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The Exodus Frame of Mind

  1. Sep 20, 2008 #1
    The Exodus Frame of Mind

    Recently David Brooks wrote for the New York Times an article labeled “The Past Meets the Future”.

    This was an imaginary conversation between Mr. Past and Mr. Future.

    Mr. Past focused upon our failure to understand the past and in so doing we make egregious errors. He admonishes us not to take insane attempts to solve historical problems when such matters must heal themselves slowly in the course of time. He admonishes us to seek the happy mean, as Aristotle would say. He suggests that we just try to get by today and maintain some decent order that one thing will lead to another and we will all get by.

    Mr. Future reminds us of the Exodus story and how this story indicates what a people can accomplish if they never give up. Generational journeys are possible and they can account for revolutionary changes. The ‘Exodus frame of mind’ gives us the power to ‘move mountains’. Examples are M.L. King, Gandhi, and Moses in the Promised Land.

    “Tocqueville gets at this when he writes that freedom "is ordinarily born in the midst of storms, it is established painfully among civil discords, and only when it is old can one know the benefits." The adolescence of freedom is painful, but what is the alternative?”

    I think that we are in a period that might be called a “fork in the road”. If we do not find a better path into the future there very well may not be a future for humanity.

    I think we have the capacity, i.e. brain power, but we lack the sophistication and will to do the things that will lead to a revolutionary adjustment. This is, I think, a time when young people either get off their ‘intellectual couch’, ditch their intellectual ‘Twinkies and chips’, and get an intellectual life or their children my not have an opportunity.

    I say that an ‘intellectual life’ is necessary but not sufficient for their future. I say that the day when the ‘happy mean’ is sufficient is dead and gone.

    http://select.nytimes.com/2006/04/13/opinion/13brooks.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 20, 2008 #2


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    The options are interesting coberst. In an intellectual way! Where did I put the twinkies!

    I was talking with three Columbian women. One of them told me about the social structure in Columbia and how the social pyramid rests on an enormass number of homeless people. I asked her what was missing that created this monstrous poverty in Columbia. I said, don't you have taxes in Columbia... can't you tax all the cocaine going out of there? She said, of course not, its contraband, and there are not enough intellectuals and wealthier people to tax.

    I said, well, you need the money to build schools to educate your homeless poor so they have the opportunity to generate an income and be taxed as well. That would be quite the exodus for the Columbian poor... don't you think?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  4. Sep 21, 2008 #3

    We and the Columbians face the bootstrap problem. The Columbians do not have a middle class with the wealth to help them solve the bootstrap problem. Americans have the midlle class but lack the character to become intellectual revolutionaries.

    Bootstrap is defined as: designed to function independently of outside direction—capable of using one internal function or process to control another.

    For a 12 to 18 years period from the age of 6 to our mid twenties we have lived constantly in an educational system wherein we seldom if ever learned to function intellectually independent of outside direction.

    How is it possible for such an individual to develop the internal processes (bootstrap) that allow him or her to become an independent critically self-conscious thinker?

    Like the PC setting in front of us we seem to have an automatic default position. Our default position is ‘reject’ when encountering any idea that does not fit in our already learned patterns and algorithms.

    Somehow the individual must find a way to change that default position from ‘reject’ to ‘examine critically’. Of course—how do we every not reject this message?

    These following definitions come from: http://www.criticalthinking.org/resources/articles/glossary.shtml

    critical listening: A mode of monitoring how we are listening so as to maximize our accurate understanding of what another person is saying. By understanding the logic of human communication-that everything spoken expresses point of view, uses some ideas and not others, has implications, etc.-critical thinkers can listen so as to enter sympathetically and analytically into the perspective of others. See critical speaking, critical reading, critical writing, elements of thought, intellectual empathy.

    critical person: One who has mastered a range of intellectual skills and abilities. If that person generally uses those skills to advance his or her own selfish interests, that person is a critical thinker only in a weak or qualified sense. If that person generally uses those skills fairmindedly, entering empathically into the points of view of others, he or she is a critical thinker in the strong or fullest sense. See critical thinking.

    critical reading: Critical reading is an active, intellectually engaged process in which the reader participates in an inner dialogue with the writer. Most people read uncritically and so miss some part of what is expressed while distorting other parts. A critical reader realizes the way in which reading, by its very nature, means entering into a point of view other than our own, the point of view of the writer. A critical reader actively looks for assumptions, key concepts and ideas, reasons and justifications, supporting examples, parallel experiences, implications and consequences, and any other structural features of the written text, to interpret and assess it accurately and fairly. See elements of thought.

