Friday, June 19, 2015

cost-benefit of Law and Order for the First Nations?

Reducing First Nation incarceration, which works best, incarceration or healing / empowerment?

Background: In Canada, first nation peoples have high rates of suicide, child abuse, alcohol and drug abuse (including solvents and gasoline) and incarceration. They have low per capita income, high rates of reliance on social assistance and school abandonment. Hundreds of first nation women are missing and a discomforting percentage of these turn out to have been murdered..

           The following study suggests that healing, regenerating first nation cultures costs less and gives greater benefits than "law and order" approaches emphasizing incarceration over re-integration. 

           Healing communities and cultures means building community resilience and networks of mutual support, building value systems fostering meaning-purpose-significance-empowerment-engagement-"flourishing". It means building a positive self-identity, a positive evaluation of self-as-aboriginal. The core of empowerment is found in willingness to take responsibility for one's life (in the context of a supporting network or community). 

          And the first nations of Canada have a lot to heal from. From 1880 to 1996, the residential school system attempted to "kill the Indian in the heart of the child". This involved removing children from their families and shipping them off for indoctrination in the ways and values of the white man. Technically speaking, such a practice today would be labelled genocide..

          The cost of community based intervention is less than the cost of incarceration. Recidivism rates are vastly lower: " zero to ten percent"

 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report. Canada now seems to be at a crossroads in its relations with the first nations perhaps similar in ways to the crisis the US faced in black / white relations during the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s, the Kennedy liberal era.

             As a nation, will we demonstrate that largeness of vision required to institute constructive change? Or will this report, like so many others full of good intentions, quietly gather dusk on institutional and governmental library shelves..

              The least one can say is that we are living in "interesting times". Does anyone doubt it any longer? Just turn on the late News.. Everywhere we see surprising, unexpected events and bizarre, frightening natural phenomena. Example: whitenose fungus infection decimating little brown bat colonies in eastern North America. 

          Meanwhile, in the human sphere, century old relations between aboriginal peoples and European colonizers are shifting, mutating.. What the outcome will be is impossible to judge at this early date..

           I have the impression that colonized nations, not just in North America, but around the world, are searching. They seem to want to preserve or rediscover the culture of their ancestors to use as a base upon which to build a future society. The slavish adoption of European culture, language, religion and law seems increasingly to be questioned, especially by the young. The same young seek out their surviving elders to learn the ancient mother tongues. Occidental justice is increasingly being replaced by or adopted to traditional systems of justice.

            This shift in consciousness is reflected in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Two centuries ago a declaration of such principles would have been unthinkable.

        Where this trend will lead no one can say. But is is interesting.

        I have the impression of a man stunned, knocked down by a great blow - five centuries of European colonization, who is now slowly rising to his feet and taking stock of his situation. What does he do next? What CAN he do next..

        To some degree, this "new consciousness" of First Nations must arise from the increasingly evident failures of late Patriarchal civilization. The earth has been finally "conquered", "mastered", measured, weighted, quantified, quantized and finally COMMODITIZED (cash on the barrel head! How much is a butterfly worth, kid?) The quantified, commoditized contemporary (pseudo-)individual has been well programmed for optimal consumption. You got existential funk, mal de vivre? Why just go shopping.. consume! consume| consume!.. got your shopping FIX and you'll be "fine" (for a very little while). Until the fix wars off..

        Living on the margin of society, the "native" sees consumer society from a novel perspective and therefore sees things we can't see. (Einstein: perception is relative to position.. Not all observers may observe the same thing while observing a single unique event..)

        They, better than we, see, feel, (perhaps) understand our failures more clearly, more acutely than we do. They have less interest vested in maintaining a status quo which is not theirs and does not benefit them. They naturally - who can blame them? - look to their past cultural successes wistfully, nostalgically. But will a new synthesis of old and new ways arise from this period of crisis we are living? Is that what we / they are searching for..
        Oddly, occidental science seems to be leading the way to such a synthesis.

"Whitehead argued that reality consists of processes rather than material objects, and that processes are best defined by their relations with other processes, thus rejecting the theory that reality is fundamentally constructed by bits of matter that exist independently of one another. Today Whitehead's philosophical works – particularly Process and Reality – are regarded as the foundational texts of process philosophy."

          From wikipedia, entry for the British scientist-philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead. As science progresses, it moves towards a more "holistic", relation or process oriented world-view / psychology. Such world-views are typical of traditional, "primitive", hunter-gatherer societies..

         Likewise, the emphasis is on Whole / Part dialogue in the emerging science (or meta-science) of Self-Organizing System theory. It is now accepted, for example, that the Whole is more than the sum of its parts. Wholes may exhibit "emergent" or novel properties. Once emerged, Wholes may exert a "downward" causal influence on the behavior of the Parts of which they are composed: it's the old chicken / egg riddle, which came first, the chicken or the egg..

Friday, June 5, 2015

Phénomènes émergents

Les phénomèses émergents par Bernard Walliser 

mots-clés: émergence (définition), phénomène émergent (définition, typologie, exemples)

       16 pages. Un bon texte pour ceux qui veulent apprendre les principes de base de l'auto-organisation. Approche "philosophique" (qualitative) et orientée vers les sciences humaines, l'économie et la psychologie (institutions, marchés, psychologie des groupes..).

