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Why Seeing Systems is So Hard

Why Seeing Systems is So Hard

By Dennis Loo (5/24/14)

Speaking both as a teacher and as an activist, the single most difficult thing for people to learn is the significance of systems. People are so accustomed to the notion that individuals determine everything - they are, after all, taught this constantly by popular culture, the political and economic system, and by all too much of education - that there is substantial resistance to grasping systems’ centrality. Even those who endorse the primacy of systems (e.g., sociologists) mostly do not consistently apply this principle in their work or in their personal lives.

You can find many academics’ books and articles, for example, which do a tremendous job of laying out how systematic racism, sexism, class, economic exploitation, etc., are and how they structurally determine people’s lives. Yet when these authors get into offering solutions to these systemic problems they almost all offer prescriptions for solving these intractable problems in non-systemic ways. Since the problems are systemic in nature - which they have devoted 90% of their writing to showing - these problems cannot possibly be solved following non-systemic routes. Their prescriptions are therefore entirely illogical and will never work. The only way to solve system-level problems is to replace those problematic systems with radically different systems.

Why should this be so hard for even those who make it their profession to study the systemic nature of these problems? The primary answer is that even intellectuals whose stock and trade is ideas are hemmed in in their thinking by the reigning system’s power. It’s one thing to identify, chronicle, and decry the terrible injustices of the existing system’s operations. It’s another thing altogether to advocate what amounts to a revolution to change that system. For that is what a radical systemic change is: a revolution. Most people, even radically minded intellectuals, shrink from the logical conclusion to their piercing critiques because the ramifications of their investigations means that they have to put themselves in open opposition to existing authorities. And that, most people are unwilling to do, at least under the circumstances that exist most of the time where an insurgent, revolutionary movement is not present. It takes particularly brave individuals to buck convention. Humanity relies disproportionately for its fate on the role of these particularly brave individuals.

There is another reason why seeing systems’ centrality is so hard for so many people. You have to think and analyze things scientifically to be able to recognize the hidden working of systems on people’s thinking and actions. This is because systems are not obvious to the eyes, any more than culture is obvious in its impact on people’s behavior. Culture is a system that governs how people in a given culture will interact with each other. The rules for that culture are largely unwritten and operate to the untrained eye in invisible ways. Culture as a system is as invisible to most people as water is to fish. If you were to ask a fish what water is and if the fish could understand your question, it would look at you with its big eyes and think to itself, “what are you talking about?” since water is invisible to fish. You would have to have been a fish that had briefly been out of the water where it could no longer breathe for it to grasp the elementary yet elusive fact that water is what it lives in.

Applying the methods of science and thinking scientifically is not something that people can learn to do merely through life experience. It is not something that most people can learn how to do through reading even a lot of books, although some people discover this that way. Grasping scientific principles such as the existence of systems that exist above the individuals in them and that powerfully shape how people think and act without individuals being conscious of this is not something that is easily learned by most people. Many sociology students – people who are actually studying the science of sociology - are unfortunately still unaware of the cardinal importance of systems. Some of them even explicitly reject the idea of sociology as a science and believe that sociology is no better than a belief system akin to religion.

Those who have this attitude are not solely to blame for their unscientific attitudes. Just as with anything else, systems are involved primarily here: the educational and larger social systems have a powerful impact on how these students see the world and science is something that is one of the more difficult things to grasp because it represents a level of understanding that involves a rupture with ordinary ways of thinking. You cannot readily see evolution happening. You cannot view in ordinary life and with ordinary instruments, viruses or the operations of quantum mechanics. To the naked eye the earth looks flat and it appears as if the sun is revolving around the earth. You cannot in everyday life see the operations of systems unless you have been trained to do this. Most people think concretely and not consciously and abstractly at the level of theory. Everyone needs theory to function but most people unconsciously use the paradigm that they were brought up with and/or the one that is the most common in their society and they use the lens of that paradigm to see the world. Most people don't even know the name for the paradigm that they are using or that they are using a paradigm. (The name of the dominant paradigm is functionalism, in case you're wondering.) What people see in the world is heavily colored by the paradigm they are using. Since the dominant paradigm in society is that which authorities endorse and benefit from, it should be no small wonder that most people tend to see the world using or being heavily influenced by the ideology of those who rule. Consequently even those who are critical of the existing system have a hard time mounting a really effective critique and mobilizing a radically different movement to the existing system because you cannot replace the existing system using the intellectual tools of that very system. You cannot counter the power of the existing system and authorities using the premises of that very system.

Making the leap to grasping an alternative theory and seeing the world anew with that alternative theory therefore involves a rupture with ordinary thinking and being. This is why the most advanced theories in science and philosophy are so challenging and difficult to develop and grasp. The most advanced ideas and the most profound truths always have to struggle for their rightful place because the lowest common denominator is always not going to represent the most advanced views.

