My major interest in this blog is the emotional maturing of our culture. As such, I recognize that our civilization is very unstable — the recent Brexit events have made this clear; the ramifications of this choice by the people of Britain may reverberate for years to come, and likely will have an impact on the whole world.
As important as the impact will be, for me Brexit represents a move away from something (the European Common Market), rather than a move towards effective vision; I am not sure here what is being offered for the future, especially for cultural maturing. Bloomberg today, for example, notes that: “Britain’s departure from the European Union dealt what may be the biggest blow yet to globalization, challenging a decades-long embrace of freer movement of goods, services and people.” Personally I do not consider the globalization of consumerism to be a move towards maturity.
Where are we going? To what?
I have decided that my next posts will focus on what I imagine a mature culture would be like. Possibly this will require a considerable number of posts, so I ask the reader to bear with me.
I believe that the single greatest need we currently have as a species is to become a culture predominantly of cooperation. Competition will still be a part of who we are, but not the major part. How we are to get there is not clear.
But it is necessary. Metaphorically, as I look at my culture, it is like going into a drug store to buy toothpaste. I am confronted with a dozen different brands, and within each brand, there are another dozen options. I don’t need this ¾ I usually feel overwhelmed with too many unimportant choices; I just want some toothpaste.
I want to remind the reader of a post I presented a number of years ago, before I myself got temporarily overcome by the difficulties of climate change: The Issues of Global Warming, 20140713 and 20140716. There I pointed out that effective change has a number of components:
a vision of where we are going,
honesty of where we are,
augmentation of the forces that allow movement forward, and
diminishing of the forces inhibiting movement.
As indicated, my next postings will focus on where I believe we need to go.
I wish to comment of the massacre at Orlando, for a variety of reasons.
First, I am deeply saddened, but not surprised by this occurrence, given the frequency of violations that occur in (but not exclusively in) “the land of the free.” Sadly as well, I am not surprised that Donald Trump would take advantage of it by claiming that he was right in his assessment of terrorism (Trump tweets congrats to self on Orlando Massacre and faces Backlash!), but then, this is Trump.
Second, in this context, Trump is a mirror of the insanity of our modern world. I believe he represents the large portion of people who feel deeply insecure within the complexity of our culture, especially Western culture; these people likely want to be reassured that someone (Trump, perhaps) will know what to do, and somehow do it. I would like that to be the case also, but I certainly do not believe further conflict will do it.
Given my background in group process, I know that systems change effectively only when there is a) strong leadership, b) an empowering vision of the future, and c) an encompassing cooperative movement based on depth of discussion of the underlying issues. One of the best examples I have recently encountered of this is in the book Future Primal (Herman, 2013). Unfortunately, none of these conditions are present in our culture at this time. Herman identified the essential need for the quest for truth (truth is never gained; it can only be pursued), by a four-fold process of a) personal individuation, b) effective dialogue of cultural issues, c) true democratic evaluation, and d) the need for a mythic narrative into the future.
Third, I frequently wonder what it will require for our culture to begin this movement to maturity (my assessment is that we will almost certainly become extinct in the next hundred years if we do not). Essential to this is we truly recognize ourselves as part of a global village, in which diversity is valued, and violations are not tolerated. We must give up the We-Them dichotomy that is so characteristic of who we are at present. It is too easy to say: The problem is them, whomever the them is.
In this context, I wonder who this man (the killer) was, and what were the circumstances in his life that lead him to do this despicable act. There are always underlying issues; underlying issues are not excuses or reasons for forgiveness, but knowing them is essential to the process of change — otherwise systems do not change. As well, we (especially Western culture) have not come to terms with the duplicity of our own culture, with our strong tendency to allow violation of others.
I believe peace is possible for our world. I know many of the skills, and how much hard work is involved!
This was originally posted to my Facebook on 20160613.
Two recent news items have crossed my desk that have impressed me that our culture is slowly maturing. (I’ve never doubted this; my questions invariably relate to whether or not we will mature enough to survive the next 100 years of cultural chaos.)
The first came to me via an email from Avaaz; it quoted a statement by Pavel Poc, Vice-Chair of the EU Parliament’s Environment Committee, and key leader of the glyphosate fight: “Looking to where we were in the beginning of this year and where we are now, Avaaz is indisputably the driving force of the fight for glyphosate discontinuance.” (My caution here is my usual one— I do not have external validation of this report. Overall I trust it, but I do not have external evidence to corroborate it. I do however have a video clip of Pavel Poc that I found most useful: Glyphosate: Yes or No?.)
It is essential, I believe, that the voices of large numbers of people must be heard, especially when the voices of multi-national corporations are so strong, and sometimes so dishonest. I believe this to be so even when some scientific reports claim innocence; we are also in an era when scientific research is frequently manipulative and deceptive. I wish this were not so, but my wishing does not make it so.
Thus, I am heartened to see that the polling performed by such as Avaaz has had an impact. I also wish it had more.
