Saturday, March 11, 2023

Memories of J.L. Giddings and my introduction to Anthropology


by Dr. Barry R. Bainton


Dr. Giddings (the only Brown Professor I had who was always “Doctor” to me) was a teacher, mentor, and friend during my undergraduate career at Brown. After I graduated, a year after my entering class, I joined the newly created Peace Corps and was sent to Peru. Dr. Giddings encouraged me to make a collection of ethnographic artifacts for the Museum while I was there. I left for Peru a month after the Gulf of Ton-kin Resolution (August 7th, 1964). This marked the formal start of the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. Three months later, I received a letter along with a newspaper clipping fromJudy Huntsman Dr. Giddings’ graduate student and fellow worker at the Museum, announcing his death. Two years later, I returned to Rhode Island with the collection.  

 As an undergraduate I had started out to major in astronomy. But, poor counseling and choices led me to fail the math courses that were required for the program. I was fortunate enough to get a student assistant job with the Ladd Observatory, under the late Prof. Charles Smiley. There I gained some experience dealing with the public when the observatory was open for public viewing and I got to play with the telescope. This experience would be very valuable as I later worked at the Museum.

 Smiley, an expert on solar eclipses, was working on a project to relate Herbert J. Spinden‘s Correlation of the Mayan Calendar in the historical recordings of the Mayan Indians of Central America, as found in the Dresden Codex, with the theoretical astronomical calculations of solar eclipses occurrences in Central America. I became involved in his research and this drew me to archaeology. When it was obvious that I would not be majoring in Astronomy I had to look for a new major. That year, the Anthropology Department emerged as a separate academic department under Dr. J. L. Giddings. When it came time to declare a major, I selected anthropology, and became one of the first undergraduate majors in the new department.

 One of my first Professors in anthropology at Brown, was Dwight Heath. Heath was a Latin American cultural anthropologist and a specialist in the study alcohol use and addiction. Little would I realize at the time that I would enter both fields early in my career. Phil Leis, who later became Chair at a rather critical period in anthropology’s and Brown’s history, joined the department a year later. While we considered ourselves to be a four- field department at the time – linguistics was covered by taking an Introduction to Linguistics course from the Modern Language from W. Freeman Twaddell. Physical anthropology was taught from a largely human evolutionary perspective evolutionary, but without a skeletal  laboratory component. Something I would gain in graduate school at the University of Arizona..

 In the summer of 1962, I had applied for a position with the Smithsonian Missouri River Basin Survey salvage project. And I was accepted. Our team assembled in Lincoln, Nebraska and then drove off the northwest corner of Wyoming, to where the Yellowtail Dam was to be built on the Big Horn River. The flood plain was to extend back from the site in Montana to the area around Lovell, Wyoming. Our job was to survey the area in the Big Horn Canyon that would form part of the Yellowtail Reservoir to be created by the dam. In addition, we were to dig sites that looked promising. The survey was scheduled to take place over the next few summers. At the same time we worked the canyon beaches and caves, the Bureau of Land Management had a team going through the canyon surveying anticipated high water mark and clearing out the vegetation between the river and the high water mark.

 I spent the summer traveling, camping, scouting, and digging in the back country 50 miles east of Yellowstone National Park – but never got there. Across the river from where we were working, was the Crow Indian Reservation. Didn’t get there either, however, I had read Lowie’s The Crow.

 The summer was an adventure. It opened my eyes to the realities of archaeology. For the crew, it required the sensitivity of a surgeon, patience of an expected parent, and the hard, tiring, and dirty work of the common laborer. For the archaeologist /dig supervisor, it was only the first step in a year long process that included the initial field decision whether do a simple surface survey, or to commit project resources to digging the site, In either case once found, it required a plan and strategy to attack the site. Then, the recovered artifacts had to be collected, cleaned, marked for identification, their contextual information recorded and photographed. The whole system logged and an analysis begun to prepari for the next season. And finally, there was the report on the results from this season for the sponsor and the grant request for further support in the coming year.

 If a dig is called for, a datum (contextual reference point) has to be set. A north-south line (based on a compass reading) is set out and marked with string and pitons set at measured intervals. A secondary, east-west line was set-up in a similar fashion 90 degrees to the baseline. The result would, in the end, become a series of squares in which one dug. Each square became the basis for mapping the coordinates for the artifacts and features uncovered in the digging process. All had to be rigorously recorded so that a map of the site and its various levels could be constructed later back in the laboratory. Archaeology is practice similar to quality control engineering. You destroy the subject in the process of studying it.

