An Underground View of the 39th ISCSC International Conference at Western Michigan University in June 2009
by William McGaughey
back to: Nature of Civilizations
The International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations (ISCSC) is an academic association focused on the study of “civilization” - a broad cultural configuration that includes human societies or communities around the world. It grew out of a week-long conference held in Salzburg, Austria, between October 8 and October 15, 1961, whose participants included the eminent scholars Pitirim Sorokin and Arnold Toynbee. Originally centered in Europe, this international organization now operates primarily in the United States although there is an active contingent from Canada, Japan, and Korea.
The ISCSC held its 39th international conference at Western Michigan University (WMU) in Kalamazoo, Michigan, between June 3 and June 6, 2009. Its current president, Andrew Targowski, is a professor of business information systems in the School of Business at WMU. As a young man, he had helped to develop a computer network in Poland called the Infostrada. In 1981, Targowski received political asylum in the United States following the Polish government’s crackdown on Solidarity.
I was born and raised in Michigan but had never been to Kalamazoo. I currently live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I had attended ISCSC conferences in 2001 (Newark, NJ), 2002 (Jamaica), 2004 (Fairbanks, AK), and 2005 (St. Paul, MN), but nothing since. Kalamazoo was roughly on the route from Minneapolis to Milford, Pennsylvania, where I own a house. I therefore gave serious consideration to attending this conference when the invitation arrived. My proposal to present a paper at the conference was accepted.
Conferences are expensive and, because my personal finances are stretched thin, I made every attempt to economize. The conference registration fee was $150 - $75 for retirees. Being 68 years of age, I checked the retiree box. On-campus housing in student dormitories was provided at $38 per night for single occupancy and $28 for double occupancy. I thought I might share a room with Michael Andregg, a friend who lives in St. Paul.
On-campus meals were available at the Fetzer Center, where conference events would be held, and near the student dormitories. Breakfasts cost $12 per meal at the Fetzer Center and $6 per meal near the dormitories. Lunches were $14 per meal at Fetzer; $8.05 near the dormitories. Dinners near the dormitory cost $9.15. They cost $20 at Fetzer on Thursday evening and $35 on Friday evening. On Saturday evening, there would be a group excursion to Saugatuck, Michigan, a resort town on Lake Michigan. The meal for this event was $30. Additionally, there would be a $20 fee for van transportation between Kalamazoo and Saugatuck. I went for dormitory meals plus the group banquet in Saugatuck on Saturday night and also, of course, the van transportation.
I called Michael Andregg two weeks before the conference to propose that we share a room. He declined my offer on the grounds that his sleeping practices were irregular. He was in the habit of waking up at 5:00 a.m. to be at work by 6:00 a.m. This schedule might disturb prospective roommates. Andregg proposed, however, that we share a ride from the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota) to Kalamazoo. He was planning to drive there in his 1991 Honda Civic. We agreed that I would drive to his house in St. Paul, park my car in his garage, and then proceed to the conference in Andregg’s car.
Andregg had to be at the conference site in the early afternoon
of Wednesday, June 3rd, to assist the conference organizers,
to be underway at 3:00 a.m. I would set my alarm clock for 2 p.m.,
me time to dress and drive to Andregg’s house. The first conference
event would be a reception for participants at the Fetzer Center
between 5 p.m. and
7 p.m. on Wednesday.
My own interest in the ISCSC arose from having written and published a paperback book about civilizations in the context of world history. The title was “Five Epochs of Civilization: World History as Emerging in Five Civilizations.” This book came out in 2000. It was essentially a proposal for how to organize world history in segments, each telling a coherent story.
According to this scheme, human society had seen four discrete “civilizations”, or states of culture, since the first city-states arose in Egypt and Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium B.C. A new cultural or communication technology introduced each civilization: first, ideographic writing; then, alphabetic writing, printing (in Germany in the 15th century A.D.), and finally electronic communication in the form of motion pictures, telegraphy and the telephone, and radio and television broadcasting. A fifth type of communication through the Internet and computer technology had recently been introduced; and this would lay the foundation for a fifth civilization.
Civilizations - cultural configurations - were equated with historical epochs - periods of time - in the sense that a new epoch began with the emergence of a new civilization. According to my scheme, these civilizations were worldwide. In this respect, I broke from other scholars who regarded civilizations as cultures confined to particular peoples or geographical regions. There might be, for instance, an Egyptian, Babylonian, Indian, or Chinese civilization. This was Toynbee’s scheme, for instance. He had identified twenty-one separate civilizations. According to him, our own “western Christian” civilization began in the 8th century A.D.
In addition to communication technologies, civilizations and epochs of history were keyed to changing states of society. The first big change occurred when people who had previously been organized in tribes settled in urban communities. From the temple hierarchy, a separate center of power emerged in the form of monarchical government. The first epoch of world history therefore described the development of government in the first city states and its territorial expansion into kingdoms and, finally, large empires such as Rome’s.
Other civilizations followed. In the second epoch of history, philosophically based world religions emerged, sharing power with imperial government. In the third epoch, begun in Renaissance Italy, two new types of institutions appeared: commerce (or business) and secular education. In the fourth epoch, there were new organizations for delivering news and entertainment. We call them the mass media.
With a heavy load of books to sell, I needed to develop a marketing campaign. The first step was to seek book reviews. Five Epochs of Civilization was reviewed in Alan Caruba’s Bookviews.com, The Midwest Book Review, and Booklist, in 2000, and in The Historian, in 2002. There was also interest among foreign reviewers. My book was reviewed in Dawn (Karachi, Pakistan), Xin Hua Book Studies (Beijing, China), The Hindu (Madras, India), and New Nigerian Weekly (Kaduna, Nigeria). Although most of the foreign reviews were positive, my book did not have distribution abroad. I did have a U.S. distributor.
In 2001, I created a website that presented concepts in the book and included an email address for persons wishing to order copies. Originally, the site was located at Quintepoch.com (a pseudo Latin term for “Fifth Epoch”), and later at the more understandable Worldhistorysite.com. Early on, I decided to create parallel pages in five foreign languages - French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and ltalian - using Altavista’s language translator, Babelfish.
I discovered that this website was not effective in selling books. However, it did eventually attract substantial traffic - between 1,500 and 2,000 daily visits - especially after the website was expanded. An article on how world history could be used to predict the future and a list of important inventions in communication technology were among the the most popular features. At one time, worldhistorysite.com was #1 on Google for the search words “predict the future”.
My book was distributed by Access Publishers Network. I participated in a cooperative exhibit at the national book show, Book Expo, in Chicago in June, 2000. It was at this event that I learned of the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations. I ran into another self-publisher, Corinne Gilb of Atherton Press, at one of the Expo events. A long-time member of ISCSC, she and I sat at a table discussing the organization. She knew Michael Andregg and was especially enamored of another ISCSC member, Roger Wescott, who had recently died.
Besides the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations, two other organizations interested me as vehicles for promoting my book: World History Association (WHA) and National Council for History Education (NCHE). I joined both organizations and attended their national conferences. Eventually, I became disillusioned with them, though for different reasons.
World History Association held an annual conference in Boston, MA, in June 2000. I attended it before flying to China to visit my new wife but quickly soured on this organization. First, its Journal declined to publish a review of my book. Second, I had a sense that WHA members were ideologically driven rather than being open-minded about how world history should be organized and taught. Following the lead of historian William McNeill, they believed that changes in society (or civilization) depended primarily upon external contacts between different societies rather than an internal mechanism driving change. In contrast, my theory, following Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee, was that civilizations rose and fell according to an organic life cycle. I felt that editors of the WHA Journal would not review my book because they did not wish to discuss another point of view.
A panel discussion of the proposed guidelines for the curricula of Advanced Placement courses in world history gave me an additional reason to dislike this organization. A committee of eight college and high-school teachers of world history, comprised mainly of WHA members chaired by Peter Stearns of Carnegie Mellon University, had developed a set of guidelines for teaching such courses. The kicker was that the Educational Testing Service of Princeton, New Jersey, which produced standardized tests for Advanced Placement courses, based its tests upon those guidelines. Certain biases were therefore built into the tests including William McNeill’s view of how societies change. Any high-school student who wished to pass the AP tests would, of course, study world history from the recommended perspective. Peter Sterns was author of a glitzy textbook for world-history courses which presumably conformed to the committee’s guidelines.
This experience confirmed some of my worst stereotypes of academia. It was about money and power, not truth. I was brought up to believe in Plato’s idea that truth is reached by open discussion and debate among competing points of view. Whoever marshals the better arguments and evidence will convince others of the truth of his position and this position will become generally believed. I found that in academic circles today there was no real discussion but, instead, political maneuvering to advance certain points of view. If you as an ideologue could take over a respected organization, you could control the topics discussed at its conferences and the content of its publications. You could select only those works which conform to your point of view. The ultimate power was to control the questions asked on tests.
In this case, I saw how an ideologically motivated group, the World History Association, was able to place its members on a committee of eight teachers which was charged with writing guidelines for Advanced Placement courses in world history. Then a testing organization accepted those guidelines as the basis for questions on AP tests. Finally, high-school teachers of world history were forced to design their courses to prepare students for passing the tests (“teach to tests”) so that the school’s test scores would be high and the public would believe the students had learned something and the schools were effectively teaching. In reality, this was a process for shutting down free inquiry, closing discussion, and, in fact, making the study of world history uninteresting and pedantic. Such was the nature of academic politics.
National Council for History Education had a different
it did not
a journal that
in one of its newsletters. Second,
although world history was within
its scope of
NCHE tended to
especially after Congress
appropriated a large sum of money
to facilitate such teaching.
national conferences had tightly
focused themes, favoring American
rather than world history. I
twice submitted proposals to make presentations
but my proposals were not accepted.
In 2006, I was, however, invited
to make a presentation at the
annual conference of the Minnesota chapter
of NCHE at Foley
high school. The problem here
was not hostility but relevance to
interested members of this organization.
I attended my first conference of the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations at Newark campus of Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, in June 2001. Matt Melko reviewed my book at one of the sessions. I sat in the audience. Melko did not like the approach that I took in this book. In fact, he called my scheme of civilization “goofy”. A specific objection was that I was confusing civilizations with historical epochs, or periods of time, and that each epoch seemed to be shorter than the previous one. This offended Melko’s sense of proportion. After he spoke, I was invited to come up to the front table to respond to the review. Few minds were changed. But at least my book was reviewed and there was some opportunity for discussion.
I attended three other annual conferences of the ISCSC in the following four years. There was a conference at the beautiful Frenchman’s Cove resort on the northeast shore of Jamaica. George Von der Muhll and I, for $35 a night each, shared a cottage once occupied by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. I had a minor role in one of the panel discussions.
This conference was marred by the drowning death of a fellow conference participant, Robert Hanson, which some regard as a suicide. I had sat at the breakfast table with him and his wife on that fateful day. On a happier note, I had several leisurely discussions with Corinne Gilb. Of particular interest was that fact that she had been Detroit’s city planner during the administration of Coleman Young. Young’s mistress, who had taken a course from Gilb at Wayne State University, was instrumental in the appointment. I am a native of Detroit and knew the terrain.
I also attended ISCSC conferences in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2004 and in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2005. At the Fairbanks conference, I told of my experience as a candidate in Louisiana’s Democratic Presidential primary earlier that year. (I finished fifth among seven candidates, receiving 3,100 votes or 2% of the total.) I abandoned my prepared speech to talk off the cuff. The delivery was better that way. In the context of civilizations, the purpose of the talk was to show that we are living in the epoch of an entertainment culture - Civilization IV - and that its requirements affect other functions in society, including the process of picking a political leader. Presidential candidates have to make themselves accessible and appealing to the media in order to cultivate a favorable image among the public and win votes.
I published an article summarizing my scheme of civilizations in Comparative Civilization Review in the spring of 2002, a review of a book on Mayan archeology in the spring of 2003, and an article on how world history could be used to predict the future of civilizations in the fall of 2006, but did not make any presentations at the 2005 conference in St. Paul. The two articles were also posted on the website, worldhistorysite.com.
Although my contributions were noticed, I remained controversial in certain ISCSC circles. One member, John Hord, wrote me, for instance, advising me to avoid using the word “civilization” in connection with my historical scheme because it conflicted with prevalent views within the ISCSC. I replied that neither he nor the organization had a trademark on this word and I would continue using it because the word was the best one I knew for expressing my views.
Around that time, I became increasingly dissatisfied with ISCSC conferences because there seemed to be little dialogue among members. The speakers seemed to be talking past each other in their separate presentations. Without meaningful dialogue, we seemed to be wasting our time. I expressed my concern to the incoming president and received a phone message from him but we were subsequently unable to connect. Then, when my proposal for a presentation at the 2006 conference in Paris was rejected, I decided to let my membership lapse. The French co-sponsors, like the World History Association, were insisting on conference themes to stress the “diffusionist” view of civilizational change. I would not put up with any more academic power plays.
I continued to receive issues of Comparative Civilization Review (CCR). An article by editor Laina Farhat-Holzman in the spring 2008 titled “Deadly Conspiracy Myths in History” hit one of my hot buttons. It was irritating to me because I do not believe that a lone gunman killed President John F. Kennedy and there are suspicious circumstances surrounding the devastation that occurred on September 11, 2001. Despite the vast importance of those events, U.S. newspapers and media have steadfastly refused to investigate the specific evidences supporting claims of a conspiracy conflicting with the official explanations. Their standard response has been to discuss instead how stupid people like me (and millions of other Americans) are prone to believe in “conspiracy theories”. Farhat-Holzman’s article seemed to be in that vein. I objected to an editor of a scholarly publication such as ours using her position to promote a particular political view.
I wrote a three-page response to Laina Farhat-Holzman and copied several other persons in the ISCSC. She promptly invited me to write my own article about conspiracy theories. This was not quite what I had in mind, so I fired off another letter to Farhat-Holzman. I really wanted CCR to publish my letter as a counterpoint article to what she had written. Matt Melko called me to say that the CCR editors were considering a letters to the editor section to deal with situations such as mine. I was led to believe that eventually my letter would be published, perhaps in an abbreviated form. That was acceptable to me. However, nothing of the sort appeared in subsequent issues. It seemed to be a broken promise. I was prepared to ask Melko for an explanation at the conference in Kalamazoo.
When I learned that Midori Yamanouchi-Rynn would be at the conference, I conceived the purpose of also talking with her. She interested me particularly for two reasons. First, she lived in the area of Scranton, Pennsylvania, which is fifty miles west of Milford where I own a house. Second, I had an engaging conversation with Yamanouchi-Rynn during the cocktail hour at my first ISCSC conference when she let down her hair about life in academia.
