THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:
A MOTIF FOR THE INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIETY
by Andre Houle

GREECE: Classical Period— 450 to 330 B.C.

The community in which Greeks lived in classical times was

called a polis. The closest translation in English would be to call it

a city-state. The city-state consisted of the central city plus the

countryside. People living within the city-state were considered

citizens. Athens was one of the more influential city-states.


The Greek city-state was a natural result of the geography of

Greece, broken up as it was by mountains into well-defined areas.

The people that lived together in a particular area came to feel a

bond of social unity amongst each other. Each citizen felt responsible

for the protection and welfare of the city-state. Each citizen

also felt the city-state was in part responsible for their own welfare.

It followed that everyone was ready to defend the city-state against

invasion and equally eager to participate in the politics of government.

In classical times the government of the city-state was a

democracy, the first of its kind, a government of the people, by the

people, and for the people. At any particular point in time, not just

on election day, an estimated 75% of voters were participating in

government in one form or another. The American democracy is

government by the people through their elected representatives

meeting at stated intervals. In Athens, the people were the government

— they exercised their powers not at intervals, but at all times

and in all departments. Our word "politics" is derived from the

Greek word polis, the city-state, where citizens played a highly

active role in government. The Greeks then, and still today, are

known, as a very politically active people.

The Greeks in their democratic city-states were able to set

precedents in fields other than government, including art, literature,

and mathematics, which are still studied today at the college level,

and athletics, for which the Olympic games are named. The Greeks

and their city-state have had a significant impact on the development

of civilization (Miller, 1941).

 

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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:

The United States Declaration of Independence was adopted by

the Continental Congress in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. The

following is a statement from that Declaration:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are

created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with

certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,

Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these

Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving

their just powers from the consent of the governed

The Constitution of the United States was introduced at a con-

vention of the thirteen states on September 12, 1787. It consisted of

the Preamble and seven Articles. The Constitution was then ratified

by the thirteen states through their elected representatives in

the following order:

Delaware

December 7, 1787

30 yes / 0 no

Pennsylvania

December 12, 1787

43 yes / 23 no

New Jersey

December 18, 1787

38 yes / 0 no

Georgia

January 2, 1788

26 yes / 0 no

Connecticut

January 9, 1788

128 yes /4 0 no

Massachusetts

February 6, 1788

187 yes /168 no

Maryland

April 28, 1788

63 yes / 11 no

South Carolina

May 23, 1788

149 yes / 73 no

New Hampshire

June 21, 1788

57 yes / 46 no

Virginia

June 26, 1788

89 yes / 79 no

New York

July 26, 1788

30 yes / 27 no


North Carolina

November 21, 1789

194 yes / 77 no

Rhode Island

May 29, 1790

34 yes / 32 no

 

Vermont: ratified at convention on January 10, 1791.

 

 

Shortly after its introduction and ratification by a number of

States, the Constitution began to confront growing opposition in

Congress. Many believed the Constitution was not sufficiently

explicit as to individual and States' rights. This led to an agreement

to submit to the people immediately after the adoption of the

Constitution a number of safeguarding amendments. So on

 

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September 25, 1789, Congress adopted and submitted to the States

the Bill of Rights, the first article of which guarantees:


Freedom of Speech, and of the Press, and the Right to Petition:

Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of

speech or the press, or the right of people to assemble

peaceably and petition the government for a redress of

grievance.

 

In summary, the establishment of the United States was based

on, and was meant to continue to be based on, the participation of

citizens in government. We, the citizens of the United States,

should do as the Greeks did in their prime, and become politically

active.

 
President Eisenhower may have said it best:

 
"Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen."

 

CHINA:

China is the oldest civilization in history. Its existence can be

traced back over 5000 years. Perhaps such a long-lasting society

has some worthwhile characteristics. Let us take a closer look at

the Chinese.

The Chinese have long viewed the family as an important part

of society. From a book entitled My Country and My People pub-

lished in 1935, the author Lin Yutang writes: "The family and the

family system can account for all there is to explain in the Chinese

social life." The family is the glue which has held China together.

