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re Charles Notess

I have been following the development of Charles Notess’s e-books and now real books for some years now and have been very impressed — so much so that with the condition that you really should visit his site and read the whole work, I offer here this summary, drawn up by Charles Notess himself. This constitutes an expansion on my links page of which this is now a sub-page.

Book Description

The first three chapters of my book include: 1) descriptions of stages in psycho-social and moral development, 2) different styles of responses to particular situations, and 3) eight ever broader levels of perspective taking. It discusses problems that young people (both Christians and Muslims) have as they try to manage their personal identities in a world of rapid change and one wherein consumerism has grown to divert young people to actions that provide inauthentic and temporary boosts to their identities. I discuss religion and critical thinking comparing the three Abrahamic faiths. I discuss the use of stories and other ways to provide the shared experiences that help broaden perspectives.

An important problem that writers are only now describing is the effect of narrow commitments to tribal perspectives, identities, and related systems of honor. Such worldviews impose severe restrictions in our globalizing world. Tribal loyalty is acceptable if one, at the same time, can manage broader commitments that provide perspectives useful in our shrinking globe. There is a problem at balancing tribal and broader commitments, but those skills can be developmed with education.

The last two chapters of my book aim to support those interested in expanding perspectives and strengthening efforts at peacemaking. These chapters describe many different examples of reconciliation and peacemaking that were fairly successful. In the fourth chapter, I discuss conceptual frameworks, with the aid of a checklist that relates individuals and components of their identities to the larger systems in which we all are embedded. These larger systems are: community, economy, polity, and religion. These components extend up to global scale organizations in today’s world. Typical components of these systems are listed in an appendix. I believe this approach will help readers handle the complexity of the many considerations involved in strengthening efforts at peacemaking. It is essential to coordinate changes in the many considerations involved in strengthening efforts at peacemaking. For example one such change is to expand the scale of systems of justice from honor and revenge at the clan level toward national and global systems of justice.

In the last chapter, I discuss: 1) the American Empire. Several books have been written about the American Empire and how it exploits, and/or dominates, third world nations. An important goal of those who write about the American Empire seems to be to make compassion for others as the primary consideration for successful management. 2) I discuss responsibilities of clergy as described in a book The Prophetic Call edited by Hugh Sanborn, 3) Also discussed are Islamic statements from the Hadith regarding peacemaking and being compassionate. 4) I discuss the need for development of skills in critical thinking, and 5) The text and a related appendix help readers understand the interactions among complex systems so that their minds do not become saturated by the complexities of rapid socio-cultural change. Ken Gergen, in his book The Saturated Self, described, saturation of the self and the dilemmas that many of us face in such situations. I believe that many people regress to older forms of political and religious ideologies as a way to reduce the stresses from saturation.

The Purpose of My Book

I believe that it is important to point out that many people follow a simple path toward a relationship with God, a path that has changed little in the last thousand years. Yet, they find happiness for themselves, as well as being compassionate and caring to others in their community and beyond. In fact many young teens have internalized Jesus as the Ultimate care giver from the Bible stories about His life; stories that they have heard, read, and discussed since childhood. Similarly, for Muslims, their young people have grown up learning about the life of The Prophet Muhammad and Allah. As these young people become more experienced in our globalizing world, their perspectives will broaden and many will still relate to refined internalized images of the Ultimate Care Giver.

Many of the people who follow the less complex path live in religio-ethnic communities in rural areas and in narrow or focused urban neighborhood communities. It is important to remember that one does not have to master complex justice systems, governmental agencies, think tanks, and the like to follow the old traditional path up the spiral staircase to a relationship with God.

In terms based upon recent models of spiral dynamics, the simple path leads some up an ever more complex reality on the spiral staircase to a relationship with a more ultimate care-giver. Karen Armstrong and Don Beck and Chris Cowan have described the spiral path. I discuss spiral dynamics mainly in Chapter 5 of my book.

In our complex globalizing world, we need more preachers, governmental leaders, school teachers, and researchers who can function compassionately at the global level. Their view of the spiral staircase might differ from that of the more common view, but the net results can be similar for both types of person.