 I spent the summer of my 21st year as a “professional” archaeologist. And, I had my first “legal” beer in a saloon in the Mormon town of Lovell, Wyoming. But, I was also worrying about my future at the university, I had not been studying for the German language exam that I would have to pass to be admitted for my 4th year at Brown University.

  The Museum replaced the Observatory for me. I spent many a happy weekend there working with the artifact collections, although initially the job was simply to straighten up some of the storage rooms that the Haffenreffer had used for their collections. It was a really interesting experience. Behind the main display along the furthest wall, was a “secret” door. The door led to an area behind the displays and to another door which opened into two storage rooms. There, on a row of wooden shelves, were stone axes, matates, large obsidian chipped blades, mortars and pestles, etc. The records and numbering for the artifacts were terrible, so I was unable to assemble them by their original sites. So my job became to arrange them by type. This I did. In the center of the room was a makeshift table made up of 5 gallon paint cans and long 2 by 4 boards. In order to create floor space to do the sorting I took the table apart and discovered that the paint cans were heavy. Inside the first can, I found more artifacts, ground stone ax heads to be exact. So I decided to open the rest and get them organized —– that’s when I went in to tell Dr. Giddings about my discovery.

 The Haffenreffer family was well established in Bristol. Before Prohibition, they brewed Haffenreffer Beer and imported liquors from Europe. It seems that when Prohibition was enacted their business changed. In the paint cans, I found bottles of champagne, sherry, Scotch whisky, gin and chartreuse. Some of the seals had dried out and the alcohol had evaporated. But, there was enough there to throw a party. I informed Dr. Giddings of the find and several weeks later he sponsored a party at his house, located on the Museum property, for us anthropology majors, a small motley group of Brown undergrads.

 During that first year working at the Museum I also was encouraged to plan a display of Northeastern Indian archaeology. This required researching the literature and finding representative samples of artifacts from the various periods for display. On Saturday mornings I would arrive, put on the coffee and start my research. Most of the time Dr. Giddings was already there dictating his research notes or a chapter for one of his site reports. These went into a Dictaphone for Marge, his secretary, who would type them up during the week. At these times we would have a chance to drink a cup of coffee and talk.

“We did have some real good talks – about archaeology, his favorite field, anthro in general, and books which he had read and loved – he and I share the same love for books, (I even bought copies of some the same ones he owned and have them today),” (Ibid).

 The Museum, even after his passing and my return to Rhode Island, was a very special place filled with memories. One memory that is especially strong and relevant to today’s (8/12/2017) talks about North Korea and Nuclear weapons is what happened in October 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I spent the weekend down in Bristol at the Museum. The US Navy had a blockade around Cuba to prevent Russian transports from bringing in missiles to Cuba. The Russian cargo ships were approaching the picket line and no one knew what would happen – maybe WWIII. On the hill, known as Mt Hope, behind the Giddings’ house was a large domed radar installation to detect incoming bombers. When it was still, you could hear the antenna slowly turning under the dome. The radar commanded a Nike anti-aircraft battery located down Rt. 136 to where today Roger Williams University has some of its buildings and parking lots today, (for more information on the Mount Hope Nike AA site, click here). Within a 250-mile radius of the Museum there were 2 Strategic Air Command bases, the headquarters of the Atlantic Destroyer fleet, the Naval War College, and the Groton Submarine base, to say nothing for Boston Navy Yard. It was a target-rich place and it was a really scary weekend.

The Russian ships turned back, tensions lessened; Robert Kennedy published “Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis” in 1969, and since then a movie and two TV movies have revived those tense days. But at the time it seemed that the Museum was at the center of the universe, and for me it has always held some great memories of Brown, anthropology, and especially the man who lit a fire under me to pursue a career in anthropology.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Thomas Jefferson and Declaration of Independence​, a speculation

 by Barry R. Bainton   (second edition)

The Continental Congress was meeting to consider declaring the independence of 13 of England’s colonies in North America. Charged with drafting a formal statement and justification for breaking with England and the King, Thomas Jefferson searched his soul for a justification.

“Where does this Right to secede come from?” He asked himself. 

 He reflected on the belief system of the early Colonists and their reasons for coming to the new world some 150 years earlier. At the heart of their motivations had been Religious Freedom. That is to practice the right to Liberty, or the Freedom, as defined in the Basic Creation Myth of Mankind i.e. the foundation set forth in the Judeo-Christian Bible.

