“Cast out of the disintegrating microgroups of the past, such as family, church, or village, the individual is plunged into mass society and thrown back upon his own inadequate resources, his isolation, his loneliness, his ineffectuality. Propaganda then hands him in veritable abundance what he needs; a raison d’etre, personal involvement and participation in important events, an outlet and excuse for some of his more doubtful impulses, righteousness–all fictitious to be sure, all more or less spurious; but he drinks it all in and asks for more. Without this intense collaboration by the propagandee the propagandist would be helpless.” –Konrad Kellen, Intro to Jacques Ellul’s Propaganda.
Inspired by the writings of Ole Rolvaag on Norwegian-American’s love of freedom, we begin posting a new series of essays from some of the greatest seminal thinkers on the topic of how to maintain authenticity in an era where there are institutions who have mastered the art of manipulating public opinion.
“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.”
― Abraham Lincoln
We are facing a great crisis of national credibility. The majority of Americans simply don’t trust the news media, with a recent Gallup poll showing only 32% of American saying they trust the media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly”: This is an historically low level of confidence in the media. Americans also don’t trust commercials. They generally do trust people they know and respect and they trust their own eyes, but are realizing that video footage can be easily manipulated with technology. They are learning that even other people in their same community, however, are not immune from top down censoring or subsidizing of half-truths. Everyone fears having their judgment or name destroyed by stating something unpopular or something that is not commonly believed to be true, so some wear their hearts upon their sleeves but do not relinquish the use of their critical faculties.
Perhaps it is a good thing that at least some Americans are waking up to the fact that we Americans have been willingly duped hypocrites for some time, while smugly imagining ourselves to be morally superior in our objective views. My great uncle and grandmother wrote and spoke in the papers and at schools about the double standards white European immigrants used in justifying stealing America from the native peoples. They never claimed either side was perfect, but the willingness of some white settlers to condone the murder of all Native Americans after learning a few stories of atrocities committed by few Native Americans was something that was incommensurate with the values we prided ourselves on at the time.
“A single lie destroys a whole reputation of integrity.” -Baltasar Gracian
Government officials and the media take or pretend to take great offense at an alternative media that questions the official line. Of course, the alternative news media does have some people who, for whatever reason, are borishly pushing silly and untestable hypotheses that for some reason advance an agenda they have. These people may be on the extremes of the far left or the far right. Typically the far left propagates news with an abundance mentality that favors government redistribution of property in the name of fairness and the far right propagates stories that favor a scarcity mentality that limits government power in the name of liberty. Alternative news agencies also have some people who want to provide actual information to balanced American people so that they can test their various hypotheses about the actual etiology of social problems and optimize liberty and justice for all. There is a sizable group of disinformants, bought or coerced to pretend to be alternative news agents just to make all alternative news media sources look crazy. And, often undetected, there are a small number of agent provocateurs, whose job is to gain control of hypotheses generation within a group, and to take that group on wild goose chases. An agent provocateur can cause the group they are supposedly supporting to squander their time, money, or reputation. They can gain control of movements that actually have grass-roots support in order to cause them to make foolish decisions at strategically important times.
Our government funds schools which teach people to think like scientists, where we imagine all plausible conjectures, regardless of what “idols of the tribe” those conjectures might threaten. Then scientists seek data to refute those various plausible hypotheses. Falsifiable hypotheses that stand after being subjected to lots of testing are not irrational to consider as possibly true. That is the epistemological gold standard that critical rationalists follow. However, members of the same state and national governments that fund public education often ridicule members of the public who put out perfectly rational hypotheses to explain events when those conjectures question the integrity of the government and its media assets.
In light of the extremely influential writings of Walter Lippmann an honest and reflecting person must ask whether or not it is still possible for any of us to make the righteous claim that we can be vigilant citizens of a constitutional democratic republic, if we are not at least open to the possibility of evaluating hypotheses that question the objectivity of the information we receive.
Most Americans are busy. Most are tired at the end of the work day. It can generally be assumed that a majority of Americans at any given time on any given issue are cognitive misers, meaning they quickly come to conclusions without properly weighing the reasons for those decisions. We embrace hypotheses of causal relationships that are convenient in justifying worldviews we see ourselves benefiting from, regardless of how just or objectively accurate those attributions are. We are easily deceived by smoke and mirrors that prevent the direct observation of cause. The computational energy required to see hidden causes and conspiracies require more energy than most people have. What Abraham Lincoln wrote still generally holds today: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” However, the real issue for a democracy is not about all the people or some of the people, but rather about MOST of the voters. If you can fool most of the voters all the time, then you can control America. With a few powerful institutions with a unity of interest now possessing the psychological knowledge to control most voters, there is reason to worry.
Americans are also more than ever subject to control, because of the dependency and lack of self reliance we increasingly experience as we become further removed from farms and fields that once allowed us to generally feed ourselves a lack of self-confidence in thinking for ourselves and a perceived need to be of the same mind as the group.
“[T]he group mind does not think in the strict sense of the word. In place of thoughts it has impulses, habits, and emotions.” -Bernays
More than anything else, we are concerned with what our neighbors think of us and how our opinions or theories will make us either popular or unpopular. We all fall short of at least a subset of our neighbors’ or fellow citizens’ expectations for us, so much so that if everyone were to read our diaries, our notes, or hear our comments, at least some people might take offense at them. We know that there are people out there to whom we appear either: too successful or too unsuccessful; too poor or too rich; too in-shape or too out-of-shape; too ugly or too beautiful; too lazy or too driven; too conservative or too liberal, or too something or something’s opposite, so that we know that, given the right opportunity, there will always be a subset of people happy to bring us down with negative comments and ridicule, or worse.
