Unifying Our Idea of Social Progress

Created April 15, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

The most powerful cultural change driving world and personal events today is the underlying sense of loss of belief in the American Dream.

I’m paraphrasing the words of Walker Smith, former President of Yankelovich, for many years the most psychologically sophisticated research company serving the marketing field, speaking today at the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) annual AUDIENCExSCIENCE conference.

What is or was the American Dream and how could it account for what is happening outside the US today? Because Walker was not just talking about the USA.

The American Dream has always meant the hope, aspiration, and expectation that each generation would be better off than the preceding one.

This idea did not necessarily exist before the USA came about. In the Middle Ages, the prevailing feeling was that things used to be better in the ancient world’s Golden Age, and that was now all gone forever, never to return. 

The Renaissance opened the door to art and science and technology in ways which restored the human race’s belief in itself. This led into a period we call the Enlightenment which then lost touch with the human spirit and curled back into the awe-neutralizing world we live in today, formed in the Eighteenth Century. 

The democratic revolutions in America and France were a turning point that restored the zeitgeist of hopefulness about the future, revivifying the optimistic inspiration of the Renaissance. For more than 200 years the American Dream inspired people around the world to work harder and smarter and with more inspiration to shape a better world for their children and secondarily for themselves.

And now it appears that Walker Smith is right, there is a prevailing tacit sense of disillusionment, tacit in the sense of not being expressed as directly as he expressed it today to me and hundreds of other leaders of the world’s marketing and media intelligentsia.

Walker showed compelling survey results to back up his point. In countries where most progress has been made toward economic success, social justice and the dignity of the individual, he showed that after decades in which most people believed their kids would have it better than themselves, today the majority believe that the kids will have it worse.

A later speaker at the conference showed a verbatim comment made by a Gen Z person indicating “I no longer trust government, other people, or the world.” 

Both optimism and pessimism are biases, less desirable than objectivity, but between them, one helps and the other hurts, because any mindset becomes self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s the way our minds work. Pessimism forces us down into the pit we feared. Optimism gives us back the natural zest for life and enables us to overcome – anything.

Data shown at the conference confirms that Gen Z (people born since 1997) are far above average in holding brands to communicate, by their actions and authentic words and images, that brands recognize their purpose is to make life better for everyone. And yet now these idealists are already experiencing the disappointment in their own golden dreams, all too soon, all too soon.

We can’t let this go on.

What gutted our confidence?

Walker had pointed us at the Starting Points of a generation, telling us that each generation reflects what the Cultural Tent Pole events were when they came into the conversation.

For Gen Z, the oldest of whom is now 25, when they were first starting to use media they heard about the war on terrorism, and the US limited ability to dial back violence everywhere. As they grew up, they saw a growing divide along partisan lines within the US, mirrored around the world. The idea of limits was reinforced and the idea of possibilities was diminished. The split into red and blue idealists played out as one side limiting the other side from being able to make improvements.

They may have consciously ignored most of this while playing expressively within their social media communities, but nothing could have protected their subconscious minds from imbibing these toxins.

Unifying our ideals and values is necessary if we are to protect Gen Z and all future generations from reruns of the worst of history.

We have the power. We have to use it constructively. We need to unify our idea of “What IS social progress?”

Social progress starts with the criterion that one’s own descendants should have it even better than we do. That is the most unifying ideal of all. We should all find it easy to agree on that if nothing else.

Avoiding Derailment

The idea that everyone should benefit runs into major difficulty when it is looked at through the lens of a person who feels threatened. That person does not want a level playing field because they already feel cheated and are therefore naturally skeptical about the idea that they should support other people more than they have been supported.

The person who feels threatened is probably subconsciously feeling a sense of inferiority. In our materialistic culture the need to take work that is uninspiring leads the average person to live out a life of quiet desperation (TS Eliot) conducive of a sense of inferiority and of throwing one’s life away. So that there is a very large pool of people who instinctively flinch away from taking care of other people because they feel someone ought to be taking better care of them. 

The sense of inferiority was historically an albatross that Russia still bears. But the dissatisfied and resentful chords in the human chorus are not limited by geography, these poisons to the spirit are everywhere, and reduce openness to ideas about sharing with those even worse off than ourselves. Only those who feel good about themselves subconsciously and consciously can authentically support the idea of equality.

This does not mean putting the movement toward equality on hold. I personally feel that the momentum toward equality is now established, by the efforts of millions of people from Nelson Mandela to Martin Luther King and on and on, including the people of show business, and Gen Z will make it happen if we don’t complete the job, but we will. 

