Since the time the human race achieved the technological ability to provide the basic necessities of life for everyone on the planet, the chief obstacle to universally beneficial social change has been our general ignorance of the subliminal mechanisms at work, both inside our bodies and out, that keep us repeating destructive patterns of behavior no matter our conscious intentions to the contrary.
The purpose of most of the material on this website is, therefore, to highlight and begin to figure out, whether obliquely through fiction or more directly through nonfiction, just what these mechanisms are and how they might work.
I am 71 now. That means I was born in 1947, a few hundred years into what our historians call “The Industrial Revolution.” The Industrial Revolution is all tied up with the discovery of immense amounts of fossil fuels under the ground, and their subsequent technological application and use by us.
This was the big thing that happened and has spurred most of the rest of the big changes that have been happening ever since.
In 1947, there weren’t much more than a billion or two people living on the planet. This means it took human beings every year of their life on earth from the time they set foot on it until 1947 to reach that number of people. Today, just 71 years later, there are over 7 billion people living on the planet—the very same planet or, if you like, piece of real estate. As some have phrased it, this has resulted in a world often characterized as having “too many people, and not enough stuff"--a situation in some ways not unlike that of times past, but now for very different reasons.
Although lots of new inventions have been created by us—most with the help of the fossil fuels we discovered—to help us use the stuff here on earth more efficiently, we still are dealing with essentially the same amount of natural stuff we’ve always had, that is, land, air, water, soil, etc., while there are too many of us to mutually enjoy the use of it properly.
As has been pointed out so clearly in the documentary film, A Crude Awakening, as well by many other publications and pundits I imagine, is that the introduction of fossil fuel (oil, coal, etc.) and its application into our lifestyle gave us potentially tons more energy to burn every day. Whereas before, humans had to go through their days’ work and play using just one day’s of sunlight energy, now suddenly they could extract energy from fossil fuels (containing “power” compressed over thousands or maybe even millions of years) to do a whole lot more of everything, a whole lot faster. This included, among other things, having a lot more babies, and also learning ways to keep them alive alot longer.
Now this gigantic change in the way we live didn’t happen overnight, exactly, at least not in any way that we humans easily perceived it. During the past few hundred years, an average human lifespan has about doubled, from about 30 to about 70 years of age. But even 70 years is not so long a time to really understand and communicate the changes happening, either to ourselves or to the following generations.
So the main idea is this: technologically we have made these incredible changes, but in key ways, we haven’t changed our behavior at all. Bluntly, while we have gotten really much smarter about some things, we are almost just as dumb as we ever were about others.
Our attitudes toward warfare and scarcity are good examples. While we have gotten a lot better at waging war and perpetuating scarcity, we have been very slow to realize we don’t need to have either of them anymore, and our continued use of them as mainstays of our culture is dooming our race to a quick horrible death at the very moment, historically, when a more intelligent use of our new technologies could bring peace and prosperity to practically everyone in a few generations.
So that’s the really new thing that’s happened so very recently. And so I put up this website mainly to offer, in the form of various kinds of writings, a discussion and explanation of this change, of what’s been happening since, and of some of the new behavioral technologies I’ve stumbled upon. I think that, if we as a race were to really start understanding and applying these new ideas and behaviors together, in cooperation with our Industrial- Revolution technologies, we could fix much, if not most, of what’s wrong with us, e.g., violence, poverty, etc.
I realize this is a very big subject, with a lot of different parts to it. But it’s a big world--though not as big as we think it is—with, now especially, a practically inconceivable number of people in it. So naturally, while any more general solutions I have to offer may be relatively simple, learning how to apply them is going to be rather complicated. Not impossible, so long as we haven’t done too much damage to our ecology so far (and I don’t think anyone knows for sure about that)--no, perhaps not impossible, but certainly complicated.
