Every person is born into a family or some care-giving group. Every care-giving group has ways of presenting itself to the environment, ways of taking possession of places, property, and resources; of incorporating new members, making its mark, and celebrating itself. It has work assignments and categories of delegation, practices of supervision, judgment, and persuasion; practices of controlling its own structure, functions, and boundaries. All these ways and practices, as well as its resources, tools, facilities, and relics of its past, present new arrivals with problems and opportunities, but most of all they present new arrivals with a model and picture of human life: the way we live. To survive, a child must come to know that model of life and make a place for himself or herself within it, imitating its practices, crafts, relationships, judgments, and ways of talking about and valuing things. Culture is that model or image of life presented to people by operating around them and involving them.
The most important technique for a shared expression of intelligence is built from imitation, and could be called a conversational form of activity. This does not require language. Language is possible because people enjoy conversational form in their mutual activities. To create a conversation we must move in the way of another person. That is possible because people are directional. Our sensitivities and moving body structures are clustered and directional, and we fulfill appetites, impulses of self-preservation, and inclinations to make a mark, for example, through directing our sensitivities and movements in ways especially relevant to those purposes. We see those same purposes in the direction any person faces and moves. It doesn’t take babies long to notice that people are directional and to discover how to put things in their way. Being together is created by presenting something to another, putting an object or gesture in their way. Every posture becomes a gesture, inviting attention and sometimes pointing out important features of the world, and everyone’s purposes are evaluated by people watching. In that way, any act may be communicative whether or not communication is its purpose. As soon as a person has a sense of being watched, there is the possibility of creating a conversation.
To create a conversation we must do something in the way of another person. They must notice what we do and subsequently do something in our way that imitates or continues what we did. The continuity or imitation communicates memory, a sense of relevance, and togetherness. Imitation is not conversation, though. The response must combine imitation with novelty and surprise, some distinctive characteristic or direction to contribute something new, a distinct other voice in the conversation. Novelty in the context of imitation communicates creativity and personality, playfulness, power, and challenge. After making such a reply, the other must wait in readiness for our reply to them. We must continue what was distinctive in their imitation at the same time as, again, adding something new to it, and yet continuing the voice we have already presented. That is the conversation game.
Intelligence as Overt Discretionary Acts
As people focus on us, direct movements, gestures, and material objects toward us, and respond to what we do, we form an impression of the qualities of personality or intelligence in them, their sensitivities, directional tendencies, memory, and internal motives to act, rather than sensing their moving from momentum and inertia. From encounters with people around us we get our chance to see at a distance an image of how we ourselves might have personality and intelligence. Intelligence as our nature is impressively revealed in other people. Learning how others manifest intelligence gives us an objective model against which to compare our own self-presentation and so to confirm that we are as we should be as compared with the others. The attention of another person gives us a chance to practice being human, to develop a potential we feel intuitively. One intelligence is drawn to others by that special opportunity to experience being intelligent and to develop a mentally stimulated persona and avatar. That opportunity for exciting self-experience attaches us to others.
Conversational Self: Personality
Every act in conversation has the double aspect of continuing things done by others and presenting a distinctive personality, including a set of sensitivities, appetites, and ways of making a distinctive mark on the environment. Being watched and having other people’s actions influenced by us gives us one kind of force of personality. Each person can have a distinctive presence by making contributions to collective attention that add-up to a distinctive and unified set. By declaring appetites and sensitivities, making gestures of claiming territory, interests, feelings, and distinctive observations we build up an impression of our personality and a picture of what life is for us. The mutuality, bonding, and force-of-personality made possible by the conversation game attract and attach us to people who will engage and play with us.
In any community there are regular, habitual, or customary practices of production, distribution, and consumption to accomplish vital as well as strictly cultural functions. These practices impose a shape on the experience of individuals. People feel mutually attached by performing work which makes a contribution to the life of their collective, by having a place in an arrangement of vital effort. A community must maintain productive processes through which individuals integrate themselves with the power and material benefits of interconnected efforts.
A person’s greatest assimilation into a social collective may be as a link in the bucket brigade, a structural piece of its survival effort. To attach to collective production, we have to sense a unity of purpose in complex activities and take on a segment of the task. We take up presence in the group by taking a place in the mechanism, by contributing to production and partaking in consumption, joining the collective rhythm of paying the cost in work and enjoying the pleasure of achievement. Although it may seem that people take up a function in the arrangement to claim a portion of the product, this is not the whole story. The main attraction is attachment with the intelligent pattern of the group. The energy, vision, and purpose in the co-operative effort can become part of each individual’s orientation. An individual’s sense-of-self will involve orientation within the whole collective task in which he or she participates.
In group activity, functions are defined by example and assigned to different individuals who then include their function in their personal sense-of-self. The specific self-roles made available by a collective’s specialties and division of labour serve as prefabricated short-cuts to a definite identity. People identify themselves and others (often too exclusively) by the function they perform. When people meet they want to know what each does for a living, what function each occupies in the social organization. Each function is granted a different degree of respect. The job or occupation we perform becomes our social avatar. Some of these identity packages are attractions for heroic involvement in a collective. Some people get to be kings, rock stars, celebrity artists, athletes, or scholars, army generals, incredibly wealthy C.E.O.s, wise professors, or daring researchers pushing back the veils of ignorance. Some people get to be clerks and cleaners, some homeless and unemployed. In market capitalism the outcomes are determined, at certain social levels, by a process similar to the hunger games depicted in Suzanne Collins’ novel of that title. When the means of production are private property, then when the agents placed in charge by owners do not like the look of you in some way, at the interview, or something about your job application, you are excluded from the production process. There is no right to work in capitalism. Most people are denied the opportunity to work most of the time. That is not freedom. Calling that freedom is an intentional distortion of reality, blatant Orwellian “newspeak”. Instead of being overtly murdered as in the fictional hunger games, we are marginalized and driven by the motivating force of hunger into pleasing potential employers, if we possibly can. Some never can. When accepted we are cast into roles which have been pre-defined. Taking a place in the community’s productive mechanism is taking on the character that has been scripted for that functional niche. Some functional roles have spectacular rewards that inspire people to compete, and fitting into a functional arrangement does achieve a sense-of-self in terms of particularity of place and status in the organization, in terms of results or effects produced, and in terms of a particular set of relationships with other personalities. There is a great deal of imitation in that kind of attachment, but there is a complex sense of place, personal contribution to productive work, and a sense of different personalities in relation. The attachment with others is appreciated and often provides occasions to create good effects from personal intelligence, and so to experience an extraordinary force of personality. However, people are generally misrepresented by their jobs and struggle to express personal powers and visions in other ways.
