Perhaps culture could be defined most succinctly as the shared mental contents of a particular society.
The human animal is not smart enough or compassionate enough to make its current socioeconomic system equitable and fair. The system is in fact larger than even the will of the powerful; cultural evolution is a system and an organism unto itself. The issue is indeed systemic -- no species, no matter how smart, could make this system work equitably. (A higher type's would really be fundamentally different). It would need to be deliberately and intentionally transcended if there were to be lasting change. Thus we see the human animal's lack of intelligence in its inability to fix its current (and ubiquitous) system, and its lack of compassion in the absence of desire, on the whole, to mount any kind of meaningful and lasting campaign at least to look seriously into how fixing it might be done -- or rather, even, to recognize at all the desperation with which it indeed does need to be fixed. There have been great men over the eons; yet even they were powerless, really, to slow the momentum of the wild animal of culture and society, let alone arrest it, or direct it into a genuinely and meaningfully different channel.
We're not smart enough, on the whole, to see what's really going on in the world or to be able to control the system enough to do something about it; and we're not compassionate enough to care about our fellow man enough to want to do something about it.
The cultural system of modern civilization places far too little emphasis on participation in nature, whereas the cultural systems of most aboriginal cultures placed too much. The latter is probably existentially and socially preferable (and is, notably, sustainable), but both extremes lead to some wrong ideas, while an approach which is more balanced would more accurately reflect reality.
The human cultural matrix is a system far smarter and more powerful than any individual human or group of individuals. That is why it is in command of human affairs, and humans are not. It has been this way since before the dawn of civilization. We think we're at the helm. We're not. There are far subtler and more fundamental forces at work in human affairs than the decisions of anyone or any group. Conspiracy theories are seen to be irrelevant. We're passengers on a train and we do not lay down the tracks. The system is far more complex than and so far removed from human control that our beliefs about things really are a sort of sick tragedy. And when we're no longer needed as the host for the evolution of memes, nature will discard us. The only way to kill this cultural organism is for humanity to become extinct. Nature is using us.
Abstractly, culture is a bacterial population whose cells are individual humans.
The true course of human civilization has nothing to do with any one person's, or any group's, wishes, desires, plans or morals. It evolves much as a weather system does.
As one can plainly see, homo sapiens is a lousy substrate for cultural evolution after the onset of civilization.
There are forces at work on this planet that are quite invisible, and extremely powerful. Human culture is like a giant organism, and individuals are very small cells within that organism. Or culture is the brain and individuals are like individual neurons. Or one could liken it to a machine. Culture is a huge mechanism, and individual humans are like minor cogs in the overall mechanical process. This machine operates on what to us would be a decidedly abstract level, and yet it drives all of the human affairs of Earth. The evolution -- i.e. the adoption, mutation and selection -- of memes is the essence of what is happening. Everything in human society, every thought and almost every behavior, is shaped and in many cases decided by the greater cultural evolution. The cog is quite unaware of his place in the machine, or even what the machine is really doing. It all takes place in human minds, yet is far greater in its overall networked projection than any individual or group of individuals. Human choice has absolutely nothing to do with it.
Mother Nature is playing man like a hand of cards, and letting him think, all the while, that the game is under his control. All mankind is really playing is the fool.
Does money exist for any other reason than to change hands and become unequally held?
Over the last ten thousand years, for our culture (Mesopotamian civilization), there has been better and there has been worse, but over time it has all been pretty much the same thing, fundamentally. So, we can say that there is pretty strong evidence that meaningful or radical change simply does not take place, despite the idealism.
Did anyone notice the subcultural awakenings?
A form of abstract progress, i.e. complexification, may or may not be going on in Nature, but progress on a human level is a meme specific to our civilization and is not objective. How do you know progress is even happening? Sure technological "progress" is occurring, but how do we know how this will affect the destiny of man himself? It could be very deleterious in the long-run. So that wouldn't really be progress. And it seems to me that the only objective measure of progress in human societies is the development of the level of happiness overall. With all of this complex technology, etc., are humans really any happier than they were fifty years ago? A hundred, two hundred years ago? I think a lot of people would say that no, we're not. There's a lot of misery associated with modern society. So how can we be said to have progressed? The notion that progress is necessarily happening on a level meaningful for human beings and their most central interests is a cultural bias that most of us don't even think about. More complex does not necessarily mean "better."
We've made tremendous quantitative progress as a civilization. The amount of qualitative progress we have made is decidedly up for debate.
Instead of using the word "progress," perhaps we should instead substitute the word "development" in order to shed some of the baggage.
The evolution of culture is a runaway train and its human passengers are incidental.
Are we really better off for having all this stuff, or is it just the automatic, inevitable march of a developing civilization? Are we really getting happier as time goes on?