And so many of the key writings and references on this website will seem at times difficult, weird, strange, new, or maybe just hard to follow. These have been big, rapid changes we’ve all, including myself, been going through, and that is necessarily reflected in some of the new ideas and perceptions I’ve gotten about what we need to do about changing our ecological, psychological and sociological behavior.
But if the changes we needed to make had been obvious or at all easy to understand, we probably would have made them already. And, as I see it, these personal and group changes are now more necessary then ever, not just to peace and prosperity, but to our very survival as a species. This is a particularly tall order since we have thousands of years of pre-Industrial-Revolution social development and psychological habits to at least modify, if not just change altogether, and quite quickly. So it should come as no surprise that there is still a huge amount of resistance, both personal and institutional, to making such changes (and I certainly don't always exclude myself from this).
As some of you know, in recent years I’ve been busy building and running a theatre for young people in Jamaica. That job and all of its attendant challenges took up most of my time. Back in the States now, teaching and writing, I expect to take up other work suited to my skill set. In the meantime, for those of you who wish a fuller and hopefully more succinct rendering of some the above ideas, they can be found under Lee J. Strauss on Amazon Kindle in the work, The Pursuit of Happiness: An Update.*
* (Hopefully, transcription errors found in this work and some of my other entries on Kindle are mostly minor and can be easily overlooked by serious readers. The transcriptions were done hurriedly and in Jamaica, while I was still new to the e-book process. As soon as possible, the necessary formatting changes will be made and revised copies will become available. Perfectionists among you might recently wish to wait for that, even though I can't guarantee when that will happen. In the meantime, for those whose curiosity outweighs their aversion to typos and such, know that in general these transcription errors should do nothing to interfere substantially with the books' readability. In addition, my book on the alphabet, which at some point we'll hopefully be a chapter in a larger work, has subsequently undergone a critical new draft, which I think corrects several glaring errors and omissions in the content. So I would advise prospective readers to either wait until I put the new version up on Amazon or, alternatively, if you wish to contact me I can send you a manuscript of that revision free of charge-- at least until that one has been published on Amazon.)
In the months ahead. I believe any extra energy and effort left in me not only should but must be devoted to continued effort of thinking about, writing about, and discussing intelligent social change. In my view, whether it be from me or others, such work has become, if anything, even more critical, not only to our short-term happiness but to our long-term survival. I hope you agree and will join me in supporting this endeavor.
The remainder of text here I"ve preserved from the original Welcome Page, so it should already be familiar to those of you who are not new to the website. I've kept it mostly intact because I believe the message there to be just as relevant today as it was from the start. More small edits on this page may follow in the weeks to come, so keep a lookout if you would like. But you will, as usual, be alerted by email, so long as you wish, as to the arrival of any completely new material or other major changes. . . .
Since I consider a strong, immediately-experienced and regularly refreshed spiritual foundation prerequisite to positive outcomes in all of the following, I haven't felt the need to explictly mention it anywhere other than here. In general, I think of it as a "given," though one most of us could often keep in mind and heart more often.
While to work at all, these four endeavors must be engaged in more or less at the same time, I've ordered them from what I think is probably the least to the most difficult. The fact that even the first of them seems exceedingly difficult gives some idea of just how enormous (though not necessarily impossible) the task of saving ourselves will be.
Without further ado, here they are:
1) Balancing our planet's population/resource ratios to create a universally life-sustaining and generally life-enhancing relationship (cf.: all pertinent information on human beings' current "ecological footprint." This would be as good a place to start as any.)
2) Transitioning from nonrenewable to renewable energy sources as quickly as humanly possible. (Cf.: http://www.350.org/, etc., etc,)
3) Personally coming to both an intimate and well-educated understanding of the myriad ways the human body and human culture and society interact on a subliminal, "mind-body" level, and how those interactions drive our everyday behaviors in ways that have become far more of a detritment than a benefit to all of us.
(Cf: http://www.technologychangesmorality.com/content/fear-life. Also: chapters from my first book, Towards A Biology of Culture, some of which are still available under the Books section of this website. A revised version of the entire first book should be available within a year.)
