Re: virus: Cow

psypher (
Wed, 26 May 1999 13:42:00 -0400 (EDT)

> So how do you account for cultural products like Sesame Street? That
> used to have loads of sketches which had muppets failing, then
> deciding to cooperate, then succeeding. As far as I'm concerned
> that's US culture deliberately fostering cooperative interaction
> between kids. I'm surprised at the sbsolutism of your post, I'm
> wondering if our definitions are different.

...I'm guessing that our definitions are the same, but our experiences are different. Sticking with Sesame Street for a minute the program indeed fosters cooperative interaction between kids but it's embedded in a larger cultural context that promotes us/them dichotomies between groups. When that system of dichotomies is phrased, [for lack of a better word] in such a way that the "us" group gets progressively smaller and smaller then the basis for cooperation on any but the smallest scales is greatly eroded.

> I think personally that ALL cultures both foster cooperative AND
> exploitative strategies in their members' dealings with people from
> other cultures... at the same time.

...In retrospect I did overstate my original formulation. To be more clear, I should have said there is presently no culture enshrined in a hierarchy which fosters cooperation [while there are plenty of subcultures which do]. Cooperation is fostered within a system of cost/benefit analysis - people are encouraged to cooperate when it is to their advantage, but the ways in which they are taught to discern advantage are restricted to destructive measurements.

> what else do you think accounts for culture? I mean, obviously
> people sometimes develop ideas while they sit alone in a room,
> that development doesn't become part of the culture until they
> introduce it to other people, does it? And obviously there's culture
> encoded in books, but if nobody reads them and then has a dialogue
> with someone else, they're pretty culturally inert, aren't they?

...culture has its basis in interactions between individual people, yes, but culture itself is the stories we tell each other and ourselves to give that interaction meaning. When the only explanatory medium availiable for contextualizing action is divorced from the people acting - when the members of a culture must explain their actions in terms foreign to their experience - then the structure collapses.
...culture is a level of interaction composed of biological units [people] but its essence is emergent from the interaction of those units. When an order [culture] is imposed on those units from an alien source in a drive for control a rift is formed between lived experience and the stories that give it meaning.

> Try and take this as fairly non-hostile questioning by the way. I'm
> just surprised at how... total your viewpoint seems.

...I'm a media kid, I grew up surrounded by a communications mediascape that did everything it promised except communicate. So I [and most people I know in my cohort] have a sort of schizophrenic point of view, simultaneously being subjected to our own experience and the interpretive structure of a story-sphere foreign to that experience.
...I only have one point of view lived in one local node but the components of my world are everywhere. I see foreign people in foreign lands wearing the same logos and brandnames, consuming the same products as the people who share my house and so there's an illusion of 'totality', I guess, smeared over everything. ...we're taught to define ourselves by our purchases and products and consumer allegiance and then we [as a culture] exploint people who are the same as us in the only respect we're taught to understand. ...I don't know how good a job that does of explaining my perspective here, but it's a process.

> Well:
> 1 That 2nd sentence is a /very/ abstract statement. I was
> considering putting it in my last post, a kind of pre-emptive
> acknowledgement of the point, but realised I had no basis for

> the conclusion.

...which conclusion?

How do you MEASURE the gap? Distributions of
> life-expectancies? Inca kings had a way, way better time physically
> than peasants, can we possibly judge whether that's a smaller
> difference than between the "elite" and the poor today?

...I'd measure the gap [assuming it's somethig availiable to measurement] by the degree to which the less-advantaged are represented and participate in the network of stories and relations that define the structure of the culture. ...I'd also say an Inca peasant with knowledge of her/his node in the web of the culture, who can answer a question of [why?] is better off than a sharecropper in central America who's been driven off her/his land which they've been connected to for generations and is now allowed back on the condition that they grow cash crops for the new owners that they've never seen, and now can't feed their family because they've been enveloped by a system based on precepts which are incomprehensible to them.

> 2 It's not my point. I'm still convinced that a randomly picked
> being now has a better standard of living than another randomly
> picked HB 2000 years ago would've. are you measuring 'standard of living'?

If what you're saying is true,
> wouldn't we expect the descendants of Year 100BCE hill farmers to be
> worse off than their ancestors, because the rich have been doing
> nothing but attacking them all that time?

...I'm going to admit bias here, in that I'm part of a generation that's been fed a dream of doing better than our parents, same as the ones before us - Canada has more or less the same dream of progress that the states has. So we're told this all our lives and then we grow up a bit and we realize that's not going to happen - on the whole we're going to do worse.
...There's been a lot of rhetoric flying around for the past 30 years or so from various camps along the lines of "what impact will our decisions in relation to these resources/environment/etc. have on our kids". Well, I'm one of those kids. From where I stand, the fact that the world is broken is pretty much self-evident.

> Not JUST at their cost. Looks like I might provoke a
> Wade-Smith-style rape-rage reaction, but it's not as simple as 100%
> exploitation. There is also an element of trade to the ways world
> cultures interact.

...but the individuals in the cultures aren't the ones doing the trading. Decisions get made on behalf of enormous collections of humyn beings by a very, very tiny cadre. Increasingly the terms of those agreements are dictated and defined by persons with no experiential connection to the peple on whose behalf they claim to be acting.

Have you read about game theory? I reckon when
> cultures interact you're seeing on a macro-level an ecology of
> interactions, involving exploitations, attacks, and instances of
> TRADE, which I think is the basis of cultural symbiosis.

...only a very small amount, so I'll decline comment. I'm still learning.

> They are sometimes. EG Live Aid, ha ha ha NATO (hilarious example),
> but hey, forming an alliance between remote countries, that IS human
> organisms acting together on a larger scale, isn't it?

...but the decisions to do so are made apart from the participants in the organisms. Groups of people are told what they're going to do from ouside sources. We're still organized along the basis of the nation-state, but the people who make the decisions don't share the same allegiances and experiences as the people for whom they presume to act.

...and I didn't take your questioning as hostile at all. I hope my responses are likewise civil.

-psypher Fastmail's Free web based email for Canadians