Tag Archives: conflict management

A Vision of A Mature Culture

Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid. (Goethe)
Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid. (Goethe)

As I explore the issues of our culture, I start with Vision because it is essential to our being. As the Cheshire Cat said to Alice: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.” Vision is what motivates us: we want to move towards it. (We want to move away from global warming, but where do we want to go?)

If we do survive and eventually thrive, how might a mature culture function? Early in my PhD process, prior to retiring, I presented a workshop called “For Our Children.” I based the title on a statement attributed to the theologian Thomas Berry: while in his 70s, he was apparently asked why he worked so hard. His answer was: “For the children.” Personally, I now work “for the children,” to allow them the privilege of “being human in the 22nd century,” at least one hundred years from now. As simple as it is, “for the children” is the best description of what “wisdom as a way of life” means to me, and my best sense of what I want in the future.

What we need is such a vision for our culture. I don’t know what that is, but I hope that together people can come to such a vision — one that motivates. This is again a tall order, given the complexity of people and our propensity to argue when our small domains are challenged. The following are initial suggestions — I will expand upon them in later posts. As you read them, attempt to step into them as a lived experience, rather than an intellectual concept.

As mentioned in the previous post, an effective vision needs to be multi-sensory and emotionally rich. I must be able to step into it, and say: “Wow. I want this.” For me, I can see, hear, smell, touch “for the children.”

I propose that, in a mature culture, the following six priorities would be honored, and lived, on a daily basis—and would form the basis by which all other decisions are implemented. Principally, we would live into the concept of “Seventh Generation Sustainability” (Wikipedia), as originally proposed by the Iroquois League.

The specifics of what I am suggesting may be only pipedreams, but I propose that, in some fashion, the concepts are essential to mature functioning. Most importantly, the specifics require that we come to terms with the limitations of our humanness, and choose to live within our greatness. Such a culture will honor the sacred — the appreciation of the universe as an interconnected, experiential whole, in humility and awe of its underlying mystery — only then will we be true stewards of this planet.

My reservation with presenting a list is this: it is difficult to get a lived experience from a list — possible, but difficult. My best lived experience is to see my grand-child playing with others, including myself, thinking of how I want this to continue, flipping between this and assisting in the teaching of a group of interested students. Then the rest falls in place.

    • First, the care of children would be our highest priority. The presence of children would no longer be considered as “interruptions”; we would support each other to attend to children, to facilitate individual adults to take care of ongoing tasks and business. Children would be a choice, and would be raised by the village, in cooperation with the parents.
    • Next on the list would be the development and the living of a cultural story that honors the pursuit of wisdom as a life-long study. We need a story. A dominant characteristic of human beings is that we are motivated by stories. We are story-makers; myth and metaphor are strong motivators of our growth. If we lived wisdom, most of our current dilemmas would be resolved.
    • The third priority would be the living of the skills necessary for dealing with diversity — and resolving conflict. Our propensity to viciousness needs to be managed — it arises from our lack of clarity, in lacking effective choices.
    • Fourth, a mature culture would balance the needs of the individual with the needs of the group, not by imposition, but because the educational system would provide the deep support for members of the culture to want to balance these needs. A mature culture would train its members to live in ways that emphasize both the powerfulness (to create self) and the powerlessness (to change other) inherent in relationship. Such a culture would educate its members that each member is truly accountable for whatever he or she thinks, feels, and does, without shame or coercion of self or other—that the truly unacceptable is that of violation (restriction of freedom without permission, beyond public safety).
    • Fifth, a mature culture would develop governance based on wisdom, on statesperson-ship. I propose that a mature culture would actually be a no-party democracy, with individuals elected on the basis of perceived wisdom, and with interlocking regional governments, up to a world government. Individuals would be elected on the basis of perceived wisdom by appropriate regional groups to form a regional level of government, that government deciding within itself who would be the proposers of legislation and who would be the devil’s advocates. Higher levels of government would depend on input both from lower regional governments, and from polling of the general population.
    • Finally, the judiciary system of such a culture would function at all levels in the fashion of justice circles, the intention being that any discordance is to be resolved in ways that support the rights of both individuals and the groups concerned. In such a culture, there will arise occasions where individuals repeatedly act contrary to the needs and desires of the group. I suggest that, here, more senior groups (groups to which earlier decisions might be appealed) would have the power to ostracize such individuals from the culture, perhaps to live in enclaves not subject to the standards of the general culture. These alternate cultures would be free to develop their own standards, but would not be permitted to impose their standards on the main culture. If desired, individuals in these substitute cultures could transfer back to the main culture, but a requirement would be they demonstrate they have sufficient intention and maturity to live within the main culture.

What would such a culture actually look like? I suggest the following: The total population of the world would be one to two billion people. I do not believe we can sustain seven to nine billion people on this planet. How we would reduce our population to this level is unclear, but it does not need to be draconian, if the above priorities are in place. In addition, even at two billion people, the human footprint would need to be reduced—this would require that we come to terms with living in community. Communities would be relatively small and self-sustaining. Citizens would understand, be committed to, and share, a set of purposes and moral and ecological principles. These purposes and principles would be developed through intensive participative processes — they cannot be handed down from above. This requires dialogue-rich groups, focused on action shaped by reflection, and such that local groups have the power and authority to create change directly. People would be rewarded with active immediate feedback based on success, and leaders would be committed to their own learning.