Knowing that Homo homini lupus est, we are all subject to a kind blackmail of thought, and we are able to be cowed into submission because only the craziest of us wish to become the next person fed to the lions in the entertaining arena of the news. But I ask myself, how could we have come to this as Norwegian-Americans (?), when I read Rolvaag, who states:
“The strongest and most important characteristic of the Norwegian people…is their love of freedom, which leads them to set their highest priority on individual rights under common law. Since this last trait is the essence of the American ideal, it means that the Norwegian immigrant is already a good American before he even leaves home.” –Ole Rolvaag, Concerning Our Heritage
So, Norwegian-American are born loving freedom, but yet everywhere they embrace their chains.
Although I know we are not entirely conscious of our lack of freedom and our ability to be manipulated, it could be argued that one of the advantages of living in a country full of small independent farmers, is that by virtue of their self-reliance, they might be able to speak the truth with less worry than those who are at the mercy of other employers. Small farm communities could in this respect be an asset to our democratic republic, precisely because farmers who can feed themselves may have less reason to worry about what others will think about their opinions. Some of us who are inspired by Rolvaag, are wanting to revisit what it is truly to love freedom and individual rights under common law. For that reason, I will be starting to post seminal writings of intellectuals who have understood people’s ability to be manipulated with the hope that a larger number of people will read this and become more self-aware. One seminal text is Public Opinion, written in 1922 by Walter Lippmann.
In Chapter XV of Public Opinion, Walter Lippmann addresses how rulers utilize their positions of power to manufacture consent. He mentions how those who control the media are actually the real leaders of the suggestible and uncritical masses, as they are able to control and direct public sentiment by playing upon what we often now call, fixed action patterns.
Public Opinion, by Walter Lippmann
Leaders often pretend that they have merely uncovered a program which existed in the minds of their public. When they believe it, they are usually deceiving themselves. Programs do not invent themselves synchronously in a multitude of minds. That is not because a multitude of minds is necessarily inferior to that of the leaders, but because thought is the function of an organism, and a mass is not an organism.
This fact is obscured because the mass is constantly exposed to suggestion. It reads not the news, but the news with an aura of suggestion about it, indicating the line of action to be taken. It hears reports, not objective as the facts are, but already stereotyped to a certain pattern of behavior. Thus the ostensible leader often finds that the real leader is a powerful newspaper proprietor. But if, as in a laboratory, one could remove all suggestion and leading from the experience of a multitude, one would, I think, find something like this: A mass exposed to the same stimuli would develop responses that could theoretically be charted in a polygon of error. There would be a certain group that felt sufficiently alike to be classified together. There would be variants of feeling at both ends. These classifications would tend to harden as individuals in each of the classifications made their reactions vocal. That is to say, when the vague feelings of those who felt vaguely had been put into words, they would know more definitely what they felt, and would then feel it more definitely.
Leaders in touch with popular feeling are quickly conscious of these reactions. They know that high prices are pressing upon the mass, or that certain classes of individuals are becoming unpopular, or that feeling towards another nation is friendly or hostile. But, always barring the effect of suggestion which is merely the assumption of leadership by the reporter, there would be nothing in the feeling of the mass that fatally determined the choice of any particular policy. All that the feeling of the mass demands is that policy as it is developed and exposed shall be, if not logically, then by analogy and association, connected with the original feeling.
So when a new policy is to be launched, there is a preliminary bid for community of feeling, as in Mark Antony’s speech to the followers of Brutus. [Footnote: Excellently analyzed in Martin, The Behavior of Crowds, pp. 130-132,] In the first phase, the leader vocalizes the prevalent opinion of the mass. He identifies himself with the familiar attitudes of his audience, sometimes by telling a good story, sometimes by brandishing his patriotism, often by pinching a grievance. Finding that he is trustworthy, the multitude milling hither and thither may turn in towards him. He will then be expected to set forth a plan of campaign. But he will not find that plan in the slogans which convey the feelings of the mass. It will not even always be indicated by them. Where the incidence of policy is remote, all that is essential is that the program shall be verbally and emotionally connected at the start with what has become vocal in the multitude. Trusted men in a familiar role subscribing to the accepted symbols can go a very long way on their own initiative without explaining the substance of their programs.
But wise leaders are not content to do that. Provided they think publicity will not strengthen opposition too much, and that debate will not delay action too long, they seek a certain measure of consent. They take, if not the whole mass, then the subordinates of the hierarchy sufficiently into their confidence to prepare them for what might happen, and to make them feel that they have freely willed the result. But however sincere the leader may be, there is always, when the facts are very complicated, a certain amount of illusion in these consultations. For it is impossible that all the contingencies shall be as vivid to the whole public as they are to the more experienced and the more imaginative. A fairly large percentage are bound to agree without having taken the time, or without possessing the background, for appreciating the choices which the leader presents to them. No one, however, can ask for more. And only theorists do. If we have had our day in court, if what we had to say was heard, and then if what is done comes out well, most of us do not stop to consider how much our opinion affected the business in hand.