       L'approche "philosophique" est distinguée de l'approche "scientifique":

"Les philosophes insistent sur l'irréductibilité des phénomènes émergents, à savoir qu'en plus d'être non prévisible a priori, ils sont même impossibles à expliquer a posteriori. Les scientifiques, tout en reconnaissant que les phénomènes émergents sont actuellement non prévisibles, mettent en avant que leur explication est un défi non perdu d'avance. De fait, comme la seconde attitude est plus exigeante que la première, elle s'avère aussi plus constructive."

       Sa typologie de phénomènes émergents vaut la peine de lire. Parmi les plus intéressants:

1- Émergence unilatérale, celle de Descartes: le tout n'est que la somme de ses parties. Émergence bilatérale: un niveau émergent d'organisation agit sur ses niveaux inférieurs. Ainsi, la vie une fois émergée sur la terre, modifie son substrat géochimique afin d'obtenir des conditions optimum pour sa survie et propagation. En Anglais: "downward causality". Le tout, une fois émergé, modifie / régule / stabilise les parties dont il est fait.

2- Émergence synchronique versus émergence diachronique ("en différents temps"). Dans le premier, les vitesses des processus à la petite échelle (micro) sont comparables à celles des processus émergents à la grand échelle (phénomène macro ou "holiste"). Dans le deuxième cas, les processus macros déroulent à des vitesses plus lentes. Ainsi s'établit un processus "évolutif" qui se transforme dans le temps. L'évolution biologique est un bon exemple. Nos ancêtres biologiques, les anciens souche-mammifères, tel le dinogorgon (bas Permien), peuvent ressembler à des bébittes des films d'épouvante!

3- Émergence spontanée versus émergence réfléchi. Dans le premier, les acteurs - s'il s'agit d'un processus social - ne sont pas conscients d'engendrer un processus macroscopique. Des "institutions" (coutumes, savoir faire régionaux, traditions, cuisine du terroir..) ont leur propre vie et mort. Nous "subissons" nos cultures et nos temps. Dans l'émergence réfléchie on agit selon un plan ou agenda, plus ou moins conscient et élaboré. Au niveau collectif, "on" observe afin d'atteindre un but. Si l'on s'en éloigne, on change  trajectoire pour l'attraper. Les révolutionnaires américains, russes et chinois construisaient une société nouvelle, pensaient-ils..

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The immortal Telemann

              Georg Philipp Telemann (14 March 1681 – 25 June 1767). A Pisces. Simplicity conjoined with nuance, elegance, listenability.. In some ways, Telemann can be seen as a representative of the best of European bourgeois culture. Born at the apex of modern bourgeois civilization, he embodied the highest values of that culture.

               Telemann was, firstly, a self-made man, an entrepreneur. Born into a upper middle class family, he chose to rise through his own efforts and talent: his family tried to persuade him from a career in music. Innovative, he was one of the first to earn major income from published sheet music. 

               During the 18th century, the bourgeoisie was ascendant and there was among them a thirst for culture. Telemann, through his published music, could be seen as "bringing music to the masses". Less complex than the music of say, Handel - who wrote for professional court musicians, Telemann's audience were either amateur musicians of the bourgeois class or local professionals payed by the bourgeois. Remember, in those days there were no recordings! If you wanted music, you either played it yourself or payed someone to play it. The audience for Telemann's sheet music were "amateurs" in the best sense of the word: "lovers" (of music). A perceived "simplicity" and "decadence" (mixture of styles), led nineteenth century critics to downrate Telemann and his importance. However, no less a luminary than Handel ("The Messiah"), subscribed to Telemann's published music..

           Telemann's place in the life cycle of bourgeois culture:

? 1100 - 1500    Emergence. Early rise of middle class in latter Middle Ages, Renaissance

1500 - 1850       Fulmination. 1492: "Columbus sailed the ocean blue" to pillage, rape and colonize the "New World". 1850: the death of William Wordsworth, the great(est) romantic poet, the death of Utopian Socialism and the hope of a socialist utopia. The socialist dream was dashed in failure of the Revolts of 1848, the "Springtime of Peoples" - so reminiscent of our "Arab Spring"!! See footnote 1). By 1850, it is arguable that Patriarchal Civilization had, in a global, general sense, peaked. Founded on "plundernomics", the economics of plunder (or "externalized costs"), Imperialist Patriarchal culture had simply run out of planet to plunder! The globe had been "circumnavigated" by ship centuries earlier but now European multinationals were plundering non-renewable resources (minerals, fossil fuels..) on a global basis. There simply were no new lands left to plunder! The "Limits to Growth", yes?

1850 - ? 2150     Decadence. Failure to make the transition to a Green Economy based on renewable resources and energies: wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, biomass, efficient use of energy and resources.. Demographic overload: humanity's current planetary "ecological footprint" is 5 times too big for the planet to maintain. There are, using current technologies, five times too many people for the planet to support. Something's gotta give. Like any species overexploiting its resource base, human population is now in "Ecological Overshoot". Unless we mend our ways ASAP, we will soon enter Demographic Collapse (mass die-off) or "Ecological Undershoot" (population typically collapses catastrophically to a level somewhat less than the ecosystem is capable of maintaining indefinitely).

              Telemann's birth (1681) falls right smack dab in the middle of the Fulmination phase of the Bourgeois Culture life cycle. His creative life coincided with the absolute apex of Bourgeois ascendancy. A man of his age, a man of his class. Probably one of their best representatives.

                              Caravaggio: I Musici (circa 1595) -

For a sampler, try Telemann: viola concerto in G major, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Neville Marriner (1976) 13 min 55

Suite in f-sharp minor for Strings and Basso continuo (period instruments) Musica Alta Ripa