Is this type of mature culture possible? I do not know. Is it necessary? I maintain the answer is: Yes — we have to come to terms with a zero-growth sustainable culture, one that honors all species on the planet. Need it have the characteristics I am suggesting? No, but likely something like this would be necessary. We need to live in peace with our world; we need to live in peace with each other, especially our differences. It will be difficult to achieve. Our current civilization is in a state where all of the forces that oppose our maturity are disparaged, and thus, conversion to a more mature state will require much time and effort.

I believe that we are capable of such conversion, once we decide to do so. However, whether we will do so in time to save our species in not yet clear.

In the next post, I am going to look at the problems of having a vision.

The Issues of Global Warming, Part 2

Finding our way will be difficult!
Finding our way will be difficult!

I recently completed my PhD (Wisdom University, 2012), my dissertation being Acedia and its Transformation. I came to believe that acedia — an ancient word, almost obsolete in our culture — accurately describes our difficulty in dealing with global warming. For those who want to fast-track many (but not all) of the ideas of this blog, I suggest my book Acedia: The Darkness Within, and the darkness of Climate Change.

So what is acedia? In the fourth century C.E., a desert monk Evagrius described the eight thought patterns with which his fellow monks struggled in their attempts to live their relationship with God; these patterns later became the Seven Capital Sins of Christianity. Consistent with the writings of Evagrius and because of my therapy background, I have formulated modern acedia as a combination of laziness, fearfulness, and self-righteousness — the patterns that stop clients from doing the work needed for emotional maturity. Subsequently, I came to believe that acedia is the emotional existential-spiritual pattern that blocks us from dealing with global warming (as well as many of the other problems of our modern civilization).

As part of the research, I explored the determinants of acedia, highlighting them similar to the Force Field of Change mentioned in Part 1.

AcediaDeterminants

I also explored how acedia develops in any given instance.

AcediaEvolution

As illustration: Something painful happens to me (or you). If I have enough wisdom (as possibility: the Greek word is sophia), I then act to resolve the issue by action — practical wisdom (the Greek word is phronesis). If I am not wise enough, likely I will have an internal conflict: I want resolution, and I want to avoid the pain. If I am disciplined (discipline), I may again move into resolution, possibly complaining about how much work it requires. If I am still caught, and I have authentic hope of a good outcome, the hope may motivate me to more effort, and I again move to resolution. If none of this works for me, I move to acedia as a way to avoid the pain, and likely  cycle back into more pain eventually. In all of this, my ability to relax and play (playfulness) is vital — a friend of mine once said: “There is much evidence that life is painful; there is no evidence that it is serious.”

Given the above, it is then a simple step to outline the directions of this blog, and the needs of our civilization — IF we are to become a more mature civilization. I hope we have this capability as a species. (Part of my own entry into acedia is that I am not convinced that we are so capable — but for me to act into the ensuing despair is unacceptable.)

WarmingFF

The transformation will be massive for our culture. For probably 30,000 years, we have principably been a dominator culture, a culture characterized by the seeking of power. In 1947, C. S. Lewis wrote: “What we call man’s power is, in reality, a power possessed by some men which they may, or may not, allow other men to profit by.” As such, for thousands of years, we have traumatized each other (and ourselves), the most extreme example being war. And many/most of us are at war with ourselves, in how we push ourselves to “succeed,” and how we fight with our neighbours.

Yet we are also a great species. Throughout history, there have been numerous examples of our ability to cooperate. Cooperation, in fact, may have been the factor that allowed us to survive as a species.

Are we capable of the next step? I hope so.

Thus, the categories of this blog are explorations of:

    • how we got here: the features of a dominator society.
    • where we want to go: an effective vision of what kind of culture we want. (Vision is what provides the energy for us to move into the future — effective vision activates both conscious and unconscious forces. A ship needs both rudder and sails.)
    • the oppressive forces (acedia): its patterns and mechanisms. Especially we need to understand, and stop, the processes whereby we traumatize ourselves and each other; we need to build cooperation into every aspect of living.
    • the motivating processes, the processes of practical wisdom (phronesis), especially wisdom (sophia), discipline, hope, and playfulness. (Each one of these factors is disparaged in our society.)

Subsequent posts will explore each of these in turn.

The Issues of Global Warming, Part 1

Finding our way will be difficult!
Finding our way will be difficult!

In this post, I am going to cover some basic ideas as to the nature of global warming and the terminology I am using. First of all, global warming is a technological issue. The earth is being heated, largely because of human activity, and largely due to the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide and methane production resulting from the utilization of fossil fuels in the past two hundred years, especially the past fifty years.

The consequences of this process have been discussed in many forums, and for the most part, the results are understood enough to know with certainty that we are gradually moving to the possibility of a mass extinction of the living species of our planet, possibly including ourselves as one of those species. Gradually is a relative term; we are perhaps only talking about a hundred years or so — that means that my grand-children will be very aware of the changes.

