In a heartfelt Easter message, my good friend Richard Hames, who lives in Bangkok, after relating his personal evolution to date, starts an interesting meditation on acquiring a wisdom of communion, an indispensable trait for those wanting to engage in positive social change.
“A global population fast approaching seven billion inhabitants, most with aspirations of increasing material wealth based on assumptions of continuing economic growth, had to be set against a progressively volatile context in which deteriorating environmental conditions, higher food costs, less available energy, escalating socio-economic and geopolitical failures and iniquitous gaps between the rich and the poor formed a potentially catastrophic fusion.
Today the situation is clear. The condition we created, deliberately and without conscience, is forcing us to face a new destiny. It now exposes the vulnerability of our thinking and points to the need to embrace an appreciative communion of interconnectedness and cooperation in stark contrast to more conventional mores and expectations (habitually driven by greed, envy, scarcity, competition and fear) resulting from the globalized system of industrial economism. Seeing a new reality demands both foresight and conviction around a renewed purpose and intent. Accepting this as essential to human progress is tough enough. Redesigning society in order to practice a more appreciative collective wisdom is an entirely different proposition. Transformation and reinvention are pivotal as is the acceptance of physical constraints and finite natural resources. This, in turn, means relinquishing many of the assumptions we have long held regarding what is fundamental to human prosperity and what is not, what value we should place on economic factors in comparison with health, relationships, cultural well-being and contentment, and what is viable praxis rather than simply foolish habit.
So how does this wisdom of communion manifest? I can only speak for myself. I am more conscious of patterns, more able to map connections between scraps of information that were previously disparate, that seemed relatively unimportant at the time, or that somehow I simply convinced myself to discount. I recognize that sets me apart from many others, although I sense a growing affiliation around such wisdom.
Accordingly I and those of a similar outlook and persuasion are becoming more attuned to a reality (and its consequences) that many others seem unready to accept, unable to perceive or simply shy away from for fear of its more confronting implications. It is as though a veil is suspended between them and the improbable reality of a future existence in which it becomes both possible and desirable for all living beings to share equally in Earth?s available resources in a sufficient, altruistic and loving manner.
My gradual awakening to an alternative wisdom, enabled by the thinking of new friends as much as personal reflection, has become a burden to me as well as a privilege I feel bound to honor. It is also a challenge I cannot avoid. As the birth of my new son, a gift in every sense of that word, draws closer I am conscious of an expanded sense of self and my purpose in life. This expanded consciousness goes far beyond anything I have previously experienced. It has transitioned me into a more empathetic and loving state uniting emotion with cognition. The truth is never enough of course. Immunity to the reality of the human condition (through the spin and widespread deception of a vigorous public relations machine) is so inculcated in society it is easy to live an illusion and ignore contradictory evidence. But as each day reveals more of a truth that will determine our fate on this planet, I also feel more and more frustrated by the status quo and a greater compulsion to do something (anything) to disrupt thinking-asusual. In my view it ultimately comes down to fairness and morality. The critical domain requiring our unconditional attention comprises those established patterns of globalized production, distribution and consumption that have become utterly unsustainable – given the changing context. The mode of economic thought we take for granted, indeed blindly insist on pursuing, is enshrined within this exploitative system. At its extreme it is epitomized by the US model of capitalism. This model, so easily corrupted as we have recently observed, is an expression of rules based upon assumptions that are deeply flawed though seductive, nevertheless, in the overall scheme of things: namely that scarcity and competition drive human behaviour and that continued economic growth is necessary in order to maintain the social order.
Those last three words the social order are crucial to any proper comprehension of the situation we are facing. The rules as applied are crafted quite deliberately to benefit a small sector of society – namely the wealthiest individuals, corporations and nation states. It is a relentlessly iterative and untenable formula: by fostering competition for business and trade between countries, corporations pay lower taxes and produce more goods for consumption on world markets. Thus economic growth drives material wealth simultaneously mesmerizing entire communities and resulting in an unprecedented psychological lock-in to excess, greed and waste. Coincidentally it also destroys many of the social, cultural, environmental and spiritual conditions vital for human contentment, health and well-being while undermining the rights of workers and marginalizing the poor who remain slaves to this system.
We are only just awakening to the veracity of our predicament. Since the 1920?s a well-oiled public relations machinery, arising from an unholy alliance between governments, the media and corporations, and exploiting Freud?s research into our psychological motivations, has manipulated public opinion, keeping us compliant customers instead of alert citizens. In the words of Walter Lippmann it has “manufactured consent” and it has done this extremely efficiently by playing to our unconscious desires.
Sadly the mass production and consumption of goods we are taught to want but rarely need has instigated the crises we see all around us today – from the rising cost of food, to ethnic conflicts, the provision of energy from finite resources, the impact of a global monetocracy upon indebted states and individuals, the despoiling of the natural environment and the criminal practices of dictators, autocrats and unprincipled politicians and industrialists. The need to speak out has become overwhelming. A new narrative is required; one of hope and happiness rather than hate and humiliation. Imagine what the world might look like if the rules were designed differently. If, instead of competing on the basis of scarcity, we were to encourage collaboration to generate new knowledge, grow uncommon capabilities and share skills within a spirit of abundance and self-sufficiency. Of course competition would still exist, but in a transformed setting governments and corporations alike would compete in providing economic and socio-political security, low taxes on ordinary wage earners, a decent education and a healthy and sustainable environment.
Most of today?s grassroots social activists and young entrepreneurs are desirous of such a shift. Furthermore they now possess infinitely more computing power on their laptops and iPhones than the entire US government had at the time of the moon landing. All we actually require is to generate trust, unity and a sophisticated appreciation of how best to liberate this new moral energy of communion in order to achieve success.
If collective power can be wielded with empathy and integrity, with coherence and conviction, corrupt and unsustainable practices will be dealt a death blow and elected officials will be kept honest. We will not need to jump through hoops in seeking common ground with those that currently ride roughshod over our humanity or despoil nature in pursuing their own selfish ends. We can change the world. I know it. You know it. So what is stopping us?”