Deep Thinking the Human Condition, Vol. 1,
Chaps 1-4: New Ideas We Can't Do Without
Human Rethink (2008)ISBN 9780615221731
Reviewed by Kam Aures for Rebeccas Reads (8/08)
Today, RebeccasReads is pleased to interview S. A. Odunsi, who is here to talk about the new book “Deep Thinking the Human Condition: Vol. 1, Chaps 1-4: New Ideas We Can’t Do Without.”
S.A. Odunsi resides in Texas U.S.A. and is a private business person not affiliated with any public or private academic institution or think tank.
RR: Welcome, S.A. I’m intrigued to learn more about your book. Will you tell us what you wanted to accomplish when you set out to write “Deep Thinking the Human Condition”?
S.A.: Since the book contains only the first 4 chapters and not all I plan on getting across in volume 1, the purposes are modest and two-fold. First, I’ve worked in near total isolation on the ideas expressed in the book. I find interacting with others and exchanging ideas motivating. So my primary goal is to interact with readers and critics through the blog on my website, www.humanrethink.net.
The second goal is to raise the level of discourse regarding the issues discussed in the book.
RR: You refer to “Darwinian determinism” a great deal in the book and its abandonment in recent decades. Will you define what you mean by Darwinian determinism and explain its previous influence on society?
S.A.: Darwinian determinism is the notion that, because of genetic characteristics, the people of the underdeveloped countries are not capable of achieving the level of development enjoyed by the people of the developed countries. The notion precedes Charles Darwin. For instance the domination of non-western countries under colonialism started long before Darwin wrote his books, yet the idea that the dominated peoples were inferior to westerners was central to colonialism and to racial prejudice. Darwin’s ideas merely added “scientific” legitimacy to existing prejudicial notions. These ideas prevailed in western academia until they were abruptly abandoned in 1945 after WWII.
In chapter 5, however, it will be shown that determinism is still alive and pervasive, not only among the academics, but among the people of the underdeveloped countries and the people of the developed countries. For instance, I recently exchanged correspondence with a Guatemalan newspaper editor. While she agreed with the premises of the book, she claimed that the development prospects of Guatemalans have been adversely affected by thirty-five years of civil war that ended only a decade ago. She suggested, in effect, that it would take an undetermined amount of time before Guatemala achieves the level of economic development enjoyed by the west. This is an example of Darwinian determinism at work. She conveniently forgot the decades of conflict in Ireland and the rapid economic progress the Irish have made since peace was declared less than a decade ago. Darwinian determinism is at work whenever the economic condition of a poor country or of a group of people is tolerated or accepted for reasons that were easily overcome by the developed countries. From this perspective, nearly all the reasons usually cited as the cause of persistent underdevelopment are merely Darwinian determinism in disguise.
RR: S.A., I understand you refer in the book to academia as the “conceptual back office.” What is the issue that you have with academia?
S.A.: First of all, academia provides a valuable service in imparting professional skills of technique that also solves problems in our world. Unfortunately, this is all that academia is capable of doing. It is the claim and belief that academia does more than impart professional skills of technique that I have a problem with. This claim and belief have prevented a search for alternatives, and the result has been widespread human suffering in the Southern hemisphere. As broadly outlined in the book, academia does not possess the organization or conceptual framework to do any more than impart professional skills of technique. The unpublished chapters of volume 1 will elaborate this point in great detail. However, no one is ready to acknowledge this major deficiency. Instead, university graduates in the underdeveloped countries are expected to perform at the level of their counterparts in the developed countries. When this fails to occur, as it nearly always does, Darwinian determinism premises are invoked as explanations for the failure. As explained in chapter 2, the power and influence of the conceptual back office is the reason why policy makers and the general public engage in such circular reasoning.