Science by its very nature is disposed to being at odds with conventional thinking and with the existing order of things because it accepts nothing that cannot be proven by overwhelming evidence to be true. Political and economic authorities, on the other hand, generally want people to accept things that political and economic authority say is true. Obviously this is also at least equally true, if not truer, of religious authority. Authorities do not wholly trust, and for good reason, the inherently critical and insurgent nature of science. They seek, therefore, to either deride and undermine it, or to stringently control it so that it can be tamed. Those who seek to tame science, however, are riding a tiger.

Comments   

 
0 # Princess Peach 2014-05-25 06:30
I agree that it is difficult for the majority of individuals to grasp the idea of systems. All of my life I have been taught that individuals determine everything. There is a lot of new information presented in this class that I have never been exposed to before. It is difficult for me to fully get my mind wrapped around this information because it is completely different than what I have previously been taught, and I am personally not a sociology major. I enjoyed the analogy of the fish in water. It made me realize that one reason why people have a hard time understanding systems is because they live in them. To understand what a system is, a person would have to not live in a system. Systems are so incorporated into us that we cannot see them. As we discussed in the SOC 302 lecture, the majority of people tend to attribute the character and outcome of system to the attributes of the individuals within them. This is a common mistake referred to as the fallacy of false attribution.
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0 # Dbug 2014-05-26 03:01
Princess Peach, I agree with your statement. The reason why it is difficult to understand the system is because we live in it. The lecture we had in class also helped me understand how social norms reflect the system itself. We are social creatures and our behavior is influenced by systems. Although we are individuals, we cannot function without a system.
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0 # CamouflagedWife 2014-05-26 15:48
We are all brought up to believe that we have a real say in what is going on in our society, but the sad thing is that individuals don't determine everything because our system is fundamentally the overseeing power of everything. Many people are oblivious that it is truly a systematic problem because they only choose to recognize the individuals who are "making it hard" for us to live in equality. But the truth behind our inequality isn't from the people in power, but from the fundamentally unequal system we live in. We live in a world, as we have discussed in lectures, that believes if we change the people in power then everything will get better (Fallacy of False Attribution), but the truth is that we could put anyone in power who "wants to make big changes," but nothing will happen because it's the system that really needs to change. Only then can real inner change occur within our society.
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0 # marcos1 2014-05-28 01:26
Although individuals don't change everything, they can make a huge impact. Martin Luther set the roots for a reform in his time. It was him against the longest lasting institution in our history, the catholic church. Churches back then had the power to kill an individual by burning them alive. Martin Luther exposed some ideas and he ignited some serious revolts. Individuals have power, if we didn't why monitor, entertain, intimidate?
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0 # agris 2014-06-06 00:34
Quoting Princess Peach:
[quote name="Princess Peach"]It made me realize that one reason why people have a hard time understanding systems is because they live in them.
I definitely agree with this statement. I feel not only with the idea of systems but also with other sociological theories and ideas it is hard to grasp them because we live in the area of study. By studying society, communities, relations, we are ultimately studying our own lives and sometimes activities that we already engage in and will have preformed bias's inhibiting us from seeing the whole picture. I feel this is what makes sociology and anthropology as other social sciences hard to grasp or even understood as to be a science.
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0 # MarieB 2014-05-25 07:01
Systems are an aspect of society that many people, myself included, do not think about often or see the significance in. Over this course, I believe I found the difference between the subjects of sociology and psychology. Both sociology and psychology are sciences because they are predictable, manipulatable, and have variables, but psychology focuses more on the individual's mind and how their environment influences them, while sociology is the environment itself.
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0 # MarieB 2014-05-25 07:02
(cont'd) Because "humanity relies disproportionat ely for its fate on the role of these particularly brave individuals," it takes one intrinsically powerful and confident person to lead a group of people, which is part of the entire system. Group thinking is consistently true because most people do not have reason or motivation enough to act differently from everyone else, which is why things, especially in government, never change. While social systems rely on the disposition of an entire society, revolution relies on the few most influential personalities.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-25 13:33
Quoting MarieB:
(cont'd) Group thinking is consistently true because most people do not have reason or motivation enough to act differently from everyone else, which is why things, especially in government, never change.

