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The Big Answer


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The Rapids of Change: Social Entrepreneurship in Turbulent Times

a book by Robert Theobald

(our site's book review)

This economist/networker/futurist/speaker has an interesting book with the habit of coming up with good ideas but then being so “open-minded” in his discussions of them that it turns out the answer to everything is, in Theobald’s words, “it all depends.” Is this the liberal habit of moral relativism that so annoys the orthodox conservatives? According to the author, this indecisiveness is about the diversity of the audiences he relates to—he has addressed audiences in 49 states. But when one reads passages where he discusses his critics pointing out that he tries to be all things to all people, acting quite differently for one audience than for another, one cannot help getting flashbacks of Woody Allen’s movie Zelig, since Zelig did the same: he was a man who becomes a celebrity in the 1920s due to his ability to look and act like whoever is around him, like a chameleon. On the plus side:

Theobald is like Zelig, the human chameleon, who could look and act like whoever is around him, acting differently depending on the type of audience (like Obama does)
Theobald is like Zelig, the human chameleon, who could look and act like whoever is around him, acting differently depending on the type of audience (like Obama did)


The author strongly advocates the new, ecological-holistic paradigm replacing the old, reductionistic-mechanistic paradigm
The author strongly advocates the new, ecological-holistic paradigm replacing the old, reductionistic-mechanistic paradigm

Theobald started Action Linkage, the oldest networking organization in the country, wherein people exchange ideas that will lead to a higher quality of life throughout the world. He wants us to hurry up and make the necessary changes needed for survival. He wants the most competent people to lead us in the direction of highest survival probability, and this direction includes trading in the unbalanced state of the old, mechanistic-reductionistic paradigm for the balanced state of the new, ecological-holistic paradigm. He wants people to learn effective, win-win relationship patterns in all areas, including parenting and international relations. He also wants people to learn to get beyond “playing old tapes” in relationships—wherein people are at effect of past negativity and deprivation and thereby cannot be here now in a relationship and relate to the reality of the people and the situation. He wants us to participate more fully in democracy and community so that we never lose it—he quotes Jefferson about vigilance, etc.

He also wants people to learn to get beyond 'playing old tapes' in relationships—wherein people are at effect of past negativity and deprivation and thereby cannot be here now
He also wants people to learn to get beyond “playing old tapes” in relationships—wherein people are at effect of past negativity and deprivation and thereby cannot be here now


Theobald says that following right-wing advice to restore the past would be one of the worst moves we could make
Theobald says that following right-wing advice to restore the past would be one of the worst moves we could make

Theobald says that following right-wing advice to restore the past would be one of the worst moves we could make, since things have changed so much that what worked then cannot work now. Like so many people today, he wants us to transcend the right-left continuum and drop the labels so we can get constructive dialog going. He says that we need not heroes on white horses but movements in which a few people see the need for change and set it in motion via a movement via the grassroots, not via politics. He knows that enough shifts made by enough people will eventually result in a quantum leap for our culture. He realizes that population control is the key to many problems in the world, from starvation and disease to conflicts.

He says population control is the key to many problems in the world, from starvation and disease to conflicts
He says population control is the key to many problems in the world, from starvation and disease to conflicts

Theobald has read the polls that show that people are at least as interested in raising the quality of their lives as they are in raising their living standard. He wants us to drop Second Wave contexts in favor of Third Wave ones. In these changing times he advocates changing the social structures so that they fit better with the new realities. He understands that the public knows that past models are obsolete and wishes for them to be revamped—they just don’t know how or with what, and political polarization and divisive sound bites simply further confuse them rather than clarifying anything. He understands that no one can love others or be compassionate unless they first learn to love themselves.

The public wants revamped social structures, but political polarization and divisive sound bites about this simply further confuses them
The public wants revamped social structures, but political polarization and divisive sound bites about this simply further confuses them

In addition, he understands that we need to have more supportive family styles in order to maximize the quality of life in the future; he knows that the isolated nuclear family is an historical aberration that is not working. We need to have more “fictive” kin—people whom we treat like family and who treat us like family. He knows that the definition of “family” has already changed for the vast majority of Americans in order to accommodate this. He’s well aware that we need to strongly encourage young people to bring new life into this world only if they are willing, committed and prepared to nurture them until “they reach their full potential.”