The gist of the conversation was that she despised many of her colleagues at the University of Scranton. She considered them persons lacking real interest and knowledge concerning the subjects they taught. They were undisciplined products of the ‘60s counterculture who had wormed their way into tenured positions at American universities. She herself was treated poorly by such persons within her own institution but was respected elsewhere. This conversation confirmed some of my worst stereotypes of higher education today and I wanted to hear more.
In any event, my personal agenda consisted of those two items as I set out for Kalamazoo in Michael Andregg’s car. He drove the entire way because he was worried that the clutch might give out on his 1991 Honda Civic and I might not know what to do.
I thought this might be my last ISCSC conference. It was clear that members would not accept or seriously discuss my “goofy” scheme of civilizations. In fact, I had pretty much exhausted what I could do about the book. I was preparing to write a new book, or perhaps script for a video, that would give a narrative of “big history” (from the Big Bang to man’s future or possible extinction), and then turn to other pursuits. I was coming to the conference primarily because Andrew Targowski had extended an invitation and Kalamazoo, Michigan, was not too far away.
Regarding my issue with Laina Farhat-Holzman, Andregg expressed a useful opinion. I should address my complaint directly to her rather than to Matt Melko, who was not the CCR editor but someone trying to help resolve the complaint. He also stressed that the ISCSC is a volunteer organization that depends on persons such as Farhat-Holzman who actually do the work. It was easy for relatively inactive members such as me to criticize. If I pushed too hard with my complaint, it would serve only to disrupt the organization and perhaps cause hard-working volunteers such as Laina to resign. I could see the wisdom of Andregg’s advice.
Michael Andregg is a fast driver and we arrived in Kalamazoo around 1:30 p.m., in plenty of time for the conference. After checking in at Fetzer Center and receiving our conference packages from Betsy Drummer, we drove to the student dormitory at Hoekje (pronounced “Hokey”) Hall. Although it was a long drive around the campus perimeter, we were told of a more direct route that took ten minutes to walk. Andregg had heard that an ISCSC representative, perhaps Laina Farhat-Holzman, had taken a look at the dormitory the day before and decided it was lacking in creature comforts. She had moved to a motel instead.
At Hoekje Hall, a young man with a mattress on his head engaged Andregg and me in a discussion of civilization. Then a woman in charge gave us keys and rooming instructions. Andregg’s room was on the first floor along a corridor to the right as it appeared to someone walking in the front door. My room, #153, was on the first floor along a corridor to the left, nearly to the end.
Evidently more men than women had signed up for the ISCSC conference so dormitory officials had to put a few men in the women’s section of the building. The men’s bathroom, she said, was located in Andregg’s (the men’s) section of the building. That meant that I would have to walk approximately 80 yards from my bed room to the men’s bathroom, passing the front lobby. I could imagine myself doing this several times at night, dressed in my pajamas. I asked for a rubber band to hold the two keys together and attach them to my cell phone.
The room itself was primitive though adequate for my purposes. We were given a blanket whose fiber was thin from too many washings, a wash cloth, two sheets, and two towels. There was a closet with no hangers along with a table and chest of drawers. The room lacked any water facilities. I set my suit case on the table. Then I tossed the canvas cover on the floor and made my bed. I thought I would take a shower and then nap for several hours before heading over to the Fetzer Center for the two-hour reception that began the conference. I set a mechanical alarm clock for around 4:30 p.m.
Stepping out into the corridor, I noticed that the women’s bathroom was directly across the hall from my room. Another conference participant greeted me in the hallway. He was Vladimir Alalykin-Izvekov, a young Russian man who lived in Washington, D.C. He gave me his card. On it he had written the name, “Vlad”, and drawn a smiley face. Vlad had evidently heard of me. He suggested that we have coffee together some time during the conference.
I walked over to the men’s bathroom on the other side of the building with a new set of clothing and a towel. It was surprising to me that this “men’s” bathroom lacked a set of urinals, though the door was clearly marked that way. I then undressed and took a shower. As I was putting on my clothes after showering, another man walked in. He was Pedro Geiger, a middle-aged to elderly man from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “Pedro”, as I called him, was quite gregarious. In short order, I had made potentially two new friends.
However, the long trip to the bathroom worried me. Then I had an idea for taking care of this problem. I asked the dormitory supervisor if she had an empty bottle. She said she did not. I then asked her if I could buy bottled water or a soft drink in the building. Down another hall was a room with a vending machine. Bottles of water cost $1.25. Surely there was a better way. In front of the supervisor’s office was a cardboard box for recycling bottles. I took one of the bottles from the box and carried it to my room.
Back in my room, I closed the Venetian blinds and took a nap. The alarm clock, however, never rang. When I awoke it was already 5:30 p.m. The reception had begun a half hour earlier. I quickly put on my clothes and walked to Fetzer Center. Although I had a campus map, the route was anything but clear. I asked the dormitory supervisor for directions. She told me to turn left at the sidewalk in front of Hoekje Hall and continue walking. Unfortunately, when I did this, I wound up in a part of the campus far to the left (south) of Fetzer Hall. I had to use building names on my map to work my way back to the right and then forward until I reached my destination.
The reception was not, as I imagined it, a group of people with cocktails standing around and talking with each other. Instead, people were seated at three separate tables, eating hors d’oeuvres. I grabbed a plate and helped myself to the food. The people at my table were all engaged in conversations. I just sat there enjoying the food.
After the reception was over at 7:00 p.m., I ran into Pedro who asked about returning to the dorm. I told him that I knew the way. Michael Andregg said we could take a shortcut through one of the side doors. Pedro and I took his advice. Leaving Fetzer, we walked east on Wilbur Street toward a wooden sculpture. Looking at the map, I realized this was not taking us toward Hoekje Hall. Sangren hall was on our left. We asked for directions and eventually wound up on West Michigan Avenue heading east.
I spotted Bernhard Center which the map showed being closer to Hoekje Hall. So we rounded the building and walked north a block or two. I could tell that Pedro was losing confidence in my ability to find the dormitory. Again, we asked for directions. As luck would have it, the building in front of us was Hoekje Hall. It was the back side of our dormitory. The door was locked. We walked around this building to the front door. Undoubtedly, our walk back to the dormitory was twice as far as it ought to have been.
After leaving Pedro, I struck up a conversation with another conference attendee who was seated on a bench in front of the dormitory. He was Donald Burgy, an artist from the Boston area. Burgy was a man with an easy and pleasing manner. We talked for fifteen minutes or so. Then another man came along to join our conversation. His name was David Maurer. A heavy-set man with glasses, he had a compelling life story and was eager to tell it to us. He gave me a copy of a 17-page paper presenting his view of civilization. An abbreviated version would be presented at the conference.
Originally from Benton Harbor, Maurer now lived in Ypsilanti, Michigan. His passion was reading books of history. He had done so since the age of ten. The purpose in reading books was to try to discover why societies changed. Upon graduating from college, he had tried to enroll in a graduate history program at Michigan State University to develop this interest but was told that, to be accepted into the program, he would have to specialize. To study all of world history was not academically respectable. For the next forty years, Maurer had persevered in his pursuit of truth concerning the nature of human societies by reading an eclectic assortment of books.
For this, Maurer had sacrificed both career success and a normal family life. He had never been married. He said he had once had a steady girl friend but, when she saw what motivated him, she said she considered him a “loser” and abandoned the relationship. His most rewarding job had been to drive a shuttle van between the Detroit Metropolitan Airport and drop-off points in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It paid $20,000 a year.
Maurer had also created a website called Historyexplained.com to present his theories. It had an interactive feature. Viewers could leave comments at the site. For about four years, he had carried on a lively conversation with visitors. Many were high-school students working on projects for their Advanced Placement courses in history. Then, suddenly, Maurer’s website was hit by spammers. It became such a task to maintain the site that he decided to abandon the project.
Maurer had quit this job in order to attend the ISCSC conference in 2008, where he made a presentation. He had a manuscript expressing his theories about civilization but could not find an interested publisher. One told him that he needed to go back to college to earn a Ph.D. before such a manuscript would be considered. He could not afford to self-publish. In fact, with funds running low, he thought his best shot now was to try to get his old job back driving the airport shuttle.
I listened to Maurer’s story with rapt attention. Wow! This was a man attending the ISCSC conference out of true love for the knowledge of civilizations. He was not an academic doing it for professional advancement. In other words, Maurer was a kindred spirit - “my kind of guy”, I later told Michael Andregg. Others, I learned, considered him a bit of a “wild man” because of his behavior at last year’s conference. (He had taken up a full hour of the hour-and-a-half time allotted for three speakers and later gotten into a heated argument with someone.) Yet, he was invited to make a presentation this year. Certain people such as David Wilkinson were working with him. I thought it was worth attending the ISCSC conference to meet this kind of person. What sacrifices he had made to pursue knowledge of civilizations! His motives were pure.
It was after 11:00 p.m. when we finally ended our discussions. I met another conference participant in the hallway. In the course of a brief conversation, I remarked that my only problem with staying at this dormitory was the bathroom situation. The women’s bathroom was right across the hallway from my room while the men’s bathroom was in the other wing of the building. My colleague said that he thought it was OK to use the nearby bathroom.
Before retiring to bed, I peeked cautiously into the bathroom across the hall from my room and a few paces to the left whose door was marked “women”. Right in front of me, as I opened the door, was a row of urinals. Clearly this was designed to be a men’s bathroom and the one on the other side of the building was for women. There must have been a misunderstanding. And so, for the next several days I used the “women’s” bathroom, including the showers at the far end. No one was ever in this bathroom when I entered it after knocking on the door. My problem evidently was solved.
ISCSC President Andrew Targowski began the serious part of the conference with his keynote address after a brief welcoming statement by the president of Western Michigan University, Dr. John Dunn. Targowski’s presentation was titled “Will Business End or Revive Western Civilization? From Malthusian Trap to Business Growth Trap.” It started at 9:00 a.m. in the Kirsh auditorium at the Fetzer Center.
After first announcing that the Japanese delegation to the ISCSC conference could not attend because of the swine-flu epidemic, Targowski observed that business was important to civilization from its beginning considering that most scholars believe it began with irrigation projects in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Also, he said, business is the “religion” of global society. While per-capita wealth increased by 153% between 1000 A.D. and 1820 A.D., it increased by 800% between 1820 and 1998. Economic growth is the “religion” of business. Yet, growing population reduces per-capita wealth. If the earth reaches its carrying capacity of 8 billion persons by 3000 A.D., we will need two additional planets to support these people in comfort; and that is obviously impossible.
Targowski presented the concept of a “death triangle” facing humanity in the convergence of growing population, destruction of the natural environment, and shortages of energy and other resources. In other words, the curent growth model of business cannot be sustained. He said the United Nations Millennium goals do not address the real problems. Its goal with respect to providing clean water to people is unrealistic. As a refugee from communist Poland, he was not recommending communism but capitalism in a moderate form. The capitalist system needed to promote “sufficiency” in use of resources rather than unbridled growth. He is director of the Center for Sustainable Business Practices at Western Michigan University.
Targowski introduced me as a former presidential candidate during his talk. In the question and answer session, I asked how the capitalist economy could meet the increased demand for interest payments if its growth were moderated. Targowski replied that there should be some growth but not hyper-growth. I was sitting in a row of some of Targowski’s friends including a man from England who sat next to me. Several rows ahead of us were two elegantly dressed, blonde-haired women who recorded the scene with a video camera.
After a 15-minute coffee break, we had our first breakout session. These lasted an hour and a half each. There were typically three speakers in each of three sessions. Session A was in the larger Putney Lecture Hall. Session B was in room 1450/1460; and Session C in room 1060. The presentations in Session B were typically book reviews. Conference attendees could choose the session that looked most interesting to them.
For the presentation beginning at 10:45 a.m., I chose Session A, titled “Globalization Issues”. There were three speakers: Sisay Asefa, an economist from Ethiopia; Lee Stauffer, a college professor from northern New Mexico; and Michael Dudley, a city planner from Winnipeg, Canada, who was also the panel chair. Each had a half hour.
In a talk titled “Globalization and International Development: Critical Challenges of the 21st Century”, Dr. Asefa argued that foreign direct investment and international trade were more potent tools for reducing poverty in the poor nations than foreign aid. In 2005, foreign aid totaled $106 billion; and direct foreign investment, $281 billion. The poverty line is defined as living on less than $1.00 a day; and one billion people live in poverty. International investment goes disproportionately to South Africa among the African nations.
Another important factor in reducing poverty is international migration. Three percent of the world population lives outside their country of birth. Migration has doubled since 1980. Was there a “brain drain” or a “brain gain” when an educated person migrates to a developed country from an underdeveloped one, Asefa asked? Such persons help their birth country by participating in a network of professionals and by remitting money to that country. They facilitated an international flow of technology and ideas.
Asefa believed that globalization is a force to reduce wealth disparity around the world. Thinking that he had characterized the anti-globalists as “terrorists” and “extremists”, I said in the question-and-answer session that I had participated in the anti-globalist movement several years ago. Dr. Asefa cited that fact that several persons had smashed windows at the 1999 protests in Seattle as evidence of such inclinations in the anti-globalist camp. But his main point was that the anti-globalists failed to balance the benefits of globalization with the cost. He favored further globalization, debt relief, and campaigns against infectious disease to aid the poor.
Dr. Lee Stauffer next spoke on “the origin of civilization in ecological crisis.” She teaches at Northern New Mexico University in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Her main point, I believe, was to challenge the prevailing view that civilizations began when irrigation projects in the near east required large-scale political organization. New Mexico also experiences arid conditions. In her experience, small communities with informal political arrangements can adequately address water shortages. The citizens are each assessed time to work on communal water projects and a “mayor” distributes the available water to them. “Civilization” is not required.
So how did civilization begin? Gordon Childs believed that metallurgy required organized trade to obtain the required metals. Robert DeContero believed that civilization resulted from population achieving a certain density. However, this pattern applied to the Old World, not the Americas. In her view, civilization began when specialized production of goods led to shortages and potential starvation. The hunter-gatherer society does not face this threat because nomadic peoples pursue a variety of food sources. They switch to alternatives when one food is depleted. Specialized agriculture, on the other hand, sometimes experiences shortages. Either one obtains the required foods in trade or a powerful chieftain seizes it. Coercion is needed when the redistribution of resources is not done voluntarily.