An entire chapter was devoted to the role of academia as the conceptual back office because academia is not seen that way by the general public or by policy makers. The purpose was to emphasize that much of what we believe about our world is dependent on the beliefs of the academics, and that if the academics are wrong, so are we. Moreover, it is pointed out in chapter 2 that western academia is world academia and that western social science is world social science. The conceptions of people everywhere about economic development are guided by the positions held in western academia. Today’s poor countries can routinely achieve economic development at the level enjoyed by the developed countries. The only reason why this is not happening, and why human suffering continues, is because of the erroneous premises of our conceptual back office, academia.
RR: Would you explain further what, beyond imparting professional skills of technique, it is that academia thinks it does but fails to do, and also why academia is given so much homage that we fail to see its shortcomings?
S.A.: Unfortunately, the academics are not the only group that believes the academy does more than impart professional skills of technique. People everywhere believe the same. As mentioned in chapter 3 and as will be explained in greater detail in a later chapter of volume 1, graduation ceremonies are the venues for such affirmations. Speakers in any university graduation or convocation ceremony on the planet urge students to go forth and improve the world and fulfill their potential, to become leaders, make the world a better place, and help their countries develop. On the other hand, we can see that the persistently underdeveloped countries, or PUCs, have not developed despite decades of educating armies of their people in western universities and in domestic western-style universities. The difference between what is actually taught in the academy and this expectation that people everywhere have about university graduates is what academia pretends to teach but does not. This difference is termed “functionality.”
Functionality is defined in the book as the expression of the characteristics of entrepreneurship, managerial ability, and inventive or innovative performance regarding the tangible and intangible aspects of western-style economic development. Closely related to the concept of functionality is the fact (not assumption) that the economies of all the PUCs are irretrievably westernized. This is a legacy of colonialism as well as the survival needs of the PUCs. Few will doubt that the populations of non-western countries will be drastically reduced without western-style health care and treatment and prevention methods, or without western-style agricultural methods. And despite the never-ending lament of western academics that the PUCs are losing their indigenous cultures, these countries scream that they want western-style development. Most aspects of human well being, such as transportation, communications, nutrition, healthcare and education are now measured universally by western standards.
When the PUCs educate their young in local or western universities, the presumed purpose is for these graduates of higher education to return home and make society work as well as the societies of the developed countries. The purpose is to make the tangible and intangible aspects of their western-style economies work as efficiently and effectively as those in the west. But we know that this hardly ever happens. And the reason, as extensively demonstrated in the book, is that western education does not impart functionality. All it does is impart skills of technique. While the university-educated people of the PUCs learn skills of technique as well as people in the developed countries, they cannot put technique to work effectively or purposefully without the supervision of people who are functional: expatriates from the west or from Asia. Hence, university education has proven largely useless in the PUCs. But as argued in the book, there is no alternative means for acquiring functionality other than through education. And the means for doing so is part of the contents of volume 3 of the series.
For reasons discussed briefly in several parts of chapter 3 of volume 1, imparting functionality in a systematic fashion to all university students is beyond the capability of western academia. This point will be elaborated in the remaining chapters of volume 1. While functionality roughly coincides with what the academics claim that they try to achieve in “liberal education,” they cannot agree on the meaning or purpose of liberal education beyond “broadening the mind.” In various ways throughout the book, it is shown that the academics are clueless about functionality or how to impart the quality. By the way, westerners and the people of the developed countries of Asia acquire their functionality through culture. For that reason, the quality of functionality is not evenly distributed among the people of the developed countries, nor does it manifest in equal strength. Also, and as explained in the book, academia has the capability of teaching only the superficial aspects of business, entrepreneurship, and management that may or may not be essential for leading an organization or running a business.
