Friday, 12 August 2016

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

American WW2 poster
Yesterday, I linked to an article in Discover about how the human brain is shrinking, but one exception is with "Americans of European and African descent from colonial times up to the late 20th century". While genetic mixing make make up some of the phenomenon, there are many other places where this also happens but the U.S. was the only one where the brain size is increasing. The answer, then, lies more in an ability to adapt to new conditions. America, after the revolution expressed its independence with the phrase "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", but although that phrase is imprinted on the minds of all Americans we also have to consider what lies behind the words. In speaking of a 17th century alchemist, Jung said:
For Böhme a “high deep blue” mixed with green signifies “Liberty,” that is, the inner “Kingdom of Glory” of the reborn soul.
C. G. Jung, Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9 (Part 1): Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious: 009 (Kindle Locations 5872-5873). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
This is the psychic result in the minds of those partaking in any successful revolution, but again, there have been many successful revolutions which do not seem to have resulted in brains becoming larger. When we include the word "life", though, and take it past the fact of its physical existence we can start to zero in on the causes of this anomaly:
"Life proceeds, as it were, by making use of natural physical and chemical conditions as a means to its own existence. The living body is a machine for converting the energies it uses into other dynamic manifestations that are their equivalents. We cannot say that physical energy is transformed into life, only that its transformation is the expression of life."
C. G. Jung, Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 8: Structure & Dynamics of the Psyche: 008 (pp. 41-42). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
Where the U.S. was different was that it had combined a revolutionary attitude with the fact of being in a relatively new and undeveloped country. The "pioneer spirit" exists, too, in Canada, but Canada experienced no revolution and remains part of the British Commonwealth. These two factors, in my opinion, combined to form "The American Dream" which embodied the idea of a meritocracy. Unfortunately, meritocracy has been poorly interpreted (for example in choosing intelligence as the main component and in applying Social Darwinism). It has also been poorly executed (so poorly that the title and theme of the linked article blames the very idea of meritocracy more than the failure to implement it).

All of these problems come about through groupthink but evolution has its core with the individual, and that brings us to the final component: happiness. When you succeed in something, you become happy. The brain rewards survival activities with feelings of pleasure. We have to be careful, though, that we do not develop an addictive personality where the happy feeling of success is too bound to the specific activity which caused it which then results in a constant repetition of that same activity (when that happens, the brain reduces the pleasure chemicals and the addict tries to compensate by doing even more of the same thing in the hope of regaining that one-time "high"). The brain is not just rewarding success, it is rewarding originality: the more good ideas you get, the better is the chance for your personal survival. Biological natural evolution rides on the back of individual evolution because those who survive better  live longer to produce more offspring and also attract mates. Any attempt to socialize this phenomenon inevitably runs into problems as is outlined in criticisms to Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. When things get really bad, there is a shift toward socialism which then starts to turn evolution toward a local need for a lack of originality. Remember, evolution is all about adaptation and survival in an environment. It is not a change to some envisioned ideal state of superiority in all things. The shark is a perfect model of successful evolution. Its tiny brain is concerned only with two things: eating and breeding and it has no need of innovation. Perhaps it has evolved to the point where it does not need to even feel pleasure. Is that where we want to go?

The human being evolved to be most successful as individuals within small extended family groups, and the larger human groups become; the larger and the more remote their governments become; the larger the submission to various collective "ism's", then the less intelligent, ambitious, innovative and happy we become in those environments.

I will be back on Monday with a new topic in this series. Have a happy weekend.

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