Stauffer also noted that civilizations tend to develop in areas of ecological instability. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers, as well as the Nile, have an irregular flow of water. Either there is flooding or drought. The rivers often change course. In India, society has to contend with the monsoon seasons. I asked if civilization might develop from man-made causes. For instance, if one kingdom was territorially expansive, a neighboring kingdom might have to acquire a military structure to defend itself. Dr. Stauffer thought that might a possibility, but it was beyond her scope of discussion.
Finally, Michael Dudley, the city planner from Winnipeg, spoke on “Cold war, hot war: city planning in times of crisis.” He compared the current push for “green cities” to meet the environmental crisis to the proposed design of cities to avert nuclear catastrophe during the Cold War in the 1950s. Then the object was to disperse populations from the urban core so that a nuclear-tipped missile delivered to a city would not destroy its entire population. Now the object is to increase population density in the city so that mass transit can be more effectively used and the surrounding lands are preserved. Today, we are trying to combat runaway suburbanization.
Tokyo is a major city with low per-capita energy consumption. It developed organically instead of being built from a plan. Many cities around the world are trying to to promote green technology. I asked Dudley if he knew R.T. Rybak, mayor of Minneapolis. He did, having been raised in that city. Mayor Rybak was one of the first in our city to drive a hybrid car and, among U.S. mayors, to commit city government to Greenhouse Gas reduction.
Now it was time for lunch. I walked back to the dormitory along a more direct route than before. Dormitory meals were held in the student cafeteria in Ellsworth hall next to Hoekje. When I walked past the dining-room monitor, he noted my conference badge and wrote something down I was not asked for money. I helped myself to a variety of fruits, meats, and other foods and drinks - quite enough food to last for the day. I again checked with the monitor on the way out, but again did not pay. It was a free lunch for me. Then came the ten-minute walk to Fetzer Center.
For the afternoon session beginning at 2:00 p.m., I picked one of the book-review sessions, which was titled “Race/religious conflicts”. Three presentations were scheduled: “Clerical courage, crown, and citizenship in medieval Ethiopia” by Tseggai Isaac; “The citizen and the law in Islamic and Catholic Spain during the middle ages” by Dario Fernandez-Morera; and “The role of race and prejudice in the Russia-Chechnya conflict” by Mariana Tepfenhart. Only one of the scheduled speakers showed: Mariana Tepfenhart. I was the only person in the audience other than a black woman who was a colleague of Tepfenhart’s at Monmouth college in New Jersey. Even so, this session was one of my favorites for the entire conference.
We talked informally for half an hour before Tepfenhart began her presentation. I have recently completed a book-length manuscript on American identity and was interested in the topic of racial conflict in Russia. Russian nationalism and a sense of white identity have been resurgent in the Putin/ Medvedev era. “Russia for Russians” is a popular slogan. In that regard, the Chechen people from the Caucasus region were considered an ethic minority, not truly Russian. The racial identification was ironic considering that the formal term for white people is “Caucasian”.
There was, Tepfenhart pointed out, a long period of conflict between Chechens and the Moscow government, going back to Peter the Great. The Czars used force to try to integrate this people into their empire. Both Catherine the Great and Czar Alexander I sent troops into Chechnya. The Chechens were, like the Sicilians in Italy, a clannish and rebellious people who were quick to avenge past injuries. They practiced Sufism, a mystical type of Islam that put them at odds with other Muslims.
In an attempt at ethnic cleansing, Czar Alexander drove numerous Chechens into Turkey. Because the Bolsheviks promised they would allow ethnic minorities to secede, many Chechens fought with the Red Army. However, Stalin broke this promise. After some Chechens helped the Nazis, he deported half a million Chechens to Kazakhstan and Siberia. Khrushchev allowed them to return. However, Russians held most of the good jobs in Chechnya. An independence movement took root.
A game-changing event was the construction of an oil pipeline which crossed Chechen territory. Political independence now became impossible. Chechen rebels attacked the pipe line, hijacked airplanes, and took hostages. In fact, ransom for hostages is a principal source of revenue in Chechnya today. Boris Yeltsin sent in Russian troops to subdue the rebels. This military measure cost 40,000 to 100,000 lives and was ultimately unsuccessful. Beset by high unemployment and family deaths, the Chechen rebels now staged attacks on Russian soil.
In 1999, Chechen militants invaded the neighboring republic of Dagestan to aid an independence movement. A series of apartment bombings took place in Moscow. Yeltsin resigned the Russian presidency in favor of Vladimir Putin. President Putin had the difficult task of maintaining good relations with the West (which had often accused Russia of human-rights violations) while dealing firmly with the Chechen terror to show that he was a strong leader. The Putin government sent troops in Chechnya billing it as a war against Islamic terrorism. After 9/11, the U.S. government supported this policy.
Today Chechnya remains a member of the Russian Federation. A Putin-appointee, Ramzan Kadyrov, son of a government leader who was assassinated, rules the country with an iron hand. The professional class has largely left the country. Chechen militants are largely discredited after the 2004 hostage-taking incident in a Beslan school. The challenge is to build the Chechen economy.
Another result is that, as Americans stigmatized Muslims following the 9/11 attacks, so the Russian people tend to regard Chechens as terrorists. Their sense of ethnic and national identity, including support for authoritarian government, has been strengthened. The presenter, Mariana Tepfenhart, who is from Romania, said she planned to pursue a Ph.D. in ethnic studies.
The final set of discussions this afternoon began at 3:45 p.m., after a 15-minute coffee break in the Fetzer Center lobby. I had to choose between presentations made by two new friends, Pedro Geiger, whose topic was “capitalism, internationalism, socialism”, and David Maurer, talking on “origin of civilization”. I chose Maurer’s session because his identity at this conference (as an independent scholar) was much like my own.
The session itself was titled “Origins of Civilization”. It was chaired by Anthony Stevens-Arroyo who teaches at a college in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, thirty-five miles south of Milford. I attended Professor Stevens-Arroyo’s presentation on the three Abrahamic religions at the 2005 ISCSC conference in St. Paul. I had dinner with the professor and his family at a St. Paul restaurant and later sent him a copy of my manuscript summarizing arguments about Jesus’ Messianic self-consciousness in Albert Schweitzer’s 1965 book, “The Kingdom of God and Primitive Christianity”.
David Maurer led off the session. Much of his talk had to do with archeological evidence of stages in the development of early civilization. The hunter-gatherer society had existed for millennia. Starting around 9,000 B.C., archeologists found evidence of agriculture, domestic animals, and primitive urban culture; but not until the Uruk culture in the 4th millennium B.C. did they find anything suggesting “command economies” and forced labor that are associated with civilization. Maurer uses terms such as “aristocrat/tribal society”, “aristocrat/peasant society”, and “democratic/market” society” to describe civilized societies as they become socially more advanced.
A key point made in Maurer’s presentation, to which I agree, was that a temple culture preceded royal government in the development of civilizations. It was the priests who first developed the command structure that was able to force peasants to surrender grain to the central authority, whose surplus permitted other arts to flourish. Coercive power vested in a hierarchy is the defining mark of civilization. Kings later took over that function.
Maurer, whose brother is a Roman Catholic priest, noted that religious priesthoods evolved from the shamans of tribal culture who were thought to communicate directly with God (or the spirit world). The priests built temples to honor the gods. Able to coerce the surrender of wealth, urban communities under their control became wealthy. Wealth, in turn, attracted pillagers. Kings were persons who organized the military defense to protect this wealth. They may have been temporary warriors, Maurer supposed.
In any event, after 3000 B.C., kings replaced priests as rulers of civilized communities. When the kings in turn rewarded their followers with grants of land or other wealth, an aristocratic class appeared. The essential function of civilized society was to create a pool of surplus wealth from grain confiscated from peasants so that the higher functions could be developed and maintained.
The panel chair, Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo, spoke next on the subject of “eschatology: the mysterious internal dynamic to the rise and fall of civilizations”. He gave a history of Jewish prophecy and its Christian consequence; it was the most thorough presentation on this topic that I have ever heard. I was familiar with some of the material through my interest in Schweitzer, but Professor Stevens-Arroyo added much context. Eschatology is the science of the theory of the final days.
The “nabi” - prophet - was someone who could be hired to find lost donkeys. Like Saul, they had ecstatic visions and practiced divination. The Jewish prophets came into their own during the period of the two kingdoms when they opposed the cult of Baal and were persecuted by Queen Jezebel.
The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah identified God’s message with policy decisions of the Jewish nation state. Isaiah warned against Judaea’s (southern kingdom) becoming allied with Assyria. The northern kingdom of Israel invaded Judaea but was, in turn, conquered by the Assyrians who imposed the religion of the Vestal Virgins on the conquered Jewish nation. The Judaean king Josiah, allied with the Babylonians, opposed the Egyptian pharaoh at the battle of Megiddo (a.k.a. Armageddon) but was killed. It was Josiah, the righteous king, who had discovered the “lost” books of Deuteronomy and restored religious orthodoxy.
Josiah’s reign marked the peak of religious orthodoxy but led to annihilation of the state. The prophet Jeremiah was skeptical of priestly and legal authority. For this he was beaten. Soon enough, however, the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II conquered Jerusalem in 587 B.C., deposed King Jehoiakim, and sent the elite of Jewish society into exile in Babylon. The prophets now divorced God’s power from the fortunes of the Jewish state. Had the Jews lost their identity as a people? No, although politically defeated, they retained their unity as a people through religion. Prophets such as Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah taught that the Jews could regain a prosperous state if they remained faithful to God.
The new prophetic writings spoke of a Messiah who was, at first, heir to the House of David and, later, a divine superman known as “Son of Man”. He would be a light to all nations. Lions would lie down with lambs. A prospering Jewish state would bring peace to the world. Prophecy would bring religious reform that would make the Messianic kingdom possible.
Jewish prophecy now became endowed with clairvoyance - the ability to predict events in the future. In reality, it was not real prediction but a type of writing composed after the fact which was ascribed to a religious figure of the past who lived before the predicted event. For example, the book of Daniel - a figure of the Babylonian exile - was actually written centuries later after the dissolution of Alexander’s Greek empire. Jewish prophecy also developed the theme of the “good” and ”bad” pagans. Ruth was a good pagan. Such literature was based on “mimesis” (“imitation”) assuming, for instance, that if empires fell in the past, they would do so again in the future.
Finally, Professor Stevens-Arroyo spoke of the use of numerology in prophetic scripture. The book of Daniel includes numerical symbols for persons and events. The New Testament Book of Revelation continues this tradition. Written during the reign of Roman emperor Domitian, it refers to a person, Nero, whose name is indicated by the number 666. Judaism meanwhile rejected apocalyptic thinking. It may survive today in the environmental crisis that humanity faces.
The third speaker in this panel was Anne-Marie Oulai, an African American who teaches at Western Michigan University. Her topic was “From Tom-Tom to Wireless Communications: Advancing African Civilization into the Global Civilization.” Its message was a complete surprise to me.
African society is based on strong family ties. Not long ago, messages were sent from village to village by the beat of a drum. But then people moved from villages to the city where they were exposed to radio signals. Telephone service was originally provided by the government. It was bureaucratic and ineffective. Few Africans - about 3% of the population - had access to land-line telephones both because of government ineptness and the difficulty of wiring homes for service. It might take seven months to get phone service after placing an order with the government.
All this changed when telecommunications was deregulated. Private companies set up networks for communication by cell phone. There was competition between the carriers. Today the cell-phone business in Africa is booming. Nigeria has eleven different carriers; and other countries, between three and five. There were an estimated 280 million customers in Africa in 2007. Cell-phone service in Africa now surpasses that in North America. (Canada and the U.S. had 277 million customers in 2007.) By 2012, there may be 500 million African cell-phone subscribers.
Why the success of this new technology? First, 95% of cell-phone customers use prepaid subscriptions. Therefore, they do not need to be employed or have bank accounts. They do not need residential addresses. They simply buy $5 telephone cards and use up the time on the card. Second, they don’t pay for incoming calls. Some business people use this service to take calls from customers. For instance, cab drivers can take calls from people who want rides. People can be reached anytime anywhere. Third, customers do not need one- or two-year subscriptions. They need only to have a phone and buy the cards. They can also transfer unused time on the cards to relatives or friends. They can resell an old phone or buy a used one.
In short, cell-phone networks are relatively easy to set up in Africa. The service is cheap and convenient for people living on that continent. The cell-phone phenomenon belies our image of Africa as an economically backward place.
That was it for the day. The panel discussion ended at 5:15 p.m. There was a reception for members at the Fetzer center. The main lobby includes an exhibit of John Fetzer’s career in radio. Fetzer was the government censor censor for radio stations during World War II. He later acquired radio stations in Nebraska, and then WKZO-AM and WKZO-FM in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He filed an important lawsuit that affected the radio industry. Fetzer was also the owner of the Detroit Tigers baseball team. There were exhibits on his career in the hall at Fetzer Center. There was also a table for published books. Corinne Gilb’s daughter was offering free copies of books that she had written and one written by Roger Wescott. Gilb had died in 2004.
I talked with Professor Stevens-Arroyo’s wife and his son, Adan, who also made a presentation at the conference. Among other things, we talked of the difficulty that today’s college graduates faced in finding employment. We talked, in dire tones, of our changing society. Andrew Targowski came by. He asked me if I would be interested in talking over Matt Melko’s function at Comparative Civilization Review in assigning books to peer reviewers. The request took me by surprise. I have been trying to clear my docket rather than take on additional assignments. So I told Targowski that I was not the right man for this job but, if he couldn’t find anyone else, I might reconsider.
When I ran into David Wilkinson, I asked him if he had received my review of Andrew Targowski’s book, “Information Technology and Societal Development”, that I had written three months earlier. He said that he had not. I insisted that I had sent the review to him by email. I thought I was submitting the review to Comparative Civilization Review for publication. Wilkinson told me that reviews published in this journal first had to be presented at the annual conferences. If it was not reviewed at this conference, we would have to wait another year. Andrew Targowski was, of course, the current ISCSC president. People would be interested in his publications.
Western Michigan University provided Internet connections for conference attendees in a room next to the main lobby. Somehow, Wilkinson located my email in his saved messages at UCLA. He then forwarded this message back to my email address. I pulled up the message on the WMU computer. We printed two copies, one for Wilkinson and one for me. Now I had text for a presentation at this conference. I persuaded Wilkinson to add this review to tomorrow’s book review session that started at 3:30 p.m. All I needed to do then was read the email copy. This would clear my review of Targowski’s book for CCR publication.