Three things. First, the reason why group think and group behavior exist is primarily because we are social creatures and because of "pluralistic ignorance." People tend to conform to others' behaviors. People's thoughts, however, are much more varied and may in fact mostly be at odds with group behavior, but because peo tend to conform, that difference in peo's thinking isn't apparent to the naked eye. It's not a question of not having enough reason or motivation, in other words. Second, peo occupy different groups & these groups have differing life chances. For the majority, bourgeois ideology is opposed to their real group interests. The proletariat, for ex., is not benefited as a class by bourgeois ideology. Cont.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-25 13:43
Yet bourgeois ideology pervades the whole society and is present even among the proletariat because the bourgeoisie are in power and therefore have the greatest ability to get their ideology out into the whole society and have it dominate, even among those for whom it is does not serve. Thus, revolutionary ideas when taken to peo - and you have to take it to them because rev theory doesn't arise spontaneously - who already recognize in their lives that things are not right, can find a real home. People know what day to day life is like but if they're using the wrong outlook/theory, then they can't properly sum up why it's happening and can't see a way out. Third, I think you mean that gov't doesn't change short of revolution? Because a genuine revolution is exactly that, the radical change of a gov't.
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0 # LA305302 2014-05-25 17:15
A question that stumped me in class that has to do with "group think" was when we were speaking about systems, and the german nazis on trial for their cooperation in the murdering of the Jews. Looking at it from an INDIVIDUAL point of view, one would think what a horrible and inhumane thing that was. how can one bring themselves to cause to much harm to others. People are not taking in account systems. Like you said "People's thoughts, however, are much more varied and may in fact mostly be at odds with group behavior..." Therefore, these people were not acting based on their own merit to commit such heinous crimes. They were just conforming to the popular view. This answer has two sides. It is hard to judge the true character of an individual when he/she is just conforming to what is told. This does not whatsoever make it okay, but gives understanding to how strong a system is.
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0 # Luvlife1 2014-06-09 03:34
I absolutely agree with how strong the system is, it has a grip on people and not really know it. I can fully understand it now with the water and fish example, it makes perfect sense as to why we it's so hard to see it. Never the less, like you said it does not make it okay for individuals to make such decisions as to harm others but it does help us understand and make better decisions moving forward.
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0 # jnc 2014-05-25 16:30
Whether it is realized or not systems are a core essential to society. Systems have become so incorporated in our lives that they are essentially what develops us today as people in the community. I never really thought of changing a system with a new system like the way you mentioned in this article. At first, I was confused on how this could work, but now realizing how individuals are so dependent on these systems it only makes sense to replace it with something more suitable for society while also not having people cause much chaos without any type of system in place. The thought process of implementing a new system with the old seems to be a simp process, but it is having the people let go of the old and try to conform and accept the new that is coming their way.
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0 # Sadiez Moreno 2014-05-30 23:09
It is confusing to think of establishing and implementing a new system to replace the old one. I didn't quite grasp this concept at first, either. But then I thought about it and this notion could be compared to Beckett and Sasson's alternative policies and programs that address crime and drug abuse. They explain that through social investment, alternative sentencing, rehabilitating reintegration and the like can help replace the system of the tough-on-crime policies that are currently established. And I agree, having people abandon their current way of thinking in order to adopt a much different, less popular approach won't be easy at all.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-30 23:30
Quoting Sadiez Moreno:
I agree, having people abandon their current way of thinking in order to adopt a much different, less popular approach won't be easy at all.

A distinction needs to be made here first off between people's thinking and systems. People aren't cooperative of systems primarily because of their thinking. It's primarily because of social conformity rather than consensus. The first one is behavioral and the second is mental. Changing what people do is more a question of setting a different standard and norm - social proof.

Secondly, while you are right that it's not easy at all to get peo to adopt a new system, since when is doing things that are enormously worthwhile easy? Nothing worthwhile doing is easy.

Thirdly, most peo don't know that they're in systems and they need to learn this as part of the process of adopting a different one. Cont.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-30 23:32
Fourth, you have to have another system present at least in concept for peo to leave an existing one. To use an analogy: you can't get peo to leave a boat in the water for somewhere else unless you have another boat there for them to go to. People aren't generally going to jump in the water if they see no other option, even if the boat they're in is leaking.
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0 # LA305302 2014-05-25 17:21
Systems are very hard to understand, and I never understood that racism and sexism by their own nature were systems. To get rid of these would take from my understanding, take getting rid of all the ideologies behind what it is to be masculine or feminine in this world. I do not know if my approach is correct, or I am just looking at a glimpse of the real picture. I understand that Capitalism per say, has much to do with the current struggles we face today with sexism and racism. Would that make capitalism the "big picture" of systems, and the other are the subdivisions of systems? We can get rid of capitalism, but I am not sure if that would deviate most (because all is impossible) of the racism and sexism that goes on in our society.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-25 17:30
Quoting LA305302:
Would that make capitalism the "big picture" of systems, and the other are the subdivisions of systems?

