The Joyful Economy:
I last addressed an international gathering of the Society for Education through Art at a 1986 joint meeting of the American and Canadian societies in Vancouver. At that time I spoke of "The Arts: Consumption Skills in a Post Modern Economy". This time my presentation is an excerpt from a larger work in progress about the malaise afflicting the economies of English-speaking: societies. Economics is about maximizing. value, but values vary from culture to, culture. Accordingly my presentation is most relevant to English-speaking societies, less so to other Western cultures, and even less for non Western civilization: I will outline the symptoms; diagnose their aetiology or cause; prescribe treatment; and, offer a prognosis.
In summary; I will argue that we have lost the vocabulary of feeling, a vocabulary transmitted traditionally by women and taught through art. If we do not re-learn this vocabulary, I believe the economic malaise will get much worse before it gets better.
My effort is inspired by a former president of the American Economics Association, Tibor Scitovsky. In 1972 he wrote an article entitled "What's Wrong with the Arts is What's Wrong with Society" and in 1976 he published his seminal book The Joyless Economy. There are, however, important differences in approach. Scitovsky used a mainstream deductive method while apply historical induction like Canadians Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan. Where Scitovsky relied upon findings from clinical psychology, I use Jungian psychology.
In this regard a basic premise of Jungian psychology needs to be stated. According to Jung the human psyche is made up of four faculties of knowing: thinking, intuition, feeling and sensation. In any individual one function tends to be dominant, usually thinking or feeling; two subordinate, usually intuition and sensation; and, one repressed. My analysis will focus on thinking and feeling. I will not deal very much with intuition, for example embodied by the great prophets like Moses, Jesus and Mohammed. Nor will I treat sensation as a way of knowing which is embodied by such great Canadians as Wayne Gretzky and Karen Kain.
The process of psychological development or `individuation' involves accessing all four but especially recovering the suppressed function. In dreams the repressed feeling function is expressed as the hidden treasure guarded by the dragon or other mythic beast. Thinking and feeling are 'judgmental' functions, that is an individual makes decisions by reasoning what is in one's best interest, or by feeling out what is 'right'. Both intuition and sensation are spontaneous functions, one 'knows' without conscious effort.
Often the dominant function becomes over-developed leading to a psychic imbalance called 'neurosis'. Jung, unlike Freud, considered neurosis healthy in that it compels the individual to re-balance. For example, consider the so-called 'mid-life crisis' of the successful business man who having achieved financial success wakes up one morning with a profound sense that life is empty and without meaning. A search begins to recover the lost function and regain balance. My presentation concerns the quest for societal rebalance. In this search I draw heavily upon the Jungian work of Eric Neuman: The Great Mother and The Origins and History of Consciousness and James Hillman's Thoughts of the Heart and Egalitarian Typologies and the Unique.
These are troubled times. The pages of our past seem filled with shame and infamy. The successes of our forebears colonialism, imperialism, racism, sexism, technology, et al - are, in revisionist terms, brutal barbarisms. Dominion over the earth is now told as a tale of environmental rape, genocide and the extinction of species. There is little joy in the past.
As for the present, it is a dark depressing time. Unemployment is high and forecast to remain so for years to come; the education system is under assault from the politically correct Left, the pragmatic Centre and the religious Right; the work force lives in fear of job loss through technological change, low wage Third World competition and downsizing; investor confidence has been shattered by the bursting real estate bubble; the electorate no longer trust politicians to lead them out of the deficit and debt trap into which they have been lead. There is little joy in the present.
And the future, once a technological promised land, has turned into a cyberpunk nightmare. The mind's eye filled with swirling images of multimedia integration flowing, merging, mutating into a consensual Nintendo-induced collective hallucination. The future rushes forward like a whirlpool filled with techno-greed for bits and bytes; hackers wars for access to encrypted information - the monetary unit of 'the new system'. Individuality and privacy are eroding within a "neuromancer's web" charged because of the ceaseless search for power and profit by a techno-elite who knows which buttons to push while the rest of us cannot program our own VCRs! There is little joy in the future.
So our past is shame; our present pain; and our future horror! What is wrong with this picture?
The diagnosis is straight forward: a crisis of confidence. We are not the first to face such a crisis and we surely will not be the last. Our crisis, however, is different from those of the past. Consider three very simplified historical examples.
First, the ancient Indus Valley culture rejected a new technology of war - the socket-headed axe - then fell under the blows of invaders who adopted it. Second, medieval China had gunpowder and transoceanic sailing ships but then repressed them until European gunboats humiliated and partitioned the Middle Kingdom. Third, medieval Islamic medicine was the best of its time. But the human body, created in God's image, is, in Moslem tradition, a temple not to be violated. When surgery emerged as the next step in medical progress, Islam inhibited its use and rapidly fell behind the West.
