Berg-Soc Cultural Theory




The People
The Land







Daily Life


"Everyone is happy nowadays" -- Brave New World

Bergonians believe: if it is within the ability of man to change conditions for the better, then he should.   Indeed humanity shows absolutely no hesitation about changing the external world by cutting forests, farming, mining, urbanizing and spewing forth pollution, and he does all these things with all possible premeditation.  Why should he not also endeavor to change his society and culture-- and therefore himself?  Indeed, man already uses new technology to change himself for base ends, with random effects. (e.g. mass propaganda to stir up war fever and ethnic hatred, mass marketing culture that kill religions and trivializes all thought, the auto culture to kill off urban life and isolate individuals.)  So why not do so with careful intent and for good ends?  And yes, humankind already has, with collectively conscious desire, overthrown kings, nobility and dictators, end slavery and segregation, create public schools, and allow organized labor.

Social Values and Motivation: 

Humankind is akin to the wagon-drawing donkey.  The donkey will walk and pull, when enticed with either a carrot or a stick.  One can assume that there will, by necessity, be some carrot (or stick) -- the question is what carrot we use to motivate humankind to go.  

Every society has some values-- 

People are motivated according to what they subjectively think is important, and it is within their schema of belief and assumptions that they develop goals.  Then people will act rationally to achieve their goals, which are themselves rarely rational.  Hence, for example, the internal logic of magic, the potlatch, war & the military, and human sacrifice.  The Bergonian "scientific" socialists adopted an anthropological and sociological perspective and assumed that a person's schema and the goals are largely handed to him by his parents, his family, his class and community, and his culture.  If the culture endorses the greed and servility that produce capitalism, then the culture will likely not be ready for socialism.

And every society will expend its surplus labor on something--

Georges Bataille and others of an anthropological bent have postulated that civilization occurs when men and women generate enough of an economic surplus (i.e. more than what is needed for survival) to afford kings and priests. Classical economic theory assumes a struggle over scarce resources, but it is the surplus that is conspicuous.  As Turnball demonstrated with the miserably starved Ik Tribe in N.W. Kenya, utter poverty decimates personality and reduced everyone to the same apathetic blandness, but the wealthier a society, the more distinctly and complexly it develops the details of its culture.  Unfortunately, in most societies the development of culture is a class-based phenomena.  Starving people are very much alike, no matter what nation they are starving in, but it is the powerful & rich who direct the production and the distribution of the surplus, and it is the artists and intelligentsia serving the powerful & rich who develop culture.

For what particular purpose will the society expend its surplus labor. 

Many preliterate tribal cultures generated surpluses, and then develop distinctive cultural schemes for spending it.  The Hopi spent theirs on an elaborate system of ritual.  The Indians on the Northwest Coast expended their in prestige-building potlaches.  

Ancient Egyptians used their surplus for constructing tombs, necropolises and temples.  They created an amazingly stable (and conservative) society.

Aztecs used theirs to construct a military-religious system of mass human sacrifice-- where hundreds of victims patiently stood in line waiting for their turn. (One of the best expositions of this willingness to undergo torture and die is The Aztecs, Inga Clendenin.  When Aztec and Mayan princes and priests pierced their own tongues and penises to release blood for the Gods, they were responding to values utterly unlike our own.  Has any group in Eurasia routinely tortured themselves in such a controlled manner?  The Catholic and Shiite penitents who flagellate themselves with whips and chains.  But for the most part the indigenous cultures of Eurasia have prospered by their propensity to subject others to pains and suffering, rather than themselves.

Mongols expended their slight surpluses (consisting primarily of horses) into mobility-- and developed a culture of aggression.  The Mongols boasted of their pillaging and sacking as high pleasure.  sentiments like, "I am never happier than when I am slashing away at the victims of my conquest."  This same impetus occurred to other fringe cultures, which it to say small "barbarian" cultures on the fringes of larger "civilized," urban,

Tibetans, up until the recent Chinese invasion, used their surplus to build a massive network of monasteries for religious expression.    

Medieval Europe likewise used much of its surplus to build networks of religious institutions to preserve and propagandize church culture. At its peak the church commenced a wave of huge monument building-- the great gothic cathedrals-- not unlike the Egyptian pyramids.  Socialist opposition to the church, commencing 150+ years ago, was just part of the overall animus of Modernism to Christian (especially Catholic) civilization. 