Instead, what I’m suggesting is that we don’t confuse the issue by too quickly bringing in more specificity, as we re-establish the unifying notion of a better life for our kids. All of our kids. That would defeat the drive to unity, a message in a bottle in all languages, e.g.: Rodovoi. Danketsu. Tongyi. Aikyam. Yachad. Henosis. Our objective here is unity in re-establishing the universal dream of human social progress. Today, in the present context, it can only be founded on one remaining point of solidarity: our children.  

So, as we sew up the ravaged flag of idealism and courage facing the future, in the complex world of motivations, we can’t go too far too fast. Start with the one universal common ground: our children. We must make a better life for them. We cannot, for whatever reasons we concoct with our brilliant rhetoric, justify anything less than a commitment of our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor (Thomas Jefferson) to this unifying ideal. This is the philosopher’s stone by which to navigate the rest of the journey. 

Because we must first re-establish unity of realistic idealism before we can turn to specifics.

Take the present most divisive issues and give them a rest. Let your hearts and minds discover what else there is to be said, with positivity, constructiveness, and encouragement. What will help make for a better world for all the generations to come. Words and feelings and actions that bring us together again. Don’t skip to step two, please, focus on step one.

Love to all, 

Bill

Applying the Scientific Method to Life

Created April 8, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

Of all human endeavors, which are the most successful? Love, education, and art are certainly up there. One branch of education, science, has been spectacularly successful. Science is the form of education in which we plumb the mysteries of life from the ground up, before we know enough to teach others.

Why do I say “spectacularly” successful? If we had no science, Covid probably would have killed most of us by now. How else could hairless apes fly to the moon, or fly at all, or even build and drive cars?

Technology stands on the shoulders of science. Without science, our supreme technology might be fire, the wheel, and rudimentary weapons. No, that’s not true; without science, our supreme technology would be language. The transition from language to mathematics is where true science begins.

Einstein said “All of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking.”

We might unpack Einstein’s word “refinement” into the operational steps which turn everyday thinking into science.

Step 1 might be the “Elimination of Bias”. One must start from an open mind, without attachment to proving something, intent only on discovering the truth. One must be always on guard for one’s own subconscious biases and by making them conscious, overcoming them and attaining a real sense of objectivity. I play a game with myself as to how I will feel if the truth turns out to be A, how will that affect my emotions, if it turns out to be the opposite, how will that affect my emotions? In this way I can gain a degree of insight into my own remaining degree of subconscious bias.

If I still laugh nastily to myself when considering it might turn out to be the opposite of my hypothesis, I know that I’m still biased, and still consider the opposite of my hypothesis to be such nonsense that it could never turn out to be the truth.

Step 2 might be “Recording of Observations”. This is the inductive reasoning which leads to the formation of experiments, wherein deductive logic takes over. In an experiment (Step 3) there is a comparison of two matched events in which only one variable is different, such that if the outcomes are different, the cause of that difference had to be that one variable.

In this post I’ll focus on Step 2. In a later post we’ll get to Step 3.

What do I propose we observe, and why? What truth do I seek to have you discover?

The Answer to The Ultimate Question. That’s what I’d like you to discover for yourself, by using science to refine your everyday thinking.

The Ultimate Question is whether Consciousness is the main field, or whether the main field is Matter, or whether the truth is both at the same time.

Why is this The Ultimate Question?

Because if Consciousness is the main field, or if they are equally primary and came about together at the theoretical beginning of the universe (although Time may be a secondary detail added later and the primary elements have always existed), then things like God, telepathy, precognition, and divine inspiration could be scientific realities.

However (without evidence) the current culture has overwhelmingly decided in favor of a bias toward Matter being the substrate of the universe, and consciousness something that is created when Matter accidentally falls into the exactly right configuration to produce Consciousness in a select few of the objects in the universe.

Given this bias, we are indoctrinated subconsciously into not experiencing God, telepathy, precognition, and divine inspiration.

This does not stop us from joining in approved religions, where we may sometimes feel things that border on the experiencing of God, etc.

However if those things exist and we are not making full use of them in our everyday lives, then that is a loss.

Perhaps an unnecessary loss, if we can open our minds and keep unbiased records of our observations for later cogitation.

Here’s how it could work. You would keep a scientific journal in which you would be observing what might be your own hunches/intuitions – internal messages you receive from yourself or from somewhere, including messages that you might be getting in dreams.

