If someone were intellectually impaired we would have a name for that. It is called developmental delay or intellectual deficiency or mental retardation. We would in our society want to ensure that such individuals had services adapted to their special needs. Education, transportation, emotional support and similar services all adapted for their needs which differ significantly from the needs of the majority of people. Because such people do not generally produce in economic terms, they are not self sufficient in an economy which insists that each person of working age be able to earn an income and contribute through taxes or some other means, to society. If a child reached grade 8 and were not able to read, we would become somewhat alarmed and wonder whether that person suffered some intellectual impairement of some sort. We would investigate the situation, do some I. Q. testing perhaps to determine if the "problem" was of a more biological nature or a socially constructed phenomenon. We would ask: "did this child inherit problem genes or did they inherit problem circumstances?" Surely, the cause of their inability to read would be situated somewhere within those biopsychosocial parameters. Whatever the case, most would consider it unusual and to some extent alarming that a child could reach grade 8 without being able to read. If it proved that the child had suffered from insufficient opportunities to learn then we would direct that child towards a specialized program, tutoring, or some other form of teaching adapted to his particular needs, like we do with adults who wish to return to school to get their high school diplomas or people. So why is it then that if a boy grows into a man without the slightest comprehension of the meaning of art in his culture, we consider this normal? Why is is that if a girl becomes a woman and has no ability to draw we care nothing whatsoever? If she can't write, then we are really worried. The answer is simple. Language is considered essential knowledge while knowledge pertaining to art and culture is considered accessory knowledge. It is simply not as important for the day to day functioning of an individual in this society. The result is that we have: "...guided missiles and misguided men"as Martin Luther King supposedly said. We have hockey players who perfect a skill above and beyond most of our capabilities but remain hugely underdevelopped emotionally. They make millions checking, shooting pucks, skating but live in a child's world were problems are addressed violently, as kids in a school yard.
We have entered the age of the specialist. Each member of society being good at one thing. We say of the generalist that he is a jack of all trades, master of none. What insult do we have for the specialist?None. Nothing but admiration for the post doctoral nuclear physicist or the post post doctoral biologist who spent an entire life studying one thing. Nothing wrong with studying one thing. We need people with a curiosity so intense that it burns through subject matter, piercing to the core of what we need to know. We need specialists to help us solve problems. But as Erikson said, when you have a hammer, every problem is a nail. A U.S general only has one cognitive structure within which to consider solving a problem in the area of international relations. A strict Darwinian only has one scheme within which to view the origin of species. The result is that Darwinism is the only color used in the massive redecoration work going on right now in the human narrative. Evolutionary theory is being widely applied as a framwork for understanding fields of knowledge it was probably never intended to cover. We saw in world war two, the perils of Social Darwinism. Here, the problem is that we over generalize what the specialist discovered under a microscope. The tendency to take the findings of the specialist and apply them to everything is very compelling indeed because no one can avoid being entirely convinced by a theory which is so overwhelmingly convincing. Look at the theory of Christianity. Very convincing for very many people for very many years. Look at DNA research. It has revolutionized how we look at mental illness. You can hear just about anywhere people making statements to the effect that depression or ADHD is a biological disorder or that obssessive compulsive disorder is genetic. This way of thinking is heavily promoted by the pharmaceutical industry which funds research to prove it. We are willing to do anything and everything to avoid having to look at how we live, what we do and how we impact each other's lives. A million discrete prescriptions are believed to be the antidote to a million discrete psychological problems. The economic model we live in is based on production and consumption. This means we need to produce a lot of items and people need to consume them. The idea that a single solution should be applied to a wide range of problems is just antithetical to the manner in which our economy functions. In other words, efficiency is not economically sustainable in the current market. Things have to break, solutions have to be imperfect. I submit to you that there is an inherent bias within every single manufacturer of goods and services towards short term rewards over long term gains. This may be the hedonistic human tendency on the whole but we should expect coporations and governments to help us redress our weaknesses. When we say the system needs to change, that is what is being talked about. The whole thing needs to crack from the bottom up. But this is becoming a discussion about the economy rather than a post about the topic of emotional delay so let me return to my topic. Actually, i can't help it, i am a generalist, I see the world as one of interconected happenings and meanings. There is basically nothing which can be considered independent of anything else. Fire, water, earth, sun, me, you, you name it and i can draw a fairly straight line between any pair of things you want to name. If you name three things, i'll draw you a triangle. If you name four things, i will draw you a square with an x in the middle. Just don't tell me there are four corners of the world as the expression goes because i will tell you it is round. With no beginning and no end points. An infinite number of intersecting, overlapping, concentric circles wrapped like a ball of yarn by an eternal thread moving within an infinitely huge space. Nothing discrete about that.