4) Sort of "attached at the hip" to number 3, the development by each of us of a deep and personal (in ways that allow for each person's individual and cultural idiosyncrasies) understanding how the language we use to speak, listen and think subliminally plays an integral part in subverting even our most well-intentioned, conscious efforts to change our lives for the better. There's no arguing that language is not only a cognitive necessity, but also a prime mover and bulwark in much if not all that's good about human civilization. At the same time, though, so long as we remain unaware of its potentially more insidious side, during times of rapid change like the one we currently inhabit, it's subliminal workings can continue to trigger the sort of self-nullifying if not self-destructive behavior that could lead to no sort of future we would want. (Cf.: Some of the language writings and podcasts on language already on this website. The entire book on language, the title of which is still in the works, will be available as soon as possible. A preliminary chapter outline is currently available at the end of my manuscript on the alphabet.)
Until then, hang tight and do all you can to further your good works.*
(*If some or all of this sounds at times "grandiose" or even megalomaniacal to you, I certainly understand. Frankly, sometimes it sounds that way to me as well. But my countervailing thought is that, given that solving our current world problems will only be possible if most if not all the world's people, leaders, and governments learn how to work well and effectively together in much better ways, and if there's no one out there with good ideas that might significantly apply for most people, how are we to even begin making the kind of change we so desperately need ?)
For a brand new and somewhat different perspective on the kind of participatory dialog this website is increasingly going to be all about, check here.
Of course, as Buckminster Fuller, Donella Meadows, and other have already made clear, the way in which we apply our new, amazing technologies constitutes a choice. For example, if we were to use them almost exclusively like this, it's hard to imagine the result being a more democratic, happy or peaceful world, even for those whose primary enjoyment comes from dealing in weaponry. That's why, in addition to self-knowledge and book learning, solid spiritual connection and guidance is so important, if we are going to learn to use our technological advances to truly benefit humanity.
NEWS FLASH FOR MEMBERS, BOTH NEW (WELCOME!) AND LOYAL (THANKS!) :
THE AUDIO AND VIDEO PRESENCE OF THE SITE IS FINALLY GETTING OFF THE GROUND. PLEASE REMEMBER, THIS IS STILL VERY MUCH A WORK IN PROGRESS, BUT I THINK AFICIONADOS OF MY LANGUAGE EXPLORATIONS WILL MOSTLY ENJOY THE FIRST FEW NEW PODCASTS. CHECK THEM OUT ON THE PODCAST PAGE IN THE LANGUAGE SECTION (any difficulties encountered playing the podcasts can usually be resolved by refreshing or rebooting the website). MORE WILL ARRIVE IN THE NEXT FEW MONTHS. ALSO NEW: AN INTERVIEW SECTION, WITH ONE STARTING ENTRY, AND ANOTHER BOOK CHAPTER, WHICH RELATES MORE SPECIFICALLY TO THE TOPIC OF LANGUAGE AND THE BODY. (This, too, will be subject to change in the future as work on the new language book progresses. Apologies that some of these links are no longer active.
As I have stated from the start, this website is dedicated, through imagination and analysis, to an investigation of the psychological and linguistic obstacles to social change, and with an eye to turning those obstacles into catalysts. Those who want to get an early, relatively concise take on the sort of thing this site aims to demonstrate can check out the short essay, Language In 3-D.
While it certainly doesn't look like it yet, we mean for this site to be, ultimately, both participatory and interactive. It is also meant to be a perpetual work-in-progress.
In that spirit, feel free to add a comment using the link provided within each document, ask a question on the forum, or just say hi to let me know you've been here! Participate further by adding your own favorite sayings, even originals, to Aphorism Corner. I look forward to your feedback, and even to your online interactions with one another. All thoughtful participation and constructive criticism is welcome. Don't forget that to see other member posts and interact with them, you must first register.