Wisdom ID Who's Failing? Reality Check Other Ways Insights False Idols Conclusions Background

Dominant Failures, Hidden Successes

Perceived Problems, Attempted Solutions

Dominant Failures, Hidden Successes Next
Note: This online summary of my Wisdom project is an incomplete work-in-progress. I'm in the process of adapting and incorporating hundreds of pages of content and hundreds of images that I've developed or acquired from hundreds of sources over a period of 15 years. The project is ongoing and is never truly complete, nor finished, but this note will be removed when the material is up-to-date.

War...Failed states & refugees...Terrorism...Slavery & oppression...Climate change & natural disasters...Mass killings, school violence, police violence...Depletion of natural resources...Economic inequality, poverty & homelessness...Habitat loss, species extinction, loss of biological diversity...Global epidemics & resistant diseases...Crumbling infrastructure...Drug addiction and drug trafficking...Soaring cost of healthcare...Stress disorders, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, depression...Epidemic obesity & diabetes...Polarizing media...Illegal immigration...Student loan debt...Loss of autonomy & dignity in retirement communities & nursing homes...New technologies with unknown long-term effects...Racism & intolerance...These are some, but not all, of the problems facing humans today.

Are we making progress? Is there hope for the future? Surely the greatest civilization the world has ever known can solve these problems, deploying its knowledge, power, wealth, and advanced technology! Surely our children, who have been given every advantage, can "change the world" and "save the planet"! This is where most peoples' hope lies. This is what the beneficiaries of the Aztec empire believed, and the Inca, the Maya, the Mongols, the Ottomans, the Byzantines, the Romans, the Greeks, the Persians, the Egyptians, and every powerful society throughout history.

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Human Nature

Despite our hubris, humans are animals like any other, and our species behavior tends toward aggression, dominance, and coercion – individual over individual, individual over group, group over individual, group over group – in both the social and ecological spheres – and this behavior is unstable, destructive, and ultimately self-destructive, both socially and ecologically, resulting in the cyclical nature of most societies.

Specific dominant societies rise and fall, but at any point in time, this coercive behavior is the majority behavior across our global population, indicating that it is very hard to suppress. Hence, at any point in time, the majority of humans belong to unstable, destructive societies.

Observation & Mystery
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Hidden Successes

However, throughout history, overlooked or disparaged by the dominant societies, many more modest societies learn to suppress their coercive behavior and thrive cooperatively and consensually without the temporary wealth, power, or advanced technology of their "superiors", effectively caring for both their members and their natural habitats and successfully adapting to changes in their external environments.

Observation & Mystery
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Veil of Illusion

Meanwhile, in the short term, we members of dominant societies sense that our problems are proliferating, and, betrayed by the layers of misperceptions and misconceptions which constitute our cultural conditioning, we disagree, sometimes violently, on both problems and solutions.

Our cultural conditioning is like a veil of illusion. Regardless of our point of view within our society, much of what we've been taught is backwards or upside down. For example, the success of a society does not have to be determined by its dominance, or even by its survival. Many thriving communities have been conquered or destroyed by more powerful and aggressive societies; the entire species could be wiped out by an asteroid impact, but that would not invalidate our achievements.

Our hubris is misplaced, our worldview is inaccurate, our beliefs are unfounded, our values are scrambled. The emperor truly has no clothes.

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Blind Experts

Celebrated scholars of the Anglo-European tradition, from the early Greeks and Romans to Edward Gibbon in the 18th century and Jared Diamond in the 21st, have attempted to explain the success or failure ("collapse") of civilizations.

But by reasoning from positions of power within dominant societies, they've typically defined success in self-serving terms: political dominance by means of superior military power, technology, wealth, and/or population. They want to have their cake and eat it too.

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False Apocalypse

Conventional history, written by the victors, defends dominant societies on the premise that the decline or collapse of civilization leads to chaos and a reversion to "savagery", as we see in contemporary examples of civil war and failed states.

But a closer, more objective look at history shows that local communities and habitats often thrive when central governments fail and the dominance of empire is removed. In Europe, the dominant view of history labeled the period after the fall of the Roman Empire as the "Dark Ages", and this has become a popular cliche among defenders of civilization. But actually, the "Dark Ages" were a time of freedom and well-being across Western Europe as local societies recovered from the oppression of the Empire.

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Pictures of Knowledge

Since 2001, I've been using my training and experience in the arts and sciences to develop a visual philosophy called Pictures of Knowledge that, combined with simple storytelling, can help us to peel back the layers of cultural conditioning and to understand our failings and others' successes, reaching agreement without recourse to specialist "experts," by drawing pictures and telling stories about our shared experience.

 

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