To clarify the role of the family in Chinese society, the follow-

ing is also a quote from My Country and My People:

The Chinese view the family as the "basis of the state"

or more generally as the basis of human society. The family

affects all their social concerns. It is quite personal. It

teaches children the first lessons of social obligation

between man and man, the necessity of mutual adjustment

for mutual existence, self-control, courtesy, a well defined

sense of duty, a sense of obligation and gratitude towards

parents, and respect for elders. The family very nearly takes

the place of religion by giving man a sense of social survival

 

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and family continuity, thus satisfying man's craving

for immortality. The family is the base upon which the

Chinese place personal satisfaction and social stability.

The Chinese idea of the family as the basic social unit is based

on the teachings of Confucius, the venerated Chinese philosopher

who lived from 551 to 479 B.C. Confucius' teachings provide a

context by which people in the family are to relate and interact

with each other and with society at large. A basic tenet of the

Confucian philosophy is to treat the family as "the base and origin

of society." After 5000-some odd years of China's existence, there

may be some truth to this statement.

Perhaps, as presented in "The United States of America: A

Social Diagnosis" (see SKOLE, Winter, 1995, pp; 78-88), a dis-

cussion among citizens of the United States with the intent of re-

establishing the American family may be in order.

 

 

JAPAN:

The development of Japan over the centuries has been unique

as a result of its geography— it is an island. Until recently, Japan

has had the capacity to isolate itself from its neighbors, or, as Japan

has done on occasion in the past, open its doors to foreign influ-

ence.

At about 400 A.D., the Japanese acquired the Chinese script.

Prior to that they did not possess their own method of writing.

Since then, many changes have occurred in the two separate lan-

guages so that they are now hardly recognized as relatives.

Buddhism was introduced to Japan at the end of 800 A.D. Prior

to this, the Japanese had their own religion called Shinto which

means "the way of the gods". Shinto is based on the worship of

nature, gods, and ancestors. The Japanese, however, accepted

Buddhism because it was far more complex and spiritually

satisfying than Shinto. To this day however, both religions are still

vibrant within Japanese culture. If you were to ask, "How many

Japanese are Shinto and how many are Buddhist?" you would be

informed that almost every Japanese is both.

On the coattails of the acceptance of Buddhism, from China

also came the Confucian philosophy as discussed earlier. The

Japanese were quick to integrate the importance of family into

their social structure, as they still do today.

 

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After the integration of written language, Buddhism, and the

Confucian philosophy, Japan reverted back to a more or less iso-

lated island state. They remained so until the mid 1800s and the era

of Meiji, which translates to "Enlightened Government".

During the Meiji period, 1868 to 1912, a. tide of Western influ-

ence swept over Japan. The Japanese shed their long-standing feu-

dal system of government and adopted many aspects of Western

civilization. This period of modernization included the establish-

ment of a more Western-style government, the introduction of

Western technology, and the integration of the Western free market

economy. The Japanese went from Shoguns and the feudal system

to an open society where people were allowed to choose freely

their own profession, residence, and religion. The peasant, once

attached to the soil, was freed and land became a commodity that

could be bought or sold. The Japanese began to study profusely the

technologies that the West had to offer. Education became a prior-

ity among all Japanese. By the end of the Meiji period in 1912,

Japan had developed into a world power (Keene, 1959; Danger,

1966).


An aside will be taken here to clarify that all cultures have

positive and negative aspects. The same Greek culture referred to

earlier that was the first democracy in history, was a limited

democracy in that women, metics, and slaves could not be voting

citizens. "Metics" were foreigners residing in the Greek city-state

and could never attain citizenship. Only men, and only men whose

ancestry could be traced as being from the city-state, could vote.

These issues and the presence of slavery are negative aspects of

Greek culture.


Concerning China, as expressed earlier, "The family and the

family system can account for all there is to explain in Chinese

social life." Family is a priority in China, perhaps to the neglect of

other important areas such as participation in government. The

author has spoken with a number of Chinese individuals who have

said their culture long ago came to the conclusion that participation

in government was worthless: "Why bother; we can't make a dif-

ference. Let the government do what it wants; we've got kids to

feed and a family to raise." Perhaps in antiquity this attitude was

viable, but today on the verge of the 21st century (47th by the

Chinese calendar) China is the only remaining communist power in

the world, a communist power with a poor human rights record.