 “How did GOD learn and pass on this basic knowledge to MANKIND?” He wondered.
 The first basic right, the Right to Life, was how GOD created all of his living creations. The other RIGHTS were: LIBERTY, which IT (God) used to proscribe the behavior for each of IT’s Creation; and, third, the Right the Pursuit of GOD's’s Happiness through IT's creations.

“How did God learn and pass on this basic knowledge to Mankind?” Jefferson wondered
That night, Jefferson fell asleep at his desk. The beginning outline of the Declaration lay in front of him. A Bible opened to Genesis Chapter Two was off to the side. As he lay there, bent over the desk, he began to dream. 

At first he pictured the KING. KING George! And Jefferson could heard him claim as his GOD given Right to rule his people as sovereign. “How did it happen? And what did it mean?” Then as he dreamed, the King in the dream transformed into GOD. As he told later, this is the dream he experienced.

------------------------- ----------------  

Out of IT’s own curiosity, GOD created MAN in the form modeled after IT’s own existence. IT gave MAN eternal life and named it, Adam. Adam was sexless and God looked at his new creation and felt it was good.

God built a park with all that Man could want. IT gave Adam freedom t explore and use all of the resources in the park but one. Adam could use fruit trees for food, animals for companionship, water to drink, and day and night so Man could enjoy the park in the day time and to sleep and rest in the night. IT watched as Adam explored the garden, ate the fruit, drink the waters. Adam played with the animals and swam in the pools. 

The one forbidden resource was the tree of good and evil and its fruit.
At first, Adam found that God was kind and generous. God found that IT enjoyed ITs companionship with Adam. 

 But as days passed into night and night into day Adam found less and less pleasure doing the same thing every day. Like all the other animals, he was only following God’s plan. He was missing something. But what was it? 

Meanwhile, God began to notice the change in Adam’s actions. Yes, he did the same thing as God planned but Adam who seemed to enjoy the Life he had been given, was now simply going through the motions. He seemed to have lost the excitement and wonder in the Life that God had given him. For days God watched Adam as he repeated the same movements and followed the same routine that God had laid out for him. 

Finally, God went to Adam and asked, “What is troubling you? I have been watching you and you seem to have lost the joy of life that I gave you?” Adam was surprised that God had been watching him.
Initially, he and God seemed to be very close companions. But God had many things IT wanted to do and so God had created in Adam a curiosity, as an experiment, to see what Adam would do with the park that God had built. 

At first Adam was programmed to only do what God had decided him to do.  God had chosen to set aside this corner of his universe as a special place where IT could test IT's ideas and to experience what it was to have companionship. As IT thought about it, IT looked deep in IT’s soul and found that IT was experiencing a sensation IT did not know IT had. How would IT define it? Could be that IT had a feeling of isolation IT had created Adam, not to experience what is was like to have a companion, but because GOD was alone? 

 GOD had the ability to “learn” from IT’s experiences. Experience, IT understood, was the random encounters between IT’s creations and with the environment IT had created. This was God’s own way of experiencing how his creation was working. This was his proudest creation – Nature. Nature was the marvel of IT’s creation since it operated on two levels, purpose embedded in the object and the “interactions” between objects and purposes.

But Adam was not GOD. Maybe if GOD created a Human companion, Adam would come to understand “companionship” and through him what GOD should know about Companionship. One night while Adam was asleep, GOD took a rib from Adam and fashioned a companion in the female form since companions should not compete with one another but be a complement. GOD would observe Adam interact with the companion, he called EVE, and learn what it is to be companion. 

 GOD learned that IT could create LIFE but IT could not expect to repeat the produce every time that a new companion was needed. How to solve the problem? GOD could not allow Adam to compete with him by giving him the power to GOD though about it and decided that what he had experimented with in other animals, sexual reproduction, would also serve Adam and Eve. So, he assigned them different roles in the creation of life. 

Adam would provide the sperm to fertilize an egg . But he assigned the process of nurturing the fertilized egg to EVE. And thus, IT gave the power to make new life to EVE. GOD gave the Right to LIFE to Humans as a shared process – one male and one female as companions. But the responsibility was not shared equally. Woman was given the larger and longer responsibility for creating, nurturing and civilizing the neonate. 

 Eve explored the garden and came across one tree that stood out from the others. It carried a beautiful fruit. She asked Adam about the tree. Adam explained that that was the Companion’s Tree and he was forbidden from eating its fruit. He had promised GOD that he would not touch the tree. Adam said he felt that prohibition would apply to both of us. Eve thought about it. Then she realized this was an agreement between GOD and Adam, the companion, not between GOD and her. In fact, she was not an equal partner to be a companion to GOD but to Adam. She did not see herself subject to the same agreement that Adam had with GOD. 