And therefore, if the established powers are sensitive and well-informed, if they are visibly trying to meet popular feeling, and actually removing some of the causes of dissatisfaction, no matter how slowly they proceed, provided they are seen to be proceeding, they have little to fear. It takes stupendous and persistent blundering, plus almost infinite tactlessness, to start a revolution from below. Palace revolutions, interdepartmental revolutions, are a different matter. So, too, is demagogy. That stops at relieving the tension by expressing the feeling. But the statesman knows that such relief is temporary, and if indulged too often, unsanitary. He, therefore, sees to it that he arouses no feeling which he cannot sluice into a program that deals with the facts to which the feelings refer.
But all leaders are not statesmen, all leaders hate to resign, and most leaders find it hard to believe that bad as things are, the other fellow would not make them worse. They do not passively wait for the public to feel the incidence of policy, because the incidence of that discovery is generally upon their own heads. They are, therefore, intermittently engaged in mending their fences and consolidating their position. The mending of fences consists in offering an occasional scapegoat, in redressing a minor grievance affecting a powerful individual or faction, rearranging certain jobs, placating a group of people who want an arsenal in their home town, or a law to stop somebody’s vices. Study the daily activity of any public official who depends on election and you can enlarge this list. There are Congressmen elected year after year who never think of dissipating their energy on public affairs. They prefer to do a little service for a lot of people on a lot of little subjects, rather than to engage in trying to do a big service out there in the void. But the number of people to whom any organization can be a successful valet is limited, and shrewd politicians take care to attend either the influential, or somebody so blatantly uninfluential that to pay any attention to him is a mark of sensational magnanimity. The far greater number who cannot be held by favors, the anonymous multitude, receive propaganda.
The established leaders of any organization have great natural advantages. They are believed to have better sources of information. The books and papers are in their offices. They took part in the important conferences. They met the important people. They have responsibility. It is, therefore, easier for them to secure attention and to speak in a convincing tone.But also they have a very great deal of control over the access to the facts. Every official is in some degree a censor. And since no one can suppress information, either by concealing it or forgetting to mention it, without some notion of what he wishes the public to know, every leader is in some degree a propagandist. Strategically placed, and compelled often to choose even at the best between the equally cogent though conflicting ideals of safety for the institution, and candor to his public, the official finds himself deciding more and more consciously what facts, in what setting, in what guise he shall permit the public to know.
That the manufacture of consent is capable of great refinements no one, I think, denies. The process by which public opinions arise is certainly no less intricate than it has appeared in these pages, and the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process are plain enough.
The creation of consent is not a new art. It is a very old one which was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy. But it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved enormously in technic, because it is now based on analysis rather than on rule of thumb. And so, as a result of psychological research, coupled with the modern means of communication, the practice of democracy has turned a corner. A revolution is taking place, infinitely more significant than any shifting of economic power. Within the life of the generation now in control of affairs, persuasion has become a self-conscious art and a regular organ of popular government. None of us begins to understand the consequences, but it is no daring prophecy to say that the knowledge of how to create consent will alter every political calculation and modify every political premise. Under the impact of propaganda, not necessarily in the sinister meaning of the word alone, the old constants of our thinking have become variables. It is no longer possible, for example, to believe in the original dogma of democracy; that the knowledge needed for the management of human affairs comes up spontaneously from the human heart. Where we act on that theory we expose ourselves to self-deception, and to forms of persuasion that we cannot verify. It has been demonstrated that we cannot rely upon intuition, conscience, or the accidents of casual opinion if we are to deal with the world beyond our reach.
Giants of the Earth Heritage Center is pleased to announce, for sale in our gift shop, Kingdom of the Rings by Duane Lindberg, PhD, American Studies, MTh. Lutheran Theology.
THE KINGDOM OF THE RINGS – FOUR LEVELS OF INTEREST
FOR THE READER – by Dr. Duane Lindberg
“The Kingdom of The Rings” is a historical novel which appeals to the reader’s interest on four different levels: the fictional story itself, the historical accounts, the religious/theological matters, and the ethnic/cultural level.
The story line traces the three interlocking golden Rings which were in the gift of gold which the Magi offered to the Christ Child. The saga begins in AD 1267 as the Rings are entrusted to a Coptic Christian in Alexandria, Egypt who carries them to the embattled city of Antioch, Syria, where a Muslim army is attacking the Crusader kingdom. Following the Muslim capture of Antioch, the story traces the journey of the Crusader who carries the Rings in his search for healing from leprosy. He gives the Rings as expressions of thanksgiving for help he receives along the “pilgrims’ way” to the grave of Norway’s “eternal king” at the Nideros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway. Through the vicissitudes of history, the Rings are separated and eventually come into the possession of two families from Norway and one from Egypt by way of Germany. The Rings are then carried by these believing immigrant families to the United States. Suspense builds as the Rings come close on two occasions, and the promise of a great blessing for the keepers, the nation, and the world (the Second Coming of Christ) looms very near.
Respecting the historical level, the novel attempts to uncover for the reader some of those critical
historical events which are part of our American and the Western World’s heritage. Also, the historical perspective underlines the centrality of the Christian Faith in the founding and building of our Nation. The reader is introduced to a nearly forgotten time of greatness in the Middle Ages and to the persistence of the conflict with Islam which spans the entire period. The reader who loves history will want to re-read the novel to savor the many insights into the actual history of both the “Old World” and the “New”.