Yes. Patriarchy predates capitalism and also exists in places where capitalism does not yet exist but its continued existence is inextricably bound up now with capitalism.
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0 # Dbug 2014-05-25 18:07
Although we would like to think of ourselves as individuals, we are in fact social creatures and sociology itself is scientific. The scientific methodology helps explain that as social creatures we tend to follow social norms. Social norms are also the reflection of the system's logic. The system in which we live in is influenced by the ideology
of those who rule. The dominant paradigm in society is that which authorities endorse and benefit from. These ideologies are so powerful that it influences the functioning of society and individuals itself. The problem is not the system but rather the people within. It is those who rule that influence people's behavior. For instance, if they continue to declare crime as a problem and suggest that an increase of surveillance as the solution the majority of the public will act to these conditions.
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0 # Sme 2014-05-25 19:33
We start learning about the system and how government and cultures work from the beginning years of our lives, but we are never taught how to understand the systems that make up our society. There are systems within the systems and logistics that define the system that makes it even more difficult for us to understand them. In order to understand these systems, we have to learn how they work and why we follow the systems in the first place.
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0 # Sarah Heitz 2014-05-25 21:44
It is true, we have been taught growing up that individuals make decisions and it is your choice. Until now I became a sociology major I did not realize how much systems had an influence on what decisions I made and why I made them in the first place. As Marx says, each and every economic system has logic to them and if you understand their logic you can understand how they think, for example capitalisms logic is to maximize profits by all means. By knowing this about capitalism you can predict certain decisions they are going to make based on their logic. Profit. Maximizing profit is detrimental to capitalism which is why understanding this allows us to make predictions about what decisions they are going to make. This can be applied to any system as long as you understand its logic.
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0 # cglov3r 2014-05-26 01:32
Yes, agreed. You mentioned having been taught growing up that individuals make decisions and that we have a choice in those decisions. I too didn't realize the impact and influence a system can have on society and therefore he people. I have written so many papers or comments such as these convicting individuals or groups in society for the happenings or certain affects or situations we now face when in all actuality, the system is to blame not the particulars of people or groups. Things are honestly beginning to make even more sense now.
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0 # Sarah Heitz 2014-06-02 01:31
Exactly! Things are all starting to come together because once you understand the system, you can predict what the decisions of the people in the system are going to be. This is because systems are a thing, which makes it possible to study and find predictions or patterns.
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0 # tiamari 2014-05-29 20:55
To understand the problems that are affecting society one important aspect has to be looked at. One must examine the nature of systems.
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0 # Sarah Heitz 2014-06-02 01:33
Agreed! Looking at and understanding systems is the key to figuring out what is going to happen next and what we should expect. This could help in many ways such as elections, laws, etc.
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0 # zzchi 2014-05-25 22:00
As Dr. Loo pointed out in class, "we as humans belong to a system and were created by a system." A group that shares the same attributes and values create a system and therefore are a system as a whole. In a community, there are many systems in itself and resides under the nature of working as one system; which would be the community. However, breaking down systems as one sees them is difficult to do. In the article above there is a fish analogy. Taking the fish out of his or her system until its last few breaths only then to replace the fish back into its own environment is what our system must do in order to see the system for what it is. This analogy symbolically represents what the system we live in must do in order to replace the existing system as a whole. The question that remains is how can a new system be triumphant over capitalism and still exist?
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0 # Natalie Rivera 2014-05-26 00:08
Everything is made up of a system. Without a system made up of rules and regulations, the system would fail. In fact some rules and regulations are not necessarily verbally addressed. An example would be the fact that it is a societal norm that no one speak on an elevator. However, rarely does anyone question "why the silence?" Instead there is a sense of conformity and obedience. Until one steps back and questions why? In any case nothing can function without a system. Therefore it is important for one to understand the systems that make up our lives.
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0 # Aria 2014-05-26 06:49
This is so true. We are governed by systems that we do not even realize rule us. Most people conform to society and the systems and norms it imposes without realizing it. I recall a time when I was in the elevator and my friend was still talking to me while a group walked in. The whole ride she talked to me while random strangers were inside the elevator with us and I had no idea why I felt so uncomfortable talking with her once so many people were in the elevator. It was not until later when I rode the elevator again that I realized it was because normally when people are on the elevator it is quiet and everyone waits until their floor to leave. It is interesting to wonder if other countries have the same norms governing them or if it is completely normal to have conversations in elevators or to stand facing away from the door.
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0 # Natalie Rivera 2014-06-02 22:58
Yes Aria, social norms do govern us whether we realize it or not. For this reason, I chose to speak about the unspoken of social norm to be silent in an elevator. You bring up a good point, in wondering if other countries have the same social norms as us. In any case, I think it is safe to assume that everyone is governed by some type of structure or system.
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0 # FAVELA001 2014-06-12 04:33
These systems, as expressed in various lectures, have to exist otherwise chaos would ensue. Imagine a world without the DMV, or a world without the IRS. Cars would disappear left and right, and carbon emissions would be essentially a lot worse than they are right now. Taxes would be cheated on and not paid leading to poor infrastructure. Bureaucracies are a necessary evil in this world.
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0 # SecretSeaBridges 2014-05-26 00:35
Our life we have all been told how to behave and how to think. Which is why having systems are essential. Having a system keeps us in check with laws and social norms. With every system there is a logistical reason that comes with it.
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0 # cglov3r 2014-05-26 01:24
I believe I now have a clearer understanding of 'systems.' The recent announcements for class aided this understanding and this article really laid the foundation. I didn't realize that I too was having a difficult time comprehending systems until Dr. Loo's recent posts to again include this article. Although I still have more brainstorming to do, right now I feel as though this article has really successfully tied together many things I have learned throughout my academic career thus far. It's respectively the missing piece to the puzzle when I wasn't even aware there was a missing piece. Interesting to say the least.