This human rights record may be considered a negative aspect of

 

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Chinese culture, and it may be the result of China's belief that par-

ticipation in government is not worthwhile.

 
A negative aspect of Japanese history may be its imperial rule

in the 1930s that led to its military aggression in World War 11.

Japanese society is also particularly strict in imposing standards of

behavior on the individual. Because the Japanese exert greater

dependence on the group as a whole, the individual tends to con-

form more willingly to social pressures. This may relate to Japan's

popular support of its military efforts under Imperial rule in WWII.

Such social pressures may also tend to stifle the creativity and

independence of the individual, and may explain why Japan has

had to rely on outside influence for new ideas.

 
To return now to Japanese history, after its defeat in World

War 11, Japan was leveled. The Allied Occupation following

Japan's surrender was necessary for a number of reasons: to pro-

vide necessities such as food and temporary housing, to plant the

seeds of a democratic government, and primarily to help rebuild

Japan. The Japanese were surprisingly receptive to the input from

the Allied Occupation, perhaps because they were utterly frustrated

with the military regime to which they had seemed so devoted.

The Japanese welcomed American input.


In 1941 at the start of the American involvement in WWII, a

scientist by the name of William Edwards Deming was introducing

a concept of management to American companies involved in

wartime production. His management theory was based on

Statistical Quality Control. A number of companies implemented

his philosophy. Shortly after the war however American com-

panies throughout the country adopted a different method of

management as professed by Frederick Winslow Taylor. The

Taylor method was based on the present "assembly line" model of

corporate culture. Front-line workers were to perform simple tasks

that are coordinated by several layers of management (bosses), all

of whom are under the control of the reigning CEO (Corporate

Executive Officer). This method of management itself may be

considered somewhat feudal — great wealth and power for the few;

low tech, highly repetitive jobs for the many (Jaccoby, 1991).

 
Since no one in America was interested in his philosophy of

management. Dr. Deming in 1949 graciously accepted the first of

what was shortly to become hundreds of invitations to Japan to

lecture on the subject of management and quality (Austin, 1991).

The Japanese, as they have done throughout history, accepted and

promptly integrated a foreign influence; Dr. Deming's philosophy.

 

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They have since out-performed the United States in the market-

place.

 

On that note, let's look at Dr. Deming's philosophy of man-

agement, (Walton, 1986):

 

14 points:

1: Create Constancy of Purpose for Improvement of Product

and Service.

2: Adopt the New Philosophy.

 

3: Cease Dependence on Mass Inspection to Achieve Quality.

4: End the Practice of Awarding Business on Price Alone.

5: Improve Constantly and Forever the System of Production

and Service.

6: Institute Training for All Employees.

7: Adopt and Institute Leadership.

8: Drive Out Fear.

9: Break Down Barriers Between Staff Areas.

10; Eliminate Slogans, Exhortations, and Targets for the

Workforce.

11: Eliminate Numerical Quotas in the Workplace.

12: Remove Barriers that Rob People of Pride in Their Work.

13: Endorse Education and Self Improvement for Everyone.

14: Take Action to Accomplish this Transformation.

 

7 Deadly Diseases:

 

1: Lack of Constancy of Purpose.

2: Emphasis on Short Term Profits.

3: Evaluation of Performance, Merit Rating, and Annual

Review.

4: Mobility of Top Management.

5: Running the Company on Visible Figures Alone (counting

the money).

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6: Excessive Medical Costs.

7: Excessive Cost of Insurance, Fueled by Lawyers on

Contingency.

Some Obstacles:

Neglect of long range planning and transformation.

The supposition that solving problems, or automation and new

machinery will transform industry.

Obsolescence in schools.

Reliance on Quality Control Departments.

False Starts: pitching a whole new and improved managerial
scheme when nothing is seriously being changed.

Inadequate Training.

Inadequate Testing of Prototypes.

Resistance of Unions to any kind of change in the system.