With regard to the religious/theological level, the novel suggests the ubiquity of the Christian faith and its eschatological hope which characterized the majority of immigrants from Norway and from other European countries in the 18th and 19th centuries. The metaphor of the three interlocking rings is the historic symbol of the Holy Trinity and each of the Rings bears an ancient Persian name which is suggestive of one Person of the Godhead. The Name of the second Ring – “Ashem” – is translated “Truth” or “the Incarnation of Truth” and points the reader to Jesus the Christ. In the story, it is the name of this Ring which draws the Muslim general inexorably to his conversion to Christianity and his subsequent beheading by Egyptian Islamic authorities.
On the ethnic/cultural level the saga focuses on American immigrants from Norway as a microcosm of the more than 55 million Europeans who flooded our shores in the 18 and 19th centuries. The characters in the novel reveal the immigrants’ struggle to adapt to their new homeland and at the same time their attempts to retain their own identity. The novel challenges the popular “melting pot” explanation of the American experience and suggests a more adequate metaphor – The Field of Rings.
Some of the latest genetic research on neoteny suggests that humans–and the very powerful institutions that govern them–have preferentially selected for the survival of more childlike humans over thousands of years. This is exhibited in the form of a loss of–or a delay in–the expression of important maturity genes found in primates and earlier hominids. This causes–what some have referred to as–“more evolved” humans to have the less threatening appearance of primate infants–just as domestic dogs tend to resemble wolf pups. Not only do domestic dogs resemble wolf pups in appearance, they also resemble them in behavior. While wolves focus on the meat that is in their trainer’s hands, young wolf pups and dogs look up at the eyes of their trainer to try to see what their trainer wants so that he will share his meat with them. Thus, it is no surprise that domestication has increased the time span in which a dog can learn new tricks. So it would seem that neoteny is a desirable thing.
Institutionalized Systems of Selection
As there has been selection for neoteny, or more youthful physical and behavioral traits in canines during their domestication, we can also expect that humans have undergone selection for more childlike behavioral traits. Although some positive aspects might be found in a possibly greater malleability, negative aspects would be that humans have become more “finger to the wind,” more heteronomous, and less autonomous. Increasing human plasticity could have both positive and negative repercussions for human culture. As more is learned about how cognitive and behavioral genes have been influenced, it will be interesting to deconstruct how our more child-like phenotype has influenced and continues to influence Homo sapiens’ evolving spirituality and our various religious practices.
Bootlickers for Justice (if it pleases the powers that be)
How has this childification influenced the percentage of people who enter the higher Piagetian cognitive levels and Kohlberg’s stages of post-conventional morality? It would seem that the more corrupt religious and political institutions would benefit from the continued neoteny or “childification” of humanity, as this might result in a greater conformist to nonconformist ratio among adults. Since the most insightful existential critics of institutions arise from the higher cognitive levels, the demise of the genes that gave people a propensity to attain a higher Piagetian level might be something that institutions would desire and hence we would expect their numbers to be decreasing. On the other hand, it might be possible for the postconventional to escape negative selection if they camouflaged themselves in irony or caved to hypocrisy. Thus, while their (Kohlbergian) conventional and preconventional morality allowed those of a lower Piagetian level to serve corrupt institutions in good faith, those of postconventional morality have a choice between hypocrisy or martyrdom. There are those who have understood universal principles that have not capitulated to corrupt institutions: they have been crushed for centuries–leaving fewer descendants than those who have capitulated. Thus, what courage is left in us to stand for justice? Hypocrisy is in the genes of we, the most clever psychophants, who mistakenly call ourselves the most sapien hominids.
Homo hypocrita, Homo intolerantissima, Homo sycophanta
The way we interpret any text might be influenced by the class to which we belong and the particular natural domestication that has occurred as a result of belonging to a certain class culture for centuries. Noah’s three sons illustrate the tripartite human self: our nature, spirit, and intellect: Different cultures have allowed each of these three parts to rule them and under the paradigms of each culture, different types of human domestication have occurred. Thus, it seems unlikely that merely by passing down the revered writings of sages past we can actualize new sages and champions for justice in each type, unless we somehow unite the best innate elements cultivated by selection within all three cultural niches while removing the worst. Would the original sages even recognize their thoughts in our summaries of their works? This is because our juvenilization has and will inevitably transfigure our interpretation of those texts.
On the one hand, if there is selection against mature cognitive levels and for neoteny in some cultures, their people’s continued juvenilization might, for example, cause their conception of G-d to take on ever more superhero like characteristics–a movement toward pagan Japhethic religions. Alternatively, even if there is selection in some cultures for genes enabling the acquisition of higher Piagetian levels, assuming a priori a positive selection for psychophancy rather than martyrdom, then it is doubtful whether those people’s inherited corrupt spirit would allow them to actually perform the just acts that their monotheism would dictate, as Paul writes.
“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. . . . I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7: 15; 19, Revised Standard Version).
Considering that each class has its own fitness games and certain traits are adaptive in each, we would expect crucial elements of the three core human virtues: Courage, Honesty, Justice to be present in each class, but not the fully actualized virtues themselves. This is because strength, transparency, and cleverness are what is actually selected for among the archetypal subspecies descended from Noah: Ham, Japheth, and Shem. While Ham’s vigor is an important constituent of courage, when used for selfish ends or untempered by reason, we don’t call it a virtue. While the conditionability found among the descendants of Japheth is an important element for creating their honesty, their plasticity has led them over the centuries to adapt all sorts of strange idiosyncratic prideful practices. While cleverness exhibited by Shem is an essential factor in understanding justice, cleverness alone does not a just person make.