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0 # Sadiez Moreno 2014-05-30 22:20
I agree. I, too, was having difficulty understanding systems as a whole, and I hadn't even realized it! This article put into perspective that it isn't easy to see systems because we don't even think systematically. Even when we do think of the problems that encompass this society, we don't think of solutions in the same way. From a young age we are taught that we personally are in charge of what happens to us, and an opposing way of thinking is not easy to come by. I am glad that this article opened my eyes to continue to expand my critical thinking.
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0 # BBalty 2014-05-26 02:55
It is extremely difficult for people to conceptualize that systems and their logic can exist without the individuals within them. Because of this most people believe that individuals are responsible for problems within the system. For example the presidency, most people assume that the problems within our country are Obamas fault but it isn't, it is the entire systems fault. We can't just expect for all the problems to go away by replacing each member that make up our entire government, we need a new system to replace our old one.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-26 04:06
It is PRIMARILY the system's fault but Obama bears personal responsibility as a SECONDARY aspect. He should not be absolved of all responsibility. He is the chief political leader of the Empire and he is not just a pawn. Otherwise we'd be thinking in Either/Or categories rather than in primary and secondary factors.
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0 # Guy 2014-05-26 03:41
I could only speak for myself when I say this because I had a hard time understanding how systems work. I think it is more of a habit for myself when falling into the fallacy of false attribution. I was born into the public education system where they teach us a formula to use to explain things. If something goes wrong I would use some type of formula that was taught to me in school to try and understand what is happening. If the formula I was taught is wrong then all of my answers would be wrong also. From past experience society made it where every type of change seems to take a long time to do and radical changes was unimaginable (not saying radical change is impossible) because we can see how slow government offices work such as the DMV. Takes half a day to renew something for our cars or license. It is the very system that we are trying to change that is changing the point of view of others. It is like putting out a fire with a bucket. It will eventually go out with enough water.
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0 # jnandez 2014-05-28 15:49
I can agree with what you are saying. The public education system in America is designed to just have us regurgitate what we are fed. And we are fed consistent step by step procedures of how to read, write, and learn. I remember having those couple teachers in middle school and high school who taught me how to think outside of the box and to appreciate and utilize different yet efficient systems. These few teachers are always rare; nonetheless they impacted my life immensely. We need more of these kinds of people.
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0 # flr9d 2014-05-26 03:49
We need systems for survival. We were born into a system, there will always be a system. Just because the current system is not working right now does not mean all systems don't work. The system just needs to be replaced by another. I think here is where the problem is people know that something is not working but are not sure what it is or where to start.I think a start would be by educating people in order to address the problem. People are so concerned about who they are as an individual that they forget about the bigger picture, their purpose within the system.
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0 # Marisol Parra 2014-05-26 06:02
Dr. Loo asked a great question that refers to such systems as why do we always follow social norm? Many agreed that we don’t want to stand out in society or fear of breaking the social norm to be called “the outcast.” With systems there are those who just go with the flow even though they know it’s a corrupt system. However there are those who really don’t understand the system because it is truly hard to see the system. A revolution needs to be started so a new system can be brought forth.
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0 # Dbug 2014-05-26 06:10
Although we would like to think of ourselves as individuals, we are in fact social creatures and sociology itself is scientific. The scientific methodology helps explain that as social creatures we tend to follow social norms. Social norms are also the reflection of the system's logic. The system in which we live in is influenced by the ideology of those who rule. The dominant paradigm in society is that which authorities endorse and benefit from. These ideologies are so powerful that it influences the functioning of society and individuals itself. The problem is not the people within rather the system. It is those who rule that influence people's behavior. For instance, if they continue to declare crime as a problem and suggest that an increase of surveillance as the solution the majority of the public will act to these conditions.
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0 # Sherlock 2014-05-26 06:20
I really enjoyed your presentation in class that discussed systems. I loved your paragraph on the fish and its surrounding water. I feel like I have heard that before, but it did not sink in as much as it did this time. I think it is true, that we have trouble seeing systems because we are so submersed into them. I feel that it often takes outsiders of particular systems in order to really point them out and show the people within the systems, what is really going on.
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0 # Daniel Gomezz 2014-05-26 06:26
As I spoke to this in my portion of your talk at the PSA, even those who are consciously studying society are under a system themselves, and are not immune to its effects. All throughout the Cal Poly Sociology department you see the effects of individualism and other aspects of the system raining down on each faculty member or student. This is where the need for much braver people to step up against conventional wisdom consciously aware of both how systems operate (with a governing logic) and the ways in which they must be dissmantled (something someone who applies system logic consistently will know).
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0 # Sarah Heitz 2014-06-02 01:35
I remember your talk from PSA and it is all making sense now. At the time I was not aware of what you meant that those in the system are not immune to their effects. It is all coming together with my knowledge about how important systems are and why we can study them and potentially predict patterns.
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0 # aplopez 2014-05-26 06:28
I am a Political Science major and we always talk about different types of systems. Yes, I agree that people believe that they are the main ones that decide for the country but in reality they just put forward suggestions and the system votes on it. Systems are used for structure and they allow voices to be heard. People do get educated or a better word is "influenced" to believe that the system is not justice. However, if it's not for people bringing out issues (social problems) to the system then there would not be changes occurring here and there. I mean there is not need for replacing the system, it's just improving it! Can you imagine the world without a system? What would happen if " people actually determined the world's system!?, one word, Anarchy. People just need to realize that there is structure and balance within he system.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-26 14:18
Quoting aplopez:
there is not need for replacing the system, it's just improving it! Can you imagine the world without a system? ... Anarchy. People just need to realize that there is structure and balance within (t)he system.