Having had a large lunch, I skipped dinner. I sat by myself in a chair in the room where other ISCSC members were dining. This gave me an opportunity read some of the hand-out materials. I then stuck around for the annual meeting and election of officers. A significant number of the ISCSC board members had resigned. Replacements were found for most of them. Next year’s conference was to be held at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. My friend Michael Andregg would be the program director. We saw slides of the campus.
I walked back to Hoekje hall to turn in early. At 9:00 a.m. on the following morning, I would have to lead my own panel discussion. I knew my alarm clock did not work. I was worried that I would oversleep. Fortunately, I had a watch that kept time.
Fortunately I awoke at the right time. The first event of the day was to take breakfast in the student cafeteria. Then I walked over to Fetzer to prepare for the session in the Putney Lecture Hall. In view of time restraints, I had decided to read my statement rather than deliver it orally. Originally the statement had taken a half hour to read. While in Beijing, I had cut the time down to 25 minutes. The day before, I had cut several more paragraphs from the paper. The panel chairmen were instructed to ask speakers to keep their presentations to 20 to 25 minutes so there would be time for questions.
My session, titled “Rise and Fall of Civilizations” included three speakers. In the listed order they were: David J. Rosner, speaking on “Conservatism and chaos: Martin Heidegger and the decline of the west”; me, speaking on “Why civilizations decline”; and Donald G. McCloud, speaking on “Globalization - the rise, decline, or mutation of western civilization.”
My own paper was intended to counter the “diffusionist” view of why civilizations change which the World History Association, the French sponsors of the 2006 ISCSC conference, and others were promoting. It also had relevance to what seemed a major theme of the current conference: that environmental limitations would force change in the way business is done. I agreed with that position but also wanted to restate the Spengler-Toynbee view of an “internal dynamic” in the life cycle of civilizations.
What was missing, I felt, was an understanding of the mechanism to explain the civilizational life cycle. For that, I resorted to philosophy. My scheme was loosely related to Hegel but basically my own. I identified a type of thought called “self-consciousness” that drove the development of human societies. My presentation would explain that type of thought and show how it related to the development of civilizations. The mechanism of thought realizing itself drove changes in society.
One of the other speakers, Donald McCloud, was already in the room when I entered. It turned out that he was the dean of international studies at Western Michigan University. McCloud had lived in Malaysia for six years earlier in the present decade. The other speaker, David Rosner, soon arrived. We agreed to go in the order listed in the program. We would hold the questions until all the speakers had finished. That, I thought, would guarantee that everyone would have time to complete his presentation. By the starting time, 9:00 a.m., the room had filled up with 30 to 40 people including Andrew Targowski and other ISCSC leaders. Michael Andregg was leading an alternative panel at this time.
David Rosner was a professor of philosophy at the Metropolitan College of New York. His sharply focused talk concerned the crisis of modernity. Basically, he argued that in the early 20th century western civilization seemed to be falling apart. The old values were disintegrating and no replacement values were in sight. Facing a spiritual “abyss”, humanity sought solace in archaic images reminding one of a lost “golden age”. There was the idea of “rootedness in the land”, the Folkish movement, and racial nationalism. He was referring, of course, to pre-Nazi Germany. But then came the resolution of this cultural anguish in Hitler’s promise of a strong leader who would revive German power and prestige after the debacle of World War I. Militarism gave the illusion of strength. In fact, it led Germany and the world into still deeper troubles.
Rosner’s talk was, then, about the prospect of political Messianism in times of uncertainty. Fearful people want strong leaders to restore confidence. Usually this means conservative leaders who resort to war. Although former President George W. Bush was not mentioned, I assume this was a person Rosner had in mind. However, his talk was also about the pursuit of new values. Spengler had prophesied a new religion. The ‘60s counter-culture in the United States was such an attempt to substitute a new set of values; but this led to a culture of selfishness rather than what could sustain people for longer periods of time. Rosner’s conclusion was that we should beware of absolutist solutions to address our spiritual anguish.
I then faced my first challenge as a moderator of this panel. Pedro Geiger, who was sitting in the front row, asked Rosner a question although I had previously announced that questions were to be held until all speakers were finished. (He had entered the room after I made that announcement and later apologized for speaking out of turn.) Geiger’s question took several minutes to ask. Rosner then gave a rather lengthy response. After he was done, I again repeated the request to hold questions. I also asked questioners and presenters to keep their statements short so that everyone would have time to ask questions in the time we had available. I then began my own presentation.
Briefly, I aligned myself with Spengler and Toynbee who believed that civilizations followed life cycles. Their decline was then a natural progression related to age. I disclosed that I was 68 years of age. My own death would come in due course through the aging process; however, it was possible that I would die sooner if involved in a fatal automobile crash. So, too, with civilizations. They rose and fell according to a natural progression of events but, likewise, could be extinguished if external catastrophes such as conquest by another people or mass starvation occurred.
Then came the part about consciousness and self-consciousness. I gave an example of a nobleman in a carriage who changed his behavior after being robbed. Using my own scheme of civilizations, I explained that the Crusades and other troubling events in the Middle Ages discredited the Papacy and led to the replacement of religion-centered culture during the Renaissance. So also the next civilization, Civilization III, was replaced by a civilization based on entertainment in the aftermath of World War II. (Anyone wishing to read my entire talk can go to http://www.worldhistorysite.com/internaldynamic.html.)
The third speaker, Donald McCloud, discussed whether globalization would replace or alter western civilization. He first noted the competition between China and southeast Asia in trade with the west. The Chinese “Silk Road” carried goods overland along a caravan route. With the Portuguese came the rising importance of trade by sea through the Molucca straights and other routes off the shores of southeast Asia. So, today, we are seeing the global trading system that emerged after World War II replacing older modes of business. We can now move money globally without banks. Technological knowledge spreads quickly.
Both the idea of China as center of the world and the European model of nation-states have become obsolete in this new era. While the nation-state model still occupies our thinking, Pakistan does not fit it very well. The post-war leaders of national independence were mostly educated in Europe. The next generation of leaders was educated locally; they had greater sympathy for authoritarian government.
McCloud discussed the idea of “global cities” which he said were places which had the intellectual capacity to create a new global culture. There were also cities, without this capacity, which acted as “service centers” for global culture. The key to creating global culture was education of the young. Such education allowed young people to step beyond their national identities and see themselves as citizens of the world.
From his experience in Malaysia, Dean McCloud thought that Chinese Malaysians were good examples of this type of person. The Chinese in Malaysia were persecuted by the Malay majority. They therefore did not identify fully with the nation of Malaysia. They considered themselves ethnically Chinese but not citizens of China. These people were best described as “global citizens” - people who could be at home anywhere: In Kuala Lumpur, Sidney, London, or New York.
We had time for plenty of questions. Pedro Geiger asked another one. So did Andrew Andrew Targowski, Laina Farhat-Holzman, Matt Melko, and others prominent in the ISCSC. The questions were equally distributed to the three panelists. I was bewildered by a questioner who characterized my scheme of self-consciousness as “deductive” reasoning but recovered somewhat when I could see that the idea that the carriage would be robbed was a conclusion “induced” from the knowledge of several occurrences with the decision to change plans being “deduced” from that knowledge.
Matt Melko came up to me after the session. He was still troubled by my use of the word “civilization” to describe what he thought were better characterized as “stages” in the development of world society and culture. As in my discussion with John Hord, I repeated the opinion that “civilization” was the best word I could find and no one had a monopoly on such language. Then, Melko remarked, I would alienate myself from other members of the ISCSC who used the word “civilization” in a certain way. Maybe I don’t belong in the ISCSC, I responded. Melko said he believed that I did belong in this organization.
I knew that Matt Melko, like Spengler, Toynbee, and other scholars, was personally invested in the idea of geographically based civilizations, and there was no changing of either of our views. We would just have to live with this disagreement.
Now came the second morning session which began at 10:45 a.m. I wanted to hear my dorm friend, Vladimir Alalykin-Izvekov, who was speaking on the topic of “From Sorokin to Huntington and Beyond: Civilizations in times of Change, Transition, and Crisis” in Session A. On the other hand, Session C, “Economic Issues”, also appealed to me. It was chaired by Dong Hyeon Jung, a South Korean economist whom I had met at previous ISCSC conferences. I think the global economy is the new paradigm which must be considered in the framing of U.S. economic policy, and Jung would know about this. I decided to go to Jung’s presentation and even expressed my regrets to Vladimir just before the session began.
The first speaker in the economic session was a young man named Cheol Hun Park. His topic was “Economic growth and development of Korea under Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo Hwan administrations”. This title refers to two presidents of Korea who led Korea during its period of fastest economic growth. Park Chung-hee was a Korean general who staged a coup d’etat in 1961, a year after Syngman Rhee’s ouster as head of state. He ruled Korea for eighteen years until assassinated by the director of the Korean CIA. Chun Doo Hwan was an army general who served as President of Korea between 1980 and 1988. Both pursued policies of export-led economic growth.
During their period of leadership, the Korean economy grew by 14 times compared with 2.3 times for the world economy. Korea offered low-cost labor for light manufacturing. Park Chung-hee courted foreign investment to produce goods for export. He set targets for export growth. Later, the Korean economy shifted to heavy manufacturing and did equally well. Korean manufacturing is dominated by large firms, called “Chaebol”, who could lower costs by large-scale production and invest in research and development. The price to pay was hyper inflation and inefficiency in overlapping investments.
Chun Doo Hwan, who seized power in 1981, relied less on state planning and more on processes of the free market. He allowed more imported products into Korea and sought increased technology for both consumer and capital goods. Even so, he continued the tradition of authoritarian leadership set by his predecessor. This seemed to be required to combat economic instability in developing nations. The questioning concerned the need for authoritarian government in nations that industrialized rapidly and also the phenomenon of corruption. What is the optimal level of corruption to achieve economic growth, one person asked? There was a lengthy discussion.
I had my hand raised for a long time but the conversation was dominated by persons on the other side of the room. Finally, I put my notepad in my briefcase, rose, and walked over to the door. The panel chair, Dong Hyeon Jung, then said that he had been preparing to recognize me. What was my question? I said only that I wished to catch a presentation in another session and walked out the door.
Unfortunately, Vladimir Alalykin-Izvekov had finished his presentation by the time I arrived. I later learned that his talk was focused on his unified theory of evolution of cultures and civilizations and used as a point of reference concepts of Pitirim Sorokin, Samuel Huntington and other eminent scholars of civilization of the 20th century. To illustrate the main stages of the cultures and civilizations evolution, the speaker presented a number of diagrams in which cultures and civilizations could be seen and mapped as containing the elements of systemic and differential nature, as well as "congeries." Vlad argued that the evolution of cultures and civilizations appears to follow a certain predictable sequence with creative fluctuations and cycles throughout the process.
David Wilkinson, who is the book editor of Comparative Civilization Review, gave the next presentation after I arrived. Its title was: “Landmarks in the Comparative Study of Civilizations”. Wilkinson was also the panel chair. The “landmarks” were scholars who had contributed to our understanding of civilization. His talk concerned the ideas of major thinkers in this field: Hegel, Danilevsky, Spengler, Sorokin, Toynbee, Caroll Quigley, Matthew Melko, and Samuel Huntington (proponent of the “clash of civilizations”).
The German philosopher, Georg W. F. Hegel, who taught at the University of Berlin in the 1820s, developed a grand scheme of history in which civilization moved from east to west across the Eurasian continent. History, he said, would end in a condition of freedom for all people.
Nicollay Danilevsky, a Russian natural scientist in the late 19th century, was first to write history in terms of a series of civilizations. He took civilization beyond Eurasia to include Mesoamerica. Even so, Danilevsky was Russocentric. Wilkinson referred to artist Saul Steinberg's work, “View of the World from 9th Avenue”, in which the details of nearby objects on 9th Avenue are clear while the scene becomes fuzzy as one moves away from one’s own vantage point. So with Danilevsky’s view of the world. This Russian historian conceived of parasitic relationships between civilizations and foresaw a “final war”.
Oswald Spengler, the early 20th century German scholar who wrote “Decline of the West”, broke with the Eurocentric view of human civilizations. There was an “Egyptian civilization”, an “Indian civilization”, a “Western civilization”, etc., all given equal status. Arnold Toynbee, a British historian who lived in the middle and late 20th century, followed Spengler but came up his his own scheme of history. Toynbee was capable of changing his mind upon receiving criticism. His revisions, included in Volume 11 of “A Study of History”, were as interesting as the original text.
Pitirim Sorokin was an emigree from Soviet Russia who founded the Department of Sociology at Harvard. He, like Toynbee, attended the 1961 conference in Salzburg which founded the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations. Sorokin was known for his cyclical view of history in which “ideational” and “sensate” cultures alternate. Ideational culture is a culture dominated by ideas; and sensate culture, one dominated by materialism. Sorokin thought that western civilization was predominantly a sensitive culture focused on technological advancement. It would fall into a decadent phase and be followed by a rebirth of ideational culture.
Carroll Quigley, who taught a two-semester course on civilizations at Georgetown University, died in 1977. Among his many students was Bill Clinton, the future President. His book, “Evolution of Civilization”, had a strong impact on ISCSC members. Quigley was also the source of many writings about “conspiracy theories.”
Wilkinson stressed Quigley’s idea of civilization being related to economic growth. The economy expanded under political protection and the managers then siphoned much of the wealth off for themselves. Society entered a period of conflict as humanity became engrossed in imperialistic wars and scientific knowledge was disrespected. It took many years to recover from those troubles.
Immanuel Wallerstein was a professor of sociology at McGill University and then at the State University of New York (SUNY) until his retirement in 1999. He published a three-volume book, The Modern World-System, bringing together the ideas of Karl Marx and of Fernand Braudel ( who was the subject of a talk by Robert Hanson at the 2004 ISCSC conference on the day before he drowned), and “dependency theory” which divided society between “core” and “periphery” areas. Wilkinson discussed Wallerstein’s idea that periods of economic growth were generally followed by periods of decline. Wallerstein saw the United States as a “hegemon in decline”. He is an influential figure in the anti-globalization movement.
Matt Melko, president of the ISCSC between 1983 and 1986, developed a roster of civilizations like Quigley’s. He has presided over discussions at earlier ISCSC conferences which considered whether “African”, “Latin American”, or other societies should be added to our list of official civilizations. Melko, a professor at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, has also made a study of war and peace. General wars such as the two world wars are rare. They are not “turning points of history” and are, in fact, often meaningless.