    critical society: A society which rewards adherence to the values of critical thinking and hence does not use indoctrination and inculcation as basic modes of learning (rewards reflective questioning, intellectual independence, and reasoned dissent). Socrates is not the only thinker to imagine a society in which independent critical thought became embodied in the concrete day-to-day lives of individuals; William Graham Sumner, North America's distinguished anthropologist, explicitly formulated the ideal:
    The critical habit of thought, if usual in a society, will pervade all its mores, because it is a way of taking up the problems of life. Men educated in it cannot be stampeded by stump orators and are never deceived by dithyrambic oratory. They are slow to believe. They can hold things as possible or probable in all degrees, without certainty and without pain. They can wait for evidence and weigh evidence, uninfluenced by the emphasis or confidence with which assertions are made on one side or the other. They can resist appeals to their dearest prejudices and all kinds of cajolery. Education in the critical faculty is the only education of which it can be truly said that it makes good citizens. (Folkways, 1906)
    Until critical habits of thought pervade our society, however, there will be a tendency for schools as social institutions to transmit the prevailing world view more or less uncritically, to transmit it as reality, not as a picture of reality. Education for critical thinking, then, requires that the school or classroom become a microcosm of a critical society. See didactic instruction, dialogical instruction, intellectual virtues, knowledge.

    critical thinking:
    1) Disciplined, self-directed thinking which exemplifies the perfections of thinking appropriate to a particular mode or domain of thinking.
    2) Thinking that displays mastery of intellectual skills and abilities.
    3) The art of thinking about your thinking while you are thinking in order to make your thinking better: more clear, more accurate, or more defensible. Critical thinking can be distinguished into two forms: "selfish" or "sophistic", on the one hand, and "fairminded", on the other. In thinking critically we use our command of the elements of thinking to adjust our thinking successfully to the logical demands of a type or mode of thinking. See critical person, critical society, critical reading, critical listening, critical writing, perfections of thought, elements of thought, domains of thought, intellectual virtues.

    critical writing: To express ourselves in language requires that we arrange our ideas in some relationships to each other. When accuracy and truth are at issue, then we must understand what our thesis is, how we can support it, how we can elaborate it to make it intelligible to others, what objections can be raised to it from other points of view, what the limitations are to our point of view, and so forth. Disciplined writing requires disciplined thinking; disciplined thinking is achieved through disciplined writing. See critical listening, critical reading, logic of language.
  5. Sep 21, 2008 #4


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    Ironically enough, we need an education to be able to accept or reject any idea. The education provides the background knowledge against which to compare any new ideas coming into our event horizon.

    The most ironic part of it is that we need to be taught the definitions of "critical thinking" etc to get a grasp of how useful it can be in problem solving. This is a very interesting proposal you're bringing up, mind you. I think that nations with the lack of a middle class that is set on default (in terms of thinking "inside the box") may have the resources within their homeless ranks to solve their economic problems. Everyday each one of the impoverished has to think outside of the box to make materialize some food or other necessity. Putting that sort of ingenuity to work on a national scale may be the best thing that could happen to a country.
  6. Sep 21, 2008 #5
    Moses never made it to the Promised Land. Perhaps the story of Exodus is a better example of what Brooks means than Brooks himself understands. Of the millions of Jews who left Egypt and slavery, only two made it to Canaan. The rest never really shook off their slave mentality. It was for the new generation, born in the desert, to create a free society.
  7. Sep 22, 2008 #6
    Do you think that the upcoming new generation in America has the character to take up this task?
  8. Sep 22, 2008 #7


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    Not being an American I can't say for sure. I've found that the Americans I've met carry quite a strong contingent of common sense with them. Were it coupled with a comprehensive education I believe America could become a Utopia. But, as someone pointed out in my thread about Consilience, it only takes one bad apple to spoil many. And as I countered, it only takes one alert orchardist to remove the bad apple before it can damage the rest. (I believe the American term would be "take out" the bad apple... or "smoke em"... perhaps "toast em".... maybe "blow em away" or "make my day".)

    But I was talking about Columbia which the women, themselves being Columbian, called a "developing country". What if the ruling class, and it appears to be a class structured system, listened to the ideas of the homeless. I think they may have something to contribute to the engineering of infrastructure and the conducting of business on a national scale. This is because they are the ones living on the effluent of that society and on the outside of the box, looking in. This perspective lends itself to some excellent insight into how a nation is run. But they're shunned as an embarrassment. They represent a system that has failed its people.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2008
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