Honestly, if you think that the system is alright that is destroying the planet, then I think you need to look at it more closely. What structure and balance do you see? Is there a balance between the needs of capital to expand relative to the needs of the planet and humanity to survive?
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0 # aplopez 2014-06-09 06:43
I am not saying the system is alright. It just needs to be in better hands. This system that we have does "suck." However, there need to be structure to keep society out o panic, in an case. Structure as in order and rules for everyone.
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0 # soad 2014-05-26 06:34
This is something I never thought of and it's hard to grasp. This articles point became clearer with the fish and water analogy. Afterwards I started to think of the fundamentals of a system and began asking questions like what if the people who control systems are within it have already thought of what people who think of the systems are thinking? What if people who think outside the system are actually part of the system themselves? There are many ways to think about systems and there are many counter active comments that can come out of it. But I believe that what is important is that a system exists right now and it needs some sort of change.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-26 14:11
Quoting soad:
This is something I never thought of and it's hard to grasp. This articles point became clearer with the fish and water analogy...What if people who think outside the system are actually part of the system themselves?

Systems have differing, contending streams within them because, as articulated by the conflict perspective, groups are in competition with each other over their respective material interests. "Material" here refers not just to things but to ideas and values as well. Thus, there are competing ideas (or ideologies) within the same system. But depending upon what sys is in power, a specific ideology is going to be over all dominant. The basis for revolution, in other words, arises from within the bowels of the existing system due to the contradictions within the system's very nature. Peo's thoughts come from the system itself.
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0 # Aria 2014-05-26 06:44
As stated above, systems compose everything around us. Systems were taught to us by the education system and are influenced by politics and culture. It is hard to determine what composes our systems since we are so accustomed to the way that things are. Most people do not realize what makes up our system since they do not consciously take in the differences between our system and others. For example, the systems that govern us are different from the systems that govern others in different countries. If we are to change the system, we must first take a step back from the current system we are in so it will be easier to see the flaws that surround us and make the necessary changes in order to better the system. Only then can we not only change the system, but make it better than the existing one.
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0 # Luvlife1 2014-06-09 03:40
I agree with taking a step back from the system in order to make a change in the system but if we are so accustomed to being part of the system how are we to survive if after all we are social beings and thus have the need to belong?
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0 # Monique V. 2014-05-26 06:54
I'm having a hard time grasping what systems are and what they stand for, but the fish out of water example made it a little easier to understand. We all live within systems and we create them and belong to them. However, the existing systems have flaws that some will never understand or see because they have never been "a fish out of water." I think the current movements that are taking place are doing a good job at exposing these systems to people. For example, the Ray Lotta talk during week 2 opened my eyes to things I never questioned before. If people continue to expose others to these systems, and others begin to question current systems, then maybe this world really can change for the better.
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0 # Luvlife1 2014-05-27 00:36
I grew up thinking that we as individuals have the power to overcome many obstacles. I was an enthusiastic thinking that people don't succeed because of their own personal choices. Now being a minority not only in race but gender, I almost felt defeated until I attended the Lota talk, yes it is very difficult for people to see that we all operate through the system but I also beleive a revolution is not only necessary but very possible.
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0 # marcos1 2014-05-28 01:19
A couple of weeks ago I learned about a law in psychology. Our teacher admitted that laws seldom come in psychology. I believe sociology is a type of science, although many of my college friends joke that its a "soft" science. My question to you is, are there any laws in Sociology? Being so that sociology is a science, there must be laws. And yes I am aware of the importance of theories, and the scientific meaning behind theories but I'm wondering if there are any laws.

