Originally this post was supposed to be the first thing you see when you get here, and i thought i needed a catchy title. What came to me was “greetings from a civilization not unlike your own” which I was pretty sure came from a Kurt Vonnegut novel. When i actually checked on this, it turns out I misremembered part of Sirens of Titan, in which the entire history of earth was controlled to deliver a message from one civilization to another, and that message was “greetings.” So it goes.
Anyway, as I was typing that title into the editor it hit me. That title is an almost perfect introduction to FSATFOTI. Let me explain.
In the book the message is sent from some alien civilization to another civilization. And I believe the actual message was just a dot, which translates into the greeting. In this article, and on the website, the greeting is from me to you (and of course, there are potentially many different yous reading this.) So does it make any sense to call me and you civilizations? Perhaps not if we think of ourselves and of civilizations as we usually do. But it makes great sense if we are using the FSATFOTI perspective.
The FSATFOTI perspective
FSATFOTI is made up of two parts: Fractal Society (FS) being the first, The Fetish of the Individual (TFOTI) being the second. The (A) between the FS and TFOTI is just so to make it speakable.
This is a little difficult to summarize, or as that bumper sticker says “The basic nature of reality cannot easily be explained on a bumper sticker.” But I’ll give it a try.
A fractal (as I’m using the term) is a thing in which each part is identical to the whole. I think this video might help. If you think of the original ‘bulb shape” as civilization, as you zoom in to see the details that make up the initial shape, it turns out that there are little bulbs that look like (and are) exactly like the original shape. And if you zoom in on those, it turns out they are made up (consist) of still smaller bulbs. So a fractal is a thing in which the parts are identical to the thing they are part of.
Fractals are usually thought of as computer-generated images, such as those above. But we can see things that are very fractalish in nature. The typical examples of fractals in nature are thinks such as snowflakes or trees, where each part if similar to the whole — and to every other part.
The ‘trick’ of “The Fractal Society” perspective is that it views society as being a fractal. We can look at society as consisting of things (people, organization, groups….) that are (often/almost) identical to society itself. And each of those things–a family for example–is made up for things (the people in the family) that are similar in some way to the family as a whole as well as to each other.
But more important, FSATFOTI assumes that we are all interconnected. Which is not a new idea.
- No man is an island (check out the end of the poem, you might be surprised.)
- Every atom belonging to me as well belongs to you.
- The self-made man is truely shallow
- Whoever saves one life save the world entire
- There is no “I” in team.
Fractal versus S-fractal
Now, it seems clear to me i am not exactly like my family, and my family is not exactly like society as a whole. To differentiate the collection of society:family:Michael:my thoughts from the Mandlebrot type of fractal, I call the first Social Fractals, and Semi-Self-Similar Fractals or S-Fractals. S-fracts for short.
So my thought is it might be useful to think of your and me not just as unique individuals, but as beings connected to and semi-similar other beings and other collections of beings (aka groups or families.)
So the basic idea is that we are all s-fracts, which means;
- we are connected to each other in innumerable ways
- we are similar to (almost reflections of) each other and of the systems we are parts of. Those systems include our families, our groups of friends, our church, our political parties, our countries……
Fetish of the Individual
The thing that keeps us from being able to see (or even imagine) Fractal Society is that we are wedded to the idea that above all else we are individuals. Though I have never read her, I suspect Ayn Rand presents the epitome of this view.
- “”the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute”
Compare that to the bullet quotes higher up on this page.
The over-emphasis and over-valuation of our individualism is described by the phrase ‘fetish of the individual.’ In the case of FSATFOTI the word fetish points to;
- overvaluing our individualism
- an addiction to our individualism.
- Think about what being addicted to something means. A junkie not only graves (interesting typo) their fix, they organize their entire life, and often the lives of those around them in getting and using their drug of choice. It isn’t just craving the drug, it is grasping at it, doing everything we can to get the drug.
- So if we are addicted to our individualism, it means that we organize our lives around maintaining it. And just as with some drugs, it isn’t so much the drug that is the problem as the attempts to get it and the results of using it excessively.
This is not to say we aren’t individuals. It is to say that when we overly focus on ourselves as being the center of the Universe we are missing a lot.
- Fractal society is a few of society and its components (you, me, our friends and enemies and those we ignore, our families, the social systems we are parts of…) that posits we are interconnected (intertwingled) AND that by recognizing our connections to each other we will see the world more as it really is, and act with more compassion.
- The Fetish of the Individual is the obstacle to seeing things this way
Comments are always welcome!