What these societies shared was a blind spot to technological change. By insisting on stability they brought about their own decline. Unlike such societies, contemporary culture is if anything too receptive to technological change. Where they rejected thinking and reason, we reject feeling and belonging. But like past crisis, today's can be subsumed under the aphorism: Nothing fails like success!
During a crisis of confidence a culture can choose from four strategies like with a bad video tape. It can either:
Assuming away the nihilistic option, freeze frame has, historically, failed. Rewinding to traditional values is being tried today by religious fundamentalists - Christians, Hindus, Jews, Moslems - as well as by neoconservatives seeking return to 19th century social darwinism. But it is emphasis of these very values that is, I believe, at the core of the contemporary 'dis-ease'. In terms of economic theory, they have reached the point of diminishing returns, or poetically, it is time to hoist them on their own petard.
This leaves fast forward. To formulate a new vision we need reculer pour mieux sauter, i.e. step back to leap forward. Thus consider the artistic roots of Western culture and then its English-speaking branch. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all trace their roots from Abraham of Ur who left behind him an older creation myth. In the beginning was the Great Mother who begat six generations of gods. The sixth was Marduk who turned to his older brothers and said, in effect: "All we do is work for Her. Enough! I'm going to create humans as slaves so we can rest on the seventh day and fm going to kill the Great Mother!" Thus began the patriarchy.
The cult of the Great Goddess sought spiritual awakening through emotion and the flesh. Ego was absorbed in 'participation mystique'; belonging subsumed individuality. This is the orgasmic consciousness of Camille Paglia and Madonna; the ecological consciousness of the 'Gaia Hypothesis'; the chthonic consciousness of the dark warm earth, of the grave. Her symbols include the bowl, cauldron, cup and grail in which All are mingled, nurtured and merged.
Thus the Great Goddess has two faces with many phases like the moon and with endless names from Aphrodite and Ishtar to Madonna and Sakti. The first is the warm loving nurturing mother; the other is the dark, devouring mother who sacrifices male lovers, for example, Adonis and Tammuz. Consider the Egyptian goddess, Isis. She conspired first with her brother, Set, to kill and dismember her husband Osiris and then conspired with her son, Horus, to resurrect Osiris but lost his generative organ to a crocodile so Osiris became King of the Dead. We see echoes of the two faces of Isis in the 'black' Madonnas of eastern European churches today.
The means to attain these ecstatic states of collective emotional consciousness, in addition to drugs and wine, was art creating a 'virtual reality' through dance, music, theatre and visual transcendence. The technology of the heart, of emotions, of feelings is art.
The patriarchy, on the other hand, sought spiritual awakening through intellect and the mind: the solar consciousness of reason. It burned bare ego under the light of patriarchal sky gods; it abhorred the dark earth exiling the Great Mother and her matriarchal dominance; it suppressed cooperation and replaced it with adversarial competition. And with the light comes shadows, shadows not visible to eyes blinded by self-righteousness and intolerance. It is with the patriarchy that writing and later literature appear displacing menstrual lodge gossip as the law of the land. A dream symbol of the patriarchy is the sword which cuts, separates, differentiates. The technology of the head, of the intellect, is reductive science.
In the process of societal evolution, humanity elevated masculine 'logos' or logic characteristic of science and repressed feminine 'eros' or emotion characteristic of art. Belonging was sacrificed to ego. This trend was reinforced by the Mosaic injunction, shared by Christian, Jew and Moslem, against the Golden Calf and all graven images, i.e. visual art. While the word may be sacred, the visual image is at best profane; arid, at worst, evil incarnate.
Censorship of the 'word' comes to us from the Greeks. Otherwise, to quote Plato's Republic: "... the honeyed Muse... not law and the reason of mankind, which by common consent have ever been deemed best, but pleasure and pain will be the rulers in our State". It was, however, left to the Romans to reduce aesthetics to cold materialism. This is evident in the changing meaning of the word kosmos with a 'k' in Greek. To the Greeks, kosmos meant "the right ordering of the multiple parts of the world". This is the sense of aesthetics derived from the Greek root 'to gasp' and of beauty as "the comely coming together of parts". And for the Greeks there was a related moral imperative: kalon kagathon, i.e. the beautiful is the good. It was the Romans who changed the spelling and converted the meaning to cosmos with a 'c' as in "out there where no man has gone before", i.e. a cold, materialistic, objective physical universe and reduced aesthetics to cosmetics meaning superficial.
In the Middle Ages censorship of art both visual and literary - was continued. This is evident in Umberto Eco's book The Name of the Rose in which Brother Jorge's fear that comedy would subvert the authority of the Church feeds a tale of censorship, murder and the burning of a great library, the collected wisdom of the ages. And, during the same epoch, all over continental Europe, 'wise women' were burnt as witches - some estimate the death toll at nearly 6 million, a veritable feminine holocaust! No witches, however, were burnt in England but many were put to 'the question'.