So, when individuals have arisen in civilization exhibiting the virtuous applications of: vigor, conditionability, and cleverness they have generally produced less offspring than their competition exhibiting the vicious applications of these. Those exhibiting the actual virtues: courage, honesty, and justice, have been the sung and unsung martyrs of the ages.
We all benefit from the more peaceful and more just society that has arisen from the sacrifices of heroes, saints, and prophets. Though these servants of humanity have been a unique hybrid of the best elements of Ham, Japheth, and Shem, within their own generations these heroes, saints, and prophets have always been existentially abused. Is their altruism a fossil fuel we will some day run out of? Ancient texts indicate we have gone out of our way for well over three thousands years to kill them. Why do we kill them? Well, they are different and, frequently, they have the audacity to ask with righteous indignation those in power to live by principles rather than the self-serving cleverness to flatter those in power and allow might to set the standards for what is right: Furthermore, they have the arrogance to ask those not in power to think about ultimate rather than proximate ends, making them easy for the servants of the powerful to turn the mob against. Just as chickens peck at the hen that is different, it seems to be in the nature of humans to criticize, demonize, burn, jail, or crucify those people who “march to the beat of a different drummer” perhaps because playing this dominance hierarchy game is what egotistic humans do best. Each of these actions results in the lowering of the inclusive fitness of the virtuous hybrid who is courageous, honest, and just. In turn, the persecution of those with such virtues results in the greater and greater passing down of genes that merely code for the lusty, the psychophantic, and the clever.
“Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37
In the above quote, Jesus was merely restating the observations of Daniel and Isaiah on the problem of neoteny. Both asked how we can set up a system to preserve and protect those people who exhibit a hybridization of the three variables that produce courage, honesty, and justice. They wondered how to warn these gems of humanity against throwing their pearls before swine who have little understanding or, alternatively, how to redirect the swine so as to keep them from martyring the just. What plan could save Daniel’s virtuous friends: Shadrach, Mischach, and Abednego from the figurative raging fire? What scheme would protect Daniel himself from the appetites and fury of the figurative lions? What spell could save the seed and winnow the chaff, asked Isaiah? The plan was spelled out by both Daniel and Isaiah in numerous ways, but veiled in allegory so that seeing, the swine “might not see, and hearing, they may not hear…” Isa 6:9 The veil, or seal, was a double seal, so that only those possessing a combination of the excellences might understand. The lusty would not be able to focus on scripture; the merely clever would become bored with the scriptures; while the dogmatic thinkers would pick out what verses agreed with their wishful thoughts and chant them like pagans, but not be clever enough to critically assess the material and read between the lines.
How well Daniel’s plan has worked for the last 2500 years in controlling the less desirable aspects of neoteny is best understood by whole genome comparison of what alleles have preferentially survived through the years within the peoples governed by the paradigms he envisioned in his dream, and its implementation by Isaiah and Jesus.
Although there are a number of technologically savvy elders in our world, most of us can think of a parent or grandparent that is similar to the man in this video. I even have to consult my three year old to figure out how to use my wife’s complicated phone. It is tempting for us to say, “We didn’t need that technology when we were younger, so why do we need it now?” When we ask ourselves this question, we have to remember that this technology helps a knowledge worker to accomplish thousands of times the productivity of a person using the old technology. While it might have been possible to be effective using 1980s’ technology twenty years ago, if we use 1980s’ technology today we would be dead in the water. We need to embrace the new technologies if we are to efficiently preserve our heritage, because only digitally do we have the ability to preserve so many letters, diaries, photos, and videos-and to market our services so that they can be accessed by people who are interested in them.
Here is another funny one. While experience is often helpful, sometimes prior experience can be a hindrance.
Since many seniors are interested in Genealogy and Genetic Ancestry, but don’t know where to begin, we offer online Genealogy Assistance to (English speaking) people anywhere in the world to help them get past any hurdles they might have. Sign up by clicking Genealogy Assistance in the link at the top of the page or by clicking the link below.
Garrison Keillor Tue, September 27 @Luther College Center for Faith and Life Garrison Keillor, the host and writer of the acclaimed “A Prairie Home Companion” public radio program, will highlight the Luther College Center Stage Series of professional performing arts events for 2011-12. Keillor will take the CSS stage in the Center for Faith and Life Main Hall on Tuesday evening, Sept. 27 to present “The Aura of Flora In Decorah with Garrison Keillor.” Subscription tickets for the CSS will go one sale in early June at the Luther College Box Office. A limited number of ticket subscriptions will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis through the Luther College Box Office. Subscription purchasers are assured tickets to the Keillor performance. Non-subscriber tickets will go on sale Sept. 2. “The Aura of Flora in Decorah with Garrison Keillor” is a special Sesquicentennial event for Luther College. Keillor will present a program, tailored to reflect the history and heritage of Luther in celebration of its 150th anniversary in 2011-12. The evening’s presentation by Keillor and will consist of light-hearted talk and story telling, accompanied by music by his pianist Rich Dworsky. Keillor is a well-loved Radio Hall of Fame inductee, winner of the Peabody Award and a National Humanities Medal. He is best known as the host and writer of “A Prairie Home Companion” and “The Writer’s Almanac,” heard on public radio stations across the country. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including “Lake Wobegon Days,” “The Book of Guys,” “Love Me” and “Homegrown Democrat.” Keillor was born in Anoka, Minn. in 1942 and is a graduate of the University of Minnesota. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and daughter. He has two grandsons. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Letters and the Episcopal Church. Heard by millions of public radio listeners, Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” captures Midwestern hearts. His charm, clever wit, and intimate observations illuminate his signature storytelling on the air and in print. The performance is sponsored in part by Decorah Bank and Trust, and net proceeds will support the Luther College Sesquicentennial Fund Endowed Scholarship.