Samuel Huntington, who died in December last year, was a political-science professor at Harvard, best known for this thesis that a “clash of civilizations” would characterize world society following the Cold War. Conflicts between religiously or ethnically based civilizations would replace ideological conflicts. Such theories have not been tested. Huntington was an ISCSC member who, to my knowledge, did not attend any conferences. He believed that intercivilizational conflicts could be reduced if governments ceased to meddle in other people’s affairs.
In the discussion period that followed, some suggested that other scholars of civilization such as Lewis Fry Richardson (who studied the causes of war), Fernand Braudel (an economic historian, author of “Civilization and Capitalism” ), and Feliks Koneczny (a Polish philosopher and scholar of civilizations) ought to be added to our list of landmarks. Laina Farhat-Holzman proposed that low birth rates in western Europe, Russia, and Japan would have a major impact on the future of civilization.
A question addressed to the other panelist, Reed Smith, whose presentation was made before I arrived, referred to Spengler’s idea of “retards vs. megalopolis”. Europe was becoming one big city, as was the coastal area of the United States between Boston and Washington, D.C. There was discussion of Sorokin’s idea of civilizations as being mere “congeries”, which are collections of things rather than systems. Some speculated that future science will be focused on the realm of the very small and produce concepts at variance with religion. As business grows larger, it becomes amoral. Those were some of the thoughts expressed.
The lunch period began at 12:30 p.m. I hung around the Fetzer Center hall and then walked back to the dorm for a short nap. Pedro Geiger apologized for asking a question after the first presentation of my session. He confessed to some difficulty with the English language. Then I went back to the dorm, skipping lunch. I had no functional alarm clock but, since my own event was out of the way, it did not matter so much.
Matt Melko addressed a plenary session at 2:00 p.m. on the subject of “war, peace, and civilization.” I was about a half hour late. Over many years, Melko had attempted to correlate the outbreak of wars with other conditions. Peace was the prevalent situation but wars frequently occurred throughout history. Since I did not take notes, I cannot remember all that was said. I believe someone asked Melko if his study had reached firm conclusions. He confessed to some doubt. It was sometimes hard to distinguish war from peace and harder still to provide explanations. Matt Melko at least had attempted a systematic study of this subject.
Now, starting at 3:30 p.m., we had our last panel discussion of the day. I was obligated to attend Session B, “Books: Mediterranean Area”, chaired by George Von der Muhll, because I would read my review of Andrew Targowski’s book that we had retrieved from the Internet on the previous day. The other reviewer, besides Von der Muhll and me, was Midori Yamanouchi-Rynn.
I had been looking forward to meeting her again and perhaps continuing the conversation that we had over cocktails at the Newark conference in 2001. This was not to be. Yamanouchi-Rynn was always busy talking with old friends; she had been prominent in the organization back in the 1990s. I learned that, after her troubles at the University of Scranton, she had assumed a high-level administrative position at Lackawanna College, which is also in the Scranton area.
Midori Yamanouchi-Rynn led off with two book reviews. The first was of a book by Vassos Karageorghis titled “Early Cyprus”. The east Mediterranean island of Cyprus exported copper to Sumer (Mesopotamia) in the 18th century B.C. It later provided timber to the Minoans on Crete. There was brisk trade between Cyprus and Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Ikhnaton.
Starting in the 7th century B.C., Cyprus became an important outpost of Phoenician traders. This was historically significant because the Phoenicians invented the alphabet used by western peoples. They established Carthage and other colonial outputs in both the eastern and western parts of the Mediterranean sea. After conquering Lebanon, the Assyrians held Cyprus for one hundred years. Later the Greeks controlled this island. In later years, Cyprus became known for production of furniture, including thrones, and decorated books. The 6th century B.C. was the heyday of Cypriot sculpture.
The other book reviewed by Midori Yamanouchi-Rynn was Sybile Haynes’, “Etruscan Civilization”. The Etruscans were a people who controlled central Italy before the Romans. They are sometimes called “Tarquins”. Toynbee connects their civilization to that of the Hittites in Anatolian Turkey. Haynes’ book, printed in Hong Kong, was filled with high-quality pictures. The author, who is currently teaching at Oxford University, has a museum background. This book may be the definitive visual collection of artifacts gathered from Etruscan society.
My review of Andrew Targowski’s “Information Technology and Societal Development” came next. I simply read the email copy. Targowski’s computer background shows in the organization of this book, I said. It was filled with flow charts and diagrams of various sorts. I was critical of some of the categories used to frame the discussion and of the mathematical formulae that quantified concepts but, on the whole, praised the book as a comprehensive study of development in computer technology today. The focus was on how this technology was being applied to functions in contemporary society. As one of the pioneers of computer technology in Poland during the 1970s and as professor of information science in the School of Business at Western Michigan University, Targowski had the credentials to author this kind of book.
In the book review, I did pursue a bone of contention that concerns my own view of civilization. I contend that Americans are living primarily in Civilization IV, which is the age of electronic entertainment. The idea that entertainment can be the basis of a civilization grates on the nerves of civilizational scholars such as Targowski. The pursuit of “fun” has been present in all societies and is, perhaps, too unserious a concept to be used in connection with the study of civilization. Targowski argued that such pursuits characterize societies in decline while societies that produce useful goods and services have a future. I denied being an apologist for “la dolce vita” pointing out that entertainment was historically an alternative to the grim business of war. We fun-loving Americans do have a reputation for being soft.
Finally George Von der Muhll, my housemate at the 2002 ISCSC conference in Jamaica, reviewed Kevin Butcher’s book, “Roman Syria and the Middle East.” This was a study of Roman rule in territories now including Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq, but not Egypt, from 63 B.C. to 636 A.D., when Muslim armies conquered the area. The three themes explored in the book as stated by Von der Muhll were: (1) organizing time and space, (2) economic production and consumption, and (3) construction of communities.
With respect to structures of time and space, the Romans created the calendar that was used throughout the empire. Historians can date events by referring to imperial administrations. Jesus Christ was born, for instance, during the reign of Caesar Augustus. The territory controlled by Rome was divided into provinces which enjoyed a measure of local rule. The political rulers acquired identities based on their degree of cooperation with Rome.
Economically, this area was significant as the western terminus of the Silk Road leading from China to the Mediterranean sea. Tunisia, in north Africa, was the breadbasket of the empire. Roman architecture and roads were a physical sign of this civilization. Our knowledge of history comes both from Roman imperial sources - edicts, tax collections, and coins - and from indigenous records, such as writings in the Christian New Testament, which tend to give a more detailed picture of what life was like then.
Why was Rome interested in its Levantine provinces, Von der Muhll asked? One reason was that this is where Roman generals made their reputation. From Sulla and Marius to Trajan and Hadrian, famous generals were involved in pacifying this region. Pompey, Caesar’s rival, brought Judaea under Roman rule. This region also represented a frontier with Parthia, a kingdom that the Romans were unable to conquer. Though on the eastern periphery of the empire, Rome’s Middle Eastern provinces were politically important. They were also, of course, religiously important, too.
After this session we had a two-hour break before dinner at the Fetzer center. It was during this time, I recall, that I had another significant conversation in the Fetzer lounge. Donald Burgy, whom I had met the first evening, told me of his interest in paleolithic inscriptions. He believed that these were not simply naturalistic drawings but, in fact, a precursor to written language. The orthodox view is that ideographic writing began in Mesopotamia and Egypt in the 4th millennium B.C. It was first used to record commercial transactions. This was all wrong, Burgy said. Writing actually began ten thousand years earlier in the inscriptions that archeologists have found on rocks and the walls of caves.
What is more, Burgy said that he had translated a number of these inscriptions. He had published four articles in Comparative Civilization Review explaining what the symbols meant. Some past issues of CCR were lying on a table. We looked at an issue from Fall 2004. The lead article by Robert Duncan Enzmann and Donald Thomas Burgy was titled “Reading Europe’s Paleolithic Writing”. I had given this article only a cursory glance when I first read the journal because I had not realized its significance. Now Burgy and his colleague were claiming to have “read” the inscriptions, not merely look at them in an archeological context.
The article began with an interpretation of an inscription in a rock found in Gonnersdorf, Germany, dating back to 12,500 B.C. The authors claimed that the markings represented three women at various stages of life - an old crone, a matron, and a maiden carrying a child. “Engraved within the three female silhouettes are abstract signs which identify them as spinsters who twist fibers into strands of thread, string, yarn, lamp wicks, cords, etc.”, the article said. Germanic legend mentions three women - old Urth, middle age Verdandi, and young Skuld - who sit under the tree of life spinning the threads of people’s lives. Perhaps these were the women in the inscription.
A particular symbol - the “twist sign” - was a key to understanding them. This symbol has been found in pictures of Greek women twisting yarn on leg pads; writings in known languages explain their purpose. It is also similar to symbols used in Egyptian hieroglyphics, Minoan Linear B script, and Chinese characters.
I was fascinated by Burgy’s story. He had made a potentially revolutionary discovery yet no one knew about it or even cared. Burgy said that he had collected numerous inscriptions from archeological journals and other sources and had slowly gathered enough knowledge to be able to translate the inscriptions. Yet, when he asked to purchase copies of the original photographs, his request was always denied. He was denied permission to visit the archeological sites. One editor even denied the existence of an inscription which his own journal had published.
The only person who would give Burgy the time of day was Laina Farhat-Holzman. When Burgy submitted his articles to CCR for peer review, all the reviewers recommended against publication. Farhat-Holzman, as editor, had overruled them. That’s why Donald Burgy was able to publish his article.
All of a sudden Laina went from being a goat to a heroine in my eyes. The same qualities of personal stubbornness that had led her to inject her own political views into the journal allowed her to give a second chance to a lonely scholar who might have something quite important to say. That was more than enough to redeem whatever misgivings I might once have had. I had came to this conference with a chip on my shoulder about her article on conspiracy theories and now I wanted to give Laina Farhat-Holzman a medal.
Even so, I, too, had my suspicions. How did Donald Burgy know what the inscriptions meant? It was not enough to say that he had come to certain conclusions through “years of study”. Granted, Burgy was a professional artist who could intuit certain visual things; yet the world of historical scholarship rightly demands proof. I suggested to Burgy that he assemble all his inscriptions and create a “dictionary” of meanings. Burgy resisted the idea. Maybe his evidence was not as solid as he claimed.
I then said that I, as a skeptic, would be willing to sit down with him and try to piece the evidence together in a logical way. Maybe we could develop an inductive argument to establish verbal meanings from scattered inscriptions. From the standpoint of civilizations, such work would be of the highest importance. Burgy was interested in that.
So I had found another nonacademic scholar at the conference again obsessed with revealing the truth. What a group this was! It attracted misfits, eccentrics, amateur scholars - or, in short, people like me. Only persons with a few loose screws would get mixed up in studying something called “civilization” which is subject to so many different interpretations and disciplines or areas of interest. Fate had brought me to this conference. First Maurer, then Burgy - what other interesting characters would I meet here?
I had another conversation during the break period which was not so fortunate. I saw Pedro Geiger sitting by himself in the Fetzer lounge. Although I had not attended his presentation, I had an idea of his interests and points of view from previous discussions and from a copy of his paper. Pedro was a man who knew Latin American and world politics. He had recently been an advisor to city administrations in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. I have my own political interests and was eager to air certain issues with him.
Was the world turning to socialism or to capitalism? Pedro said it was becoming a hybrid of both economic philosophies. Brazil had a nominally leftist president but was becoming a pillar of world capitalism. I suppose you could say the same thing about the Chinese government. It was an economically and politically mixed-up world. Ours was also a geographically expanding world with respect to power centers. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union dominated world geopolitics. Today nations such as China, India, and Russia show the fastest economic growth.
Pedro Geiger’s paper ran through the history of world politics starting from a Marxist perspective. Karl Marx had predicted that socialism would replace capitalism and the changes would occur internationally. It did not happen that way. In the current phase, Geiger conceived of a three class system: capitalists (who own the businesses), wage managers who are educated people running the businesses, and uneducated wage laborers. The wage managers are the new element in the equation. They are the CEOs, managers, and professionals who are siphoning wealth out of the economy to benefit themselves. Geiger saw a convergence between certain sectors of the left and the new right, carrying some fascist tendencies.
I was hoping to discuss new trends in Latin American and world politics but, as we sat together on the sofa, Pedro Geiger dwelled on past history. Whenever I suggested that the U.S. government was failing the American people and needed to be changed, he disagreed. He thought that Barack Obama’s election as President showed that the American political system was capable of change. There was no need for violent revolution.
Compared with Europe, the United States showed remarkable class mobility offering persons born in poverty a chance to become rich. This preoccupation with wealth, in turn, created a loathing of socialism. Now Obama’s use of public resources to solve economic problems was being called “socialistic” by some critics. Pedro Geiger suggested that those wishing to change government should have a Marxist background. However, he thought that the era of violent leftist revolutions was over, at least in developed countries. I said that I was not and had never been a Marxist.
The proper way to change government, said Geiger, was to persuade a majority of Americans that your point of view is correct. Theoretically, I agree with that assessment; but how do you get past the media? Geiger believed that the commercial media, wishing to attract a broad base of customers, does allow diverse points of view to be expressed. For instance, the New York Times publishes both liberal and conservative columnists.
We were not connecting here. I had a particular idea I wanted to share with Pedro Geiger. When I said “there’s another way” in response to a remark of his, Geiger threw back his head, said he was tired, and asked to be left alone. (Pedro later explained that, being 86 years of age, he was simply tired; his request was not prompted by any particular opinion that I had expressed.) I did leave. That was the last time we spoke.
I felt bad about this because I did not see Pedro Geiger for the rest of the conference. He might have left early and gone back to Brazil. Had I been tormenting him? The first evening, I had led him back to the dormitory along an unnecessarily long route. Then I had tried to cut him off when he asked a question during the panel discussion that I chaired. I had attended someone else’s presentation while his talk was being given. Finally, I had engaged in an unproductive political argument with him, not unfriendly but perhaps too argumentative. At any rate, what I thought might be a mutually interesting and informative political discussion failed to occur.
The formal dinner started at 7 p.m. I had not paid for meals at Fetzer center but, since a past president of ISCSC (Michael Palencia-Roth) would give a banquet speech, I thought I might grab a chair and sit in the back. Andrew Targowski invited me to sit in an empty place at a table near the food in the back. I did not help myself to any food or drink but merely sat at the table. To my left was Vladimir Alalykin-Izvekov, my friend from the dorm; to my right was an attractive young woman Carrie McDonald Swift, a grad student at Western Michigan University.