Personally, I do not like this possibility.

In this blog, I am going to assume that the reader has enough knowledge that I do not need to repeat information related to the mechanism or consequences of such global warming. If you want more information, please contact me, and I will be happy to give you appropriate details.

So all we need to do is stop this production, and switch to alternate sources of energy. Then the earth will start to return to more efficacious temperature. Right?

Yes, in a sense. But we are not doing so with ease — although there are major advances in technology, the political issues are immense. And we are moving towards irreversible tipping points, such that technological resolution may no longer be effective.

So why are we not resolving this issue? I maintain that the problem is not technological, but existential-spiritual — we are overwhelmed with the immensity of the problem. Global warming is what is known as a super-wicked problem (see the enclosed chart modified from my book Acedia, The Darkness Within, based on the Wikipedia article Wicked Problem). Here, I contrast three types of problems:

      • tame (generally easy to solve),
      • wicked (difficult to solve, especially since no known solutions), and
      • super-wicked (limited time for resolution, no central authority for decision-making, and the problem being caused by the very people seeking the resolution).

Wicked

But the process of being overwhelmed is not unique to global warming. In the abstract to my PhD dissertation, I noted:

 This dissertation reports the results of an investigation into the ancient concept of acedia, the human pattern of avoidance of the effort necessary to live authentically, and the processes that impact its transformation (playfulness, wisdom, hope, and discipline). It is proposed that modern acedia occurs because we are biological pain avoiders, and our scientific materialism and technology have resulted in subtle but massive trauma to our humanness, psychologically and spiritually. Our modern culture is orientated to the short term “quick fix,” and circumvents healthy long-term choice, especially that associated with playfulness and wisdom. Acedia underlies the major problems of our species, specifically the current dilemma of climate change. If we do not succeed in transforming our individual and cultural acedia, we may be able to forestall climate change with technology, but we will not succeed in the long-term survival of our species — other problems will plague us, and eventually overcome us.

The question then becomes how to respond. For the purpose of this blog, I suggest that the issues are best considered by a Lewin Force Field, as noted in this second diagram.

ChangeFF

In this diagram, the present state (of any event) is a balance of forces, some positive (motivational and exciting) and some negative (oppressive and painful). A future state is desired, and experienced as a vision of the future state.

For improvement to occur, either or both of an augmentation of the positive and/or a diminution of the negative must occur. It is, however, a truism of therapy (my career before retirement) that reducing the oppressive is more powerful than increasing the positive. Effective therapy forces the individual to develop skills that are transferable to many areas of living, rather than simply be enthusiastic about features of living that one desires.

In my next post, I will apply the concepts of this post to the specific issues of global warming. (I don’t want to make the posts so long that they become oppressive to read!)

Welcome

We are running out of time.
We are running out of time.

In the past two days, I have received two key emails. Both seem vitally important to me in the resolution of global warming. If you are not able to access them, I’ll be happy to forward my copies.

    1. Al Gore’s The Turning Point: New Hope for the Climate(Rolling Stones, 2014 June 14), and
    2. Charles Eisenstein’s Climate Change: The Bigger Picture (Resurgence & Ecologist magazine Issue 284 May/June 2014)

(Although the intended meanings of climate change and global warming are similar, I have read recently that global warming has more emotional impact, and therefore more likely to influence people — it is the term I will use in future.)

In particular, Al Gore noted:

There will be many times in the decades ahead when we will have to take care to guard against despair, lest it become another form of denial, paralyzing action.

Eisenstein, in his article, discussed the complexity of the inter-relatedness of our world, and the need for a grand vision. These are exactly the messages of my dissertation: Acedia and its Transformation, and my book Acedia: The Darkness Within, and the darkness of Climate Change (AuthorHouse, 2012, available on Amazon).

As illustration of the difficulties, I was listening to a podcast interview of David Suzuki, one of the world’s leading environmentalists (CBC Ideas, The Global Eco-crisis, 2014 Jun 20), where he indicated that he believes that the environmental movement of the past 50 years has failed — any advances have been temporary — and the destructive forces just keep on coming.

As a species, we are hugely subject to denial, seeking short term resolutions when long-term vision is essential. I believe it is time to create and act towards the kind of planetary civilization that we will require if we wish to survive as a species.

In my dissertation/book, I proposed that acedia is the basic underlying human characteristic that has both led to the problem of global warming (amongst other problems), and also stops us from effective action in its resolution (and possible maturation as a species). I also discussed some of the needed characteristics of a mature civilization.

The intention of this blog is to initiate a discussion of what is needed for our survival and maturation as a species. Throughout, I will be reflecting on my own issues as well as my own learnings over the thirty years that I have been studying human dynamics.

The starting point, from my perspective, is a two-pronged approach:

    1. develop a culture-wide vision of the civilization we want, and
    2. study and transform our acedia.

A tall order; in fact a super-wicked problem, and a major factor in acedia. It is possible that such approaches as mine will also fail, but “in basketball, you miss 100% of shots that you do not attempt.”

Those who wish can contact me, either within this blog itself, via email directly (dave.macq@icloud.com), or via Facebook.

Dave MacQuarrie