The second news item was that “The Stanford Rape Victim Controlled The Public Narrative Without Giving Up Her Privacy.” (ThinkProgress, June 8, 2016). This is, for me, a major step forward in our society. The status of this woman can be corroborated (it is in the public record of the legal system) — but it is not in the public record of the media blitz that is so invasive. Separated from the injustices that possibly surround this situation, this prevention of invasion is refreshing.
I also say “possibly surround” — I am aware of some of the controversies, but again the limitation for me is to find ways of validation. It is such an insane world — a vast amount of information available, without a vast amount of knowledge to be gleaned (in this context, I consider knowledge as being the meaning I give to information), and frequently without much wisdom to be gained (wisdom here being the ability to make effective judgments).
This was originally posted to my Facebook on 20160609.
As you will note under Blogs I Follow, I subscribe to the blog of Richard Rohr at Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC).
I do so because I find him to be the most spiritually mature individual of whom I am aware. (Overall my previous mentors, listed in my most recent post, also fall into this category.)
Richard Rohr is a Catholic priest, a Franciscan monk. In 1986 he envisioned CAC as a place where opposites (action and contemplation) are held together, bridging gaps between the spiritual and the justice communities. As a priest, his language is often religious, but the underlying content of what he is writing is deeply spiritual (see my next post for what I mean by spiritual, and how I think it differs from religious).
Hi folks. It is my intention to engage in the issues of climate change, especially those related to the emotional maturity of our culture. One of my struggles in retirement has been that of what do I do with my skills, my proficiencies gained over 25 years of being a therapist. We are so badly in need of maturing as a culture — frequently I feel powerless in the face of the cultural pressures that keep us trapped in the obvious duplicity.
Many people are focused on moving us to health; I want to be one of them. My skill set is that of encouraging emotional growth. So …
Once I get better organized, on most days I will make a comment or two. Sometimes I will link to articles I believe to be important. Here is one: “Off-shore fracking will have no significant impact …” What insanity to disturb the earth’s crust in an area where the risk of earthquakes is high! And even if the risk is not significant, why ignite such controversy in a world that must become carbon neutral?
This post was originally on my Facebook of 20160601
In the past few weeks, I have been traveling through beautiful country (New Mexico, Arizona, Grand Canyon, and Utah, amongst other areas), with stunning views. With such vistas, it is easy for me to connect to a sense of grandeur and mystery, of questioning as to how did this world became so beautiful, of what perhaps did God create.
It also then leads me to question why we are destroying it. My understanding is that the human species originated in the African continent, and migrated outwards, initially to the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East (much less fertile now), and subsequently to other parts of the world, eventually to North and South America. I can speculate that those who remained in the Middle East had to develop empires so as to compete for limited resources, whereas for those who moved towards the Americas, the resources simply seemed limitless. Thus, perhaps the Eurasians became the People of the Ladder, the dominators, and the Native Americans became the People of the Wheel, those who remained with a sense of awe. Perhaps as well, all those peoples (the connectors) who remained connected to the land, and to spirit, have become the peoples of the wheel.
In the previous post, I described the People of the Ladder as empire builders, and dominators, with the extended consequences of incredible technology on the positive side, and dehumanization and global warming on the negative side. They learned the rules of power, and one of the principle rules became: Don’t talk about the rules. In contrast, as I became aware in reading Rupert Ross’ Dancing With A Ghost, the People of the Wheel developed a very different set of rules for living.
Here in this post, I will briefly describe the Peoples of the Wheel as those who retained a sense of mystery, of connectedness to the grandeur of the world. In describing my sense of the People of the Wheel, I do not mean to imply an either/or dichotomy; both cultures offer great values, and some limitations. However, what we need is integration, not polarization, although I personally prefer the values of the People of the Wheel.
For the most part, the People of the Wheel remained as hunter-gathers (although they knew the value of agriculture). They lived in small groups (tribes), somewhat isolated from each other, often with considerable exchange with other tribes. Their principle rule base was acceptance and non-interference; there was no sense of ownership, and there was extensive sharing; power was gained by prestige, not domination. They valued experiential learning, and education was principally by modeling. Wisdom and self-sufficiency were both highly valued. They sought connectedness, not conquest. A fundamental question was always how to restore harmony, especially the sanctity of all life.
They also had their limitations as a society. Overall, as small groups living within natural environments, they faced starvation when times were scarce. Thus, for the Inuit as an example, the elderly often voluntarily exited when times were tough, or were perhaps abandoned. In addition, such small societies often had to hide their emotional lives — the expression of anger, for example, could be of major danger to the survival of the group. Tribes fought with each other, not for the possibility of building empires, but likely as a way to contain the natural aggressiveness of our species.
Yet, we are now a global tribe, a global village, and we have not yet learned how to live in harmony. For the most part, our societies are still dominator societies. The challenge is now to blend these viewpoints, these worldviews, to find a balance of the positives, that minimize the negatives.
There are, unfortunately, multiple problems with having a vision. Earlier, I mentioned three phases to an effective vision.
First, an emotionally rich, multi-sensory vision. How to achieve this? Whenever I analyze a problem, and create a detailed statement or list of how I should respond or what others should value, it activates my conscious mind, but it does not energize me. The word should is a special deterrent — “should” is always a double message, with part of me wanting to do so, and part resisting. An effective vision has to energize me!
