Are Corporate Bodies Really Alive? - Part II Print E-mail

 

Big Body-Watching

Tools for Perception

How to See Them, Why We Haven’t

 


 

       INTRO.......................................................................................................................... Here

THE KI PAPERS by W.D. Kubiak

KI IN THE ARTS OF SEX, HEALING AND CORPORATE BODY BUILDING....... Here

E PLURIBUS YAMATO.................................................................................................. Here

THE JAPANESE ART OF MINDBINDING.................................................................. Here

INTRODUCTION TO ATTENTION STRUCTURE by M.B.R. Chance & Clifford Jolly.... Here

PAY ATTENTION by Matthew De Abaitua............................................................................. Here

LUSIONS compiled by W.D.K.

SUGGESTIVE BIO-SOCIAL PARALLELS FOR A THEORY OF GAIAN DISEASE... Here

OF SLIME MOLDS AND SALARIMEN........................................................................... Here

               IDEOLOGY & ANTHROCULTURE..................................................................................... Here



INtro

 “Let us lift our vision high enough to dominate the problem.”

 - - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

 

Introduction

If a picture is worth a thousand words, one eye-opening perception is worth a whole book - at least it is the ventured worth of this one. Learning to perceive Big Bodies requires a little time, thought and skill. It also demands a bit of imagination. Specifically you have to imagine that:

·         your own body is a body politic in its own right and that each of your constitutent cells both has an individual life and trade and except for those escaping in a donated organ are indissolubly wedded to the fate of the greater whole;

·         constituents that receive more mindful attention are better nourished and more exercised than those that don’t;

·         in corporate bodies also the distribution of attention - which ideas, activities and individuals get it, and which don’t - clearly reveal the body’s structure and functioning. so to maintain overall health attention such be equitably distributed to all your bodies various systems and members

- END -

 


The Ki Papers
by W.D. Kubiak

Ki in the Arts of Sex, Healing and Corporate Body Building

 I began to suspect Japan was going to be a new experience when I first came across six different people waiting for 'No Walk' signals to change in the middle of the night on a deserted street. I noticed a second time when an 85 lb. girl, an aikido student, threw me over her shoulder so hard and fast she dislocated joints in half my arm. A third revelation occured two weeks later when the still impressive arm pain was turned down and switched off like the volume on a radio by an old man twirling a needle in the opposite wrist. Those events mesmerized me and pretty well determined my course of study for the last 15 years - research primarily on corporate psychology, genius & mastery, and traditional Eastern medicine. In the Japanese context all three subjects turned out to be knotted together with a commom vocabulary of ki terms and a shared reliance on ki phenomena to achieve their effects. Gradually you could see in the patterns of their usage all these little fingers pointing to both a large black hole in the English language, and a shadowy biosocial technology which clarifies many of this culture's apparent mysteries and contradictions.

 

The concept of ki has of course gained some currency in the West recently, migrating with the widening interest in Oriental medicine, particularly acupuncture, and the Eastern martial arts. But while ki is regularly invoked in these disciplines as an explanatory principle, few writers or practitioners, either Eastern or Western, spend much time intelligibly explaining ki itself. Many offer only the vaguest definitions such as "mystic force", "subtle psycho-somatic energy" or "vital power". Some, equally unhelpful, compare ki to other elusive and unfamiliar concepts like "prana" or "pneuma".

 

Westerners do lack a convenient single term for specifying ki phenomena but we recognize their existence and effects with enough other expressions to discuss the concept quite lucidly. But before I try to relate ki to Western thought and show its importance in dispelling "inscrutibility", a word on the word itself:

 

Although the concept and ideogram for ki originated in pre-Han Dynasty China, its modern Chinese usage has remained largely confined to medical and meteorological terms. After its introduction to Japan in the seventh century, however, the concept assumed a much wider significance and came to permeate colloquial speech. Recent dictionaries, for example, list over 600 common Japanese terms and expressions employing the ideogram compared to barely 50 in Chinese. I cite this semantic vigor to defend my use of ki, the Japanized pronunciation, rather than ch'i or qi, the more venerable Chinese readings.

 

As a working concept ki dates back at least 22 centuries in China to the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, which laid out the basic terms and energetic relationships that would inform oriental medicine (and Confucian statecraft) up into the present century. Etymologically, the ideogram is believed to depict energy raising the lid of a heated cooking pot. Adding the radical for water to the frame of the character we get the common ideogram for steam. But ki was not merely a primitive apprehension of invisible energy. It was conceived of as a patterned, directed power. Dr. Manfred Porkert defines ki in his text, The Theoretical Foundations of Chinese Medicine, as "configurational energy - i.e, energy of a definite direction in space, of a definite arrangement, quality, or structure." It is, in other words, an applied energy or power flow that bridges the traditional divide between pure energy and physical or social structure. (A useful parallel from modern physics is the concept of light as a flow of 'energy packets' that synthesized the wave/particle dilemma.)

 

But ki is perhaps best understood in terms of the relationships it empowers. A basic tenet of Chinese bio-social theory states that "i ( ) leads to ki ( ), which in turn leads to chi ( )" (These are all Japanese pronunciations, by the way; chi should not be confused with the Chinese for ki. And all of these words rhyme with the mi of music's do-re-mi.) I in this formula means intent, desire or will; and chi corresponds to physical or behavioral structure. A crude psychological example might be - a desire to play the piano (i) leads to attentive exertion (ki) which forms the structured habits and reflexes (chi) needed for mastery. A social parallel might likewise run - a policy (i) leads to a 'budget' or application of resources (ki) which in turn generates a physical or organizational structure (chi).

 

Ki has always been associated with life processes. It was generated within the macrocosmic and microcosmic living systems that constituted Chinese reality. (Contemporary Western ideas like the controversial "Gaia Hypothesis" [that the earth constitutes a single living entity], or modern conceptions of complex groups as "meta-organisms", were usually considered self-evident in much early Chinese thought.)

 

Where there was life and growth there was ki. The Chinese were not at all animistic about such energy, however, and sought reasonable causal principles. Indeed the ideogram and its most common variants graphically suggest the conversion of heat to ki (oxidation, solar influence, fervor, etc.) or of food to ki (digestive metabolism).

 

Whatever its physical source, the resulting force was force at work within a system, usually a system that included or constituted man. Macrocosmically, for example, the ancients perceived vital forces at play in the atmosphere, forces which could affect not only the natural environment but also human psychosomatic functioning. Thus the dynamic variations of pressure, humidity, precipitation, temperature - in short, weather - represented qualitative expressions of the ki of heaven, or tenki, as it is known in Japan. Likewise, they noted the psychosomatic influences of geographical features - low wetlands, high arid plains, mountains, beaches, etc. - which they interpreted in their geomancy as expressions of chiki, the ki of the earth. Because they could in-fluence, or literally "flow into" and affect human being, these environmental ki's were holistically included in the study of disease and therapeutics. Man's ki was thus inseparably linked - consciously or unconsciously - to the ki of his immediate natural environment.

 

In all these larger systems or fields of environmental force man's presence was always implicit, at least as a participant and reference. (The Chinese were of course not so anthropocentric as to believe the earth could not exist without man. But like a biologically persisting "brain-dead" body, the earth deprived of human consciousness seemed an unimaginably impoverished entity.) If man's activities rarely - at least in those days - affected the quality and circulation of the planet's vast natural energies, he at least came to recognize them. And his dawning consciousness of their objective existence and subjective effects did allow early man to order them for systematic apprehension, classification and eventual use.

 

But it is within the more intimate confines of the human body and social groups, that ki is most dramatically apparent, as a simple experiment may show. Select the tip of one of your fingers for contemplation (i). Next concentrate upon it quietly and totally for a few minutes - inducing ki. Now many of you should begin to notice increasing warmth and sensitivity in the finger as your attention enhances its circulation and neural acuity. (The effect is even more dramatic if the extremity chosen is erogenous.) The increased blood flow bears with it increased oxygen and vital nutrients. Were you attending instead to a muscle that you were exercising those nutrients would feed and accelerate the tissue's growth and structural development, i.e., yielding our aforementioned chi. (The former "90 lb. weakling" crowd might recall that such exercises are the core and secret of Charles Atlas' "dynamic tension" body building regimes.)

 

In a similar manner, Chinese medicine calls upon the blood-borne resources of our immunological system. Using pressure, needles, heat, shocks, etc. it attracts the body's attention or ki to weakened, distressed areas. This internal attention again serves two vital functions. It augments the flow of healing/nutritive resources to the afflicted cellular community and materially assists its recovery. Secondly, it heightens the entire body's awareness of suffering among its cellular constituents, hopefully inducing its executive 'head' toward corrective changes in behavior.

 

Within the healthy body the functioning of ki was felt to be as tangible and straightforward as any other physiological process. Bio-electrical ki channels or "meridians" rivered the body together with a flow of diverse cellular energies. As blood flow distributed informational hormones and physical nutrients, ki flow gathered and disbursed vitality and sensation. As a distributor, ki flow moved energy from tissues or organs in surplus to areas suffering temporary deficits.

 

(In this respect, ki is a medium of power sharing like the vibratory airfoil effect many species of waterfowl employ during long migratory flights. With precise spacing, angulation and synchronization of wingbeats, the birds set up an undulating current of air surrounding their V-shaped formations. This wave front receives power from the flock's strongest fliers and transmits to resting or weaker members as a lift-enhancing rhythmic wave.)

 

Since it could clearly affect and be affected by both the cells and the psyche of the body, ki operated at the psycho- somatic interface. Attending to it could both alter physiological processes (as in our finger), and raise subtle biological functions to awareness and conscious control. Recent biofeedback techniques employ sensitive prosthetic machinery to return this awareness and control to modern man. But one can imagine that in less drugged, hurried or media-distracted cultures, a good number of people might enjoy enough bodily sensitivity to achieve these effects unaided.

 

Chinese thinking about ki also penetrated the social sphere and traced its workings across the narrow divide between complex biological systems, like humans, and the complex social systems - nation-states, corporations, churches, etc. - that they spend their lives in. Heuristic comparisons of physical and social organisms, now deemed so racy and avant garde in Western management circles, were conventional wisdom two millenia ago in the East. As early as the The Yellow Emperor's Classic, Chinese medicine was suggestively interchanging political and medical concepts. Chinese of the time, of course, could not imagine the electronically integrated complexity of the social organisms we face today. But they spent a lot of centuries thinking about governance and the maintenance of order with the minimum of force. Such concerns inevitably drew their attention to biological systems, and to the human body in particular as a model of harmonious integration. Here is the Yellow Emperor on health and disease:

 

When the body's monarch is intelligent and enlightened, there is peace and contentment among his subjects; they can thus reproduce, bring up their offspring, pursue their diverse functions, and lead a long and happy life. But when the monarch is not intelligent and enlightened, the twelve officials [the organs of the body] become afflicted and dangerous; the paths [of ki] are obstructed and blocked, and it no longer circulates warnings of local distress.

 

In treating the physical body as a body politic, and vice versa, early Chinese thinking clearly prefigured modern "living systems" theories. It also foreshadowed Japan's later fascination with ki's social or interpersonal implications. What most captured the Japanese imagination was not ki's internal functioning but the fact that it operated in a system open and responsive to the environment, particularly the social environment. Focusing on the neglected interactive aspects of the ki concept, Japan developed its own rich vocabulary for ki dynamics in the psycho-social sphere.

 

One Japanese commentator traces the ideogram for ki back to earlier characters which "originally related to eating and represented both the energetic inner quality of man and the outer activities of demanding and reaching." When this "demanding & reaching" are considered with reference to perception, we are clearly talking about something approaching our idea of attention. This also harks back to the patterned force or directed energy. Recalling the derivation of "attention" from the Latin "ad tendere" - 'to stretch towards', we can begin to build an interesting case for the two concepts' homology, if not identity.

 

"Ki o tsukeru", for example, is the Japanese for "to attend to". Literally it means "to fasten one's ki upon (something or someone)". Ki like attention is "paid out" and "attracted". It can equally be "focused" or "diffused" as it stretches forth to fasten upon the environment. In a passable definition of "rapt attention" Kiyoshi Hamano of Kyoto University writes of "Kishoku" [literally, the "ki of color or sensuality"], that it "represents not only the concept of the appearance of nature, but also the direct fusion of people with it." Hamano has studied ki from a psychoanalytic perspective and the following lines are excerpted from his work. Please try substituting the word 'attention' each time he mentions ki:

 

"Ki is thought to be something like radio waves between people, and the capacity for 'tuning in' to others."

"Ki is regarded as psychic energy, and is closely related to the body."

"Ki is felt to extend of itself toward the other, as if it were some mysterious filament."

"Ki appears or turns up before a subject in relation to an object as if it were a knot connecting the two."

 

He concludes:

 

"Ideally ki can be viewed as: a) that which is perceived in relationships between a subject and the world around him; b) that which is perceived in relationships between people; c) that which is perceived as identical with the subject's own thoughts, feelings, or moods...

"Everything - things, persons, and events - can be moved into the field of ki... The place where it proceeds is what is called psychic reality."

 

There is a surfeit of circumstantial evidence for this analogy, but now that the point has been made a disclaimer is perhaps in order: Ki is not merely an Asian word for attention. In fact attention is a rather underdeveloped Western concept for a profound psycho-biological phenomenon that ki terminology far better represents. The remainder of this piece thus concerns some aspects of ki or attention function that have rarely been pointed out in English.

 

The first of these has to with Japanese perceptions of ki's role as a current of psychosomatic vitality. As we noted above somatic ki does not circulate in a closed system. Through the operations of the psyche in particular, ki is incessantly reaching into and receiving from the world. Porkert writes that it: "manifests itself and is spent in the psychic reactions in general and especially in the psychic reaction par excellence, the directed will."

 

Such environmental expenditures of ki intimately affect the body's energy balance. All this 'stretching out' and 'fastening' awareness to things, persons and objectives is a form of work, work that consume energy. This psychosomatic energy - in Japanese: kiryoku, literally, "ki power" - has certain basic attributes:

 

Like any energy it can neither be created or destroyed and thus is subject to the basic "whence and whither" conversion analyses of thermo-dynamics.

 

It is highly correlated with physical vitality, resistance to disease, self-assertiveness, and sexual potency. Though occuring of course in both sexes, these attributes led many in Asia it to label it an extremely 'yang' or masculine energy. In fact some of the more male chauvinist Japanese/English dictionaries define it simply as virility.

 

Though constantly generated by healthy body tissue it can be dangerously exhausted by disease, physical exertion, stress, or, most interestingly, its unreciprocated discharge into the social environment.

 

Conversely, its reserves can be enhanced by factors like contact with Nature, meditation, and sensual arousal, as well as directly from the ki or attention 'paid' to you by other individuals.

 

We can thus begin to see the outlines of the dynamic ki economy that many Japanese believe link physiological and social well-being. Two suggestive analogies for discussing ki transactions can be drawn from fiscal accounting and electromagnetic theory. In the fiscal metaphor ki or attention is treated as a currency that may be paid out, received, accumulated, squandered, invested, etc. Each healthy individual is thought to begin each day with a 'subsistence allowance' of ki from the collective contributions of his physiological constituents. His net balance at any particular moment, however, is largely determined by the profitability of his subsequent transactions with the natural and social environment. A kind of double-entry bookkeeping can thus be imagined balancing attention received against attention paid out. Social relations are therefore occasions of vital trade, and far more is at stake than mere ego massage. Not only does a regular ki surplus increase your energy, potency, and vital charisma, but running a deficit can impoverish your sex life and eventually your health.

 

Japanese students of ki whom I polled for an earlier study implicated chronic attentional deficits as a factor in problems as diverse as overeating, domestic violence, developmental retardation in orphanages, and the high death rate among widowed or retired men. A few also noted the prevalence of mental disorders among live-in daughters-in-law, the archetypical ki debtors of Japan. They suffer extraordinarily high rates of a neurotic neurasthenia said to afflict over half of the nation's 300,000 mental patients.

 

Conversely, in the upper attentional income brackets, consistent ki surpluses were cited as a factor in the uncommon longevity of judges, conductors, political & religious leaders, etc. "Good listeners" were deemed ki donors. Thus regular exposure to attentive, enthusiastic audiences could dramatically heighten the recipients' vitality. (This phenomenon is in fact frequently mentioned in the memoirs of political and stage personalities. Hubert Humphrey often remarked that no matter how sick he was, if he could make it to a podium in front of a fired-up crowd he would come away cured.) Several respondents also noted that this ki-induced vitality powerfully charges the libido as well. One, only half-jokingly, blamed it for the promiscuity scandals now bedeviling many prominent political and religious figures.

 

In the electro-magnetic analogy each individual is presumed to generate, store, transmit, and receive ki as a psychsomatic current or charge. Let us imagine a "watt" of psychic energy - the power, for example, the average person expends in 60 seconds of undivided conscious attention. Let us provisionally call this unit a psy-watt and further imagine it - ideally - as being projected from each attentive ego out onto the environment in a focused beam.

 

To better visualize this, consider the sensation of 'being watched' that most people experience at one time or another. Many Japanese claim particular sensitivity to such probes of attention, and cite the subtle palpability of others' stares to explain the origin of common expressions like chumoku sareru - 'to have eyes poured upon one.'

 

This laser metaphor helps to envision many aspects of ki, but it is usually employed with regard to group attention or ninki. Ninki, literally the "ki of other people", is an important and positive concept in Japan. To have ninki is to enjoy popular favor, attendance, or "drawing power". But again the implications are wider than mere social approbation.

 

Anyone who has ventured near the stage front during a large and wild rock concert, for example, knows that it is a locus of uncanny and as yet unnamed power. Unnamed at least in Western terms. In the East this is ninki at peak voltage. If we could perceive each spectator at such events projecting his ki or psy-wattage as a visible laser, the focal charge at the stage - and in the performers - would be blinding. The radiant terminology applied to celebrity in the West - 'star', 'luminary', 'dazzler', etc. - perhaps reflects a recognition of the phenomenon, but it tends to relegate the audience to a purely passive role.

 

In the case of rock concerts the charge that the musicians receive is of primary interest only to the performers themselves and perhaps to the groupies they will later scorch with it. But there are far more valuable and intelligent uses of the effect, uses epitomized in the religious technologies of healing.

 

All manner of deities and occult forces are traditionally invoked and credited in ceremonial group healings. But if we impiously ignore for a moment the religious persuasions of the assembled faithful, we generally find two basic approaches to healing - the mediated and the direct.

 

In the mediated form - exemplified by revivalist tent healers, voodoo priests, witch doctors, etc. - one person stirs the passion and wonder of the group, focusing its ki or attention upon himself. Like a kind of animate battery he accumulates some fraction of the group's focalized ki energy and discharges it upon the individual to be healed. These priest-to-patient transfusions of vitality are usually performed at the climax of an orchestrated crescendo of collective ki excitation. Although one is free to credit the equally nebulous influences of suggestion or placebo effects, in many cases something of therapeutic virtue does appear to occur. The problem with this style of healing, of course, arises when the priest-figure mistakes his mediating agency for a supernatural personal potency. Though the earth has doubtless been blessed with a number of individuals uniquely capable of concentrating the ki of natural creation and transmitting it to their suffering brethren, it appears to be a much rarer transaction than borrowing from Peter to heal Paul.

 

The direct form - exemplified by charismatic healing circles, Balinese ketchak rites, white magic covens, etc. - appears to be a rather more straightforward affair and less open to egoistic abuse. In this style, each member of the collective applies his ki or attention to the 'patient' directly. While they will frequently employ shared rhythms, prayers or incantations to synchronize and enhance their individual emmissions, members of these circles each approach the subject and his pain alone.

 

Judging from their recurring appearance in a diversity of epochs and cultures, these ceremonies do deliver. In terms of ki dynamics they can be analyzed in two ways:

 

1) As an acute therapy: These collective attention furnaces provided high wattage ki transfusions which charged the psychosoma of the target individual like a jolt of ethereal B vitamins. This is 'drug grade' ki, so to speak, which Oriental medicine deems useful in resuscitative emergencies but too powerful and addictive a stimulant for regular use. (In the West this is viscerally understood by ki junkies or attention- dependent types who are usually found performing their way to the high at the center of any available circle);

 

2) As a long term regimen: One effect of receiving intense and sympathetic group attention is a lingering warm self- consciousness. During this afterglow the recipient is likely to regard himself more positively and hence more frequently. In oriental medicine this mirroring back upon the self of ki's generally outgoing or extroverted flow is believed to vitalize the being, rendering it more psychosomatically assertive and immunologically aggressive.

 

The terms self-respect, self-regard, self-esteem partially express the dialectic by implying that the self is attended to because of its value and that its value is enhanced by reflexive attention. But compared to group-generated, megadose ninki, individual self-regard offers attention in only "herbal" or homeopathic amounts - which is often adequate in normal, non-pathological times.

 

In most holistic disciplines based on yoga, meditation, mantras, tai chi, etc. the main therapeutic value is found in their mindful attention to the self, and an hour or so a day is considered sufficient. While a tithe of one's daily ki budget may be enough to maintain health, psychosomatic technologies like the Chinese qi gung (kiko in Japanese) advise those wishing to acquire 'powers' to spend only 30% of one's attention upon the world and retain 70% for the irrigation of the self and internal environment. Heightening internal ki charges the endocrine system. Acupuncture journal studies, for example, document that ki stimulation techniques in men consistently raise the blood level of adrenalin and testosterone, as well as most other male hormones and steroids. This richened broth of androgen and energy molecules make the subject more behaviorially and biologically male - more self-confident, aggressive and sensual. These are also the power molecules of Tantric and Taoist liberation techniques that use sensual arousal to raise the creative heat and awareness of mature adepts. Pleasure and passion are natural allies in these disciplines, synergizing ki flow to and in the body and enhacing the sense of self. In the everyday world also, the more self-directing one becomes, the more often the self turns to the things and activities it enjoys until pleasure and profession merge. "You become good at what you like...", as the Japanese proverb goes.

 

This melting down of conflict between personal desires and practical responsibilities, between needs and obligations, is comparable in ways to a loss of circuit resistance or superconductivity. It frees enormous psychic energy, and tends to drive the process of individual maturation to completion: a sense of power and wellbeing promotesls confidence, which increases spontaneity, which in turn yields creative surprise or "master-pieces". And, by displaying the unpredictable, unprogrammed & thus unique aspects of a person, it marks him out as special, an individual, and makes his "name".

 

Human individuation is thus the social analogue of speciation and can be justly credited with the lush historical diversity our planet has enjoyed. But whatever its evolutionary merit, it is also a centrifugal social force, and a schismatic threat to all complex corporate bodies.

 

Every society is characterized by a certain level of individuation beyond which the normal individual cannot go.

                                                                        Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom

 

In precorporate societies individuation was a path of power. To achieve it many traditional disciplines, both occult and overt, used attention-intensive techniques to focus energy on the self. These practices were generally designed to incubate a cultural rebirth and the manifestation of one's indwelling deity or "genius". In most religious and artistic traditions the emergence of this spirit and its seminal power marked one's passage from disciplehood to mastery and full adult rights. (Certain ancient Japanese professions like medicine continue to call apprentices well into their twenties, tamago [eggs] in recognition of the internal effort and external care that is still required to birth the autonomous practitioner.) The archetypical master was a fully mature and energized being - sexually active, physically skilled, psychically fertile. He cuts a splendid figure in an open field, but in a hierarchy he is likely to burst forth as a charismatic, insubordinate pain in the ass.

 

Keeping followers' personal ki levels subdued is an ancient hierarchical concern. Sexual vitality and assertive kiryoku do not correlate very well with corporate docility and obedience. Authoritarian collectives have thus treated ki like a "controlled substance" and made body-negating and anti-sensual themes incessant leitmotifs in their teachings. Unisex Mao jackets, Christian hair shirts, Islamic purdah, school uniforms, in fact uniforms of any kind, are further tactics to lessen attention paid to individual bodies and beings. New "somebodies" erupting out of the faceless "flocks" or "masses" attracted influence with the attention, and authoritarian ki politics is a zero sum game.

 

Psychiatric incarceration, castration and auto-de-fe are only the most overt methods great collectives have used to rid themselves insubordinate personalities. Less well known are the sophisticated psychosomatic techniques they employ to stop their members from acquiring independent identities in the first place. If the urge to individuation and autonomy is a common and natural evolutionary drive, successful social organisms like churches, states, corporations, etc. have apparently discovered some powerful technologies to suppress it. To either beat or join their game requires some working knowledge of these techniques and the ki dynamics which empower them. Two areas of primary import are the nature of group bonding and socialization strategies for strengthening it.

 

Just how much a Japanese depends on, and expects from, his co-workers may be incomprehensible to the outsider. There are no clear lines which divide one's own from another's...

                                                                  Dr. Chie Nakane, Japanese Society

 

Recent research in social embryology and organizational development has begun to describe intragroup bonds with a new theory of "attention structure". Developed in African field studies by anthropologists M.B.R. Chance and Clifford Jolly, the approach used "attention maps", graphing how often and how long primate troop members visually refer to each other, to decipher group structure. The methodology was inspired by the etymologies of words like re-spect, re-gard, and re-verence -- ki-intensive terms which denote human importance in terms of the re-peated looks ('specere'), heed ('garder'), and wariness ('verery') individuals attract. Attention structure thus represents the flickering web of ki channels that bind and integrate a social body (cf., Hamano's "mysterious filaments").

 

Their maps unsurprisingly demonstrated that dominant members receive the lion's share of the group's ki. Although ferocity was observed to be a major advantage in attaining dominance, coalition-building 'politician' apes and resourceful 'entertainers' could also occasionally achieve it. This was surprising since these types clearly require group feedback, and ethology traditionally defines a dominant individual as one whom other members look to for reference, while he himself is not obliged to refer to anyone. (In cowboy movie terms, the stranger's joke is not funny til the gang boss laughs.) Their findings called into question the old 'who can clobber whom' hierarchy models. The political success of relatively non-threatening leaders showed that individuals were dominant because they attracted the most attention and not vice versa. Parenthetically, the researchers also noted that the troops' least attended to male members were, or became, almost sexually inert.

 

Their attention distribution charts proved quite stable over time and showed that ki circulation within a specific social group can become as patterned, routinized and metaphorically 'hard-wired' as in a physical body. In human systems, for example, this is dramatically evidenced in the extraordinarily high mortality rates among older men who abruptly lose the accustomed attention of wives and/or work groups. Once external sources of attention are integrated into one's internal ki economy, the individual becomes dependent upon this larger whole for energy and identity. The sudden severance of these interpersonal ki channels can cause the equivalent of psychosomatic hemorrhage and anemia, and drain the victim all the way down to the immune system.

 

Enlarging and perfecting these group circulatory systems are arguably the main objectives of all Japanese socialization processes. Comparative childrearing studies have noted, for example, that while the American child is considered to be a dependent entity who must be helped to independence, the Japanese child is felt to be an independent being who must be drawn into dependence. This conditioning for incorporation continues throughout schooling and beyond. Japanese corporations complete the process by encouraging: a deep receptivity, empathy and openness in each new member which allows him to make others a part of himself (jibun no naka ni aite o ireru, literally 'putting others inside oneself').

 

The resulting social ki linkages can be almost palpably apparent. Several Japanese social critics have graphically compared groups here to bowls of natto (fermented soybeans swaddled together with shining mucilaginous strands). In group life this pulsating web of mutual attention quite literally ob-ligates its members and powerfully affects their behavior. Kurt Singer, a German economist who worked in Japan's great bureaucracies in the '30's, vividly captured the effect:

 

Where the quasi-magical force of rite and custom prevails, the give and take, address and reply, the warp of daily life, assume the harmonious aspects of a self-regulated organic process. The movements of a Japanese seem not to originate in his frail body but to avail themselves of it, making him bend and bow and vibrate like a tree in wind and rain.

 

In addition to energy then, ki bonds or attention channels distribute sensory and motor information throughout a social organism like a rudimentary nervous system. It is this mechanism that ties diverse members into a functional whole, and the power of kiryoku invested in it determines a corporate body's integration, productive efficiency, and responsiveness to central command.

 

These are issues of deep concern to leaders trying to organize vast groups for governance, industry or war, and in Japan, where the importance of ki distribution is pervasively understood, a great deal of thought has gone into ki technology. From preserved umbilicals and emporer worship to estrogenic soybeans and chronic test stress, many ingenious methods have been developed to psychosomatically condition Japanese to foreswear individuation, and attentively embrace and subserve collective systems. The extraordinary vitality of Japan's corporate bodies certifies the final effectiveness of these techniques, as do the less well remarked side effects of neurosis, apathy and psycho-sexual retardation many overmilked salarimen have learned to endure.

 

For those interested in economic miracles then, or the evolutionary competition between human and corporate bodies, Japan's group consciousness and its attentional arts & sciences deserve some serious study.

 


 

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Ki Series Part II

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E PLURIBUS YAMATO

The Culture of Corporate Being

 

If the co-operation of some thousands of millions of cells in our brain can produce our consciousness, a true singularity, the idea becomes vastly more plausible that the co-operation of humanity, or some sections of it, may determine what Comte calls a 'Great Being'.

                                                      J.B.S. Haldane, Essay on Science & Ethics, 1932

 

We live in the age of corporate organisms. Though no formal announcements have been issued it's becoming harder to ignore that they have wrested control of the earth from homo sapiens and supplanted us as the planet's dominant species. It is they - the multinationals, government bureaucracies, religious hierarchies, military bodies, et al. - not individual humans, that generate our era's character - its patterns of wealth & poverty, its technological progress & ecological peril, its entertainment & political agenda. They have, in short, taken over, and nowhere more so than in Japan.

 

Japan in fact owes her incredible power today not merely to management, consensus or monoethnicity, but to her carefully bred population of vast corporate bodies - the most aggressive, efficient, and highly evolved the world has yet experienced. To understand the magnitude of her accomplishment we must first suspend considerable disbelief and try for a moment to take social organisms seriously, not just as a metaphor but as an actual new class of being. Japan quite apparently does, or at least she has intuited their true nature more clearly than any previous culture:

 

(1855) The rulers feed the people and in return the people have a great debt of gratitude toward them. Ruler and people are one body ("Kunshin Ittai")...This is a characteristic of our country alone - ruler and subjects form one body!

                                                Yoshida Shoin, Edo Philosopher whose works deeply

                                                influenced the architects of the Meiji state.

 

(1936) In his everyday existence the average Japanese acts, feels, thinks, decides, as if Japan would act through him...He stands to his group in a relation in which we imagine the life of a cell stands to the life of an organism; or at the very least it approximates to that relation in a degree observable in no other civilised nation.

                                                Kurt Singer, Professor of Economics, Tokyo University

 

(1970) The Japanese language has no term for the word leadership... Responsibility is diffused through the group as a whole and the entire collectivity becomes one functional body in which all individuals, including the manager, are amalgamated into a single entity...The strength of this structure lies in its ability to efficiently and swiftly mobilize the collective power of its members. The importance of its contribution to the process of Japanese modernization is immeasurable.

                                                Dr. Chie Nakane, Professor of Sociology, Tokyo University

 

(For now let us confine our fieldwork to Japan's corporate jungles and identify our emergent collective beings quite simply as: "Any large, bureaucratically or hierachically organized social body that persists in time, enjoys at least partial autonomy and economically supports a large number of functionaries, if not all its membership" - with "large" meaning a number too numerous for mutual acquaintance or direct, face-to-face interaction - arbitrarily, say, 500+.)

 

Thanks to diverse terminology and social functions we think we understand important differences between Mitsubishi & the central government, or the Self Defense Forces & the Sokka Gakkai, or the National Police Force & the major yakuza syndicates. But viewed from a sufficient height and distance these vast corporate bodies seem to embody far more similarities than differences. Moreover, they appear to fulfill all the definitional requirements of true complex "organisms".

 

All of them, for example, share basic common organizational processes, structures and energy needs; generate psychic membranes that divide their membership from outsiders; take in and process information and nourishment from the environment; specialize, control and outlive their human/cellular constituents; can reproduce, spawning subsidiary bodies; and are primarily concerned with their own survival and growth. In a very real sense they represent a distinct, highly evolved life form, in fact a species if you go by Webster: "Species - a category of biological classification comprising related organisms or populations...having common attributes, a common name and potentially capable of interbreeding."

 

The common attributes abound and history's menagerie of corporate hybrids - commercial religions, ecclesiastical governments, academic businesses, governmental trading bodies, etc. - prove that the monsters are mutually fertile. All that is wanting then is a "common name", something like "dog" that transcends the apparent discrepencies between chihuahuas, bulldogs and great danes to indicate that we are in fact dealing with a single bundle of creation. This is a serious lack for without a clear category for their common existence it is difficult to think of, speak of or visualize them. Present candidate terms are rather clumsy or obscure - megasome, corpocyte, kyoseitai [short for Jp: kyodo seimeitai - "cooperative life body"]. For now we shall limp along with traditional organismic vocabulary (while praying for some gifted reader to invent or offer the fit and final Word).

 

Japan was hardly the first to recognize organismic realities. The biological metaphorics for integrated collective bodies are ancient on both sides of the planet. Politics and medicine were sister disciplines in pre-Han China and the rulers' husbandry of the societal organism was dictated by the same common sense that informed the disciplines of human health and healing. The Hindu Brahmins of the period were also describing their community's castes in terms of the limbs and organs of a physical body (and predictably selecting themselves for the preeminent and metabolically privileged role of the brain). And further to the West, St. Paul was conjuring a new sacerdotal monad, the "mystical body of Christ", that would soon incorporate all of Europe.

'They [the emerging corporations] have all commodities under their control and practice without concealment all manner of trickery; they raise and lower prices as they please and oppress and ruin all the small tradesmen, as the pike devour the little fish of the water just as though they were lord's over God's creatures and free from all the laws of faith and love.'

                                                            Martin Luther, "On Trading and Usury", 1524

 

Though Western biological similes were often no more than heuristic conceits (Hobbes' Leviathan, Frank Norris' Octopus, Franz Neumann's Behemoth, etc.) there was obvious foreboding of the organic nature of societal life forms and their increasing power over humans both inside and outside their membranes. It was not until the turn of this century, however, that ethology, biology and social psychology achieved enough sophistication to pursue the analogy seriously. Between 1890 and the 1920's organismic thinking picked up enormous momentum. Researchers in France, Germany and England established the concept of insect societies as "supraorganisms" and began to draw telling parallels between hives, nests and termitaries and highly integrated human organizations. Scores of studies were published on colonial organisms, cooperative life forms and other collective biological realities. The western classics on group consciousness also appeared from this ferment. Schaeffle's The Life & Limbs of the Social Body, Le Bon's The Crowd, and MacDougal's The Group Mind all clearly demonstrated that something psychologically new and evolutionarily significant emerged in human collectives, something far greater than the sum of the parts.

 

At the end of the '20's, however, two obstacles - one political, the other conceptual - arose to derail the entire international inquiry. The political problem was fascism. Organismic thinking seemed to play right into the bloody hands of fascist ideologues. If indeed great social bodies were more powerful than men - outproducing them, outliving them, and supporting vast numbers of them - then they also were plausibly more important. (As an Osaka executive who destroyed evidence and himself to thwart an investigation of his firm wrote before dying: "Please accept this humble offering. I am but one. The kaisha [corporation] is many. My life is transient. The kaisha is forever!")

 

The social organism was thus an evolutionary advance upon mankind much as the multicellular animal was an advance upon protozoa. And as a "greater whole" its commonweal "naturally" took precedence over its individual members'. From a corporatist standpoint then, anyone threatening the unity, efficiency or "health" of the collective body could and should be sacrificed with the same insouciance with which we excise a cancer or a gangrenous toe. Eliminating dissidents, in other words, was not a question of morality but of rational social medicine. For Western liberals who tacitly tolerated executions for treason and desertion in their own societies this thinking (and the organismic research that lent it credence) presented an ethically thorny and unwanted problem, especially at a time when the Nazi organism was threatening to engulf all of Europe.

 

The conceptual problem was rather more straightforward: the absence of an equivalent of protoplasm to explain what really connects and integrates a social body's members. Language may allow individuals to interact but many mutually hostile organisms can arise in the same linguistic sea. What binds them internally? Group consciousness is fine in theory but what does it really consist of? If nothing can be physically pointed out or quantified, organismic research is mere poetry, unscientific and a waste of time.

 

Neither of these difficulties phased the Japanese, however. Fascism as they understood it was a dandy idea. Didn't it come from the Roman fasces (a bundle of rods with a protruding axe-head) that symbolized social unity (bundle) under state authority (axe)? Didn't it virtually deify a strong central leader, extoll self-sacrifice and collective effort, and promote belongingness with uniforms, symbols and ceremonies? What else had Japan been working to realize since the Meiji Restoration? Organismic theory of course abetted these efforts and would play an important role in ultranationalist debates on the nature and primacy of the kokutai [the mystical body of the Japanese state].

 

As for the reality and substance of social bonds the Japanese had the enormous advantage of the ki concept which we discussed at length above in "Ki and the Arts of Sex, Healing and Corporate Body Building." Translated (too) simply, ki means psycho-biological vital force. Ki in the social sphere was seen as the living force of attention or directed consciousness, a force that carried energy from the perceiver to the perceived and tied them together, much as energy exchange bonds atoms and molecules. Social ki, while invisible, is as palpable as the wind to many Japanese and they have scores of expressions to describe its effects upon the minds & bodies of those sending and receiving it. Ki or attention's patterned circulation within a group bonds and integrates the members and determines their collective "structure". The strength and cohesion of any social body is therefore to be measured by how much of the members' ki or attention is devoted solely to the collective and its shared concerns. Attention to strictly personal matters, outside interests, other groups, etc. constitutes a weakening "leakage" of the collective's adhesive energies and esprit de corps. Japanese corporate bodies therefore employ dozens of tactics [company unions, company housing, group vacations, company sports teams, company drinking groups, cemetaries, etc.] to keep members' ki circulating totally within its membranes:

 

“The kaisha [corporation] is the community to which one belongs primarily, and which is all-important in one's life. Thus in most cases the company provides the whole social existence of a person, and has authority over all aspects of his life... [Its] power and influence not only affect and enter into the individual's actions, it alters even his ideas and ways of thinking... Some perceive this as a dangerous encroachment upon their dignity as individuals; others, however, feel safer in total group consciousness. There seems little doubt that in Japan the latter group is in the majority.”

 

Japan does thus seem to know what she's doing and the superior strength and vitality of her organisms (& the peculiar devotion of their members) may be looked at from the overlapping perspectives of genetics, socialization & attention management.

 

Population Pruning & Right Wing Genes

Like most other traits and preferences in a natural population the taste for organizational life is randomly distributed. Some people love hierarchical group existence - the uniforms & rituals, the secure routines, the superior/inferior relation-ships, the sense of merging oneself in a larger whole and greater destiny. Others detest it, with the majority falling along the normal distribution curve somewhere in between. Before the rise of vast socialist/communist bodies the right/left political distinction originally reflected this love/hate spectrum. In early Japan as elsewhere the primitive leftists were fractious, independant types who abhored hierarchy, establishments", authoritarianism and just wanted to be left alone. The rightists were most often joiner types who flocked to regimented security of the military, clergy and other bureaucratic power centers. Since even in those days the big bodies scoffed the lion's share of everything, they occasionally rankled the "little people" to rebellion. But because the anti-authoritarian lefties then as now took orders ungraciously, organized poorly, and were usually decimated in these confrontations, their gene pool slowly began to bleed away.

 

Japan's most ingenious contribution to corporate eugenics, however, was devised during the Edo period. The samurai's kirisute gomen [literally, "honorable permit to slash & trash"], was an open-ended license to kill any commoner deemed "dangerous, disrespectful or offensive" with the same impunity that a breeder culls his flocks of undesired traits. This terrifying and oft exercised prerogative genetically pruned over 15 generations of the population of its most assertive and egalitarian DNA. Since artificial selection studies on plants and animals repeatedly show that such procedures can create or destroy stable heritable traits in as few as five generations, the contributions of samurai cutlery to contemporary Japanese "groupiness" should not be underestimated.

 

Anthroculture: Rearing Corporate-Friendly Humans

From a social engineering point of view, whether or not you have a genetically predisposed population, there are a variety of proven methods to enhance a people's reliance on authoritarian groups and curb their sense of or desire for personal autonomy. Japanese culture presents a curiously comprehensive catalog of such techniques.

 

The Primal Engulfment

Japanese maternal techniques to cultivate an infant's inherent dependence into a lasting habit of mind have been well documented in recent years. The long shared bed; the preference for soothing, holding, and quieting "we-ness" (over Western stimulating, conversational "you & I-ness"); the reflexive indulgence of pre-schoolers' demands - the "candy black teeth" syndrome; the incessant cries of abunai ["danger!"] that greet the child's explorations of the outer world; the use of lock-outs as punishment (as opposed to grounding or lock-ins in the West) - all affect the child's ability and desire to stray beyond his prescribed social perimeter.

 

The mother/child nexus thus becomes extremely powerful and formative. Sociologists love to footnote this country's carefully dried and preserved umbilicals as Japan's archetypical social tethers. But we can also look at such infant socialization as preparatory "engulfment" or training for incorporation. The term marugakae ["completely enveloped or surrounded"], for example, refers equally to a baby held in one's arms and to a man at his place of employment. Again Singer offers telling insight on the "insider effect":

 

For years the child is carried on the back of the mother, strapped or carried in a pouch-like fold of her padded overgarment, sharing in a half-drowsy state her warmth and her rhythm, robbed of free movement but feeling sheltered and close to the maternal body which to him means life, protection, company and goodness... To return to that semi-conscious state when one was carried to and fro by a power larger than oneself, appears to remain, even in adult life, the chief aim of internal discipline and external accomodation.

 

Most of the recent heavy breathing over Japan's educational "product" has come from the world's managerial class. And if schooling is defined as among fish - incessant attachment and responsiveness to the heading of the group, managers have much to hyperventilate about. Of the two competing drives we each harbor - the drive to belong and the drive to become recognizably unique - Japan's education educes and enhances only the first. The Japanese student is trained to not even question authority let alone challenge it. The only acceptable behavior is obedience - total, enthusiastic and, if possibe, brilliant obedience. Enough has been written on the uniforms, regulations, examination system, peer and parental pressure, etc. that reinforce such submission, but one further point bears mention.

 

Students here are virtually never taught or required to speak or write out their thoughts, whether concerning a problem, a policy or a poem. Since independant expression is the primary way we learn to discover and defend our own opinions, and consequently our selves, most young Japanese can tell you "what is thought" but have great difficulty expressing, or placing much importance on, what they themselves think. This creates an extreme permeability to prevailing authority which is probably the true key to so-called consensual decision-making. In Escape from Freedom Erich Fromm details the dynamic:

 

Recent research on suggestibility and hypnotic phenomena have demonstrated how feelings and thoughts can be induced from outside and yet be subjectively experienced as one's own, and how one's own feelings and thoughts can be repressed and thus cease to be part of one's self... The same holds true of willing. One is struck by the extent to which people are mistaken in their taking as 'their' decision what in effect is submission to convention, duty or simple pressure.

 

Japanese schooling is thoughtfully designed to enhance this psychic porosity and thus prepare "open minds" for their future groups' in-fluence. But over and above the present system's specifics, we should consider its evolution and how it came to serve corporate rather than individual ends.

 

Historically a fully competent and creative craftsman, musician, healer, etc. was referred to in Japanese as ichininmae [literally, "one full helping of man"]. To become ichininmae in preindustrial Japan was "to attain full adulthood; to become independant, self-supporting - a 'man'." After traditional education ended the master released his apprentice to the world in the noren-wake ["dividing the shop curtain"] ceremony that recognized the graduate as ichininmae, an independently viable professional. The short term economic competition this created for the master was more than offset by the pride in siring a new talent upon the world. The individuated apprentice had often been with the master since early childhood, and the master's pervasive influence - his cultural transmission - informed the disciple's skills, consciousness and the man he became as deeply as his genetic inheritance. Apprentices were thus not only students and helpmates but cultural heirs. And only by becoming ichininmae and achieving creative maturity in their own right, could they continue the evolution of their masters' "lineage".

 

This pattern of education breathed enormous life into creative, individualistic professions but it was deathly for non-productive trades and the creation of corporate groups. Dealers, politicians, gangsters, military types, etc. did not have much cultural paternity to propagate in the first place and the prospect of spawning a plague of their competitive "equals" upon the land seemed profitless in the extreme.

 

Cultural birth control therefore became a serious concern in these circles. While accounts differ the wealthy Osaka wholesale houses of early Meiji are often credited with the modern Japanese solution: the perpetual hanninmae ["half helping of man"]. Hanninmae were essentially stunted apprentices. They were trained to serve useful functions but never permitted to individuate or professionally mature, and thus were obliged to spend their whole lives as dependent and subservient members of their widening corporate group. Yakuza gangs and labor contractors also devised a similar state of suspended social pubescence, the kobun ["child role" or henchman], a chronic subordinate to the oyabun or a oyakata ["parent role/person" or boss] who directed their work and lives. Like Japanese women who generally have ko, the ideogram for "child", appended to their names, the kobun and hanninmae were just never meant to grow up. These devoted and docile half-men are the cultural antecedents of the compliant salarymen so much in demand this century. State education eventually stepped in to produce them en masse and their proliferation prepared the ground for the rise of the great bodies we face today.

 

The Bonsai Puberty

Education & Androgens: The shift from education for individuation to mass corporate anthroculture not only altered human's social roles, it also covertly affected their psychosomatic being. A couple of biological parallels may offer some evolutionary perspective on the process. When multi-skilled and overworked solitary wasps began to dream of specialized subordinate workers and queenly leisure, they "learned" to stunt their first-born larva with special secretions that repressed full sexual maturation and enslaved them to the nest. As long as the mother superior lived, the workers' potential autonomy and desire to found nests of their own remained latent and all their energy was poured into the growing collective enterprise.

 

Humans likewise learned that sexually debilitating their slaves and livestock could almost magically increase production and managerial efficiency. Anyone who has ever caponized roosters, for example, knows the fascinating progession of personality and physical changes that accompany the transition from natural bird to corporate broiler. A few days after the slow dissolving female hormone is injected into the cockerel's neck, he gradually stops crowing, then loses assertiveness, and demands less and less private space. Next, sexual activity abates, masculine characteristics (comb and wattles) recede, height and weight increase, and finally the gonads begin to physically deteriorate.

 

While caponization is solely intended to enhance agricultural productivity, human castration was practised as a primitive form of behavior modification. It was first employed in Asia in the Chou period (circa 1000 B.C.) to "keep feudal society orderly". The practice apparently offended early Chinese sensibilities and they continued to experiment with more cerebral techniques. For example:

 

Confucianism was first employed during the reign of the first Han Emperor, with an eye to introducing etiquette into the Imperial Court. Since the ministers and the generals of the time were rough warriors of humble origin, their behavior at court banquets was hardly appropriate. Intoxicated, they would boast of their achieve-ments, quarrel, shout with drunken abandon, and end up slashing the nearest pillar with their swords. These embarrassing scenes caused the Emperor great annoyance.

 

Results of these experiments were mixed, and though castration was out of the question for the warrior class, the Chinese later returned to it with a vengeance to staff their great bureaucracies, incorporating over 100,000 eunuchs by late Ming. Japan's leading authority on the phenomenon, Prof. Taisuke Mitamura of Kyoto University writes in his book Chinese Eunuchs:

 

When examining their strange existence, they were found to be generally neither masculine nor feminine, adult or juvenile... Eunuchs were seldom cruel, and usually were gentle and conciliatory. As a whole, the eunuchs tended to be strongly united, helping each other and standing together against the world. They showed both group consciousness as a "race" and strong opposition to oppression by outsiders. But this was effective only within their own limited environment where they had the power of their master behind them as well as their own tight bonds of fellowship. Outside the court, the eunuchs were about as helpless as babies.

 

The relevence of such descriptions to our modern corporate culture was striking enough for Mitamura himself to warn in closing:

 

If it is true that eunuchs were the product of great power structures, then it should be equally true that people similar to eunuchs exist today, for such power structures still exist. We are woven into large nets in one form or another in all areas of society... and now constitute only units in huge organizations... Stripped of our manhood (in that we've become only part of a system)... we are fast becoming eunuchs in a psychological sense.

 

From a corporate developer's point of view, however, this attenuation of manhood is not an occupational hazard, its a prerequisite to harmonious collective life. Masculinity in its behavioral sense is only another word for male individuality - the strength to conduct one's own appraisals of reality, to differ if need be from prevailing custom, and to generally invent one's own self. In this meaning then, masculine types adapt poorly to the docility, obedience and self-effacing "team spirit" large organizations demand.

 

All manly individualism is founded on a frail substrate of male hormones called androgens secreted by the testes and related tissue. Their sudden increase in 12- and 13-year-old boys produces puberty and the subsequent rebelliousness, strength and sexual longing of adolescence. Androgens literally mean "manhood producers", and without their activities not only are males "neither masculine nor feminine, adult or juvenile", they are infinitely easier to "unite" with "tight bonds". (When androgen activity is low the male persona, like the phallus, becomes less assertive and defined, ie., more com-pliant.) With androgens in corporate cultures then, less is more - more group consciousness, more social cohesion, more "harmony". And in fact male hormones are astonishingly simple to lessen.

 

As feminists archly and accurately observe the evolutionary baseline is female, and men are a fragile evolutionary afterthought (eg., male nipples). Women are physically and psychologicaly more resiliant, longer lived, and at the hormone level too, the force is with them. Female hormones or estrogens given to men can quickly overwhelm androgenic activity, and as the caponization process shows, a little can go a long, long way.

 

It is interesting to note here that certain edible plants also produce estrogenic molecules in biologically significant amounts. The strongest of these occurs in red clover and causes the frequent outbreaks of spontaneous abortion reported among sheep flocks in Australia. The second most powerful, however, an isoflavanoid compound called daidzein, is produced and concentrated in the common soybean. (In the West where few soy foods are traditionally eaten, this is basically agricultural arcana. When cattle-fattening estrogen injections were banned in American, many farmers just increased their soy-based feeds with negligable loss in production.) In Japan, however, soy products are staple foods which the majority of the population enjoys daily. While endocrinological studies on humans have yet to be done, a steady diet of tofu, miso, natto, okara, shoyu, etc. may not be the best regimen for leadership trainees or would-be lotharios.

 

Androgens are also suppressed and disabled by fear, anxiety, exhaustion - in fact any prolonged intense stress. Stress hormones are functionally estrogenic - a fact which explains its effectiveness for building group spirit in military basic training, grueling cult initiations, Japan's famous management training ordeals, etc.)

 

While concerned executives and military types have funded considerable research into stress effects on their own sexual performance and aggressiveness, virtually no work has been done on behalf of children. The stress levels inflicted upon young students here during the years of shiken jigoku, Japan's infamous "examination hell", are among the highest in the world, and bear down upon the boys at precisely the time they are trying to negotiate puberty. Extrapolating from adult studies, stress effects may in many cases be severe enough to miscarry that fateful transition, and psychosomatically fixate the child in very early adolescence. Indeed an increasing number of social critics are beginning to describe many standard "salariman" behaviors as maturational disorders - eg., their love of comics toy guns; their taste for sado-masochism (classicly a juvenile or pre-sensual form of sex); their poor adaption to fatherhood; etc. (While it might seem strange that this is not a raging issue in local PTA's it should be remembered that most of the castrations in China were voluntary, performed on youngsters seeking high bureaucratic office and overseen by the aspirants' loving mothers.)

 

Though much research remains to be done, the overall impression seems to be that psychosomatically vitiated members make for (and require) the strongest corporate bodies, and vice versa. A physiological perspective on social organisms and their constituents may thus offer intriguing new insights into Japanese society and its corporate superiority.



 

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Ki Series Part III

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THE JAPANESE ART OF MINDBINDING

Losing It in the Syncytial Society

 

As the traditional metaphors for corporate life -- ants, bees, termites and the like -- grow rather stale, few social theorists seem to notice that modern biology has dug up some rather other and quite exotic animals that help us more clearly envision group existence.

Take, for example, the zebra fish. Zebra males are territorial little ferocities with bright gill stripes that distinguish them from their ladies. Dominant males control lush patches of river bottom into which they only allow females, bartering grazing rights for sexual favors. To gain secure positions in these aquatic enterprises, turfless and hungry young males are forced to suppress their sexual markings, impersonate acquiescent females and quietly endure the ensuing indignities.

Or consider the mole rat, a pale hairless rodent that lives in large subterranean colonies in Kenya. Each colony is ruled by a sexually mature "royal couple" who secrete special pheromones -- chemicals which affect other members of the species -- and rub them along their burrow walls. The odor creates a psychoactive 'air of authority' in the community which somehow represses the maturation and sexual development of the colony's other members, turning them into permanently juvenile and subservient workers.

All for One

Such species offer interesting insights into old-fashioned small group dynamics -- the sexual imprecision of famous cowboys' sidekicks, for example, or the fondness of Iow-ranking yakuza for hair tints, permanents and girls' slippers. But major organizations present a more complex reality. And perhaps the most fascinating parallel to modern corporate function is offered by the slime mold Acrasales.

Acrasales start out as free-living individual amoebas sporting about the forest floor, foraging, mating furiously and generally carrying on. At some point, however, when living conditions get tough or food supplies dwindle, one of the amoebas hunkers down, becomes almost luminescent and begins to emit a chemical signal. The surrounding multitudes respond dramatically to this communication and begin streaming toward its source, now called the "founder cell." As they arrive, they swarm up on his back until they form a living phallic-shaped tower comprising tens or hundreds of thousands of individuals and standing perhaps a quarter of an inch high. As the influx abates, this entire collective body generates an external membrane, falls over on its side and creeps away like a slug in search of higher ground and greener pastures. After several hours or days of migration, the corporate body settles down and sends up a hollow tube with a delicate mushroom-like apex called the fruiting body. Though the leadership cadre of the member cells quietly dies away in the basal body, the bulk of the working class members flow up through this stalk to the apex, form individual spore casings and are released on the wind. After floating to new locations the spores which contact moisture hatch again into individual amoeba and the cycle begins anew.

This parable turns out to be improbably useful in imagining the subjective feel of Japanese incorporation. The central phase of Acrasales' life, the collective body stage, is also remarkable to just think about. It is a state of being known as a syncytium (Greek: 'togethered cell') or a plasmodium (Greek: 'thing resembling plasm'). Both refer to a multinucleate mass of cytoplasm, a fusion of what were formerly homogeneous cells that now share a common exterior membrane and behave as a single organism. (Our Acrasales corporation, for example, responds as one to changes in temperature, wind and acidity. It can even be led around a tabletop by the light from a luminous watch dial. All this without any common sensory receptors, nervous system or indeed any specialized cells whatsoever. Yet the beast is together and single-minded. No matter how free and self-sufficient the young cell, once inside the syncytium (pronounced "sinsishium") it becomes harmoniously subservient to the sway of the whole. To achieve coordinated movement and response its will must become transparent to the collective will. The individual membranes begin to break down and become more porous and sensitive to the environment, which now consists largely of its fellows' activities and emissions. There is gradual loss of identity, autonomy and ambition. With improved integration and information flow, neighboring individuals quite literally open up to or into each other.

The parallels to group consciousness in human beings are striking. To re-invoke sociologist Nakane Chie:

Just how much a Japanese depends on, and expects from, his coworkers may be incomprehensible to the outsider. There are no clear lines which divide one's own from another's... responsibility is diffused. The group as a whole becomes one functional body in which all individuals are amalgamated into a single entity.

Eric Fromm wrote in Escape from Freedom of the individual that:

becomes a mere part of the body that his hands have built. By conforming to the expectations of others, by giving up spontaneous individuality, the self weakens and gradually feels powerless and extremely insecure. He thinks, feels, and wills what he is supposed to think, feel, will. By not being different, doubts about one's identity may be silenced: "I have no identity, there is no self excepting the one which others expect: thus I am 'as you desire me'."

The common media or plasms shared in human corporate bodies are our attention or ki fields (networks of connected consciousness discussed in Error! Bookmark not defined.. Devoting attention to others fills your consciousness with them and, consequently affects your experience, memories and temporary identity. You may or may not be what you eat, but you are definitely in-fluenced, in-fused and in-formed by what you attend to.

To comprehend the bio-social techniques of corporate joinery we should thus think about attention management and how human syncytia might actually be engineered. Though this technology is rarely explicit, it is none the less widely used in Japan, for example, where groups typically encourage each new member to be 'deeply receptive to the thoughts and feelings of those around him... to make others a part of himself (jibun no naka ni aite o ireru -- literally putting others inside oneself ). ' (Thomas Rowlen, The Promise of Adulthood in Japan) In biological terms, these ki linkages among animals are analogous to the more visible interpenetrational mechanism that exists in the plant world, called plasmodesma. The Brittanica defines plasmodesma as "the thin strands of cytoplasm [cellular fluid] that pass through small openings in the membranes of adjacent cells. They form subtle connective channels that facilitate intercellular integration and the interchange of information and nutrients."

The Body Politic

Our 'filaments' of social attention may be comparable to such cytoplasmic strands, but they are actually energy bonds, and thus similar to the shuttling forces that tie entities together at the atomic and molecular level. But to best visualize how ki bonds work we should turn to the concepts of Eastern mystical physiology. Ki bonds can be roughly classified into three types -- conjugal, collaborative and psychic or ideational, according to the chakra complexes they are associated with. Chakras are plexuses or centers of power in the subtle or energetic body, and they have been recognized in remarkably similar ways in Mayan, Egyptian, Greek, Chinese and Hindu occult traditions. Benjamin Walker, author of the encyclopedia Hindu World writes of them:

[Though the details vary slightly] the major plexuses in all esoteric traditions are situated within the 'undivided body, that is, the trunk, arranged along an axis extending from the top of the head to the root of the spine... There is said to be an intimate interconnection between these centers, each invigorating and charging the others. Power rises upward from the lowest plexus to the crown of the head. In Eastern schools the crown plexus and the root plexus are defined in terms of male and female potencies, and whose conjugation is celebrated as a kind of mystical union which bestows great power and mastery on the practitioner.

Various traditions number them differently, but the chakras are generally mapped in three main clusters: around the brain, the heart & solar plexus, and the groin, perineum & sexual organs.

To begin at the bottom -- conjugal bonds and the third chakra complex: In Eastern medical theory, vital energy (ki) is most powerfully generated and stored up in the chakra complex of the lower abdomen. This is the locus of the Hindu kundalini and shakti, the Tibetan golden cauldron, the Taoist cinnabar field, etc.

This lower third of the mystical body energizes the being with sexual and assertive vitality (kiryoku). The interests of its chakras are selfish -- individualistic, genetic, reproductive interests. They generate the seed of biological continuity and the enterprise and aggressiveness needed to plant and protect it. Though this complex (and its associated glands and organs) constitutes the body's main ki generator, it must be regularly fired with conscious attention. Accordingly, incessant celibacy does not generally sublimate the energy of this zone, but rather diminishes it to the point of atrophy (as in the old "use it or lose it" maxim). Procreation, individuation and evolution all depend on the vitality of this complex, and nature endowed it with extreme pleasure to barter for the psychic ki it needs for ignition.

The conjugal bonds this complex empowers are thus designed to bind the self to others who will both attentively stimulate it and biologically fulfill it. Sensual union is the apotheosis of this bond and is powerfully synergistic ("bigger than both of us"). In sensual embrace a couple's giving and taking become freely con-fused in an energetic exchange of mounting attention. And pheromones, aromatic molecules of genetic and sexual information, are mutually released to further seal the mind/body communion.

Although conjugal bonds are extremely powerful, they are rather useless to corporate body builders. They are close-in, high-energy ties like the bonds of an atomic nucleus; and the psycho-physical nature of the bonding is such that it cannot be used to join groups much larger than families.

The collaborative bonds of the second chakra complex are rather more useful for tying groups together. While you can only join individuals two by two with the conjugal centers, you can forge quite large bands with collaborative attention. Collaboration in its meaning of working together requires all participants to re-spect (repeatedly observe) each others' activities to keep their selves in sync. The referencing beams of ki or attention they thus exchange form the pulsating attention structure of the group and bind it in common purpose.

The collaborative bond is experienced in the sense of "we" in action. Depending upon how often and how long individuals interconnect their ki to reference themselves, the sensation can be either intense (Iynch mobs, rock bands, team sports, etc.) or more diffuse (construction gangs, research teams, craft cooperatives...).

Collaborative ki, like conjugal ki, is magnified by synergy to a force palpably greater than the sum effort of individual members working alone: esprit de corps. And, as with conjugal ki bonds, the effective radius of the binding force is inherently limited -- here by the need for direct personal referencing between members.

I Owe, Therefore I Am

Corporate body builders must therefore draw on the brain's first chakra complex and its psychic/ideational bonds to link great numbers of people together. Psychic bonds generally fall into two categories -- ninjo (literally 'fellow feeling') bonds, which are primarily psychic enhancements of conjugal or collaborative ties; and giri (literally 'rule by ritual') or social duty bonds, which are evolutionarily distinctive forces that enable the creation of huge social organisms. Ninjo bonds are ties of common feeling like sym-pathy, em-pathy, or affection. They draw on the forces of the southern chakras and can be intense at the personal contact level. The strong reciprocal ki flows bonding mother and infant, master and disciple, or bosom friends can turn their relationships into stable and enduring social structures.

Since ninjo bonds are experientially formed and thus personalized, they too are not the organizational adhesive we seek. For bonding total strangers into large complex bodies we have to turn to the tensile abstractions of giri. Giri bonds are of two basic kinds: a) the ties of psychic identification (I am part of X party/Y religion/Z corporation") empowered by shared ki foci (common enemies, symbols, memories, rituals, etc.); and b) the shackles of indebtedness ("I am ob-liged (with-bound) to . . . "). Unlike the basically egalitarian conjugal and collaborative linkages, these giri bonds are essentially hierarchical and place the 'bonded' in an inferior or subordinate position vis-a-vis another person or a collective entity.

And while both debt and identification are important forces in conjoining social bodies, the former is by far the more coercive and reliable adhesive.

The legal and social recognition of debt as an ob-ligation, or binding relationship, is of course a pancultural phenomenon. Indentured serfs or laborers, common in both Eastern and Western history, were essentially bonded slaves; they were indentured ('entoothed') under the total control of another until the debt was discharged. Whether "I owe my soul to the company store" or I am merely obliged, the creditor has an incessant claim upon my attention, effort and consciousness -- in short, upon my ki. Even the most benignly unremarked debt is at least potential trouble and can therefore provoke uncertainty and tension. In extreme cases, such as the traditional Japanese daughter-in-law/mother-in-law nexus, such anxious awareness of one's vulnerability to another's will or demands also consumes ki, often rendering the debtor not only bound but also gradually debilitated.

The bond of indebtedness is thus not just a restraint upon autonomy. It actually represents an outbound loss of conscious energy. Japan has traditionally understood the psychosomatic implications of this depletion. Debt is a primary cause of suicide and depression among Japanese men, and many older Japanese profess to feeling physically uncomfortable when they fall behind in even the most insignificant gift exchanges. In fact the most common Japanese responses to receiving help or a favor are almost cries of pain: arigato -- "how hard it is to bear... (this obligation)"; and sumimasen -- "(my obligation for this) will never end."

Conceived merely in terms of services, objects or money owed, however, debt is usually only a temporary entrapment. To regain one's autonomy and stanch the psychic hemorrhage, one has only to reciprocate or return what is owed -- always at least a theoretical possibility in Western societies. It was left to Japan's cultural genius to perfect the consciousness of on, the perpetual debt, the unbreakable bond. the lifelong subordination.

On (rhymes with groan) is often defined as a debt of gratitude for a favor or benefit, but the favors or benefits it usually refers to can never be fully reciprocated. You can not, for example, give birth to your parents, an education to your master, or a job to your employer. Insofar then as one is born, trained or employed in Japan, one is inextricably bound by on. The strength of this tie can often astonish outsiders. Watching otherwise progressive Japanese friends yanked haplessly away from lovers for arranged marriages to relative strangers, or from wives and children for years of distant company service is a depressingly common source of foreign bemusement.

In Tokugawa Religion, a classic study of Japanese values, Robert Bellah identifies this dynamic and its utility in drawing individuals into the "larger whole":

Man is weak and helpless by himself. Only with the help of his benevolent superior can he live, and the blessings he receives are so much greater than his ability to return them that ... he can never truly repay: he perpetually stands in debt. The obligation to make the effort, however, is unrelenting. Selfless devotion, though, establishes a 'perfect" relation with the benevolent superordinate, and at the same time allows the individual to identify with him, to lose himself within him.

To make sure that the majority of Japanese remained "weak and helpless" and desirous of losing themselves in a larger body, Japan's leaders have tirelessly promoted child-like devotion and obedience as true loyalty and the only acceptable behavior with respect to authority. From the sixth century until the end of the Pacific War, they incessantly preached the religion of ko (filial piety). Bellah explains its utility for thwarting individuation and consolidating national authority:

To achieve selflessness, for the destruction of self, ko was the best means:

"All the errors of mankind arise from 'self' as we think 'this is my body', 'this is mine', but ko slays self." Filial piety did not compete with loyalty, it reinforced it. We may see in the following quote from Nichiren that filial piety in the last analysis meant loyalty for the Japanese: "When a father opposes the sovereign, dutiful children desert their parents and follow the sovereign. This is filial piety at its highest.” (Ibid.)

