Fearful citizens make good citizens

CowerNew research is shedding light on something we’ve all suspected for a long time, that those who believe in a God who will punish them if they don’t, tend to give more to others and be better citizens. The study, published yesterday in Nature, suggests that even geographic separation doesn’t stand in the way, as long as the givers believe in a punishing God.

“People may trust in, cooperate with and interact fairly within wider social circles, partly because they believe that knowing gods will punish them if they do not,” the study’s authors wrote.

“Moreover, the social radius within which people are willing to engage in behaviors that benefit others at a cost to themselves may enlarge as gods’ powers to monitor and punish increase.”

In a report on the study, Discovery News, noted that participants played a game during which they made critical decisions about giving. According to Discovery, the study’s lead author Benjamin Purzycki said the results suggested people of the belief that one’s actions are monitored, judged and punished by a deity were more likely to play fair than to play favorites.

This shouldn’t shock anyone, for it is the key social management tool of colonialism, the modern era’s weapon in seizing control of foreign lands and claiming the land, its natural resources, and its inhabitants for the good of the invaders. The idea that reforming the natives was in the natives’ best interests worked hand-in-hand with the business goals and ideals of the conquerers, and this is a truth we’re beginning to discover in the postmodern deconstruction of history.

It’s also why religious evangelicalism, regardless of the religion being evangelized, is first a governing strategy, much in the way that Santa Claus is used to govern the behavior of certain children. As I cover in my forthcoming book, How Jesus Joined The GOP, the need to convert others is self-serving, if the benefit to the converter is a future reward.

Christianity was a big part of the internal governor that helped form the United States. It will be a big part of my focus as The Pomo Blog shifts gears from media to religion.

A great spiritual awakening, postmodern style

Trying to get above or ahead of the public fray about religion in order to make any cultural sense of things is a bit like trying to unscrew a flat head with a Phillips head. As institutions go, this one is a mangled glob of disconnected hierarchies each claiming the high ground from which one can see forever. This is also an apt description for the further tangled wires of individual religions, for each sect within these wholes strives for placement above the rest. It’s the most interesting of all of the worlds that make up Western civilization (and beyond, of course), because it involves hard core beliefs and behaviors that form an expanding circle of influence governing the lives of individual people, families, communities, regions, states, countries and even the world itself.

We all have a religion, even those who claim no religion, for even the tenets of atheism require faith. As David Dark writes in his new book, Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious, “If what we believe is what we see is what we do is who we are, there’s no getting away from religion.”

The question I’m going to be exploring in the months and years ahead is where is religion headed and what will it look like in a postmodern world? Since my roots and background are Christianity, the Christian faith will likely be my primary focus. The cultural and intellectual crossover experiences I’ve had, however, tend to provide observations from outside the box of Christianity itself. Consequently, what I’ll be writing will come from a more inclusive window on the world. I realize that even in saying that, I’m opening myself up to criticism from those firmly inside that box, so you’ll likely find me drifting in and out. I’ll be criticized as undisciplined, but I’m ready for all of that.

This may baffle some, but welcome to the mystery of chaos. I hope to shed light on the chaos of postmodernism, too.

In my forthcoming book, How Jesus Joined The GOP, I make the case that the people who scare me the most today are those who refuse to venture outside that box, and I’m not talking about leaders. It’s the foot soldiers of the political right in their “Christian battle” that frighten me most, because they have no incentive to listen, and listening is THE most important skill in today’s networked world. They’re generally too busy talking. Such people are on a collision course with deconstructionists, many of whom came from their midst, and this will not end well. It is however quite inevitable, for the very structure of that connectivity will continue to place ongoing and relentless pressure on those who are incapable of or refuse to deconstruct themselves. The process of clicking on a link for further elucidation is, in fact, an exercise in deconstructionism. Families will be torn apart over this, and the young will speak a language entirely foreign to their elders, and it won’t be rock-n-roll.

There’s no going back, and even the appearance of standing still is illusionary.

Christians who look to tradition only will find themselves caught in this crucible and will have to make decisions that will impact everyone in their tribes of influence. Choosing to stand one’s ground will seem noble at first, led by those who’ll quote persecution scriptures and antiChrist warnings. Convinced that God will protect them FROM all of this, they will be shocked to later learn that God was actually leading this all along. They will also be surprised to discover that the spiritual awakening for which they’ve been praying for so long has actually taken place without them.

