Monday, 8 August 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 10: Collective "cultural heritage" and individual cultural evolution (i).

Picasso, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907
"Cultural Heritage" is the excusing term used for the existence of "cultural property" and is a weak form of communist belief. The ideas of communism have been defined thus:
"All people are the same and therefore classes make no sense. The government should own all means of production and land and also everything else. People should work for the government and the collective output should be redistributed equally" (my italics).
This differs from socialism (in the same article):
"All individuals should have access to basic articles of consumption and public goods to allow for self-actualization. Large-scale industries are collective efforts and thus the returns from these industries must benefit society as a whole"(also my italics).
Self actualization is a term created by the German neurologist/psychiatrist Kurt Goldstein, but best expressed by the American psychologist Abraham Maslow who (inevitably) came up with the idea of peak experiences. One of the sources of such peak experiences are the psychological "quantum leaps" that are only particular to individuals and cannot occur within any collective psychological state. This fact is a major inhibitant to collectives such as academic institutions. Aaron Lynch attempts to find a solution:
"Practical implications may follow from the above model of population creativity for ideas. For example, proposals to make education highly uniform and enforced by nationwide testing may tend to limit creativity by reducing the variability of combinations of important ideas. Creativity in an organization or a society might alternatively be enhanced by encouraging the acquisition of highly unusual combinations of ideas and fields of learning. Cultural, educational, and experiential diversity might turn out to increase population creativity by increasing the occurrence rates for extremely rare combinations of ideas that could lead to the formation of new ideas. In particular, this might result in higher creative output for universities, research institutions, and other organizations that deliberately strive for a culturally diverse mix of people. Yet even a 1000-fold increase for an idea combination that exists at a prevalence of 10-9 only involves one person in a million, representing only a tiny dent in the prevalence for extremely common combinations of ideas that would form the mainstream of a society or a subculture."
Units, Events, and Dynamics in the Evolutionary Epidemiology of Ideas 
Picasso is said to have obtained his idea for the two heads on the right of  "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" from African masks, but I also argue that there is much in that painting that was influenced by his visit to the Altamira Caves where he is reported to have said "After Altamira, all is decadence". To call Picasso "one in a million" we would have to severely restrict the pool by which the million is defined. in addition to the apparent impossibility of any dramatic difference in the incidents of creativity within an academic institution through Lynch's solution, the collective nature of any institution fights very hard to restrict individuality even more through peer-pressure and review. Individual academics who are already of high status can sometimes maintain enough of that individuality to make important new discoveries (providing these do not go against the mainstream parameters of the institution) but the institution, itself, is really a place where education should take place and not new research. It's value lies in providing a point of departure for discovery by providing the basics in any discipline so people can then leave and work on their own, communicating with other individuals in a setting that is absent from any hierarchy, collectivism or dogma. This is why the first half of the nineteenth  century produced such visionaries as Charles Darwin (and in archaeology, Sir John Evans): it was their practice to discuss their ideas at informal gatherings of people with similar passions. This was the last phase of the seventeenth to eighteen century cultural salons. Although it never entirely died out, the changes in universities toward the end of the nineteenth century lessened its influence. More appropriate to our times are the modern technical institutes and universities which communicate better with the private sector and the public at large.

Collectives inhibit personal adaptation and discovery is the fuel for deliberate species adaptation, but discovery has to be an individual event unless it is merely a linear progression from what had come before. In the latter scenario, no "quantum leaps" occur.

Proponents of "cultural heritage" and its dogma point only to individuals who have not made major contributions to any field in their criticisms because of their repression of the understanding of the need of very large population pools for discoveries to emerge, often through synchronicity as well as basic interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary practices. This repression seems to contain a good measure of narcissism where the individual associates his or herself only with the collective and feeds off its successes to compensate for their lack of personal discovery and ability. The collective itself, finding support from this, then validates and enables the narcissist element.

This lead us into the subject of extinction, and I will continue with this aspect in tomorrow's part. 

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  1. Good evening John:

    "cultural heritage" and its dogma..." perhaps while not pointing to, "individuals who have not made major contributions to any field ..." nevertheless might or could be the unseen force that attracts narcissists (especially) as iron filings to a magnet?

    Or is the concept of Cultural Heritage perceived by those who have failed elsewhere as some kind of pseudo-academic defibrillator?

    Just a thought.


    John Howland

    1. Hi John,

      One reported source of narcissism is a lack of parental love which then is compensated for by turning that emotion inward, toward the self. This could also explain the need to "jump on a bandwagon" with the originators of that bandwagon being a surrogate parent. The cultural heritage phenomena as an original creations, however is both a top-down (mostly sinister and politically manipulative) and bottom-up (a need to identify as part of a nation). I'll be dealing with both of those at some later point. The attack against anyone of the opposing view who does not exhibit any great contributions or intelligence to that side is merely a common PR ploy and is a conscious, and nefarious method that reveals only that its user has little faith in the intelligence of its readers and feels that they will be easy to manipulate through typical ad-hominem tactics. After a while, this sort of strategy always backfires because of its deception.

      By the way, Philip de Jersey just posted a question for you in the previous blog entry in this series. It's in the middle of the comments, not at the end.