The loss of a major American city is an unusual event in all our lives. Of course, this will affect us all - economically and otherwise - far more than the sum total of all terror strikes against America so far. Which shows that it wasn’t ONLY the Louisiana National Guard that has been mis-directed away from truer purposes. It has been our whole civilization.
I am not yet as angry as some (see: Brad DeLong's entry.) But I am angry.
And so upset that I must think about something else for a while. Hence my decision to post a rumination about some underlying aspects of philanthropy
HORIZONS OF INCLUSION- Part I
- On another list -- the Philanthropy Round Table -- there has been discussion of my "horizon theory." (Some of you may have read an earlier version called the “Dogma of Otherness.” Or else seen some of these ideas at: Horizons and Hope: The Future of Philanthropy.
A capsule presentation: Anthropologists have long known that FEAR is not the same thing as WORRY. As monkeys with a high-investment reproductive strategy, we are born worriers.
WHAT we worry about... and how far we project those worries in time & space... generally depends on the ambient level of fear.
If you have real fear of starvation, you worry about your kids' next meal, not the next harvest. If you have some food, but the harvest looks iffy, your worry isn’t much about erosion. We who have never known hunger can barely imagine it. So we fret over more distant abstract worries, e.g. whether our grandchildren will have enough topsoil. (At this rate, they won’t.)
Expanding worry horizons can accompany something else... an expansion in what’s called the INCLUSION horizon. Let me explain.
A sane culture (or person) is essentially satiable. Indeed, satiability is one of the four hallmarks of the New Definition of Sanity. Truly, if you survey nearly all mental health caregivers, no matter what their theory or “school” they will almost all agree that people who are “mentally ill” display some underlying common traits, and one of the foremost of these is insatiability. If you get the very thing that you say you desperately want, should that not make you at least a little happier? And should that not reduce your need for it, at least a little? Not so for people who are - by consensus - deemed mentally dysfunctional, by a huge range of subjective standards.
In any event, let us posit that satiability is desirable, if only because it allows us to notice when we get what we wanted, and to re-adjust accordingly.
Now, assuming satiability... when such a person or society gets a surfeit of good things... and continues to get it for an extended period, long enough to grow accustomed (say, for generations), the expected outcome is for that person or society to become SATIATED. (Not necessarily indolent or un-ambitious! Satisfaction with one achieved-goal can simply mean moving your emphasis on to others.)
Summary: . Satiability + extended surfeit => satiation
This has important consequences. A satiated society can expand horizons prodigiously. For example, it can then look upon outsiders NOT as threats but instead as fellow members of a larger macro-tribe. This expansion exactly parallels the way the last century featured expansion of rights, to women and minorities, for example. And more recently, efforts to include dolphins, whales, apes and even ecosystems within the tent of tolerance.
But not everyone is satiable (sane). Even having lived a life of surfeit, many people are incapable of feeling the sense of satiation that allows horizon expansion. Fear remains high in such people. They tend to perceive the world filled with zero-sum or even negative-sum games, despite plenty of evidence for the existence and benefits of positive sum action.
Try to see all the last century’s liberal movements through the eyes of such people. To them, the recent expansion of horizons-of-inclusion often seems to have been, at best, a naive, goody-goody exercise. At worst, it is treason, a lowering of the nation's drawbridge to hostile outsiders.
Mind you, I do not claim that satiability is the ONLY hallmark of sanity. If many right wingers lack satiability, many left wingers are total indignation junkies who are incapable of getting or comprehending WHY their horizons of inclusion have expanded. (See: An Open Letter to Researchers of Addiction, Brain Chemistry and Social Psychology.)
Unable to see that their inclusion-ism is a PRODUCT of satiation and wealth, they cannot give credit to the markets (for example) that spilled the cornucopia that made their own tolerance-fetishism possible. This is not only myopic, blinkered and ungrateful. It’s also counterproductive vs the very ends they seek! (Since one might say that increased wealth and satiation will make more liberals.)
And thus, it’s just not sane.
Next time... how this affects the theory and practice of philanthropy. That is, unless I feel up to ranting against the people who - through their deliberate neglect and anti-scientism - are directly responsible for the total destruction of a great American city....
==Continue to Part II