About this site
Of all social sciences anthropology provides, through its method of Cross-Cultural Comparison (CCC), unique opportunities to learn more about ourselves, as individuals, as families, as groups and as nations/corporations/banks/religions, by looking at ourselves through eyes of ‘others’. We can enrich our personal/cultural truths with those of other groups, cultures and religions.
By empirical cultural comparison anthropologists are able to take a sharper gaze at ourselves as humanity seen as a complex and fragile web of interdependent social systems. Focussing on collectives/social systems we, with archaeologists and historians, are more equipped for this cultural self-reflection than most philosophers and psychologists.
In 1992, Wim Kayzer coined humanity, from his eponymous television series with famous scientists/thinkers, as: ‘A Glorious Accident’. This title reflects how I, primarily from anthropology, in this site take regularly gazes at myself, at us: constitutive families/communities, at us: Dutch/Europeans, and at us: Humanity. Mankind, according to anthropologist Gregory Bateson, has become a ‘runaway biological macrosystem’ that has forgotten how to think (and act) how nature/earth works. In doing so we damage ourselves and our habitats. And we ‘can get less and less satisfaction‘ (Stones). See also ‘Liminal Experiences In Male Adolescents‘ (Van Bekkum 1998)
Why does modern mankind still exist after three millennia of genocidal wars and subjecting indigenous communities into empires and nation states?
According to a growing number of scientists/sages this is the result of countervailing, protective evolutionary, forces. In the last four decades of the 20th century numerous terms, hypotheses, theories emerged to conceptualize and explain these evolutionary forces protecting us from self-destruction.
These include masks of god (Campbell 1959); states of grace (Bateson 1967); Gaia hypothesis (1969); imagine (Lennon 1971); web of life (Capra 1990); mind & nature (Bateson 1979); autopoiesis (Maturana & Varela 1980); reenchantment (Berman 1982), origins of the sacred (Young 1991); mother nature (Hrdy 1999), singulairty to community (Irigaray 2001), empathy (De Waal 2005), Born for Love (Parry 2005), enlivement (Weber 2012), resonance (Wikan 2012) and communitas (Turner 2012); incomplete nature (Deacon 2012).
The idea these thinkers share: beauty and love, with decay and death, are the basis of evolution on Earth. Not survival of the fittest.
Nature, from a corrected-evolutionary perspective, produces differences/inequalities and similarities/symbioses. A direct derivative of this assumption is: ethnocentrism is a human form of this evolutionary production of differences. Other mammal species produce differences and inequalities, but never produce genocides. Diversity, differences, and thus inequalities are from this perspective ‘mainstream’ evolution. Evolutionary forces can only be suppressed at the expense of our abilities to adapt, to be vulnerable and empathetic and to experience beauty.
Destructive forms of collective ethnocentrism (listen to Bob Dylan what this means) result in insecurity, violence, poverty and war. Masses of people in the world 2017 suffer from consequences of destructive ethnocentric reflexes and of suppression of their human mimetic/empathic faculties.
Centuries of individualization in the West has reached a stage in which we forgot to realize that until recently (about 8000 years) we could only survive and blossom as First Nations (aboriginal/indigenous communities).
Second Nations (empires/nation states/world religions/multinationals/financial elites) are ‘evolutionary young’. They have emerged from and can exist only due to these indigenous communities.
Without first nations second nations cannot exist. Vice versa first nations, for hundred thousands of years, have proved to survive/prosper without second nations. This is a histrocial matter of fact.
It’s a matter of time, until the global crisis is tipping, that these ways of thinking are crystallizing into ecological and inclusive thinking. In the meanwhile it is our chance of a lifetime to be able to ‘relearn to think how nature works’ (Nora Bateson 2010). This site tries to be a clustering particle in that development.
We Europeans, from classical Greece to the EU, have a collective unconscious nostalgia for aboriginal forms of human communities (see practical mythology: Robinson Crusoe (Defoe 1719), Natural Man (Rousseau 1758); Western Illusion (Sahlins 2007).
We, anthropologists, made our profession out of this persistent historical fascination. Many of them, like myself, try to regain paradise lost by understanding how (First Nation Peoples) Sami, Inuit, Hopi, Salish, San, Dagara, Mbuti, Naga, Ngunnawal and Xingu reproduce en blossom over many generations.
Paradise can be regained by reviving and enliving natural processes-cycles and re-synchronize with other biological systems. See Entering Grace (Bateson 1972).
Anthropology is thus, next to its other purposes, concerned with the filling of a deep European collective longing ‘to return to the place we were before’ (Eagles: Hotel California).
Until recently we were not able to put this consciousness into practice: to value cultural and biodiversity as sacrosanct (holy) and act accordingly.
The preliminary model used in this site to understand the workings of human social systems consists of five interlocking cybernetic, processes. These processes are in themselves, with each other as a whole interdependent and complementary to wider and wider systems.
We individual humans cannot live alone and our families/communities will not exist without ‘foreign/strange/frightening’ other communities/religions. Even worse: if not complementing each other every biological system tends to become a runaway and destructive.
The core of this thinking is about how we, Europeans, let go of our ‘as unbridgeable experienced separate realities’ like mind-body-soul, mind-nature, male-female, old-young, black-white, hate-love, zero-one, etc. And learn from ‘primitive rituals’ how to frequently re-unite these dichotomies in our lives and experience (w)holyness.
The central conception we have developed combining Family Therapy Theory and Anthropology to denote how humans recreate/reproduce their (first nation) commnities over many generations is ‘Family & Community Continuity’ (FCC): 2015 Van Bekkum Abstract Family and Community Continuity Permanence and Transition. FCC is constituted by intertwined (in each other nested) worlds of individuals, families, communities.
During two long term fieldwork projects, ten years of guiding young men in clinical psychiatry and 20 years of co-educating youth and (mental) health care professionals and by thorough screening of 120 years ethnographies of male (and female) initiation rituals in first nation communities we detected four intertwined, intergenerational FCC constituting, processes in organizing these interdependencies: a) Complementary Generations (worlds of the unborn, the living [youth, adult, old] and of the dead), b) Complementary Gender Worlds (biological/cultural reproductive male/female worlds), c) Complementary Reproductive Instincts of Sex (Listen: The Stones), Agression, Food (new generations are only possible when these are functioning effectively), d) Complementary Mimetic and Ethnocentric Reflexes (evolutionary production of [beauty in] similarities/differences).
All these processes are time-situation-bound (contextual), hence universal knowledge is not impossible.
Knowing and wisdom have to be re-invented, co- and re-created over and over again (The sacred cannot be housed).
All over the world and in (western) art & crafts we can find infinite manifestations of (restoring) beauty to return to ‘being in grace’: Rites de Passage (sowing/harvesting/birthing/marriage/deathrituals), Where the Green Ants Dream (Herzog), Reenchantment of the World (Morris Berman), The Last Wave (Peter Weir), Paintings (Vincent Van Gogh), Magic Flute (Mozart), We Talk You Listen (Vine Deloria Jr.), Hotel California (Eagles), Maira (Darcy Ribeiro), The Garden (Van Morrisson), Whale Rider (Niki Caro).