does this actually happen? The Sabido Method is based on character development and plot lines that provide the audience with a range of characters that they can engage with — some good, some not so good — and follow as they evolve and change. Miguel Sabido developed this methodology when he was Vice President for Research at Televisa in Mexico in the 1970s.
Change is the key to the Sabido methodology. Characters may begin the series exhibiting the antithesis of the values being taught, but through interaction with other characters, twists and turns in the plot, and sometimes even outside intervention, come to see the value of the program’s underlying message. Sounds dangerous???
Depends on how you look at it and who you are. Initially, this was an 'innocent' user friendly method of social engineering to boost family planning in Mexico. But, today it is used for other social agendas.
What is rational about that, again depends on who benefits and it is usually elites at the top as they seek to secure their positions and retain the system that allows them to succeed continually.
Where and who are they, these elites? They are people at the top of power and money that includes: institutions of higher learning, people in government, business and those involved in international cooperation/conflict. It is there rationality that all other people are subjected to live by; and all those other people are easily convinced by those rational thinking 'elite' people that made the rules, the right rules for them to live by.
Years ago, the social reality was different and yet the same. All people then like today come under the ruling elite. The difference was that elites were somehow more moral years ago than they are today or appeared to be. That is why, that argument does not hold because we can't know for sure they hadn't intended immorality which never came to fruition. So, their social engineering agendas did not apply and hence elites look more moral. However, it is quite easy to appear just as moral or immoral even though it seems easier to be immoral.  Even if that is not making sense, the case at hand is rationality... really? You tell me what is it to be rational without being moral; it means to get the most out of any irrational situation.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Religion of isms... Extremes in Social Imagination

As a sociologist, I agree with the definition that religion is whatever you believe in strongly and that such belief guides your thinking and behavior; hence many isms can be your religion. Today, the new religion that seems to gaining membership is Environmentalism. There is nothing wrong with be a good steward of the earth as it is a wonderful gift that keeps on giving. In Genesis we can read that God ask man to do exactly that. Genesis 2: 15 "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." Interesting how "take care of' is being interpreted as caretaker which fits to the idea of maintain a gift that keeps on giving. This for some seems to be somehow contradicted earlier on in Genesis 1:28 "God blessed them and said to them (Adam and Eve) be fruitful and multiple, fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." The interpretation of this segment has been that man has authority over the earth. He has been asked to subdue it, often interpreted as 'take over' from where God left off.  Both of these in their interpretations are used as belief foundations for social structures. In the later, man appears to be a program that is designed to take over and become a creator himself, allowed by and encouraged by his creator. The discussion today is ... 'are we to be the man who 'takes care'... to be the caretaker or the man  created to 'take over' from where God left off?'
Environmentalists who practice environmentalism, whether they consider themselves to be Christian or not, tend to be of the caretaker 'collective mentality' social imagination; and many of this 'caretaker imagination' tend to be on the extreme end of this collective mentality leading in the direction of worshiping the environment. Is there a danger in that? Yes. There is always a social danger when social actors become extreme in their beliefs ... behaviors and thus practice isms. It is dangerous when people of the caretaker 'collective mentality' social imagination put the environment first....before people especially when practiced as an ism as this has the tendency to morph into an extreme form. Any extreme practice of any ism is detrimental for society. Why? For the sociologist it is obvious... because, isms come and go...people matter most for society as without people there is no society.
Is there also the danger when people social actors of the 'collective mentality' social imagination believe in the subduing the earth as in taking over from where God left off? Of course, as this kind of thinking in an extreme practice of taking over can lead to control and  abusing the environment which also affects people/all of society. Ultimately, we as social scientists have to consider which is the greater of the two isms/evils? As a sociologist, it is a given that people are the most amazing creation. Therefore, I would have to say that the social imagination that worships the environment is most dangerous... the collective mentality that puts the environment before people as their main practice is an extreme and most dangerous for any society. This kind of collective mentality 'social imagination' can become the religion of environmentalism. As for the other extreme collective mentality that of taking over, we find it leads to one of the worst practices of isms: relativism. In sum, all forms of extreme behavior / isms are detrimental for society. Point being, when something is believed in strongly, it becomes a religion; often observed in isms: socialism, capitalism, communism, pluralism, structuralism, fatalism, Islamism, Protestantism, Catholicism, relativism, environmentalism....