Unlike the societies of the West in which the basic unit was nominally the inviolable individuals or those of India or China where the family was fundamental, Japan accorded no basic rights or recognition to anything below the collective. The self of the dutiful Japanese subject was thus to remain juvenile, undefined and totally responsive to the directive will of the group. To keep his or her attentive energy (ki) circulating solely within the group (and the group itself loyally incorporated within the greater body politic), Japan employed group responsibility, emperor worship and the doctrine of kokutai, the mystical body of the state.

The concept of group responsibility effectively preempted the right or possibility of privacy in Japan. Indeed, it still does so in many homes, schools and companies even though the sanctions have waned somewhat. In the past, all personal actions could have widespread and lethal social repercussions and thus became everybody's business.

Entire families, five-family groups, and even villages and wards might be held responsible for the act of a single individual. A wrong step would jeopardize not only himself but could bring disaster upon his group. The group itself thus came to place social conformity higher than group membership, and a transgressor was more apt to receive rejection than support from his brethren. This situation leads to a close identification with the collectivity and a tendency for all the subcollectivities to support the rule and morality of the total collectivity at whatever cost to themselves.

                                                                                                                (Ibid.)

To further dissolve the organic bonds that people formed in their neighborhoods, shrines and work groups, the imperial institution was utilized, sometimes cynically, to foster a conception of overriding loyalty:

The whole nation is a single family. The Emperor is "divine", he is "lord" and he is "father" of the national family. The people are worshipers, retainers and children. This is one aspect of what is meant by "kokutai", a conception of the state in which religious, political and familialistic ideas are indissolubly merged... and consequently all action is governed by "on". (Ibid.)

Such ideology provides Japan with a powerful locomotive for modern collective activity. Virtually all Japanese corporate bodies -- ecclesiastic, criminal, commercial etc. -- can be seen as miniature emperor systems that lay total claim to their members' religious, political, familial, economic and even recreational energies. In defining the total psychic environment they cultivate complete dependency and thus control of their constituents. Bellah's work was confined to the Edo era, but Nakane Chie's postwar study, Japanese Society, attests to the endurance of the ancient paradigm:

With group consciousness so highly developed there is almost no social life outside the particular group on which an individual's major economic life depends.. . to the point that the human relationships with this 'household'' group are thought of as more important than all other human relationships... This corporate "family" even envelops the employee's personal family; it engages or surrounds him totally (marugakae in Japanese). Thus group participation is simple and unitary, and each corporate body develops a high degree of independence and closeness, with its own internal law which is totally binding on all members.

Binding together the group-needy is child's play. The real challenge to the developer of social organisms comes from the reluctant joiners. The response is to make the social environment too threatening for the luxury of independence, by obstructing one of the prerequisites of a free and individualistic culture: the guarantee of swift and impartial justice. A legal system that equally protects the weak and the powerful or holds them to a single standard of conduct has yet to be established in Japan. The glacial pace of the civil court system, for example, seems expressly designed to favor the more powerful (usually corporate) party. The 15 to 20 years it commonly takes for civil or class action suits to reach final judgment here can grind even the most righteous individual plaintiffs into exhaustion and penury.

Equally important, the glaring legal "exceptions" that are consistently made for certain influential bodies teach the Japanese quite effectively where true power and protection must be sought in this society. Gambling is illegal in Japan, except for ultranationalist mobsters like racing tycoon Sasagawa Ryoichi ("I'm the world's richest fascist."). Prostitution is illegal in Japan, except for the yakuza-run and saturation-advertised "soaplands", call girl services and strip / sex shows. The yakuza syndicates' brazen land swindles, their forced evictions for banks and developers, their intimidation of corporate stockholders and citizen activists on behalf of polluting corporations are further examples of official benign neglect. Subservient to the establishment, ferocious to the citizens, the yakuza and militant rightists are the corporate bodies' samurai. Their activities and immunity dramatize a message to the Individual: "Equal protection under the law is yet a myth, my child. Better run for corporate cover."

All in the HeaD

To raise a strong, healthy corporate body thus requires two technologies. First, a series of cultural techniques to encephalize your population's ki, to shift its primary charge away from the self-intensive bonds of the lower complexes and up to the potential we-ness of the mind. And second, techniques to keep their ki concentrated within the group's psychic perimeter.

A variety of pervasive methods for encephalizing ki were noted above in our consideration of Japanese anthroculture (the domestication of humans for corporate inclusion). The hormonal effects of educational stress, estrogenic soybean foods and arranged dispassionate marriages disable lower chakra activity and influence. This shift of social emphasis to the cooler northern chakras helps strengthen abstract social tie-ups but it also embezzles ki from private concerns. The erotic and the social are psychically linked. Taking a stand is, socially speaking, a phallic act, and to stand up for one's self or principles in a Japanese group is as publicly assertive, seminal and usually unwelcome as an erection. As the saying goes: "The nail that sticks up gets hammered down" (Deru kugi wa utareru).

Likewise, the educational and economic devaluation of bodily skills, manual trades and physical expressiveness demote the body (and its motive central chakras) to a mere transport vehicle for the mind. As a Japanese friend once observed, "for salarimen the hand is primarily a device to keep the watch from falling off." As the descendants of hunting cultures blow away rabbits on Sunday and citified farm children gild urban alleys with green, Japan's atavistic craft urges are now bonsai’d to the twitching of pachinko levers.

While encephalization is perhaps strongest here, it is certainly not unique to Japan. lt occurs wherever education and high-status professions are defined mainly in terms of cerebral activity. Northern Europeans, American Wasps and some modern Jews can be seen to demonstrate aspects of the phenomenon -- picture a graph of Nobel prizes to Ashkenazic Jews plotted against their Olympic medals. In fact corporate thinking in most industrial societies has virtually deified encephalization as an evolutionary ideal. Consider popular sci-fi portrayals of 'advanced' aliens as epicene, marshmallow-headed dwarfs...

How socialization shifts the personal center of identity or gravity is quite evident in different cultures' body languages for indicating the self. The combative and lineage-conscious Old Testament Semite male, for example, identified and committed his self in oaths by grasping his testicles. (Testes, testament and testify share the same etymological root.) Americans, by contrast, whose identities are determined more by individual effort and abilities than by blood, tend to touch their chests when indicating the self in ceremonies or conversation. The Japanese, however, tend to define their selves in terms of memberships in larger collectives. (Indeed, some common forms of self-introduction do not even mention the speaker: Mitsubishi no mono desu, "Mitsubishi's thing/person am.") As the individual's life is largely controlled by group ties and the nexus of those ties is in the head, a Japanese usually indicates the self by pointing at his or her nose.

Another rough gauge of a society's encephalization is its members' acquittal on the dance floor. As ki becomes more concentrated in the upper chakras, less is available to animate expressive movement. Encephalized bodies, more aware of the social environment than of the internal force of the music, tend to remain 'self conscious', and generally display little grace, rhythm or improvisational abandon. As encephalization proceeds and energy is drawn north on the body's axis, the psychosoma becomes almost ionized. Since the neglected lower chakras no longer generate as much kiryoku the individual loses energetic self-sufficiency and becomes increasingly dependent on input from the social environment. One becomes an obligate joiner, socially clinging, addicted to external influence. One craves group life because that is where the largest, cheapest supply of social ki is found.

Japanese ethics further reinforce this outer-directedness. Here values are not universal principles that an individual can embody and stand up for on one's own, but are rather flexible and situational, requiring constant external attention to what is already happening, to determine what is right. Nakane observes, Japanese morality is always determined by contemporary trends. The feeling that 'I must do this because A and B are also doing it' or 'they will laugh at me unless I do such-and-such,' rules the life and behavior of the individual with greater force than any other consideration."

Japanese encephalization consequently creates an unusually strong susceptibility to fashions and trends, which are referred to as ryuko, 'going with the flow'. Such social tides are analogous to the streaming movements of syncytial bodies, generating almost unthinking submission to the authority of the 'current'. This wavelike power is not restricted to marketing booms or to inane crazes for the likes of frilly lizards or 'American Outdoor Life'. Since such followings override or dissolve critical judgment, the same orchestration of media influence could conceivably lead great numbers to political extremism, racial xenophobia and perhaps even militarism.

One for All?

Today such organismic meditations are of more than theoretical interest. Japan's far right appears ready to exploit syncytial dynamics in its campaign to reestablish imperial discipline and a homogeneous xenophobic nationalism. Many old guard and/or mercenary scholars pump out popular nihonjinron ("Theories of Japaneseness") tracts which focus discussion on the country's origins, 'essence' and manifest destiny, and attempt to promote widespread fascination with what is truly, 'uniquely' Japanese. Furthermore Japan's conservative political establishment's hardline refusal to apologize for past aggressions and its enduring participation in the Shinto rites at Yasukuni Shrine (where the country's war dead are augustly enshrined) continues to tempt ultranationalists with the possibility of again merging Japan's religious and political bodies and regenerating the overriding authority of the kokutai.

Preparations are already underway. Besides the war shrine visits, the increasing volume and visibility of rightist bus parades and the literary attacks on Jews that mask recent anti-Americanism -- all are attention-getting preludes to this "hopeful" new period. Each focuses national awareness on the rightists' agenda and coalesces social ki around their imperial founder cell.

Conversely, textbook censorship, teachers union-bashing and terrorism against liberal media serve to quell opposing currents of thought and assure that the coming agitation leads not to divisive controversy but to consensus and further centralization of power.

Rightist ideologues appear confident the population is ready for such a consolidation . And indeed, many citizens frustrated by foreign animosity, economic insecurity or a lack of national purpose might again welcome the embrace of a powerful mystical body. Certainly without a persuasive vision of Japan's future, the society's worried attention is up for grabs. Effectively channeled it could yet animate a new imperialistic organism of world-shaking proportions.

- END -

 



******************************

Excerpted from SOCIAL GROUPS

OF MONKEYS, APES AND MEN

by M.B.R. Chance & Clifford Jolly \

 

Introduction to Attention Structure
by M.B.R. Chance & Clifford Jolly

 

 INTERPRETATION OF SUBHUMAN PRIMATE SOCIAL LIFE

             The rat and the monkey can, by virtue of possessing social submission postures, maintain social relations under agonistic con­ditions which for mice disrupt social relations. Male mice can put up a defence under attack, but separate when agonistic encounters be­come too severe; subordinate male rats can terminate the encounter by reducing its severity, while not losing touch with the other individual. Subordinate savannah baboons and macaques become fixated on a more dominant male, because every tendency impelling them to move is oriented with reference to him.

So far, the evidence has enabled us to draw up a picture of the way in which social behaviour orients an individual towards a companion when different social propensities are brought into play in agonistic situations. This is expressed mainly in the relations between adult males, whose behaviour is typically rank-ordered. We must now look more closely into this type of bond so as to construct the way in which social bonds, linking members of sub-groups, can be developed out of the behavioural propensities of the individual.

The structure of attention

The social attention of the individuals within a cohort separated from the rest of the society must be directed exclusively at the other members of it. The possibility arises, therefore, that even when they are an integral part of the complete society, distinct coherence of a cohort of males may depend on their maintaining a predominant degree of attention towards themselves... A situation precisely like this occurs within the one-male groups of the hamadryas baboons studied by Kummer and Kurt. These consist of two or more females grouped round a single adult male. The identity of these groups remains distinct even when a number of them associate together as a troop. Kurumcr has pointed out that they maintain their discrete coherence during the proximity of one-male groups to one another. In addition, Kummer and Kurt have evidence that the attention of the females is restricted almost exclusively to their own male, as can be seen from the fact that they follow the male as soon as he moves off; and, moreover, their interaction with near-by individuals from other groups is very small...

The recognition of the predominant direction of attention during distinct periods of activity of a group can reveal the structure of the relationships within that group. For example, in the usual foraging behaviour of a patas group consisting of female assemblies separated by a great distance from their attendant males, the predominant attention of the mother and young is directed towards each other in ways that have not yet been fully described, whereas that of the male is directed predominantly outwards towards the environment. The bachelor bands probably have a separate centre of attention within the band if they are found to be rank-ordered. In a savannah baboon group, on the other hand, all the individuals show predominant attention to the dominant males. A large environmentally directed component is also present in most of the adults, especially in the sub-dominant males, whose activity keeps them on the periphery of the group.

It is here suggested that in these situations the attention has a binding quality. If this is so, the amount of attention directed within the group is of paramount importance for an understanding of the inter-individual bond and of social organization. The relationship between individuals can then be understood by the way they orient themselves, both spatially and in dependent types of behaviour, with respect to the predominant focus of attention.

Broadly speaking, dominance is at present considered to be that attribute of an animal's behaviour which enables it to obtain an object when in competition with others. The means by which this is achieved is usually regarded as superior strength, whether exerted in direct competition by active threats or by persistent self-assertive bearing accompanied by a complete lack of hesitancy which brooks no delay in the response of its subordinates. This is sometimes accompanied by the suggestion that the recognition of superior strength by subordinates may be the result of prior experience or learning. There is little direct evidence and much supposition in this popular formulation and it is important to examine more closely the actual nature of dominance-submission relationships. A redefinition is now proposed on the assumption that the attention-binding effect of an animal in a group, not simply aggressiveness, is the essential quality which puts it in a behaviourally focal position and which also tends to place it near the group's spatial centre. Thus the dominant animal may be said to dominate the attention of others at most, if not all, times, and usually without taking any specific actions to achieve this. This definition satisfies a feature of the dominance-submission relationship for which there has recently been increasing evidence: namely, that in many species the most active part of this relationship is played by the subordinate rather than by the dominant animal itself. This is consistent with a relationship based on the attention of the subordinate being constantly directed towards the dominant animal. Thus we should seek to define the nature of attention by the characteristics of the subordinate's behaviour, and investigate how its operation may be recognized and possibly measured, and what are its components and effects.

Social bonds · the outcome of predominant attention

Attention in primates is primarily one of visual awareness or, more precisely, awareness dependent on visual information. If an animal's attention is persistently drawn by another individual it needs to be informed as to where this dominant animal is at any particular moment. This can come about by scanning the whole field of vision until the position of the dominant animal is found, or by a simple turning movement oriented towards where he last was, implying some trace of awareness as a directing component. A recurrent, if sporadic, re-awakening of such memory traces would appear to act as reminders prompting the female gelada baboon to keep near her overlord despite the distractions of the other members of the troop...

The memory of where the dominant animal was may receive constant reinforcement by repeated glances towards, or seeking out of, the dominant individual. By this method a subordinate animal achieves reassurance that no change has taken place since the oc­casion when the dominant animal was last seen. The frequency with which this seeking out takes place depends on the urgency with which the subordinate animal needs this information, and this ur­gency will vary with the nature of the response which it is required to make. Hence, attention can be the result of previous aggression.

If all that it needs to do is to keep the dominant animal in sight in order to be able to follow it, then there will be no great urgency; but if, at the same time, it needs to avoid coming too close, or to keep an appropriate distance, the urgency will be greater. Finally, the greater the amount of movement among members of the group, the more attention will have to be directed away from other occupations in order to maintain or re-establish contact, or ensure the maintenance of a clear social space around dominant individuals.

To return to the behaviour of the dominant animal with this in mind, we can now see that an aggressive disposition in a dominant animal will engender a more urgent state in a subordinate one, and that the more specifically this aggression is directed at one individual the more it will tend to bind this individual's attention exclusively and thereby segregate this individual from the rest of the group and bind the relationship.

Persistent attention by subordinate members of a rank order towards more dominant members, or towards a supremely dominant individual, is a feature common to all the examples of rank-ordered behaviour reported. It is the mechanism whereby sentinel savannah baboons take up their position at the edge of a troop, as well as being the way in which members of the breeding hierarchy relate themselves to one another in this species. It is the way in which the initiative of the younger male macaques who move away from the night resting-places eventually becomes dependent on the movement of one of the dominant males at the centre, and this determines the movement of the group as a whole. It accounts for the cohesion and separate existence of male cohorts of chimpanzees, the breeding males of the Japanese and bonnet macaques, and the cohesiveness of gorilla bands and the 'leadership' of the dominant male gorilla. It appears to be the basis of the one-male group of the hamadryas baboon. Rank order and the cohesiveness of a cohort, band or heterosexual group therefore arise out of the persistent attention of subordinates towards the more dominant individuals of the group which, since it is directed ultimately at a single dominant individual, tends to space out the members of a rank order around this individual. It organizes behaviour along vectors radiating outwards from him when aggression is a prominent feature, and inwards towards him when subordinate behaviour is involved. Priority of access is not therefore a constant correlate of rank order relations within a group, nor is aggression always associated with high status. Hence, neither can be considered as a fundamental part of rank order relations. On the other hand, spatial features are the outcome of subordinate behaviour and attention to the dominant animal.

The societies which are organized during the active phases, and especially during agonistic periods, of their daily life cycle of activity together with, or around, a rank order of adult males can be described as centripetal. The centripetal attention of subordinates, balanced, by escape from the dominant individual, tends to space them out around the dominant individual, usually a male, except when other activities disrupt this tendency.

We can now see that predominant attention to a single individual can, by acting as a common focus of attention, provide a means by which a number of individuals cohere; the same end can be achieved by a series of links in a chain of attention. It seems that a gorilla group, the members of which, as Schaller says, are attentive to the movement of others in the dense forest environment, coheres by the latter means, except on the occasions when the dominant male stands motionless, with legs spread, indicating his readiness to move: then he becomes the focus of attention. The same occurs when he beats his chest.

In a baboon or macaque group, agonistic behaviour can include not only aggression and escape, but also mating. We can now see that in a state of high agonistic arousal each member of a group is likely to be kept close to the other by activation of the components of the SIAM complex, plus reflected escape. From the evidence of the animal's overt behaviour we see that the arousal of these drives may be the mechanism by which centripetal attention is engendered. The mechanisms controlling attention in them, therefore, reside at least partly in the intrinsic structure of the individual's behaviour, as well as in those outside signals which may demand attention.

The structure of attention is, then, the pattern represented by periods of continuous or oscillatory attention which link the individual's internal state of preparedness for social action to the members of the group or sub-group to which it belongs. The individual's attention structure thereby links it to its place in the society.

The nature of attention organized in the agonistic and hedonic modes

Virgo and Waterhouse found a way of assessing the emergence of attention structure amongst rhesus macaques in the Bristol Zoo. They appear to have shown that in this colony, grooming relations constituted a network of 'positive' attention focused on an adult male, whereas subordination and avoidance responses were focused on an aggressive female, and they suggest that 'any theory of attention must take into account the possibility of divided foci of attention'. Reynolds and Luscombe have studied the behaviour of a group of chimpanzees in a thirty-acre enclosure at the Holloman Air Force Base in the New Mexican desert, and they found that chimpanzee attention structure is based upon attention-demanding behaviour or display, practised competitively between males of the colony, and is distinct from the pattern of aggression between the same individuals. This display behaviour leads not to submission or appeasement by a subordinate, but is a form of social solicitation, as it leads on to forms of associative behaviour in which there is a continuing interaction between individuals, such as grooming, play, sexual or mothering behaviour with the displayer. That the rank order established by attention-demanding displays is directly comparable with other forms of rank order is evident from the fact that priority of access to preferred food is obtained by status in this rank order, showing that competitive success is not, in this instance, based on aggression. Aggression has to be opposed by counter-aggression, appeased, or avoided, all forms of behaviour designed to eliminate the intensity and continuity of the social contact. Display behaviour, responded to by greeting, stimulates and enhances the tendency of individuals to develop many forms of contact behaviour or behaviour at close quarters. Manipulation, both of the individual's own body or that of a companion, not only by grooming but also by holding and investigation, is jointly engaged in. Their attention may also switch to the environment or to other objects and give rise to manipulation of objects as tools.

Play which involves grappling the other individual can also be readily transferred to ropes, branches and loose branches or sticks, and then these physical objects used, as with sticks as scrapers or for poking, or as a means of display, or spectacularly, as in agile manoeuvres such as pole vaulting, when a branch may be used to jump three times the height of the individual. Such varied and flexible behaviour, both social and non-social in form, but often involving the combined attention of two companions towards each other and towards a physical object, is clearly of a different nature from the rigid, fixed pattern of agonistic behaviour, and should be regarded as constituting a separate mode for which the term hedonic is proposed. This word has the same root as hedonism, but as yet has no specific correlation with the description of human behaviour, as has hedonistic. It is proposed that it should be taken into use as a classificatory term for the behaviour of subhuman primates, without the subjective connotation associated with 'hedonistic' but suggesting an affinity with pleasant human feelings.

From observation of this behaviour in two captive colonies of chimpanzees (at the Holloman Air Force Base and at the Delta Regional Primate Center, Covington, Louisiana) the following features suggest that the major difference that exists between the agonistic and hedonic modes of behaviour is as follows. In the hedonic mode, display leads to ongoing but flexible social relations which can act as the medium for the dissemination of information within tile society. The processes underlying this dissemination of information may turn out to rely on actions which arise from the individual's propensities and others' reactions to these more than in the agonistic mode.

In the agonistic mode, information transfer from one individual to another is disrupted by responses to aggression: e.g. by inflexible rank-ordered social relations, by 'cut-off' acts and postures, and by gross differences in the way members of the society handle information (because of their social position).

It is further suggested that an individual's social attention in the hedonic mode is polydiadic: i.e. at any moment it relates one individual to another, but frequent changes of attention to other individuals are possible; whereas in the agonistic mode, which is essentially rank-ordered and centripetal, triadic relations occur, and often remain fixed, being part of the mechanism which coerces individuals to cohere in fixed rank-ordered social relations.

- END -


 

 

Big Body-Watching

Tools for Perception

How You See Them, Why We Haven’t

 

INtro

 “Let us lift our vision high enough to dominate the problem.”

 - - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

 

Introduction

If a picture is worth a thousand words, one eye-opening perception is worth a whole book - at least it is the ventured worth of this one. Learning to perceive Big Bodies requires a little time, thought and skill. It also demands a bit of imagination. Specifically you have to imagine that:

·         your own body is a body politic in its own right and that each of your constitutent cells both has an individual life and trade and except for those escaping in a donated organ are indissolubly wedded to the fate of the greater whole;

·         constituents that receive more mindful attention are better nourished and more exercised than those that don’t;

·         in corporate bodies also the distribution of attention - which ideas, activities and individuals get it, and which don’t - clearly reveal the body’s structure and functioning. so to maintain overall health attention such be equitably distributed to all your bodies various systems and members

- END -

 

The Ki Papers
by W.D. Kubiak

Ki in the Arts of Sex, Healing and Corporate Body Building

 I began to suspect Japan was going to be a new experience when I first came across six different people waiting for 'No Walk' signals to change in the middle of the night on a deserted street. I noticed a second time when an 85 lb. girl, an aikido student, threw me over her shoulder so hard and fast she dislocated joints in half my arm. A third revelation occured two weeks later when the still impressive arm pain was turned down and switched off like the volume on a radio by an old man twirling a needle in the opposite wrist. Those events mesmerized me and pretty well determined my course of study for the last 15 years - research primarily on corporate psychology, genius & mastery, and traditional Eastern medicine. In the Japanese context all three subjects turned out to be knotted together with a commom vocabulary of ki terms and a shared reliance on ki phenomena to achieve their effects. Gradually you could see in the patterns of their usage all these little fingers pointing to both a large black hole in the English language, and a shadowy biosocial technology which clarifies many of this culture's apparent mysteries and contradictions.

 

The concept of ki has of course gained some currency in the West recently, migrating with the widening interest in Oriental medicine, particularly acupuncture, and the Eastern martial arts. But while ki is regularly invoked in these disciplines as an explanatory principle, few writers or practitioners, either Eastern or Western, spend much time intelligibly explaining ki itself. Many offer only the vaguest definitions such as "mystic force", "subtle psycho-somatic energy" or "vital power". Some, equally unhelpful, compare ki to other elusive and unfamiliar concepts like "prana" or "pneuma".

Westerners do lack a convenient single term for specifying ki phenomena but we recognize their existence and effects with enough other expressions to discuss the concept quite lucidly. But before I try to relate ki to Western thought and show its importance in dispelling "inscrutibility", a word on the word itself:

Although the concept and ideogram for ki originated in pre-Han Dynasty China, its modern Chinese usage has remained largely confined to medical and meteorological terms. After its introduction to Japan in the seventh century, however, the concept assumed a much wider significance and came to permeate colloquial speech. Recent dictionaries, for example, list over 600 common Japanese terms and expressions employing the ideogram compared to barely 50 in Chinese. I cite this semantic vigor to defend my use of ki, the Japanized pronunciation, rather than ch'i or qi, the more venerable Chinese readings.

As a working concept ki dates back at least 22 centuries in China to the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, which laid out the basic terms and energetic relationships that would inform oriental medicine (and Confucian statecraft) up into the present century. Etymologically, the ideogram is believed to depict energy raising the lid of a heated cooking pot. Adding the radical for water to the frame of the character we get the common ideogram for steam. But ki was not merely a primitive apprehension of invisible energy. It was conceived of as a patterned, directed power. Dr. Manfred Porkert defines ki in his text, The Theoretical Foundations of Chinese Medicine, as "configurational energy - i.e, energy of a definite direction in space, of a definite arrangement, quality, or structure." It is, in other words, an applied energy or power flow that bridges the traditional divide between pure energy and physical or social structure. (A useful parallel from modern physics is the concept of light as a flow of 'energy packets' that synthesized the wave/particle dilemma.)

But ki is perhaps best understood in terms of the relationships it empowers. A basic tenet of Chinese bio-social theory states that "i ( ) leads to ki ( ), which in turn leads to chi ( )" (These are all Japanese pronunciations, by the way; chi should not be confused with the Chinese for ki. And all of these words rhyme with the mi of music's do-re-mi.) I in this formula means intent, desire or will; and chi corresponds to physical or behavioral structure. A crude psychological example might be - a desire to play the piano (i) leads to attentive exertion (ki) which forms the structured habits and reflexes (chi) needed for mastery. A social parallel might likewise run - a policy (i) leads to a 'budget' or application of resources (ki) which in turn generates a physical or organizational structure (chi).

Ki has always been associated with life processes. It was generated within the macrocosmic and microcosmic living systems that constituted Chinese reality. (Contemporary Western ideas like the controversial "Gaia Hypothesis" [that the earth constitutes a single living entity], or modern conceptions of complex groups as "meta-organisms", were usually considered self-evident in much early Chinese thought.)

Where there was life and growth there was ki. The Chinese were not at all animistic about such energy, however, and sought reasonable causal principles. Indeed the ideogram and its most common variants graphically suggest the conversion of heat to ki (oxidation, solar influence, fervor, etc.) or of food to ki (digestive metabolism).

Whatever its physical source, the resulting force was force at work within a system, usually a system that included or constituted man. Macrocosmically, for example, the ancients perceived vital forces at play in the atmosphere, forces which could affect not only the natural environment but also human psychosomatic functioning. Thus the dynamic variations of pressure, humidity, precipitation, temperature - in short, weather - represented qualitative expressions of the ki of heaven, or tenki, as it is known in Japan. Likewise, they noted the psychosomatic influences of geographical features - low wetlands, high arid plains, mountains, beaches, etc. - which they interpreted in their geomancy as expressions of chiki, the ki of the earth. Because they could in-fluence, or literally "flow into" and affect human being, these environmental ki's were holistically included in the study of disease and therapeutics. Man's ki was thus inseparably linked - consciously or unconsciously - to the ki of his immediate natural environment.

In all these larger systems or fields of environmental force man's presence was always implicit, at least as a participant and reference. (The Chinese were of course not so anthropocentric as to believe the earth could not exist without man. But like a biologically persisting "brain-dead" body, the earth deprived of human consciousness seemed an unimaginably impoverished entity.) If man's activities rarely - at least in those days - affected the quality and circulation of the planet's vast natural energies, he at least came to recognize them. And his dawning consciousness of their objective existence and subjective effects did allow early man to order them for systematic apprehension, classification and eventual use.

But it is within the more intimate confines of the human body and social groups, that ki is most dramatically apparent, as a simple experiment may show. Select the tip of one of your fingers for contemplation (i). Next concentrate upon it quietly and totally for a few minutes - inducing ki. Now many of you should begin to notice increasing warmth and sensitivity in the finger as your attention enhances its circulation and neural acuity. (The effect is even more dramatic if the extremity chosen is erogenous.) The increased blood flow bears with it increased oxygen and vital nutrients. Were you attending instead to a muscle that you were exercising those nutrients would feed and accelerate the tissue's growth and structural development, i.e., yielding our aforementioned chi. (The former "90 lb. weakling" crowd might recall that such exercises are the core and secret of Charles Atlas' "dynamic tension" body building regimes.)

In a similar manner, Chinese medicine calls upon the blood-borne resources of our immunological system. Using pressure, needles, heat, shocks, etc. it attracts the body's attention or ki to weakened, distressed areas. This internal attention again serves two vital functions. It augments the flow of healing/nutritive resources to the afflicted cellular community and materially assists its recovery. Secondly, it heightens the entire body's awareness of suffering among its cellular constituents, hopefully inducing its executive 'head' toward corrective changes in behavior.

Within the healthy body the functioning of ki was felt to be as tangible and straightforward as any other physiological process. Bio-electrical ki channels or "meridians" rivered the body together with a flow of diverse cellular energies. As blood flow distributed informational hormones and physical nutrients, ki flow gathered and disbursed vitality and sensation. As a distributor, ki flow moved energy from tissues or organs in surplus to areas suffering temporary deficits.

(In this respect, ki is a medium of power sharing like the vibratory airfoil effect many species of waterfowl employ during long migratory flights. With precise spacing, angulation and synchronization of wingbeats, the birds set up an undulating current of air surrounding their V-shaped formations. This wave front receives power from the flock's strongest fliers and transmits to resting or weaker members as a lift-enhancing rhythmic wave.)

Since it could clearly affect and be affected by both the cells and the psyche of the body, ki operated at the psycho- somatic interface. Attending to it could both alter physiological processes (as in our finger), and raise subtle biological functions to awareness and conscious control. Recent biofeedback techniques employ sensitive prosthetic machinery to return this awareness and control to modern man. But one can imagine that in less drugged, hurried or media-distracted cultures, a good number of people might enjoy enough bodily sensitivity to achieve these effects unaided.

Chinese thinking about ki also penetrated the social sphere and traced its workings across the narrow divide between complex biological systems, like humans, and the complex social systems - nation-states, corporations, churches, etc. - that they spend their lives in. Heuristic comparisons of physical and social organisms, now deemed so racy and avant garde in Western management circles, were conventional wisdom two millenia ago in the East. As early as the The Yellow Emperor's Classic, Chinese medicine was suggestively interchanging political and medical concepts. Chinese of the time, of course, could not imagine the electronically integrated complexity of the social organisms we face today. But they spent a lot of centuries thinking about governance and the maintenance of order with the minimum of force. Such concerns inevitably drew their attention to biological systems, and to the human body in particular as a model of harmonious integration. Here is the Yellow Emperor on health and disease:

When the body's monarch is intelligent and enlightened, there is peace and contentment among his subjects; they can thus reproduce, bring up their offspring, pursue their diverse functions, and lead a long and happy life. But when the monarch is not intelligent and enlightened, the twelve officials [the organs of the body] become afflicted and dangerous; the paths [of ki] are obstructed and blocked, and it no longer circulates warnings of local distress.

In treating the physical body as a body politic, and vice versa, early Chinese thinking clearly prefigured modern "living systems" theories. It also foreshadowed Japan's later fascination with ki's social or interpersonal implications. What most captured the Japanese imagination was not ki's internal functioning but the fact that it operated in a system open and responsive to the environment, particularly the social environment. Focusing on the neglected interactive aspects of the ki concept, Japan developed its own rich vocabulary for ki dynamics in the psycho-social sphere.

One Japanese commentator traces the ideogram for ki back to earlier characters which "originally related to eating and represented both the energetic inner quality of man and the outer activities of demanding and reaching." When this "demanding & reaching" are considered with reference to perception, we are clearly talking about something approaching our idea of attention. This also harks back to the patterned force or directed energy. Recalling the derivation of "attention" from the Latin "ad tendere" - 'to stretch towards', we can begin to build an interesting case for the two concepts' homology, if not identity.

"Ki o tsukeru", for example, is the Japanese for "to attend to". Literally it means "to fasten one's ki upon (something or someone)". Ki like attention is "paid out" and "attracted". It can equally be "focused" or "diffused" as it stretches forth to fasten upon the environment. In a passable definition of "rapt attention" Kiyoshi Hamano of Kyoto University writes of "Kishoku" [literally, the "ki of color or sensuality"], that it "represents not only the concept of the appearance of nature, but also the direct fusion of people with it." Hamano has studied ki from a psychoanalytic perspective and the following lines are excerpted from his work. Please try substituting the word 'attention' each time he mentions ki:

"Ki is thought to be something like radio waves between people, and the capacity for 'tuning in' to others."

"Ki is regarded as psychic energy, and is closely related to the body."

"Ki is felt to extend of itself toward the other, as if it were some mysterious filament."

"Ki appears or turns up before a subject in relation to an object as if it were a knot connecting the two."

He concludes:

"Ideally ki can be viewed as: a) that which is perceived in relationships between a subject and the world around him; b) that which is perceived in relationships between people; c) that which is perceived as identical with the subject's own thoughts, feelings, or moods...

"Everything - things, persons, and events - can be moved into the field of ki... The place where it proceeds is what is called psychic reality."

There is a surfeit of circumstantial evidence for this analogy, but now that the point has been made a disclaimer is perhaps in order: Ki is not merely an Asian word for attention. In fact attention is a rather underdeveloped Western concept for a profound psycho-biological phenomenon that ki terminology far better represents. The remainder of this piece thus concerns some aspects of ki or attention function that have rarely been pointed out in English.

The first of these has to with Japanese perceptions of ki's role as a current of psychosomatic vitality. As we noted above somatic ki does not circulate in a closed system. Through the operations of the psyche in particular, ki is incessantly reaching into and receiving from the world. Porkert writes that it: "manifests itself and is spent in the psychic reactions in general and especially in the psychic reaction par excellence, the directed will."

Such environmental expenditures of ki intimately affect the body's energy balance. All this 'stretching out' and 'fastening' awareness to things, persons and objectives is a form of work, work that consume energy. This psychosomatic energy - in Japanese: kiryoku, literally, "ki power" - has certain basic attributes:

  • Like any energy it can neither be created or destroyed and thus is subject to the basic "whence and whither" conversion analyses of thermo-dynamics.

  • It is highly correlated with physical vitality, resistance to disease, self-assertiveness, and sexual potency. Though occuring of course in both sexes, these attributes led many in Asia it to label it an extremely 'yang' or masculine energy. In fact some of the more male chauvinist Japanese/English dictionaries define it simply as virility.

  • Though constantly generated by healthy body tissue it can be dangerously exhausted by disease, physical exertion, stress, or, most interestingly, its unreciprocated discharge into the social environment.

  • Conversely, its reserves can be enhanced by factors like contact with Nature, meditation, and sensual arousal, as well as directly from the ki or attention 'paid' to you by other individuals.

 

We can thus begin to see the outlines of the dynamic ki economy that many Japanese believe link physiological and social well-being. Two suggestive analogies for discussing ki transactions can be drawn from fiscal accounting and electromagnetic theory. In the fiscal metaphor ki or attention is treated as a currency that may be paid out, received, accumulated, squandered, invested, etc. Each healthy individual is thought to begin each day with a 'subsistence allowance' of ki from the collective contributions of his physiological constituents. His net balance at any particular moment, however, is largely determined by the profitability of his subsequent transactions with the natural and social environment. A kind of double-entry bookkeeping can thus be imagined balancing attention received against attention paid out. Social relations are therefore occasions of vital trade, and far more is at stake than mere ego massage. Not only does a regular ki surplus increase your energy, potency, and vital charisma, but running a deficit can impoverish your sex life and eventually your health.

Japanese students of ki whom I polled for an earlier study implicated chronic attentional deficits as a factor in problems as diverse as overeating, domestic violence, developmental retardation in orphanages, and the high death rate among widowed or retired men. A few also noted the prevalence of mental disorders among live-in daughters-in-law, the archetypical ki debtors of Japan. They suffer extraordinarily high rates of a neurotic neurasthenia said to afflict over half of the nation's 300,000 mental patients.

Conversely, in the upper attentional income brackets, consistent ki surpluses were cited as a factor in the uncommon longevity of judges, conductors, political & religious leaders, etc. "Good listeners" were deemed ki donors. Thus regular exposure to attentive, enthusiastic audiences could dramatically heighten the recipients' vitality. (This phenomenon is in fact frequently mentioned in the memoirs of political and stage personalities. Hubert Humphrey often remarked that no matter how sick he was, if he could make it to a podium in front of a fired-up crowd he would come away cured.) Several respondents also noted that this ki-induced vitality powerfully charges the libido as well. One, only half-jokingly, blamed it for the promiscuity scandals now bedeviling many prominent political and religious figures.

In the electro-magnetic analogy each individual is presumed to generate, store, transmit, and receive ki as a psychsomatic current or charge. Let us imagine a "watt" of psychic energy - the power, for example, the average person expends in 60 seconds of undivided conscious attention. Let us provisionally call this unit a psy-watt and further imagine it - ideally - as being projected from each attentive ego out onto the environment in a focused beam.

To better visualize this, consider the sensation of 'being watched' that most people experience at one time or another. Many Japanese claim particular sensitivity to such probes of attention, and cite the subtle palpability of others' stares to explain the origin of common expressions like chumoku sareru - 'to have eyes poured upon one.'

This laser metaphor helps to envision many aspects of ki, but it is usually employed with regard to group attention or ninki. Ninki, literally the "ki of other people", is an important and positive concept in Japan. To have ninki is to enjoy popular favor, attendance, or "drawing power". But again the implications are wider than mere social approbation.

Anyone who has ventured near the stage front during a large and wild rock concert, for example, knows that it is a locus of uncanny and as yet unnamed power. Unnamed at least in Western terms. In the East this is ninki at peak voltage. If we could perceive each spectator at such events projecting his ki or psy-wattage as a visible laser, the focal charge at the stage - and in the performers - would be blinding. The radiant terminology applied to celebrity in the West - 'star', 'luminary', 'dazzler', etc. - perhaps reflects a recognition of the phenomenon, but it tends to relegate the audience to a purely passive role.

In the case of rock concerts the charge that the musicians receive is of primary interest only to the performers themselves and perhaps to the groupies they will later scorch with it. But there are far more valuable and intelligent uses of the effect, uses epitomized in the religious technologies of healing.

All manner of deities and occult forces are traditionally invoked and credited in ceremonial group healings. But if we impiously ignore for a moment the religious persuasions of the assembled faithful, we generally find two basic approaches to healing - the mediated and the direct.

In the mediated form - exemplified by revivalist tent healers, voodoo priests, witch doctors, etc. - one person stirs the passion and wonder of the group, focusing its ki or attention upon himself. Like a kind of animate battery he accumulates some fraction of the group's focalized ki energy and discharges it upon the individual to be healed. These priest-to-patient transfusions of vitality are usually performed at the climax of an orchestrated crescendo of collective ki excitation. Although one is free to credit the equally nebulous influences of suggestion or placebo effects, in many cases something of therapeutic virtue does appear to occur. The problem with this style of healing, of course, arises when the priest-figure mistakes his mediating agency for a supernatural personal potency. Though the earth has doubtless been blessed with a number of individuals uniquely capable of concentrating the ki of natural creation and transmitting it to their suffering brethren, it appears to be a much rarer transaction than borrowing from Peter to heal Paul.

The direct form - exemplified by charismatic healing circles, Balinese ketchak rites, white magic covens, etc. - appears to be a rather more straightforward affair and less open to egoistic abuse. In this style, each member of the collective applies his ki or attention to the 'patient' directly. While they will frequently employ shared rhythms, prayers or incantations to synchronize and enhance their individual emmissions, members of these circles each approach the subject and his pain alone.

Judging from their recurring appearance in a diversity of epochs and cultures, these ceremonies do deliver. In terms of ki dynamics they can be analyzed in two ways:

1) As an acute therapy: These collective attention furnaces provided high wattage ki transfusions which charged the psychosoma of the target individual like a jolt of ethereal B vitamins. This is 'drug grade' ki, so to speak, which Oriental medicine deems useful in resuscitative emergencies but too powerful and addictive a stimulant for regular use. (In the West this is viscerally understood by ki junkies or attention- dependent types who are usually found performing their way to the high at the center of any available circle);

2) As a long term regimen: One effect of receiving intense and sympathetic group attention is a lingering warm self- consciousness. During this afterglow the recipient is likely to regard himself more positively and hence more frequently. In oriental medicine this mirroring back upon the self of ki's generally outgoing or extroverted flow is believed to vitalize the being, rendering it more psychosomatically assertive and immunologically aggressive.

The terms self-respect, self-regard, self-esteem partially express the dialectic by implying that the self is attended to because of its value and that its value is enhanced by reflexive attention. But compared to group-generated, megadose ninki, individual self-regard offers attention in only "herbal" or homeopathic amounts - which is often adequate in normal, non-pathological times.

In most holistic disciplines based on yoga, meditation, mantras, tai chi, etc. the main therapeutic value is found in their mindful attention to the self, and an hour or so a day is considered sufficient. While a tithe of one's daily ki budget may be enough to maintain health, psychosomatic technologies like the Chinese qi gung (kiko in Japanese) advise those wishing to acquire 'powers' to spend only 30% of one's attention upon the world and retain 70% for the irrigation of the self and internal environment. Heightening internal ki charges the endocrine system. Acupuncture journal studies, for example, document that ki stimulation techniques in men consistently raise the blood level of adrenalin and testosterone, as well as most other male hormones and steroids. This richened broth of androgen and energy molecules make the subject more behaviorially and biologically male - more self-confident, aggressive and sensual. These are also the power molecules of Tantric and Taoist liberation techniques that use sensual arousal to raise the creative heat and awareness of mature adepts. Pleasure and passion are natural allies in these disciplines, synergizing ki flow to and in the body and enhacing the sense of self. In the everyday world also, the more self-directing one becomes, the more often the self turns to the things and activities it enjoys until pleasure and profession merge. "You become good at what you like...", as the Japanese proverb goes.

This melting down of conflict between personal desires and practical responsibilities, between needs and obligations, is comparable in ways to a loss of circuit resistance or superconductivity. It frees enormous psychic energy, and tends to drive the process of individual maturation to completion: a sense of power and wellbeing promotesls confidence, which increases spontaneity, which in turn yields creative surprise or "master-pieces". And, by displaying the unpredictable, unprogrammed & thus unique aspects of a person, it marks him out as special, an individual, and makes his "name".

Human individuation is thus the social analogue of speciation and can be justly credited with the lush historical diversity our planet has enjoyed. But whatever its evolutionary merit, it is also a centrifugal social force, and a schismatic threat to all complex corporate bodies.

Every society is characterized by a certain level of individuation beyond which the normal individual cannot go.

                                                                        Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom

In precorporate societies individuation was a path of power. To achieve it many traditional disciplines, both occult and overt, used attention-intensive techniques to focus energy on the self. These practices were generally designed to incubate a cultural rebirth and the manifestation of one's indwelling deity or "genius". In most religious and artistic traditions the emergence of this spirit and its seminal power marked one's passage from disciplehood to mastery and full adult rights. (Certain ancient Japanese professions like medicine continue to call apprentices well into their twenties, tamago [eggs] in recognition of the internal effort and external care that is still required to birth the autonomous practitioner.) The archetypical master was a fully mature and energized being - sexually active, physically skilled, psychically fertile. He cuts a splendid figure in an open field, but in a hierarchy he is likely to burst forth as a charismatic, insubordinate pain in the ass.

Keeping followers' personal ki levels subdued is an ancient hierarchical concern. Sexual vitality and assertive kiryoku do not correlate very well with corporate docility and obedience. Authoritarian collectives have thus treated ki like a "controlled substance" and made body-negating and anti-sensual themes incessant leitmotifs in their teachings. Unisex Mao jackets, Christian hair shirts, Islamic purdah, school uniforms, in fact uniforms of any kind, are further tactics to lessen attention paid to individual bodies and beings. New "somebodies" erupting out of the faceless "flocks" or "masses" attracted influence with the attention, and authoritarian ki politics is a zero sum game.

Psychiatric incarceration, castration and auto-de-fe are only the most overt methods great collectives have used to rid themselves insubordinate personalities. Less well known are the sophisticated psychosomatic techniques they employ to stop their members from acquiring independent identities in the first place. If the urge to individuation and autonomy is a common and natural evolutionary drive, successful social organisms like churches, states, corporations, etc. have apparently discovered some powerful technologies to suppress it. To either beat or join their game requires some working knowledge of these techniques and the ki dynamics which empower them. Two areas of primary import are the nature of group bonding and socialization strategies for strengthening it.

Just how much a Japanese depends on, and expects from, his co-workers may be incomprehensible to the outsider. There are no clear lines which divide one's own from another's...

                                                                  Dr. Chie Nakane, Japanese Society

Recent research in social embryology and organizational development has begun to describe intragroup bonds with a new theory of "attention structure". Developed in African field studies by anthropologists M.B.R. Chance and Clifford Jolly, the approach used "attention maps", graphing how often and how long primate troop members visually refer to each other, to decipher group structure. The methodology was inspired by the etymologies of words like re-spect, re-gard, and re-verence -- ki-intensive terms which denote human importance in terms of the re-peated looks ('specere'), heed ('garder'), and wariness ('verery') individuals attract. Attention structure thus represents the flickering web of ki channels that bind and integrate a social body (cf., Hamano's "mysterious filaments").

Their maps unsurprisingly demonstrated that dominant members receive the lion's share of the group's ki. Although ferocity was observed to be a major advantage in attaining dominance, coalition-building 'politician' apes and resourceful 'entertainers' could also occasionally achieve it. This was surprising since these types clearly require group feedback, and ethology traditionally defines a dominant individual as one whom other members look to for reference, while he himself is not obliged to refer to anyone. (In cowboy movie terms, the stranger's joke is not funny til the gang boss laughs.) Their findings called into question the old 'who can clobber whom' hierarchy models. The political success of relatively non-threatening leaders showed that individuals were dominant because they attracted the most attention and not vice versa. Parenthetically, the researchers also noted that the troops' least attended to male members were, or became, almost sexually inert.

Their attention distribution charts proved quite stable over time and showed that ki circulation within a specific social group can become as patterned, routinized and metaphorically 'hard-wired' as in a physical body. In human systems, for example, this is dramatically evidenced in the extraordinarily high mortality rates among older men who abruptly lose the accustomed attention of wives and/or work groups. Once external sources of attention are integrated into one's internal ki economy, the individual becomes dependent upon this larger whole for energy and identity. The sudden severance of these interpersonal ki channels can cause the equivalent of psychosomatic hemorrhage and anemia, and drain the victim all the way down to the immune system.

Enlarging and perfecting these group circulatory systems are arguably the main objectives of all Japanese socialization processes. Comparative childrearing studies have noted, for example, that while the American child is considered to be a dependent entity who must be helped to independence, the Japanese child is felt to be an independent being who must be drawn into dependence. This conditioning for incorporation continues throughout schooling and beyond. Japanese corporations complete the process by encouraging: a deep receptivity, empathy and openness in each new member which allows him to make others a part of himself (jibun no naka ni aite o ireru, literally 'putting others inside oneself').

The resulting social ki linkages can be almost palpably apparent. Several Japanese social critics have graphically compared groups here to bowls of natto (fermented soybeans swaddled together with shining mucilaginous strands). In group life this pulsating web of mutual attention quite literally ob-ligates its members and powerfully affects their behavior. Kurt Singer, a German economist who worked in Japan's great bureaucracies in the '30's, vividly captured the effect:

Where the quasi-magical force of rite and custom prevails, the give and take, address and reply, the warp of daily life, assume the harmonious aspects of a self-regulated organic process. The movements of a Japanese seem not to originate in his frail body but to avail themselves of it, making him bend and bow and vibrate like a tree in wind and rain.

In addition to energy then, ki bonds or attention channels distribute sensory and motor information throughout a social organism like a rudimentary nervous system. It is this mechanism that ties diverse members into a functional whole, and the power of kiryoku invested in it determines a corporate body's integration, productive efficiency, and responsiveness to central command.

These are issues of deep concern to leaders trying to organize vast groups for governance, industry or war, and in Japan, where the importance of ki distribution is pervasively understood, a great deal of thought has gone into ki technology. From preserved umbilicals and emporer worship to estrogenic soybeans and chronic test stress, many ingenious methods have been developed to psychosomatically condition Japanese to foreswear individuation, and attentively embrace and subserve collective systems. The extraordinary vitality of Japan's corporate bodies certifies the final effectiveness of these techniques, as do the less well remarked side effects of neurosis, apathy and psycho-sexual retardation many overmilked salarimen have learned to endure.

For those interested in economic miracles then, or the evolutionary competition between human and corporate bodies, Japan's group consciousness and its attentional arts & sciences deserve some serious study.

 


 

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Ki Series Part II

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E PLURIBUS YAMATO

The Culture of Corporate Being

 

If the co-operation of some thousands of millions of cells in our brain can produce our consciousness, a true singularity, the idea becomes vastly more plausible that the co-operation of humanity, or some sections of it, may determine what Comte calls a 'Great Being'.

                                                      J.B.S. Haldane, Essay on Science & Ethics, 1932

 

We live in the age of corporate organisms. Though no formal announcements have been issued it's becoming harder to ignore that they have wrested control of the earth from homo sapiens and supplanted us as the planet's dominant species. It is they - the multinationals, government bureaucracies, religious hierarchies, military bodies, et al. - not individual humans, that generate our era's character - its patterns of wealth & poverty, its technological progress & ecological peril, its entertainment & political agenda. They have, in short, taken over, and nowhere more so than in Japan.

Japan in fact owes her incredible power today not merely to management, consensus or monoethnicity, but to her carefully bred population of vast corporate bodies - the most aggressive, efficient, and highly evolved the world has yet experienced. To understand the magnitude of her accomplishment we must first suspend considerable disbelief and try for a moment to take social organisms seriously, not just as a metaphor but as an actual new class of being. Japan quite apparently does, or at least she has intuited their true nature more clearly than any previous culture:

(1855) The rulers feed the people and in return the people have a great debt of gratitude toward them. Ruler and people are one body ("Kunshin Ittai")...This is a characteristic of our country alone - ruler and subjects form one body!

                                                Yoshida Shoin, Edo Philosopher whose works deeply

                                                influenced the architects of the Meiji state.

(1936) In his everyday existence the average Japanese acts, feels, thinks, decides, as if Japan would act through him...He stands to his group in a relation in which we imagine the life of a cell stands to the life of an organism; or at the very least it approximates to that relation in a degree observable in no other civilised nation.

                                                Kurt Singer, Professor of Economics, Tokyo University

(1970) The Japanese language has no term for the word leadership... Responsibility is diffused through the group as a whole and the entire collectivity becomes one functional body in which all individuals, including the manager, are amalgamated into a single entity...The strength of this structure lies in its ability to efficiently and swiftly mobilize the collective power of its members. The importance of its contribution to the process of Japanese modernization is immeasurable.

                                                Dr. Chie Nakane, Professor of Sociology, Tokyo University

 

(For now let us confine our fieldwork to Japan's corporate jungles and identify our emergent collective beings quite simply as: "Any large, bureaucratically or hierachically organized social body that persists in time, enjoys at least partial autonomy and economically supports a large number of functionaries, if not all its membership" - with "large" meaning a number too numerous for mutual acquaintance or direct, face-to-face interaction - arbitrarily, say, 500+.)

Thanks to diverse terminology and social functions we think we understand important differences between Mitsubishi & the central government, or the Self Defense Forces & the Sokka Gakkai, or the National Police Force & the major yakuza syndicates. But viewed from a sufficient height and distance these vast corporate bodies seem to embody far more similarities than differences. Moreover, they appear to fulfill all the definitional requirements of true complex "organisms".

All of them, for example, share basic common organizational processes, structures and energy needs; generate psychic membranes that divide their membership from outsiders; take in and process information and nourishment from the environment; specialize, control and outlive their human/cellular constituents; can reproduce, spawning subsidiary bodies; and are primarily concerned with their own survival and growth. In a very real sense they represent a distinct, highly evolved life form, in fact a species if you go by Webster: "Species - a category of biological classification comprising related organisms or populations...having common attributes, a common name and potentially capable of interbreeding."

The common attributes abound and history's menagerie of corporate hybrids - commercial religions, ecclesiastical governments, academic businesses, governmental trading bodies, etc. - prove that the monsters are mutually fertile. All that is wanting then is a "common name", something like "dog" that transcends the apparent discrepencies between chihuahuas, bulldogs and great danes to indicate that we are in fact dealing with a single bundle of creation. This is a serious lack for without a clear category for their common existence it is difficult to think of, speak of or visualize them. Present candidate terms are rather clumsy or obscure - megasome, corpocyte, kyoseitai [short for Jp: kyodo seimeitai - "cooperative life body"]. For now we shall limp along with traditional organismic vocabulary (while praying for some gifted reader to invent or offer the fit and final Word).

Japan was hardly the first to recognize organismic realities. The biological metaphorics for integrated collective bodies are ancient on both sides of the planet. Politics and medicine were sister disciplines in pre-Han China and the rulers' husbandry of the societal organism was dictated by the same common sense that informed the disciplines of human health and healing. The Hindu Brahmins of the period were also describing their community's castes in terms of the limbs and organs of a physical body (and predictably selecting themselves for the preeminent and metabolically privileged role of the brain). And further to the West, St. Paul was conjuring a new sacerdotal monad, the "mystical body of Christ", that would soon incorporate all of Europe.

'They [the emerging corporations] have all commodities under their control and practice without concealment all manner of trickery; they raise and lower prices as they please and oppress and ruin all the small tradesmen, as the pike devour the little fish of the water just as though they were lord's over God's creatures and free from all the laws of faith and love.'

                                                            Martin Luther, "On Trading and Usury", 1524

Though Western biological similes were often no more than heuristic conceits (Hobbes' Leviathan, Frank Norris' Octopus, Franz Neumann's Behemoth, etc.) there was obvious foreboding of the organic nature of societal life forms and their increasing power over humans both inside and outside their membranes. It was not until the turn of this century, however, that ethology, biology and social psychology achieved enough sophistication to pursue the analogy seriously. Between 1890 and the 1920's organismic thinking picked up enormous momentum. Researchers in France, Germany and England established the concept of insect societies as "supraorganisms" and began to draw telling parallels between hives, nests and termitaries and highly integrated human organizations. Scores of studies were published on colonial organisms, cooperative life forms and other collective biological realities. The western classics on group consciousness also appeared from this ferment. Schaeffle's The Life & Limbs of the Social Body, Le Bon's The Crowd, and MacDougal's The Group Mind all clearly demonstrated that something psychologically new and evolutionarily significant emerged in human collectives, something far greater than the sum of the parts.

At the end of the '20's, however, two obstacles - one political, the other conceptual - arose to derail the entire international inquiry. The political problem was fascism. Organismic thinking seemed to play right into the bloody hands of fascist ideologues. If indeed great social bodies were more powerful than men - outproducing them, outliving them, and supporting vast numbers of them - then they also were plausibly more important. (As an Osaka executive who destroyed evidence and himself to thwart an investigation of his firm wrote before dying: "Please accept this humble offering. I am but one. The kaisha [corporation] is many. My life is transient. The kaisha is forever!")

The social organism was thus an evolutionary advance upon mankind much as the multicellular animal was an advance upon protozoa. And as a "greater whole" its commonweal "naturally" took precedence over its individual members'. From a corporatist standpoint then, anyone threatening the unity, efficiency or "health" of the collective body could and should be sacrificed with the same insouciance with which we excise a cancer or a gangrenous toe. Eliminating dissidents, in other words, was not a question of morality but of rational social medicine. For Western liberals who tacitly tolerated executions for treason and desertion in their own societies this thinking (and the organismic research that lent it credence) presented an ethically thorny and unwanted problem, especially at a time when the Nazi organism was threatening to engulf all of Europe.

The conceptual problem was rather more straightforward: the absence of an equivalent of protoplasm to explain what really connects and integrates a social body's members. Language may allow individuals to interact but many mutually hostile organisms can arise in the same linguistic sea. What binds them internally? Group consciousness is fine in theory but what does it really consist of? If nothing can be physically pointed out or quantified, organismic research is mere poetry, unscientific and a waste of time.

Neither of these difficulties phased the Japanese, however. Fascism as they understood it was a dandy idea. Didn't it come from the Roman fasces (a bundle of rods with a protruding axe-head) that symbolized social unity (bundle) under state authority (axe)? Didn't it virtually deify a strong central leader, extoll self-sacrifice and collective effort, and promote belongingness with uniforms, symbols and ceremonies? What else had Japan been working to realize since the Meiji Restoration? Organismic theory of course abetted these efforts and would play an important role in ultranationalist debates on the nature and primacy of the kokutai [the mystical body of the Japanese state].

As for the reality and substance of social bonds the Japanese had the enormous advantage of the ki concept which we discussed at length above in "Ki and the Arts of Sex, Healing and Corporate Body Building." Translated (too) simply, ki means psycho-biological vital force. Ki in the social sphere was seen as the living force of attention or directed consciousness, a force that carried energy from the perceiver to the perceived and tied them together, much as energy exchange bonds atoms and molecules. Social ki, while invisible, is as palpable as the wind to many Japanese and they have scores of expressions to describe its effects upon the minds & bodies of those sending and receiving it. Ki or attention's patterned circulation within a group bonds and integrates the members and determines their collective "structure". The strength and cohesion of any social body is therefore to be measured by how much of the members' ki or attention is devoted solely to the collective and its shared concerns. Attention to strictly personal matters, outside interests, other groups, etc. constitutes a weakening "leakage" of the collective's adhesive energies and esprit de corps. Japanese corporate bodies therefore employ dozens of tactics [company unions, company housing, group vacations, company sports teams, company drinking groups, cemetaries, etc.] to keep members' ki circulating totally within its membranes:

“The kaisha [corporation] is the community to which one belongs primarily, and which is all-important in one's life. Thus in most cases the company provides the whole social existence of a person, and has authority over all aspects of his life... [Its] power and influence not only affect and enter into the individual's actions, it alters even his ideas and ways of thinking... Some perceive this as a dangerous encroachment upon their dignity as individuals; others, however, feel safer in total group consciousness. There seems little doubt that in Japan the latter group is in the majority.”

Japan does thus seem to know what she's doing and the superior strength and vitality of her organisms (& the peculiar devotion of their members) may be looked at from the overlapping perspectives of genetics, socialization & attention management.

Population Pruning & Right Wing Genes

Like most other traits and preferences in a natural population the taste for organizational life is randomly distributed. Some people love hierarchical group existence - the uniforms & rituals, the secure routines, the superior/inferior relation-ships, the sense of merging oneself in a larger whole and greater destiny. Others detest it, with the majority falling along the normal distribution curve somewhere in between. Before the rise of vast socialist/communist bodies the right/left political distinction originally reflected this love/hate spectrum. In early Japan as elsewhere the primitive leftists were fractious, independant types who abhored hierarchy, establishments", authoritarianism and just wanted to be left alone. The rightists were most often joiner types who flocked to regimented security of the military, clergy and other bureaucratic power centers. Since even in those days the big bodies scoffed the lion's share of everything, they occasionally rankled the "little people" to rebellion. But because the anti-authoritarian lefties then as now took orders ungraciously, organized poorly, and were usually decimated in these confrontations, their gene pool slowly began to bleed away.

Japan's most ingenious contribution to corporate eugenics, however, was devised during the Edo period. The samurai's kirisute gomen [literally, "honorable permit to slash & trash"], was an open-ended license to kill any commoner deemed "dangerous, disrespectful or offensive" with the same impunity that a breeder culls his flocks of undesired traits. This terrifying and oft exercised prerogative genetically pruned over 15 generations of the population of its most assertive and egalitarian DNA. Since artificial selection studies on plants and animals repeatedly show that such procedures can create or destroy stable heritable traits in as few as five generations, the contributions of samurai cutlery to contemporary Japanese "groupiness" should not be underestimated.

 

Anthroculture: Rearing Corporate-Friendly Humans

From a social engineering point of view, whether or not you have a genetically predisposed population, there are a variety of proven methods to enhance a people's reliance on authoritarian groups and curb their sense of or desire for personal autonomy. Japanese culture presents a curiously comprehensive catalog of such techniques.

 

The Primal Engulfment

Japanese maternal techniques to cultivate an infant's inherent dependence into a lasting habit of mind have been well documented in recent years. The long shared bed; the preference for soothing, holding, and quieting "we-ness" (over Western stimulating, conversational "you & I-ness"); the reflexive indulgence of pre-schoolers' demands - the "candy black teeth" syndrome; the incessant cries of abunai ["danger!"] that greet the child's explorations of the outer world; the use of lock-outs as punishment (as opposed to grounding or lock-ins in the West) - all affect the child's ability and desire to stray beyond his prescribed social perimeter.

The mother/child nexus thus becomes extremely powerful and formative. Sociologists love to footnote this country's carefully dried and preserved umbilicals as Japan's archetypical social tethers. But we can also look at such infant socialization as preparatory "engulfment" or training for incorporation. The term marugakae ["completely enveloped or surrounded"], for example, refers equally to a baby held in one's arms and to a man at his place of employment. Again Singer offers telling insight on the "insider effect":

For years the child is carried on the back of the mother, strapped or carried in a pouch-like fold of her padded overgarment, sharing in a half-drowsy state her warmth and her rhythm, robbed of free movement but feeling sheltered and close to the maternal body which to him means life, protection, company and goodness... To return to that semi-conscious state when one was carried to and fro by a power larger than oneself, appears to remain, even in adult life, the chief aim of internal discipline and external accomodation.

Most of the recent heavy breathing over Japan's educational "product" has come from the world's managerial class. And if schooling is defined as among fish - incessant attachment and responsiveness to the heading of the group, managers have much to hyperventilate about. Of the two competing drives we each harbor - the drive to belong and the drive to become recognizably unique - Japan's education educes and enhances only the first. The Japanese student is trained to not even question authority let alone challenge it. The only acceptable behavior is obedience - total, enthusiastic and, if possibe, brilliant obedience. Enough has been written on the uniforms, regulations, examination system, peer and parental pressure, etc. that reinforce such submission, but one further point bears mention.

Students here are virtually never taught or required to speak or write out their thoughts, whether concerning a problem, a policy or a poem. Since independant expression is the primary way we learn to discover and defend our own opinions, and consequently our selves, most young Japanese can tell you "what is thought" but have great difficulty expressing, or placing much importance on, what they themselves think. This creates an extreme permeability to prevailing authority which is probably the true key to so-called consensual decision-making. In Escape from Freedom Erich Fromm details the dynamic:

Recent research on suggestibility and hypnotic phenomena have demonstrated how feelings and thoughts can be induced from outside and yet be subjectively experienced as one's own, and how one's own feelings and thoughts can be repressed and thus cease to be part of one's self... The same holds true of willing. One is struck by the extent to which people are mistaken in their taking as 'their' decision what in effect is submission to convention, duty or simple pressure.

Japanese schooling is thoughtfully designed to enhance this psychic porosity and thus prepare "open minds" for their future groups' in-fluence. But over and above the present system's specifics, we should consider its evolution and how it came to serve corporate rather than individual ends.

Historically a fully competent and creative craftsman, musician, healer, etc. was referred to in Japanese as ichininmae [literally, "one full helping of man"]. To become ichininmae in preindustrial Japan was "to attain full adulthood; to become independant, self-supporting - a 'man'." After traditional education ended the master released his apprentice to the world in the noren-wake ["dividing the shop curtain"] ceremony that recognized the graduate as ichininmae, an independently viable professional. The short term economic competition this created for the master was more than offset by the pride in siring a new talent upon the world. The individuated apprentice had often been with the master since early childhood, and the master's pervasive influence - his cultural transmission - informed the disciple's skills, consciousness and the man he became as deeply as his genetic inheritance. Apprentices were thus not only students and helpmates but cultural heirs. And only by becoming ichininmae and achieving creative maturity in their own right, could they continue the evolution of their masters' "lineage".

This pattern of education breathed enormous life into creative, individualistic professions but it was deathly for non-productive trades and the creation of corporate groups. Dealers, politicians, gangsters, military types, etc. did not have much cultural paternity to propagate in the first place and the prospect of spawning a plague of their competitive "equals" upon the land seemed profitless in the extreme.

Cultural birth control therefore became a serious concern in these circles. While accounts differ the wealthy Osaka wholesale houses of early Meiji are often credited with the modern Japanese solution: the perpetual hanninmae ["half helping of man"]. Hanninmae were essentially stunted apprentices. They were trained to serve useful functions but never permitted to individuate or professionally mature, and thus were obliged to spend their whole lives as dependent and subservient members of their widening corporate group. Yakuza gangs and labor contractors also devised a similar state of suspended social pubescence, the kobun ["child role" or henchman], a chronic subordinate to the oyabun or a oyakata ["parent role/person" or boss] who directed their work and lives. Like Japanese women who generally have ko, the ideogram for "child", appended to their names, the kobun and hanninmae were just never meant to grow up. These devoted and docile half-men are the cultural antecedents of the compliant salarymen so much in demand this century. State education eventually stepped in to produce them en masse and their proliferation prepared the ground for the rise of the great bodies we face today.

 

The Bonsai Puberty

Education & Androgens: The shift from education for individuation to mass corporate anthroculture not only altered human's social roles, it also covertly affected their psychosomatic being. A couple of biological parallels may offer some evolutionary perspective on the process. When multi-skilled and overworked solitary wasps began to dream of specialized subordinate workers and queenly leisure, they "learned" to stunt their first-born larva with special secretions that repressed full sexual maturation and enslaved them to the nest. As long as the mother superior lived, the workers' potential autonomy and desire to found nests of their own remained latent and all their energy was poured into the growing collective enterprise.

Humans likewise learned that sexually debilitating their slaves and livestock could almost magically increase production and managerial efficiency. Anyone who has ever caponized roosters, for example, knows the fascinating progession of personality and physical changes that accompany the transition from natural bird to corporate broiler. A few days after the slow dissolving female hormone is injected into the cockerel's neck, he gradually stops crowing, then loses assertiveness, and demands less and less private space. Next, sexual activity abates, masculine characteristics (comb and wattles) recede, height and weight increase, and finally the gonads begin to physically deteriorate.

While caponization is solely intended to enhance agricultural productivity, human castration was practised as a primitive form of behavior modification. It was first employed in Asia in the Chou period (circa 1000 B.C.) to "keep feudal society orderly". The practice apparently offended early Chinese sensibilities and they continued to experiment with more cerebral techniques. For example:

Confucianism was first employed during the reign of the first Han Emperor, with an eye to introducing etiquette into the Imperial Court. Since the ministers and the generals of the time were rough warriors of humble origin, their behavior at court banquets was hardly appropriate. Intoxicated, they would boast of their achieve-ments, quarrel, shout with drunken abandon, and end up slashing the nearest pillar with their swords. These embarrassing scenes caused the Emperor great annoyance.

Results of these experiments were mixed, and though castration was out of the question for the warrior class, the Chinese later returned to it with a vengeance to staff their great bureaucracies, incorporating over 100,000 eunuchs by late Ming. Japan's leading authority on the phenomenon, Prof. Taisuke Mitamura of Kyoto University writes in his book Chinese Eunuchs:

When examining their strange existence, they were found to be generally neither masculine nor feminine, adult or juvenile... Eunuchs were seldom cruel, and usually were gentle and conciliatory. As a whole, the eunuchs tended to be strongly united, helping each other and standing together against the world. They showed both group consciousness as a "race" and strong opposition to oppression by outsiders. But this was effective only within their own limited environment where they had the power of their master behind them as well as their own tight bonds of fellowship. Outside the court, the eunuchs were about as helpless as babies.

The relevence of such descriptions to our modern corporate culture was striking enough for Mitamura himself to warn in closing:

If it is true that eunuchs were the product of great power structures, then it should be equally true that people similar to eunuchs exist today, for such power structures still exist. We are woven into large nets in one form or another in all areas of society... and now constitute only units in huge organizations... Stripped of our manhood (in that we've become only part of a system)... we are fast becoming eunuchs in a psychological sense.

From a corporate developer's point of view, however, this attenuation of manhood is not an occupational hazard, its a prerequisite to harmonious collective life. Masculinity in its behavioral sense is only another word for male individuality - the strength to conduct one's own appraisals of reality, to differ if need be from prevailing custom, and to generally invent one's own self. In this meaning then, masculine types adapt poorly to the docility, obedience and self-effacing "team spirit" large organizations demand.

All manly individualism is founded on a frail substrate of male hormones called androgens secreted by the testes and related tissue. Their sudden increase in 12- and 13-year-old boys produces puberty and the subsequent rebelliousness, strength and sexual longing of adolescence. Androgens literally mean "manhood producers", and without their activities not only are males "neither masculine nor feminine, adult or juvenile", they are infinitely easier to "unite" with "tight bonds". (When androgen activity is low the male persona, like the phallus, becomes less assertive and defined, ie., more com-pliant.) With androgens in corporate cultures then, less is more - more group consciousness, more social cohesion, more "harmony". And in fact male hormones are astonishingly simple to lessen.

As feminists archly and accurately observe the evolutionary baseline is female, and men are a fragile evolutionary afterthought (eg., male nipples). Women are physically and psychologicaly more resiliant, longer lived, and at the hormone level too, the force is with them. Female hormones or estrogens given to men can quickly overwhelm androgenic activity, and as the caponization process shows, a little can go a long, long way.

It is interesting to note here that certain edible plants also produce estrogenic molecules in biologically significant amounts. The strongest of these occurs in red clover and causes the frequent outbreaks of spontaneous abortion reported among sheep flocks in Australia. The second most powerful, however, an isoflavanoid compound called daidzein, is produced and concentrated in the common soybean. (In the West where few soy foods are traditionally eaten, this is basically agricultural arcana. When cattle-fattening estrogen injections were banned in American, many farmers just increased their soy-based feeds with negligable loss in production.) In Japan, however, soy products are staple foods which the majority of the population enjoys daily. While endocrinological studies on humans have yet to be done, a steady diet of tofu, miso, natto, okara, shoyu, etc. may not be the best regimen for leadership trainees or would-be lotharios.

Androgens are also suppressed and disabled by fear, anxiety, exhaustion - in fact any prolonged intense stress. Stress hormones are functionally estrogenic - a fact which explains its effectiveness for building group spirit in military basic training, grueling cult initiations, Japan's famous management training ordeals, etc.)

While concerned executives and military types have funded considerable research into stress effects on their own sexual performance and aggressiveness, virtually no work has been done on behalf of children. The stress levels inflicted upon young students here during the years of shiken jigoku, Japan's infamous "examination hell", are among the highest in the world, and bear down upon the boys at precisely the time they are trying to negotiate puberty. Extrapolating from adult studies, stress effects may in many cases be severe enough to miscarry that fateful transition, and psychosomatically fixate the child in very early adolescence. Indeed an increasing number of social critics are beginning to describe many standard "salariman" behaviors as maturational disorders - eg., their love of comics toy guns; their taste for sado-masochism (classicly a juvenile or pre-sensual form of sex); their poor adaption to fatherhood; etc. (While it might seem strange that this is not a raging issue in local PTA's it should be remembered that most of the castrations in China were voluntary, performed on youngsters seeking high bureaucratic office and overseen by the aspirants' loving mothers.)

Though much research remains to be done, the overall impression seems to be that psychosomatically vitiated members make for (and require) the strongest corporate bodies, and vice versa. A physiological perspective on social organisms and their constituents may thus offer intriguing new insights into Japanese society and its corporate superiority.



 

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Ki Series Part III

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THE JAPANESE ART OF MINDBINDING

Losing It in the Syncytial Society

 

As the traditional metaphors for corporate life -- ants, bees, termites and the like -- grow rather stale, few social theorists seem to notice that modern biology has dug up some rather other and quite exotic animals that help us more clearly envision group existence.

Take, for example, the zebra fish. Zebra males are territorial little ferocities with bright gill stripes that distinguish them from their ladies. Dominant males control lush patches of river bottom into which they only allow females, bartering grazing rights for sexual favors. To gain secure positions in these aquatic enterprises, turfless and hungry young males are forced to suppress their sexual markings, impersonate acquiescent females and quietly endure the ensuing indignities.

Or consider the mole rat, a pale hairless rodent that lives in large subterranean colonies in Kenya. Each colony is ruled by a sexually mature "royal couple" who secrete special pheromones -- chemicals which affect other members of the species -- and rub them along their burrow walls. The odor creates a psychoactive 'air of authority' in the community which somehow represses the maturation and sexual development of the colony's other members, turning them into permanently juvenile and subservient workers.

All for One

Such species offer interesting insights into old-fashioned small group dynamics -- the sexual imprecision of famous cowboys' sidekicks, for example, or the fondness of Iow-ranking yakuza for hair tints, permanents and girls' slippers. But major organizations present a more complex reality. And perhaps the most fascinating parallel to modern corporate function is offered by the slime mold Acrasales.

Acrasales start out as free-living individual amoebas sporting about the forest floor, foraging, mating furiously and generally carrying on. At some point, however, when living conditions get tough or food supplies dwindle, one of the amoebas hunkers down, becomes almost luminescent and begins to emit a chemical signal. The surrounding multitudes respond dramatically to this communication and begin streaming toward its source, now called the "founder cell." As they arrive, they swarm up on his back until they form a living phallic-shaped tower comprising tens or hundreds of thousands of individuals and standing perhaps a quarter of an inch high. As the influx abates, this entire collective body generates an external membrane, falls over on its side and creeps away like a slug in search of higher ground and greener pastures. After several hours or days of migration, the corporate body settles down and sends up a hollow tube with a delicate mushroom-like apex called the fruiting body. Though the leadership cadre of the member cells quietly dies away in the basal body, the bulk of the working class members flow up through this stalk to the apex, form individual spore casings and are released on the wind. After floating to new locations the spores which contact moisture hatch again into individual amoeba and the cycle begins anew.

This parable turns out to be improbably useful in imagining the subjective feel of Japanese incorporation. The central phase of Acrasales' life, the collective body stage, is also remarkable to just think about. It is a state of being known as a syncytium (Greek: 'togethered cell') or a plasmodium (Greek: 'thing resembling plasm'). Both refer to a multinucleate mass of cytoplasm, a fusion of what were formerly homogeneous cells that now share a common exterior membrane and behave as a single organism. (Our Acrasales corporation, for example, responds as one to changes in temperature, wind and acidity. It can even be led around a tabletop by the light from a luminous watch dial. All this without any common sensory receptors, nervous system or indeed any specialized cells whatsoever. Yet the beast is together and single-minded. No matter how free and self-sufficient the young cell, once inside the syncytium (pronounced "sinsishium") it becomes harmoniously subservient to the sway of the whole. To achieve coordinated movement and response its will must become transparent to the collective will. The individual membranes begin to break down and become more porous and sensitive to the environment, which now consists largely of its fellows' activities and emissions. There is gradual loss of identity, autonomy and ambition. With improved integration and information flow, neighboring individuals quite literally open up to or into each other.

The parallels to group consciousness in human beings are striking. To re-invoke sociologist Nakane Chie:

Just how much a Japanese depends on, and expects from, his coworkers may be incomprehensible to the outsider. There are no clear lines which divide one's own from another's... responsibility is diffused. The group as a whole becomes one functional body in which all individuals are amalgamated into a single entity.

Eric Fromm wrote in Escape from Freedom of the individual that:

becomes a mere part of the body that his hands have built. By conforming to the expectations of others, by giving up spontaneous individuality, the self weakens and gradually feels powerless and extremely insecure. He thinks, feels, and wills what he is supposed to think, feel, will. By not being different, doubts about one's identity may be silenced: "I have no identity, there is no self excepting the one which others expect: thus I am 'as you desire me'."

The common media or plasms shared in human corporate bodies are our attention or ki fields (networks of connected consciousness discussed in Error! Bookmark not defined.. Devoting attention to others fills your consciousness with them and, consequently affects your experience, memories and temporary identity. You may or may not be what you eat, but you are definitely in-fluenced, in-fused and in-formed by what you attend to.

To comprehend the bio-social techniques of corporate joinery we should thus think about attention management and how human syncytia might actually be engineered. Though this technology is rarely explicit, it is none the less widely used in Japan, for example, where groups typically encourage each new member to be 'deeply receptive to the thoughts and feelings of those around him... to make others a part of himself (jibun no naka ni aite o ireru -- literally putting others inside oneself ). ' (Thomas Rowlen, The Promise of Adulthood in Japan) In biological terms, these ki linkages among animals are analogous to the more visible interpenetrational mechanism that exists in the plant world, called plasmodesma. The Brittanica defines plasmodesma as "the thin strands of cytoplasm [cellular fluid] that pass through small openings in the membranes of adjacent cells. They form subtle connective channels that facilitate intercellular integration and the interchange of information and nutrients."

The Body Politic

Our 'filaments' of social attention may be comparable to such cytoplasmic strands, but they are actually energy bonds, and thus similar to the shuttling forces that tie entities together at the atomic and molecular level. But to best visualize how ki bonds work we should turn to the concepts of Eastern mystical physiology. Ki bonds can be roughly classified into three types -- conjugal, collaborative and psychic or ideational, according to the chakra complexes they are associated with. Chakras are plexuses or centers of power in the subtle or energetic body, and they have been recognized in remarkably similar ways in Mayan, Egyptian, Greek, Chinese and Hindu occult traditions. Benjamin Walker, author of the encyclopedia Hindu World writes of them:

[Though the details vary slightly] the major plexuses in all esoteric traditions are situated within the 'undivided body, that is, the trunk, arranged along an axis extending from the top of the head to the root of the spine... There is said to be an intimate interconnection between these centers, each invigorating and charging the others. Power rises upward from the lowest plexus to the crown of the head. In Eastern schools the crown plexus and the root plexus are defined in terms of male and female potencies, and whose conjugation is celebrated as a kind of mystical union which bestows great power and mastery on the practitioner.

Various traditions number them differently, but the chakras are generally mapped in three main clusters: around the brain, the heart & solar plexus, and the groin, perineum & sexual organs.

To begin at the bottom -- conjugal bonds and the third chakra complex: In Eastern medical theory, vital energy (ki) is most powerfully generated and stored up in the chakra complex of the lower abdomen. This is the locus of the Hindu kundalini and shakti, the Tibetan golden cauldron, the Taoist cinnabar field, etc.

This lower third of the mystical body energizes the being with sexual and assertive vitality (kiryoku). The interests of its chakras are selfish -- individualistic, genetic, reproductive interests. They generate the seed of biological continuity and the enterprise and aggressiveness needed to plant and protect it. Though this complex (and its associated glands and organs) constitutes the body's main ki generator, it must be regularly fired with conscious attention. Accordingly, incessant celibacy does not generally sublimate the energy of this zone, but rather diminishes it to the point of atrophy (as in the old "use it or lose it" maxim). Procreation, individuation and evolution all depend on the vitality of this complex, and nature endowed it with extreme pleasure to barter for the psychic ki it needs for ignition.

The conjugal bonds this complex empowers are thus designed to bind the self to others who will both attentively stimulate it and biologically fulfill it. Sensual union is the apotheosis of this bond and is powerfully synergistic ("bigger than both of us"). In sensual embrace a couple's giving and taking become freely con-fused in an energetic exchange of mounting attention. And pheromones, aromatic molecules of genetic and sexual information, are mutually released to further seal the mind/body communion.

Although conjugal bonds are extremely powerful, they are rather useless to corporate body builders. They are close-in, high-energy ties like the bonds of an atomic nucleus; and the psycho-physical nature of the bonding is such that it cannot be used to join groups much larger than families.

The collaborative bonds of the second chakra complex are rather more useful for tying groups together. While you can only join individuals two by two with the conjugal centers, you can forge quite large bands with collaborative attention. Collaboration in its meaning of working together requires all participants to re-spect (repeatedly observe) each others' activities to keep their selves in sync. The referencing beams of ki or attention they thus exchange form the pulsating attention structure of the group and bind it in common purpose.

The collaborative bond is experienced in the sense of "we" in action. Depending upon how often and how long individuals interconnect their ki to reference themselves, the sensation can be either intense (Iynch mobs, rock bands, team sports, etc.) or more diffuse (construction gangs, research teams, craft cooperatives...).

Collaborative ki, like conjugal ki, is magnified by synergy to a force palpably greater than the sum effort of individual members working alone: esprit de corps. And, as with conjugal ki bonds, the effective radius of the binding force is inherently limited -- here by the need for direct personal referencing between members.

I Owe, Therefore I Am

Corporate body builders must therefore draw on the brain's first chakra complex and its psychic/ideational bonds to link great numbers of people together. Psychic bonds generally fall into two categories -- ninjo (literally 'fellow feeling') bonds, which are primarily psychic enhancements of conjugal or collaborative ties; and giri (literally 'rule by ritual') or social duty bonds, which are evolutionarily distinctive forces that enable the creation of huge social organisms. Ninjo bonds are ties of common feeling like sym-pathy, em-pathy, or affection. They draw on the forces of the southern chakras and can be intense at the personal contact level. The strong reciprocal ki flows bonding mother and infant, master and disciple, or bosom friends can turn their relationships into stable and enduring social structures.

Since ninjo bonds are experientially formed and thus personalized, they too are not the organizational adhesive we seek. For bonding total strangers into large complex bodies we have to turn to the tensile abstractions of giri. Giri bonds are of two basic kinds: a) the ties of psychic identification (I am part of X party/Y religion/Z corporation") empowered by shared ki foci (common enemies, symbols, memories, rituals, etc.); and b) the shackles of indebtedness ("I am ob-liged (with-bound) to . . . "). Unlike the basically egalitarian conjugal and collaborative linkages, these giri bonds are essentially hierarchical and place the 'bonded' in an inferior or subordinate position vis-a-vis another person or a collective entity.

And while both debt and identification are important forces in conjoining social bodies, the former is by far the more coercive and reliable adhesive.

The legal and social recognition of debt as an ob-ligation, or binding relationship, is of course a pancultural phenomenon. Indentured serfs or laborers, common in both Eastern and Western history, were essentially bonded slaves; they were indentured ('entoothed') under the total control of another until the debt was discharged. Whether "I owe my soul to the company store" or I am merely obliged, the creditor has an incessant claim upon my attention, effort and consciousness -- in short, upon my ki. Even the most benignly unremarked debt is at least potential trouble and can therefore provoke uncertainty and tension. In extreme cases, such as the traditional Japanese daughter-in-law/mother-in-law nexus, such anxious awareness of one's vulnerability to another's will or demands also consumes ki, often rendering the debtor not only bound but also gradually debilitated.

The bond of indebtedness is thus not just a restraint upon autonomy. It actually represents an outbound loss of conscious energy. Japan has traditionally understood the psychosomatic implications of this depletion. Debt is a primary cause of suicide and depression among Japanese men, and many older Japanese profess to feeling physically uncomfortable when they fall behind in even the most insignificant gift exchanges. In fact the most common Japanese responses to receiving help or a favor are almost cries of pain: arigato -- "how hard it is to bear... (this obligation)"; and sumimasen -- "(my obligation for this) will never end."

Conceived merely in terms of services, objects or money owed, however, debt is usually only a temporary entrapment. To regain one's autonomy and stanch the psychic hemorrhage, one has only to reciprocate or return what is owed -- always at least a theoretical possibility in Western societies. It was left to Japan's cultural genius to perfect the consciousness of on, the perpetual debt, the unbreakable bond. the lifelong subordination.

On (rhymes with groan) is often defined as a debt of gratitude for a favor or benefit, but the favors or benefits it usually refers to can never be fully reciprocated. You can not, for example, give birth to your parents, an education to your master, or a job to your employer. Insofar then as one is born, trained or employed in Japan, one is inextricably bound by on. The strength of this tie can often astonish outsiders. Watching otherwise progressive Japanese friends yanked haplessly away from lovers for arranged marriages to relative strangers, or from wives and children for years of distant company service is a depressingly common source of foreign bemusement.

In Tokugawa Religion, a classic study of Japanese values, Robert Bellah identifies this dynamic and its utility in drawing individuals into the "larger whole":

Man is weak and helpless by himself. Only with the help of his benevolent superior can he live, and the blessings he receives are so much greater than his ability to return them that ... he can never truly repay: he perpetually stands in debt. The obligation to make the effort, however, is unrelenting. Selfless devotion, though, establishes a 'perfect" relation with the benevolent superordinate, and at the same time allows the individual to identify with him, to lose himself within him.

To make sure that the majority of Japanese remained "weak and helpless" and desirous of losing themselves in a larger body, Japan's leaders have tirelessly promoted child-like devotion and obedience as true loyalty and the only acceptable behavior with respect to authority. From the sixth century until the end of the Pacific War, they incessantly preached the religion of ko (filial piety). Bellah explains its utility for thwarting individuation and consolidating national authority:

To achieve selflessness, for the destruction of self, ko was the best means:

"All the errors of mankind arise from 'self' as we think 'this is my body', 'this is mine', but ko slays self." Filial piety did not compete with loyalty, it reinforced it. We may see in the following quote from Nichiren that filial piety in the last analysis meant loyalty for the Japanese: "When a father opposes the sovereign, dutiful children desert their parents and follow the sovereign. This is filial piety at its highest.” (Ibid.)

Unlike the societies of the West in which the basic unit was nominally the inviolable individuals or those of India or China where the family was fundamental, Japan accorded no basic rights or recognition to anything below the collective. The self of the dutiful Japanese subject was thus to remain juvenile, undefined and totally responsive to the directive will of the group. To keep his or her attentive energy (ki) circulating solely within the group (and the group itself loyally incorporated within the greater body politic), Japan employed group responsibility, emperor worship and the doctrine of kokutai, the mystical body of the state.

The concept of group responsibility effectively preempted the right or possibility of privacy in Japan. Indeed, it still does so in many homes, schools and companies even though the sanctions have waned somewhat. In the past, all personal actions could have widespread and lethal social repercussions and thus became everybody's business.

Entire families, five-family groups, and even villages and wards might be held responsible for the act of a single individual. A wrong step would jeopardize not only himself but could bring disaster upon his group. The group itself thus came to place social conformity higher than group membership, and a transgressor was more apt to receive rejection than support from his brethren. This situation leads to a close identification with the collectivity and a tendency for all the subcollectivities to support the rule and morality of the total collectivity at whatever cost to themselves.

                                                                                                                (Ibid.)

To further dissolve the organic bonds that people formed in their neighborhoods, shrines and work groups, the imperial institution was utilized, sometimes cynically, to foster a conception of overriding loyalty:

The whole nation is a single family. The Emperor is "divine", he is "lord" and he is "father" of the national family. The people are worshipers, retainers and children. This is one aspect of what is meant by "kokutai", a conception of the state in which religious, political and familialistic ideas are indissolubly merged... and consequently all action is governed by "on". (Ibid.)

Such ideology provides Japan with a powerful locomotive for modern collective activity. Virtually all Japanese corporate bodies -- ecclesiastic, criminal, commercial etc. -- can be seen as miniature emperor systems that lay total claim to their members' religious, political, familial, economic and even recreational energies. In defining the total psychic environment they cultivate complete dependency and thus control of their constituents. Bellah's work was confined to the Edo era, but Nakane Chie's postwar study, Japanese Society, attests to the endurance of the ancient paradigm:

With group consciousness so highly developed there is almost no social life outside the particular group on which an individual's major economic life depends.. . to the point that the human relationships with this 'household'' group are thought of as more important than all other human relationships... This corporate "family" even envelops the employee's personal family; it engages or surrounds him totally (marugakae in Japanese). Thus group participation is simple and unitary, and each corporate body develops a high degree of independence and closeness, with its own internal law which is totally binding on all members.

Binding together the group-needy is child's play. The real challenge to the developer of social organisms comes from the reluctant joiners. The response is to make the social environment too threatening for the luxury of independence, by obstructing one of the prerequisites of a free and individualistic culture: the guarantee of swift and impartial justice. A legal system that equally protects the weak and the powerful or holds them to a single standard of conduct has yet to be established in Japan. The glacial pace of the civil court system, for example, seems expressly designed to favor the more powerful (usually corporate) party. The 15 to 20 years it commonly takes for civil or class action suits to reach final judgment here can grind even the most righteous individual plaintiffs into exhaustion and penury.

Equally important, the glaring legal "exceptions" that are consistently made for certain influential bodies teach the Japanese quite effectively where true power and protection must be sought in this society. Gambling is illegal in Japan, except for ultranationalist mobsters like racing tycoon Sasagawa Ryoichi ("I'm the world's richest fascist."). Prostitution is illegal in Japan, except for the yakuza-run and saturation-advertised "soaplands", call girl services and strip / sex shows. The yakuza syndicates' brazen land swindles, their forced evictions for banks and developers, their intimidation of corporate stockholders and citizen activists on behalf of polluting corporations are further examples of official benign neglect. Subservient to the establishment, ferocious to the citizens, the yakuza and militant rightists are the corporate bodies' samurai. Their activities and immunity dramatize a message to the Individual: "Equal protection under the law is yet a myth, my child. Better run for corporate cover."

All in the HeaD

To raise a strong, healthy corporate body thus requires two technologies. First, a series of cultural techniques to encephalize your population's ki, to shift its primary charge away from the self-intensive bonds of the lower complexes and up to the potential we-ness of the mind. And second, techniques to keep their ki concentrated within the group's psychic perimeter.

A variety of pervasive methods for encephalizing ki were noted above in our consideration of Japanese anthroculture (the domestication of humans for corporate inclusion). The hormonal effects of educational stress, estrogenic soybean foods and arranged dispassionate marriages disable lower chakra activity and influence. This shift of social emphasis to the cooler northern chakras helps strengthen abstract social tie-ups but it also embezzles ki from private concerns. The erotic and the social are psychically linked. Taking a stand is, socially speaking, a phallic act, and to stand up for one's self or principles in a Japanese group is as publicly assertive, seminal and usually unwelcome as an erection. As the saying goes: "The nail that sticks up gets hammered down" (Deru kugi wa utareru).

Likewise, the educational and economic devaluation of bodily skills, manual trades and physical expressiveness demote the body (and its motive central chakras) to a mere transport vehicle for the mind. As a Japanese friend once observed, "for salarimen the hand is primarily a device to keep the watch from falling off." As the descendants of hunting cultures blow away rabbits on Sunday and citified farm children gild urban alleys with green, Japan's atavistic craft urges are now bonsai’d to the twitching of pachinko levers.

While encephalization is perhaps strongest here, it is certainly not unique to Japan. lt occurs wherever education and high-status professions are defined mainly in terms of cerebral activity. Northern Europeans, American Wasps and some modern Jews can be seen to demonstrate aspects of the phenomenon -- picture a graph of Nobel prizes to Ashkenazic Jews plotted against their Olympic medals. In fact corporate thinking in most industrial societies has virtually deified encephalization as an evolutionary ideal. Consider popular sci-fi portrayals of 'advanced' aliens as epicene, marshmallow-headed dwarfs...

How socialization shifts the personal center of identity or gravity is quite evident in different cultures' body languages for indicating the self. The combative and lineage-conscious Old Testament Semite male, for example, identified and committed his self in oaths by grasping his testicles. (Testes, testament and testify share the same etymological root.) Americans, by contrast, whose identities are determined more by individual effort and abilities than by blood, tend to touch their chests when indicating the self in ceremonies or conversation. The Japanese, however, tend to define their selves in terms of memberships in larger collectives. (Indeed, some common forms of self-introduction do not even mention the speaker: Mitsubishi no mono desu, "Mitsubishi's thing/person am.") As the individual's life is largely controlled by group ties and the nexus of those ties is in the head, a Japanese usually indicates the self by pointing at his or her nose.

Another rough gauge of a society's encephalization is its members' acquittal on the dance floor. As ki becomes more concentrated in the upper chakras, less is available to animate expressive movement. Encephalized bodies, more aware of the social environment than of the internal force of the music, tend to remain 'self conscious', and generally display little grace, rhythm or improvisational abandon. As encephalization proceeds and energy is drawn north on the body's axis, the psychosoma becomes almost ionized. Since the neglected lower chakras no longer generate as much kiryoku the individual loses energetic self-sufficiency and becomes increasingly dependent on input from the social environment. One becomes an obligate joiner, socially clinging, addicted to external influence. One craves group life because that is where the largest, cheapest supply of social ki is found.

Japanese ethics further reinforce this outer-directedness. Here values are not universal principles that an individual can embody and stand up for on one's own, but are rather flexible and situational, requiring constant external attention to what is already happening, to determine what is right. Nakane observes, Japanese morality is always determined by contemporary trends. The feeling that 'I must do this because A and B are also doing it' or 'they will laugh at me unless I do such-and-such,' rules the life and behavior of the individual with greater force than any other consideration."

Japanese encephalization consequently creates an unusually strong susceptibility to fashions and trends, which are referred to as ryuko, 'going with the flow'. Such social tides are analogous to the streaming movements of syncytial bodies, generating almost unthinking submission to the authority of the 'current'. This wavelike power is not restricted to marketing booms or to inane crazes for the likes of frilly lizards or 'American Outdoor Life'. Since such followings override or dissolve critical judgment, the same orchestration of media influence could conceivably lead great numbers to political extremism, racial xenophobia and perhaps even militarism.

One for All?

Today such organismic meditations are of more than theoretical interest. Japan's far right appears ready to exploit syncytial dynamics in its campaign to reestablish imperial discipline and a homogeneous xenophobic nationalism. Many old guard and/or mercenary scholars pump out popular nihonjinron ("Theories of Japaneseness") tracts which focus discussion on the country's origins, 'essence' and manifest destiny, and attempt to promote widespread fascination with what is truly, 'uniquely' Japanese. Furthermore Japan's conservative political establishment's hardline refusal to apologize for past aggressions and its enduring participation in the Shinto rites at Yasukuni Shrine (where the country's war dead are augustly enshrined) continues to tempt ultranationalists with the possibility of again merging Japan's religious and political bodies and regenerating the overriding authority of the kokutai.

Preparations are already underway. Besides the war shrine visits, the increasing volume and visibility of rightist bus parades and the literary attacks on Jews that mask recent anti-Americanism -- all are attention-getting preludes to this "hopeful" new period. Each focuses national awareness on the rightists' agenda and coalesces social ki around their imperial founder cell.

Conversely, textbook censorship, teachers union-bashing and terrorism against liberal media serve to quell opposing currents of thought and assure that the coming agitation leads not to divisive controversy but to consensus and further centralization of power.

Rightist ideologues appear confident the population is ready for such a consolidation . And indeed, many citizens frustrated by foreign animosity, economic insecurity or a lack of national purpose might again welcome the embrace of a powerful mystical body. Certainly without a persuasive vision of Japan's future, the society's worried attention is up for grabs. Effectively channeled it could yet animate a new imperialistic organism of world-shaking proportions.

- END -

 



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Excerpted from SOCIAL GROUPS

OF MONKEYS, APES AND MEN

by M.B.R. Chance & Clifford Jolly \

 

Introduction to Attention Structure
by M.B.R. Chance & Clifford Jolly

 

 INTERPRETATION OF SUBHUMAN PRIMATE SOCIAL LIFE

             The rat and the monkey can, by virtue of possessing social submission postures, maintain social relations under agonistic con­ditions which for mice disrupt social relations. Male mice can put up a defence under attack, but separate when agonistic encounters be­come too severe; subordinate male rats can terminate the encounter by reducing its severity, while not losing touch with the other individual. Subordinate savannah baboons and macaques become fixated on a more dominant male, because every tendency impelling them to move is oriented with reference to him.

So far, the evidence has enabled us to draw up a picture of the way in which social behaviour orients an individual towards a companion when different social propensities are brought into play in agonistic situations. This is expressed mainly in the relations between adult males, whose behaviour is typically rank-ordered. We must now look more closely into this type of bond so as to construct the way in which social bonds, linking members of sub-groups, can be developed out of the behavioural propensities of the individual.

The structure of attention

The social attention of the individuals within a cohort separated from the rest of the society must be directed exclusively at the other members of it. The possibility arises, therefore, that even when they are an integral part of the complete society, distinct coherence of a cohort of males may depend on their maintaining a predominant degree of attention towards themselves... A situation precisely like this occurs within the one-male groups of the hamadryas baboons studied by Kummer and Kurt. These consist of two or more females grouped round a single adult male. The identity of these groups remains distinct even when a number of them associate together as a troop. Kurumcr has pointed out that they maintain their discrete coherence during the proximity of one-male groups to one another. In addition, Kummer and Kurt have evidence that the attention of the females is restricted almost exclusively to their own male, as can be seen from the fact that they follow the male as soon as he moves off; and, moreover, their interaction with near-by individuals from other groups is very small...

The recognition of the predominant direction of attention during distinct periods of activity of a group can reveal the structure of the relationships within that group. For example, in the usual foraging behaviour of a patas group consisting of female assemblies separated by a great distance from their attendant males, the predominant attention of the mother and young is directed towards each other in ways that have not yet been fully described, whereas that of the male is directed predominantly outwards towards the environment. The bachelor bands probably have a separate centre of attention within the band if they are found to be rank-ordered. In a savannah baboon group, on the other hand, all the individuals show predominant attention to the dominant males. A large environmentally directed component is also present in most of the adults, especially in the sub-dominant males, whose activity keeps them on the periphery of the group.

