Gregory Travis

October 26, 2003

In 1976, Julian Jaynes penned The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind in which he asserted the bold notion that the development of our brain as a singular, or unicameral, organ is a relatively recent phenomena. Jaynes argued that, prior to about 1000BC, humans possessed a bicameral mind in which our left and right lobes operated as independent organs. In that situation the right (abstract) side dominated over the left (rational) side resulting, for the bicameral human, in a kind of irrational unconscious "hallucinatory mentality."

And it wasn't until a series of stresses, around the time of the Old Testament, that the two haves were melded together in a happy development that expunged the hallucinations while heralding the birth of modern, rational, conscious man.

October 19, 2003

A combination of circumstances made for an interesting juxtaposition in Monroe County this week. One was this weekend's running of the 36th annual Hilly Hundred bicycle tour and, the other, this week's mayoral debates sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Together they tell a tale of place, that place we call home.

The Hilly Hundred is the name given to a formalized bicycle tour held in Monroe County every fall since 1968. Over two weekend days, participants cycle over a hundred miles (hence the name) of what is Southern Indiana's best and most beautiful scenery. CIVITAS has participated, formally and informally, in the ride since 1978 (yes, we have the patch to prove it) and, as we type away this Friday night, we're looking forward to tomorrow's event.

October 12, 2003

Editor's note: Gregory Travis is on vacation this week. The following CIVITAS column originally ran on Jan. 19, 2003.

It never ceases to amaze me that sometime between elementary school and college people forget what "there's no such thing as a free lunch" means. It means that everything, no matter how good it appears on the surface, comes with an associated cost. And whether it's because of blind optimism, willful ignorance, or just plain stupidity, this is one concept that's totally foreign to our community's political and business leaders.

October 5, 2003

In theory and generally in practice, free markets are extraordinarily good at allocating resources, at setting prices, and at mediating the fair and equitable barter of goods between producers and consumers. But, as we all learned in high-school economics, free markets sometimes fail. When they do, resources get misallocated, prices no longer reflect value, and people get ripped off.

September 28, 2003

A single expression taught us everything we needed to know about Tysons Corner, VA. The expression of our education flashed across the face of our host at the local Marriott after we enquired about walking to our destination--a destination that our GPS indicated was just a scant 1000 feet from the hotel's lobby entrance.

"I can call the hotel shuttle for you," said the visibly concerned receptionist. The statement threw us into confusion. Was our high-tech gadgetry in error regarding the distance? Our disorientation aroused our inner Luddite and we asked for a low-tech paper map. Could our host please indicate on it the relative locations of our hotel and destination?

September 21, 2003

Editor's note: Gregory Travis is on vacation this week. The following CIVITAS column was originally published in The Bloomington Alternative on April 27, 2003, just before the May Primary.

As this is the last CIVITAS prior to the political primary process this May 6th (The Bloomington Alternative and CIVITAS will be on vacation next week) we thought it appropriate to reflect on the upcoming formal exercises in that experiment we call Democracy.

September 7, 2003

Like gin blossoms on an alcoholic's nose, the physical ravages of decades-long energy addiction are beginning to manifest themselves on Bloomington's civic body. Urban physicians have recently palpated the city's atrophying public spaces in an attempt to determine the root cause of their malaise, and they've unearthed unsettling news.

The administrative antibodies of our civic body, rather than locating and attacking the city's real sources of infection as they are supposed to do, have succumbed to a contagion of autoimmune system. As a result of that contagion, the antibodies are attacking what little healthy tissue remains, even as the rest of the body slips into neglect-induced necrosis.

August 31, 2003

It's late summer and most of us are desperately trying to finish the thousand-page novels that we resolved to read over our vacations. At CIVITAS we're nothing if not compassionate, and with the knowledge that most of you are busy as bees already, we thought we'd take on a subject a little more abstract than usual. So we're going to talk about Energy.

Energy, and its effects, have been much in the news lately. For instance, you've no doubt noticed the recent sharp rise in gasoline prices or read that the number of cars in the US recently surpassed the number of drivers. Perhaps you're already seeing higher natural gas prices as a result of supply declines. But, if you're like most of us, you've not really had the time to really think about the connection between energy use and its price - both in dollars and in other, less tangible, measures.

August 24, 2003

It's probably impudent beyond imagination but CIVITAS has to disagree with our gracious publisher and host over last week's piece entitled "It's about NAFTA, not NIMBY." In that piece, Bloomington Alternative editor and publisher Steven Higgs wrote an open letter to National Public Radio's Steven Inskeep regarding the latter's coverage of the national I-69 imbroglio.

In particular, Higgs sought to correct the perception that Inskeep's coverage might have left in the public's mind, namely of an over-simplified battle between the road builders and a small group of dedicated landowners fighting to keep their homes.

August 17, 2003

"It's progress … it just keeps spreading." That was how Jack Neal, of Ellettsville's zoning appeals board, described his town's development now and into the future. It got CIVITAS thinking. What, really, is this thing we call progress? Is it qualitative , i.e. does it have a moral or ethical dimension? Is it good or bad? Is it quantitative, i.e. does it describe an increase or decrease in something, and if so, what? Or is it neither of those and, rather, something else entirely?

The dictionary ascribes two relevant meanings to progress. The first is perhaps the one that most people associate with the word: "a gradual betterment." The second, on an equal footing with the first, is valueless: "a forward movement." A forward movement towards what? From a bad place to a better one? Or from a good place to a bad? How can we tell and are we letting our natural human optimism destructively prejudice ourselves to the first definition -- even in situations where the second might be more applicable?

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