 One day she was walking through the garden and felt hungry. She was standing near the “forbidden tree” and saw a ripe apple and thought how juicy it might be. She picked the apple and bit into it. It was sweet and juicy as she had thought. She told Adam of her discovery. 

Adam was filled with conflicting emotions. On one side, he was frightened that GOD would punish him for EVE’s transgression. And on the other, he realized that GOD had not mentioned that Eve would be held to the same standard as Adam. When GOD learned of the transgression, IT was mad. And in ITS wrath, he condemned EVE to suffer the pain of child birth. 

Eve was angry with GOD because he had not told her about the prohibition extending to her. She had made a CHOICE because she was hot and hungry. Was she not entitled to a CHOICE, she asked? GOD had given Adam Liberty, and created Eve from Adam. Wasn't she also the beneficiary of GOD's gift to Adam?

GOD had not thought about that dimension of companionship. Yes, IT and Adam were companions, but IT had not made such deal with Eve. IT had chosen to create EVE but failed to tell her of the prohibition. And Eve had chosen to relieve her hunger by eating the apple. GOD thought about it. If IT was to be just and fair, IT would have to excuse EVE for her CHOICE. But GOD also felt IT needed to maintain ITS agreement with Adam. How to do this and to be fair and justice to both? GOD pondered on this new experience. 

IT asked ITSELF “How can I be fair and yet maintain control over humanity?” 

"I have given humanity the RIGHT to LIFE. Because of EVE, I have given the individual the RIGHT to to Liberty, or the RIGHT to CHOSE. But what happens if individuals Choose conflicting answers? As GOD pondered the question IT realized that IT had to create a third Right for humanity. But what happened when humanity made different choices to the same situation? Thus, God granted humanity a THIRD RIGHT. “The Right to Pursue Happiness but with no guarantee of success”.

GOD guaranteed the liberty to chose, but to grant that right to every individual, IT had to limit one's purpose for choosing to a Pursuit of Happiness but no guarantee of it. This was the Responsibility mankind would have to work out in order to have Liberty.
Centuries later the Heirs of Jefferson’s dream, the American Declaration of Independence, have attempted rediscover these three basic RIGHTS that GOD created in the Garden of Eden. 
1. The Right to Life 
2. The Right to Liberty that is the freedom to make one’s own Choices or Freewill.
3. The Right to Pursue One’s Happiness (with no guarantee of success) 
The Right to Happiness alone belongs to GOD, and once IT gave Mankind the RIGHT of Liberty, IT gave up the RIGHT to guarantee Happiness to Mankind. Instead Mankind became responsible for his own happiness. And thus was born the Freedoms that form the basic structure and assignment of responsibility that would become the BASIC RIGHTS, guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

NEEDS, WANTS and DESIRES - # 7 A Lifecycle Approach

One of the most difficult problems facing social science is the division between "humanity" as a species and the human as an "individual". For Anthropologists this is even more difficult, since the anthropologist works in both dimension at the sametime, and further at different time periods within the event at the same time. This is the true essence of a "wholists approach."

The Needs, Wants, and Desires approach to human behavior reveals both human weaknesses and human power. Through the development of a complex coding system, language, humans are able to interact with one another on a meta-behavioral way. That is, human's are capable of framing actual events into a meta-code (language) that can be exchanged and shared with another human and human groups on multiple level -- emotional, consequential, mental and informational. And these individuals and groups may receive the message on different levels from that of the reporter.

It is this last ability that is both a positive and a negative in human affairs. It is the zone where differences in perception and evaluation between sender/reporter and receiver/responder can have both an affect and effect on the human interactions that follow the event.

Emotion sharing is the use of words and actions to define the "meaning" of an event experienced either by the individual witness/participant to the event or by repeating (describing) the emotional experience as reported to the speaker.  

The consequential question and answers are: Did the individual or group experiencing the event NEED the subject of the events to survive the event?  This may be reported by an informant or be witnessed by an observer.

If remembered, the event and response at stored and available for recall in similar situations. The ability to recall, creates a historic path and Mental image of the cause and effect relationships between the elements of the situation.

And finally, the remembered event, witnessed or reported, add to the informational experience available to the individual (individual learning) and to the collective experience of the group and thereby "re-lived" by the members in their own individual way.

The importance of the event to the individual(s) and to the group(s) is a function of the situational context and temporal duration of the event as well as the source of the information. It is the "importance" that is at the core of distinction between a Need, a Want, and a Desire.


