Philip Elliot Slater was an American sociologist and writer. He was the author of the bestselling 1970 book on American culture, The Pursuit of Loneliness and of numerous other books and articles. (Wikipedia). The following essay came from philipslater.com, a website that is no longer on the world wide web. I found this file it in my archives, so at one time I must have thought it contained some interesting information.
I’m not big into politics, and I truly try to avoid conversations that I know nothing about, but this essay seemed very familiar to me and might be a good reminder of times past, (some of which are still present).
The book, The Pursuit of Loneliness was updated in 1976, which I found interesting as well. Maybe you will see the similarity to humanity in the Preface of the updated version.
“Once upon a time, there was a man who sought escape from the prattle of his neighbors and went to live alone in a hut he had found in the forest. At first he was content, but a bitter winter led him to cut down the trees around his hut for firewood. The next summer he was hot and uncomfortable because his hut had no shade, and he complained bitterly of the harshness of the elements. He made a little garden and kept some chickens, but rabbits were attracted by the food in the garden and ate much of it. The man went into the forest and trapped a fox, which he tamed and taught to catch rabbits. But the fox ate up the man’s chickens as well. The man shot the fox and cursed the perfidy of the creatures of the wild.”
Essay by Philip Slater
Once in a while, a really well written essay captures the signs of the times, embodying in words the profound transformations taking place. This is such an essay, and it contrasts the culture of control, which is dying but vigorously defending itself, with the culture of connection, growing but still largely unaware of itself.
Incivility and chaos pervade our world because we’re undergoing a turbulent transition between two global cultural systems with opposing values and assumptions. Things seem to be falling apart because this transition is incomplete–the old system is breaking down but the new one hasn’t yet fully taken hold. This is not a conflict between nations, or between religious traditions, or between left and right. The struggle is taking place WITHIN every nation, every political party, every religious tradition, every institution, every individual.
The old system I call Control Culture, because its underlying focus on order led to the creation of rigid mental and physical compartments. The new system I call Connecting Culture, because its guiding impulse is to bring down walls and permeate boundaries–to bring everything–ideas, people, images, cultures, species–into relation with everything else.
We’ve moved from segregation to integration, from Newtonian physics to quantum physics, from authoritarianism to democracy, from a mind/body split to psychosomatic theory, from World Wars to the European Union, from mechanical models to biological models, from national economies to the global economy. Boundaries are becoming less rigid everywhere.
If your life revolves around getting control–over Nature, other people, and your own body and feelings–you can’t look at the world around you as one great indissoluble, ever-changing Unity. How could you ever control such a thing? So Control Culture tended to split it up (“divide and conquer”), to see the world as a static collection of paired opposites: friend/enemy, master/slave, mind/body, good/evil. It was a world that fit the Bible and Newton’s Clockwork Universe equally well. Another problem for the Controller is that living things aren’t all that crazy about being controlled, so you’re going to have to fight a lot. Control Culture was a warrior culture–competitive, belligerent, macho. And a culture based on war tends to be authoritarian. Slaves and serfs have to be kept in line, and fighting men–trained to be competitive and quarrelsome–have to be controlled. So rigid hierarchies with rigid rules of behavior became the norm. And because war was viewed as the most noble masculine profession, parents raised their boys to be ‘from Mars’–that is, stoic, rigid, and aggressive, while women were expected to specialize in cooperation, intimacy, and nurturance. And since women weren’t doing soldierly things they wound up at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Even the lowest serf was expected to dominate his wife. We’ve been steeped for so long in this cultural system that many people assume its customs and norms are locked in our DNA. They think Control Culture is just “human nature”. But what was “human nature” two thousand years ago is very different from what “human nature” was twenty thousand years ago, or what it will be a thousand years from now. Human societies have managed to persuade people to act in the most varied and outlandish ways, and to believe their odd habits “natural.” Yet there’s a grain of truth in the “human nature” belief: a cultural pattern this deeply ingrained doesn’t change overnight. It will take generations for these habits fall into disuse.
Connecting Culture reverses all the themes of Control Culture, seeking to tear down the artificial walls it has built. Whereas Control Culture viewed the universe as a gigantic, clockwork machine controlled from above, Connecting Culture sees it as a self-generating organism. The Connector world-view is consistent with the revolutions in science brought about by Darwinian theory and quantum physics. Its growing power is one reason the evolution-creationism debate is so heated. The spread of democracy, the Women’s Movement, the global economy, the ecology movement, the Internet, New Age philosophies, Chaos Theory, organic farming, the growth of international institutions and international law, the sudden interest in understanding other cultures and in communicating with other species, the interest in telling old stories from new viewpoints–these things are all part of Connecting Culture. Connecting Culture is about integrating diversity. Control Culture was about eliminating it.
End of Essay
I, Sandra, have the opinion that we can connect with each other without giving credibility to the extreme, exaggerated, and heated debates of different “movements” and “parties” by falling back into the beautiful back-to-the-Bible standard. True Connection Culture is the connection between us with each other and with God. Let’s choose the best of everything that Jesus Christ brought to us through His connection with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen!