Selected excerpts (isbn 0030075963):
The degree of originality and creativity that is desirable in various classes and occupational groups in a given society varies. Scientists and top managers, for instance, need to have a great deal of these qualities in a technological-bureaucratic society like ours. For blue-collar workers to have the same degree of creativity would be a luxury -- or a threat to the smooth functioning of the whole system.
I do not believe that this analysis is a sufficient answer to the problem of the value of originality and creativity. There is a great deal of psychological evidence that striving for creativeness and originality are deeply rooted impulses in man, and there is some neurophysiological evidence for the assumption that the striving for creativity and originality is "built in" in the system of the brain. [p.36]
Maybe the technological-bureaucratic basis has to be supplanted by something that taps fully into creativity.
In the cybernetic age, the individual becomes increasingly subjected to manipulation. His work, his consumption, and his leisure are manipulated by advertising, by ideologies, by what Skinner calls "positive reinforcements." The individual loses his active, responsible role in the social process; he becomes completely "adjusted" and learns that any behavior, act, thought, or feeling which does not fit into the general scheme puts him at a severe disadvantage; in fact he is what he is supposed to be....Skinner recommends the hell of the isolated, manipulated man of the cybernetic age as the heaven of progress. [p.41]
It follows from these considerations that all analogies from animal to human crowding are of limited value. The animal has an instincitve "knowledge" of the space and the social organization it needs. I reacts instinctively with aggression in order to remedy a disturbance of its space and social structure. It has not other way to respond to threats to its vital interests in these respects. But man has many other ways. He can change the social structure, he can develop bonds of solidarity and of common values beyond what is instinctually given. The animal's soluion to crowding is a biological instinctive one; man's solution is social and political. [p.109, emphasis mine mh]
"For several reasons having to do with the very simplicity of the technology and the lack of control over the environment, many hunting-gathering peoples are quite literally the most leisured peoples in the world." (E.R. Service, 1966.)
Economic relations are especially instructive. Service writes:
We are accustomed, because of the nature of our own economy, to think that human beings have a "natural propensity to truck and barter," [could it be that those who frequent ebay are simply bored? mh] and that economic relations among individuals or groups are characterized by "economizing," by "maximizing" the result of effort, by "selling dear and buying cheap." Primitive peoples do none of these things, however; in fact, most of the time it would seem that they do the opposite. They "give things away," they admire generosity, they expect hospitality, they punish thrift as selfishness.
And strangest of all, the more dire the circumstances, the more scarce (or valuable) the goods, the less "economically" will they behave and the more generous do they seem to be. We are considering, of courses, the form of exchange among persons within a society and these persons are, in band society, all kinsmen of some sort. [p.138]
Footnote on p.28:
It should be noted in passing that in many highly developed societies, such as the feudal society in the Middle Ages, the members of one occupational group -- such as the guilds -- did not strive for increasing material profit, but for enough to satisfy the traditional standard of living. Even the knowledge that the members of social classes above them had more luxuries to consume did not generate greed for this surplus consumption. The process of living was satisfying, and hence, no greater consumption appeared desirable. The same holds true of the peasants. Their rebellions in the sixteenth century were not because they wanted to consume as much as the class above them, but they wanted the basis for a dignified human existence and fulfillment of the traditional obligations the land owners had toward them. [p. 160, emphasis mine, mh]
The more an ideology pretends to give answers to all questions, the more attractive it is; here may lie the reason why irrational or even plainly insane thought systems can so easily attract the minds of men. [p.231]
Great as are the differences between Taoism, Buddhism, prophetic Judaism, and the Christianity of the Gospels, these religions had one common goal: to arrive at the experience of oneness, not by regressing to animal existence but by becoming fully human -- oneness within man, oneness between man and nature, and oneness between man and other men. In the short historical time of twenty-five hundred years man does not seem tohave made much progress in achieving the goal that was postulated by these religions. The inevitable slowness of man's economic and social development plus the fact that the religions were co-opted by those whose social function it was to rule and manipulate men seem to account for this. Yet the new concept of unity was as revolutionary an event in man's psychical development as the invention of agriculture and industry was for his economic development. Nor was this concept ever totally lost; it was brought to life in the Christian sects, among the mystics of all religions, in the ideas of Jochim de Fiore, among the Renaissance humanists, and in a secular form in the philosophy of Marx. [I'm not sure that I would include Marx, but admit that I am prejudiced by his inability to recognize that material growth had to be limited on a finite planet.] [p.234]
