Tuesday, October 30, 2007

John Kenneth Galbraith - the new industrial society

I finally got around to reading his excerpt from "the new industrial state." There were two ideas that stuck out.

The industrial society that is characterized by high technology is dependent on demand for increased production. Organizing society in a way that allows a person to work until they have enough for the week would paralyze production. Hence, the need for advertisement and creating desire is integral to the health of our system of social organization.

I was watching the CBC show "Dragon's Den" where innovations are pitched to investors. The product was a gun scope. Two of the investors said that they would not invest because of ethical reasons. The next investor responded saying "the only ethics is profit"

This scares me. What kind of society do we live in that allows a debate about whether the only ethic that matters is greed. Since when has greed become a virtue?

I suppose it is a virtue given Galbraith's description of the industrial state that is predicated on endless accumulation and ever increasing production. To make this an ethical discussion, those terms are just fancy ways of saying greed - unsustainable greed that values turning living ecosystems into inanimate, dead consumer goods.

The second idea deals with freedom and society. The point he made was that the people that are bastions for individual freedom in society are those who often have the least. CEOs, politicians and military figures are chosen and ascend to the rank they achieve most often because of submission to discipline and conform their thinking. They are expected to live up to the highest standards.

This line of thought leads me to the link between business and social conservatives. They seem odd bedfellows to me. I think this distinction articulates the schizophrenic nature of current business-religious conservative parties. And perhaps one which is often reflective of conservatives individuals ability to compartmentalize their actions - hierarchical thinking instead of systems thinking.

A conservative has a vision of what the perfect system is and tries to remove the distortions and thus achieve utopia. For business conservatives this means free market, small government. For social conservatives, this means bringing laws in line with the moral code in the bible.

Morality in this case largely means working hard and social controls in private life. Both factions can agree on this. The blind spot is morality from 9 to 5 and indirect impacts of actions.

I think this is more reflective of American Republicanism, and I am not sure where our brand of Canadian progressive conservativism fits in. Though many of the policies enacted by the minority government have been in line with traditional conservative ideology (tax cuts, program cuts..ie. funding constitutional challenges, getting tough on crime...marijuana). But there are a lot of disillusioned liberals that went conservative in the last election. So what does a right of centre liberal look like?

Anyway... liberal thinks about what are the impacts of my action - looking for implications/ cause and effect. - pragmatically progressing toward "the best we can do" as opposed to a utopia (which often gets people killed in the name of ideology). I think that is what it can be at its best anyway. It probably isn't that reflective of the party.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Defining Emergent

What is the emerging church?

I think it comes down to a single element. How is the concept of certainty defined?

About four years ago I went through a struggle with defining certainty. I grew up believing that certainty was knowing the right answer and providing that answer when in dialogue (Paul: always be prepared to give an answer). This conception was based on maintaining a systematic theology that explained everything. Learning was directed at filling in the gaps. The gaps are not examples taken from reality and experience but from the Bible. My world view had to account for and not be contradicted by any verse in the Bible. Experience and reality were seen through the lens of biblical verses. If there were gaps between experience and the Bible, then it was explained as something that we could not know. ie. ultimate authority was through scripture.

Well after a while the experiences that had unsatisfactory answers and were pushed to the back burner began to leave a nagging feeling. Things didn't add up. This was also the time that I changed my definition of certainty. It went from being able to provide an answer and having faith in the link from my certain world view (theology) to reality to exposing my faith and world view to question and the test of reality. The argument goes that if I am certain about my theology then it doesn't need me to shield it from the test of reality and exposure to legitimate questions that reality and experience expose it to.

As John Douglas Hall points out in The Cross in Our Context, this is the difference between theology and ideology. Ideology is not only found in religion, but also in politics and many other ways of seeing the world.

Does the paradigm or world view shelter thinking from reality or does it offer the opportunity to think through the implications of experience to world view.

This is the test to determine an emergent church from repackaged church.