Tuesday, November 22, 2011

100th monkey

Ever hear of the so-called "Hundredth Monkey" principle? In simplified terms, it refers to a sort of collective consciousness, especially amongst social animals. The theory is that within a given group of animals, perhaps even throughout an entire species as a whole, the group itself may learn things, may acquire a pool of common knowledge, an awareness shared by all members. This depends upon a certain critical mass (e.g. 100 monkies) within the group. When the theoretical 100th monkey comes to learn something, the critical threshold is met, and the knowledge passes over into collective group consciousness. The whole group now automatically knows that thing without having to learn it one by one.

Very interesting. But this blog writer has something other than monkeys in mind. In human society, this phenomonon corresponds to what we call culture. It is our culture that tells us what clothes to wear, how to speak in certain situations, what behavior is acceptable, and so on. Rather than make a thousand difficult decisions in the course of an average week, the human animal can allow his culture to dictate how to handle those thousand situations. It's automatic; we navigate those events routinely, with little or no deliberation, drawing upon a sort of "group think" or collective consciousness to guide us.

This can work both for good and for ill. A sound human culture can be a powerful incentive toward honest and constructive behavior and a strong deterrent against criminal and immoral behavior. A wayward culture can steer people towards savage behavior. Sometimes the effect can be comical, as when everyone in a given past culture "knew" that the world was supported upon the back of a big turtle.

Now, since a human is much more complex than a monkey, the collective consciousness principle is also more complex in humans. For one thing, a strong individual human may very well operate to some extent against the predominant cultural grain. Similarly, a relatively small group of humans may break away from the mainstream and form a contrary counter-culture. This means that human culture may contain many sub-cultures and sub-sub-cultures, and these separate pools of consciousness may intersect with each other in complex ways. Moreover, human culture is capable of changing in a relatively short period of time, oftentimes quite dramatically. Some past blog posts offer a few thoughts on how human culture may change by small degrees and also by great tidal shifts.

We are at present obviously in the midst of great cultural turmoil. Many cultural assumptions of the past have been discarded, replaced by new and often unprecedented assumptions. Moreover, this appears to be a global phenomenon. Once distinct local cultures are picking up the mores of more dominant cultures, and the world is fast becoming one giant cultural ocean, with a wide variety of sub-cultural pools that are no longer geographically based. It is unclear where this cultural storm is headed.

No cause to disparage the phenomenon itself; it is simply the way we are wired. We are social beings, and this collective consciousness is an integral part of being human. Better to be aware that we are thus wired, and live within that awareness. Know also that we needn't be passive participants, that each one of us has the capacity to affect our culture, at least to some small degree. Better to seek the truth of things, and to possess the mental and moral tenacity to be willing to buck the dominant cultural tide when it is wrong. To be more than a passive follower; to deliberately nudge one's culture or sub-culture toward true values. To be, perhaps, that 100th monkey.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
  - 2 Chron.7:14 [KJV]

Note that this oft-quoted text is a call for God's people to repent and turn from their wicked ways. It has become routine to hear Pro-life folks pray for the conversion of the murderous abortionists, or for pro-abortion politicians like Nancy Pelosi or Barak Obama, and to urge others to likewise pray. But the damned murderers are not the ones who first need to repent.

It is a major theme of the Pro-Life Strike website that Pro-Lifers need to repent of the willingness to fund abortion, so that our prayers will be genuine. How can God hear our prayers to stop abortion when those praying are willingly funding the holocaust? For God to hear our prayers and heal our land, we must repent, and that means we (WE, not the abortionists) must turn from our wicked ways. We cannot pay for death and then pray for life; such prayers are worthless.

Related: A citizens' movement to refuse abortion taxes

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Thieves, beggars, and dogs

Let me be clear: After over a year in Nicaragua, I can say that it is not a paradise on earth. Au contraire.

It isn't so much the prevalence of thieves, beggars, and mangy dogs that rankle me, but the fact that these seem to be an accepted part of the landscape. This is not to say that most Nicaraguans are thieves or beggars, but that many Nicaraguans just shrug their shoulders at such things; it's merely part of life here, or so it seems. Stray dogs that wander in and out of churches and homes and businesses are routinely ignored, their unbidden presence taken in stride, like that of houseflies or cockroaches. Neighborhood children make a habit of begging from total strangers, with some of them routinely swiping things from their neighbor's yard or house; it's often just laughed at. It is not at all surprising that many of them continue their thieving and beggaring as adults, and that the beggaring is usually opportunistic and dishonest. Nor is it surprising to routinely encounter petty cheating and skullduggery among relatively respected businesses. Such businesses are in the minority, and are easily avoided after the first petty theft. And one just learns to keep one's doors locked when unattended, and to keep tabs on small stealable articles.