Nevertheless, the academics accept the credit for teaching functionality, and they’re rewarded for doing so. Worse yet, the entire world assumes that a university education imparts functionality, as demonstrated by unchallenged speeches at university graduation ceremonies and by the emphasis placed on university education all over the world. Despite the glaring failure of university education in the Third World, this pretence has not been exposed for a variety of factors that are discussed in the book. Among them is the generally held close association between the economic success of the developed countries and academic education, particularly university education. Furthermore, the economic success of some Asian countries is taken as proof that their academies rival the generally assumed effective qualities of western academies. As a result, the attitude of the western academics is that “western education works for us and if it doesn’t work for others, it’s because something is wrong with them.” Well, nothing is wrong with them because conventional education is not the reason why the western economy works. As noted in the book, university education, as it currently exists, is a weak source of economic development. Without functionality, university education equals persistent underdevelopment. If the west or the Asians had relied only on western education in order to develop, they would never have developed. Another reason why academia is not challenged about the false claim that it imparts functionality is because the people of the poor countries also subscribe to the Darwinian determinism premises you asked about earlier. No more should the people of the underdeveloped countries accept incomplete western education and blame themselves for its failure.
RR: You also talk about what you call the “forced morality event of 1945.” Will you explain what that event was and why you consider it “forced morality”?
S.A.: The forced morality event was the abrupt exchange of domination for cooperation in the policies of the west towards colonized peoples and towards racial minorities in the west. Until the forced morality event took place after 1945, colonized peoples were subjects of the imperialists, and in the United States, “separate but equal” was the official policy in large parts of the country. Even in those areas of the U.S. where segregation was not officially practiced, it was an informal part of the experience of black people. All this began to change after 1945 when the west abruptly adopted a conciliatory and cooperative attitude towards the colonies and local racial minorities. It was a forced morality event, as opposed to a genuine change of heart, because the abrupt transition was not voluntary. Instead, it was forced by the communist threat. Without the communist threat, the imperialists would not have granted political independence to the colonies when they did, and black people in America would not have been formally granted equal rights in the 1960s. Also, the forced morality event precipitated the formal abandonment of Darwinian determinism in the academy.
RR: Will you explain that a little further—what is the correlation between the rise of communism and how it helped cause the end of colonialism and legal racial discrimination in the U.S.?
S.A.: These issues are discussed at length in chapter 4. The rise of the Soviet Union presented an alternative to colonial peoples who were subjugated by the imperialist West. Had the west attempted to continue its subjugation of colonial peoples, they would have probably revolted and sabotaged the western policy of containing the expansion of Soviet communism. Also, the containment policy called for capitalism to live up to its ideals of freedom and equality. The Soviets were largely racially homogeneous and did not have a long history of racial discrimination. To convince the Third World that the west deserved its allegiance, the west had to live up to those standards by ending colonialism and legal racial discrimination at home. While the European imperialists only needed to give up their colonial territories in order to live up to the ideals, it was not so easy in the United States. America had a large population of people of African origin who had been historically treated with the utmost disdain. This is why the provisions of the forced morality event and the adoption of egalitarianism in the academy were secretly implemented. Any announced policy in 1945 America that had the goal of ending school and public housing segregation, separate but equal policies, and promised equality to black people would have caused a revolt among the white majority. But that is exactly what the U.S. had to do in order effectively to stave off the Soviet threat. As mentioned in the book, secrecy was the “currency” used to buy the time necessary gradually and incrementally to implement egalitarianism in the U.S. until it could no longer be successfully opposed. Secrecy allowed the U.S. to claim domestically that increasing tolerance toward black people after 1945 was due to their protests and agitation, instead of government policy. At the same time, the U.S. could proclaim internationally that it was moving towards racial equality, thereby meeting its Soviet containment goals. These subtle and delicate maneuverings, their eventual success, and the secretive manner by which they were implemented, are the reasons why I call the forced morality event the greatest sleight of hand in the history of the world.
RR: And what now when most of the Communist countries of the twentieth century no longer exist—how has the end of the Cold War affected the situation?