It is here suggested that in these situations the attention has a binding quality. If this is so, the amount of attention directed within the group is of paramount importance for an understanding of the inter-individual bond and of social organization. The relationship between individuals can then be understood by the way they orient themselves, both spatially and in dependent types of behaviour, with respect to the predominant focus of attention.

Broadly speaking, dominance is at present considered to be that attribute of an animal's behaviour which enables it to obtain an object when in competition with others. The means by which this is achieved is usually regarded as superior strength, whether exerted in direct competition by active threats or by persistent self-assertive bearing accompanied by a complete lack of hesitancy which brooks no delay in the response of its subordinates. This is sometimes accompanied by the suggestion that the recognition of superior strength by subordinates may be the result of prior experience or learning. There is little direct evidence and much supposition in this popular formulation and it is important to examine more closely the actual nature of dominance-submission relationships. A redefinition is now proposed on the assumption that the attention-binding effect of an animal in a group, not simply aggressiveness, is the essential quality which puts it in a behaviourally focal position and which also tends to place it near the group's spatial centre. Thus the dominant animal may be said to dominate the attention of others at most, if not all, times, and usually without taking any specific actions to achieve this. This definition satisfies a feature of the dominance-submission relationship for which there has recently been increasing evidence: namely, that in many species the most active part of this relationship is played by the subordinate rather than by the dominant animal itself. This is consistent with a relationship based on the attention of the subordinate being constantly directed towards the dominant animal. Thus we should seek to define the nature of attention by the characteristics of the subordinate's behaviour, and investigate how its operation may be recognized and possibly measured, and what are its components and effects.

Social bonds · the outcome of predominant attention

Attention in primates is primarily one of visual awareness or, more precisely, awareness dependent on visual information. If an animal's attention is persistently drawn by another individual it needs to be informed as to where this dominant animal is at any particular moment. This can come about by scanning the whole field of vision until the position of the dominant animal is found, or by a simple turning movement oriented towards where he last was, implying some trace of awareness as a directing component. A recurrent, if sporadic, re-awakening of such memory traces would appear to act as reminders prompting the female gelada baboon to keep near her overlord despite the distractions of the other members of the troop...

The memory of where the dominant animal was may receive constant reinforcement by repeated glances towards, or seeking out of, the dominant individual. By this method a subordinate animal achieves reassurance that no change has taken place since the oc­casion when the dominant animal was last seen. The frequency with which this seeking out takes place depends on the urgency with which the subordinate animal needs this information, and this ur­gency will vary with the nature of the response which it is required to make. Hence, attention can be the result of previous aggression.

If all that it needs to do is to keep the dominant animal in sight in order to be able to follow it, then there will be no great urgency; but if, at the same time, it needs to avoid coming too close, or to keep an appropriate distance, the urgency will be greater. Finally, the greater the amount of movement among members of the group, the more attention will have to be directed away from other occupations in order to maintain or re-establish contact, or ensure the maintenance of a clear social space around dominant individuals.

To return to the behaviour of the dominant animal with this in mind, we can now see that an aggressive disposition in a dominant animal will engender a more urgent state in a subordinate one, and that the more specifically this aggression is directed at one individual the more it will tend to bind this individual's attention exclusively and thereby segregate this individual from the rest of the group and bind the relationship.

Persistent attention by subordinate members of a rank order towards more dominant members, or towards a supremely dominant individual, is a feature common to all the examples of rank-ordered behaviour reported. It is the mechanism whereby sentinel savannah baboons take up their position at the edge of a troop, as well as being the way in which members of the breeding hierarchy relate themselves to one another in this species. It is the way in which the initiative of the younger male macaques who move away from the night resting-places eventually becomes dependent on the movement of one of the dominant males at the centre, and this determines the movement of the group as a whole. It accounts for the cohesion and separate existence of male cohorts of chimpanzees, the breeding males of the Japanese and bonnet macaques, and the cohesiveness of gorilla bands and the 'leadership' of the dominant male gorilla. It appears to be the basis of the one-male group of the hamadryas baboon. Rank order and the cohesiveness of a cohort, band or heterosexual group therefore arise out of the persistent attention of subordinates towards the more dominant individuals of the group which, since it is directed ultimately at a single dominant individual, tends to space out the members of a rank order around this individual. It organizes behaviour along vectors radiating outwards from him when aggression is a prominent feature, and inwards towards him when subordinate behaviour is involved. Priority of access is not therefore a constant correlate of rank order relations within a group, nor is aggression always associated with high status. Hence, neither can be considered as a fundamental part of rank order relations. On the other hand, spatial features are the outcome of subordinate behaviour and attention to the dominant animal.

The societies which are organized during the active phases, and especially during agonistic periods, of their daily life cycle of activity together with, or around, a rank order of adult males can be described as centripetal. The centripetal attention of subordinates, balanced, by escape from the dominant individual, tends to space them out around the dominant individual, usually a male, except when other activities disrupt this tendency.

We can now see that predominant attention to a single individual can, by acting as a common focus of attention, provide a means by which a number of individuals cohere; the same end can be achieved by a series of links in a chain of attention. It seems that a gorilla group, the members of which, as Schaller says, are attentive to the movement of others in the dense forest environment, coheres by the latter means, except on the occasions when the dominant male stands motionless, with legs spread, indicating his readiness to move: then he becomes the focus of attention. The same occurs when he beats his chest.

In a baboon or macaque group, agonistic behaviour can include not only aggression and escape, but also mating. We can now see that in a state of high agonistic arousal each member of a group is likely to be kept close to the other by activation of the components of the SIAM complex, plus reflected escape. From the evidence of the animal's overt behaviour we see that the arousal of these drives may be the mechanism by which centripetal attention is engendered. The mechanisms controlling attention in them, therefore, reside at least partly in the intrinsic structure of the individual's behaviour, as well as in those outside signals which may demand attention.

The structure of attention is, then, the pattern represented by periods of continuous or oscillatory attention which link the individual's internal state of preparedness for social action to the members of the group or sub-group to which it belongs. The individual's attention structure thereby links it to its place in the society.

The nature of attention organized in the agonistic and hedonic modes

Virgo and Waterhouse found a way of assessing the emergence of attention structure amongst rhesus macaques in the Bristol Zoo. They appear to have shown that in this colony, grooming relations constituted a network of 'positive' attention focused on an adult male, whereas subordination and avoidance responses were focused on an aggressive female, and they suggest that 'any theory of attention must take into account the possibility of divided foci of attention'. Reynolds and Luscombe have studied the behaviour of a group of chimpanzees in a thirty-acre enclosure at the Holloman Air Force Base in the New Mexican desert, and they found that chimpanzee attention structure is based upon attention-demanding behaviour or display, practised competitively between males of the colony, and is distinct from the pattern of aggression between the same individuals. This display behaviour leads not to submission or appeasement by a subordinate, but is a form of social solicitation, as it leads on to forms of associative behaviour in which there is a continuing interaction between individuals, such as grooming, play, sexual or mothering behaviour with the displayer. That the rank order established by attention-demanding displays is directly comparable with other forms of rank order is evident from the fact that priority of access to preferred food is obtained by status in this rank order, showing that competitive success is not, in this instance, based on aggression. Aggression has to be opposed by counter-aggression, appeased, or avoided, all forms of behaviour designed to eliminate the intensity and continuity of the social contact. Display behaviour, responded to by greeting, stimulates and enhances the tendency of individuals to develop many forms of contact behaviour or behaviour at close quarters. Manipulation, both of the individual's own body or that of a companion, not only by grooming but also by holding and investigation, is jointly engaged in. Their attention may also switch to the environment or to other objects and give rise to manipulation of objects as tools.

Play which involves grappling the other individual can also be readily transferred to ropes, branches and loose branches or sticks, and then these physical objects used, as with sticks as scrapers or for poking, or as a means of display, or spectacularly, as in agile manoeuvres such as pole vaulting, when a branch may be used to jump three times the height of the individual. Such varied and flexible behaviour, both social and non-social in form, but often involving the combined attention of two companions towards each other and towards a physical object, is clearly of a different nature from the rigid, fixed pattern of agonistic behaviour, and should be regarded as constituting a separate mode for which the term hedonic is proposed. This word has the same root as hedonism, but as yet has no specific correlation with the description of human behaviour, as has hedonistic. It is proposed that it should be taken into use as a classificatory term for the behaviour of subhuman primates, without the subjective connotation associated with 'hedonistic' but suggesting an affinity with pleasant human feelings.

From observation of this behaviour in two captive colonies of chimpanzees (at the Holloman Air Force Base and at the Delta Regional Primate Center, Covington, Louisiana) the following features suggest that the major difference that exists between the agonistic and hedonic modes of behaviour is as follows. In the hedonic mode, display leads to ongoing but flexible social relations which can act as the medium for the dissemination of information within tile society. The processes underlying this dissemination of information may turn out to rely on actions which arise from the individual's propensities and others' reactions to these more than in the agonistic mode.

In the agonistic mode, information transfer from one individual to another is disrupted by responses to aggression: e.g. by inflexible rank-ordered social relations, by 'cut-off' acts and postures, and by gross differences in the way members of the society handle information (because of their social position).

It is further suggested that an individual's social attention in the hedonic mode is polydiadic: i.e. at any moment it relates one individual to another, but frequent changes of attention to other individuals are possible; whereas in the agonistic mode, which is essentially rank-ordered and centripetal, triadic relations occur, and often remain fixed, being part of the mechanism which coerces individuals to cohere in fixed rank-ordered social relations.

- END -


 

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Letter From London

by Matthew De Abaitua

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Pay Attention
 by Matthew De Abaitua

If you replaced every logo, advert and brand image you see on the high street with a quote from the Bible, you would feel that you were living in an intolerably strict religious state," I said to the cab driver, as we rode the small hump of a bridge. He didn't brake over the crest, my stomach went giddy. "I mean, if you took all the billboards and put Jesus on them, there'd be a revolution. If you replaced the icons of one ideology with the icons of another, you realise the absurdity you've been living with, everyday, your whole life."

 

 It was an interesting thought, but an idiotic thing to say, when I really should have been giving directions. To his credit, the cabbie was blasé about this riff. He'd just confessed to me how he lost his job during the last recession, and I'd taken it as a cue to sound off on my increasing obsession with consumerism. In turn, he stayed schtumm during my rant while he waited for an equally tenuous cue to bring his ex-wife into the conversation. Unfazed--as ever--by the indifference of my audience, I launched into a description of an artwork I'd devised in the pub: You paste up photographs taken from the darker slumps in 20th century history--say Stalin's gulags--then over them you paste an actual advert. Then, you strategically tear that advert to reveal the real terrors of history that lie beneath the fabrications of the eternal present. "My ex-wife used to be the woman in the shower from the Shield soap advert," he said, tapping his index fingers against the wheel while we idled at the light. "She doesn't look like that anymore, that's for sure."

 

 Adverts are appearing at the bottom of golf holes, above urinals, on the side of eggs, the back of receipts, bus tickets, and on the billboards that are colonising the city. London has become a city of brands. But no-one seems bothered. Except me. You have to fight tooth and nail for planning permission to adjust the roof of your house, but no-one bats an eyelid when a 30-foot billboard is slapped onto a wall. The fly posters go up, no-one takes them down, the corpses of long-dead promotions hang about for years. The demands on your attention are close to unbearable. When, that is, you notice them, when the background flips to foreground, and the procession of provocative adverts rattle around in your consciousness rather than slipping smoothly into the unconscious. "Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket," said Orwell, an attributed quote I have never quite understood. Unless he means the mind is the swill bucket, my mind.

 

 "Ambient advertising" --the business of putting adverts in public spaces--is a booming industry. It has outgrown all other advertsing sectors in the last three years. In 1995, it hauled in profits of £10 million. In 1998, these have grown to about £58m. It has taken the metaphorical advertising phrase of "selling space" literally, snatching up the places where your eye falls, and - in that pervasive new corporate ethos--making them work harder. Why should the side of that house waste its time just holding up the roof when it could also be promoting 'Smints? Adverts are making the bricks shout, the railings wail, and the windows threaten one another with bitter asides--incessant eye noise, and I'm the only one listening to it.

 

 Ridley Road market is off the Kingsland Waste, next to Dalston Junction, in Hackney in East London. But it could easily be in Marrakesh. The market is a cultural pile-up: The sounds of Cypriot, Bangladeshi, Turkish, Nigerian, and cockney compete for your attention as you turn the corner of Dalston Lane. The faded red canvas roofs of the stalls are crammed before you, romanticised by the noon steam of a Saturday. If you walk through the market, you notice how swiftly one culture merges into the next: Gospel music from one stall will be replaced by pig cheeks two paces later, four paces and you can admire the braids of hair for sale, six paces and there'll be someone flogging you cheap lemons, knock-off Teletubbies, a bag of salmon bones. Hands stuffing apples into a paper bag, twisting it shut, presenting it, reaching out to the tomatoes. Hands weighing fish, flinging them onto ice, gutting them. Everything is quite at once and around you and wanting you to buy it.

 

 Walk beyond Ridley Road market, into Dalston Junction, and pick up the 38 bus. It will take you down Balls Pond Road, and soon the murals of Hackney's community art will give way to billboards and fly posters as you speed into the more affluent area of Islington. But the clamour of Ridley Road doesn't ease away. Rather it becomes a visual barrage. The lamposts will be spattered with stickers for singles that have long since left the charts; bus shelters will blare out the latest butter substitute (in Britain, we already have the seminal I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! and the tasty newcomer Utterly Butterly); black cabs will cluster, each one bearing an advert for a fitness centre, the Financial Times, the Yellow Pages. The traditional press of the street market shifts into the brand pulse of modern consumer market. On High Street, cardboard squares will be inserted in between the railings running down the centre of the road, advertising a West End Show, or a newspaper exclusive. You might head down to Old Street, where the roundabout is topped by huge billboards advertising financial services, quality products for the affluent citizens driving up from the nearby City, home to London's stock market. Or you might push onto Clerkenwell, the pace of the posters accelerating, each one demanding your attention, giving your experience of the city a stroboscopic feel.

 

 It's all about grabbing your attention, making it pay. Think of attention as a commodity. Others have. In a typically grandiose article in Wired last year, Michael Goldhaber hypothesised an entire attention economy, in which the behaviour he had observed on the Internet (where the attention a site receives creates its value) applies to the real world of jobs and goods. His vision of a society exchanging attention as payment sounds like the fantasy of a commune of narcissists, I know, but his first premise is sound. It is incorrect to speak of an "information economy," because information is an infinite resource, and you can't have economic forces without scarcity. So it is more accurate to place attention at the centre of the information age. After all it is scarce, and its value is easy to measure, determined by the status of owner of the attention.

 

 The attention of a broker controlling investment funds can be worth millions, if you are the company (or country) lucky enough to attract it. The entire Internet is funded on the promise that some day the attention that sites receive will transform itself into money. All of which is by way of saying that you have only so much attention at your disposal each day, and--the same way you can grow to resent the emotional imposition of beggars--I resent having to pay mine out to ambient adverts.

 

 Speaking of which, when I started thinking about all this I couldn't figure out whether the limbs hacked off a child beggar in Delhi were the origins of the attention economy, or its end. Being hacked apart by your parents or your pimp for one second of a rich man's gaze could be a cynical extrapolation of where ambient advertising is leading us, or a telling glimpse into its past. What has changed is the time over which the attention economy functions. Modern advertising can afford to be less immediate than a stump, it can wait until you wander into a shop, maybe months later. Brands are in it for the long haul, beggars--and street markets--are not. They need you to pay up there and then, and that calls for the shock tactics of pity or intimidation.

 

 A ride back from work on the 38 bus, back up from Islington and toward Ridley Road Market. In five second intervals, a billboard ripples from one advert to the next: a battery bearing its muscles, a blue beachscape, something else, I don't know, now I'm looking at a Turkish man strolling down the street with his beaten leather jacket over one shoulder, then a woman with a pushchair out in front of her and a toddler trailing behind. "It's the city, the city, the city," I'm repeating in my mind. Then I'm trying to spend my attention on scraps of the pastoral--to see the sky again, or a scurf of grass washed up on the side of the road. I mean this is only the trip home from work, there is no reason for me to get so worked up. But I'm playing with myself, simulating fast-cut editing by focusing in on the ads and the images, then the people and the planes in the sky. Not so much the eye imitating the camera, as the mind imitating the editing suite.

 

 It's the adverts that start to crank up my sense of claustrophobia. Now that I have begun to notice them, I cannot ignore them, and spot brands everywhere I look. I count out a five-brands-a-second frequency on my walk down my street, picking them off the back of parked cars or toys glimpsed over fences. There is a storm of attention at major junctions. A hurricane of attention on Oxford Street, where most tourists trudge for their Saturday shopping. This attention weather passes over London, and leaves behind heaps of brands that gather in the lee of the streets. Empty wrappers, spent desires.

 

 I confuse this pile of branded junk with the parts of my identity I have slewed off as I have moved through successive consumer cycles. It's a confusion of the junk inside and the junk outside. It could be considered to be a new branch of psychogeography--where instead of studying the effect of architecture, religious symbolism, and history on the character of the citizens, we investigate the intersection of the city, its marketing architecture, and the mind.

 

 London is no longer aloof. Its sheer stone indifference has been covered with promises and imprecations. The clamour for your attention that characterises the traditional market place--like Ridley Road Market--has spread, and each promise is aimed at You, and You alone. A ride around the streets makes you think the whole city is about You, things that You might want, people You might become. London is a narrowing state of consciousness. It's all I can think about. Ask my cabbie.

 

- END -

 


 

 

 

 TOWARD A UNIFIED THEORY OF POLITICS, MEDICINE AND SENSUAL EVOLUTION Skeleton for a Suggestive Body of Evidence Revealing the Secrets of Corporate Behavior, Japanese Industrial Anthroculture and Most Modern Diseases of the Biosphere

 

Lusions
 
compiled by W.D.K.

 

Suggestive Bio-Social Parallels
for a Theory of Gaian Disease

 

Even the most cursory review of medical literature reveals one bemusing and little mentioned fact - there's really no such thing as a 'disease'. That is, there is no one such 'thing'. Dis-ease, it turns out, is just heavy duty un-ease in the psychosomatic system. It's our one-size-fits-all semantic label for a living system under attack from almost any quarter. Regarding our own psychosomatic ecologies, we are constantly, if subliminally, vigilant for intruders stirring up trouble in our cellular populations. Whether they are 2 angstrom viruses or 2 inch liver flukes, sub-atomic gamma rays or 4 meter tapeworms we rightly holler, "Disease!"

 

Webster lays it out pretty clearly. A disease is merely 1) [obsolete] trouble; 2) a: an impairment of the normal state of the living body that affects the performance of its vital functions; b: a particular instance or kind of such impairment. Entertain for a moment the Gaia Hypothesis that the Earth is itself a singular living system. And further suppose that things like acid rain, ozone depletion, increasing radioactivity, rising temperatures, toxic wastes, dying rain forests, vanishing species, etc. represent "an impairment of the normal state of her living body and vital functions". (Or, less theoretically, just suppose that they are affecting and impairing the vital functions of the human species in a very systematic, detrimental way.) With this in mind we may be again justified in hollering, Disease!" and prompted to start thinking about modern problems in a rather "medical" way.

 

Traditional medical approaches usually begin with diagnostics or etiology, the identification or study of a disease's origin. Certain pop critics of social or Gaian malaise, for example, like to glibly (and deceptively) trace all such pathologies to he existence and activities of Homo Sapiens. "We" are the problem, the cause, the enemy, they say. It is man's inhumanity to man, man's inherent greed, man's unnatural assaults upon Nature that threaten the future of the species and the biosphere. This bootless reasoning at once both blames the victim (or one of them) and effectively blocks further action or understanding as few care to prescribe our therapeutic self-extermination.

 

A more fruitful line of reasoning opens up, however, with the advent of living systems theory. Living systems thinking conceives of unique levels of life - the cell, the individual organism, the large corporate body, the nation-state, the geo-political economy - that exist simultaneously and interdependently. Each level of organization both comprises a system of the smaller units and transcends it. A human or any complex animal consists of and depends upon its internal cellular population, but is obviously much more than their mere sum. Likewise, a collective body - like Mitsubishi, the Catholic Church, the Pentagon, etc. - while consisting of human beings, presents us with a new, supra-human level of existence or social reality.

 

Modern germ theory has conditioned us to think of pathogens or disease agents as very small entities - viruses, bacteria, spirochetes, etc. The stress and damage pathogens cause to living bodies, though, bear no relation to their scale. And, as with our 4-meter tapeworms, the disease organism may in some respects actually be larger than the victim. Much larger, in fact, if you can conceive of the Church's murder of millions during the Inquisition or of the Nazi Holocaust as impairments of the victims' normal states and vital functions. Similarly, many modern assaults on the planet's ecology may be seen as issuing not simply from the acts of malicious individuals, but rather from the malignant growth, agendas and activities of great corporate bodies. Blaming humans in these cases is often equivalent to blaming the tapeworm's constituent cells for their parent being's pathological behavior.

 

Thinking of large collective bodies as new evolutionary life forms that are frequently pathogenic (with respect to Gaia or individual humans) offers a heuristic new perspective for "medical" insight. It also allows many of our currently competitive counter-culture movements an effective basis for synergy and collaboration. When anti-nuclear movements, wildlife preservation people, human rights activists, et al. all realize they are confronting different symptoms of the same corporate epidemic, we may at last witness results commensurate with their years of effort.

 

This compilation is intended to catalyze that insight through an innovative re-examination of vast corporate bodies as unique living systems, and of the memetic values that promote their evolution and anonymous influence over modern consciousness. For such an inquiry into corporate life forms, Japan is perhaps the most fertile turf on the planet. As Australia is to marsupials or Africa to the apes, Japan is to collective beings - not the only place to study them, but by far the richest. Japanese corporate bodies like the "New Religions", the zaibatsu/keiretsu, the yakuza syndicates, the ruling bureaucracies, et al. are arguably the most integrated and evolved social organisms the Earth has yet experienced.

 

The following collage attempts to offer readers some subjective sense of these organisms' bio-social reality. It consists simply of juxtaposed quotes from standard works on Japanese culture/society and on biological collectives. The orderly array of correspondences does not of course "prove" anything. But to those trying to understand Japan's corporate vitality, the true nature of social organisms, or the nascent field of corporate anthroculture, it may be of heuristic value.

 

PHILOSOPHICAL OVERVIEW

excerpted from The Phenomenon of Man

by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Collins & Sons, London, 1959.

Does not the only way out of our dead-end lie in introducing boldly into our intellectual framework yet another category to serve for the super individual? After all, why not? Geometry would have remained stationary if it had not in the end accepted 'e' and other incommensurables. The calculus would never have resolved the problems posed by modern physics if it had not constantly continued to conceive new functions. For identical reasons biology will not be able to generalize itself upon the whole of life without introducing new concepts, that it now needs to deal with certain stages of being which common experience has hitherto been able to ignore - in particular that of the "collective". Yes, from now on we envisage, beside and above individual realities, the collective realities that are not reducible to their component elements yet are in their own way just as 'objective'...

 

The innumerable foci which share a given volume of matter [or society] are not independent of each other. Something holds them together...We do not get what we call matter [or society] as a result of the simple aggregation and juxtaposition of individual entities. For that, a mysterious identity must absorb and cement them, an influence at which our mind rebels in bewilderment at first but which in the end it must perforce accept. We mean a sphere 'above' the individual centres and enveloping them. Throughout these pages, in each new phase of anthropogenesis, we shall find ourselves faced by the unimaginable reality of collective bonds, and we shall have to struggle with them without ceasing until we succeed in recognizing and defining their true nature. Here in the beginning it is sufficient to include them all under the empirical name given by science to their common initial principle, namely 'energy' [or in Eastern terms and more precisely: Ki].

 

Under this name, which conveys the experience of effort with which we are familiar in ourselves, physics has introduced the precise formulation of a capacity for action or, more exactly, for interaction. 'Energy' [or Ki] is the measure of that which passes from one entity to another in the course of their transformations. A unifying power, then, but also, because the entity appears to become enriched or exhausted in the course of the exchange, the expression of structure.

 

From the aspect of energy, material or social entities may now be treated as transient reservoirs of concentrated power. Though never found in a state of purity, but always more or less granulated (even in light), energy nowadays represents for science a kind of primordial flux in which all that has shape in the world is but a series of fleeting 'vortices'...

            De Chardin was a paleontologist deeply concerned with the evolutionary history and destiny of the planet. In the opening of his book (condensed below) he discusses the historical development of new phyla in terms which are remarkably appropriate to the development of corporate organisms. The"fibres" he refers to are spans of evolutionary initiative or intervals of development as seen from a    geo-historical perspective. (The space/time "fibre" metaphor also turns out to be strangely apt for considering the evolution of Japan's social bodies. The Japanese word for their basic cell or constituent, the individual person, is 'ningen', a term denoting extension in both space and time, and which literally means a "human interval" or a "span of a human life."

 

By 'aggregate of growth' I mean the new and unexpected fact that a dispersion 'of simple type' occurs precisely where the play of chance would have made us most fear a complicated tangle. When poured out on the ground, a sheet of water quickly breaks up into streamlets and then into definite streams. Similarly, under the influence of various causes (such as attraction and mutual adjustment, the selective influence of the environment and so on) the fibres of a living a mass in the process of diversification tend to draw together, to bind, following a restricted number of dominant directions [or, among men, social cultures]. In the beginning this concentration of forms around a few privileged axes is indistinct and indefinite; it involves a mere increase, in certain sectors, of the number or density of the fibres. Then gradually the movement takes shape. True nervures or veins become visible...at this stage individual fibres may still partially escape from the network which is trying to contain them [c.f. the schismatic heresies of the early Church, the break-away of post-revolutionary factions, etc.]. But at this point there takes place what may be called the final aggregation or final separation (according to the point of view we take). Having reached a certain degree of mutual cohesion, the fibres isolate themselves in a closed sheath that can no longer be penetrated by neighboring sheaves. From now on their association, the 'bundle', the corporate body, will evolve on its own, autonomously. The species has become individualized. The phylum has been born.

            [Imagine for a moment what inclusion in this 'final aggregation' might subjectively mean to our sentient fibre, the individual ningen, as he is terminally ensheathed. Prof. Chie Nakane, perhaps Japan's foremost sociologist offers some empathic assistance.]

 

“This consciousness is perhaps revealed in the way a Japanese uses the expression uchi (my house or home) to mean the place of work, organization, office, or school to which he belongs. The term kaisha [company] does not mean that individuals are bound by contractual relationships into a corporate enterprise, while still thinking of themselves as separate entities: rather, kaisha is 'my' or 'our' corporate body, the community to which one belongs primarily, and which is all-important in one's life. Thus in most cases the corporation provides the whole social existence of a person, and has authority over all aspects of his life; he is deeply emotionally involved in the association...to the point that the human relationships with this 'household' group are thought of as more important than all other human relationships... This 'family' or corporate group even envelops the employee's personal family; it engages or "surrounds" him "totally" ("marugakae" in Japanese)... The power and influence of this group not only enters into the individual's actions, it alters even his ideas and ways of thinking. Individual autonomy is minimized. When this happens the point where group life ends and private life begins can no longer be distinguished... The members' sphere of living is usually concentrated solely within the place of work. Even marriage is within the company is prevalent... Also the provision of company housing is a regular practice among Japan's leading corporations. Such company houses are usually concentrated in a single area and form a distinct entity within, say, a suburb of a large city. Thus, even in terms of physical arrangements, a corporation with its employees and their families forms a distinct social body [group]. “With group-consciousness so highly developed there is virtually no social life outside the particular corporate body on which an individual's major economic life depends. Thus group participation is simple and unitary. It follows then that each group or corporation develops a high degree of independence and closeness, with its own internal law which is totally binding on all members.”

                                                                                                Japanese Society

 

Returning to Du Chardin: The living 'bundle': many observers still refuse to see or admit the reality of this strand of life in the process of evolution. They do not know how to see, how to make the necessary adjustments in their vision. This phylum is first of all a collective reality. Therefore, to see it clearly, we need to look from a sufficient height and distance. Examined too closely, it crumbles into unevenness and confusion. We fail to see the wood for the trees.

 

Secondly, the phylum is polymorphous and elastic. Like a molecule, which ranges through all sizes and degrees of complication, they may be small or vast in extent. There are simple corporations and corporations composed of corporations. Phyletic unity is not so much quantitative as structural; so we must be ready to recognize it on every scale of dimension.

 

Lastly, the phylum has a dynamic nature. It only comes into view at a certain depth of duration, in other words only in movement. When immobilized in time, it loses its features and, as it were, its soul. Its motion is killed by a 'still'.

 

Considered without these provisos, this phylum might well be thought to be just one more artificial entity carried out of the continuum of life. But looked at in proper magnification and light, it can be seen to be a perfectly defined structural reality.

                                                                                    The Phenomenon of Man

 

Parental behavior among simple organisms

Parental societies are found at all levels, from the cell to the monkey troupe. In every animal there is a period when the young is part of the parent and receives materials from the parent. Later, the young may partly or completely separate from the parent; n some animals, the more or less separate young is then helped by the parent, or helps it.

 

Even some of the simplest organisms show colonial aggregations of the parental type. Some viruses form inclusion bodies in the cells they attack; these bodies are thought to be colonies of daughter viral strands. Other viruses form ordered arrays.

 

Bacteria, only a few steps up the evolutionary scale beyond viruses also show parent-young colonies. Diplococci are dot-shaped bacteria that have two daughter cells in each group. Streptococci form chains and staphylococci arrange them-selves in grape-like clusters. In all of these, and in a large number of other colonial bacteria, the offspring that are produced by a dividing parent stay together for some length of time.

 

Protozoa, a few steps beyond bacteria, also show parental sociality. Under difficult conditions, protozoans commonly form a protective shelter or 'cyst' and divide within it. In such groups 2, 4, 8, l6, 32, or even more daughter cells may associate until the cyst "hatches."

 

Some protozoans form definite colonies in addition to or in place of cysts. Volvox and many other slow moving or sedentary colonial protozoans show some differentiation or division of labour between cells of a colony.

 

Volvox, a freshwater, single-celled organism that lives in colonies, is assigned by zoologists to the flagellate protozoan order Volvocida. The oval, hollow colonies, one cell in depth and about the size of a pinhead, contain from 500 to 60,000 individual cells imbedded in a gelatinous wall.

 

Volvox illustrates differentiation between somatic and reproductive cells, a phenomenon considered significant in tracing the evolution of higher animals from protozoa. Certain species, in which somatic cells appear to be joined by cytoplasmic strands, may be considered to form multicellular organisms.

 

Plasmodesma - thin strands of cytoplasm [the internal cellular 'fluid'] that pass through small openings in the cell walls of adjacent vegetative cells. They form subtle connective channels that facilitate intercellular integration and the interchange of information and nutrients.

                                                                                    Encyclopedia Brittanica

 

Take a young Japanese who as a student was a radical - an extremist. After graduating he enters a corporation, begins to work with people, and gradually comes to see other persons' points of view. He slowly learns the sensibility by moderating his own conduct. A person described as completing this process is one who does not push his own ideas, but, on the contrary, is deeply receptive to the thoughts and feelings of those around him. His new empathy and openness allow him to make others a part of himself (jibun no naka ni aite o ireru - literally 'putting others inside oneself').

                                                                        The Promise of Adulthood in Japan

 

It is almost certain that sponges evolved from colonial flagellate protozoans. Sponges are integrated networks of cells, some of the amoeboid (amorphous) and some flagellate. It has been shown that if a sponge is strained through cloth so that the cells are separated, they will reunite and form new sponges...The sponge is thus on the border between colonial organization and integrated multicellular organization. One advantage of integrated multicellular organization, with different type of cells performing different functions, was probably that the sponges could become much larger than the largest multinucleate or even colonial protozoans and thus could devour them. This type of organization also provides strength: some cells can hold in swift currents, while some can secrete skeletons and others concentrate on food getting. Thus cooperation gives sponges and similar multicellular animals an advantage in competition with even the largest and most aggressive single-celled animals.

                                                                                    Encyclopedia Brittanica

 

In the fifteenth century the big commercial companies ...became more and more powerful and developed into virtual monopolies, which by their superior capital strength threatened the small businessman as well as the consumer...The position of the small dealer became more and more insecure; he had just enough influence to make his complaint heard but not enough to compel effective action. The indignation and rage (of the independent traders against the rising corporations) was given eloquent expression by Luther in his pamphlet, "On Trading and Usury", printed in 1524.