I am not knocking the specialist. We need their work and their labours of love. They are truly passionate about their knowledge fields. They contribute and there is actual proof that they are contributing. But in my Orwellian dream I can sometimes see the specialist at the bottom of the food chain and the generalist at the top. In that dream, i wonder what should become of the specialist. Is he to be euthanized? Sent for re-education and re-training? The way we do with intellectually delayed individuals? There is an unwritten rule in our society which states that only the person with the highest degree in a particular field is authorized to make public statements about that field. Other people can make statements but no one is going to hear them. If it is not the person with the highest degree, it must be the person with the most highly acclaimed research or anyone else with science in support of what statements they are making. Anything intelligent to say is therefore being bottlenecked through the most intelligent or at least the most degreed individuals. After all, i would have to agree that you can't have everyone talking at the same time. Or maybe with the internet you can? Or maybe everyone talking at the same time is what just happenned in Egypt? I don't know but in general, you need a system to separate valid knowledge from ideology and banter. I don't know what the best way to do that is. However, i am observing the mechanism which we currently do have in place for doing it and it is called the educational complex. To the extent that the educational institutions we know and respect are not influenced by power and money i would say it is not a bad way to do it. At the same time, i think we could do so much better. And i definitely recognize that there is a massive bias towards rational development over emotional or experiential ways of knowing. In the backlash against religious extremism, it is as though the educational institution with the firm blow of a scientific fist had thrown out intuitive and emotional ways of being. We have to remember we can not get where we are going with reason alone. Science may have killed religion, and religion may have deserved the slow painful death it is facing but spirituality is a hole in our hearts which science alone will never fill.
So what is a generalist? Where can we find one who is worth his weight in phD's. Here are a few clues. Look for someone who is probably a little older and experienced, but not necessarily. Look for someone who spent at least some time in an academic institution and earned some form of recognition but not necessarily. Look for someone who is soft spoken and non-violent with a good reputation on the street where he or she lives. Look for someone who is known to a lot of people and is found to be interesting conversation but not necessarily. Look for someone who draws annoying links between the fish you are talking about and the birds in his or her head. Look for someone who uses metaphors when they speak or uses different words to say the same things in different sentences. The person you are looking for is probably not very wealthy and works in a socially oriented sphere like teaching or health care, arts, manual labour or something like that. There are millions of us out there. We don't seem very good at finding each other but we are out there. Social networking is going to change all that in the age of the internet or what i call generation "I" (pod). The generalist is fixing your toilet, going home to feed her children, empathizing with the dog on a fundamental level, redecorating the living room in their own home, communicating with relatives in two different languages abroad, penetrating another culture seamlessly, learning algebra and writing poetry with both hands being operated by ambidextrous brains.
Right, so back to emotional delay. What do we do with a society which is so completely biased in favor of top down processing? So entirely biased in favour of overseeing by thinking rather than understanding through wisdom? Confucius said: ''I hear, I forget. I see, I remember. I do, I understand''. Our way of knowing today is all about listening and looking.We only value experience in small children. We say they have to play, learn to live together in the school yard, try different things to develop some interests. They have to be stimulated so that the experience dependant brain develops to its full potential. But adults somehow don't need this anymore? Nobody actually does anything. No one actually has any experience outside of work experience, but i would hardly call sitting in front of a computer for 10 years "experience". People old enough to have experience and pass it on are locked away with Alzheimers, in old age homes; condescended to for their lack of ability to keep up with technological progress. Having a hard time staying on topic as you can tell. I am in the process of writing a book and trying not to make each page a separate novel. That is the drawback with Generalists: if you want to listen to what they have to say, you had better sit down. The good news is, you already have the prerequisites and you don't have to pursue years of study to understand what the generalist is talking about. The generalist takes a piece from here, draws links to a piece from there and assembles the whole thing into a cohesive story. Come to think of it, the bible was probably written by generalists before it was taken over by generals. Generalists are very good at explaining things and not so good at proving them. There is not science enough to prove what the generalist has to say. What evidence based study can show that the present way of doing business is doing more harm than good for humanity? What empirical study can show us when the right time for political change in Egypt is? Political science? don't make me laugh. I mentioned in a previous post that there is no such thing as political science. In a round a bout kind of way, i am getting to my point about emotional delay, which is that there are now more emotionally delayed people in power than emotionally advanced ones. The advanced class in emotional intelligence seems to have flunked out on the final exam because all the questions tested traditional I.Q and their ability to find the one and only answer to the questions on the test. They were off to the side, writing another exam which no one asked them to pass and drawing pictures which are becoming increasingly irelevant to the day to day-ness of our collective functioning. Cognitive behavioural therapy and solution focused therapy are signs that the trend of seeing the primary operating system of humanity as a rational machine is well established.
