Re-Constructing Culture


  • Martha A Bartter Truman State University


Keywords, Time-binding, “human nature”, culture, social justice


Abstract In every known culture, humans operate in a systematic manner: to survive as a society, they reproduce, raise and educate their young, devising new and useful ways to do so, and pass these creations on as gifts to the future. In other words, humans everywhere deal with three important jobs: to learn an available portion of his/her culture, to contribute to that culture in some way, and to pass on what s/he has learned to the next generation. Alfred Korzybski called this process time-binding, and noted that anyone holding this view of the human process must view all humans as valuable contributors to the world. In the United States, most of us live in a rich and wasteful culture. We throw garbage into “dumps” and once it’s out of sight, we don’t think about it any more. Our culture produces lots and lots of garbage. One of the most important—and least noticed—kinds of garbage we create consists of people. Since we can’t throw them on a literal garbage dump, we have to find other, less obvious ways of getting rid of them. After that, we can forget they ever existed. We have many ways of assigning people to the “garbage” category, and have invented many ways of “dumping” them: prejudice, colonialism, poverty, exile, taking (and misusing) their land, assimilation, genocide, and now biocide. Some psychologists claim that humans “instinctively” divide people into “known/friend” or “unknown/enemy.” Others claim that humans “naturally” dislike anyone who might compete with them for resources or wealth. We must interrogate both “instinct” and “nature” when applied to humans. Time-binding creates a more just and humane way to deal with our fellow humans; without a variety of humans, culture cannot survive. I recommend that we try it.

Author Biography

Martha A Bartter, Truman State University

Martha A. Bartter Division of Language & Literature Department of English Truman State University Kirksville, MO 63501 660-785-7406 Degrees Ph.D. in English University of Rochester, 1986 (Dissertation: "Symbol to Scenario: The Atomic Bomb in American Science Fiction, 1930-1960") M.A. in English University of Rochester, 1979 B.S. in Social Science University of Rochester, 1975 Professional Experience Truman State University, Division of Language & Literature Professor of English 1998 -- Present Associate Professor of English 1992-1998 Co-Convener, English -- 1994-96 The Ohio State University at Marion, Department of English Assistant Professor, 1985-1992 Rochester Institute of Technology, Instructor (part time) 1983 Monroe Community College, Rochester NY, Assistant Professor, (part time) 1982 University of Rochester, Instructor (part time) 1979-84 Honors, Grants and Awards “Best Paper at Conference” Award from The International Institute for Advanced Studies in Systems Research and Cybernetics, 2003, 2004. Travel grant for Seminar on Native American Studies, Fall 1998. Grant to develop Interdisciplinary Junior Seminar, 1997. Elected to Strathmore “Who’s Who” 1996 Elected to Phi Kappa Phi, 1995. Grant for improvement of instruction, Northeast Missouri State University: "Relating (Native American) Literature to Life." Summer, 1994. "Outstanding Academic Book of 1989" award by Choice magazine for The Way to Ground Zero: The Atomic Bomb in American Science Fiction. Marion Campus Teaching Grant: "Teaching Styles, Learning Styles, and Student Response," 1990. Lilly Endowment Teaching Fellowship, 1988-89. Publications: Books: Author: The Way to Ground Zero: The Atomic Bomb in American Science Fiction. Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1988. Editor: The Utopian Fantastic: Selected Essays from the Twentieth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. Westport CT: Greenwood, 2004 Associate Editor: American Literary Publishing Houses, 1900-1990: Trade and Paperback, Volume 46 of the Dictionary of Literary Biography; and American Literary Publishing Houses,1638-1899, Volume 49 of the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Parts 1 and 2. Detroit, MI: Bruccoli Clark, Gale Research Co., 1986. Book Chapters: “Between the Poles of a Paradox:: Robert Coover’s The Public Burning and Whatever Became of Gloomy Gus as Alternate History.” in Classic and Iconoclastic Alternate History Science Fiction, ed. Edgar L. Chapman and Roger Schlobin. Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2003: 171-188. “Young Adults, Science Fiction, and War.” in Young Adult Science Fiction, ed. C. W. Sullivan III. Westport, Ct: Greenwood, 1999: 131-146. “The Importance of Story-Telling to Time-Binding: Crucial Issues to Be Addressed by General Semantics.” in Developing Sanity in Human Affairs, ed. Kodish & Holston. Westport, Ct: Greenwood, 1998: 225-235. Co-authored with C. A. Hilgartner and Martin L. Stoneman. "The Hidden Agenda." In Fights of Fancy: Armed Conflict in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Ed. George Slusser and Eric S. Rabkin. Athens: U. Georgia Press, 1993: 155-169. Proceedings of the Tenth Annual Eaton Conference. "Teaching Creatively." In Thinking Creatically: A Systematic, Interdisciplinary Approach to Creative-Critical Thinking. Ed. Kenneth G. Johnson. Englewood NJ: Institute of General Semantics Press, 1991: 119-135. "Normative Fiction." In Science Fiction, Social Conflict and War. Ed. Philip John Davies. Cultural Politics Series. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990: 169-185. "Up the Empire State Building: Satan and King Kong in Walter Tevis' Mockingbird." In The Transcendent Adventure: Studies of Religion in Science Fiction/ Fantasy. Ed. Robert Reilly. NY: Greenwood, 1985: 177-187.



How to Cite

Bartter, M. A. (2006). Re-Constructing Culture. Proceedings of the 50th Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2006, Sonoma, CA, USA. Retrieved from



Systems Philosophy & Ethics