Secondly, you're right about systems being hard to recognize. Most of my life I didn't care enough to listen about the "machine" or understand what "system" meant. This class is the only one that really presses our system as the number one problem.
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0 # Slovebee 2014-06-03 06:10
I see how not understanding systems can make things more difficult and frustrating. We are definitely a part of something bigger than ourselves and I think until more people start realizing this then they'll be more open to defend and stand behind movements. I think we do have a tendency to focus on the individual -- and I think that's our human nature from the very beginning. For me it's easy to see both points. I think things in this word are affected by both. Like Dr. Loo said stated in his article 'The Paradox of Individualism', society is primary and the individual's actions are secondary. I think both are important. As a psychology major I find the individual's brain fascinating to look at, but I also have to look at how the world around them affects how they think/act. I felt the tension one day in class when we're talking about Elliott Rodger and the reason to his actions. Yes, the culture and environment is crucial, but so is the specific way it affected him personally
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0 # draen 2014-06-04 00:48
I can understand how people cannot see the importance of systems, because never really see how affected we are by systems. Just like you pointed out with the fish and water analogy, are lives revolve around systems so much that we do not even know they are there. One of America's striking features is the importance of individualism, which is so heavily indoctrinated into us our whole lives. It is because we are so focused on individualism that we do not recognize the impact of the systems that are shaping our lives.
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0 # Susan Torres 2014-06-04 21:05
I think unconsciously many refuse to or do not see how to change these systems is because of the way media and history has portrayed those who have tried to override the current system. We will not see someone on the news or in school books about someone who is currently trying to come about some change in society. They will later then be talked about once many years have passed and how unexpectedly they died or were murdered. Not much positive emphasis is put on those trying to go against the status quo. The fact that changing a system and understanding a system requires abstract thinking ultimately means that formulating a solution, a step by step plan is impossible. It's a messy process I am pretty sure of and will definitely not go according to plan and this is what makes it a lot more difficult to accomplish.
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0 # Daniel Gomezzzzz 2014-06-06 18:57
I completely agree with the unconscious aspect. When I speak to family about systems, etc. They nod their head then turn away, or when I show them a controversial Obama video or article they say things like "yeah i know, you can't trust the government" yet they continue to watch bourgeoisie media and accept it. My question is, how do we tap into that force that pulls some people away?
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0 # Susan Torres 2014-06-11 19:29
I think not until something directly affects them then they will pull away from all the false information that is given to them through the media.
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0 # Karla Garcia 2014-06-08 12:17
so systems need to be changed by using completely different ideas? i understand why that would be because if we use the same ideas and just change the inside it would basically be the same thing because people conform to the system and what it demands. since the change needs to be radical the only way it can be changed is through a revolution? i also believe that its true that for people to be able to see outside of the systems we live by we need to do it like a fish would and that's like getting out of the environment we live in to see from the outside.
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0 # mdAngel 2014-06-08 19:50
I only think our voice counts. Everything we do counts. Its up to us to make a voice for our selves. If Society stood up and spoke up, make an up-roar on what we really need rather than want, we can make a difference.
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0 # Jessica Rodriguez 2014-06-08 20:56
just like everyone else i was brought up they way the government wants us to think. i now think differently but at the same time i feel like am leaving one thought for another. when i try to talk to my father in law about Obama not being the person he made himself look, he just trys to defend him and says things that comes out of the news, but the system is in control of the information that is given to us. changing the system is the best thing
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0 # Christine Lopez 2014-06-09 01:08
I think it will be very difficult to replace are current system, or for people to adopt a new system. There are some systems that should not be replaced because many people depend on these system that the government runs. The systems that I am talking about are systems that many individual depend on because they need government assistance because they do not have the income. The programs that I am talking about is housing, food,health care and even Financial Aid.
There are many different types of systems.
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0 # Lomonaco 2014-06-09 02:56
Being born and raised into a democratic society I have been socialized to understand it as a fair form of government. In 7th or 8th grade I remember learning about the constitution. I think it was more about memorizing things about it. We were not taught to understand it and challenge it. I think we learned about the Electoral College but it was not until a few years back that it clicked. Our votes are really not to elect the next president and vice president. Our votes are not counted and the majority wins. Our votes are to pursue the Electoral College to vote the way the majority of a particular state feels. When you are emerged in a system it is hard to see it from the outside. Sometimes it takes a nudge to look beyond the smoke cloud other times it takes a shove.
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0 # Frank Sahagun 2014-06-10 07:28
What makes me very sad is that although many soldiers not only know, but acknowledge their dissatisfaction and disgust with the very system they are in service to, yet they still continue to involve themselves in it. I'm sure the reasons for this vary, but some that have come to mind for me are money, in that for a lot of them, this is how they earn a living, and due to the time they invested in their service, it has become all they know. Another reason could be perhaps that the system is set up in a way that targets youngsters fresh out of high school,some who are confused about their futures,or who are getting into trouble and need a way out,and it gives them a way out. They make it sound so great.Simply serve for a few years, and they will pay for your schooling when you get out (if you ever get out). Once these kids invest time in the service, they will get emotionally attached to it. On top of that, the people they serve with become family to them, making it harder to leave.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-06-10 18:56
Peo in the service and subsequent to service are facing MAJOR obstacles to their resisting openly what they're called upon to do by the military. Look at what has happened with the death threats against Bowe Bergdahl's parents. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to repudiate the military's mission.
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0 # Susan Torres 2014-06-11 19:32
I definitely agree with what you are saying but I believe it is important to point out that this only applies to the working class. It can even be away of having the working class see themselves as part of something more in order to have them following order from the upper class.
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0 # James Dewey 2014-06-11 02:59
i am really confused about your use of non-systemic means of changing the system in the second paragraph. You say that non-systemic change is futile in actually changing the system, wouldn't systemic means of change mean working withion the confines of the system in order to change the system? such as electing a new official or starting a protest or special interest group, yet all of these means hardly ever invoke a change in the system. Working outside the confines of the system sounds more like a revolution, yet much like the french revolution, the nature if the revolution is non-systemic in its entirety, this breaking of the system could be seen through the tool that the french used as the guillotine, an extremely unconventional way to carry out change.
Some clarity on the subject of non-systemic change would be appreciated because of right now i'm not sure what you mean
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-06-11 03:14
Quoting James Dewey:
i am really confused about your use of non-systemic means of changing the system in the second paragraph. You say that non-systemic change is futile in actually changing the system, wouldn't systemic means of change mean working withion the confines of the system in order to change the system? such as electing a new official or starting a protest or special interest group,
Non-systemic routes in pursuit of change are those that say that you can change the ideas or values that are paramount or dominant and that by changing those ideas and values that you can change the outcomes of the existing system. Non-systemic routes are based on the mistaken idea that systems don't function as they do because of their system level logic and that you can change a system's governing logic without changing the system. Systems operate as they do and produce the outcomes that they do because systems are systems. Cont.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-06-11 03:19
An example of non-system paths of change would be someone who advocates that we can end racism by changing people's ideas in their heads and that it's all about people's wrong ideas and that racism has only to do with prejudice instead of racism as a structural and ideological issue that persists because it serves the interests of those who profit from exploitation and who need things like racism to divide the people against each other so that they will not unite together. In short, non-systemic approaches are non-materialist in the philosophical sense. They fail to see how systems operate inexorably based on system level logic and misidentify the epiphenomenal realm of ideas for the material realm of system logic. A further example of this would be to look at the Trayvon Martin murder and fail to see how institutionally racism against black people is part and parcel of a system of exploitation.
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0 # James Dewey 2014-06-11 21:35
makes a lot more sense now, and this explanation fits perfectly within the lectures in class, and with previous articles. With this in mind, i can see how the biggest influence on a social movement would be education, and getting the information out there in order to change the systems logic and values.

