Exploring the 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.