S.A.: That’s an interesting question because it was the end of the Cold War that caused me to begin thinking about the significance of the Cold War regarding the problem of persistent underdevelopment. The power vacuum created by the demise of the Soviet Union made me realize that there was nothing holding the west back in trying to impose the pre-1945 status quo. This in turn led me to thinking about why the west gave up that status quo in the first place. Then I realized that the explanations of voluntary moral appropriateness offered by the academics were simply not enough to explain what happened. But there is not yet a need to fear that the old ways will be re-imposed. Currently, large segments of Westerners have adopted the morals imposed on the west by the Cold War as their own. The forced morality event has become a genuine change of heart for them. This is a good thing. Unfortunately, the adoption has been mixed with the “anything goes” mentality and philosophies of our conceptual back office and the systematic denial by the academics of material reality that are constantly being propagated to the rest of society. As argued in chapter 4, these excesses cannot be maintained indefinitely. And that is the source of my fears. If nothing changes, these excesses will propagate to a point where the west might have to make sharp corrections that could include a reinstatement of the old ways.
RR: In the book, you also tackle American politics and you say you have the reason behind the country’s division as “red” and “blue” states. Will you tell us the history behind that division?
S.A.: I have to first emphasize that people are people everywhere and that knowledge is one. While different factors may be at work in different countries and parts of the world, I don’t perceive a difference in the analysis of events in the underdeveloped countries and events in the developed countries, including the United States. Whenever analytical differences are found, you will also find that Darwinian deterministic concepts are at play. In other words, my analysis of the blue and red-state divide is not a personal opinion. It is logical and will be shared by anyone who objectively considers all the relevant factors, even if they’ve never read my book. I did not set out to cover political conditions that are internal to the U.S. The inclusion of these conditions in the analysis was a logical progression in my search for the truth.
Also, one of my regrets is that I don’t have the time to document fully the scope of the blue and red-state divide in the U.S., and I may never have the time, since the problem of persistent underdevelopment is my focus. But this doesn’t stop me from noticing the areas of American society where by analysis applies. One constantly hears the lament from pundits that the values that made America a leading nation are being eroded, that personal accountability is being lost, that political leadership is lacking, and that morality is giving way to anything goes. But like the academics, none of the pundits can account for the source of these changes in a meaningful way that can effectively address them. It is as if the changes have a life of their own and cannot be arrested or contained. The analysis in chapter 4 decisively addresses all these concerns.
It is shown that the “life” behind these changes is academia, specifically social science. And while it is not specifically stated, the means for addressing these concerns are inherent in the analysis. I have confidence in the rational and logical qualities of people. While the use of these faculties by the general public has been restricted because we rely on the premises of the academics, I’m confident that people will do what is right if they are exposed to all the facts.
The history behind the blue and red-state divide can be summarized thus: The west changed its policies regarding people of different racial backgrounds from domination to cooperation after 1945 in what I term the forced morality event. As a result, academic social science changed its philosophy from Darwinian determinism to egalitarianism. Unfortunately, these changes were clandestine, and those parts of the changes that could not be concealed from the public were disguised to resemble a voluntary change of heart on the part of the west. To squelch dissent and protest about the changes in the academy, political correctness was invented. Political correctness, the conflation of a neutral fact with a controversial premise, has prevented the debate of many issues that any society must address in order to remain viable. The deterioration of society lamented by the pundits is merely the result of this inability objectively to debate pressing issues. And the divide is a protest of this state of affairs by the red states.
RR: While you discuss everything as being globally important and not just limited to the United States, what role do you think the United States or the western and developed world should play in underdeveloped countries—wouldn’t attempting to assist underdeveloped countries be returning to a type of colonialism? Would the underdeveloped world have been better off had colonialism persisted after World War II?
S.A.: First, there is no going back regarding the reality that the PUCs are irretrievably westernized and cannot survive without western methods. Not only do they need western methods, they need the methods to work as well as they do in the west. Secondly, and as explained in the book, the singular cause of persistent underdevelopment is the failure of education to impart functionality and the complete and total absence of alternatives for the PUCs to acquire independently functionality. Everything currently cited as the causes of persistent underdevelopment, with the exception of Darwinian determinism and the work ethic, are not causes but symptoms of the failure of education. And as explained in the book, the two exceptions don’t count, because they are not only inaccurate, they’re useful only for explaining the status quo. Higher education is already a part of every nation on the planet. The PUCs have their own western-style academies and are also engaged in sending their people to the developed countries for higher education.