            "They have all commodities under their control and practice

            without concealment all manner of trickery. They raise and

            lower prices as they please and oppress and ruin all the

            small tradesmen, as the pike devour the little fish of the

            water, free from all the laws of faith and love.

"                                                                                  Escape from Freedom

 

How do they do it? The question occurs naturally to anyone watching a school of silversides moving slowly over a reef in clear tropical waters. Hundreds, even thousands, of small glinting fish glide in unison, more like a single organism than a collection of individuals. The school idles along on a straight course, then wheels suddenly; not a fish is lost from the group. A barracuda darts from behind an outcropping of coral, and the members of the school flash outward in an expanding sphere. The flash expansion dissolves the school in a fraction of a second, yet none of the fish collide. (Because the expansion is created by nearly simultaneous tail flicks throughout the school it seems it cannot be coordinated by any means that would require each fish to register the movements of its neighbors. In all probability each member of the school somehow "knows" where the other members will go...collisions have just never been observed.) Moments later the scattered individuals collect in small groups; ultimately the school reforms and continues to feed.

                                                                        "Fish in Schools"

                                                            Scientific American, 12/'79

 

In Japan an individual's social contacts are usually confined to the limits of his place of employment where he has daily contacts. Thus the 'setting' of the organization assumes great importance as the circle which defines the individual social world. With his social environment so limited, the scope of an individual's relations within his group become proportionately more intensified. Members of a group know each other exceedingly well. Among fellow members a single word would suffice for an entire sentence. The mutually sensitive response goes so far that each easily recognizes the other's slightest change in behavior and is ready to react accordingly.

                                                                        Japanese Society

 

Although the schooling of fish is one of the most familiar forms of animal social behavior, until recently it was little understood. The fact that a great many species congregate in schools suggests that the behavior offers a considerable evolutionary advantage. How the school is formed and maintained, however, is only beginning to be comprehended in detail... The role the school plays in the life of the individual fish varies greatly from one species to another. In some species fish spend all or almost all of their time in a school. In other species fish join schools only occasionally, spending most of their time as free-living individuals. Fish that spend all or most of their time in schools are often called 'obligate schoolers' [equivalent, for our purposes, to colonial or plasmodial life forms and modern Japanese modes of social incorporation]; those that form or join schools only part of their lives are called 'facultative schoolers' [analogous to pseudo-plasmodial creatures, certain avian flocks, mammalian herds, and, socially, the more elementary of 'western' forms of incorporation].

                                                                        Scientific American

 

With group consciousness so highly developed there is almost no social life outside the particular group on which an individual's major economic life depends. Thus group participation is simple and unitary. It follows then that each group or institution develops a high degree of independence and closeness, with its own internal law which is totally binding on all members...

                                                                        Japanese Society

 

Although most people have an intuitive sense of what a school is, students of animal behavior have spent much time trying to define the notion precisely. Do two fish constitute a school? Do three? Is a school that has a million members made up of half a million pairs? Does a school have a leader?

 

Recent analysis of recorded behavior among European minnows shows that when there are two fish, one leads and the other follows. The follower adjusts its speed and direction to match those of the leader; the speed and direction of the leader, however, are not influenced by the movements of the follower. [This, by the way, illustrates the current ethological definition of 'dominance' - the dominant individual within any social group being one whose presence or activities exert a normative or regulatory influence upon the other members, while its own behavior is unconstrained by reference to any other members of its group.] When a third minnow is added to the tank, however, the pattern changes: in a group of three or more fish there is no leader. Each minnow adjusts its speed and heading to agree with those of all the other fish, with the neighbors nearest to a given fish having the greatest influence on it.

                                                                        Scientific American

 

The yardstick of Japanese morality is always determined by contemporary trends. The feeling that "I must do this because A and B are also doing it" or "they will laugh at me unless I do such-and-such" rules the life and behaviour of the individual with greater force than any other consideration.

                                                                        Japanese Society

 

Thus in a real sense the entire school is the leader and each individual is a follower.

                                                                        Scientific American

 

Although the power of each individual household head is traditionally regarded as exclusively his own, it is in fact the social group, the 'household', which has the ultimate integrating power, a power which restricts each member's behavior and thought, including that of the household head himself... In fact, the Japanese language has no term for the word leadership. Even the leader is expected to be thoroughly involved in the group, to the point where he has almost no personal identity... In the Japanese pattern there are no clear-cut spheres or divisions of responsibility between the manager and the managed; responsibility is diffused. The group as a whole and the entire collectivity becomes one functional body in which all individuals, including the manager, are amalgamated into a single entity.

                                                                        Japanese Society

 

 

[           "Thus, in a sense, the entire school is the leader         ]
[                        and each individual is a follower."                ]

 

The phenomenon that deserves our attention is the way in which the rules of 'harmony' have been incorporated into the life of everyday Japan, where they seem to have acquired the force of a biological instinct, serving the ends of a human society that aspires to rival in cohesive power the societies of bees and ants. To make the stream of human intercourse flow gently is the supreme goal here. Nobody is allowed to stand on his own right, much less fight for it. Justice is praised, but its pursuit is deemed inappropriate if the peace of the community is thereby threatened. To avoid friction seems to be more important than to eradicate evil.

                                                            Mirror, Sword and Jewel

 

Insect communities exhibit little intramural aggression in which one member pits itself against other members of the same community. And in those wilder reaches of animal social organization where interdependence reaches its most elaborately contrived evolutionary forms, among the hydroids and particularly in the subgroup known as siphonophores, there is none at all. In that siphonophore colony we call the Portuguese man-of-war, the transparent blue bladder that floats on the sea surface is one animal; each stinging tentacle that hangs from this float is another, each leech-like feeding polyp still another, and the community is further enlarged by separate male and female reproductive polyps. None of these animals can exist apart from the community and the community exists in this communal life style of this community... There is nothing for any member but the total and utter dependence upon the greater 'community.'

 

The Portuguese man-o'-war, however, is not a society; it is a colonial organism - at least this is the name given by zoologists to this kind of co-operative living... A society is defined as existing through the result of those interactions between the members comprising it, actions they perform as individuals. These interactions must be crucial to the maintenance and coherence of the society. Unlike invertebrate societies, vertebrate societies are held together by a thread of tension, which binds every member to every other member.

                                                                        Parable of the Beast

 

The acquisition of the extremely delicate ways of conducting personal relations in Japan requires considerable social training, though most Japanese achieve them through their social life from childhood onwards. Not only foreigners but also even those Japanese who spend their teens or twenties abroad face considerable difficulty in meeting all the complicated techniques of personal relations, which do not require much intellectual maneuver, but demand highly sensitive and nervous procedures. Indeed, these procedures involve a degree of tension, nervous fatigue, and expenditure of emotion not normally found in such measure in other societies.

                                                                        Japanese Society

 

Harmony must be maintained in the collectivity because conflicts between the members would disrupt the smooth attainment of collective goals. Thus harmony, willingness to compromise, unaggressiveness, etc. are highly valued, whereas disputatiousness, contentiousness, ambition, or other disruptive behaviour is strongly devalued.

 

In order to avoid friction a great deal of everyday life is formalized. Close conformity to a multiplicity of detailed prescriptions for behaviour [analogous to orderly biological processes] tends to reduce all conflict to a minimum and ensure the smooth functioning of the collective life.

                                                                        Tokugawa Religion

 

In his everyday existence the Japanese acts, thinks, decides, as if Japan would act through him; if asked to what extent his acts emanate from himself, and what extent from his group, he would not only be unable to give a rational account, but he would also be unwilling to admit the validity of the question. He stands to his group in a relation in which we imagine the life of a cell stands to the life of an organism; or at the very least it approximates to the relation in a degree observable in no other civilized nation.

                                                            Mirror, Sword and Jewel

 

The right biological metaphor for any society [or persisting corporate group] is not that of the fully developed functional structure of an animal, but that of colonies of cells or protozoa which constitute very loose systems... in that they have, to quote Julian Huxley, 'an unstable fluctuant body with a semi-permeable external membrane for defense against outsiders and a continued life with definite functions carried on by living protoplasmic units.' That is to say, there exist intermediary conditions in which we are not certain whether we are dealing with a true individual or a true system.

                                                                        Bio-Concepts

 

"The rulers feed the people and in return the people have a great debt of gratitude toward them. Ruler and people are one body (kunshin ittai). Loyalty towards the ruler and piety of children towards their parents are one and the same. This is a characteristic of our country alone... ruler and subjects form one body."                            Philosopher Yoshida Shoin (1830-1859) whose thought                           deeply influenced the architects of the Meiji Restoration.

                                                                        Tokugawa Religion


 

Section II

 OF SLIME MOLDS AND SALARIMEN

The Brotherhood Beneath the Pyramid

 

 Science fiction did not invent the slime molds, but it has borrowed from them in using the idea of sheets of liquid, flowing cytoplasm engulfing and dissolving every living thing they touch. What fiction can only imagine, nature has produced, and only their small size and dependence on coolness, moisture and darkness has kept the slime molds from ordinary observation, for they are common enough.

                                                            Encyclopedia Britannica

 

 GLOSSALALIA: Plasmodium or Syncytium - A mobile mass of naked protoplasm formed by the fusion or aggregation of independent amoeboid bodies without fusion of their nuclei. Plasmodia are characteristic of slime molds and certain genera of fungi and bacteria.

                                                            Encyclopedia Britannica

 

In the Japanese pattern there are no clear-cut spheres or divisions of responsibility between the manager and his subordinates, and the entire group is becomes one functional body with all individuals, including the manager, are amalgamated into a single entity.

                                                                        Japanese Society

 

True plasmodia may grow by the incorporation of independent cells that subsequently lose their cell walls and individual integrity to the collective body (Spongospora), or by synchronous division of internal nuclei floating freely in the communal cytoplasm (Myxomycetes); certain species (e.g., Acrasiales) generate a 'pseudo-plasmodium' in which incorporation, though functionally complete, does not entail the dissolution of internal cellular membranes. The aggregated cells thus maintain some semblance of organic identity...[though the collective 'body' thereafter determines all their subsequent behavior].

                                                            Encyclopedia Britannica

 

It is the inherent mental make-up of the Japanese that allows the formulation of over-riding group policies and decisions. And any individual, however able, however strong his personality and high his status, must finally compromise with the group's decisions which then develop a life of their own. Once a collective decision of this kind has been formulated, no individual can check it or turn it, and one must simply wait for the time when the tide turns by itself.

                                                                        Japanese Society

 

Just how much a Japanese depends on, and expects from, his coworkers may be incomprehensible to the outsider. There are no clear lines which divide one's own from another's...

                                                                        Japanese Society

 

Plasmodial bodies move and react as a single organism, even displaying integrated response to slight variations in ambient lighting, temperature and humidity... Though they closely approximate a true multicellular organism in motor and sensory function, they do not present any internal physical specialization to explain these abilities; i.e., they possess no sensory cells or apparatus, no neural systems to transmit information or coordinate movement, in fact, no persistently differentiated structures whatsoever, beyond the profusion of microstructures common to their single-celled constituents.

                                                             Encyclopedia Britannica

 

Although it is at present impossible to explain plasmodial bodies' 'consensual' unity of perception and activity, certain facts may be inferred from recent research:   

 

a) The functional identity of incorporated cells/nuclei seems quite diffuse or 'omnipotential' [capable of a variety of different processes];

 

b) The momentary specialization that is exhibited appears to be

determined more by a cell/nucleus' location within the active body than by any inherent capacity or quality of its own;

 

The Japanese system does not have a clearly marked division

of labor, nor is the individual role of each member of a group

distinctly determined...The adaptability of the group in action is

actually enhanced by an eschewal of these principles, and the

Japanese in general hold a fairly strong convictions that one man

can do another's job whenever this be necessary.

 

                                                                                                Japanese Society

 

            c) Plasmodial bodies cut into sections will readily fuse again with each other shortly after separation. If the individual sections are reared apart or a period of hours or days on differing growth mediums they will often lose 'recognition' of their sibling communities and refuse to merge. Thus divergence of environmental experiences - one is tempted to say 'habits of life'- appears to play a more important role than genetic identity with regard to mutual recognition and conjugal compatibility. This startling fact is underscored by further research showing that completely unrelated strains will not refuse merge if they have shared    the same growth culture for a similar extended period. This is a remarkable and as yet inexplicable finding.

 

What is important here is that in Japan the human relationships within the immediate corporate/residential group are thought of as more important than all other human relationships. Thus the wife and daughter-in-law who have come from outside have incomparably greater importance than one's own sisters and daughters who have married and gone into other households. A brother, when he has built a separate house, is thought of as belonging to another entity or household; whereas the son-in-law, who was once a complete outsider, takes the position of a household member and becomes more important than the 'distant' brother. This is remarkably different from other societies where the weighty factors of sibling relationship and common parentage remain paramount til death.

                                                                        Japanese Society

 

It is important to stress that in Japan's dominant value system filial piety is subordinate to loyalty; polity overrides family; and in the case of conflict of loyalty, the first duty is to           one's superior or group rather than to one's family. This is in clear contrast to China (and most other cultures) where the reverse holds true.

                                                                        Tokugawa Religion

 

            The relative unimportance of kinship - which is normally regarded as the primary and basic human attachment - seems to be compensated for in Japan by a personalized relation to one's corporate group based on work, in which the major        aspects of social and economic life are involved. Here again we meet the vitally important unit in Japanese society of the corporate group based on frame. In my view, this is the basic       principle on which Japanese society is built.

                                                                        Japanese Society

 

            d) given the absence of neural structures within the pseudo-plasmodium, the observed body-wide propagation of coordinated locomotive impulses at first appears unaccountable. Present thinking, however, postulates that motor impulses originate in a diffuse directive centre near the front of the advancing organism, and are transmitted by induced enzymatic reactions between contiguous cells, i.e., there is not a single nerve impulse traversing the corporate          body but a ramifying series of impulses generated from individual cell-to-cell contacts and enzyme influence.

 

            Though motor information propagates evenly throughout the corporate mass, sensory stimuli elicit significantly less communal response the further the affected cells are from the directive centre. Thus information from the directive regions appears to be transmitted through the community with much more alacrity than that from peripheral areas, even when it is essentially the same information.

 

                        Excerpted/based on Encyclopedia Brittanica

 

            In general, Japanese organizations demonstrate poor communication from the lower sectors to the top and between sections. However, such inefficiency is perhaps more than balanced by the extreme efficiency of communication from the top to the lowest level. Indeed, the swiftness by which the members of a group can be mobilized from the top in Japan is not paralleled in any other society. The secret of such swift action and the source of the high level of group energy seem to lie in the nature of the core of group organization, based on the relationship between two immediately linked men.

 

            The golden rule is that the junior man should invariably carry out any order from his immediate superior, for this immediate link between the two men is the source of the existence of the junior man in the organization. Hesitation or refusal constitute a violation of the system...The strength of this structure lies in its effectiveness for centralized communication and its capability of efficient and           swift mobilization of the collective power of its members. The importance of its contribution to the process of Japanese modernization is immeasurable.

                                                                                                Japanese Society

 

From The Life Cycle Of The Slime Mold Myxomycetes

The spore wall either splits open or a pore forms, from which a minute, naked mass of cytoplasm emerges. This globule, the swarm cell, shoots out a whip-like process, a flagellum becomes pear shaped, and with the flagellum lashing in front of it, swims away. The swarm cell may suddenly come to rest on any surface, put forth pseudopods -- lobes of living substance -- and creep along. In this stage, called a myxamoeba, it can feed as any amoeba does, by engulfing bacteria.

 

The myxamoeba or its transform, the flagellated swarm cell, is a gamete (sex cell), and the fusion of two individual cells, initiates the plasmodial phase. Instead of following the pattern found in most other organism, in which the cell divides after the nucleus has duplicated itself, in these slime molds only the nuclei divide repeatedly, first in complete synchrony and then in synchronous waves, as the ever-growing plasmodium becomes larger.

                                                                                    Parable of the Beast

 

On a smooth surface a vigorous plasmodium generally takes the form of a fan with trailing veins, creeping in the direction of the broadly curved front edge. Microscopically, the fan looks like a broad river delta, with a network of channels in which the cytoplasm streams now slowly, now rapidly...Generally, a little more flows toward the front than flows back, so that the plasmodium moves in a pulsating fashion, advancing steadily like an incoming tide on a beach.

 

Although many cells show this streaming of the liquid, living substance, only the myxomycete plasmodium shows it on such a grand scale.

                                                                                    Encyclopedia Brittanica

 

Microscopic Structure and Chemical Composition

The cytoplasm of the Myxomycetes resembles that of other cells in having the usual internal structures such as nuclei, mitochondria, and vacuoles and, in the plasmodium stage, it resembles the cytoplasm of amoebas. The major difference is the giant size Ñ one plasmodial cell membrane encompasses dozens to millions of nuclei. The nuclei, however, are characteristically quite small...

 

The plasmodia of Fuligo Septica, usually lemon yellow when found in nature, may become white under certain laboratory conditions and remain yellow under others. Yellow and white plasmodia from the same parent no longer fuse when brought into contact, but each can merge with a plasmodium of its own color. The same interesting phenomenon has been observed in other species. Plasmodia or "incompatible" strains of the same species will not fuse. As in higher forms, fusion or rejection is controlled by "incompatibility genes". Genetic compatibility, however, does not explain the failure of fusion of plasmodia of the same source.

                                                                                     Encyclopedia Brittanica

 

PARABILISTIC PARAGONS:

Cellular Slime Molds - The Acrasiales

The cellular slime molds are remarkable organism. Its basic structure and mode of formation are completely different from that of any mold, in fact, different from that of any other group of organism known.

 

In a suitable habitat the spore germinates, and from the split spore case emerges a small amoeba. Each amoeba feeds by engulfing bacteria before it divides. The amoebas greatly increase in numbers under proper conditions and then begin to converge. Until this time of aggregation, they are virtually indistinguishable from the many other amoebas that swarm in the soil.

 

These amoebas feed on bacteria and divide repeatedly until the feeding area practically devoid of bacteria, the amoebas forming almost a complete covering. The amoebas then begin to congregate climbing up on each other as they form a little mound.

 

The first stage in the welding of separate living entities into one composite organism. When the myxamoebas have aggregated to the conical stage with the little nipple at the top, the whole pyramid falls over on its side, and, with the nipple raised and leading the way, the 'slug' moves over the surface toward the light before continuing further development.

 

The Acrasiales were associated with the Myxomycetes by accident because it was thought that the aggregation stage was a true plasmodium. But they lack convincing evidence of sexuality; and, in addition, the aggregated individuals remain organically, if not functionally, distinct.

                                                                                    Encyclopedia Brittanica

 

Organisms Resembling Slime Molds

Since the late 19th century a number of organisms have been assigned to the slime molds largely on the basis of a plasmodial or apparently plasmodial stage. Labrinthula, for example, forms an open network that can creep about as a unit. Close examination has shown that this is not a plasmodium, but a colony consisting of often closely packed, spindle-shaped individual cells that glide within tubes of secreted slime. The net plasmodium is thus more like a living elastic subway system than a true plasmodium. Another unique group of organisms, the myxobacteria, form thin, spreading amoeboid colonies consisting of bacteria-like cells embedded in a slimy sheet. The whole colony can act as a unit, very much as does the acrasian aggregation stage in building a fruiting structure, in some cases forming simple spheres, in other cases complicated tree-like forms.

                                                                        Encyclopedia Brittanica, Slime Molds

 

Known technically as the Acrasiales (from the Greek, meaning unmixed), their behavior is unique, and as a result, fascinating to a variety of biological disciplines - to cytologists, embryologists, geneticists, and others. It should be the object of study for sociologists as well.

 

As they perform their ecological function of contributing to the decay sequence they live as amoeba, freely, each wandering separately among the rotting leaves on the forest floor. When food is plentiful and other conditions appropriate, every amoeba multiplies by simple cell division every three or four hours. Eventually this geometrically expanding population exhausts the available local supply of bacteria, and as this happens the amoeba commence the enactment of a incredible series of activities. These activities are a literal metaphor for the organization of cells in a multicelled individual [or the binding of individuals into a social body].

                                                                                    Parable of the Beast

 

Corporate Body Building

Binding and conforming disparate individuals into a functional corporate group... can theoretically be accomplished in two ways. One is to influence the members within the social frame in such a way that they actually feel a sense of 'one-ness'. The second method is to create an internal organization which will directly tie the individuals in the group to each other. In practice both these modes occur together, are bound together, and progress together; they become, in fact, a common rule of action...

 

Individuals with differing attributes can be led to feel that they are members of a single group, and that the feeling is justified, by stressing the group consciousness of 'us' against 'them', and by fostering a feeling of intense rivalry against other similar groups. In this way there develops internally the sentimental bonds of 'members of the same school'...

 

Since within the group individual disparity of attribute (character, ability, interests ...) is both potentially divisive and an undeniable rational fact, an emotional approach is used to overcome it. This emotional 'overwhelming' of individual characteristics is facilitated by continual human contact of the kind that can often intrude upon those human relations which belong to the completely private and personal sphere.

 

Consequently, the power and influence of the group not only effects and enters into the individuals actions; it alters even his ideas and ways of thinking. Individual autonomy is minimized. When these things happen, the point where group or public life ends and where private life begins no longer can be distinguished. There are those that perceive this as a danger, an encroachment upon their dignity and integrity as individuals; on the other hand, others feel safer in total group conscious-ness. There seems little doubt that in Japan the latter group is in the majority.

                                                                        Japanese Society

 

As their food gathering becomes more difficult, the wandering amoeba begin as individuals to cease their feeding and begin to form communal aggregations: first a few individuals clustering around a dominant (or attractant) individual, and then this group joining other groups until (as seen on a agar dish) clumps of organisms discernible to the naked eye form themselves, giving the surface of the dish a stippled effect. Now the clumps begin still another aggregation - they begin to join one another, clump to clump. They form straggling streams of living matter which now begin to orient themselves to central collecting points. At the hub of each central aggregation point, a mound begins to form as groups of amoeba mount themselves atop other groups which have already arrived. This hub gradually rises first into the shape of a blunt peg, and then into a distinctly phallic erection. When all the incoming streams of amoeba are almost completely incorporated into this erect cartridge-like form, it topples over onto its side, now looking like a two-millimeter-long, minute garden slug. This slug begins now to move across the forest floor in search of more favorable ecological conditions. At this point the communal mass that forms the creature is known as a migrating 'pseudo-plasmodium.' It seems to possess a discrete envelope, almost a skin.

                                                                        Parable of the Beast

 

 The 7:30 Commute | Into Headquarters

 

 

 

 Into the Elevators | Ready for Business

 

A cohesive sense of group unity, as demonstrated in the operational mechanism of household and corporation, is essential as the foundation of the individual's total emotional participation in the group; it helps to build a closed world results in strong group independence and autonomy...

 

(REPRISE) Thus the relationship between the corporation and the individual is not to be explained in contractual terms. The attitude of the employer is expressed by the spirit of the common saying, 'the enterprise is the people.' This affirms the belief that employer and employee are bound as one by fate in conditions which produce a tie as close as that between husband and wife. In such a relationship corporations do not employ only a man's labour itself but really employ the total man, as is shown in the expression "marugakae" (completely enveloped). This trend can be traced consistently in Japanese management from the Meiji period to the present.

                                                                        Japanese Society

 

As the slug migrates, it continues to attract scattered solitary amoeba which did not participate in the original aggregation. These join the mass and become immediately incorporated with it. Estimations as to the size of the population comprising the average slug vary, but generally it is thought that perhaps up to a half million amoeba may be involved.

                                                                        Parable of the Beast

 

Since group consciousness is usually kindled by an appeal to emotion, it necessitates tangible contact between individuals. Such contact must be maintained by constant face-to-face activity so as to nurture the flame... Tangibility in personal relationships is a vital element in the creation of unity, particularly in a group which has no universal rules, but it offers little resistance to breaches opened by time and space. Thus, tangibility is a very unstable binding principle for a group. But at the same time it does facilitate a condition wherein recruitment is always open at the periphery of the group (or the bottom of the hierarchy) and anyone may be accepted into membership.

                                                                        Japanese Society

 

Passage & Fruition

After migrating for a variable period of time (which can be two minutes or two weeks) in the direction of light and warmth, this slug-like wandering community now ceases its movement and enters into another phase of its communal history called 'culmination.' The slug gradually erects itself once again into its phallic shape. Then, in the apical tip of the plasmodium, a group of cells becomes enlarged and rounded off, assuming either a round or oval shape. This rounded mass (the spore mass or 'fruiting body') gradually assumes the form of a candle flame, bellied at the bottom and coming to a point at the top. As the belly forms, a waist also appears between the base, the tail of the now erect slug, and the candle flame section above. This waist gradually lengthens and becomes a stalk, pushing the candle flame section, which now tends to become more spherical, ever upwards into the air... Each amoeba in the spore mass now encases itself in cellulose and becomes a true spore. The end result is a delicate tapering shaft capped by a spherical mass of spores. When the spores are dispersed (by water, wind, or contact with some passing creature) each can split open to liberate a tiny new amoeba individual.

 

Thus the cycle of the species community begins anew. This tiny brainless, nerveless creature enacts in the course of its life history a profound parable of community and cooperative organization. Moreover, the swarming of individual cells to form a 'social' plasmodium may in fact be an example of the events that led to the final evolution of metazoa and complex communal organisms during the early history of the earth.

                                                                        Parable of the Beast &

                                                Encyclopedia Brittanica, Life

 

Experimenting upon the migrating plasmodium, Raper noted how the slug narrowed quite obviously into a point at its front end. 'During migration,' he writes, 'the point, the apical tip, as it has been termed, is constantly to the fore and apparently guides the migration of the entire body.'

 

Raper cut this top off the slug and found that when the community was thus deprived of its leadership, coordinated movement stopped dead in its tracks. 'When the anterior portion of a migrating plasmodium is removed.' he observed, 'the decapitated body ceases migration, nor does it respond to light. The amoeba comprising it crowd forward to the line where the excision was made, and there collect in a rounded, confused body... In only a few isolated cases has a pseudo-plasmodium thus decapitated been observed to form a new apical tip with accompanying directive center.'

                                                            Parable of the Beast

 

No matter how strong the unity, no matter how 'happy the group', (to use a Japanese expression), the sudden removal of the leader is a severe blow, and automatically brings a 'household rebellion.' It is said that the greatest battle weakness of the former Japanese army was the disruption that followed when a platoon leader was killed. A platoon that lost its organizational pivot by the death of its lieutenant easily degenerated into a disorganized mob.

 

Herein lies the supreme importance of the role of the leader: he is the holder of legitimate status, able to synthesize the members and suppress antagonisms among them. The leader's absence from his men even though only temporary, may give rise to divisive frictions among them... In many cases groups split into a number of small and hostile segments after the death of the leader. The chaos thus created can rarely be repaired internally.

                                                            Japanese Society

 

Swarm Schism, Corporate Fission & The Fable of Yugoslavia Breaking up is hard to do...

 

 FISSION

 

 

In the vertical group structure exemplified in the above figure it should be noted that it could disintegrate not only from a's (the leader's) death or absence but also from instability in the a-b or a-c links. Such instability may occur if the leader fails to sustain a strong influence and an immediate subordinate seizes the opportunity to increase his own power...The legitimacy of the leadership has its base in the historical formation of the group. If, for example, b's power grows to the point where it can shake this existing order, developments usually occur along the following lines:

 

Noting b's restiveness, c may sense his opportunity and, drawing closer to a, may encourage tension in the a-b relationship, eventually creating a critical and unstable situation which will lead to a crisis. Then even while a is still in a position of authority, an internal split may occur. This would lead to complete catastrophe, from which nothing could be salvaged, but b could in no circumstances cooperate with a or c in such a power struggle. This is not because the participants are emotional or petty-minded; it is a consequence of the inherent structural situation, which does not allow two or more individuals to be equal...

 

There are two alternative solutions of such a catastrophe. In one a (usually taking along c) is exiled from the group. In the other solution b pulls out his "family and retainers" and forms a new, independent group, a process which is called fission.

 

Such vertical group structures thus reveal an instability which always involves the risk of fission. Indeed, in many cases fission is taken for granted at a certain stage in the growth of the group. This may be called 'amicable' fission, for fission is expected by the leader as well as by other members when a subordinate acquires enough strength to be independent. Nevertheless, the daughter splinter group does not always maintain amicable relations with the parent body. Often it may become a competitor, unless the leader of the original group can control or bind it in some way, or unless the second group is still so weak as to expect continuing help from the original body.

                                                                                                Japanese Society

 

Corporate Charismatics

As they do in all communities, certain members of this microcosmic society seemingly take upon themselves the responsibilities of leadership, initiating the activities of the group. Just how this happens was demonstrated by a young Cambridge zoologist named Bryan M. Shaffer. To prevent aggregating cells from mounting one another vertically, thus obscuring what each cell was doing, Shaffer devised a complicated arrangement of oil and water films floating between glass slides, which forced the amoeba to aggregate in a single layer without 'clumping'. In this way he discovered the existence of what he called 'founder' cells.

 

He wrote in his description that a founder varied somewhat in appearance from ordinary amoeba at the time it became active. In many cases it was almost completely circular in outline and stationary. Because it was less expanded it frequently appeared smaller than most or even all of the cells that responded to it, and darker in body. After contracting it abruptly began to affect its neighbors over a considerable area. These elongated toward it within a few minutes... The first to reach the founder began to encircle it, either in one direction or, becoming temporarily Y-shaped, in both. Whether it was able to completely surround it depended partly on their relative sizes and partly on how soon further cells arrived to compete for the founder's surface. Such intimate contact was so quickly established that a 2- or 3-cell center could sometimes be mistaken for a single giant cell.

                                                                        Parable of the Beast

 

More than anything else, the qualification of the leader in Japanese society depends upon his ability to understand and attract his men. No matter how great his wealth and power, how brilliant his talent or what type his personality, if man is unable to capture his followers emotionally and glue them to him in vertical relationships he cannot become a leader.

 

This functioning power of the group depends not so much on the leader's own ability as on his skill in charming extremely talented subordinates by his personality, his artfulness in synthesizing the group and his ability to direct all the talent at his disposal. The acts of their followers are dependent not on formal orders from the chief but on the personal charm he exerts in direct human contact. The phrase 'He shone his face upon me' has more importance than can be judged rationally...

 

Japan has no native concept of 'organization' or 'network' abstracted or divorced from actual man; 'organization' is perceived as a kind of succession of direct and concrete relationships between individual and individual. Man's concrete existence itself forms a part of 'organization'...

                                                                        Japanese Society

 

Asexualized Societies & Executive Altruism

There has been debate on sexual reproduction in the Acrasiales. What some biologists called sexual fusion of amoebas, others called cannibalism. The preponderant evidence now favors a completely asexual mode of life.

 

It is also curious that in the slime molds the individual members of the community that form the leadership group are non-reproductive. Only those animals that form themselves into spores contribute genetically to subsequent generations. The amoeba at the apical tip seemingly perform a totally sterile role in the future of the community. This is curious, for it overleaps the evidence of most vertebrate communities where the dominant animals, particularly males, have greater sexual opportunities and generally pass on their genetic characteristics differently - in a larger statistical degree than low-ranking, non-dominant individuals.

                                                                        Parable of the Beast

 

 The Forty-Seven Ronin reveal in extreme form the ideal personal relationship (always in terms of superior-inferior) in Japanese eyes. The story bears some resemblance to a love affair. In Japan there is no love story comparable in popularity to the Forty-Seven Ronin. Men so much involved in such a relationship have little room left for a wife or a sweetheart. In traditional morals the ideal man should not be involved in an affair with a woman. I think that if he were involved to such an extent in this kind of man-to-man relation there would seem to be no necessity for a love affair with a woman. His emotions would be completely expended in his devotion to his master. I suspect this was the real nature of samurai mentality, and to a certain extent the same may be true of the modern Japanese man.

                                                                        Japanese Society

 

 The significant fact here is...the hypnotic spell cast by the demands of 'natural society' whenever the harmonious flow of social life is liable to be endangered. As soon as such a situation arises, the Japanese need no admonition from moralists or political propaganda: a force irresistible and blind seems to emerge instantaneously, bending them with the power of an instinct in the direction desired by the human anthill...Nobody is allowed to stand on his own right much less fight for it. Justice is praised but its pursuit is deemed inappropriate if the peace of the community is thereby threatened. To avoid friction seems to be more important that to eradicate evil...