The NEED is a defined as the presents or absence, real or imagined, of a required element for the successful or tragic outcome of an event required to maintain a status quo. Oxygen,water, food are examples of such elements.

The WANT is defined as a Choice or the Freedom to chose between alternative ways to meeting and achieving or fulling a NEED requirement. Free Oxygen from the environment or a tank of oxygen delivered through a ventilation system. Liquid potable water, fruit juice, milk, etc. any of these or similar forms could fulfill this NEED in sufficient quantities, etc.

The DESIRE is defined as a Preferred choice of a solution to a NEED that overrides or takes precedence over other suitable satisfaction of a NEED. A DESIRE is an emotional response to a situation where given the Freedom to chose a solution, the individual or group will favor one choice over all other equally satisfactory solutions to the problem caused by the NEED.

At this point, the Desired solution can become the preferred solution or the only acceptable solution. That is a NEED in itself.

 It is NEEDS which drive individuals into forming groups and its is choice that creates groups that divide individuals and groups. 

This is the basis of what social and biological scientist describe as the life cycle of an event, an individual, or a group of individuals. It is the cycle that begins with a NEED moves on to a differentiation of Solutions to a Preference of Solution that becomes a New NEED. Taboos, for example, such as foods, places, events, may have no objective impact on the success of an individual or group but are not considered as Choices because they don't fit the personal or cultural definition of a solution to a NEED.


DESIRES and NEEDS are linked and the drivers of evolution in a sentient species. When a Desire emerges in one generation or situation, the successful resolution can become a NEED for the next generation or next similar situation. NEEDS and DESIRES evolve though CHOICES. CHOICES appear when alternative solutions exist or are found and are available to specific NEEDS.  

The English term for "Choice", is the Right to pick or create alternative solutions, to a NEED.

The Social psychologist, Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Motivation". published in the journal Psychological Review, and its development gives us an insight into the dynamics of human of human development and how it relates to social and cultural development. This is the subject of the next installment of NEEDS, WANTS and DESIRES.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

NEEDS, WANTS AND DESIRES # 6 The Hierarchy of Needs

The Underlying Premise of human life -- is a RIGHT TO LIFE that begins at birth. The Right to life does not guarantee a life, but it does define the existence of potential independence for a mature self aware human being. Birth requires Conception which in turn depends upon satisfying the NEEDS a fertile male and a fertile female human being to start the process of conception. 

The theory behind the organization of Needs, Wants and Desires is based on the life-cycle of the organism or superorganism under study. The life cycle of any organism consists of the definition and identification of "a psychological self".  The "self" is the physical identity of the individual with the capacity to satisfy its own physical "needs". It is the responsibility of the parents to satisfy those needs until such time as the infant is old enough and developed enough to perform these functions for her/himself.

The second stage in development is the formation of the "social self," where one's identity is defined in part by the choices one can and does make to meet those needs. These are determined by the physical and social environments that presents the individual with viable choices. The social order defines the range and priority choices available. The selection of different alternative ends to the choice situation  manifest themselves as individual "wants". Some of these choices are dictated by the status/role the individual holds within the group while others by one's unique environment in time and space.

The third stage in development is the formation of individual's definition of self within the social group. These take the form of "desires". Desires are choices defined as personal needs that produce "preferential choices" . These "desires" can be defined in general using Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. As one's social self becomes defined, one's "choices" slowly emerge as "preferences" and then as "status" symbols and eventually as "status needs". A "status-need" is a social or cultural symbol created by the group or society. These become assumed by society as the requirements for obtaining and hold a position or status in the community.

While operating on an individual level, these characteristics take on a "social" significance among humans when the concepts of biological/social family and generational inheritance become "cultural norms." Here the cultural norms can be interpreted as the basis for the Maslowian concept of the hierarchy of "needs". 

Satisfaction of basic needs is how an individual acquires the resources that enable it to survive and grow in a social position. As the individual grows he/she learns how to replicate goal oriented behaviors critical to his/her survival. They begin to engage in actions to obtain the resources they have learned are necessary to achieve their goals. In this process, the society also grows over time most often generationally.

Self – is the story of one’s emergence as a human being and involves one’s own experiences from birth to “age of responsibility”. This changes with time. And it changes with the interaction between the elements of  physical growth: sexual awakening, social independence and responsibility, and cultural training and integration into society.  

If the time spent or required to achieve physical or sexual maturity, for example, increases, this can effect the ability to chose or change social roles. This in turn limits the range of cultural roles available to the Self.  That is, on average, as life becomes more complex, one must spend more time in the process of developing a sense of self. Yet, on another level, as the society and the culture becomes more complex and specialized, the time between birth and the choice of career also increases. This differential may be overcome by the individual's inheritance at the generational level. 