The foregoing few short paragraphs relate closely to the sad example of how our media have grossly distorted three talks given by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright at the end of April 2008. Links to web sites for transcripts of his three talks appear at the end of this web posting. See also my short posting: RELIGIOUS VS. POLITICAL PERSPECTIVES, AND THE MEDIA.

I believe that this book will help educate both our elected officials, other government workers, and the general public in ways that broaden their worldviews and inform them about the variety of approaches to political and economic development on the one hand, and fair and equitable justice on the other hand. For example, past and current approaches such as colonialism and empire-building contributed significantly to Middle Eastern problems. Educating the general public about these issues can help them: appreciate better other people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, benefit from their diverse experiences, expand perspectives, respond to the stresses from rapid social and cultural change, and work together with these others in peacemaking projects. Only in this way can we get past competing against each other and achieve peaceful relations.

Americans need to become aware that underlying our government’s policies toward the Middle East and elsewhere is the great fear that the oil barons have in losing access to cheap oil and the profits there from. China and India have growing economies and need oil also. The U. S. has sprawled land-use patterns that waste oil. It will not be easy to lower rates of both consumption of energy and polluting our air and water resources.

Our government does seem to have long-range planning in regard to the Middle East, but that seems only to be related to the construction of some a number of long-term military bases in Iraq, presumably for the seldom heard reason of protecting our access to oil and to “stabilize” the Middle Eastern economies by supporting authoritarian regimes there. This occupation of Middle Eastern lands is not likely to bring peace and democracy to the people there. These truths seldom appear in our mass media, except by some open-minded specialists who have the courage to say so.

It is not easy for young people to broaden their perspectives when they grow up in small town settings, whether in a small ethnic or class enclave in a large city, or a small town in a farming area. Some do it by reading. Public television provides some dramas and documentaries that are helpful. Attending schools that have children from diverse status, ethnic, and religious backgrounds can be helpful, if the students interact constructively with those diverse others. Too often cliques form and one mainly mixes with his or her own kind. That is not helpful for learning that most people have many similar concerns and experiences. Learning about each other’s differences and how others have overcome their unique challenges can be very mind-broadening. The web site http://www.challengeday.org has done very well in broadening perspectives. “Challenge Day” is a nationally recognized anti-bullying program that was described by Jeremy P. Meyer in the Denver Post front page on 8-31-07.

I am fortunate to have had a mixed professional background working first as a dynamic systems engineer, completing a PhD in urban sociology, and teaching transportation planning, urban sociology, community development, and research methods at the college level. Then, I left academia to work with local government planning in South Carolina. I benefited from that mixture of experiences. Close interactions with people from ethnic and racial minorities helped me appreciate the mix of social, economic, and ideological forces acting upon citizens and to recognize the different ways people respond to the stresses of rapid social and cultural change.

My book, in conjunction with my supporting web postings, listed at: [notess.com/cn] and mentioned in my forthcoming book, will be helpful guides and resources for students in international relations, cultural anthropology, religious studies, history, social psychology, political science, and others interested in nonviolent ways to settle differences.

At this point, I must recommend a book that I came across the Fall of 2007. It is Teaching and Learning Peace by Professor William M. Timpson. It is a book for school teachers who wish to guide their students to face differences and the need for change in ways that do not lead to hatred, conflict, and violence, but help people work together in peaceful ways. Timpson has traveled the world and participated in conferences where differences are overcome in ways that build peaceful habits and do not turn on fearful ego responses. I recommend his book most highly. It is most needed by religious and political leaders around the world, school teachers and others who face controversy.


NOTE: The scope of my book can be seen in the detailed Table of Contents that lists over 70 section headings from its five chapters. The Table of Contents is accessible at: Countering Polarization.

NOTE: I have posted on the web, an INDEX that is useful for the book. The Index is accessible at: INDEX.

NOTE: I have also posted on the web, a BIBLIOGRAPHY with around 190 listings from my book. It is accessible at: BIBLIOGRAPHY.

* Notess has a Masters and a PhD respectively from Cornell University, and SUNY at Buffalo. He has three sons. He is retired and lives with his wife in Loveland, Colorado.


Here are the URL’s for transcripts of addresses by Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Moyers’ interview

Talk to the National Press Club.

Talk to the NAACP.

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