Wednesday, September 22, 2004

unconscious, and dangerous

...we are a dangerously unconscious civilization.

Not only do we seem to be devoid of useful memory, but when we do remember accurately it has little or no impact on our actions. It is as if, when we come to public action, our greatest desire is to generalize and institutionalize a syndrome resembling Alzheimer's disease. One-third to one-half of the population of Western countries is today employed in administering the public and private sectors. In spite of having a larger and better educated elite than ever before in history; in spite of knowing more than we have ever known about ourselves and our surroundings, we actively deny the utility of public knowledge.
from The Unconscious Civilization, John Ralston Saul. Thanks to Jon Husband for the pointer.

How come Canadians get it and we don't? They seem at ease with a working ability to address complex matters that we USians seem to not have begun to formulate (except perhaps deep within the groves of academe - so deep as to appear to be nothing but slugs and bogs and stinking fens to the larger universe of discourse). Without a shared sense of public good, there can be no common sense. It is abundantly clear, given our tabloid minds, that USians have little of either. We are contractually bound to forget our mother's name, if it improves the next quarter's bottom line.


Blogger stavrosthewonderchicken said...

I can't recommend John Ralston Saul's nonfiction work highly enough. His writing has had a profound effect on my thinking (such as it is) over the years, from Voltaire's Bastards on.

Just been rereading Equilibrium recently. Good, rewarding stuff.

9/23/2004 4:51 AM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Stav - this from an Amazon review of Equilibrium:

"John Ralston Saul's latest book carries on a theme that runs through Voltaire's Bastards and The Unconscious Civilisation: reason, deprived of memory, imagination, common sense and other human qualities, inevitably leads to disaster."

This is congenial - the thing is, (not having read him, I cannot say whether he does or not, but) I feel one has to add the component of lived experience to the equation. Dynamic equilibrium sounds good - but being dynamic, my sense is the character of the qualities Saul talks about - imagination, common sense, etc., will change with context and history. Having said that, I'd say the approach seems worth further exploration.

9/23/2004 9:16 AM  

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