Lakselaget Offers Scholarships to Minnesota and Norwegian Women
Application Deadline: March 1, 2011
Minnesota-based Lakselaget will be offering scholarships for the eighth time in its nine-year history. The application deadline is March 1, 2011. Lakselaget offers scholarships to women who are Norwegian students wishing to study in Minnesota or at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, or to Minnesota women desiring to study in Norway. It also provides grants to Minnesota professional women who have the opportunity to work in Norway and to Norwegian women who have the opportunity to work in Minnesota. The grants are meant to supplement wages lost for experience gained. Applicants should have an interest in contemporary Norway and in the sciences, technology, business, politics, language and culture, or in the cooperation between the countries. The Lakselag Scholarship Fund was established to celebrate, encourage and advance the organization’s motto: women who swim against the current. Its goal is to promote international connections between Minnesota and Norway and allows recipients to obtain, teach and share knowledge that will benefit women in their complex roles in today’s society. Lakselaget is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization for professional women and college and university students who are Norwegian, of Norwegian descent, or are interested in contemporary Norwegian issues and all things Norwegian. The organization meets the first Saturday of each month from October through May to network, mentor, eat salmon, and receive information from a variety of noteworthy speakers. Topics range from the arts to health, to history, to sports, to heritage and beyond. For detailed information and scholarship and opportunity fund applications, please visit www.lakselaget.org.
Hootenanny at the Cinema.
On Wednesdays come to Hootenanny.
It begins at approximately 3:30 so school children can attend. Cost is $1.00 for each child, and also $1.00 for adults not accompanied by a child.
Adults with a child get in free.
Bob Bovee and Gail Heil, and Rachel Grippen Storlie are the instructors. This is the first offering of our Giants Folk School. It will be held at the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center in the Ballard House on Main Street in Spring Grove.
Giants of the Earth Heritage Center has just been notified that it has been rewarded two giant grants.
The first grant is a pledge to match the first$25,000 given by donors to Giants Heritage by Feb 14, 2011, to fund heritage programming (more info later).
The second grant, from Google, is designed to help promote our website and our mission of resurrecting multigenerational consciousness for purposes of promoting good community stewardship. The grant provides $330/day in free advertising for our website for an unlimited time. That translates into $10,000/month; $120,000 per year; or $1.2 million over the next ten years. This will be a lot of Google Adwords advertising. So far, every dollar we have spent has drawn two new people to our website. We currently average $1 per day in Adwords advertising, and we have grown tremendously using that, It is hard to comprehend how fast we can grow if we increase our advertising by 330 fold. We already have over 1,000 people a day looking at our online Giants of the Earth Heritage Center web and Facebook pages. Using this grant money, we plan on unleashing a ceaseless hailstorm of online advertising, beginning near the end of January that should draw 660 NEW people per day to our online pages, or over 240,000 new people per year in addition to the number of visitors that the site would have without advertising. Considering that these people will also talk to their friends and families, Giants of the Earth Heritage Center’s website popularity is likely to grow even faster.
With this kind of advertising we can really mobilize a critical mass of people to accomplish our mission of preserving, interpreting, and passing down every family’s unique heritage. By getting more people and families to reflect on the heritage they pass on to generations, we hope to empower people to live their lives with greater purpose, decency, creativity, and “seventh-generational” thinking.
We hope to accomplish these goals without overtaxing people or businesses. Because many hands make light work, we want to encourage as many people as possible to participate, in whatever way they can, by rewarding our supporters at least two fold every time they support our mission in some measurable way. Further, we can reach out to other non profit historical societies and help them to accomplish our common mission by working together. As our Giants of the Earth Heritage Center database grows, so too will our ability to provide complete genealogical and genetic genealogy services. People have been talking for years about preserving video stories of our seniors before they pass away, but they never figured out how to do it efficiently and retain a personal, hometown, touch. Giants is moving quickly to provide both oral history services and a family friendly database to view these in.
When it comes to passing down heritage, we don’t want to just preach to the choir. We hope to excite people who haven’t in the past been all that interested in genealogy, for whatever reasons. Because genealogy empowers a people with a greater sense of purpose, we want to provide at least some of our services for free to young people who are making big decisions. Young families, and particularly most of our youth, who are perhaps in the most need of a personal history, won’t have access to their grandparents and great grandparents stories unless we preserve them now. We can preserve and pass down the wisdom and experiences of grandparents for generations to come. When a community promotes wisdom, good judgment, and virtue it can be truly said that a rising tide lifts all boats.
We will provide meaningful services to members and publicly honor our supporters
Hopefully, Giants can introduce a new word into the vocabulary of all nonprofits: incentivization. Many people have heard of the “tragedy of the commons”, which basically illustrates that systems which don’t reward people or groups for existential/ontological stewardship, but rely on guilt to induce such stewardship, will fail. Guilting people into community stewardship may work in the short run, but such stewardship is rarely sustainable, because people see egotistic free riders enjoying the fruits of their altruistic volunteer labor and they become resentful. Although they might feel entitled to such resentment, it is in practice rarely productive. Hopefully, we can avoid all that kind of negativity from the outset, if possible, and this grant (together with another large programming-related grant which will be announced soon), makes it possible for us to reward our volunteers and supporters and leave freeriders and “naysayers” realizing it is time to rethink their modus operandi. By providing meaningful services to our members and honoring our individual, family, and business supporters we will ensure our continued success. As they say, nothing succeeds like success.