                                                            Mirror, Sword and Jewel


 

Section III

IDEOLOGY & ANTHROCULTURE

Mind-Binding & Bio-Social Conditioning for Terminal Incorporation

 

In studying the reactions of a social group we deal with the character structure of the members of the group. That is, of individual persons; we are interested in, however, not the peculiarities by which these persons differ from each other, but in that part of their character that is common to most members of the group. We can call this character the "social character"... The social character comprises only a selection of traits: the essential nucleus of the character structure of most members of a group which has developed as the result of the basic experiences and mode of life common to that group... If we want to understand one individual most fully, the differentiating elements are of the greatest importance. However, if we want to understand how human energy is channeled and operates as a productive force in a given social order, then the social character deserves our main interest.

                                                            Escape from Freedom

 

The changes in Japanese society in the course of modernization have attracted much research and discussion. It has often been argued that war brought a fundamental change in the Japanese. It might be truer to argue that since the circumstances and supports of life in Japan have altered radically, ideas and attitudes to life have in turn changed, just as clothes are changed with the seasons. But a superficial change of outlook, as facile as changes in fashion, has not the slightest effect on the firm persistence of the basic nature and core of personal relations and group dynamics. While the outlook of Japanese society has suffered drastic changes over the past hundred years, the basic social grammar has hardly been affected. Here is an example of industrialization and the importation of Western culture not effecting changes in the basic cultural structure.

                                                                        Japanese Society

 

Mind-Binding: A History

Medieval society did not deprive the individual of his freedom, because the 'individual' did not yet exist; man was still related to the world by primary ties. He did not yet conceive of himself as an individual except through the medium of his social (which then was also his natural) role... The lack of self-awareness of the individual in medieval society has found classical expression in Jacob Burckhardt's description of medieval culture:

             In the middle ages, both sides of human consciousness - that which was turned within as that which was turned without - lay dreaming or half awake beneath a common veil, the veil was woven of faith,    illusion, and childish prepossession, through which the world and history were seen clad in strange hues. Man was conscious of himself only as a member of a race, people, party, family or corporation - only through some general category.

 

             The structure of society and the personality of man changed in the   late Middle Ages. The unity of medieval society became weaker; capital, economic initiative, and competition grew in importance; a new moneyed class developed...feudal class stratifications became less important. From the twelfth century onwards nobles and burghers lived together within the walls of the cities. Social intercourse began to ignore distinctions of caste. Birth and origin were of less importance than wealth and power...At the same time we begin to find urban masses of exploited and politically suppressed workers. As early as 1231, as Burckhardt points out, Frederick II's political measures were 'aimed at the complete destruction of the feudal state, at the transformation of the people into a multitude destitute of will and the means of resistance, but profitable in the utmost degree to the exchequer'.

                                                            Escape from Freedom

 

Perhaps the most important division in Japan's period of feudalism is that between the decentralized form, in which subordinates of the Shogun retained a considerable amount of power and control over their respective provinces, and the centralized form, in which the Shogun managed to exercise quite direct control over his subordinates called 'daimyo.' Centralized feudalism began with the brief rule of Toyotomi Hideyoshi at the end of the sixteenth century and culminated during the 250 year hegemony of his successors, the Tokugawa family.

 

Several significant points should be made about Japan's feudalism. First, it resulted in the establishment of a military government and raised the status of warriors to powerful rulers, of whom even the court aristocracy had to take heed.

 

Second, military rule meant that the society sanctioned male dominance. The former high status of court noblewomen was now gone. Arranged marriage and even political marriage, in which women were simply pawns in the political chess game, became a common practice among warriors.

 

Third, a political system based on personal loyalty became entrenched in feudalism. It is important that kinship as such was not a crucial consideration in the feudal system, as can be seen from a number of occasions when kinsmen as close as brother and brother and father and son fought against each other for power.

 

Fourth, this personal relationship between the leader and the follower was rationalized into the normative concept of on. On is personal indebtedness which binds subordinates to their leader. It is a debt which the subordinate accrues as his master grants a favor, a benefice like land or employment, which the subordinate desires but cannot obtain in any other way because he does not control the resource. This favor or debt is to be repaid by the subordinate in the form of personal loyalty and service. As we shall see, the political value of on has played an enormously important role in Japan's modernization. In addition, centralized feudalism, perfected in the early Tokugawa period, has special significance for modern Japan because this period immediately preceded the modern period and thus provided the base line for Japan's modern transformation.

                                                                        Japanese Society

 

Socialization is the process through which individuals come to internalize moral norms and become committed to institutional patterns, as in all societies, the family was the primary focus of socialization. It is important to remember that the family in Tokugawa society was in many ways a microcosm of the total society: it had largely the same value system and was penetrated with the same tensions as the total society. It was not, then, a refuge from society... In early childhood children were treated on the whole with great indulgence and permissiveness. As the child grew into the years of pre-adolescence into the world of rigid conformity with customary forms and high expectations of performance that would form the context of his adult life. The high expectations of conformity and performance were enforced more through psychological pressure than through physical punishment, though moxa cautery was apparently widely used by all classes for misbehaved children. The basic psychological pressure was the threat of rejection symbolized most pointedly, perhaps, by disinheritance. To be cast adrift in a society such as Japan was indeed the worst of all possibilities.

                                                                        Tokugawa Religion

 

Authoritarianism is the tendency to give up the independence of one's own individual self and to fuse one's self with some body or something outside oneself in order to acquire the strength which the individual self is lacking. The more distinct forms of this mechanism are to be found in the striving for submission and domination, or as we would rather put it here, in the masochistic and sadistic strivings.

 

The most frequent forms in which the masochistic strivings appear are feelings of inferiority, powerlessness, individual insignificance. Their feelings are more than rationalizations of actual shortcomings (although they are usually rationalized as though they were); these persons show a tendency to belittle themselves, to make themselves weak... Quite regularly these people show a marked dependence on powers outside themselves, on other people or institutions. They tend not to assert themselves, not to do what they want, but to submit to the factual or alleged orders of these outside forces.

                                                            Escape from Freedom

 

Ecclesiastic Adhesives

Japanese morality and the fundamental doctrine of on then were rooted in the idea that man is the humble recipient of endless blessings from divinity, nature, his social superiors, and quite helpless without these blessings... Religious action was thus conceived as a return for such blessings from benevolent superordinates and was based on a view of man as weak and helpless by himself. Only with the help of his benevolent superiors can he live, and the blessings he receives are so much greater than his ability to return them that he can actually only return an infinitesimal fraction of the amount owed. By devoting himself utterly to returning these blessings he assures himself continuation of them, and in some sense he is thereby saved from his weakness. But he can never truly repay; he perpetually stands in debt. The obligation to make the effort, however, is unrelenting, and not dependent upon the feasibility of the task... selfless devotion, however, establishes a 'perfect' relation with the benevolent superordinates and at the same time allows the individual to identify with him, lose himself within him... To achieve such selflessness, for the destruction of self, 'ko' (filial piety) is the best means:

            "All the errors of mankind arise from 'self' as we think
             'this is my body', 'this is mine', but 'ko' slays self."

 

Such material is interesting because it contributes to a rather complete 'theology' for a 'religion of filial piety'. Moreover, this theology is derived from elements of the general religious system, and is furthermore a religion with no necessary connection with sect, shrine, or temple.

 

And just as we may speak of a 'religion of filial piety,' so also we can speak of a 'religion of loyalty'. Actually, this term has been used to denoted Bushido, the status ethic of the samurai class, but loyalty was also one of the prime tenets of the family religion. Filial piety did not compete with loyalty, it reinforced it. Nakae Toju, when questioned as to whether the obligation to preserve one's body as a gift of one's parents would prohibit one from going into battle, replied that the obligation to preserve one's virtue was higher than to preserve one's body, and that if need be one should willingly die for one's lord or master. This is true filial piety. We may see in the following quote from Nichiren that filial piety in the last analysis meant loyalty for the Japanese:

 

"When a father opposes the sovereign, dutiful children desert their
 parents and follow the sovereign. This is filial piety at its highest."

 

The influence of Confucianism also worked in the direction of political 'rationalization' through these centuries. The Classic of Filial Piety (Hsiao Ching) was especially widely propagated. By the end of the eighth century it was taught in every school, and every child who knew how to read could recite it by heart. By order of the Empress Koken (reign: 749-758) a copy of the Classic of Filial Piety was required to be kept in every home. Even in Kamakura times the samurai, high and low, even though they might have no other book, were apt to have a copy of this one. The unparalleled importance of the book can be perhaps be seen as a rough measure of the increasing importance the ethic it preaches was coming to have in Japanese society. As long as filial piety yields precedence to loyalty as the highest virtue, and as long as it is taught in a context of political values, the increasing institutionalization of the Confucian ethic of filial piety can be seen as a major evolutionary step in the direction of political 'rationalization' [and centralization of social control] - the family itself is penetrated by [and subordinated to] political values and authority, indeed becoming a miniature polity...

 

The net effect of these various developments was to lead to a conception of loyalty, ostensibly to the Emperor, which could override all other religious and secular commitments. This clearly was a necessary step in overcoming the "primitive traditionalistic objections" to the extension of centralized power. We may quote a single concrete example from Shinto teachings to illustrate the process: "Under an Imperial order to build ships, Kawabe-no-Omi, disregarding admonishings by the people, felled the trees on mountains sacred to the Thunder God. Then it thundered very violently, but the Thunder God - a deity in the nature religion - could do no harm to Kawabe-no-Omi because he did what he ought to as a loyal subject under the command of the Empress Suiko (reign: 593-629), who was a deity by far superior to the divine Thunderer."

                                                                        Tokugawa Religion

 

It is instructive to note that those centuries which saw the almost fanatical exaltation of loyalty, should have seen the lowest ebb of the fortunes of the actual imperial families... Still the cultivated regard for the Emperor when linked to this identification of loyalty and filial piety has some very interesting implications for the concept of the state. God, emperor, lord and father tend to be made into equivalents. The whole nation is a single family. The Emperor is 'divine', he is 'lord', and he is 'father' of the national family. The people are worshippers, retainers and children. Loyalty is the 'great filial piety', and devotion to the parents is the 'small filial piety' which exists only so that the great filial piety can be fulfilled...

 

As loyalty and filial piety became almost identified with each other, the training of the child in filial piety was so that he might fulfill loyalty as an adult:

            "A samurai who possesses the spirit (filial piety) when he enters service will thoroughly understand the way of loyalty, regarding his life as nothing when carrying out a warrior's fealty. And so, though the terms 'parent' and 'lord', 'filial conduct' and 'loyalty' are distinct, they are in no way different in meaning. There is a saying of the ancients, 'Look for loyal retainers among the filial.'"

 

What has been described above is one aspect of what is meant by 'kokutai' [the 'mystical body' of the state]. It is a concept of the state in which religious, political and familialistic ideas are indissolubly merged... and consequently all action is governed by the concept of on. Further, 'kokutai' is also conceived as the identification of the Emperor and the gods, and the people are identified with both. The Emperor's will is the gods' will, and the people's will is the Emperor's will. To be thus united in will with the Emperor and deities is what is meant by being 'sincere', having a pure heart, etc. 'Kokutai' then is also an identification of the religious body and the political body.

                                                                        Tokugawa Religion

 

The same considerations hold true with respect to religion. An example of the tendency to value religion for its [political] results rather than for its own sake would be the attachment of the warrior class to Zen Buddhism. It was seen almost as a system of training which aided in the self-abnegating performance of actions expressing loyalty to one's lord. The latter remains the central value and religion is subordinated to it (or subsumed in it). Additionally, religion supplied a context of ultimate meaning to the central value system through the fact that the primary collectivities in the society were conceived of as religious as well as secular bodies. Loyalty to these collectivities and their heads had not only a mundane significance, but also an ultimate meaning: fulfillment of obligations to them was in one sense a religious duty. Acting in closest accord with the political values of the society, that is, giving one's full devotion to one's superiors, and expressing this devotion in vigorous and continuous performance with respect to the collective goals, was seen as the best means to acquire the approval and protection of divine beings.

                                                                        Tokugawa Religion

 

Human existence begins when the lack of fixation of action by instincts exceeds a certain point; when adaption to the environment loses its coercive character; when the way to act is no longer determined by inherited injunctions. In other words, human existence and freedom are from the beginning inseparable. Even the Christian myth of Eden identifies the beginning of human history with an act of choice... From the standpoint of the Church, which represented authority, this is essentially sin. From the standpoint of man, however, this is the beginning of human freedom. Acting against divine order means freeing himself from coercion, emerging from the unconscious existence of pre-human life to the level of man. Acting against the command of authority, committing a sin, is in its positive human aspect the first act of freedom, that is, the first "human" act. The act of disobedience as an act of freedom is the beginning of reason.

                                                            Escape from Freedom

 

Unpayable Debts, Unbreakable Bonds

Action with respect to deity as a benevolent superordinate takes us once again into the theory of on. Deity in some form dispenses on [blessings] and it is the obligation of the recipient to make return for these blessings [hoon]. (It is interesting to note that the theory of on holds for superordinates within the social system, such as parents or superiors, in exactly the same terms as it holds for entities above the social system, gods or buddhas, etc. The significance of this will become clear at a later point.) The term on appears in Mencius and in the Li Chi several times, but hoon seems to be of Buddhist origin and reflects an important aspect of Buddhist ethics, the stress on indebtedness. The Anguttara Nikaya, an early Buddhist work, quotes the Buddha as saying, 'the wicked person is one who is not grateful and who does not bear in mind any good rendered to him.' Another quote from the Anguttara is interesting because it shows the early connection of the theory of on with filial piety, and because it maintains that on can never be fully requited:

            "We may carry our mothers on one shoulder, and our fathers on the other, and attend on them even for a hundred years, doing them bodily services in every possible way, and establishing them in a position of universal             sovereignty: still the favour that we have received from them will be far from being repaid."

 

The theory of on and hoon is prominent in Japanese Buddhism, especially the great 'reform' sects of the 12th and 13th centuries. In his great work Kaimokusho, Nichiren quotes with great approval the following passage from the Saddharma-pundarika Sutra: "We are greatly indebted to Sakyamuni. He loved us and taught us and bestowed on us grace. We cannot repay his great benefits to us even if we endeavored to do so for countless aeons... Even if we take his feet on our upturned palms and carry him on our shoulders through eons countless as the sands of the Ganges, or honour him with all our hearts; or offer ambrosia or innumerable robes, or costly bedding, or build him great monasteries with wood of sandal and adorned with precious jewels, yet shall our debt remain unpaid."

 

This sentiment is echoed in a common exhortation of the Jodo Shin sect, 'one returns thanks to the source of the Buddha's benevolence by pulverizing one's body and breaking one's bones for countless kalpas.'

 

The compelling and overriding loyalty toward authority must [therefore] be seen in the context of the idea of on. Political authority, for instance, has the obligation of bestowing blessings upon the people subject to it, e.g. peace, famine relief, public works, favorable economic and political conditions, etc. In theory loyalty was not dependent on the actual carrying out of these blessings but was an absolute obligation, but there can be little doubt that in fact the failure of 'blessings' to materialize undermined authority.

 

Coordinate with the concept of on is the concept of hoon or the return of on. This involves the general obligation to respect and comply with the orders of political authority. The official notice board on which were posted the latest governmental decrees in every town and village, and the respect shown toward it, are evidences of the degree of compliance with political authority even at the lowest levels of the social structure. The relatively high degree of public order, as compared with even China, for example, is another instance of this compliance, as is the readiness of samurai to commit seppuku when so ordered. These and other examples which could be given illustrate the considerable degree to which authority could exercise control through influence, that is, through the manipulation of sentiments. The central and local governments of course had force at their commands with which to compel compliance, but sociologically more interesting is the fact that in so many contexts compliance was voluntary. In the last analysis this depended on the fact that people identified with the polity. They felt themselves part of what became known as the 'kokutai', the national polity (or 'mystical body' of the state), a symbol of great importance, especially in Meiji and post-Meiji periods. They received gratifications through their identifications as members of it, they participated in the prestige and meaning of the polity, and thus they voluntarily submitted to the requirements of its authority, feeling its interests to be identical with their own.

                                                                        Tokugawa Religion

 

Collective Response Ability

Buttressing this adherence to prescribed forms was the principle of group responsibility. Serious failure to conform to the norms was considered not merely to be a matter of individual responsibility. Rather, families, five-family groups, and even villages and wards might be involved in the responsibility for the act of a single individual. Thus every person in his social actions was in a representative role with respect to his primary collectivities. A wrong step would jeopardize not only himself but could bring disaster upon his group or at best leave it open for contempt and ridicule. Further, the group itself tended to place conformity with the social norms higher than group membership, and, thus, in addition to external social sanctions, a transgressor was more apt to receive rejection than support from his primary group. This situation leads to a close identification with the collectivity and a tendency for all the sub-collectivities to support the morality of the total collectivity at whatever cost to themselves, which is perhaps close to what Durkheim was talking about when he used the term 'mechanical solidarity'.                                                                                                                             Tokugawa Religion

 

Although long, the length of gestation for man is insufficient; it is prolonged by an extra-uterine gestation during which the child builds up its bodily organs and at the same time undergoes the fashioning effected by the family and social environment... The respective confines of biological and cultural existence cannot be exactly determined, but the idea of some biological inscribing of culture onto the human species cannot be rejected... Man's historical and cultural generation by means of pedagogy is indissolubly related to his physical generation by natural means. According to Portmann, the Swiss biologist, 'human heredity in its own proper way, is not essentially genetic, but social.'                                                                         Encyclopedia Brittanica, Heredity

 

The family, too, is the polity writ small. Practically all that has been said above about the value system of the total Japanese society can be applied to the family. Instead of loyalty the highest value is filial piety ('ko'), but its function is the same. It implies the same attitude toward the head of the collectivity and the same central concern for the collective goal... On the broadest level, in fact, family and nation are conceived as one, the Imperial family being the main house of which all Japanese are branches... But it is still important to stress that in the dominant value system filial piety is subordinate to loyalty; polity overrides family; and in the case of conflict of loyalty the first duty is to one's lord or superior rather than to one's family. This is in clear contrast to China (and most other cultures) where the reverse holds true... Further, the family tends to be the fundamental unit of society rather than the individual. The status of the family head is both internally central and externally the lowest 'official' role in the polity. Family does not stand over against the polity but is integrated into it and to an extent penetrated by it.

                                                            Tokugawa Religion

 

Baby as Part, Baby as Whole

In Japan, the infant is seen more as a separate biological organism who from the beginning, in order to develop, needs to be drawn into increasingly interdependent relations with others. In America, the infant is seen more as a dependent biological organism who, in order to develop, needs to be made increasingly independent of others.                                      

                                                             "Maternal Care and Behavior
                                                               in Japan & America"

 

The emergence of the individual has two aspects: one is that the child grows stronger physically, emotionally, and mentally and simultaneously as intensity and activity in each of these spheres increase they become more and more integrated. An organized structure guided by the individual's will and reason develops. If we call this organized and integrated whole the personality of the self, we can say that the process of individuation is the growth of self-strength. The limits of the growth of individuation and the self are set, partly by individual conditions, but essentially by social conditions. For although the difference between individuals in this respect appear to be significant, every society is characterized by a certain level of individuation beyond which the normal individual cannot go.

                                                            Escape from Freedom

 

The close affective interdependence between mother and child which develops as a result of the relatively lenient child-rearing practices in Japan is turned into a mechanism of social control... As the child develops dependence on the mother's affectionate indulgence, the mother in turn begins to seek satisfaction of her emotional needs through her child's dependence on her. The child attempts to act contrary to the mother's desire (and thus act independently) tends to provoke anxiety in the mother, since she is thus no longer needed and can no longer satisfy her emotional needs. The mother's anxiety and consequent suffering, when communicated, is likely to cause the child to feel guilty... As a parental suffering tends to be interpreted by the child as a result of his failure or deviance, he tries to relieve it by conforming.

                                                             Japan: An Anthropological Introduction

 

Sadistic tendencies are often entirely covered up by reaction formations of over-goodness or over-concern for others...The sadistic person quite manifestly 'loves' those over whom he feels power. He may think that he wishes to dominate their lives because he loves them so much. He actually loves them because he dominates them. He bribes them with material things, with praise, assurance of love, or by showing concern. He may give them everything - everything except one thing - the right to be free and independent. This constellation is often found particularly in the relationship of parents and children. There, the attitude of domination - and ownership - is often covered by what seems to be the 'natural' concern or feeling of protectiveness for a child. The child is put into a golden cage, it can have everything provided it does not want to leave the cage.

                                                            Escape from Freedom

 

In Caudill and Weinstein's (1969) comparative study of mother-infant interaction in middle-class families in Japan and the United states, they discovered that at the early age of three to four months, Japanese and American babies already behave differently and also that mothers in these cultures interact with these infants rather differently. Their findings show among other things that infants in the United States tend to be left alone, be much more active (in bodily movements), and express vocally either to themselves or to the mother significantly more than Japanese infants. Japanese infants, on the other hand, tend to make more frequent protests or complaints to be satisfied by their mother than American infants do. American mothers tend to talk to their infants more, physically stimulate them by patting or positioning them and show overt affection toward them more often than Japanese mothers. Japanese mothers, more than American mothers, tend to quietly rock the infants rather than provide vigorous physical stimulation. These differences even at so young an age in infant behavior and maternal care already point to later personality differences between Japanese and Americans. For example, because they are often left alone, American infants must learn to handle the problem of emotional security by themselves, whereas Japanese infants tend to rely on the constant physical presence of their mothers for emotional security. Another important difference is that mother-child interaction in the American sample tends to stimulate the infant's physical activity as well as verbal responses, whereas in the Japanese sample interaction tends to be less active and less verbal and instead tends to have a soothing and quieting effect on the infant.

 

Feeding patterns may also influence behavioral development. In contrast to the traditional Japanese practice of feeding on demand, scheduled feeding forces the infant to keep crying and to learn to somehow manage by himself the emotional tension which develops with hunger. If left alone in a room, as an infant often is in the U.S., he must learn in addition to cope with the insecurity of being alone. It is important to note that an American develops the capacity to deal with his emotional problems alone and that this emotional independence serves in the ideology of individualism. The on-demand feeding, on the other hand, tends to create the opposite effect, not only eliminating opportunities for developing emotional independence, but creating further opportunities for reinforcing dependence.

 

Sleeping habits also appear significant. Japanese family members tend to sleep in groups of two or more in the same room, rather than spreading themselves throughout the house, even when there are enough rooms to accommodate all members separately. In the United States solitary sleeping starts only a few weeks after birth in many cases, and as we saw is a method of training a child to manage his emotional security by himself. Japanese sleeping arrangements emphasize the opposite: mutual dependence for emotional security. Japanese, indeed, find it deeply satisfying to sleep in the company of others. Here again, one sees the primacy in Japanese emotional life of sharing each other, as it were, over the idea of privacy. As one sociologist puts it, among Japanese the very desire to sleep alone is somewhat suspect.

                                                                  Japan: An Anthropological Introduction

 

Falling into the Greater Whole

Inevitably what is of value and meaning to individual spheres of life - especially matters of ethics and personal growth - becomes entangled with the machinery of great political and social ambitions. Economic large-scale efforts recognize and attempt to create a specific kind of ideal person suited to the requirements of large-scale mobilizations. For Japan's economic and military development... a disciplined and dedicated populace was of crucial importance. Here, personal character became entangled with issues of the efficiency of the modern state... a pattern of state-sponsored moral education and military training gradually emerged that aimed at efficient mass action. The requirements of large-scale mobilization thus provided further reason to set aside the (educational) ideal of gradual and highly individual progress. Distortions took place most visibly in the worlds of public institutions and political schemes... Political authority was inserted where personal experience and perhaps a personal teacher had been appropriate. What was to be learned from life was replaced by codified rules and principles. Action of service to the state was made the central concern.

                                                                   "The Promise of Adulthood in Japan"

 

The social function of education is to 'qualify' the individual to function in the role he is to later play in the social body; that is, to mold his character in such a way that it approximates the social character, that his desires coincide with the necessity of his social role. The educational system of any society is determined by this function. Therefore we 'explain' an educational system by the necessities resulting from a given social and economic structure... However, the methods are extremely important in so far as they are the mechanisms by which the individual is conformed to the required 'shape', the means by which social requirements are transformed into 'personal' qualities.

                                                                      Escape from Freedom

 

In-Structing for Incorporation

After experimenting briefly with the American elementary-school plan in the late nineteenth century the Japanese found they could not adjust to the local autonomy of the American school-board system and switched to German models. With the German influence came school uniforms, military calisthenics, a central Ministry of Education, and the principle that schools were "not for the sake of the pupils but for the sake of the country", as the first Minister of Education phrased it. From 1930 to 1945, the school system was "a gigantic factory for the production of soldiers or of well-indoctrinated workers on the home front," in the words of historian John Whitney Hall...

 

            The Occupation planted the concept of general education in college curriculums, but it is not thriving. Former minister of education, Michio Nagai contends that as Japanese universities tried to compress the transition form the European medieval model to white-collar general education, the schools "came to be characterized by easy adaptation to the practical needs of society rather than by long term contributions to culture or the detached pursuit of truth. Education designed to develop men who think for themselves has already been abandoned..."

 

The bitterest battle over the shape of lower-school education, meanwhile, has been fought over the teaching of 'morals'. Until the end of the war, morals meant devotion to the kokutai (the 'mystical' body of the nation) and exaltation of the state. "I was taught to die for duty - you are not a good Japanese if you think of your own welfare," recalled the principal of a grade school I visited. The Occupation banned morals instructions, but no sooner had the Americans gone away than the Ministry of Education revived the subject in another form. Now "social ethics" courses, made compulsory in 1985, inculcate codes that vary with the teachers inclinations... The issue still stirs strong emotions. Takao Kusu, 56, company president: "if in our society everyone starts doing what he wants to, believing erroneously that this is the way to guard one's privacy, can any organization ever attain its purpose or realize its ideals?" Masami Sakurai, 20, student: "the kind of moral education enforced by the state is designed to create characterless people who are obedient to the Establishment."

                                                                                    Japan Today

 

The suppression of spontaneous feelings, and thereby the development of genuine individuality, starts very early, as a matter of fact with the earliest training of the child... His education too often results in the elimination of spontaneity and in the substitution of original psychic acts by superimposed feelings, thoughts, and wishes. (By original I do not mean that an idea has not been thought before by someone else, but that it originates in the individual, that it is the result of his own psychic activity and in this sense is "his" thought.)

 

To choose one illustration somewhat arbitrarily, one of the earliest suppressions of feelings concerns dislike. To start with, most children have a certain measure of rebelliousness as a result of their conflict with a surrounding world that tends to block their expansiveness and to which, as the weaker opponent, they usually have to yield. It is one of the essential aims of the educational process to eliminate these antagonistic reactions. The methods are different; they vary from threats and punishments, which frighten the child, to the subtler methods of bribery or explanations which confuse him. The child starts with giving up the expression of his feeling and eventually gives up the very feeling itself. Together with which he is taught to suppress the awareness of hostility and insincerity in others; and sometimes this is not entirely easy, since children have a capacity for noticing such negative qualities in others without being so easily influenced by words as adults usually are...

 

Extracting "me", Inserting "We"
Out-sourcing the Inner Voice

 Recent research of suggestibility hypnotic phenomena have demonstrated how feelings and thoughts can be induced from the outside and yet be subjectively experienced as one's own, and how one's own feelings and thoughts can be repressed and thus cease to be part of one's self. Such phenomena, however, are by no means to be found only in hypnotic situations. The general fact that the contents of our thinking and feeling are induced from the outside and are not genuine, exists to an extent that gives the impression that these pseudo-thoughts are the rule, while indigenous mental acts are the exception....

 

What holds true of thinking and feeling holds also true of willing. A great number of our decisions are not really our own but are suggested to us from the outside. We have succeeded in persuading ourselves that it is we who have made the decision, whereas we have actually only conformed with the expectations of others, driven by he fear of isolation or more direct threats... In watching that phenomenon of human decision-making one is struck by the extent to which people are mistaken in taking as 'their' decision what in effect is submission to convention, duty, or simple pressure. It almost seems that 'original' decision is a comparatively rare phenomenon.

                                                            Escape from Freedom

 

In his everyday existence the Japanese acts, feels, thinks, decides, as if Japan would act through him. If asked to what extent his acts emanate from himself, and to what extent from his group, he would not only be unable to give a rational account but he would also be unwilling to admit the validity of the question... He stands to his group in a relation in which we imagine the life of a cell stands to the life of an organism.

                                                            Mirror, Sword & Jewel

 

Such a man lives under the illusion that he knows what he wants, while he actually wants what he is supposed to want... The particular difficulty in recognizing to what extent or wishes - and thoughts and feeling as well - are not really our own but put into us from the outside, is closely linked up with the problem of authority and freedom. In the course of modern history the authority of the church has been replaced by that of the state, and that of the state by the anonymous authority of common sense and public opinion as instruments of conformity. Because we have freed ourselves of the older overt forms of authority, we do not see that we have become the prey of a new kind of authority that propagates the illusion that we are self-willing individuals. Gradually the self of the individual is weakened, so that he feels powerless and extremely insecure. He lives in a world to which he has lost genuine relatedness and in which everybody and everything has become instrumentalized, where he has become a part of the body of the great machine that his hands have built. He thinks, feels, and wills what he is supposed to think, feel, will; and in this very process loses his unique self upon which all genuine security of a free individual must be built.

 

The loss of the self has increased the necessity to conform, for it results in a profound doubt of one's own identity. If I am nothing but what I believe I am supposed to be, who am 'I'? The loss of identity then makes it still more imperative to conform. It means that one can be sure of oneself only if one lives up to the expectations of others. If we do not live up to this picture we not only risk disapproval and increased isolation, but we risk losing the identity of our personality, which means jeopardizing sanity. By conforming to the expectations of others, by giving up spontaneous individuality, by not being different, these doubts about one's own identity may be silenced: I have no identity, there is no self excepting the one which is the reflex of what others expect me to be: thus I am "as you desire me."

                                                            Escape from Freedom

 

Where the quasi-magical force of rite and custom prevails, the give and take, address and reply, the warp of daily life, assume the harmonious aspects of a self-regulated organic process. The movements of a Japanese seem not to originate in his frail body but to avail themselves of it... making him bend and bow and vibrate like a tree in wind and rain.

                                                            Mirror, Sword & Jewel

 

However, it is the inherent mental make-up of the Japanese that allows the formulation of such over-riding group decisions. One of the factors dominating Japanese thinking and aspiration is relativism, to put it in a Japanese way, 'a desire to be level with or similar to the other person who is supposed to be higher than oneself.' The Japanese have no religious practice or belief that controls individual thinking and behavior on the strength of a supernatural being. The vital role is played not by religion or philosophy, but by a very human morality. The yard-stick of this morality is always determined by contemporary trends. The feeling that 'I must do this because A and B also do it' or 'they will laugh at me unless I do such-and-such' rules the life of the individual with greater force than any other consideration.....

                                                              Japanese Society

 

Vicarious Virility

[The corporate core] is not a class in the old sense of the word, it does not aim at transmitting power to its own children. The continuity of an oligarchy need not be genetic or physical. Hereditary aristocracies have always been short-lived, whereas, adoptive organizations such as the Catholic Church have sometimes lasted for hundreds or thousands of years. The essence of oligarchic rule is not father-to-son inheritance, but the persistence of a certain world-view and a certain way of life, a ruling group is a ruling group as long as it can nominate its successors. It is not concerned with perpetuating its blood but with perpetuating its blood but with perpetuating itself. Who wields power is not important, provided that the hierarchical structure remains always the same.

                                                                                                1984

 

The importance of the collectivity and of one's particular relation to it, is indicated by the enormous symbolic importance of the head of the collectivity, whether this be family head, feudal lord, or emperor. This tended to be a representative role - the head stood for the collectivity. Thus one's particularistic tie to one's collectivity is symbolized as loyalty to its head. Given the enormous importance of loyalty in Japan...it is important to note that this loyalty is loyalty to the head of one's collectivity, whoever that person may be. It is loyalty to a status rather than to a person. As such it implies the possibility of a deep loyalty to a person (of rank or perceived power) with whom the individual has no personal relation at all, and thus of a powerful political influence far beyond the sphere of mere personal respect.

                                                                        Tokugawa Religion

 

Now, if the cooperation of some thousands of millions of cells in our brain can produce our consciousness, a true singularity, the idea becomes vastly more plausible that the cooperation of humanity, or some sections of it, may determine what Comte calls a "great being".

                                                Essays on Science and Ethics

 

- END -

 

REFERENCES

Mirror, Sword and Jewel, Kurt Singer, Croom Helm, London, '73

Tokugawa Religion, Robert Bellah, Falcon's Wing Press, Glencoe, Ill., '57

Essays on Science and Ethics, J.B.S. Haldane, 1932

Japan: An Anthropological Introduction Harumi Befu, Tuttle, Tokyo, '81, 162

Japan Today, W.H. Forbis, Tuttle, Tokyo, '75

 

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