Anything that is true about each of us is therefore a significant fact about the nature of all of us; anything that is true about all of us is therefore a significant fact about the nature of each of us.
In order to wrap our heads around the complexity of society, we are going to examine individual complexity. I am reminded of a phenomenon in the world of architecture. Contemporary buildings, like the brilliant representation by Koolhaas in our fair city, have three distinct design fields: the exterior, the interior, and the envelope. The exterior is determined by a number of physical and societal constraints, and the interior is a function of efficient utility. The envelope is where the aforementioned genius shines, though, in the freedom of expression in the relationship between the exterior constrictions and the interior functions (Polo, 2008). As an example, one of the challenging themes in contemporary architectural envelopes is to make the inside of the building feel larger than the outside would lead one to expect. It is tempting to ascribe this to the idiomatic admonition against judging a book by its cover, but that is not quite right. The evaluation always begins with the cover, but it is only after reading the book through that one can fully appreciate the relationship between the cover and the content.
People are similar to buildings in the regard that while the outside contains and, in a way, dictates the inside, what the inside actually looks and feels like is only fully accessible from the inside. The mystery of the envelope forces us to be restrained in our extrapolations from the exterior alone, not knowing either what is on the inside, or how the inside relates to the outside. This is the first difficulty in understanding a person. We exist in a unique juxtaposition of internalization and expression, further unique in our ability to apply our reflective capacity to each of those realities, and to their relationship to each other.
In an effort to describe the scope of individuality available to an individual let's consider some of the common ways that we all are capable of relating our interior to our exterior. This is a gradual process that unfolds across an individual's life, as first humans become aware of the interior world in the womb, and then introduced to the exterior world at birth, then gradually expanding the way we understand one in light of the other. This bidirectional information of the developmental process further complicates the conversation, so the whole mess is easiest to talk about in terms of different arbitrarily designated classifications.
Human society always trails behind the development of the human individual, by virtue of the lowest common denominator phenomenon as the governing principle of collaborative dynamics, that is group efforts and conversation tend to be held at the level of the lowest informational and development stage common point among the collaborators (Le Bon, 1960). So we will begin on the exterior, which has a surface complexity that is easier to define than the internal complexity of a human, if by the slightest of margins. A paradigm, in the ideological sense, is just a frame through which one accesses the world. It is the complex web of assumptions about the way the world works that defines one's perception of the world around them. In contemporary theory of self (Combs, 2004), the unique nature of this complicated web is one of the things that defines the individuality of a person. The intimacy of one's relationship to one's ideological framework is emphasized in counseling relationships, where change on this level is the definition of the interaction (Ivey, Ivey, & Zalaquett, 2013).
It might be easier to think about the multiple ideologies across a spectrum: from inherited monocultural hegemonic dominance- which is given rough characterization by the Kennedy's; multicultural equality- which might be represented by Oprah or Ellen; what we could call rising monocultural dominance- as characterized by white supremacist or various ethnocentric fascist regimes or gang affiliations; to subjugated cultural suppression- from which disparate victims of oppression are emerging and many oppressed indigenous cultures, like the broad female culture, experience still. All of these different perspectives, as starting points, are represented in fluctuating degrees in the United States as a whole, and in the majority of the smaller physical and societal communities of which the nation is comprised, including every major corporation or system of human interaction. One of my difficulties with multicultural relativism as a societal paradigm is that it frames the conversation in terms of culture, when there are quite a few other factors that are significant in terms of ideological influence upon a given individual.
Socioeconomic status, in all its multifaceted complexity, has to be included among primary influences informing a person's understanding of the world, which does not fit well into the multicultural boxes. Gender, sexuality, sex, sexual preferences, gender identity, either the rejection or ambiguity of all of the above have been stuffed into an awkwardly acronymic culture. Different academic traditions have varying amounts of influence, including the ideological descendant of the western academic tradition, humanism. Religious ideologies and their complex historical relationships to each other don't culturalize well, either. Age, physical capacity, intellectual capacity, emotional capacity, and the internal awareness and valuations of the same all have particular societal associations. What if we had different concept-clusters of societal influence of which ethnic heritage that was one of several, intricate and varied both in complexion and internal relationships? In this fashion we might escape the totalitarian universalism of ideological absolutism that is another heritage of the monocultural hegemonic dominance of our shared past, this idea that truth by definition needs to be The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth. Hopefully, we would then be able to focus the conversation on class, the grouping of these disparate influences into hierarchical tiers of opportunity-access.
In this concept-cluster flexibility most Americans might find a better answer to the question how we understand ourselves, as most of us have a lineage of nationalist oppression from which we fled to a new country because we were told that here we could be anything, and because that right was written into the laws. As each of these various concept-clusters vary in both the degree and nature of their role in each individual's ideological spectacles, it is by their subsequent relationship to each other that they comprise the uniqueness of perspective that is individuality. Most importantly, in such a context of complexity there would be room for people to be more closely associated with their ethnic heritage than the academic tradition of humanism without needing to resort to merciless psychological battery, as depicted in the film The Color of Fear (Wan, 1993).