One thing is certain: postmodernism isn’t a passing fad or work of the devil. It’s the passing away of the flaws and fallacies of modernity and the opening of the cultural era that will govern Western civilization for a very long time. Just as the printing press struck at the heart of the church’s authority in the fifteenth century, so the internet is disrupting the authority of the hierarchies of modernism. Colonialism is a relic that belongs on the dust pile of history along with the form of Christian evangelicalism that accompanied it, and the funeral service has been underway already for many years.

I’m sure this sounds dark and spooky to many readers, but it’s actually a time of great rejoicing. God isn’t dead; God is Life, so that’s ridiculous. And for millions of people, there IS an awakening underway of Biblical proportions. It doesn’t resemble anything of the past, thank God.

I’ll be writing about that awakening, and I may be clumsy in so doing. Please be patient and don’t be afraid to join in the discussion.

Re-writing history by erasure

Media in the U.S. is more often than not the servant of special interests, even though professional journalists would scoff at the idea as absurd. Unfortunately, the truth is that it’s been this way since the early 20th Century and the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson. I’ve written extensively about the Creel Committee and its manipulation of information about World War I and especially the later work of its members, Walter Lippmann and his friend Edward Bernays. The only way to overcome this and set the historical record right is to participate in the postmodern practice of deconstructionism. The problem is rarely one of the facts but almost always of the narrative or grand narrative that comes from selecting certain facts and dismissing others.

Journalism in the future – it is certainly my hope – will embrace active deconstructionism to separate truth from self-serving narratives. It simply has no choice in a networked world. That’s because people can talk to each other without filters. Truth in mass media is often obscured for the sake of populism and nationalism, and we have a great example of this underway currently in the Middle East.

Zionism is a very real attempt to eliminate certain portions of history in order to establish a direct connection between modern day Israel and the historical record of the Old Testament in the Bible. There are regional political and economic reasons for so doing, and I get that. However, we don’t need to sit back as a culture and look aside as crimes are being committed in the process, no matter how righteous our intentions. The truth is there isn’t a direct connection between contemporary Israel and the Israel of the Bible, and attempts to make that connection by eliminating everything between are entirely self-serving. We must not only be concerned with what’s happening today, but what will happen tomorrow, if such a connection becomes a part of the grand narrative of world history.

mamillaMondoweiss, a publication that searches for verifiable truth in the region, today published the words of Sergio Yahni, an Israeli journalist and coordinator of the Palestinian-Israeli organization, the Alternative Information Center. The article expresses concerns about the necessities of Zionists to establish Jerusalem as entirely a Jewish city, despite prior agreements to keep it multi-cultural. The article specifically references an important Islamic cemetery.

“They are commercializing the city, selling it as a modern Jewish city, but at the same time as an ancient one. The mayor, Nir Barkat, wants to sell Jerusalem to the world as an opulent tourist attraction, because of this, he is transforming its character and the nature…”

“To reach this goal, it’s erasing the Islamic history and tradition of the city. Jerusalem is built on multiple layers, a unique stage of history, but the municipality is working hard to simplify it. How? Erasing the Islamic layer in order to replace it with the Roman and the Jewish ones…”

“The scientific archeology was replaced by the ideological archeology: all the Israeli work in this field is based on the Bible and the Old Testament, trying to demonstrate their narrative, and obviously, in this context, there is no space for the Islamic and Arab tradition. Let’s take the example of the Moroccan Quarter, in the Old City, just beside the Wailing Wall: it was built in the 12th century and it was destroyed after 1967 because it was contradicting the Zionist narrative. The same thing is happening in Silwan with the City of David and in Mamilla: the archeology is a tool to justify a personal and self-interested narrative, erasing the real one”.

I realize a lot of people simply say “so what? After all, Israel won the war, so let them do what they want.” The problem is very simply this: The prophecy that both Jews and Evangelical Christians use to justify this (Ezekiel 36:24-36) must be edited in order to apply it to contemporary Israel, for the text concerns God scattering the Jews for their misbehavior regarding the covenant God had established with them. The verses describe God’s great mercy in cleansing them and bringing them home. So one is free to ask the only pertinent question in light of the prophecy: is the nation of Israel’s behavior righteous or is it not? Are the people living in accordance with the laws and sacrifices ascribed to them as the people of God?

Even an idiot could answer that question correctly, unless they’re only given a tilted form of truth.

If Zionism is allowed to get away with this ruse, we will all bear the global consequences of a country, armed to the teeth, doing whatever they please in the name of God.

It’s enough to make you wonder who are the real good guys and bad guys in what we see unfolding day in and day out in the Middle East.