Imitation and the Herd
Part of our self awareness as intelligence is a sense of being exposed and open to inspection and interference by other intelligences who may be beyond our personal influence. However, if there are others in the surroundings that look the same as I do, they can diffuse the attention that might otherwise pick me out. When I am among objects that look like myself, I can be indistinguishable. The requirement is conformity of appearance and behaviour. By moving in formation with others, I achieve an effective camouflage, integration into a pattern larger than myself, and reduce the sense of being exposed and vulnerable. That kind of imitation is an intelligent way of forming a union with other beings, a way of being-with them. It is the amalgamation of individual animals in a herd pattern, sometimes elaborately structured, and we human animals do this regularly.
The Political Context
The importance to individuals of these examples of elemental attachments illustrates, for one thing, that there is more than egoism motivating intelligences. That is illustrated most spectacularly in first-language-nurture collectives. What parents, especially mothers, enjoy doing for their children, for each other, for other people’s children, for their parents, siblings, and friends is a conspicuous example of non-egoistic human interconnectedness. That the common distribution of mutual nurture has been ignored so consistently by social and economic philosophers, such as Thomas Hobbes and Adam Smith, who insisted that egoism alone is dominant in individuals, shows that the intended audience of such authors was the collective of privileged males enjoying benefits from acting out the egoistic alpha-trophy-looting ideology.
The point that is proved by all the philosophical emphasis on egoism and self-interest, in combination with the common experience among mothers supporting one another in devotion to nurturing children, is that there are two very distinct and contrasting worldviews in the human community, and one of them, but only one, is very authentically depicted in all that emphasis on egoism. The other worldview, the first-language-nurture culture, is unknown and regarded with contempt by the egoist self-interest faction.
It is also noteworthy that none of these attachments requires language at the fundamental level. They require only intelligences acting toward one another. They enable creation of a shared system of cultural gestures which is a matrix within which language as a system of oral gestures can be elaborated.
These forms of attachment do not require personification of any collective or of any disembodied or analogically embodied entity. However, they create collective unities which have frequently had super-human personality ascribed to them. Individuals have a tendency to ascribe far too much personality to events they cannot identify as their own acts, partly from the habit of depending so completely on the external personalities of parents during the formative years of childhood. There is also the generally daunting human situation within nature that inspires individuals to shelter within collectives (posting 11, November 10, 2011, Nature: Ground and Sky), and again to fall back into ascribing a parental kind of intelligence to something indefinite beyond immediate experience. Emphatic appreciation of intelligent attachments and interaction makes us vulnerable to extreme and exclusive outward self-identification. Those innate impulses make us complicit in our own self-alienation and objectification to such an extent that it is legitimate to ask: Does the political pressure from the faction of leadership and authority do anything that we ourselves don’t already do voluntarily?
As described in posting 33, June 14, 2012 Reality is Three Givens: Nature, Subjective Intelligences, and Culture, it is normal for people to pass back and forth between internal sources of gratification (creative expression) and then to outward sources, in a process or rhythm that partly depends on what happens to be going on with personal inspiration inwardly or with interesting developments outwardly. Also to put our outward fixations into context, we start off in childhood projecting parental personification into various aspects of the environment, indiscriminately, inappropriately, but as our experience accumulates we reach a level of maturity and sophistication at which we are ready, both emotionally and intellectually, to stop doing that. What the political pressure from the faction of leadership and authority does, that we certainly do not do voluntarily, is to interfere with that personal context within which we manage attachments with other intelligences.
The political force of the alpha-trophy-looting culture pushes the inner source of gratification in creative expression into disrepute, marginalization, and suspicion of criminality, at the same time as it stigmatizes maturity about projecting parental forms of personification into the environment. The ruling faction does its best to de-legitimize both advanced developmental maturation and creative self-possession, and in doing so it maliciously interferes with innate personal powers.
Of course, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the interconnectedness built from those elemental attachments. People participate innocently because the interconnectedness helps stupendously with arranging sustainable lives. However, political unconsciousness makes us vulnerable as individuals because these attachments, especially the functional and the herd attachments, open us to exploitation by the pervasive dominance of a cultural faction, the alpha-trophy-looting faction, the intent and effect of which is to create a dependence on ideologically controlled collective culture, unbalanced by each individual’s self-awareness as a particular transcendence, a distinct universe of orientation built from inward freedom and creativity.
Interconnectedness is Shared Awareness
The crucial difference to be recognized is between the human commonwealth of shared awareness, created by mutual contributions from multiple voices, as distinct from a projection of parental sensitivity and caring onto institutions, analogically embodied collectives, or imaged ethereal entities. Shared awareness is the reality of interconnectedness. To share awareness with other people is to share something of their emotional particularity, some awareness of being in their life, along with some of their points of orientation.
Copyright © 2012 Sandy MacDonald. The moral right of the author is asserted.