People need to be challenged by society to “think deeply about the requirements of effective child-rearing before they make the decision to have babies. He wants our educational institutions to begin making sure that young people have all the parenting information they’ll need to make wise decisions. “If people see their career as more important than children, they will do well to let others be parents and choose to serve as fictive aunts and uncles.” He wants us to culturally experiment and then spread information about models that succeed.

He wants people to think deeply about the requirements of effective child-rearing before they make the decision to have babies
He wants people to think deeply about the requirements of effective child-rearing before they make the decision to have babies

Theobald’s right about all of the above, obviously. His grasp of what is needed, in general, is beyond question. He wants us to “break through” our black-and-white, win-lose, neurotic perceptions of reality and life and look for win-win solutions. He wants us to “break through” our old perceptions; “move beyond” authoritarian ideas that coercion is the best way to get things done; “understand” that we need creative solutions, not conflicts; “commit” to new values; get “together” to expand our collective “vision”; etc. He’s right again, but one begins to notice a pattern: His prescriptions for salvation are based upon the hope that people will think and act in ways that do not represent how they feel inside. In other words, the solution is to get people to not act like themselves. Can this work? No, not as stated.

The bad news is that no amount of cajoling from parents, spouses, friends, neighbors, leaders, or Theobald will get people to change from being win-lose people to being win-win people, and even if someone can get people to act as if they are win-win in one area, their win-lose natures will redouble their efforts to be expressed in word and deed in other areas. People don’t “move beyond” authoritarian ideas, “break through” win-lose contexts, act appropriately because they “understand” the need for it, or feel “together” with others simply by being together. He’s given so many speeches that he’s started to believe that if people get the message, they can make these kinds of basic changes. But of course they cannot do anything of a kind. If this were possible, the wise among us could have “fixed” all of us long ago.

The fact that he’s (and thousands of others) been speaking, linking, networking, writing and discussing for so long and yet the people out there in reality-land haven’t changed their ways should be a lesson to us all: Change is extremely slow and difficult to induce from the outside. It is quite obvious that prevention is better than cure or intervention, and that if something is already optimal, it needs no changing. So, a much faster and easier method than “convincing” people to act differently so the culture will work better, is to raise people that act right in the first place so the culture will work better. Trying to teach an authoritarian not to be one is like trying to tell a soldier to use marshmallow bullets. Worse yet, trying to install a win-win context in a win-lose personality is like trying to pull teeth from the wrong end of the alimentary canal. Or thread a camel through the eye of a needle. You get the idea . . .

Trying to install a win-win context in a win-lose personality is like threading a camel through the eye of a needle
Trying to install a win-win context in a win-lose personality is like threading a camel through the eye of a needle

Let’s face facts: It’s harder to turn a soldier into a ballet dancer than it is to teach someone without training to be a ballet dancer. Follow the logic: The less one has to unlearn before one learns, the simpler it is and the faster it goes. So the younger you start someone, the less chance there is that there will be previous learning blocking the way.

A perfect example is a baby squirrel. As YouTube lovers have learned, if a human raises a squirrel from infancy it can make a great pet that can be petted, played with like a puppy or kitten, etc. It will play chase with humans, play with puppies and kittens, ride around on people's shoulders—even take a shower with a human (we've seen the amazing videos—the guy shampoos his hair with a squirrel on his head!). However, trying to teach any of this to an adult squirrel is hopeless. It's impossible for them to lose their fear of people enough to act like a pet. The best one can do is get a wild squirrel to eat peanuts from one's hand. Try to pet it while it's eating and you're likely to lose a finger—unless the squirrel is very young. But the human-raised squirrel will let you pet him and feed him at the same time. As mentioned, the younger you start someone, the less chance there is that there will be previous learning blocking the way. The adult squirrel's "previous learning" will be the human avoidance its mother taught it and that other wildlife subscribes to as well. The human-raised squirrel thinks of people as fun, safe friends, not big scary creatures to avoid.

Trying to get a fearful adult squirrel to be a pet is analogous to Theobald “convincing” people to act differently so the culture will work better. Raising people optimally from birth so the culture will work better is analogous to a human finding an infant squirrel and feeding it and caring for it and playing with it and ending up with a happy, secure, fun friend/pet for life.

