Monday, March 23, 2009

More on Quaker Animism

Long time readers know there's this animal rights aspect to my work, which I connect to my Quakerism. I also say "animism" because I've absorbed a lot of the "medicine talk" of some native cultures. This thread gains me entre into another important polarity: misanthropy vs. philanthropy, a theme I explore.

There's an important reconciliation required, at least in some systems, to accept human rights as a subset of animal rights. We want to treat humans kindly, abhor torture as a concept let alone as a practice. We regard this as being kind to animals also, as we regard ourselves, humans, as animals also. These moves are grammatical, not really empirical, ergo philosophical. In Buddhism, we think of "sentient beings" and their (our) struggle for happiness and enlightenment.

Chicago looms, the city of my birth. In our buckaneer literature, this was where Fuller suffered a crisis circa 1927, with more details coming to light ever since. How he told the story became a part of his lore. The guy was a source of epics and sagas, his own character in the picture, more like new journalism in not pretending to "no subjectivity". There's a definite subjectivity, a bias, to one's telling. I don't deny it either.

Trevor Blake kept me 'n Sarah the dog company today. He regaled me with stories about the history of Sesame Street, the origins of childrens' television (Ding Dong School with Miss Francis, Captain Kangaroo, ...Mr. Rogers). The book he's reading pays careful attention to how these shows each needed to work out a relationship with commercial advertising. Lots of ethics are involved, which get reflected in program content to some degree.

A breakthrough with Sesame Street, was that although it was strictly non-commercial, the key topics came through as "ads" (like ads for the number three, for addition, for being kind) i.e. short, punchy, funny, often repeated. This was powerful programming, a cultural template that others subclassed and extended, and it helped a generation get going on literacy (a life long process, and one which embraces screens in many cases).

Trevor also reminded me (if I'd ever known), that Al Capone used to carry Mrs. Fuller's groceries up those steps, while our hero was out carousing, avoiding his destiny. By 1958, he was in better shape, teaching at the Chicago Institute of Design "just before [the] Black Mountain gig." I'm boning up on these factoids as I mix my Python stuff with my Bucky stuff quite a bit (not really news right?), am planning to see the Fuller exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, mixing lore and company.

Trevor has also directed my attention to the work of Frederick Soddy. To quote from Wikipedia:
In Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt, Soddy turned his attention to the role of energy in economic systems. He criticized the focus on monetary flows in economics, arguing that “real” wealth was derived from the use of energy to transform materials into physical goods and services. Soddy’s economic writings were largely ignored in his time, but would later be applied to the development of biophysical economics and ecological economics and also bioeconomics in the late 20th century.[3]
I see a lot of my lineage here, in terms of Quaker economics and my GST work. I corresponded with Kenneth Boulding for awhile in the early 1990s, sent that paper on general systems theory to Bucky, in 1982 (written in Cairo, mentions Zabbaleen, with whom my mom, Carol Urner, was working at the time). When Joe and Teresina moved to Portland, Joe started that Quaker economics group, where we kept some of this thinking alive.

Good seeing Dave Fabik again today. He's getting me a T-shirt that says "I'm blogging this." I also added that Linux sticker to Razz (a gift), even though I'm hardly a top horse rider in that school. Like I'm on Ubuntu a lot sure, yet my bash skills were never that great and I'm no lone coder master of the C programming language.

I'm clearly a mere mortal when it comes to my powers. That's because I'm an animal, in addition to being an animist of some kind. I'm proud of this heritage, like so what if I don't get to be a superman (never my goal). Happiness I still pursue, exercising my freedoms, not wanting to be too obstructive (I'm focused on what I'm for, less on what I'm against). Tara is away tonight celebrating Rose's birthday. Happy birthday Rose! Live long and prosper.