Career – is the period when the individual commits to an active role in the society. This active role involves learning and practicing role specific behaviors, or one's status in society. The behaviors and role maybe Self- generated or situationally Socially generated. In essence, this stage of development is a mixture of one’s personal requirements (NEEDS) and society’s ability to address the range of WANTS that “most” of the society shares by to providing its individuals with choices to satisfy personal NEEDS. 

Life – is the period when the individual has obtained his/her maximum power within society and their position of independence in the world. It is that point when the individual loses the powers (physical, social, and cultural) to fulfill all of his/her "WANTS" and instead makes the choice to concentrates on his/her "DESIRES". This is the stage when one chooses from among their personal WANTS and defines their priority. High priority "wants" turn into "desires". In the personal and communal realems, "desires" become priority "choices" or "needs".

On the social level, this is the breaking point between an individual's DESIRES and the historic WANTS and NEEDS of Society. That is, the next generation inherits the current choices that their parents and society, and assume these represent inherited RIGHTS defining their DESIRED choice. 

There is a conflict within the socio-cultural system when the DESIRED Choice established by the past generation are in conflict with the “NEEDED” choice claimed by a successor generation.

This is the Cultural problem facing the community. The ability to choose, whether it be physical, environmental, or social becomes the evolutionary engine of the individual human and the social human advancement. As generations diverse based on their own definitions of NEEDS and the ability of Society to fill those NEEDS with a RIGHT to Choose, Choices transform into DESIRES and DESIRES into NEEDS.

Solving this problem is the basis of social and political debate, especially in more complex societies. It is a debate over whether the community will select the 'best' prepared candidate for the job or the best candidate from the "best" sector of the community. The former leads to democracy, while the latter can lead to a class or caste based socio-cultural system. 

Monday, March 28, 2022

Democracy - The Right to Fail and Responsibility to Correct it

A couple of years ago, I was asked, on Quora, the question, "Is order or freedom more valuable to society?" Today, this is the question that we, in America, are asking ourselves. It is the irony fueling our political system and our individual responses to it. I had forgotten about the question and the answer until this morning when I received an email. It said that I had received an UP vote for my answer. I followed the links back to see what question and how I had answered it.

The email came from Quora and said "Jack Rogers up voted your answer to: Is order or freedom more valuable to society?" I had forgotten about it. Quora is a website where individuals, usually students can ask questions on any subject they wish. The questions are organized under major headings (or interest groups) and the questioner then waits for others to answer. The quality of the answers and questions is fairly open and varied from amateur opinions to expert professionals. To get an UP vote is generally rare but very ego satisfying when you get one. defines itself as "A place to share knowledge and better understand the world." One is free to join and to become active in areas of mutual interest. I joined out of curiosity some years ago as an Adjunct Professor in Business. Over the years, my participation has been sporadic. So today's email was a pleasant surprise. More so today, because the question and my answer seem so timely.

The question hits at the heart of the debate going on today within our democracy. "Which is more valuable to our society, order or freedom?" 

This question faced the representatives from the colonies who came to the Continental Congress. They gather to decide the reasons for forming a NEW and Independent nation in the New World and separate from the Britain. Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence investing the power in “We, the People” and not a King appointed by God. Today, we are facing a similar problem 250 years later. Are we to remain E Pluribus Unum or devolve into a set of fiefdoms controlled by a privileged minority. As a nation and society, we are breaking along two different lines.


Some of us see the USA as a Society of the human beings who are citizens gathered around the light of freedom creating order. This view is the one favored by the Democrats and the Left. They look to free People to produce an orderly society. It is an order that comes from the freedom to express one's views and decided by a vote of all of the people. In its most basic form, the question is -- who or what is a "person"?

Others of us see the USA as the land of opportunity, where individualism is tested and measured by achievement. This is the one favored by The Republicans and the Right. They look to the Institutional leaders who have to impose the order on chaos that made opportunity possible. The successful industrious individual who achieve his\her goals proves his/her worth. Industry is defined by results that is measured in terms of one's power over nature and other humans. Power is the individual's reward for the insight and effort invested in the opportunities.The Freedom comes from the power that leaders have to impose Order on the other people. 

I was not thinking about this actual division in America at the time I answered the question. But as a child growing up during the Cold War I was aware of the difference. By the 1960's, I began to realize that the high moral positions taken by groups were made up of different premises: part reality, part desire, part privilege and part desperation. America was a divided nation, despite a mythology that said different. Yet there was common denominator -- POWER. Who had it and when was it used?