With that said, the only thing the West has to do is to ensure that higher education does what people everywhere already presume that it does: impart functionality. In this regard, nothing dramatic needs to happen. Educated people in the PUCs need not return to school for additional training. Instead, the training will be aimed at future graduates of higher education, so that from a given point in time, new recipients of higher education will be fully equipped to help develop their countries.
It was pointed out in chapter 3 that a guaranteed way of ensuring rapid economic development in the PUCs is to import tens of thousands of people from the developed countries to take up leadership positions in every PUC. But that would be colonialism all over again. Imagine, however, that the hundreds of thousands or millions of PUC people who earn university degrees every year are as functional as their counterparts in the developed countries. It will result in the same thing: a guarantee of economic development. No violent revolution would be necessary. Such people would move into leadership positions through attrition, as their older predecessors retire. The more risk tolerant among them will also start businesses that will grow, just like the businesses operated by western and Asian interests in today’s PUCs.
To facilitate this scenario, the west only needs to take my lone voice seriously. The remaining contents of volume 1 and the entire contents of volumes 2 and 3 have been fully conceived for over a decade. All I need to do is find the time to present the ideas in book form. In other words, implementation need not wait until all three volumes are complete. It can begin right now. Also, implementation need not be universal at first. A trial can be made, so we can compare the performance of the graduates of my proposed curriculum with the performance of existing university graduates in the PUCs. If I possessed the resources, I would not be writing books. I’d be engaged in implementation. So, this book and the others in the series are merely a sales pitch to the PUCs and their advocates in the developed countries.
RR: S.A., why this topic of underdevelopment and Darwinian determinism? Do you feel this matter is more important than what others may view as the major concerns of our time—subjects such as global warming, war, terrorism etc.?
S.A.: The matter of persistent underdevelopment is more important than others, not because I feel so, but because it is the source of terrorism and of most ongoing wars. As shown in chapter 3, the events of 9-11 would not have occurred if persistent underdevelopment did not exist. While the terrorists of 9-11 originated from oil-rich Arab countries, these countries are still persistently underdeveloped. The fourth and most important characteristic of persistent underdevelopment is that the bulk of economic growth in modern industry and commerce, as well as its effective maintenance, are disproportionately dependent on the entrepreneurial, managerial, administrative, and inventive efforts, initiatives, and leadership of either a distinct ethnic minority (of western or Asian descent) or expatriate agents, and not on the rank-and-file members of indigenous population groups (page 46). What this means is that oil money does not address the environment of persistent under employment. It does not address the limited opportunities for self-fulfillment. When combined with the exclusion of authoritarian rule, the knowledge that one can rise only so far in the political hierarchy and that few avenues exist for bringing about change, a sense of dissatisfaction may result. And when that happens, the traditional bogeymen of western imperialism and the “Jewish problem” might become easy scapegoats for venting such dissatisfaction. At the same time, and despite oil money, law enforcement in these countries is still of Third World standards. If not, terrorists would have been contained locally before they could export their activities to the United States. Similar arguments can also be made for violent unrest in these countries and the institutions that govern them. And as far as the conflict between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East, if the Arab countries had high-functioning western-style economies that are efficiently engaged in what humans everywhere seem to want—increasing levels of comfort—the costs of endless conflict with the Jews would be unbearable for their populations. A real negotiated peace would have long been achieved.
As far as global warming is concerned, it is a problem of the developed nations. If they are willing to do what is necessary to control it, the PUCs will follow, as they do in most other areas.
RR: S.A., who do you view as the audience for your book, or who do you hope will read it?
S.A.: The book is for anyone who feels that something is not right with the world and wants to bring about change. It matters not that the reader is a policy maker, an academic, or the average person. While the book is densely written, I took great care to ensure that it was self-contained, and that no external reference would be needed to understand and digest its contents. I hope everyone gets to read the book, especially people in the underdeveloped countries. Too many people in those countries believe that persistent underdevelopment is somehow their fault. The book disproves that premise and also shows that a solution exists.