Second, honesty of the present state, even if inappropriate Unfortunately, human beings are profoundly capable of delusion and denial. Hitler was an incredible visionary (!) and very energized! But his underlying value system was delusional.
The global warming disinformers are also visionary — they are focused on the outcome of money.
Third, even with both of the above in place (emotionally rich honesty), big visions require effort, huge effort. Effective leadership is required to maintain such visions, and burnout is high!
The stance of leadership required for effective visioning is a two-edged sword, not for the faint of heart nor for the individual who has high attachment to outcomes. A basic problem for leadership is attachment, living with an expectation of a given outcome, rather than holding life lightly. Although much has been written about the psychological state of burnout, I consider it to be a relatively simple phenomenon to describe (and often incredibly difficult to resolve). Simply put, burnout occurs when an individual (leader or group member) is overly invested in the outcome, attempting to gain power where one is inherently powerless. It is high intention with high attachment. Thus, burnout occurs when we consistently lack or refuse acceptance of our powerlessness to control the responses of others.
The science-fiction novel Forty Days of Rain (Science in the Capital Trilogy, Book 1) alludes to the immense effort. Although the book is fiction (¿with much truth?), it captures for me an essential difficulty of our culture — we give maximal power to business and the economy, to money, and not to human values.
Then in the 1960s when everyone was an activist, NSF [the National Science Foundation] created a program called “Interdisciplinary Research Relevant to Problems of Our Society.” What a name from its time that was. . . .
Interdisciplinary research, relevant to problems of our society — was that really such a sixties joke of an idea?
. . . IRRPOS morphed into RANN, “Research Applied to National Needs.” RANN had then gotten killed for being too applied. . . . At the same time he [Nixon] preemptively established the EPA . . .
The battle for control of science went on. Many administrations and Congresses hadn’t wanted technology or the environment assessed at all . . . It might get in the way of business. They didn’t want to know.
. . . They didn’t want to know. And yet they did want to call the shots. . . . this was clearly crazy. . . . On what basis did they want to build such an incoherent mix of desires, to want to stay ignorant and to be powerful as well? Were these two parts of the same insanity?
In The Hope: A Guide To Sacred Activism, Andrew Harvey supports this theme of insanity. Harvey was invited to a private lunch with “the head of a major agribusiness corporation,” who said to him: “Let me tell you what you are up against. You are up against people like me. I know exactly what my company is doing, and what devastation it is causing to thousands of lives.” The C.E.O. added:
The bliss-bunnyhood of seekers and the offensive self-righteousness of activists make it very easy for people like me to control the world. I know too, by the way, that the dark forces I play with are playing with me. I am under no illusion that I will not someday have to pay the price. . . . I’m willing to pay that price in return for the pleasure of being able to afford this restaurant, in return for being able to ring up the president of the United States in front of house guests to impress them. Am I getting through to you?
It is likely that perspectives and attitudes such as this underlie the actions of the disinformers, and they are not subject to reason. From my perspective, this is the end-point of acedia: evil (the subject of a future post). The major difficulty in global warming is that most of the power is held by heads of corporations, many of whom will be very accountable, but in the case of thedisinformers, many of these heads may well be similar to this man whom Harvey encountered.
Paul Ray, who distributes extensive information on climate change, also discusses the criminal irresponsibility of the banking system in an email post “Occupy Wall St. demonstrators indict Goldman Sachs, are arrested outside” (2011 November 7), noting: Goldman Sachs leads the interpenetration of US financial and political elites. These are the elite of a growing international criminal financial class that will cause the deaths of billions of people in Africa, South Asia, South America, and China. The proximate cause will be starvation and disease, from famines and climate change. The real cause will be this elite’s actions. As indicated by the title of the email post, resistance to these processes is not without cost, in this case, being arrested; civil disobedience likely never is without cost.
There are two fundamental difficulties with the human etiology of global warming:
the evil of the disinformers, and
the acedia of the mass of people.
Visioning of the resolution of global warming must therefore provide two components: a coming together of the people in action (overcoming the acedia), and a movement away from the disinformation.
The second difficulty — coming together — is developing slowly with movements such as 350.org and sumofus.org, but I do not know the extent to which such groups are working together to provide a world network. I imagine there to be the usual conflicts concerning agendas and hierarchies, and hope these will slowly resolve to a fully effective movement.
Resolving the problem of disinformation is huge — human beings so easily lock into belief systems, and resist grasping reality (more on this in a later blog). I foresee three possible outcomes:
a complete collapse of the world market economy — with ultimate chaos and total collapse of our civilization, if not our species (not a desired outcome),
a gradual massive expansion of the zero-carbon technology, such that the fossil fuel organizations simply cannot compete (and must either collapse or integrate into healthier economies) — possibly a good solution, and/or
the coming together of world governments such that such disinformation becomes illegal, and is severely punished — I am not holding my breathe waiting for this outcome.
Unfortunately, I am not good at predicting the future.
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.