Michael Andregg introduced our speaker, Michael Palencia-Roth. I had seen Palencia-Roth at several conferences but never spoken to him. He had a distinguished background as a professor of comparative literature at the University of Illinois in Champaign. A native of Colombia, he was fluent in several languages. The Colombian government had even given him an award. Palencia-Roth had been president of the ISCSC for six years, between 1986 and 1992, right after Matt Melko.
The topic of his after-dinner talk was the origin of our organization, the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations. It grew out of a week-long conference held in Salzburg, Austria, between October 9 and October 15, 1961. The theme of the conference was “The Problems of Civilization”. In 1964, the proceedings of this conference were published in the Netherlands. Palencia-Roth passed out a sheet which listed, on one side, the participants at this conference - 26 persons in all - and, on the other side, the conference schedule of events for each day.
Arnold Toynbee and Pitirim Sorokin were the two big guns. Both actively participated in the conversations, sometimes clashing in their points of view. There was a different chair for each day’s session. The topics of daily discussion were, in sequence: (1) “the ‘reality’ of civilizations”, (2) “the study of civilizations”, (3) “civilizational encounters”, (4) “the problem of universal history”, (5) “the future of civilizations”, (6) “one world: the contribution of the human sciences to the peaceful unification of humanity”. The conference ran from Monday to Sunday, Thursday being skipped. It apparently attracted much public attention. For instance, Albert Schweitzer sent a telegram.
The 50th anniversary of this founding conference would occur in 2011 - two years from now. Palencia-Roth proposed that the ISCSC adopt the same agenda as at the 1961 conference. I liked the idea. One of my complaints about ISCSC conferences was that the speakers talked past each other instead of debating topics. The proposed agenda would give us a chance to debate such questions as “what is a civilization?” - of particular interest to Matt Melko and me - as well as “the future of civilization” and “the problem of universal history”. They were all questions of personal interest and concern.
After Palencia-Roth’s presentation, a band came into the banquet room. It was time for dancing. My wife, unfortunately, was in Beijing; and I did not know any of the ladies well enough to ask for a dance. I sat at a table with Dong Hyeon Jung, first apologizing for having left his session early that afternoon and then discussing international economics. My pet theory is that advanced industrialized countries need to shorten their work time to maintain full employment. Jung did not agree with that idea. He said that Korea could not afford shorter hours because its labor productivity stood at a lower level than that in competing industrial nations.
I was becoming peripherally aware of two ladies on the dance floor. They were elegantly dressed and had well-coiffed blonde hair. One was young - perhaps in her early thirties - and the other, middle aged. They both had an elegant beauty and graceful manner. These were the women who had videotaped parts of the conference, including my own session. Everyone wanted to dance with them.
On Thursday, I had briefly engaged them in conversation outside the Fetzer Center. They spoke some English but not enough for a long conversation. I learned that these women were from Siberia. They lived in Kemerovo, a city near Novosibirsk, which is a sister city to Minneapolis and St. Paul. Now Vlad seemed to be pursuing them; or, at least, he was their constant companion. If I spoke fluent Russian, I would surely have done the same. At a conference attended mainly by middle-aged to elderly American academics or academic wannabes, these two stylish ladies were a pleasing distraction.
After the Friday-night banquet, I left Fetzer Center at the same time as Vlad and these two women who were talking together in Russian. I asked if I could accompany them on their walk back to Hoekje hall. They politely agreed. However, as they continued their Russian discussion, I realized that I was becoming a pest in remaining part of a group where I obviously did not belong. So, at one point, I took a short cut across a parking lot and made my own way back to the dorm.
I then used my cell phone to call Alan Morrison, a friend in Minneapolis who was looking after my rental property while I was gone. We had had a “Section 8 re-inspection” at one of my properties that day. If it failed, I would forfeit much of next month’s rent. Fortunately, we passed. Just then, Vlad and the two Russian women caught up with me in front of Hoekje hall. I had dropped a paper on the ground. One of the beautiful ladies picked it up for me.
I had had little to eat that day after my big breakfast in the student cafeteria. Not wishing to eat a large meal, I walked through the basement shopping area at the Bernhard Center. There was a Subway Sandwich place in the mini-mall, staffed by a young Hispanic man and woman. The store was closing and the food had been put away. When I asked if any other places were open, the young manager changed his mind. He quickly made me a foot-long sandwich for $5.00. I also ordered a soft drink. This was enough food for that day. After eating the sandwich, I walked back to the dorm and went to bed. It was enough excitement for one day.
The conference was winding down. This day’s highlight would be the excursion to Saugatuck, the resort town on Lake Michigan where our “Conference Dinner” would take place. I had signed up for this event. Since we would have a big meal at the end of the day, I thought my best option was to have breakfast near the student dormitory and then skip lunch. I went back to the Subway Sandwich shop in the basement of Bernhard Center. The same two people were serving customers. (It was not busy. This was, after all, the summer session.) I had another foot-long sandwich and root beer and then walked to Fetzer Center with my green canvas briefcase.
Laina Farhat-Holzman, a resident of California who has a Ph.D. in comparative literature, was giving a “Keynote Address” starting at 9:00 a.m. in the Kirsh auditorium. Its title was “Will Religion Mitigate the Clash of Civilizations?” From her previous writings, I knew that Farhat-Holzman was mainly concerned about the jihadist movement and radical Islam. This kind of religion certainly would not contribute to world peace or mitigate the “clash of civilizations”.
It was an interesting and far-ranging talk. Farhat-Holzman began by observing that the ISCSC was unique among academic associations in focusing on “the big picture”. Not many universities have studies in civilization although there are some high-school courses with that theme. Samuel Huntington, who died in December of last year, brought the idea of clashing civilizations to the forefront of public attention. Nowadays political conflict was not ideological or economic but concerned differing cultural values. It was conflict between civilizations with different religions, and, in particular, between militant Islam and the secular West.
Farhat-Holzman pointed out that religious or cultural conflict exists between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria (centering in Kaduna where my book, Five Epochs of Civilization, was reviewed), between Muslims and Hindus in the Indian subcontinent, between Muslims and Buddhists in Thailand, and, of course, between Muslims and Jews in the Middle East. She characterized religious militancy as a minority of believers becoming caught up in an idea. Often religious orthodoxy masks greed and the desire for power. This led to what Farhat-Holzman called “irrational history” which was a main theme of her talk.
An example of a rational people were the ancient Phoenicians. They gave us our alphabet and developed trade routes in the Mediterranean religion. However, this people left historians few self-written records. Therefore, we know of the Phoenicians mainly what their enemies wrote. They worshiped Baal, a fertility god, who demanded slaughter of a family’s first-born child. Other pragmatic peoples were the Mayans and Aztecs of Mexico. They made important advances in astronomy and developed perhaps 50 percent of the world’s types of food. On the other hand, they, too, had fearsome religious practices. Their war gods demanded human hearts. In times of trouble, the Aztecs would go to war to capture victims for the next blood-letting ritual.
Some other examples of irrational behavior in world history were the Spaniards of the 15th and 16th century. After centuries of fighting the Muslims, they developed a phobia about other religions. Once the Iberian peninsula was subdued, the Spanish monarchy insisted that Jews and Muslims convert to Christianity. Those who refused were expelled. Such behavior antagonized Protestants. It produced an exodus of talented people and destroyed a culture that had been among Europe’s most advanced. Much of the silver and gold mined in Spain’s American colonies went to China. The Spanish government eventually became bankrupt.
Other examples of irrationality cited by Farhat-Holzman included the German Nazis who, in their hatred of Jews, precipitated a “brain drain”. Hitler tied up the German railroads transporting Jews to concentration camps when that resource might have been better used to support the war effort. The Soviet Union was an ill-fated experiment based on how people should behave - be classless and unselfish - rather than on how they did behave. The Palestinians could have had a peaceful state if they had accepted the UN plan for partitioning Palestine, but they chose to attack the newly independent state of Israel. In recent years, we have seen irrational ethnicity cloaking itself in religion.
The Muslim Brotherhood, for instance, wants to restore the 7th century Caliphate. It subjects women to an inferior role. During Iran’s Islamic revolution, student militants envisioned that Iran would become a Western style republic and the Ayatollah Khomeini would be a mere figurehead. Instead, the mullahs outmaneuvered them. Shi’ite clerics took advantage of the Shah’s overthrow to establish a theocratic government. The Pashtun tribes of northern Pakistan still operate according to an ancient irrational order of society. They refuse any gifts from the west except for weaponry.
In ancient times, the Greeks and Romans made many positive contributions to civilization, illustrating the “rational” principle in history. The Roman emperor Constantine used Christianity to combat Mithraism. Interestingly, Farhat-Holzman claimed that monotheism came to Judaism by way of the Zoroastrian religion. (I had thought Moses was its author.) Originally, the Jews living in Canaan had acknowledged the presence of other gods,. However, the Persian prophet Zoroaster said there was only a single God, and this doctrine was accepted by Jewish religious leaders during their exile in Babylon and Persia. Alexander the Great conquered the Persian state, sending Zorastrianism into decline. This religion was revived especially in Sassanian Persia which used the repressive tactics of Byzantium to promote that religion. Then the Muslims overthrew the Sassanian empire.
Can religion mitigate the clash of civilizations? On the whole, Farhat-Holzman thought not. There was too much of the “Gott mit uns” attitude in civilizational conflicts. Wars fought among nations to acquire more land and resources were rational, if not also often misguided. Irrational wars lead consistently to poverty and repression. Farhat-Holzman thought that irrational religion would eventually alienate its own supporters as people grew tired of the culture of death and Arab regimes lost the ability to finance religious wars when “green technology” replaced petrochemicals as a source of energy.
On the other hand, militant atheism was also no solution. The Nazis and Bolsheviks showed the damage that godless political regimes can do. Ultimately, population decline or moderation in the growth of populations may ease the clash of civilization. Educated women tend to have fewer babies. In Europe, the fertility rates of Muslim immigrants are tending to converge with those of white Europeans.
Population trends, then, were one hopeful sign. Growing respect for the rule of law was another. Religion would continue to serve a useful purpose in creating communities where people care for each other. There was also room for emotional religion, especially in times of disaster. Societies without religion were also viable, although there must be some set of values. Secularism is a precondition for religious freedom, where people can choose their own beliefs. Farhat-Holzman observed that in Iran the film “Titanic” was quite popular because it showed how a spirited young woman could defy her mother’s choice of a marriage partner.
In summary, struggles concerning religious identity were positive if people took positive steps to gain respect; they were negative if people used violence. In that vein, a young questioner, Adan Stevens-Arroyo, argued that the neo-con idea of spreading democracy by force was the wrong approach. Another questioner, Ashok Malhotra, noted that at ecumenical conferences such as the “Parliament of Religions” attendees seemed interested mainly in their own religion to the neglect of common values. This pessimistic assessment was reinforced by the fact that religious extremists tend not to attend such conferences. It was a lively discussion.
I managed to catch Laina Farhat-Holzman in the hallway of Fetzer to address some unfinished business. Was CCR ever planning to publish my counterpoint article or letter to the editor responding to her article on conspiracy theories? She said that she had her hands full as editor of this publication and had also had recent health problems: cancer. I responded that my own wife was currently undergoing cancer treatment and I could understand her situation. I also thanked her for giving Donald Burgy a chance to be published in CCR despite negative peer reviews. She seemed to appreciate that comment. We both thought that the idea that paleolithic inscriptions had led to written language was quite interesting and potentially significant and was certainly an appropriate subject for consideration by ISCSC members.
There was one more set of discussions for persons attending this conference. It started at 10:30 p.m. We had to choose between four sessions. All seemed interesting to me. Andrew Targowski was leading a discussion titled “Religion and the future”. Another session was titled “Russian Pedagogy Issues.” Another concerned “Research in Progress”. The fourth, in the Putney Lecture hall, was titled “Civilization yesterday, today, and tomorrow”. It was chaired by Ashok Malhotra, a professor of philosophy at Oneonta college in New York state who has also founded several schools in India. (The current ISCSC newsletter proposes that he be nominated for the Nobel peace prize.) That session included presentations on India, Japan, and globalization, filling in gaps in my conference experience.
I was leaning toward attending Malhotra’s session when a tall, red-headed woman came up to me in the hallway and asked if I would please attend the session on Russian pedagogy. It was indeed my second choice. I am not a teacher, so pedagogical theory does not apply to my situation. Also, the idea of inculcating moral or religious values in the public schools conflicts with our American idea of separation of church and state. On the other hand, this session appeared to be part of an important development in contemporary Russian society; and those mysterious, beautiful women whom I had observed at dinner last night and at other times during the conference would probably be leading the session. It was not a hard sell.
Session C, “Russian Pedagogical Issues” was, indeed, conducted by those two women. The first speaker, Liubov F. (listed as L.F.) Mihaltsova was the older of the two women and the panel chair. She is a Candidate of Pedagogical Science and assistant professor of the chair of Theories and Techniques of Professional Education at the Kuzbass State Pedagogical Academy in Kemerovo, Russia. Her topic was “The future teachers and formation of Orthodox values in the educational process in teachers’ high school."
Her partner in this presentation was Olga A. (listed O.A.) Milinis, who spoke on the topic “Self-realization of the students in pedagogical high school on the basis of Orthodox culture and moral life.” She holds a similar position at the Kuzbass academy. Because the speakers’ knowledge of English was limited, they had a translator, Lyudmyla Pustelnky. She was the red-haired woman who had solicited me to attend this discussion. She was also studying communications at Western Michigan University.
For both talks, we had the text of the speaker’s presentation on a screen in front. The speaker would deliver the talk in Russian and Ms. Pustelnky would translate it into English. It was not colloquial English but a formal and sometimes awkward version of our language. (Lest I seem to complain, let me say that these two women had traveled far to attend this conference and my knowledge of Russian is light-years behind their use of the English language.) Therefore, a visual text reinforced what was being said orally. That helped.
Mihaltsova began by observing that education is a lifelong process and understanding oneself is an important aspect of the educational process. Teachers have traditionally been respected in Russia. Now there are cultural influences that tend to undermine the value of education. Her school, the Kuzbass State Pedagogical Academy, was trying to restore its position and prestige. The academy educates people for important positions in society, such as plant managers. The goal of education is to have fully developed personalities with a moral orientation. Personal values are important.