RR: If your book were to result in one change happening, what would you hope that change would be?
S.A.: This book and the others in the series are aimed at one goal: to end persistent underdevelopment in our world. When that happens, the rest of the intended changes will begin to unfold.
RR: S.A. I said very little about you when I gave your introduction other than to mention you are not connected to any “think tank.” Why is it important to you to make that clear?
S.A.: It’s important for readers to know that I’m not an academic nor part of a think tank because the book is not an aimless scholarly exercise designed for career advancement. There is a specific purpose that the book and the others in the series are designed to accomplish, and it is to end persistent underdevelopment and the attendant human suffering in our world. The power of my analysis will not become fully evident until the last volume is complete. After that is done, it will be seen that the series contains a worldview that, if followed and implemented, will result in a world vastly different from the one in which we live. Not only will persistent underdevelopment become a thing of the past, we’ll also be positioned to chart a new path for our species that could ultimately relieve us of the rat race.
The academics and think tanks dare not make such a claim, and if they did, it will eventually lead nowhere.
RR: Is there anything else about your background you would like to tell us?
S.A.: Experience informs me that your question is a surrogate for “where did you get your ideas,” or “what is your educational background?” Regarding my formal educational background, I have a bachelor’s degree in business. But the fact that I don’t have any more academic qualifications is, in my opinion, the reason why I could come up with my ideas at all. Believe it or not, I’ve been interested in Third World development issues since infancy. My dad used to attribute my pointed questions to having too little to worry about. But I persisted in asking questions until 1987, when I was struck by the answer in a moment of introspection.
RR: The book is subtitled “Vol 1, Chaps 1-4.” Will you tell us how many more volumes there will be and what we can expect to be discussed in the next volume?
S.A.: Chapters 5 though 10 will complete volume 1. These chapters will contain a thorough dissection of the premises of social science. Chapter 5 will examine the Darwinian premises still in use by “mainstream” social science and by everyone else, even though the academics of that school of thought claim to reject Darwinian determinism. Chapter 6 will examine the premises of the work ethic (a.k.a. bootstraps) school of thought with an emphasis on its Max Weber origins. Chapter 7 will examine the ongoing confusion in academia in light of the various schools of thought and will demonstrate the extent of the vacuum at the core of social science philosophies. Chapters 8 and 9, the theoretical bases of my analysis, will challenge and present alternatives to the twin philosophical pillars of social science that were briefly mentioned in chapter 3. Chapter 9 will also define functionality in terms of its quantum model and illustrate why it cannot be imparted with the same methods used for teaching technique. Based on all this, chapter 10 will then offer a functional definition of persistent underdevelopment. There, corruption in the underdeveloped countries, the extent to which these countries have become westernized, and the rest of the ripple effects of the failure of western education will all be discussed in expanded form.
Volume 2 will build upon the contents of volume 1 as it relates to the nuts and bolts of liberal education, pedagogy, and the purpose which education is assumed to accomplish. New concepts will also be introduced as we examine what we can expect from educated Southerners. This volume is just as important as the others because it debunks the remaining conceptual distortions that were not addressed in volume 1.
Volume 3 will reveal why educated Southerners do not pick up functionality from their westernized environment in the same way that Northerners do. It will also apply quantum principles to the workings of the mind and examine the mechanism by which Northerners easily translate thoughts into actions that facilitate development and why most Southerners cannot do the same. In the process, the solution to persistent underdevelopment will finally be revealed.
RR: Thank you, S.A., for joining me today. Before we go, will you tell us about your website and what additional information can be found there about “Deep Thinking the Human Condition”?
S.A.: Thanks RR. The website is www.humanrethink.net. It currently contains excerpts from the book. Through the blog, I hope to exchange ideas with readers and others who feel that something is not right with our world or with people who wish to challenge my ideas.
.: Review of Deep Thinking the Human Condition
.: Author website