We want to reward people and businesses for doing the right thing and thinking about the greater good. Spring Grove is already talked about in “high places” (that is currently classified, but will be announced soon), and we can now really put Spring Grove on the map by being leaders in genetic ancestry. We can start to thank our volunteeers, our members, and our business supporters on the grand scale they deserve for their vision, their generosity, and their committment by recognizing them on the website. Also, our website’s great popularity will encourage people to use our eBay Giving Works application, which is on our site, because by donating as little as 10% of their eBay proceeds to Giants, they will receive unprecedented exposure that will help them sell their products. Further, for those items that have historical value, our site will help eBay sellers document each item’s individual connection with history by linking it into with the people who used it our genealogical database. Thus, our site will greatly increase the item’s value by documenting its authenticity and identifying others who may have an historical interest in collecting that item.
Please join Giants today. We intend to honor, serve, and reward our members, volunteers, and supporters, who, as good and faithful servants, deserve to be listed among the Giants of the Earth.
Barneløpet Children’s Ski/Walk Event at Decorah Prairie
DECORAH, Iowa — Help your kids shake off their cabin fever at the twelfth annual Barneløpet Saturday, February 5, at 10:00 a.m. The event is sponsored by Sons of Norway Valdres Lodge #503 in Decorah, Iowa, Sons of Norway Heimbygda Lodge #376 in Lanesboro, Minnesota, and Sons of Norway Valheim Lodge #364 in Spring Grove, Minnesota, along with Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.
Barneløpet is a non-competitive ski or walk event for children ages 3-13. It is open to girls and boys of all skill levels and is a great event for the entire family to get out, get involved, and enjoy winter.
The event will take place at the Decorah Community Prairie, which is accessed by car at the south end of Ohio Street, near Aase Haugen Nursing Homes. The trail will be in a loop, with the start and finish at the site of the butterfly garden. Participants will have three different loops to choose from. Along with the main loop for skiing, there will be a shorter one for younger skiers and a specific loop for walkers.
In the absence of snow, children will walk the course. “The only type of weather that will keep us from holding the event is an ice storm or temperatures that are 0 degrees or below,” said organizer Darlene Fossum-Martin. If in doubt about weather conditions, listen to local radio stations for cancellations.
The terrain is flat and the trail is groomed. Caregivers can walk or ski the course with the children, or may choose to stand along the course and cheer.
Participants register the day of the event between 9:40 and 10:00 a.m. After completing the course, participants are welcome to hot chocolate and cookies. Special thanks to Sons of Norway members for providing the cookies.
Everyone’s a winner! Each registered participant will receive a printed bib for the event and a medal. This event is modeled after the American Birkebeiner race held in Hayward, Wisconsin.
The entry fee is $3, and participants must provide their own skis. There are a limited number of children’s skis for rent at Decorah Bicycles, and you can call them to make reservations. For more information about the Barneløpet event contact Vesterheim at (563) 382-9681.
We are happy to pass along the following announcement from Giants of the Earth King Olav member Phillip Odden and his wife, and Harley Refsal, of Luther College, concerning their Wood Carving Classes in 2011 in Baronett, WI.
Keep in mind also that Giants of the Earth is planning on offering Fine Art/Folk Art classes in Spring Grove in the future, and we hope to include a woodcarving class. We’ll post more info on that in about a month. Below is the info about the classes in Baronett.
Else and Phillip are offering three, five day classes in 2011.
Harley Refsal of Decorah, IA will teach a weekend class in his popular flat plane style figure carving at our studio in September.
April 13th – 17th, Wednesday through Sunday class by Phillip and Else
September 19th – 23rd, class by Phillip and Else.
September 23rd, 24th, and 25th, weekend Figure Carving Class by Harley Refsal.
Winter Class: December 5th – 9th, class by Phillip and Else.
Where: Classes will be held at the Norsk Wood Works carving studio, which is located at Phillip and Else’s farmstead on county road H west of Barronett, Wisconsin.
Cost: Tuition for each 5 day class offered by Else and Phillip will be $500.00 Tuition for Harley Refsal’s figure carving class will be $200.00 Half of tuition is due with registration.
Else and Phillip studied carving in Norway and are the authors of Treskjærerkunsten, the art of wood carving, and Lærebok I Treskjæring, the official woodcarving book for the school system in Norway. Under their business name, Norsk Wood Works, Ltd., they produce carvings and furniture which are delivered to buyers all over the US and in foreign countries.
Each class will cover sharpening, wood selection, design and pattern selection, carving techniques, and finishing. Students can choose from a wide selection of carving patterns in acanthus, rococo, or dragon styles.
The class will include people just beginning to carve as well as experienced carvers. Carving tools, wood and patterns will be available from Norsk Wood Works. Be sure to bring any tools you already have.
Each student will receive a good deal of one to one instruction. You will be able to complete at least one reasonable project during the week you are in class. Class size is limited to 12 students. The class starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 5:00 pm.
