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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/1/18

What's the Problem With the USA?

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What's the problem with the USA?
Tom Christensen

Oh, wouldn't it be nice if there were one nice tidy answer to this query. Sorry, this problem is not that simple. But, there are some clear answers that reveal powerful leverage points to fix a lot of what is broken.

Enact a Developmental Perspective

First off, what is tragically missing in our pondering is application of a developmental model of our individual and collective lives. No, "people" is not a useful, in fact it is a violently harmful, term. We must enact a developmental model that reveals "which people, at which level of development". When we have adults who can only think in binary terms, the truth is they can only think in binary terms, black and white, this or that. Grey areas are invisible to these minds, and that fact has to be appreciated to be caring toward them, and caring towards ourselves. Adults on the other end of the complexity spectrum can see an object of inquiry as it is embedded in cultural contexts, as it is related to other matters of import, and how these related matters all interact and change over time. It is of no use at all to make policies, programs, initiatives, or any kind of offers to make things better, while we collapse all levels of comprehension into one useless barrel of mush. What level of development do you live at? Figure it out, cuz if you don't, you are blind to both the problems you create and the solutions you could offer. That means we have to solve the problems without you. That is a loss.

Attend To "Code"

Additional progress in fixing the USA, or any biz, or family, or person in the USA, is to appreciate that vocabulary is essential in determining what can be comprehended and what can't be. Consider what Newton would have said, had he had chaos theory or systems theory available to him. He didn't. He couldn't think that way cuz the words, the ideas, to express that kind of thinking were not available. Pay attention to what Hanzi Freinacht calls the "code", the lexicon, the concepts, the vocabulary that are available to any person or group. Not everyone even knows the words "standard deviation". So, don't expect them to understand. Simplify communication to match the code available to the listener. It's not their problem, it's yours. Then, where possible, add new code to your audience so that they can conceptualize at a more complex level. We do this with children when we teach them letters, then words, then sentences, etc. Growing up doesn't stop when we get to chapters, or even books. Growing up goes on a whole life time; there is no end to adding and refining code. This means there is no end to an increase in coding complexity, in any domain. There is only an end to learning, if you stop. Don't. And don't expect others to be done learning. Offer new code. Then get better at offering new code. The complex world that is forming around us requires this, or we are just diddling around with antique, unworkable, destructive, outdated "code". We can do better. Do it, please.

Systems-Theory Facileness Required

Those who do not know systems theory cannot access their full cognitive complexity, and thus cannot serve us in attending to the real, complex problems that appear before us daily. Do notice, that you couldn't know the problems are complex, unless you had the capacity to see complexity. But to see complexity, and think about it productively, are two very distinct things. Code must match insight, or insight remains latent. Systems theory is the most complex idiom, code, that we have available to communicate about complexity. Learn it. Speak it. Teach it. And, recognize that you couldn't think systems theory when you were 8 years old. Many, many, adults at every age can NOT think in systems theory. What does that do to the general concept "people"? It means you don't want low-complexity minds determining actions in a highly complex context. Lower-complexity minds cannot comprehend the relationships of variables that change through time and different contexts. Don't trust complex problem solving to low-complexity minds. BUT, honor those minds for what they are. Lower-complexity cognition does not mean low IQ; does not mean low morals or ethics; does not mean less compassion; does not mean less valuable. It just means you don't take a water bottle to put out a 4-alarm fire! Bring the tanker truck!

Attend to Subjective States

Let's also add to the discussion by including the notion of subjective states. Most of the time we look to change things in the world to make the world better. But what if you changed everything you wanted to, and most people were still feeling all those states lower than "happy and hopeful". Is that success? No, of course not. Remember "the pursuit of happiness". That is why we have come together. So, let's pay attention to it. What leads to people having higher states, pleased, full of hope and light, regular bouts of gratitude? If we don't attend to that, what have we gained by any other changes? You want to be happy, right? We all do. Does that program, idea, policy, product, support higher states, or lead to depression, loneliness, doubt, hopelessness? All our actions do contribute to raising, or lowering, your state, my state, and everyone else's. Who cares? Better be you or I don't want you affecting me and mine.

Affirm and Value Cognitive Objectivity

To address complex problems it is essential that we distinguish the presence or absence of cognitive objectivity. Cognitive objectivity is the capacity to think and feel about one's own thoughts and feelings. Most people cannot enact cognitive objectivity, regularly, and reliably. This is a developmental artifact; i.e., minds are always preobjective before they emerge objectivity. And most people don't grow into objectivity, yet. And those who do, have more complex cognition, and thus have a wider scope, and more options available to address problem solving. Don't bow to the truths of anyone speaking from preobjectivity; such truths are tightly context bound, and can NOT be trusted to apply to wider problem areas. Do support the process of multiperspectival thinking and evaluating, that goes along with objectivity. And in doing so, recognize that most work in the world is served very well, even expertly, by preobjective minds. These minds learn the rules, follow them, and do their best to be good people. This is honorable, and valuable. You just don't allow a pre-midnight Scrooge to care for the Cratchits. You could trust the next-morning Scrooge, the one who now enjoys objectivity. Since you are still reading, you are the next-morning Scrooge. Good. We need you badly.

References For Adding Code

That's enough for now. Another time I will advocate code for other simple things that will help us fix everything, things like "stages" and "phases"; assuming moral responsibility, always; assuring safety and security for every life form; learning to control our emotions; appreciating depth; being kind; what we need beyond making an idol of capital; listening deeply to what others say matters to them. But until then, get ahead of me, and read Hanzi Freinacht, "The Listening Society" (2017) Metamoderna, and Anderson and Bjorkman" The Nordic Secret" (2017) Fri Tanke.

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Small business owner: 33 years as Broker Realtor in Madison, WI, focused primarily on small investment properties. B.A Philosophy. M.A. South Asian Studies. Passed prelims in Counseling Psychology, no degree. All UW-Madison. Lifetime student of (more...)

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