This is the distinction between multicultural liberalism as an ideological framework, wherein every different cluster of influence is defined in terms of 'culture', which appears to mean a unique combination of history, values, and traditions, but often seems reduced to race, and multicultural relativism as an individual paradigm, which is a personal viewpoint on the nature of equality, a kind of separate-but-equal perspective notably distinct from the inclusive equality represented by humanism. As an individual paradigm, multicultural relativism is valid, healthy and needed in our society.
When we open our consideration to the generalized constellation of influence-clusters comprising a person's world view, as in the RESPECTFUL model (Ivey, Ivey,& Zalaquett, 2013), without privileging the concept of race, rather allowing each individual to determine the strength of their association and/or identification in regards to each particular concept cluster in the manner of the Racial/Cultural Identity Development model (Sue & Sue, 2013), we find the flexibility to account for the depth of complexity in our interpersonal interactions. With that as our guide, we have the foundation for what it means as 'human', only in the sense that this intricate ideological web only represents the ideological spectacles through which this person experiences reality. Human individuals are far more multi-dimensional even then that, as our relative developmental states dictate the literal processing capacity we have to bear on a given matter.
That is to say, each of the separate facets of the human experience: thinking, feeling, acting, and interacting goes through a progression of simultaneous and mutually informative developmental processes. These processes are grouped in the following development model where they are given more extensive treatment as cognitive, emotional, behavioral and social development, with the reflective self-development happening somewhere in their midst. The application of our first principle of human dynamics, that this same marvelous menagerie of autonomous intention is a fact about every human being in the world, by virtue of their very humanity, then forms the basis for any possible representation or hope of social equality. In the vast and varied complexity of the social world, the one inescapable fact of any person is their humanity, the fact of being human.
The human experience is wildly variable and complicated, objective and subjective in vacillating proportions, progressional and compounding (Ringdahl, 2013). This important feature of the first principle of human dynamics, establishing the universality of that variable complication and the right to the autonomous interpretation thereof (Georgalis, 2009), necessitates what we will call ideological plasticity, or the ability to see things from someone else's point of view, as a fundamental skill. A development model can help group some rough associations within that ambiguity, but that is only because we humans are already good at this sort of thing.
Humans are wildly diverse and different. Given the near infinite available perspectives on the same experience at any particular moment, how is it ever possible to communicate one unique perspective, amidst all the available, to a completely different, unique perspective? This is, by the way, a thing that every human does in conversation on a regular basis with such casual competence as to stagger the mind, another thing that could only happen to a human. Consider again the previous paragraph, and then consider trying to explain ideological plasticity to your pet. This uniqueness of our capacity for perspective is one of the fundamental characteristics of humanity. In the First Principle of Human Dynamics, we find the resolution to the perpetual struggle to find common ground that has plagued our societies throughout our long history, because that struggle itself is common to all of us, as is the intuitive navigation of alternate perspectives, the absurdity of which is illustrated in this bit of the Model.
The barrier to our internalization of large numbers is a heuristic called scope neglect, or the inability to scale one's emotional response in a manner corresponding to the scale of a given event (Kahneman, 2011). As it happens, we do not apply this scope neglect only to the nature of our own unique individual self, suppressing the reality that there is no one else in the past, present, or future of any world who can inhabit your particular place in experiential reality, the magnitude of your Strangeness. What we also need to understand is that we apply the same scope neglect to the principle which stabilizes each of us in the world, our Relatedness. We often fail to recognize the magnitude of difference between interacting with another equal, autonomous agent of change and our interaction with everything else in the universe, the distinction between our social and behavioral selves. There is nothing else like you in all the known universe, except for each and every other human being, who also exists as a unique constellation individual autonomy. The balance in a person's life is a question of finding a comfortable place to exist in the tension between these two notions of Strangeness and Relatedness, on both an individual and a societal level.
These two separate yearnings, to at once be a distinct and communal being, drive the human developmental process. The inevitability of human change, and of causing change by our very existence on the world around us, forces the recognition of the same in each other, as we are all sharing the same physical reality, and the same nature of subjective experiential reality. The drive to assert one's self in the world, given brilliant portrayal by Joseph Campbell (1973), and further explored in societal context by Katt Williams (2008), gets a little clearer in American Psycho (Ellis, 1997). This individualist isolating of the drive to assert dies when separated from the fact of our preternaturally high Relatedness, further illustrated in the wave of undead literature flooding the sociosphere. That is, the biggest flaw of the hero myth is the associated inference of the exclusivity of change agency to those special heroic few, as opposed to being a fundamental component of the human experience. America has done a decent job of fostering the belief that people can assert change on the world around them. The question facing us today is how to stride bold through the halls of history without stepping on everyone else around you who is trying to do the same.