Arguably, Heian Japan used its surplus to build something akin to the Bergonian "cult of beauty" for the Imperial Court and the nobility. This equates beauty with the subjective resonance of sadness that results from awareness of the transience of all things.  The Tale of Genji was written in the beginning of the 11th century, the Heian period, by Murasaki Shikibu, a lady in the Heian court of Japan. Lady Murasaki used the Japanese word "a-wa-re" in various circumstances in her story. Presently in Japan, the general meaning of "a-wa-re" is "pitiful," "pity" or "compassion," but in ancient Japan, the term designated not only those meanings, but also feelings which ranged from awareness of the "ah-ness" of life to what could be called "pathos," a very Japanese response to the transience of earthly existence.  It referred to beauty, but moreover, it meant transitory beauty. It was also an emotional quality that arose from one’s sadness at realizing that beauty must fade. Mono-no-aware thus referred to one’s ability to sense the connection between beauty and sadness. One possessed mono-no-aware if a birdcall or snowfall moved one to tears. Finally, miyabi was the distinguishing virtue of the upper class. It was equivalent to refined taste and sensitivity to standards of beauty. To use a recent western example, a character in the film, American Beauty, exhibits both miyabi and mono-no-aware in his wonder at the charm of the plastic bag as it tosses about in the wind.

Imagine a scene in which cherry blossom petals are showering down like rain. Ancient people mentioned a deep impression of that ephemeral natural beauty through the word "a-wa-re." On the other hand, they also intimated affection for their beloved through the same word. Lady Murasaki expressed every emotion or feeling of a sensitive heart by means of the term in The Tale of Genji. She used it effectively in every situation in her story, as if to show her own reflection on the transience of human life. Of course, her expression seemed to be influenced by the sense of "shogyo mujo" expressed in Buddhism (everything on earth is impermanent and nothing remains unchanged or everlasting). At that time, our ancestors had a kind of understanding about the teaching of Buddha: all visible things are vanity. However, they never denied the visual charm of beauty, but loved it dearly. That's why they knew well that human life was fragile and fleeting, so they had an empathy with the ephemeral beauty on this earth. People in Heian period, from Lady Murasaki down, used the word "a-wa-re" as an expression of such deep feeling. They reflected the link between beauty and feelings of sadness in their works.  This attitude permeated Aztec aesthetics as well, especially Aztec poetry, which plumbed the subtle depths of "flowers."  Is it coincidental that both ancient Japan and Aztec Mexico were very martial societies?

Later, medieval Shogunate Japan adopted martial values and poured its surplus into chronic civil war, culminating in 1609.  The bedrock of this culture seemed to be honor and sacrificial duty.  Likewise, China suffered through the period of the Warring States where wasteful conflict was the constant theme.  Read The Art of War.

We ourselves appear headed toward a post-modern ethic of wasteful individualized consumption-- buying as a signification of worth, expressed through the speechless unanchored medium of "cool."

Consider the Japanese hero who commits sepuku-- personified in our age by Yukio Mishima.  This hero hardly behaves like the "rational" man of classical capitalist economic theory.  Neither did the Aztec, the Tibetan, the Hopi nor the Medieval Christian.  So the next time someone tells you that it is only natural for men to be selfish and materialist, don't listen.  You are only hearing their capitalist values speaking. 

Which capitalist values?  Indeed the vary nature of capitalist values have changed radically.  Medieval Christian culture rejected interest as sinful, but this changed with the Renaissance, which occurred two centuries before Columbus sailed.  In the 1500s the conquistadors pounced on Bergonia and the Americas with their crazy amalgam of Catholic missionary zeal and gold hunger.  In the 1600s the Calvinist burghermeister counted his coins.  Next came Benjamin Franklin advising avarice as a virtue.  This avarice is what native Bergonians saw when they nicknamed Europeans "magpies."  

To expand on the simple virtue of avarice, came the American legend of Horatio Alger-- the man of unlimited ambition who overcome all obstacles.  Surely some of this resonated in Nietzsche's utterly modern vision, just as Goethe's Faust cautioned against it.  The Rockefellers and the Krumpfs gave flesh to the legend.

