The Anthropological Mission (Original Goal 2008)

My goal, since I created the blog, has been to explore the idea that we are part of and are living within a superorganic life form called "culture". This was not a new idea, but the times have made it more urgent to reconsider the concept.

I defined the superorganic in my first posting here in December 2008. The idea of a superorganic level, or living force, dates back to the idea of "civilization." It is central to any understanding of humanity and the human species from a historical perspective. But it is more than a rear looking perspective. It must also be a forward looking perspective if man is to take control of his destiny.

Throughout most of the course of my life, mankind has held and developed the power to destroy the planet and all life on it, many times over. In part, this power is the collateral damage from the rapid development of technology and science beginning in the 18th century and which has been accelerating logarithmically ever since.

In part, it is by the conscious and purposeful actions of our human institution, known as the nation state, which reached its height in the 20th Century, that  the fine art of war has been elevated to a global and apocalyptic level. We have also seen the raise of new superorganic entities defined by their vision and values of man's place in society and the world. These global ideologies include Libertarianism, Capitalism, Fascism, Democracy, Socialism, Communism, Nationalism, Racism, Fundamentalism, etc. Each has its many different forms and flavors. Each has its advocates willing to kill and die for it.

WWI demonstrated how the power of human technology can limit the force of nationalism and its spawn, the nation state. Our human technology, through the rise of the physical sciences, has developed war into the art of total destruction and slaughter. Caught in a stalemate, that war was brought to an end only by a shift in the balance of technological power marked by the USA entry into the war on the side of England and France against Germany. The peace, however, was lost when the traditional tools of diplomacy failed to address the war's impact on the ecology of the nation state and human affairs.

WWII demonstrated how the ecology of the nation state could be profoundly impacted by the rise and global spread of ideologies such as fascism, racism, democracy, socialism and communism. It also demonstrated the technological range and scope by which nation states, founded on these ideologies, could and would go to wage war on a global basis. It also demonstrated how an agnostic technology could end war instantly at Hiroshima; or over the next 40 years, hold the world's nations hostage through the ideological struggle of the Cold War. Even today the threat of nuclear proliferation and war is a dominate fear and possibility.

For more than 60 years I have watched as the superorganic creature, named by President Eisenhower as the "military-industrial complex," first invaded and then became to dominate the American body politic. Today, this creature has evolved into a transnational superorganic entity. It is an entity that is nearly fully self aware and self actualizing. To put it in simple terms, it is a creature with a mind of its own and which acts independent of any specific human agency. This creature is the Transnational corporation that knows no master other than itself and controlled by individuals whose souls have long been purchased by their superorganic masters.

At this writing (Spring 2011) the chaos in the Arab world from Tunisia and Egypt, Jordan to Yemen, and in the Middle East from Iraq to Pakistan, from Israel to Lebanon and Iran, has sprung upon the world as a great surprise. Yet, these events could have to been predicted. It is response of human populations raising up to defend themselves from the impact of the SUPERORGANIC global military industrial creature on their lives.

One might think that with all of our scientific understanding of the universe, the biochemical and neurological processes of life and the human animal, our sophisticated economic models and the technology to push the frontiers of human knowledge ever forward, that we might have a better understanding of our own species. One might expect that we might have gained a better understanding of how we might control and tame the growth of the SUPERORGANIC beast. So far we haven't.

According to The Bible, one of mankind's greatest books,God gave man dominion over all of his creation here on our planet. But with that gift came the responsibility to manage the creation. It is not a responsibility that was cancelled when Adam and Eve left the mythical Garden of Eden. It is a species responsibility unique to Homo sapiens.

As the dominant species on the planet, humankind's complexity has evolution. Our success over other species has been achieved through our social and technological innovations and our institutionalization of them. These, in turn, have also evolved independent of the individuals living and working within them.

Today humankind is faced, not with competition from other organic species, but by competition with The SUPERORGANIC of our own creation. This human creation has the potential to destroys itself, us, and the entire planet with it. The question for humanity is: Can we survive this transition? Can the planet survive us?

There is only one scientific discipline which is potentially prepared to address the challenge.

There is only one scientific discipline which has the breadth and scope of knowledge and the set of skills to bring to bear on these critical macro-level questions, if the practitioners are willing.

That discipline is Anthropology -- "the Science of man and his works." -- as Ralph Linton defined the discipline at the end of WWII. Anthropology is the only humanistic science that focuses specifically on the human species in all its dimensions as an organic (individual human evolution and diversity), a supra-organic (mankind's institutions), superorganic (corporate traditions) and a trans-organic life forms ("his works" or technology).

The anthropological record, now more than a century old, contains the most complete case history of God's human experiment. Anthropology does not draw, nor even respect, intellectual boundaries. It will draw upon any and all the traditional academic and philosophical disciplines when it comes to seeking answers to questions about the human condition. The focus is our species, Homo sapiens, our biological, social/cultural, linguistic, and archeological/historical evolution and diversity.

Anthropology's ideology is that of a humanistic science/scientific humanism. As such, the anthropologist should be able to step back from the day to day subjectivity of other more ideologically bound social sciences and view the world objectively from a culturally relative perspective. At the same time, the anthropologist is prepared to approach, objectively, her subject matter with an empathy that only being human can impart.

This is the challenge humanity faces in the 21st Century. It is the challenge I hope to address on this Blog in future entries.