Re: Cultural Dominants

Damien Broderick (
Sun, 15 Jun 1997 12:00:58 +0000

At 06:25 AM 6/14/97 -0400, Reilly wrote:


>Alan Gowans

Thanks for these references. I'll hunt them up. Wish I'd known about them
earlier. :(

>Damien: <A Sender exchanges a Message with the Receiver (or addressee)
>about some aspect of their shared World, written in a common Code and
>transmitted through an error-correcting, reliable Channel. This brutally
>reduced analysis can be critiqued, deconstructed and reassembled, but it
>stands up pretty well once you see that there's always a flow
>back-and-forth between writer and reader.>
>This is nonsense. A writer
>sends forth words into the wild blue yonder. Period. One-way. The
>message is not "exchanged," it is sent. What the reader does with it is up
>to the reader, not the writer, and most certainly not with the climate or
>with sunspots.

Not really. Communication is usually dialogical, as in this list (as in
this reply). Even novelists and poets who write in their silent rooms and
fling out messages in bottles get responses back, however mediated, and
those responses help shape their further utterance. The point I was trying
to make is that communication is reciprocal, even when the reciprocity is
masked or suppressed, and this to-and-fro is lost in the standard
Shannon-style models which have an active Sender uttering a statement meant
to be received with maximum fidelity by a passive (if noise-reducing)
Receiver. Obviously no receiver is truly passive, because meaning is
(re)constructed out of bits and bytes and context - which is why Reilly
says `What the reader does with it is up to the reader, not the writer'.

>Individuals make history and
>individuals never recur, so why should history recur?

My reference to Toynbee's punctuations by war is a hint, surely? My book
elaborates a model by historian Jim Penman, not mentioned in the essay,
based on a blend of observation of apparent historical chunkings and a
theory of behavioral pre-adaptation to food availability cycles. (I hold
no special brief for this theory, however.)

>Damien: <We are now living through the exhausted stage of an American

>"Exhausted stage"? Is this an empirical statement of fact, or might it be
>a bit of chafing over Australia being off the radar screen when it comes to
>current superpower status?

Ah, the gratuitous ad hominem surfaces. I don't much like superpowers, as
it happens, so I'm not chafing. More to the point, the cited passage is
not me speaking as such but me summarizing the Modelskian theory of long
cycles under discussion.

>Keith Windschuttle, in his essay "The Real Stuff of History" published in
>New Criterion" March 1997. Windschuttle correctly pointed out that
>anthropology and sociology have long lost their intellectual
>respectability. He also delivered a devastatingly accurate indictment of
>why academia has waged war on the individual.

Yes, Keith read my manuscript and made nice comments about it. The first
half of the book is precisely about the pathologies of fashionable academic
silliness. It might be that my own diffidently presented discursive model
is just as silly. But I don't think it's *obviously* so.

Thanks to Reilly for a detailed and thought-provoking response. Writers
*live* for this kind of reaction...

Damien Broderick