You put that in your journal – which might be this format – recording when it happened, what the hunch was, whether you seemed to be reading someone else’s mind at the time or not, whether you had a feeling it might be the universe trying to tell you something or not, whether you sense your own emotional preference for it being true or not, whether you sense your own negativity while thinking about this hunch. These could be simple checkmarks for yes and X’s for no. Or you could add details to remind you of what the hunch was, whose mind you might have been reading, etc.

Subsequently you would add in the Validation column the evidence that the hunch was proven true or false.

I would expect that in the absence of negativity you would find most of the hunches to be validated.

The advantage of using a method like this is that you are making up your own mind about the most important questions in life. Not being a follower accepting authority’s answers. Seeing what your own experience tells you.

I suspect that you will be surprised at the degree to which you experience these so-called “supernatural” powers, although the word “supernatural” is an oxymoron since nature is what is.

Resistance to these possibilities has been so deeply ingrained it could take some time before you feel the effects.

Love to all,

Bill

Erasing Preconceived Notions

Created April 1, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

As we live our lives, every moment means something to us, gives us certain feelings, has a certain influence on the balance of power in our minds of different ideas to which we have been attracted along the way. Most of this is unclear and subconscious as if we are drifting along in dream state management of our lives.

Over time we start to reach clarity on some things. We form aspirations of what we’d like to do in our lives. Meanwhile we must keep up with whatever life has thrust upon us.

As we look back now, we find it impossible to remember details of certain scenes, and we unconsciously recreate our memories based on the way we’ve told our stories in the past.

In the hodgepodge of memory engrams we’re able to access and manipulate awake or in dreams, there is an underlying layer of motivations in the residue of time within our own self. Things that still propel and compel us in our involuntary and voluntary actions.

We have some glimpses of our own motivators and every now and then focus on making our subconscious conscious so that we might debate within ourself what shall be the meaning and direction of our life. How we shall strive to use our time to make our mark on the world, to leave it with some trace of our brushstrokes on the great canvas.

Meaning is one of the subconscious motivators we all have. We want to understand what this is all for. Why we are doing all this. We feel the urge to make some sense out of life.

Before we became so smart, we automatically developed systems which gave meaning to our lives, and these systems tended to romanticize the world as a living thing. We felt a kinship with nature and every living thing. It did not occur to us that this might be a wrongheaded idea because it was so obviously true to us. Romanticization was part of our natural process, and did not mean that it wasn’t true and accurate to the real world. Our subjective perspective was to us the realest part of the real world, without denial that the other beings and things with which we interacted were not equally real. It was all real to us on every level.

Romanticizing was not a distortion it was a layering of our innate love for life, a natural reaction to being in life. From this root as we learned to use symbolic communication where sounds and gestures had agreed meanings, we wove myths and created art. These co-creational activities arose naturally and led to philosophical speculation and ultimately to scientific experimentation about that speculation.

Then, only a few hundred years ago, science began to feel embarrassed about the notion of God, the idea that there is consciousness greater than the sum of universe parts we are built to perceive. Gradually from one generation to the next this embarrassment built in intensity. We couldn’t prove God exists. We couldn’t disprove it. But we were made to feel like we believed in Santa Claus if we gave in to the natural intuition that there must be something greater than we can detect with our instruments that had something to do with concocting this amazing universe. This idea has been culturally flogged out of most of us.

There are people who do still believe on some level in God, generally a predefined God with rules and rituals that in their own positive way unintentionally train us to also accept authoritarianism from other less innocent directions. These views of God are each compelling, and what arises within us are beautiful feelings of satisfaction at the glory of their testaments. It may or may not be allegory or history or revealed truth but it feels like all of those things and gives us the meaning feeling that we need and always had when we were primitives.

The Protestant, Hindu, Taoist and Native American idea that we can each have our own direct relationship with God could actually be a return to the past in that living sense of a natural system of romanticized love of the spirit behind everything.

And there could be another unsuspected layer in all of this: that we each have innate intuitive powers which are ruled out by scientism (the sense that accidentalism, materialism and science are all locked together into a Truth Molecule which forbids sane adults from the stupidity of magical thinking and superstition).

These last few hundred years of the dominant world culture ruled out the fact that we have uncannily accurate hunches sometimes, and enforced exclusion of our noticing that sometimes the simplest explanation for things is that we are reading each other’s minds.

So while we live generally wonderful lives with astounding technology that is beyond our wildest cravings as children just a few decades ago, there is a general emptiness feeling, the anomie of meaninglessness, arbitrariness, the loss of infinity, the dwarfing of possibility. We do not use all of our faculties and deny that some of the best of those capabilities exist at all.