Though few have observed it, this is when capitalist values began explicit opposition to Christianity. On the ground, capitalists have tortured, killed and sickened millions of workers (including children), while the church looked on.  Every Catholic for the last umpteen centuries have known of the Seven Deadly Sins that have become the Six Capitalist Virtues.  Pride has become the imperative-- the "individualism" that justifies all capitalist liberal-democratic theory, as well as most of what we call "modernism."  Greed has become the perfectly acceptable motivation for all capitalist life's activities.  And capitalist marketing and mass media experts have promoted the sins of Lust, Gluttony, Sloth-- and most especially Envy-- to degrade the population and fleece everyone of all their money.  Only the Seventh Sin, Anger, is left to the righteous.  (the "Righteous Axe," see Prakai EleusiAll the while the modern church has become dependent upon largesse generated by capitalist activity, rather than autonomous with its own economic base.  All this (The church earlier did not merely tolerate conquistador enslavement of the Indians, but actively assisted in the process of culture-breaking with forced baptisms and assimilation.  Ironically, in Luther's time the impulse that generated peasant revolts was the same impulse that propelled him into prominence.) 

Throughout the 1800s capitalist production served to satisfy existing demand.  But by the 1920s-- coincident with the development of radio, film and mass printing-- an altogether new type of demand emerged.  This is created, or contrived, demand produced by propaganda.  The Bergonians stalwartly refer to all forms of mass media as propaganda, in order to keep front and center its power to change people's thinking-- and values.  Americans condemned to "Nazi" or "communist propaganda" while themselves seeking to alter values and behavior through "marketing."  In essence of what happens psychologically and behaviorally, American marketing works exactly like "propaganda" overseas-- in fact it does the job far better.  "Propaganda Capitalism" (as some Bergonians have called it) compel people toward values of acquisition and consumption.  And hence gluttony replaces-- a switch of values.  The classical "rational man" is betrayed-- the consumer doesn't buy a new product because he has valued it comparatively against competitors, but because of an emotional reaction elicited by an ad gimmick.  Marketing culture has replaced the anal retentive with the anal expulsive, and yes, there is crap spreading everywhere in the current phase of capitalism. Like the anal expulsive personality, modern marketing scatters and spews, with random effect.  The result is a littered mental landscape, without focus and completely subject to impulse.

This "crap" culture focuses on what Bergonian critics almost uniformly call "junk values"-- the desire to have, to buy, to chase glitter, to prize the act of acquisition, the elevation of image, the "Look," the award of status according to ostentation, to the Yuppie accumulation of "personal experience" as life's grand goal, not to mention "cool" and "groovy."  If people think you are cool, then you are cool.

Another set of values:



The Whole Culture Perspective and the Ecological Perspective.

The environmental movement began in the 1960-70s with the insight that the natural environment was an integrated interdependent whole, so that damage to one part of it often causes unintended consequences upon other parts and upon the whole.  It is amazing that the Western has failed to see that the same is true of the social environment.  Whether one calls it Bergonian "culture," Bergonian "civilization, Bergonia "society" or the Bergonian "economy," it is a single thing, a single whole.  And a change to one part of the social entity will have unintended consequences upon other parts and upon the whole.  Most modernists have failed to see the inter-relatedness.

However, in the wake of the successful Revolution the victorious socialists considered how socialism was an outlook, a collection of values, that projected into virtually every aspect of human life. This gave rise to the explicit understanding that all things in the social environment were interrelated, with none preeminent.  The Bergonians called this the "Whole-Culture View."

The economic, political, cultural and technological aspects of a culture are not seen as just inter-related, but all rather manifestations of a central whole, generally regarded as residing in the common mental and emotional thought processes of all the people in the group.  Of course individual or group thinking manifests typically in action/behavior.  Divisions or compartments like "economics," "art" and "politics" describe certain types of behavior, and the divisions just happen to correspond to academic disciplines, and westerners generally see that one of these compartments dominate the others.  Marxists see economics predicating all thought and behavior.  He followed the classical economists who contrived the "rational" economic man.  Freud had his sexual-neurotic mythology to explain thought and behavior.  They all followed the Medieval-Christian worldview, that put everything in the context of Man's relationship with God.