Any civilized nation should have a populace with access to: free health care; any non-lethal substance one wishes, a subset of which would include clinics for the administration of, for example, heroin and certain other schedule I substances; any plant/fungus one chooses to cultivate and grow; free education for anyone who is interested, with attentiveness to the possibility of compensating students monetarily, which would be not only appropriate but also act as a mechanism for ensuring the presence of those who should be there and the absence of those who shouldn't; extremely limited campaign finance and fixed, tighter term limits on all politicians, ensuring a lack of corruption and true citizen service; a defense budget that is sensible but not out of control; a sensible tax code; and any number of other basic improvements that all citizens of planet Earth should have. We would do well to stop all this very American self-congratulatory flag-waving and get down to thinking about things.
Nationalism has become obsolete.
It is all too easy to blame our problems on those at the top. While they are certainly not blameless in general, they are just playing the game, too. If you want to pick a culprit, pick the evolution of human culture. It has the perfect disguise: it is invisible.
Humans are merely unwitting pawns in the real action, which is memetic and cultural. Cultural evolution is a train, made up of humanity, whose constituents do not lay down the tracks, and cannot even see out of the windows. It is an operation on an entirely different level, and almost everybody is totally blind to it. Cultural evolution's goals are more important for it than human lives are. The evolutionary push now is toward Artificial Intelligence.
Certain control mechanisms are becoming more available to those in power due to the nature of certain emerging technologies. It seems unlikely that those in power would not want to take advantage of the opportunity to utilize them.
The most disastrous century by far was the twentieth.
It would be the modus operandi of the members of a smarter species to declare themselves citizens of Earth rather than citizens of an imaginary, arbitrary zone.
The quest of Western civilization is the quest for control. In reality of course, control is nothing more than a quaint illusion. Even our very selves are only a biochemical reality. To believe we are actually in control of anything is a mythical fallacy.
The only times societies ever change is when their people change their minds. Not by passing legislation or instituting new programs. In a society of changed minds, the proper legislation and programs will follow -- as effects, not causes.
One can trace the retrogression and degradation of the average human mind by tracing that of language over the past couple of hundred years. The most articulate people today would have been very common even a hundred years ago.
There is a certain amount of truth the modern age has abandoned in favor of democracy and equality.
The differences between cultures are not as significant as the similarities.
We are living in primitive times.
Most people are pessimistic because they see death and destruction everywhere conveyed by the media. In point of fact, the global death rate and casualties from war have gone down significantly and steadily since World War II. The phenomenon people experience is not overwhelming violence and tragedy, it is the supreme connectedness and pervasiveness of the coverage of destructive events around the world. Today, when a bus explodes in Kabul, Afghanistan, we are aware of it within the hour from our television and internet news sources. We are aware, usually within 24 hours, of virtually all major or even somewhat minor events, and so it appears that the level of death and destruction is abnormally high. In reality, it is relatively low in historical terms. The globe is simply far more connected than it was even ten years ago, and virtually infinitely more connected than it was half a century ago. The sky is not really falling, and things aren't nearly as chaotic as they seem.
Lilly, in the isolation tank itself, and then in combination with LSD, discovered and accomplished in a few years' time what Hindu and Buddhist scholars groped at for a thousand years. A well-educated, psychologically prepared, experienced psychonaut can do it in a few hours. Technology accelerates. We need to eliminate the taboos and the restrictive laws concerning the research of psychedelic substances. The knowledge can open doors for individuals and potentially for society at large. Our prohibition is nonsense; it only criminalizes the act and endangers interested seekers. It doesn't actually stop anyone from acquiring the substances. Alas, profiteers in business and government would rather have crime and ignorance than individual freedom and knowledge.
Cultural differences exist not only in categorically familiar areas like customs, beliefs, and languages but much more importantly and fundamentally in the very configuration of consciousness due to basic potential differences in the wiring of the brain itself. The perception of the world of a 2016 New Yorker is virtually alien to that of a Tibetan monk of 950, and even more so to a plains Indian of 500 BC. If you were somehow able to teleport between these various nervous systems, I think it can be said that you might not even know they were all the same species. It has been shown that the human brain is easily plastic enough for such variation. The cultural realm -- the sphere of human thought -- is not ordinarily considered to be so vital. Everyone just assumes everything is an epiphenomenon of genetics. And you can't really fault them; it's what the scientific community has fostered. But the connectivity of the brain is vastly complex, and allows for any behavior and any perception one can possibly imagine. Everyone thinks cultural differences are merely morphologies on a theme of some ill-defined human nature. Human nature itself is not fixed. And neither is perception, or consciousness.
Ours is a culture exclusively of commodities. Everything -- including even ideas, feelings, sensations, personalities, individual character (to name but a few examples which especially demarcate the depth of our shallowness) -- is packaged neatly and marketed for sale in a society in which what is for sale is all that exists.