Raising people optimally from birth so the culture will work better is analogous to a human finding an infant squirrel and feeding it and caring for it and playing with it and ending up with a happy, secure, fun friend/pet for life
Raising people optimally from birth so the culture will work better is analogous to a human finding an infant squirrel and feeding it and caring for it and playing with it and ending up with a happy, secure, fun friend/pet for life

Does this mean that the answer is to have kids raised by “experts” so they don’t get messed up? Does this mean social engineering is the answer? Absolutely, positively NOT! The last thing a culture needs is social engineering and “expert” intervention into normal child-raising procedures. But what it does mean is the cessation of the current failed experiment in deviant childcare.

What remained when most social tasks were exteriorized in the 1950s was the isolated ‘nuclear family,’ held together less by the functions its members performed as a unit than by fragile psychological bonds that are all too easily snapped
What remained when most social tasks were exteriorized in the 1950s was the isolated ‘nuclear family,’ held together less by the functions its members performed as a unit than by fragile psychological bonds that are all too easily snapped

Throughout most of history a rational, sensible, pragmatic, effective method of childcare—flat-gradient nurturance—was used in caring for young ones. No one ever had to think about an alternative because it was so obviously working well. If it works, don’t fix it. But then along came mobility, industrialism, glorification of heroic individualism and self-sufficiency, suburbs, etc., and the radically new concept of the isolated nuclear family with steep-gradient (mother-only) nurturance. This was the deviant experiment. Previously, there had been non-isolated extended families, non-isolated nuclear families and even a few non-isolated single parent families. See The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap by Stephanie Coontz.

All of these could function well enough in the childcare area because families related to community and to each other, and each household had more people available to it in one form or another, whether these were family or nonfamily members. When women worked together—which has always been taken for granted for most of history—in fields or gardens or as seamstresses or whatever, young children would be watched over on site, and when kids got older they’d join the men in men’s work or the women in women’s work.

In the past, women often worked together and childcare would be on-site
In the past, women often worked together and childcare would be on-site

Sticking a nonworking mother and young child together in an isolated house somewhere and saying to them “you are all each other has now—cope with it” would have been thought of as insane or a severe punishment, or just plain unhealthy. And yet that is precisely the experiment that has been tried in recent history. The statistics on symptomatology certainly have shown what an ineffective experiment this historical aberration has turned out to be.

From the 1970s to the 1990s good/excellent quality care went from 26% to 13% in centers
From the 1970s to the 1990s good/excellent quality care went from 26% to 13% in centers; MCs' caregiving costs (free) and gas for transportation (minimal) represent minimized economic expenditures which will be particularly appreciated as childcare costs rise and yet childcare center quality decreases


Childcare centers should house friends, relatives, elders and kids—not strangers and high-turnover workers of questionable competence
Childcare centers should house friends, relatives, elders and kids—not strangers and high-turnover workers of questionable competence

Some feel that childcare centers help neutralize this problem, since kids are statistically much safer in these centers and much less likely to be abused. In many cases, it’s true that they are a step up from isolated mother care in which a mother has little option but to take it out on her kid when she starts climbing the walls—hence the appalling abuse statistics. But centers are hardly a long-term solution—they’re stop-gap measures at best. Kids need care by people who love them, not people who are getting paid to watch out for them, whether centers or babysitters. And these centers are hard for most mothers to afford, inconveniently placed so they require lots of transportation and planning to deal with, and staffed with many people of questionable qualifications.

In cooperative childcare solutions of times past (which are still prominent in many cultures in the world today), people could get to really care about each other’s kids, and count on a spirit of community responsibility towards all their young. But this has mostly vanished in this country—people are supposed to be “heroic individualists” and “fend for themselves” as if it were brave and independent and wise and effective to manifest such anti-community sentiments.

Where did people get the stupid idea they were supposed to be 'heroic individualists' as if it were brave and independent and wise and effective to manifest such anti-community sentiments?
Where did people get the stupid idea they were supposed to be 'heroic individualists' as if it were brave and independent and wise and effective to manifest such anti-community sentiments?

Anyway, the normal childcare methods for primates, including humans for most of history, has been flat-gradient nurturance, with shared childcare, not steep-gradient nurturance, with isolated childcare—which is the illogical, unhealthy historical aberration. The jury has been in on this for thousands of years. They even do primate studies and cross-cultural studies from time to time just to double-check on these verities. The results are always the same: There is 100 percent certain absolute scientific proof of the fact that steep-gradient nurturance leads to lower quality childcare, less satisfaction, more dysfunctionality, more abuse, and less happiness for all; and it’s less effective, less efficient, and less socially viable. Period. There isn’t even the teeniest question about it. It’s some of solidest science ever done, and it’s one of the most long-term social phenomena ever recorded or studied.