Harley Refsal is a professor at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa and is the author of several figure carving and pattern books. Harley is well known for his figure carving and pleasant teaching style. He teaches several classes each year in this country as well as in Scandinavia. Tools, patterns, books, and carving blanks may be purchased from Harley at the class. Class size is limited to 15. This class runs Friday evening, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Plan to spend a enjoyable time in rural Wisconsin carving with a wonderful group of people in a pleasant atmosphere. We do our best to accommodate your individual needs. A simple lunch will be served each day at noon.
Norsk Wood Works Wood Carving Classes Registration 2011One half of the tuition must be paid at the time of registration. This is refundable up to 6 weeks prior to class start. The remainder is due the day the class starts.Send check or money order payable to:
Norsk Wood Works Ltd.
20337 County Road H, Barronett, WI 54813
Home Phone:Work Phone:E-mail
Please circle the class you plan to attend:
April 13th to 17th. Relief-carving class with Phillip & Else. Fee $500.00. Due with registration: $250.00
September 19th – 23th, Relief-carving class with Phillip & Else. Fee $500.00. Due with registration: $250.00 September 23, 24 and 25. Weekend figure-carving class with Harley Refsal. Fee $200.00 Due with registration: $100.00 December 5th – 9th, Class by Phillip and Else. Fee $500.00. Due with registration: $250.00
Over the 20 years we have been teaching carving techniques we have had the pleasure to see many people develop a skill for self-expression. Many have found a relaxing activity that fills hours of meaningful work. Woodcarving engages both the mind and the body. Relatives and friends of these carvers receive great joy in the carvings they produce.
Plan to spend an enjoyable time in rural Wisconsin, carving with a wonderful group of people in a pleasant atmosphere. We do our best to accommodate your individual needs.
Phillip Odden and Else Bigton
Phone:715 468 2780 email: email@example.com
Giants of the Earth will be hosting a Christmas party for children and families Sunday December 12th from 1-3pm at the Ballard House on Main Street in Spring Grove, Minnesota. We will be creating ornaments and caroling around the tree like they do in Norway. The kids can make ornaments to put on the tree and to take home. We will be making traditional Norwegian ornaments like; paper chain links, paper baskets, woven paper baskets and straw hearts.
There will be refreshments and we should be visited by a real Norwegian Jule Nisse.
There is a suggested free will offering of $2 per child.
Roar Moe, teacher, historian, sailor .. the last husmann?
November 18th, Thursday night at 7:15 Spring Grove Cinema shares with the public his concerns and successes – Here in SE MINN, NE IA, SW WI—Spring Grove and Norwegian Ridge, Minnesota
As technology develops, we ignore the traditional skills and practical problem-solving abilities of our earlier and immigrant ancestors? Do we always buy a new one or call someone to fix everything? Are we in front of a tv too often?
Follow the trail from the past of Norway’s fishing and farming coast through a story in pictures of self-sufficiency and practical skills without the engine or computer. Discuss where this story is heading and what it means to students attending Roar Moe`s Litle Færøy Coastal Academy.
See the attached flier and please forward this invitation to friends. Please post in any local bulletin boards. Students will enjoy this engaging presentation as well. Invite them to dinner in Spring Grove (Ivy Grove, Doc`s Blue Moose, The Skyline) before the program and free coffee and goodies afterwards with Sons of Norway Valheim Lodge at Giants of the Earth Heritage Center next to the Cinema at the Ballard House. You can see the new renovation and Sigmund Årseth’s artistic depiction of the immigration from Norway and early days of Spring Grove and Norwegian Ridge.
SEE YOU THERE 7:15 November 18th.. NEXT THURSDAY! Meet Roar after the program at The Ballard House.
One of the hallmarks of a community that maintains sustainable stewardship practices is that the community is made up of a higher than average number of individuals who make conscious rational decisions. Community stewardship is thus advanced when members of the community become conscious of their innate Fixed Action Patterns, or FAPs. Fixed action patterns are those patterns which cause humans to behave in predictable, less than rational ways. When people make good financial decisions, resources are kept in their community. Today, it is difficult not to fall victim to marketing tactics used to sell us things we can’t use, don’t need, or don’t help our families or communities out in some way. Therefore, I believe it is helpful for us to promote a better understanding of “tricks” used which frequently drain the resources of small towns while providing little return, so as to immunize members of our community against irrational spending and promote optimal spending.
Empirical research has documented that humans unconsciously behave in predictable ways when confronted by an individual promoting a cause or selling an item. Research has identified the following 6 tactics for getting someone to say “yes” to something that circumvents the rational deliberation process. There are o
2. Commitment and consistency
3. Social Proof
4. Liking (people who also like whatever it is you are promoting)
Examples of FAPs that we exhibit
1. Reciprocation-if a car salesman gives someone a cup of coffee, buyers will frequently not negotiate the best price for their car. The coffee isn’t even worth a dollar. The buyer might spend $2000 more on the car if he is given a cup of coffee by the nice salesman.
2. Commitment and consistency—if you get someone to start saying yes to things they agree with, you can eventually show that donating to a cause is consistent with what they already believe.
3. Social Proof—if you preface your survey by saying “9 out of 10 people believe X”, do you also believe X, most people will believe X.
4. Liking (people who also like whatever it is you are promoting)—If you show an attractive or likeable person likes X, most people will also like X, even if they know nothing about X.
5. Authority—if you state that the Powers-That-Be like X, most people will also like X.
6. Scarcity—if you say that something will not be available soon, many people will feel compelled to buy that thing right now.