A trickling back in of what has been lost has been happening in the West, carried back from the East and from native aboriginal cultures everywhere. Our media showing athletes and performers in Flow state brings back the magic although we have not been noticing these phenomena that way, because the word “magic” itself like the word “God” tends to raise eyebrows in skepticism.

As Arthur C. Clarke told us, “Any technology sufficiently advanced would appear to us as magic.”

Erasing our preconceived notions and simply observing reality with an open mind is the way to Flow state and to empirically studying the degree to which you can use your mind in ways beyond what you now consider to be your design limits. Leaving you with this 91-second video meditation:

 

Love to all,

Bill

Beware of Your Own Involuntary Reactions

Created March 25, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

Treat them as coming from your brutish heritage. Not worthy of humankind today.

Let’s take a simple example. When someone transgresses against you in some way, no matter how subtle or unintended, a part of you is ready to move faster than your self-control, to equalize. Equalization is an instinct hard-wired into our autonomic nervous system.

Gotta strike back. Get even. Make fair. Justice.

Overcoming this hard-wired animal instinct is a sign of being a mensch.

We are grateful for our autonomic system, without it we would have to remember to breathe, digest, and a host of other things that ought well to have been made automatic.

And the higher-order robotics in our brains, far more advanced than the AIs we create today, which observes events and metatags them and creates networks of them enabling free association and cross-fertilization, as well as building up tendencies for and against certain types of stimuli. This latter higher class of internal robotics is what we have to guard against. Because in an accelerated and divisionary culture such as we live in today, these automated internal responses we unreflectively take as our own, are getting us in a lot of trouble.

Considered responses are much more valuable than impulsive kneejerk reactions, however the latter are so deeply ingrained only the most self-controlled among us are able to conceal the manifestation of automatic reactions, let alone stop ourselves from blurting out retorts.

Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel prize for his work on what he calls “Thinking Fast” vs. “Thinking Slow”. In that lens, what I am saying is that thinking slow ought to be leaned upon much more than it is by the average person.

However, the reality is more complicated. If all “thinking fast” is thrown out the window, there goes Flow state out the window too.

Here’s the litmus test. Go with your own flow without overthinking when you sense your own inner peacefulness. If you can detect a kernel of vindictiveness or any hint of negativity, tension or fear in yourself, switch gears into keeping your mouth shut and your body immobile and focus on seeking inner clarity before taking any kind of action. (Obviously this rule does not apply if you or someone nearby are under physical attack at the moment. But that is the only exception to the rule.)

No need to hesitate like Hamlet if on the inside you are totally positive and not nervous. Let yourself flow without self-editing but pay attention to your own hunches so you stop yourself before saying something you got a last second “hit” might not land right. Follow those hunches and analyze it all later.

Involuntary reactions are not expressions of your true self. They are autonomic, conditioned, Pavlovian, robotic, other-directed, conformist not individualistic behaviors. In many cases nowadays they were purposely brainwashed into you. Stop all kneejerks now. At least the ones you can stop (literal kneejerks can be stopped but that requires yogic practice).

Example: you wake up in the morning and find yourself in a bad mood. You’re not really feeling up about the day that is upon you, the events that you’ve committed to, it’s not inspiring. That is one of the involuntary reactions I’m talking about.

Even though this is likely to be accompanied by (and perhaps partially due to) time pressure, take five and focus on attitude adjustment. The day will go much better if you are interested in the challenges and take the time to achieve clarity in advance about your own intentions, reasons for those intentions, feelings about those reasons, and you totally get why today is a day worth turning into a positive turning point, and the gamelike aspects of dealing with the obstacles with your own creativity.

You might find that your negativity reflects a sense of being unprepared. You’ll have to prepare yourself in a very efficient way then. As a general rule you might start preparing yourself for the next day as you put your head on the pillow – that would be the “last minute” in terms of waking up ready to face the day. Best to prepare for the next day a few hours earlier, so you can fall asleep more quickly and deeply.

You could wake up in a bad mood and as you study yourself to discern the cause, you might realize it was your dreams. Take five and guess what the dreams were trying to tell you. Take a totally wild guess out of nowhere. It is quite likely to be accurate. Something you are afraid of happening in the next day or week that could happen at any time. Once you’ve decoded the dream a lot of the negativity will fall off you automatically. Then predream the event actually happening and how you will deal with it if it does happen – what you will say and how you will say it, what if any other actions you will take. This will knock off another large chunk of the bad mood. After that it will be your standup courage and resolve that will take you the rest of the way into a right frame of mind and mood to succeed.

Related post: https://www.humaneffectivenessinstitute.org/billharveyblog/things-we-do-automatically-that-do-us-no-good/

Best to all,

Bill