In Montessori schools there are two teachers (flat-gradient nurturance) rather than one (steep-gradient nurturance), which—along with the way cooperative learning is encouraged—leads to win-win character formation, not the win-lose character that normal schools' competitive environment fosters. How well does it work? Ask Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, TV chef Julia Child, SimCity creator Will Wright, Wikipedia creator Jimmy Wales, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who all cite their Montessori education as the key to their success.

Art Levine’s The Biological Roots of Good Mothering is a milestone in primate studies, giving us the most useful information of all about how primates—including humans (the extrapolation is a no-brainer)—experience a direct, causal relationship between abuse and steep-gradient nurturance; the importance of a good, spacious living environment without crowding; the critical impact of good examples to emulate; and the fact that mothering must be taught. Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan's book, Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors, points out that we must learn what we can in science and then apply it to making a better society. To illustrate just how useful such excellent science is, it should be pointed out that the information learned in Art Levine’s The Biological Roots of Good Mothering research was directly applied to humans, and the result was a 500% reduction in abuse. Not 50. Five hundred! How was the research applied? By providing good examples to emulate for parents and by transforming steep-gradient nurturance to flat-gradient nurturance, they greatly decreased the mistreatment of infants at the hands of their mothers.

Where is all this leading? you’re asking yourself. Simple. This has a profound connection to what we were just discussing before: win-win versus win-lose. It just so happens that (as Philip Slater and others have been telling us for years) the win-win personality structure evolves from flat-gradient childcare methods, while the win-lose personality structure evolves from steep-gradient childcare methods. Think about it: If you’re busy with Suzie, Johnny must wait, frustrated, for his turn, so steep-gradient nurturance is intrinsically win-lose. More for Suzie means less for Johnny. They’ll fight and learn to hate and be jealous, and mothers and shrinks are so used to it that they’ll reassure themselves that all the screaming, tears and bruises are simply “normal.”

Some psychologically trained bozos have even assumed that such feelings and actions have always been normal now and historically and in all cultures, which is of course blatant ignorance. If kids—in any culture—often wait frustrated because their nurturer is too busy to be with them—for whatever reason, then such feelings and actions are “normal.” But if there are enough nurturers to go around and kids can rely on getting their needs filled, especially when they’re very young, then such actions and feelings are minimized and the kids’ character structures don’t get conditioned to become win-lose.

If you’ve been following, you can see that half of what would not work about Theobald’s solution has now been solved: Without recourse to “experts” or social engineering or any other such nonsense, but just a cessation of a failed experiment in deviant childcare, the reinstating of tried and true flat-gradient nurturance will help us all become win-win people who can cooperate, support community, raise healthier kids, be happy rather than always feeling conflicted and stressed out, and support the cooperative efforts needed to maintain a healthy democracy.

Lately the people are extremely unhappy with the politicians since the real powers-that-be are arranging things so that what's happening is just about the OPPOSITE of the people's will
Lately the people are extremely unhappy with the politicians since the real powers-that-be are arranging things so that what's happening is just about the OPPOSITE of the people's will

Note that the childcare in the U.S. is mostly steep-gradient and win-lose and even though there's the pretense of democracy (we get to vote) our democracy has gotten less and less healthy and now we have oligarchy disguised as democracy in the U.S. this all happened because steep-gradient childcare led to win-lose personalities which kept competing with each other greedily until a few corporations got huge and a few bigwigs got super powerful, and they became the few entities with most of the power in our oligarchy, rather than the dispersed power that democracies are supposed to have where the politicians do the will of the people. Lately the people are extremely unhappy with the politicians since the real powers-that-be are arranging things so that what's happening is just about the OPPOSITE of the people's will. How can that happen in a democracy? It can't. But the powers-that-be have captured BOTH political parties so now it no longer matters who or what you vote for—the will of the powers-that-be will be done regardless. (See The US is an oligarchy, study concludes.)