And it was in the 13th century that the great book of Jewish mysticism, the Zohar or Book of Splendor explained the origin of witches. Adam had a first wife, Lilith, who was created separate, equal and at the same time as Adam. But Lilith insisted on being on top. Adam went to God and complained. So God, while Adam slept, took a rib and created a submissive Eve more acceptable to the patriarchy. Lilith objected, told God where to go and fled paradise for the desert where she became 'the Mother of All Witches'.
The foregoing applies to Western societies as a whole. There are, however, historical developments specific to English-speaking cultures. First, the Puritans fled England to escape art; they are still fleeing. Then, under Cromwell, all art was banned in England. The Puritans were extremists. By contrasts, Martin Luther called music "... one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us". And while the Restoration of the monarch witnessed an outburst of bawdy art, the Puritanical trend of English culture continued to find its secular finale in Jeremy Bentham, founder of the last philosophic school of the so-called Enlightenment known as Utilitarianism. This reduced aesthetics to a calculus of the pleasure perceived by a viewer, i.e. beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the value of art is what the market will bear!
So where do we stand today? First, English-speaking culture appears blind to the role and implications of the arts. It suffers from a 'frill fallacy', i.e. art is irrelevant to serious questions like the economy and employment. But consider findings of a recent study I have completed for the National Endowment for the Arts. The arts industry, broadly defined, includes clothing, textiles, furniture and other design industries in which, to quote Alfred Lord Marshall, "it is the pattern that sells the thing". It also includes broadcasting, motion pictures, publishing, sound and video recording as well as the amateur, fine and heritage "arts. Arts industry revenues in the United States account for nearly 9% of Gross National Product and 4.4% of employment. More significantly, arts-related goods and services account for 45% of the American trade deficit with the rest of the world even though entertainment programming is the second largest net export of the United States after defense products!
But if English-speaking culture is blind to impressive statistics then it is stone deaf to the more subtle economic implications of the arts. Industrial relations are adversarial and competitive. Worker motivation is abysmal. The threat rather than the promise of technological change clouds negotiations. There is no sense of the right ordering of the multiple parts of the world and competitiveness suffers.
As recognized by Prince Charles, our urban centres are aesthetic wastelands; the streets are unsafe and so dangerous that a private mall has been created in Los Angeles in the image of a city street so citizens can walk and shop in safety from crime and pollution. And the real city streets are awash in a drug epidemic reflecting a loss of hope, lack of relatedness and lack of any form of institutionalized ecstasy.
In education, the drop-out rate is frightening and in spite of calls since the time of Sputnik in 1957, enrolment in mathematics and science at secondary and tertiary levels of education continue to decline. And when the World Competitiveness Report 1992 asked business and corporate leaders in 22 O.E.C.D. countries if engineering was an attractive career for young people, the English-speaking countries came dead last: New Zealand 18th, the U.S.A. 19th, Canada 20th, Australia 21st and the United Kingdom 22nd. Do the kids know something the politicians and business leaders do not?
And youth culture as represented by cyberpunks and club kids is death, not life affirming unlike the hippies of the '60s. Schools have become armed camps creating an atmosphere hardly conducive to learning. The divorce rate and family breakdown soars while the costs of the emerging 'creche culture' in which day care replaces the family are unclear. And eroticism which mediates sensation through feeling is being displaced by pornography which mediates sensation through thinking.
In Jungian psychology it is said the Olympian gods did not die but rather became symptoms. So too the Great Goddess has come back to haunt us in her dark aspect: feeling and relatedness as tribalism; relations between man and woman decaying; teenage girls preferring a baby without a husband; the 'Stalinist' feminist orthodoxy captive to male 'logos' denies female eroticism and rejects all but one face of the Great Goddess with motherhood becoming a betrayal to the cause.
The prescription: we must relearn and revalue the vocabulary of feeling, a vocabulary women traditionally carried since the beginning of the patriarchy and a vocabulary best taught through art. We must teach the young the full spectrum of aesthetics, not just cyberpunk gothic; we must remember that technology derives from the Greek techne meaning art and logos meaning reason, i.e. reasoned art, and that art provides the technology of the heart while science provides the technology of the head. We must recognize that there are four faculties of knowing and each individual has a different endowment but requires education in all four. We must recognize that education through art provides the. vocabulary of feeling and without the sense of belonging, a sense of the right ordering of the multiple parts of the world a nation's workforce can not attain competitiveness, except through fear and coercion.
If we take these steps then a new vision of the future is possible: a future with a sense of the right ordering of the multiple parts of the world and a vocabulary for emotions shared by young and old, male and female, worker and management, Brown and Green, tribe and nation, a future in which the technology of the head is balanced by the technology of the heart; perhaps even a future with a new unifying symbol like the cross, crescent moon or hammer and sickle, perhaps a symbol like the Earth from space: one world, one biosphere, one race - the human race! And the first step towards this more joyful economy is education through art!