But i have another followup question, sociology has been telling us that people are subject to the system regardless of if they believe so or not. If the system is composed of individuals, in order to change the system logic, would each individual within the system have to be re-educated on the values and logic of another system in order to promote change? Or is there some other macro-solution where re-education or re-institutiona lizing certain bureaucracies or institutions can then in-turn change the system values and logic
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-06-11 23:01
Quoting James Dewey:
would each individual within the system have to be re-educated on the values and logic of another system in order to promote change? Or is there some other macro-solution where re-education or re-institutionalizing certain bureaucracies or institutions can then in-turn change the system values and logic
The main way that a system persists is not through consensus but through social conformity. Peo go along with others more than they do it because they agree with the rationale for those actions. Thus the key is to have new norms established through the example being set by revolutionary leaders. Some of these will be self-consciousl y revolutionaries , others will be doing what they are doing because they see this is the right thing to do. Within that the matter of how people see things is very important but the change would not require changing how peo see things one person at a time.
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0 # Belinda 2014-06-11 23:49
This whole discussion reminds me of the first time i saw the Matrix as i'm sure that many felt the goosebumps of how blinded we can be on the reality of our lives. One can go downright insane! But i've also known that we are in a system. I understood the level of influence that technology has on our life. although my intellect cannot tell me HOW much, i know to be fearful of the system. and yet, it makes us safe. Right now i just feel that some times, you don't need to know EVERYTHING. sometimes you just have to trust in the greater good.
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0 # FAVELA001 2014-06-12 03:52
Additionally seeing systems is so hard because we do not want to see systems because of the fear that comes within these system. Imagine them as being monsters in horror movies, generally the scariest ones are the ones we cannot see. We start out feeling afraid of something and then that fear makes us feel weak, and that weakness makes us feel angry, and then that how we process fear as hatred. Vampires are republicans, and zombies are like conservative’s perceived by liberal’s endless consumerism. When conservatives fear someone they are secretly foreign, or preying on young women. Liberals love accusing Bush and his followers as being mindless mouth breathing drooling idiots (Zombies). Ultimately, Indoctrination is responsible for human fear. Human fear is nothing more than the manifestation of our aversion into the architectural other.
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Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12