The powers-that-be want parents to raise win-lose, competitive warriors full of hate and violence to go fight in their phoney wars that no one wants
The powers-that-be want parents to raise win-lose, competitive warriors full of hate and violence to go fight in their phoney wars that no one wants

In order to have a healthy democracy, we must give up our tragic steep-gradient experiment and go back to the historical norm: flat-gradient nurturance. But the powers-that-be won't like this at all—they'll feel they're being castrated. They want parents to raise win-lose, competitive warriors full of hate and violence to go fight in their phoney wars that no one wants. The more we kill Islamics, the more their families and clans swear eternal vengence on us, on the U.S., on America, on the West, and on everything non-Islamic. Does THAT sound like "victory" to you? The huge war industry of the military-industrial complex sees it as victory and success, so they keep up the propaganda about War on Terror, so we'll raise nothing but warriors and defense-industry workers and the huge corporations in the corrupt war industry (Haliburton, etc.) will get richer and richer. The citizenry would vote against all of this nonsense except the REAL powers-that-be ensured that both parties are in their pockets. Vote for whatever you want, and the powers-that-be keep doing things their way and there in no possibility of voting for something different than what they entities desire. It's hopeless.

The second part of what wouldn’t work in Theobald’s solution is trying to get people raised with authoritarian, win-lose, steep-gradient methods to not act like they were raised that way, not treat others like they were raised that way (power trips, negative power, coercion, threats, resorting to violence, guilt, hate, and the rest), and to not raise kids to act that way (people almost always raise their kids like they were raised, unfortunately, regardless of whether or not this includes abuse, genital mutilation customs, instilling fear and hatred, etc.). The solution here is absolutely, positively NOT to go the opposite route and opt for permissive parenting. That’s even worse than authoritarianism.

No, the solution is either authoritative (e.g., Winning Family Lifeskills) or harmonious (P.E.T.) parenting done with flat-gradient childcare methods. People raised in such ways have been scientifically shown to have the best cognitive, social, and cooperative abilities of any method and they have the most positive character and personality traits. This cures the problems Theobald reports when people get together to discuss or solve community problems and authoritarians are arrogant and self-righteous while permissive liberals are morally relativistic, indecisive, and too easy-going about serious problems.

Are either experts or social engineering needed here? Absolutely not! Simply dump an inoperable, random-feelings-determined, ineffective, irrational set of child-raising habits that you’re coping with and putting up with out of ignorance or because your parents used these methods on you, and use P.E.T. and/or Winning Family Lifeskills methods instead. Bye-bye authoritarianism and permissiveness and the sad, dysfunctional relationships they produce; hello effective child-rearing that is satisfying, effective, and inspiring, and teaches everyone good communication habits that they can and will want to use not only at home between adults and kids but also between spouses and at work or school between everyone and everyone else.

You didn’t really want to have to attempt to pull teeth from the wrong end of the alimentary canal, did you?!
You didn’t really want to have to attempt to pull teeth from the wrong end of the alimentary canal, did you?!

Why make people relearn when they could learn it right the first time? Why try to pretend personality/character traits one doesn’t have when one could easily be raised to have exactly the right ones? Why try to change habits and attitudes when it’s 1000 times easier to simply learn the right ones in the first place? Now, be honest: You didn’t really want to have to attempt to pull teeth from the wrong end of the alimentary canal, did you?! The lady above is doing it the easy way—via the mouth.

(Note: Ronald P. Rohner, in 1975’s They Love Me, They Love Me Not, reported on the results of conducting worldwide, cross-cultural (101 cultures) studies and found that isolated, steep-gradient-nurturing mothers are lots more likely to be rejecting rather than accepting toward their kids than are flat-gradient-nurturing, non-isolated mothers that get help with caregiving. He also found that acceptance-rejection is the most critical factor in the kids’ lives for good personality development, good mental health, happiness, security, etc. Later, in 1986’s The Warmth Dimension, he showed that when the nurturance alternatives and the flatness of the gradient of nurturance increases (i.e., more caregivers), the positive outcomes go up dramatically. Stem families, with two parents and two grandparents (the most available caregivers), produced the most acceptance and the least rejection of any family type, much better than nuclear, single-parent, or stepfamilies. This was the most flat-gradient family type studied. The kids from such families have less: defensiveness, hostility, negative aggression, passive aggressiveness, self-esteem problems, self-control problems, negative worldviews, and emotional instability. Isn’t it time that Americans quit trying to pretend to address the plethora of social symptoms with “good intentions” and instead use the cultural wisdom from our planet’s human species to effect an immediate reversal of this dysfunctionality?)