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    nmw 14:23:18 on 2016/12/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , mission, mission statement, , , society, ,   

    The Rationality of Literacy 

    Over the past couple months, I have worked on developing a mission statement for one of my overarching goals – something like a „life goal“. Initial attempts were quite abstract, and I was greatly helped by the very considerate feedback of friends.

    In the intervening weeks since those first trials, I have kept the general aim present but I have focused on it much less. Over the past several days, I have received several ideas from other sources – more or less haphazardly, which have motivated me to reconsider this particular life goal again from a new perspective.

    For people who have been following my writing for several years, it should be no surprize that literacy is really at the crux of my thinking about many topics, and also with respect to this particular life goal for which I want to craft a mission statement. One thing that has been „bugging“ me for the past year or two is how my focus on literacy is considered by many – indeed, including myself – to be a non-human matter. In this view, reading, writing and arithmetic are technologies and therefore lack the warmth of flesh-and-blood human beings. Code and language are inert, not living things, and they cannot ultimately provide meaning in the same way as interaction with other humans can – as humans (so this argument) we are, after all, social animals.

    This view, however, interprets technology from a very parochial point of view. According to this perspective, technology is merely an artefact, a curiosity, a product… albeit of human ingenuity. We pound nails not because there is anything interesting about doing so, but merely because doing so makes our lives easier from the results of applying such technologies. There is nothing interesting about iron or steel per se, but rather such materials are only interesting insofar as they can be manipulated into helping to make nails, just as nails are only interesting insofar as they can be used to build more things. As an aside: It might make sense to think about how the technologies we use also create threating things – such as global warming, nuclear waste, AIDS and/or many other problems.

    Yet let me not drift away from the current issue – crafting my mission statement. I view language and literacy somewhat differently than most… and over the years, my thinking about these things has also undergone continued development and refinement. While I have long known (or believed) that language cannot be owned (e.g. by a monarch) or dictated (e.g. to the masses), I am now at a point where I feel it may be useful to extrapolate beyond this rather mundane and obvious fact to recognize a „rationality of literacy“, in which people make a rational decision to engage with each other via linguistic technologies. In this vein, literacy is also not simply owned or attained, but rather it is practiced (or – in the case of illiteracynot practiced).

    This is important because it redirects our attention away from the ownership of resources to the actual use of such resources. To give a concrete example: In order to engage with „cars“, it is not necessary to own cars. Engagement with cars can also happen when someone references cars. Statements like „cars are good“ or „cars are bad“ are social expressions insofar as there is agreement within a society regarding what these words (and expressions) mean.

    Likewise, our level of engagement with a topic can be as small or as large as our involvement with various other social institutions related to that topic. We might simply talk about cars with very little engagement, or we might become much more involved with cars by joining organizations that deal with them and associated technologies. Our involvement with „cars“ may lead us to become involved with „pedestrians“, „streets“, „roads“, „highways“, „infrastructure“, „pollution“, „global warming“ and many other topics, too.

    We do not need to become dictators in any of these arenas. It is completely sufficient to simply engage – to participate in the social construction of the reality related to each of these terms. It ought to be quite plain to see that the reality we thereby create in one arena might not be the exact same reality created in another arena. There might be nuanced differences, but there might also be meaningful relationships between and among the various arenas.

    Increased engagement in more and more arenas goes hand in hand with increased literacy. These two phenomena are crucially related: You cannot have one without the other (that is, at least, a hypothesis I am venturing here).

    This thinking is what leads me to venture that the mission statement I need probably goes something like: My mission is to promote literacy – in order to increase community engagement and social cohesion, and also in order to motivate humans more towards alignment and harmony with natural evolution.

     
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    nmw 17:51:27 on 2016/02/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , , confidence, depressed, depression, doubt, doubting, , , , , Galileo, , group dynamics, , , , , , , , , questioning, , , sad, , , , , social cohesion, social group, social groups, society, , , , , , , ,   

    Do You Want To Be Right Or Do You Want To Be Happy? 

    Did anyone ever ask Galileo this question? Why or why not? Why do some people ask other people this question today?

     
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    nmw 18:37:25 on 2015/09/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , cultures, , , , , , , , , , societies, society, sociological, , , ,   

    Delusions of Grandeur 

    Wikipedia.org has two articles that seem somewhat related — one is about “delusions of grandeur”, the other is about “grandiosity”. From the latter:

    A distinction is made between individuals exhibiting grandiosity, which includes a degree of insight into their unrealistic thoughts (they are aware that their behavior is considered unusual), in contrast to those experiencing grandiose delusions, who lack this capability for reality-testing. Some individuals may transition between these two states, with grandiose ideas initially developing as “daydreams” that the patient recognises as untrue, but which can subsequently turn into full delusions that the patient becomes convinced reflect reality.

    In this post, I hope to describe how my own world view is strongly shaped by sociological thought, rather than such psychological approaches. The way I see it, psychology tries to explain the behavior of individuals without any reference to the groups, communities, cultures or societies they are a “part” of. In my opinion such a perspective is wrong on many grounds — perhaps the most significant one is the nearly ridiculous view that the psychologist apparently considers himself/herself able to make observations regarding people that might pass muster as “scientific” or “objective”; a close second is the quite obvious observation almost anyone with even a minimal education could make, namely that people are indeed very strongly affected by other people. As psychology and psychiatry are normally considered to fall within the discipline of medicine, their focus is nearly exclusively on biological organs. This very parochial approach is not always and everywhere followed by each and every psychologist / psychiatrist (indeed, just a single exception would suffice to discredit such a hypothesis), but one can hardly deny that the more any psychologist / psychiatrist pays attention to sociological factors, the less likely they will be considered to be bona fide  medical professionals.

    Let me try to make all of this a little more concrete with an example. Sometimes people say to me: “You can only change yourself — you cannot change others”, several ideas occur to me (but most of these ideas are not exactly in my direct consciousness — I have to reflect on them in order to bring them fully into my awareness). First of all: Why does this person say this to me? If we cannot change other people, are they not wasting their breath in talking to me at all? Indeed: Following this thinking, it is completely absurd that humans developed language, that we send our children to school, that we pay people to do jobs, and so on.

    Secondly, even if this were not a completely absurd thing to say, I think: “Does this person actually consider me to be such a narcissistic idiot, that I might think I could say ‘X’ and then expect other people to simply ‘fall in line’?” What image do they have of me, to suppose that I would think this way? Although I do admit that I am happy when someone shares my opinion, I do not expect that other people will always accept my way of thinking. It is merely my opinion — and even if I strongly defend it, that certainly doesn’t mean I consider it to be an indisputable truth.

    Here is another example, perhaps even a little more extreme than the previous one: There is a so-called “Law of Attraction”, a quasi theory which wikipedia.org declares has no scientific basis — “the idea that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts a person brings positive or negative experiences into their life”. In other words: merely by thinking something — nothing more than a mental state — people might be able to cause such events to happen … no, indeed even it is more fantastic than that: The supposition is that there is some sort of natural law, which will force these things to come about. Apparently, there must be a lot of people who think too much about cancer, or maybe they can’t help themselves from constantly thinking about car accidents. I do admit to having thought about sunny days before, but that doesn’t mean these thoughts actually brought about sunny days, does it?

    In contrast, I feel that a large part of the world we live in is socially constructed. No one can succeed on their own. Every success is a matter that is sanctioned by some group, some community, some culture, some society, etc. People who feel they are able to succeed on their own are deluding themselves. They apparently do not wish to accept the role that other people have played in achieving their status, their privileges and/or their awesomeness.

     

     
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