It has been my goal, as an anthropologist, to understand how and where power in a society is determined and exercised. Did it come from the personality of the individual, or the individual's status (achieved or assigned) in the Society and what is it about the Cultural values shared by each that can create the divide.

When I saw the UP vote announcement to the question -- Order or Freedom I was curious. What did I say? And Do I still believe it? So I took a look and here is what I said in 2018.

Both when in balance. When order breaks down the freedom is also lost. Disorder limits your freedom because it makes life more unpredictable. Unpredictability limits your freedom. Your freedom increases with your ability to predict your options and your chances of success/failure. From a social perspective, manners, etiquette, morals, laws, and rules that “limit” freedom make life more predictable for individuals and therefore gives the individual “choice.” Your degree of Choice is the true measure of freedom.

The answer I found then and today more than ever leads me to believe that the ability and opportunity to choose one's fate is the Key. Choice is the measure of freedom for an individual to take a risk or not. Choice gives the individual a voice in their own destiny. In a society, the individual's personal choice gets lost if the individual does not have the power to exercise or register their choice.

So today I want to share the answer that I found, that confirms the answer that our Founding Fathers found in those hot, sweltering days in Philadelphia as they hammered out their gift to the future -- the Constitution of the United States of America. The Constitution is the business plan of a group of radicals who were charged with designing a new product founded on the NEEDS of those radicals spelled out in their DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. 

That product, a new NATION, based on a simple set of assumptions. Those assumptions, have come the basis, for the new nation and are 

Those assumptions are:

1. If you are born, you have been given the "Right to Life". Jefferson, in his period, referred to it as a GOD given right to LIFE. Today we fight over the source of that right. Is it GOD, the Mother, or the State that gives us that RIGHT?

2. "The Right to Liberty" which I have come to see as the INDIVIDUAL's right to make a CHOICE when presented with the alternatives available at the particular time and place. Today that would mean that choices are made by individuals and based on the individual's sense of values.

3. "The Right to the Pursuit of Happiness" which I have come to accept as the RIGHT to fail. Today, we have, as a species, advanced technologically so that the core of Modern Society, has many different solutions to its basic animal problem. It is our RIGHT to try these and find or create a solution that produces HAPPINESS. But what brings me happiness, may not bring you happiness. 

The question those radicals meeting in Philadelphia was how to create a plan, a business plan, that would satisfy the basic principles or rational for a Declaration of Independence and still insure the both the rights of the individual and the demands of conformity of a society?

I did not discover anything new. But, I finally understood what and why I am proud to be an American; and why I feel that everyone has the RIGHT to Fail. In the long run what really matters is, What one (the individual and/or society) does with the failure. The American Experiment is defines how those ideals could be achieved. By insuring the right of the individual to fail and try again.

Rules, or laws, created by society to govern and legitimate individual behavior provided society's standards to define the person and social responsibility for doing so. And provides the opportunity to try again if one fails. The question facing the radicals was: How do we balance the desires of the individual and the needs of society?  The answer is a Constitution that defines the powers of society and how they will be managed -- a business plan for a New Nation.

The only why one learns is through failure. It allows you to see were you and your country need to direct your attention and resources to improve your skills. The problem with Success is, over time, it becomes routine and the assumed normal. Success breeds a sense of privilege that is a beginning of the decline of freedom and the beginnings of an obsession for order, an order to maintain the status quo. Or, as the song goes, “Stop the World I want to get off.”

The proper balance of order and freedom is determined, I feel, by RIGHT of all people to CHOOSE and adjust the balance. Choice is a function of the person's power to make a choice. Society functions when everyone has the opportunity to express their opinion, agrees on the rules of the group or society, votes according to the roles, and accepts the result of the vote as the has legitimate choice of the whole group. The result is Order freely agreed upon and freely accepted.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Statues and Players

 I have been a Structural/Functionalist most of my professional career. I know that anthropology has advanced in its methodologies and theory since the mid-20th century. But Structural/Functionalism is at the very foundation of understanding of any event. It is the difference between Science and Religion.

Structure is the statue, the photograph, the paragraph. Structure is freezing time so that one can examine the situation, the context, the inter-relations of the parts, and the emotional response to an event. On the one hand, it is the player rooster, the theater program, the blueprint, etc. Put simply, structure is the picture of human activity without TIME. It is Culture as represented by a particular artifact.

Function is the players, the organization, the history, the novel. Function opens up the structure by adding Time to the analysis of the whole. It not only shows us the inter-relation of parts, but it illustrates how these parts operate in relation to the structure as a whole. Function describes the How? Where structure describes What? 

