C-51. Decline and fall

Communities of all types (e.g., civilizations, nations, cultures, villages), like individuals of all types, ascend … then decline and fall. Famously so. This despite the progressive incline of history via contingent emergent materiality (App. XII: CEM).The ascent is best understood functionally; so is the decline and fall. But our functional acquaintance with both ascent and decline is far too limited, enough so that we seem unprepared to further our ascent and/or to counter our decline.

It might help here to take a different look at matters. There is too much of a “seed” metaphor working here. Familiar behavioral entities like people and trees and flowers do indeed have something of a seed-growing-to-apex-then-declining-to-death history to them. But communities are different in an important respect. Their origin and course are more behavioral. As we saw in App XII (History), communities are the most behavioral of behavioral entities, because they have taken contingent emergent materiality the furthest – and could take it and humanism much further.

In this light, “decline and fall” – if seen as fate — is open to question. We may have (and probably have) failed to give behavior its due (III, XI; C-38, C-39). What is inevitable for one kind of behavioral entity (immortality excluded) is not necessarily the case for another (all other things being stable – i.e., cataclysmic circumstantial change [II] excepted).

The seed metaphor depends on a special interpretation of the structure x function dynamic (XI). The metaphor sees the nascent structural entity as possessing inherited functional capacities which are then manifested until the structure and thus the functioning begin to wane … and finally die. But as we have seen (XI; C-18, C-36) the interdependence component of dynamics cautions us to respect the function => structure (F=>S) potential along with the structure => function (S=>F) aspect – and not to violate their independence by equating structure and function (as in the simplistic “is as does”).

So there emerges (sic: App. XI) here a 2nd order interdependence of (F=>S) => (S=>F) <=> (S=>F) => (F=>S) …, which is very characteristic of the multi-step human’s compositional behavior, and which is in consequence of the Nature of Things’ general persisting conditions and resultant behavioral necessity for behavioral entities. (There is no logical circularity involved.)

Communities as behavioral entities necessarily enjoy structure in consequence of functionality. What they amount to — i.e., how well they do and how long they last – depends on their functionality as operating systems (C-36). That, in turn, depends on our developing capabilities to meet our functional needs (See, esp.: Topics III, V -XII; App. III, VII-X; C-41). We, as operating systems, must be up to composing communities as operating systems and then – via more composing — integrating with them (XI: Indiv. x CMY).

As the Tragedy of the Commons illustrates, we are not there yet. “Community science” (C-10) is a potential resource area. Strangely enough, given its low academic status, a well-grounded journalism discipline might lead the way. Journalism as a profession, after all, is dedicated to public service, and its functioning should parallel the needed functionality of the community (C-26).

For those behavioral entities who deem themselves communities, and who wish to fight against inevitable decline and fall … indeed, who wish to thrive and grow ever more productive, the course forward is clearly to be, and to stay, in accord with the Nature of Things (C-9).* On this last point, consider how easily the course forward can be (and has been) lost. Our discussion of functional indicators (App. IX, App.X) demonstrates how relatively inadequate we have prepared ourselves in this regard. Would that we could have the functional equivalent of a compass for monitoring our handling of all the pertinent dynamic conditions associated with maintaining our forward balance (XI). But we don’t. And if we did, the needle itself would appear to us to be unreadable: random in its multidimensional movements and final settling point.

Decline and fall addresses itself to a limited portion of the quality-of-life continuum of problems and solutions (0). It focuses on the solutions and the solutions which are problems in that they need to be repeated. Ascent, however, is defined by filling out that continuum of problems to include three more: modes of solution that become problems, S-P; problems arising from solutions, Ps; and, still-untouched problems, P. The antidote to decline and fall is to be sought in the capability to continue our ascent, to become able to solve these latter three problem types.** (There is great risk in our not doing so [C-50].)


* Note that this “accord” differs from that of existentialism’s “authentic” life. The latter points to behavior in accord with one’s self; the former (App. XI: CEM-existentialism?) points out that this self should itself be in accord with the Nature of Things.

** Some Sp are resolved Ps. Both S and Sp are subject to erosion (see App. XII diagram) – as in “decaying infrastructure” concerns.

(c) 2012 R. F. Carter