All of these speculations, however, seem to be contradicted by the hard fact that man in the forty thousand years since his final birth [?] has failed to develop these "higher" strivings more fully but seems to have been governed principally by his greed and destructiveness. Why did the biologically built-in strivings not remain -- or become -- predominant? [p.257]
He [man] has the possibility for full development and growth, provided the external conditions that are given are conducive to this aim. [p.259, italics by ef, bold emphasis mine, mh]
Man's instinctual drives are necessary but trivial; man's passions that unify his energy in the search of their goal belong to the realm of the devotional or sacred. The system of the trivial is that of "making a living"; the sphere of the sacred is that of living beyond physical survival -- it is the sphere in which man stakes his fate, oftern his life, the sphere in which his deepest motivations, those that make life worth living, are rooted. [Footnote to this sentence: 'In order to appreciate this distinction properly one must remember that what a person calls sacred is not necessarily so. Today for instance, the concepts of symbols of Christianity are held to be sacred, although they no longer elicit a passionate involvement for most church-goers; on the other hand, the striving for the conquest of nature, for fame, power, and money, which are the real objects of devotion, are not called sacred because they have not been integrated into an explicit religious system....]
Individuals live in a society that provides them with ready-made patterns that pretend to be successful, to be a "bread winner," to raise a family, to be a good citizen, to consume goods and pleasures gives meaning to life. But while for most people this suggestion works on the conscious level, they do not acquire a genuine sense of meaningfulness, not do they have a center within themselves. The suggested patterns wear thin and with increasing frequency fail. That this is happening today on a large scale is evidenced by the increase in drup addiction, by the lack of genuine interest in anything, in the decline of intellectual and artistic creativity, and in the increase of violence and destructiveness. [p.267]
A society based on exploitive control also exhibits other predictable features. It tends to weaken the independence, integrity, critical thinking, and productivity of those submitted to it. This does not mean that it does not feed them with all sorts of amusements and stimulations, but only those that restrict the development of personality rather than further it. The Roman Caesars offered public spectacles, mainly of a sadistic nature. Contemporary society offers similar spectacles in the form of newspaper and television reports on crime, war, atrocities; where the contents are not gruesome, they are as unnourishing as the breakfast cereals that are promoted by the same mass media to the detriment of children's health. This cultural food does not offer activating stimuli, but promotes passivity and sloth. At best it offers fun and thrills, but almost no joy; for joy requires freedom, the loosening of the tight reins of control... [p.297]
Biophilia is the passionate love of life and all that is alive; it is the wish to further growth, whether in a person, a plant, an idea, or a social group. The biophilious person prefers to construct rather than to retain. He is capable of wondering, and he prefers to see something new rather than to find confirmation of the old. He loves the adventure of living more than he does certainty. He see the whole rather than only the parts, structures rather than summation. He wants to mold and to influence by love, reason, and example; not by force, by cutting things apart, by the bureaucratic manner of administering people as if they were things. Because he enjoys life and all its manifestation he is not a passionate consumer of newly packaged "excitement." [p.365]
Speaking more generally, the formation and fixity of the character has to be understood in terms of a sliding scale; the individual begins life with certain qualities that dispose him to go in certain directions, but his personality is still malleable enough to allow the character to develop in many different directions within the given framework. [p.370]
The impression that the character never changes is largely based on the fact that the life of most people is so prefabricated and unspontaneous that nothing new ever really happens, and later events only confirm the earlier ones. [p.370]
The situation of mankind today is too serious to permit us to listen to the demagogues -- least of all the demagogues who are attracted to destruction [or literally have investments -- financial or therwise -- in destruction] -- or even to the leaders who use only their brains and whose hearts have hardened. Critical and radical thought will only bear fruit when it is blended with the most precious quality man is endowed with -- the love of life. [p.438]