Our social structure seems to reward emotional delay in people. If that emotional delay helps them do more business and have more friends then it is rewarded by society. More money and more status basically. All the stuff teachers and frontline health workers dream of but never get. Yet, if a lack of empathy or even emotional awareness gets you further in education and professional objectives then you may be emotionally delayed. There may be something wrong with your brain. You may simply not have the neural networks in place for the kind of processing which could make you emotionally advanced or even normal. If that is the case, please enter the fMRI on the right for your free evaluation, after which you will be sent for re-education in how to be a fully human member of society. Once you have been reeducated, you will be asked to pass a series of exams where you will need to speak metaphorically and draw non-verbal representations of what you claim to know rationally. You will also be prevented from speaking in public until you have passed such exams and received a minimum A grade from the Emotional Intelligence Evaluation Board. If you fail to pass such exams, you will be relegated to doing minial jobs such as those which no one else wants to do. Your contributions will be expected on a regular basis to prove you still have a minimum of value to society. Your failure to prove such value will entitle you to receive welfare benfits but you will have to change neighbourhoods where there will be others like you. If you are violent or express the reality of human experience in language which is the language of economics you will be terminated because you will be assumed to suffer from untractable incompetence.
Painting this Orwellian picture has brought me some pleasure, I can not lie. But the truth is, i would be miserable if we behaved like this with people who are emotionally delayed. I would just feel bad because i would have to look down on them and be a tyrant and i don't think i would like that very much. So why then must i accept the reverse situation in which all of us who are mathematically challenged must live out our lives at the mercy of banks, stock brokers and complex derrivatives? Why then must i be asked to accept that all of us who have difficulty in understanding the language of the law be subjected to it without explanation. The more you look at these questions the more you come to a basic truth. The people who know, are only sharing part of what they know. They have patents and copyrights which justify the fact that they are keeping life-sustaining knowledge under lock and key. In this economy, you have to pay for it. If everyone understood their taxes and their bodies there would be no tax accountants, no doctors. They are sharing just enough for you to operate some piece of the machine but not enough for you to take that machine apart. Computers are a perfect example of this idea of selective knowledge sharing. Most of us can use a computer, very few of us know how to fix one if it is broken. We all use Microsoft Windows to see what we are doing, but hardly anyone knows what things look like when the windows are replaced. The name microsoft has given to its operating system is actually very telling. The window is not the viewer and it is not what the viewer sees either. It is that transparent filter which stands between the viewer and the world, playing a part in every interaction between the two. Think about it. MICROSOFT WINDOWS. Does it help if i write it in bold like that? How about Apple? Is it the apple from Adam and Eve perhaps? The apple of knowledge? if so, are we all eating it? Wow, I am way off topic now.
Ok, so that's it for this post. Bottom line, there are multiple ways of knowing but those ways of knowing the world which happen to be localized primarily on the language side of the brain are valued while those ways of knowing primarily located on the right side of the brain are systematically selected out. We remain like a racist society, actively inhibiting those who do not look as we do. Except with the current definition of intelligence, it is those who do not think as we do who are the outcast. The left brain seems to process information which is more readily available to consciousness while the right side is like a computer program running in the background. You can learn to pay more attention to your right brain though. You can learn to attend to odors, intuitions, sensations, feelings and these things can give your life richer meaning. I think the next post will be about the two brain halves and what i think i know about them. Thanks for reading.