Now, I am quite well practiced in the art of opposing my surrounding culture, so I am not inclined to passively accept these things as normative. What's wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it. I must live with the situation, but i will not be pressured or coerced into merrily accepting it. I do not subscribe to the axiom to "do as the Romans do".

Nor should I neglect to mention the positive aspects of life in Nicaragua. In contrast to stray dogs, I find the presence of other animals here quite appealing. The frequent clip-clop of a cowboy riding his horse past my house, the cattle and pigs and chickens kept by my neighbors, are all in fine relief to the relative sterility of the American scene which characterized most of my life. The songs of tropical birds are a cheery part of my mornings now. Perhaps most charming of all are the harmless little lizards that dart about on my walls, often stopping to look at me as I sit at my desk. The beauty of the northern woods has been replaced by tropical mountain vistas. And I have found it very easy to adjust to a habit of fresh fruit from the market all year long.

But the nuisance of the stray dogs and the ameliorizations of the above paragraph are of little consequence. I must maintain my sanity in the face of culturally accepted dishonesty. And that is best achieved by putting it into proper perspective.

I am living now in a place where petty thievery and dishonest beggary, while not practiced by most folks, are largely accepted as almost a normal and inescapable part of life. That's not good. I have recently come from a culture where abortion and sodomy, while not practiced by most folks, are largely accepted as a normal and inescapable part of life, and are sanctioned by the state. That's worse. Pick your poison.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

St. Joseph's Lay Catholic Community

As noted in my "Exit" post and elsewhere, I have been trying to find a way to simply live without paying for abortions through my taxes, and have urged others to do likewise.

St. Joseph Community It is now my pleasure to point to a very creative approach to this very thing. A young American family is currently engaged in founding a lay monastic community under the patronage of St. Joseph which will be called "St. Joseph's Lay Catholic Community". In response to unjust taxes, these folks will simply live outside of conventional dependence upon monetary income. Their mission statement is:

Dedicated to building a community of simple, self sufficient family life under the patronage of St Joseph, to work and pray for a renewal of traditional Catholic family values and to bring an end to the unjust use of public funds for abortion.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Repaso is the Spanish past tense of repasar, and is generally translated into English as review, both in the sense of inspecting something (as in a book review), or in passing by or looking for a second time. So now that a full year has passed, it may be time for another pass, a review.

As my last post anticipated, I fled to Central America in June 2010. After some time in Costa Rica, I bought a house in a barrio near Jinotega (Hee-no-TAY-ga) in the central mountains of Nicaragua, and have been living here since October 2010.

Nicaragua is a relatively young country. The Sandinista revolution of the 80's was fairly successful, and has resulted in a remarkably peaceful and quiet political atmosphere, from what I can tell. Most Nicaraguans are quite patriotic and are proud of their nation and its government. Most English-speaking expats may not agree, but what do they know?

It is young in a demographic sense as well. I don't know the statistics, but the population of Nicaragua must be toward the low end of the global bell curve when it comes to median age. Lots of children and young people, and lots of the young girls have big bellies.

But if I expected to find the same innocent culture that I encountered in Guatemala in 1975, in that I have been disappointed. Along with money and technology, most Americans and Europeans have brought with them the corrupt morals and worldviews that threaten to completely undermine their own native cultures. And with few exceptions, Nicaraguans look up to their wealthier neighbors and want to be more like them. So the same kinds of trashy TV, political ideologies and immorality are flooding in, and folks here seem generally to be eager to emulate Americans and Europeans, even if in lemming fashion it ends with their own demise.

Thankfully, there is a significant lag, both as to the technology and to the cultural erosion. The majority of Nicaraguans are religiously inclined, and still possess a certain simplicity of life and of piety. Nicaraguans have not yet learned to be afraid of innocent human life, nor to loathe their own fertility, nor to esteem sexual deviance a virtue. Perhaps the American-European culture will finally implode as it is wont to do, and places like Nicaragua may yet awaken, change course, and escape relatively unscathed. Time will tell.

For the time being, I have indeed found "a place to live without having to fund murder and genocide with my taxes." How long it will remain thus is known to God. Time will tell.