Enough is enough, saith the people

horizontalHere is the latest in my ongoing series of essays, Local Media in a Postmodern World:

Humanity’s Greatest Challenge

In discussing what’s happening to traditional media – including at the local level – we need to understand how the culture around us is influencing its disruption. It is culture, not technology, that is fueling institutional disruption in the 21st Century, and it’s going to continue for a very long time. The bottom of culture is rising up to challenge the underpinnings of the ruling class, led by a simple tool of the postmodernist, deconstruction.

Tension, anxiety, then relief

Felix Baumgartner safe at home

The shot that’s destined to become the iconic photo of the space jump

I was 23 years old when man first walked on the moon, and I’d forgotten the emotions of that event until Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped today from a capsule 128,000 feet in the air. My heart rate was way up, as I sat in front of my computer watching it unfold live via YouTube. I was almost gasping for air as he went into a spin during the free fall and pure adrenaline was controlling every system of my body. And finally, there was the flush of a great chemical release that replaced it all the moment his feet met his shadow right here on planet Earth. There are so many winners here that it’s hard to state them all.

Baumgartner, of course, for becoming the latest in a long line of space heroes. As @lukepeters Tweeted: “I’m amazed Felix managed to get out of that capsule considering how big his balls are.” We love heroes, and it will be fun to watch the coming media glom.

Science for what it provided and what it gained from this historical first. @jeffjarvis and others engaged in a discussion of whether this kind of free fall could have saved the astronauts from the shuttle Columbia when it exploded upon re-entry in 2003. Jeff Tweeted: “Consensus of answers: This would not have helped shuttle victims as their vehicle was going too fast & no time.” Science learns from science, and this mission will doubtless provide important data for tomorrow.

Red Bull for sponsoring the event. Will this be the start of commercial space missions? Will we see a competition, of sorts. @dansinker Tweeted: “And thus began the energy-drink arms race that culminated in the Brawndo Sun-Jump tragedy of 2174.”

YouTube for blowing away its previous record in providing flawless 1080p live streaming to more than 8 million viewers, an “audience” 16 times bigger than anything it had done before. Kudos, and call me amazed. This will likely be the first time a streaming event beat a television (one-to-many) event.

And then there’s the sheer magnitude of sharing this historical event with friends via Twitter. Somebody asked if Evel Knievel would have been bigger in the YouTube era. Good question, and I’m not sure. This was the real deal of second screen sharing, and I can’t wait until the numbers come in. It may not have been the Oscars or the MTV awards, but for utter drama, it was amazing.

But the drama of the event tops my list. Baumgartner’s contact back at Mission Control was 84-year old Joe Kittinger, the retired Air Force colonel whose record Baumgartner was trying to break. I doubt NASA would have permitted such, but the emotional bond between the two was evident, especially as Kittinger turned Baumgartner over to “the guardian angels.”

I’m betting on this for the next Bond movie in four years.

Damn those knowledgeable customers!

Regular readers here know my views about marketing over the past 100 years. The word took on pejorative tones with the Creel Committee, and reached its one-to-many pinnacle with the era of Mad Men. Edward Bernays was a part of the committee and widely regarded as the father of professional public relations. In his 1947 essay The Engineering of Consent, Bernays described how to manipulate the public (that’s you and me) with clever tactics. Here’s my favorite line:

“If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it.”

This remarkable, narcissistic and cynical statement has crumbled before our eyes today, although most marketers secretly maintain that it’s still applicable. Why is it problematic today? Because people now are beginning to know the extent of the manipulation and are increasingly able to detect it when it’s happening. Hence, Bernays’ “without their knowing it” is problematic today when it wasn’t when Bernays first had the thought.

Thanks to the wonder of YouTube, here’s Bernays himself telling the story of how he advanced the interests of the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Bernays’ “torches of freedom” campaign advanced the women’s rights issue for profit, something that continues even today.

Here’s another view of the growing sense that customers are aware of being manipulated. It comes via Doc Searls and his work with Project VRM (Vendor Rights Management). This is a graph comparing the use of the words “consumer” and “customer” in books written since 1780. Notice that the Mad Men era has a clear beginning and a clear end, and it all starts at roughly the same time as the Creel Committee and its work, including that of Edward Bernays. The word “customer” has skyrocketed in recent years, as writers have become increasingly convinced of the pejorative and manipulative reality of the word “consumer.”

books containing the words 'consumer' or 'customer'

This big cultural shift — along with many others brought about by disruptive innovations — signals the dawn of a whole new world with which businesses and people must deal in the years ahead. “Power to the people” has always been a revolutionary theme, and what we’re living is certainly that.

We live in interesting times.