Mihaltsova’s school tries to strengthen Christian values so that young people can remain on a proper course in a culture of entertainment that can lead them astray. The media promotes bad values. Education needs to teach religious and spiritual values to withstand this influence. Therefore, students at her school try to understand such concepts as “sin”, “temptation”, and “sanctity”. They write reports on their own relationship to religion, and to young and old people. After attending class, they are asked to participate in programs of service to the community. With reflect to media influences, they are taught that the Lord sends us temptations to test us. We become healthy and strong by resisting those temptations.
In Czarist times, the schools taught religion. The purpose of traditional Russian education was to teach young people how to become more like God. They were taught that the Czar was the head of society, and the people were its body. During the communist era, churches were destroyed. Religious values were discouraged. Now it is understood that the Orthodox faith is inseparable from the Russian soul. It is the core of Russian culture. This religion united many separate Slavic tribes and made them a powerful nation. Students are taught that the Lord has entrusted the Russian people with the Orthodox religion. If people practice this religion, they will become healthy. Religious education is the key to national revival.
Some questions asked in these courses were: What does it mean to be a Russian? Why is Moscow the Russian capital? What is the most respected icon in Russia? What state is Christianity borrowed from? The answer to the last question was, I think, Byzantium or the east Roman empire. I’m not sure of the other answers. Also, students became familiar with the Bible and were taught certain religious symbols.
Some of the early audience questions, asked by George Von der Muhll and others, concerned the relationship of religious education to other subjects found in a high-school education, such as mathematics or literature. Did school graduates receive degrees in mathematics or just a pedagogical degree? We were told that graduates of the school received a degree in pedagogical science with specialization in mathematics or whatever the student chose to study.
Yes, there were non-religious courses in the curriculum. Students were free to choose their own courses. Courses in Orthodox religion represented perhaps 10% of the total. The goal was not to impose the Orthodox Christian faith on people or turn them into religious professionals. Many teachers and scientists are religious. The Russian constitution guarantees freedom of religion, recognizing, however, that most religions have similar values. Students are free to choose and practice their own faith.
I asked if there were courses in Bible study. No, there were not, but a Jerusalem Bible was available to students and it was often used. The students at her school were normally from 17 to 21 years of age. There were also some international students.
I also asked if Russian education, like ours in the United States, was promoted on the basis that graduating students would hold the better jobs. The answer was somewhat vague. Yes, graduates from this school did often find better jobs, but the emphasis was on improving society. It was impossible to create a strong civil society in Russia without laying a moral foundation centered in Orthodox values.
I also wanted to know if state administrators set the curriculum or teachers were free to design this themselves. The answer was that that state set standards for what needed to be learned but teachers had a certain freedom to create the courses.
Now it was time for the other speaker, Olga A. Milinis. She was a senior lecturer on pedagogical theory at the school. This concerned the “professional self-realization of future teachers”. Milinis’ talk was similar to Mihaltsova’s but placed greater stress on the importance of moral development in a creating healthy life. One needed to realize that physical health followed one’s mental and spiritual state of being. Good health is not just the absence of disease but total personal well-being that depended on a person’s world outlook. Again, she mentioned the perverse temptations offered by the media. The President of Russia was emphasizing the importance of moral values.
Milinis went into some of the problems facing Russia today. Bad attitudes and behavior contributed to problems with alcohol, a falling birth rate, decreased work performance, and premature aging. Dissatisfaction with self is the core of these problems. We need to understand that each person has a soul and that consciousness is everything. Harmony must exist between body and soul. The lack of a spiritual core leads to boredom, a sense of emptiness, and personal problems such as alcohol abuse. Excessive use of alcohol and abortion are considered sins.
When people face spiritual crises, Orthodox values can help to bring them back to a healthy condition. Neuroses result when people lack a sense of purpose. Traditionally, doctors have been considered saints. Religion and healing are inseparably linked. Such teaching techniques as role-playing, formal arguments, and discussions were used in her school.
I peppered Olga with questions as I had done with the previous speaker. The one which elicited the greatest response concerned money. I began by observing that post-communist Russia was thought to resemble our own “wild west” when people were scrambling for wealth. The Russian oligarchs had the upper hand in Russian politics at one time. Was this a situation which an education in Orthodox values might address? When Olga gave what I considered an overly broad answer, I restated the question: Was an unusually strong desire for money considered a “sin” in the Orthodox faith, and, if so, what should be done about this?
Olga noted that it is not only Russians who worship money. Whether it is good or bad depends on how the money is used. I said that Jesus had taken a stronger position against money than hers when he said that man could worship either God or Money. That ended this particular discussion but Olga seemed to be more animated than before.
As we were preparing to vacate the room, the translator, Lyudmyla Pustelnky, told me that the two Russian women were planning to have a conference at their school in November and they wanted to invite foreigners to attend. The conference organizers would be willing to pay travel expenses.
This suggestion sounded appealing. My wife and I had talked about how we should travel to interesting places around the world while our daughter Celia is employed as a flight attendant at United Airlines. Because of her, we can travel to certain cities for free on a stand-by basis. However, our personal finances have been squeezed of late because of medical expenses and the difficult landlord business. We had to be concerned not only about travel costs but the cost of food, lodging and other expenses in the places that we visited.
I told Lyudmyla Pustelnky that I was interested in this proposition if my Chinese-born wife could also attend. If so, we might reduce the travel costs somewhat by flying to a city closer to Siberia, but we needed to know whether food and lodging costs would be covered. Pustelnky said she thought that might be arranged. I had the email addresses of the two women and we could working things out as the conference plans became more definite.
I wanted to make it clear to the two women that I was not a teacher or professor at any academic institution and so my participation at a pedagogical-academy conference might be of little value in U.S. academic circles. I identified myself as author of “Five Epochs of Civilization” and another book, “Rhythm and Self-Consciousness”, which was about the new values of electronic civilization. Maybe I could speak on that subject, Pustelnky suggested. I said I had also been a political candidate. Pustelnky graciously said she would vote for me if I ran again.
Olga Milinis printed her name and address on my note pad in script which I found hard to decipher. Lyudmyla Pustelnky copied it in more legible Roman script. I promised to mail Olga copies of my books when I returned to Minnesota.
My hunch had been correct that the session on Russian Pedagogy was the one I needed to attend. And I had come so close to not attending it. Here we were receiving a report on a major shift in Russian policy and culture delivered while it was occurring and by persons involved in the process. These two women had come to America at considerable effort and expense to deliver their message. And now I seemed to have an invitation for an all-expenses-paid trip for my wife and me to Siberia.
In Stalin's time, that kind of promise would have been considered gallows humor. Today, however, it is one of those rare opportunities which in itself justifies having attended the Kalamazoo conference.
The session on Russian pedagogy ended at 12:15 p.m. The schedule of events now listed a lunch for new board members at 12:30 p.m. I was not invited to this. for the general membership, we had a free afternoon. Then, at 3:30 p.m., we would meet the bus in front of Fetzer Center which would drive us to the conference dinner in Saugatuck. I hung out in the lobby of Fetzer Center for a while and then returned to the dormitory for a nap.
Pedro Geiger seemed to have left the conference. As Andrew Targowski walked by, I told him that I had reviewed his book on the previous afternoon. I was sorry that this event had not been in the program so that interested persons could attend. Targowski asked if I had criticized his book. I said there was a little of that, but not too much.
I then continued my discussion with Donald Burgy about his deciphering of the paleolithic inscriptions. By now, much of the naive excitement had dissipated. I wanted to bring a skeptic’s point of view to examining Burgy’s argument. If he could put every evidence on the table and explain exactly how he knew what the inscribed symbols meant. Burgy himself seemed to be backing off overly certain claims, but he was still interested in showing me what he had if we could find the time to visit again.
I also had a conversation with Michael Andregg. Excitedly, I told him that I had an invitation from the two Russian women to attend a conference in Siberia, all expenses paid. To Andregg, this sounded too good to be true. He cautioned me not to get my hopes up. No date had yet been set for the conference. Normally, organizers of such events do not pay the expenses of nonparticipating guests. (And he has organized many such events himself.) I needed to be careful about becoming involved in this. I argued that I would have a better idea of arrangements for the Siberian conference after communicating with the Russian women by email.
I also happened to mention the bathroom situation. Andregg said he had learned that some men attending the ISCSC conference had been caught using the women’s bathroom. Certain women were terrified. Some had made arrangements to use bathrooms on the second floor. It was a clear violation of the rules for men to be using the women’s bathroom.
I thought Andregg was talking about the bathroom on his wing of the building. Now he was implying that my use of the bathroom marked “women” on my side of the building was one of those disturbing incidents that had been brought to his attention. I was sure that was not the case. I had used this bathroom perhaps a dozen times and it was always empty. How about the times when I had taken a shower? Perhaps a woman or two had entered the bathroom then and I could not hear them with the water running in the shower stall? I had to admit that this was possible even though I had seen or heard no one.
I still thought it was not wrong to use that bathroom. Although the dorm monitor told me that the one across from my room was for women and the door was clearly marked “women”, I had been told that we were permitted to use this bathroom. The fact that men’s urinals were clearly visible when one opened the door to this “women’s” bathroom and that the bathroom was always empty had persuaded me that it was safe to use the facility. But now I was not sure. If
Andregg’s information was correct, I may well have been one of those men who, unknowingly, had been terrorizing women by taking showers or using the urinal in facilities reserved for them.
Honestly, I can’t remember if I entered or peeked into that bathroom on Saturday afternoon. At some point, I did take a shower in the bathroom marked “men” on the other side of the building. Upon returning to Hoekje hall after the Saturday panel discussion, I know only that I went to my bedroom, prepared my clothing for the return trip to Minnesota on Sunday, and then took a nap. Expecting a big meal in the evening, I did not have lunch. The pressure was off and I rested well.
I was going to wear my suit but, learning that casual dress was expressed, I quickly changed clothes and walked back to Fetzer. Persons signed up for the dinner were waiting to be assigned to one of four vans that would make the trip. I rode in the one driven by Betsy Drummer, who handled business arrangements for the conference. I sat in the back seat next to Lee Stauffer, the New Mexico Northern University professor. Having a slight headache, I did not say much. Most of the conversation centered around Ashok Malhotra in the middle seat.
The ride in the van lasted about seventy minutes. Saugatuck is located northeast of Kalamazoo on the east shore of Lake Michigan, not far from Holland, Michigan. We first went to a condominium complex on the eastern end of a bay lined with sailboats. Andrew Targowski and his wife (who is a medical doctor) own one of the units. Our group congregated in the party room where vegetable snacks and drinks were served.
I talked with Adan Stevens-Arroyo about the state of the world. Along with Oleg Benesch, he is one of the young men considered rising stars in the ISCSC. Hopefully, he and his contemporaries can replenish the ranks of an organization filled with old men. We had a spirited conversation. Then I talked with my 2002 roommate, George Von der Muhll, an inveterate traveler planning a trip soon to the Black Sea. He told me of a wonderful sailing cruise in the interior lakes of Chile, about an hour’s drive south of Santiago. As I said, my wife and I are dreaming of travel. First Siberia, then Chile, with a trip to Germany thrown in - that would make us world travelers.
Dinner would be served at the Coral Gables restaurant in Saugatuck itself. The group planned to walk from the condo to Saugatuck. It would take a half hour. I myself would have preferred to walk but someone changed plans due to light rain. The van dropped us off in Saugatuck. We browsed the tourist shops and then waited outside the restaurant. I placed a cell phone call to Alan Morrison back in Minneapolis. They had experienced heavy rain. Once everyone was assembled, our group went into the restaurant to a large room in the back.
I sat at a table with Michael Palencia-Roth and Norman Rothman, who lives near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, which is 60 miles west of Milford. He is a versatile scholar with a knowledge of various cultures. Palencia-Roth, a former ISCSC president, had spoken at the dinner Friday evening. I told him that I agreed with his idea of revisiting topics of discussion at the 1961 conference in Salzburg. We needed focused discussion, not separate statements. Palencia-Roth said that it was about time that we tried that format. I later discussed that my wife’s sister now lives in Champaign, Illinois. Her husband is working on a government project in the medical field. Otherwise, we hardly spoke.
Norman Rothman, on the other hand, had a lot to say. The trouble was that he spoke in a soft voice while the sound of conversations at other tables echoed around the room. I could hardly hear him most of the time. Reed Smith, whose presentation on “Megalopolitans and Retards” on Friday I missed, sat to my right. He was an attorney from Metaire, Louisiana, which is a New Orleans suburb. Having campaigned in the 2004 Democratic presidential primary, I was familiar with the terrain.
Reed Smith had lived through Hurricane Katrina. He had lots to say about this event, Louisiana politics, and other subjects. So our table was focused on those topics. Smith was one of those amateur scholars, well represented in the ISCSC and beloved by me, whose studies are done out of intellectual curiosity rather than career advantage.
After dinner, we hung around the front of the restaurant. The two Russian women, accompanied by Vlad Alalykin-Izvekov, were part of the crowd. I climbed on a mechanical horse but realized that I did not have any quarters to feed into the machine. Betsy Drummer’s van arrived and we returned the the condominium complex. The four vans were lined in a row waiting to return to Kalamazoo. Unfortunately, Anthony Stevens-Arroyo’s wife (Adan’s mother) had become ill. The Targowskis were seeking medical attention. That delayed our departure for a few minutes.
From my perspective, the hour-long drive back to Kalamazoo was enlivened by conversation in the middle seat. Ashok Malhotra was telling personal stories. Almost without his knowledge, he had been put on a slate of candidates for delegate for the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. Without campaigning, he was elected. Corporate interest groups paid his travel expenses to Denver and put him up in fancy hotels. He was having breakfast with the likes of the speaker of the New York Assembly, listening to talks by Hillary Clinton, and generally having a good time, all while sending political blogs to media back home: “Only in America”, as they say.
His other story was about his studies in philosophy as a young man. Back in those days, persons such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Soren Kierkegaard, whose writings were excessively dense or excessively gloomy, were the philosophers of greatest interest. And so Ashok Malhotra had to wade through all this dismal material assigned to him by philosophy professors. He survived the ordeal, became a philosophy professor himself, and then went on to make a spiritual recovery through yoga.
We arrived back at Fetzer around 10:30 p.m., I would guess. I then walked back to the dormitory. Near the front door, Vlad asked me if I would use my cell phone to call Betsy Drummer. A light was out in a dormitory room belonging to one of the Russian women. I did not have Drummer’s number but I did have Targowski’s. I called one number and reached a recording which referred me to another number. That, too, was a recording. After I hung up, Vlad proposed that I call the number again to leave a message that the dormitory light was out. As fate would have it, my cell phone was now dead. The battery was fully discharged. Vlad said he would try to make some other arrangement.