Perhaps the exploration of reality through the ingestion of psychedelic substances should be a shamanistic, or even better a monastic, venture. It is not a good idea to try to sell hyper-reality to the masses. It just creates abuse and trouble. A small, committed core of intelligent researchers should be taking psychedelic substances, and communicating novel information and creative fruits to the rest of us. This approach would probably be the least problematic and the most appropriate.
The more I travel, the more I get a sense that a sterile, putrid monoculture has infested the entire United States, most of Europe and quite possibly most of the civilized world globally. The charm and beauty of a diversity of cultures is dwindling by the decade in favor of this boring, packaged McDonald's-style twilight economic uniformity. It's damned depressing.
Doesn't anyone care that our progress doesn't happen for its own sake? It happens only because it can be sold.
The primary reason for the malaise, despair, and loneliness of the modern age appears to be a consequence of a basic split with our evolutionary heritage. For most of our time on this planet, humanity has not suffered from all of the dysfunctions of the modern age, such as the proliferation of murder, rape, crime, suffering, want, insular ideologies, shabby institutions, and many other tragic social and cultural failures. Our ideologies and institutions can be quite stifling and often constitute almost total malfunction, and this coupled with a sedentism that goes wholly against our heritage of roughly 100,000 years has led to a break with the genetic necessities specific to our species. This leads to a marked loneliness that, while not often talked about, is a symptom of a cultural bankruptcy and lack of sufficiency to provide for all members of the community of life which, until very recently in geological/evolutionary time, was being done more or less because of necessity, which preserved diversity, and which of course is a fundamental attribute of a healthy ecosystem. I would venture to reiterate what so many people have said, and that is that the current constitution of modern civilized societies eliminates virtually all forms of diversity. While it may be possible for humanity to survive the onslaught of this war on diversity with such high-tech and successful agricultural practices, it will simply not do to let this go on to destroy billions of years of evolution in the blink of an eye. Do we have to wait until life on our planet is no longer worth living?
Our culture works well for things: money, property, ideologies, institutions. What we do not have is a culture that works well for people.
Belonging. George Carlin spoke eloquently of not identifying with any group or any activity, of not belonging to anything. He didn't belong to a country, to a religion, to an organization, to a dogma, to a fixed set of ideas, to a profession, to a group -- to any group, really -- or even to a culture, as he despised the dominant one. And I must say I feel the same way. I feel no sense of belonging to anything. I do not belong to a country, or to a state, or to a religion, or to any dogma, or to any group of friends, or to any spouse or sexual partner, or to any organization or group. I don't even feel much of a sense of belonging to my own family. I do not, and I do not want, to belong to any occupation or career track. I am not a chef or a lawyer or a banker or a pilot, and do not want to be any of these things or anything else. I just want to live a simple, well-functioning life. I just want to live as I was intended to live by the outcome(s) of the process of evolution. Humans need to belong to something. There is nothing in this culture worth belonging to, including the very culture itself -- which is a conundrum.
One could move Heaven and Earth and not pull humanity out of the hole it is in. Civilization is what one might call inert.
Programs are not going to fix our problems. Neither will ignoring them.
Mother Nature essentially views humanity as expendable. She doesn't give a damn about us. We are pawns serving her overarching needs.
Socialism is not the true answer to the American conundrum (even though the socialists' diagnosis of the surface problem is accurate enough). The answer is a complete revamping, if not overhaul, of the minds and souls of the majority. And come to think of it, that probably wouldn't be the answer, either.
I sympathize with Daniel Quinn, but there is simply no way in hell we're going to be able to return the overseeing of the affairs of this planet to the "hands of the gods." It's just impossible.
What we've got here is a giant game of chess. Nature is allowing us to believe that we are moving the pieces, when the sober reality is that we are the pieces. Nature could conceivably lose, but it is the only possible winner.
Privacy in the modern age is no more. It is a casualty; this is the consequence of technology and interconnectedness. Appeals to the first and fourth amendments become rather quaint and lame, as they are at best selectively enforced.
Humans don't create culture; it creates us.
As long as humans exist as they are and not as they "ought to be" anarchy and total freedom will remain pipe-dreams.
We were given a wonderful planet, full of dynamism and promise, and have made of it what some might call a hell. Naturally, it was a paradise for many creatures. Culturally, we have, to put it politely, stalled, and to put it crudely, put ourselves into a fucking morass.
In the end, it is probably various extremes which do empires in. Inequality of wealth and power; overreach domestically and abroad (including militarily); debt; decadence; decay; stupidity, etc., etc. and the concomitance of and reinforcement between factors. Certainly, a process so complex must remain somewhat mysterious, but it seems constructive to point out the factors and manifestations we know about.