 

 

In summary, the Deming philosophy is based on cooperation

rather than competition in the workplace. To be successful in a

complex world of constantly changing products and services, em-

ployees must be highly motivated. That may be asking a lot, but

Deming's model is ready and waiting — it doesn't do away with the

hierarchy of management per se, but replaces the adversarial work-

place with a more humanistic system. Managers are responsible for

rooting out poor quality and improving the workplace by

LISTENING to employee input. The Toyota employee averages 33

suggestions to improve production per year (Aguayo, 1990). Who

knows how to improve production better than the one doing the

producing? Most importantly, most of these suggestions are

implemented with the consent of management— no deaf ears, no

brick walls. Managers become coaches, encouraging all members

to improve. Workers are highly motivated and take pride in their

work. And guess what happens: PRODUCTIVITY INCREASES.

 

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SUMMARY:

The establishment of the United States was based on, and was

meant to continue to be based on, the participation of citizens in

government. We, the citizens of the United States, should do as the

Greeks did in their prime, and become politically active.

We, the people of our country, should re-establish the family,

the family upon which the Chinese have based their long-lived

society.

We, the people of the United States, should adopt the Deming

philosophy of management, as the Japanese have recently done, as

they've done with a number of foreign influences throughout his-

tory.

 

CONCLUSION:

In the United States then, the motif for the individual and

society is to utilize synthisophy (sin thi' sa fe), to be synthisophic

(sin thi saw' fic), to synthisophize (sin thi' sa fiz):

 

SYNTHesis/HIStory/SOPHY

Synthesis; the putting together of two or more things to form a whole

 

History: what has happened in the life and development of a people/country

Sophy: Greek root, sophia: skill, wisdom, knowledge

SYNTHISOPHY: TO PUT TOGETHER THE WISDOMS OF HISTORY:

Integrate the wisdoms of the Greeks — become politically active

in a democracy that's based on citizen participation.

Integrate the wisdoms of the Chinese — emphasize the impor-

tance of family.

Integrate the wisdoms of the Japanese— the capacity to accept

and implement new ideas— particularly the Deming philosophy,

which the Japanese originally acquired from the United States.

 

SYNTHISOPHY: TO PUT TOGETHER THE WISDOMS OF HISTORY

 

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DISCUSSION:

Concerning government, hats off to the Clinton administration

in areas of income tax, sin tax, crime, and health care— our democ-

racy is working. To quote a trite but applicable proverb with refer-

ence to this paper however, you can't legislate morality. Although

the administration and Congress are doing everything within their

power, they cannot legislate citizen participation, they cannot

legislate the importance of family, and they cannot legislate the

Deming philosophy. This synthisophic revolution is in the hands of

the people....

 

An old adage is most applicable here: wherever there is a group

of people, there's politics! I'm sure you are well aware of this in

your profession, at the workplace, or wherever you are a member

of a group: The synthisophic revolution is in the hands of the peo-

ple. Wherever there are people, there's politics. To go one step fur-

ther, since the government cannot legislate morality, it is only in

the power of the people to become politically active at the moral

level that we will incorporate the importance of the family and the

Deming philosophy. Let's do it.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Aguayo, Rafael (1990). Dr. Deming: The American Who Taught

the Japanese About Quality. NY: Carol Publishing Co.

Austin, Nancy (1991). Dr. Deming and the "Q" Factor. Working

Woman, Sept 1991, 31-32.

Keene, Donald (1959). Living Japan. Garden City, NY:

Doubleday.

Langer, Paul, F. (1966). Japan: Yesterday and Today. NY: Holt,

Rinehart and Winston.

Lincoln Filene Center and Public Affairs, The (1970). Practical

Political Action, A Guide for Citizens. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

Macoby, Michael (1991). Productivity with a Human Face. The

Washington Monthly, March 1977.

Miller, Walter (1941). Greece and the Greeks. NY: The

MacMillan Co.

 

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Walton, Mary {1986). The Denting Management Method. NY:

Putnam Publishing Co.

Yutang, Lin (1935). My Country and My People. New York: Reynal and Hitchcock.

 

Special thanks to James Ruell and Shu-Hui Ho

 

First Publication of Synthisophy