I undressed, put on my pajamas, and went to bed. Then I needed to go to the bathroom. It was late at night and seemingly quiet. I opened the “women’s” bathroom door and walked inside dressed in my pajamas. There, to my right, on the other side of the room, stood a young woman. It was Olga Milinis, fully clothed. Water was running in a shower stall in the area behind her. Olga waved sweetly at me. I quickly excused myself and retreated to my room. I had trouble falling asleep that night. Perhaps Michael Andregg was right after all.
Most of the conference participants had left by Sunday. Scheduled events included an 8:30 a.m. breakfast for those with meal tickets at the College of Arts and Sciences, 20-minute presentations by six students at Western Michigan University who were winners in a competition sponsored by Targowski, lunch at noon, and then two more student presentations. The conference would officially end at 1:50 p.m.
Michael Andregg and I had previously agreed that we would leave Kalamazoo at noon. He had to be back in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the early evening so he could be at work at 6:00 a.m. on Monday morning to open up the University of St. Thomas gymnasium. His job depended on keeping that commitment.
I decided to have a full-scale, $7.00 breakfast at the student cafeteria in Ellsworth hall. Andregg and I had agreed that we would pack our bags early in the morning, leave them in the dormitory room, attend the remaining conference sessions (until noon), and then return by car to the dorm where we would turn in our keys, pick up our luggage, and then be on our way. It had been emphasized that forgetting to return the dormitory keys would cost the ISCSC $7.00 per key.
The student presentations, beginning at 9:00 a.m., took place in the Putney Lecture Hall. The first scheduled speaker, John Chrisman, was a no-show. Andrew Targowski made a few choice remarks about that. So we moved on to the second scheduled speaker, Luydmyla Pustelnyk. Her topic was “The Orange Civil Society or the Orange Social Movement”. A Case Study of the Ukrainian Revolution of 2004. Targowski’s attitude toward her was considerably warmer. She was, he said, a fellow Pole who happened to live a few miles over the border with Ukraine. I saw her as the able translator in yesterday’s session with the two Russian women.
Luydmyla Pustelnyk’s talk concerned the citizen uprising that occurred in 2004. Viktor Yanukovych, the current Prime Minister, was elected President of Ukraine in a rigged election. That event led to the peaceful “Orange Revolution” in which tens of thousands of protestors staged street rallies for nearly a month until the election results were reversed. The opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, then became Prime Minister. Pustelnyk had been among the protestors in the daily crowds.
However, Yushchenko, once in office, had been a big disappointment to his previous supporters. Despite widespread dissatisfaction, Ukrainians have been unable to mount protests on the scale of what was organized in 2004. The theme of Pustelnyk’s talk was the difference between a “social movement”, which could unite people around temporary grievances, and “civil society”, which had staying power.
Pustelnyk, a student of communications, regarded the official media as an institution that gave legitimacy to certain causes by reporting on them. The drawback is that they were often controlled by the government. The Internet, on the other hand, could not so easily be controlled. The leaders of the “Orange Movement” used it to communicate logistical information about the rallies - for instance, where protestors from out of town might stay without charge.
Pustelnyk said that she regarded Ukraine almost as a failed state. It had an identity problem relating to a cultural split between the eastern and western parts of the country. The Ukraine lacked a middle class with stable political institutions. In the absence of a strong civil society, social movements would exploit immediate “hot buttons” but then, lacking checks and balances, wear themselves out. Their previous fervor could not be revived. (Note: My experience as co-leader of a landlord group in Minneapolis parallels Luydmyla Pustelnyk’s experience on a much smaller scale.)
The next student, speaking on “Carbon credits and the global trading market”, was Steven Srivastava, who is enrolled in the Engineering College at WMU. His was a detailed presentation of a new economic invention, the carbon credit, which grew out of international treaties to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions. The basic idea was that industrial and other enterprises that emitted such gases would receive an allowable limit in the discharge of carbon dioxide or “equivalent GHG” emissions. If they went over this limit, they would either have to purchase unused carbon credits from another firm that was under its limit or else pay a fine to a government organization.
This trading system in carbon credits grew out of limits imposed by governments as a result of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the Kyoto convention in 1997. There would be another international conference in Copenhagen in 2012 to assess progress in reducing greenhouse gases. Carbon credits are traded on a “Chicago Climate Exchange” begun by Dr. Richard Sanders. They currently trade at $1.20 per credit in the United States and $20 in Europe. Companies have to agree to enroll in the trading system.
Studies show that the system has been effective in reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions in European nations such as Germany and Denmark; less so, in the United States, Japan, and Mexico. It is a hybrid product of government regulation and the free-enterprise system.
Benjamin Roush, a sophomore at WMU, next spoke on “Viable solutions for sustainable water systems”. Clean water is an essential but sometimes ignored resource used by human beings. Needed improvements to urban water systems are being postponed. A key concept in Roush’s talk was that waste water needs to be recycled according to its subsequent use. Drinking water needs to be processed to a higher degree of cleanliness than water which will be used in industrial processes, toilets, canals, and rural irrigation. Save the “good” water for drinking. Most rainwater can be immediately used for non-potable uses.
There are computer modeling or control techniques such as Urban Water Optioneering Tools (UWOT and Integrated Urban Water System (IUWS) although Roush did not explain them much. Asked if desalinization was an effective way to provide clean water, he “threw cold water” over the idea, so to speak. He agreed that biological processes to treat algae growth offered some promise, but again did not say much about this.
Since the next speaker, Michael Kreutzjans, was not present, we went straight to the presentation of an afternoon speaker, Richard Seim. His topic was “The New Enlightenment: The Age of Consilience in the Sciences.” Seim was a graduate student at WMU. He began by observing that certain periods of history - classical Greece, Gupta India, the Italian Renaissance, the Edo period in Japan, and 17th or 18th Century Europe - were periods of enlightenment.
Seim suggested that we are entering into a new period of enlightenment today mainly because the separate academic disciplines are beginning to work together. There is a unification of the natural and social sciences. Such convergence of academic disciplines is called “consilience”. The concept was developed by William Wieweld in the 19th century and E.O. Wilson in the 20th century. ISCSC members might be expected to favor such thinking.
After years of excessive specialization, scientists have begun working together in teams to address certain problems. An example of such cooperation has been in treating PTST, a neurological condition. One of the most effective types of treatment has been “Morita therapy”, a Japanese technique arising from the mindful methods of Zen. PTDST is hyper-arousal of the memory system. The first step to dealing with this condition is to accept it rather than analyzing and trying to change it. For some reason, Morita therapy does not work well in African countries.
Deconstruction, destroying the unifying concepts, has been a trend in academia in the late 20th century. As a result, academics are resistant to efforts to synthesize information from several disciplines. We therefore have “silos” of information where knowledge of the whole remains elusive. This has been a problem, for instance, in the Intelligence community.
I left the Putney Lecture Hall for a time. When I returned Michael Kreutzjans was finishing his talk on the “credit crisis demystified”. It concerned the invention of derivatives. Of what economic use are these financial instruments? Robert Kaufman of WMU asked this question. Last year, I ran for Congress against a member of the House Financial Services Committee and, during a radio debate, criticized him and his colleagues for not addressing the derivatives problem I wondered if the U.S. government could not simply enact legislation making derivatives contracts unenforceable in U.S. courts. Admittedly, there may be problems of constitutionality in such an approach.
After this came Carrie McDonald Swift’s talk titled “Barack Obama: a prospect for a new enlightenment or just another superstar CEO.” Was President Obama an example of “transformational leadership” or was he simply a “charismatic” leader. The key difference, according to Smith, was whether the leader promoted change for the betterment of society or for the betterment of himself. Superstar CEOS reject limits on their authority while transformational leaders do not.
In Obama’s first hundred days, it was hard to tell which kind of leader he was. The important thing was that the presidential administration have an ethical focus and pursue policies that benefit society over the long term. Carrie McDonald Swift was a graduate student in business at WMU. I sat net to her at the dinner Friday evening. She also works at an automobile dealership.
The final talk of the day was delivered by a student in the School of Education whose name was Masashi Izumi. Its title was “Role of world teacher’s summit to improve educational context.” The speaker had taught school in Japan for ten years. He was troubled by the growing lack of discipline among students. These students skipped classes, smoked cigarettes, destroyed school property, and often argued with teachers. How could the schools deal with delinquent youth? Izumi thought that one answer, implemented in American schools, was to establish separate schools for delinquent students. Japan has a single set of schools for everyone.
Izumi then realized that change of this sort had to be undertaken by many people together rather than by lone crusaders. He also thought that the Japanese model of education had some good features that other nations might wish to adopt. Out of this came the dream of a “World Teacher Summit” which would bring teachers together from many different nations to discuss best practices in education. He applauded the fact that WMU lets foreign teachers study at the School of Education. He himself had studied there for three years. International exchanges among teachers were his thing.
By now, we were “all conferenced out” and ready to go home. At that point, Andrew Targowski invited the people remaining at the conference to a luncheon at Fetzer Center. I sat next to Lyudmyla Pustelnyk. I would gladly have had a private conversation with her but that room was so small that only a single conversation took place at the table. Often Andrew Targowski or Michael Andregg dominated the conversation.
I thought I would call attention to the auto industry before I left Michigan. This very week, General Motors Corporation had declared bankruptcy. My father had been an executive with American Motors in the 1950s and early 1960s while we lived in Detroit. I therefore told the story of how Henry Ford had once instructed his engineers to lay railroad ties over concrete so the rocky foundation would not erode during storms. As the engineers had predicted, this solution proved impractical. It led to uncontrollable vibrations. However, Henry Ford was not upset. He simply replied: “Now we know.”
That, I suggested, was illustrative of Ford’s “can do” spirit. Don’t worry about criticism. Just try it and see what works. I’m not sure that others at the table were as enthusiastic as I was about this approach, but I’m glad to have said something about Henry Ford before leaving the Kalamazoo conference.
The conference was now over. Andrew Targowski was arranging for certain people to go to the airport. I asked Donald Burgy to write his name and address on a piece of paper for me. The Russian women were in front of Fetzer Center, along with Vlad. I thought they would soon be leaving Kalamazoo. Michael Andregg still believed that the trip to Siberia was problematic. Lyudmyla Pustelnyk, who had spoken with the Russians, believed there was a firm promise. In any event, I had their email address.
Andregg and I drove back to Hoekje hall to pick up our bags and surrender the keys. As I walked out the front door with my suitcase and green brief case, I was surprised to see the two Russian women drive up in a limousine like film stars at a world premiere. Maybe they were planning to stay another night at the dorm, as Vlad had suggested. They may now have been preparing to see the sights in Kalamazoo. I waved goodbye as they drove off.
As with the trip to Kalamazoo, Michael Andregg wanted to drive. He was familiar with the unpredictable clutch. We made our way out of the WMU campus but did not find the route by which we had arrived. We therefore drove several blocks to the north while I studied an insert of Kalamazoo in the Michigan highway map. We found our way to Main street, went west of U.S. highway 131, and then intersected with Interstate 94 where we headed west to Chicago. While on Main Street, I filled up Andregg’s gas tank using my credit card. We had agreed to split travel expenses evenly.
It was becoming warm in the car, though not uncomfortably so, as we drove west and then south on I-94 passing cities such as Benton Harbor and St. Joseph in Michigan, and Michigan City and Chesterton in Indiana. We were passing an area close to Lake Michigan with sand dunes. Before long we had passed my favorite gas station in Gary, Indiana. Then, as we approached Chicago, the traffic began to build. We experienced bumper-to-bumper traffic congestion for at least ten miles as we passed through the south side of Chicago. It was four o’clock on a Sunday afternoon. People might have been returning home from weekend trips. This was the price we were paying for remaining in Kalamazoo beyond our noon deadline.
The traffic eased after we passed downtown Chicago and took the I-90 route northwest past Rockford. I spotted the place on the highway where a Chicago squad car had swerved over into my lane three years ago, totaling my car. My wife and I had to take a Greyhound bus back to Minneapolis. And the City of Chicago refused to accept any liability for the accident. I despise Chicago politics, but not necessarily its prime product, President Obama.
As on the trip to Kalamazoo, Michael Andregg and I talked almost continuously. This time, the discussion had a political edge. Recalling the plea for “ethics” by one of the session speakers, I remarked that I mistrusted people who mentioned ethics. I had a particular problem with this concept being promoted by educational institutions. The educators pretended to be so ethical, yet they were taking huge sums of money from students while, in the guise of preparing them for jobs, sending them out into a world where job opportunities no longer existed. That was unethical in my view. I particularly resented the fact that professors in economics departments were stalwart supporters of free trade, Such policies were the principal driving force behind the loss of U.S. jobs.
I was recklessly aware of the fact that such conversation might be offensive to Michael Andregg. After all, he and his wife work at a university, St. Thomas. As a religious college, it claims to have a special ethical dimension. Moreover, Andregg himself is active in the Peace Studies department. This is certainly about ethics. I happen to agree with Andregg in his views on war and peace, and he may have some sympathy for my views on trade and the impoverishment of young Americans. Unlike some college administrators or faculty, Andregg does not draw a large salary for his work. Most of what he does is done out of a sincere commitment to the cause of work peace. So maybe my needling him about ethics was a bit excessive.
Michael Andregg has a particular interest in spies and intelligence work. Like me, he is interested in theories concerning a conspiracy in the Kennedy assassination and the 9/11 attacks. I brought him a copy of an article in a tabloid newspaper about Mary Meyer, a mistress of President Kennedy who was shot to death in a Washington, D.C. park in October 1964. She was once married to Cord Meyer, a top CIA official. Of interest to me, she is buried in the Milford cemetery not far from a grave site where my brothers are buried and where I will be buried some day. My late brother Andrew was a friend of her son.
Andregg, of course, was interested in all this, but it was nothing new for him. He has cultivated a unique relationship with spies, going to their conventions but declining opportunities to gain security clearance. This gives him the freedom to speak and write openly about matters concerning espionage where persons with security clearance would be restricted in what they can say. He has even been invited to give talks at gatherings of intelligence officers. Who else would have pursued such an esoteric calling?
As we completed our trip through the toll booths of northwestern Illinois and entered Wisconsin, Michael and I began to have more serious disagreements.