Together, these TWO perspectives tell us that life is not static. Culture is NOT static. They are cyclical and evolutionary. If there is one basic concept that describes both, it is TIME. They are cyclical when the process is repeated over and over again. And it is evolutionary when it responds to the context (environment) and adjusts to the longer cycle of an immediate context. Structure is based on duration of a process, where TIME is held constant. Function is based on the process cycle, where Time is to change. They may be studied independently, or in conjunction with one another.

Structure and Function, together, are the basis of scientific anthropology. 

Traditional, early, anthropology assumed a fixed Culture could be found in different societies. The traditional anthropologist went off to the field and spent a year or a few years studying the same group. The assumption that cultures were fixed in time comes from the context. 

The annual cycle of group was studied (funding permitting) and written up as a monograph describing the Culture of the people. Sometimes this was done by the anthropologist acting conservatively and describing the study of the  group, or the village. Other times it was done liberally with an extrapolation that the observations applied to the inhabitants of a physical area. The ethnography, or site report for archaeology, lead to a static description. It froze time. 

But this strategy can be forgiven because early anthropologist were attempting to salvage cultures that were threatened by the spread of Western Civilization. Archaeologist were also attempting to salvage stages of development before human prehistory was lost to modernization of the environment and natural decay of time on physical artifacts. In a way these are our baseline for the development of our discipline, much like the arbitrary laying of the datum line in an archaeological site. It provides  a statute --- a frame of reference -- as a reminder of where we started in our history of discovery of CULTURE.

Archaeology gave us a time perspective through the stratigraphic context of the salvage effort. It also provided a warning about the destructive nature of the science. Field archaeology evolved from art history to a science with the imposition of scientific methodologies for preservation of both the artifact, its context, and the site. This has lead to an evolution in the size and methods of archaeological anthropology. From a function to salvage art artifacts to the function of salvaging the context and "time".

Field ethnology attempts to salvage the material and behavioral aspects of people's actions in TIME by determining the context of time -- "the ethnological present." The original tradition recognized the difference between the aboriginal behavior and "contact" behavior and attempted to "salvage" the former from the older, surviving members of the earliest generation available. Further, because these older subjects generally represented a smaller sample of the target population and relied on memory, the field anthropologist was faced with an editorial decision as to who and what is the more authoritative evidence. Here "authority" is a issue since it reflects the "present" [the specific time of the research] "official" cultural values that the members hold "today."

As the ethnological record has expanded, in part due to the evolution of the profession and part to the size of the sample, the salvage issue has devolved into a broader range of detailed study of the specific cultural practices on one hand, and acculturation at the other end. In the former, the salvage concern becomes a more specific attempt to determine the differences between "cultural" and "social" practices. On the other, it is the focus on the processes of resistance and acceptance of  socio-cultural differences between social groups.

The Structural/Functional perspective unifies these two perspective by isolating TIME as a variable to the context of the analysis. Structure holds "TIME" as constant. Function focuses specifically on change in the structure over TIME.  Together the supply a complete picture, while individually they provide a contextual uniformity.

Friday, October 15, 2021


 As an anthropologist, I find today's America provides the greatest source of cultural diversity and challenges to a discipline that many in the public still identify as the study of "rocks and bones". Cultures clash and synthesize all around us. They compete with one another and cooperate synergistical with others in larger systems. It is this quality that leads me to view organizations, communities and institutions -- societies for short -- a superorganic entities.

Nature creates plant and animal communities that adapt and fill their ecological zones and expand to neighboring territory through adaptation. Adaptation comes from inbreeding whether by genes, synergeyes,  ideas, values, and/or through inter- and cross-breeding. History provides the record of the new emergent structures. Patterns emerge as these systems grow, and then eventually retreat into a smaller, narrow ecological zone much like we see in biological viruses or social movements such as the Taliban, or cultish political ideologies. There they join to form a local system. or community. Each element becomes part of the community's own life cycle.

But more than just a rich field for academic research is the challenge of applying the lessons learned by humanity over the thousands of years of our existence ,collected, analyzed, and evaluated by academics to the solution of human and societal problems that serve all human-kind and the general welfare of human actions on the planet.

Today, as we see, the world is becoming a singular place, people and a vast network of conflicting values. A challenge to anthropology and all the social, biological and medical sciences.

This is the world of the present and future. Technology and climate change are forcing all life to adapt, adjust, or die off. Earth will survive but will the higher life forms or at Venus or Mars our eventual destiny?