We are learning from today’s politics just how powerful can be the words of the unscrupulous and the highly committed. This message from coachkanika is highly relevant to us all. Are we always aware of the effects our words are spreading in the world? Sadly not. Read on…
Humans are blessed to have this most powerful force available to them. It is up to the human how to use this power either it can be constructive with encouraging words or destructive with the words of despair. Words have energy and power both depending upon the their own ability to heal, to love, to care, to encourage, to hurt, to abuse, to compete, to influence, to harm, to humiliate, to persuade etc. Yes, that’s true words can completely change the energy of the surroundings where they are used and important as well because we need them to communicate. The meaning of our communication depends upon the words we used and the message our word carries. All words carry a different message when spoken or written depending upon their combinations. One single word can change the meaning of sentence completely so one should be careful while framing them. Words can…
The outer reflects the inner. In today’s world we see much conflict and uncompromising opposing viewpoints. To progress forward we actually need to achieve some synthesis of these opposing viewpoints, rather than seeking to ‘win’ with our own, which is just the one we have chosen to identify with, ignoring the good points from the ‘other side’. So the conflict is as much within ourselves as ‘out there’.
Psychosynthesis seeks to understand ourselves and in doing so come to an accommodation or synthesis between the conflicting elements within, both conscious and unconscious. So a more whole ‘self’ is necessary to help to heal the conflicts out in the world. The outer does indeed reflect the inner.
So I commend to you this review of what sounds like an exciting new book on psychosynthesis.
We are living in troubled, unsettling times, not just here in the UK where I sit and write, but in many countries around the world. Brexit, now exposed for what it really is, has morphed into an unpleasant can of worms and the effects reverberate not only in the UK, but in other countries in the European Union which are involved in this mess. France is having prolonged demonstrations with the gilet jaunes, and in Catalonia, the people are demonstrating against the lengthy prison sentences given to the leaders of their bid for independence. We are connected in our European angst, but unrest is global. Hong Kong and Chile have political protests, Libya too; the Extinction Rebellion movement and the Friday school strikes for action on the environment have spread around the world. Change is prevalent.
What is Brexit but a clash of stories, or narratives. In the first, UK is a part of a collaborative European Union that arose out of the ashes of the World Wars to establish an island of peace and commerce that is a beacon to the rest of the world. In the second, UK frees itself from the tyranny of an overseeing and threatening superstate, and goes forth free again to trade on its own terms with the world, as in some mythical past times.
These two stories are so completely incompatible that the country is now riven. We are in the midst of a narrative war. Of course, we always are. The conventional left-right prism in politics is a characterisation of two stories – we are all in it together, or we are self driving and independent individuals that owe nothing to anyone.
These thoughts were provoked by Tim Jackson’s review of Robert J. Shiller’s book Narrative Economics: How Stories Go Viral and Drive Major EconomicEvents – well worth reading (the review, that is). I quote from Tim’s review:
“Stories are more powerful than statistics… The irrationality inherent in financial exuberance (and despair) defies the neat territory of numbers and demands a deeper excursion into the decidedly unruly world of narratives”
Tim goes on to quote economic historian Deidre McCloskey in 1990:
“Economists are tellers of stories and makers of poems”
As in economics, so in politics and other areas of human affairs. Our world is really a world of meaning and story, not a world of atoms and molecules, as materialists would have us believe.
In recent years social media have clearly increased the ability for the stories accepted by large sections of a population to be manipulated by unknown actors, and beneficiary politicians appear reluctant to do anything about it. The battle of narratives is the battle of our times.
“We must all choose carefully which stories we live by.”
I remember when the first supermarket was opened in Lincoln High Street. It must have been the early 1960s. There was a great discussion in the local paper ‘The Lincolnshire Echo’. I recall the biggest argument being that it would destroy the other shops in the high street, which in those days offered a cornucopia of family and privately owned outlets, plus the ubiquitous Woolworths, Marks & Spencer, BHS, Curries and Boots.
Well yes, it did indeed turn out as predicted. Slowly at first. Then came out-of-town supermarkets, shopping centres, retail outlets, shopping malls, the internet, online shopping. Sixty years on, the result is evident. Many UK high streets are colonised by empty properties, charity shops, betting shops and cheap outlet chains – paradoxically supported by local ‘convenience’ versions of the big grocery chains, and certainly supplemented by varying amounts of coffee shops, restaurants and hairdressers.
Of course there are honourable exceptions. Ludlow and Truro spring to mind as having many independent shops, but others outside the mainstream still thrive and show that a different path is possible. Lincoln itself has made good progress, and indeed its High Street is now a much more pleasant place for shoppers than it was in the 1960s, due to its being pedestrianised.
Local councils and Chambers of Commerce across the country face the conundrum of how to revitalise the high street. There are no instant solutions, but it does seem to me that we must look to solutions that keep more money in circulation locally and minimise the extraction of money from the local economy. As a simple example, it’s crazy that local businesses pay high rents, business tax and vat, and keep profits within the local community, which are taxed nationally, while an online business can have far lower rents and make profits that are virtually not taxed at all, and that extract money from the community that is being polluted by their many delivery vehicles. Where’s the sense in that as a system?
On June 14, 1965, Martin Luther King Jr gave the commencement address at Oberlin College. It had been two years after his iconic 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington, and this oratory was meant to keep young Americans engaged and encouraged in a civil rights battle that was beginning to drag.
Entitled “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” King’s speech lays out the three rules for winning the civil rights movement. He says, in short, 1) the globalized world has become a neighborhood; we must make it a brotherhood; 2) we must eradicate racial discrimination, a note to which I added economic, gendered and sexual, all three of which I am sure King would support; and, 3), we must approach rivals with non-violence. Dr. King of course was far more elegant, eloquent and masterful, so, without further ado, a truncated text version of MLK Jr.’s…
What are we to make of the rise of elected leaders who appear to be unsuited to the task, being driven by personal ego aggrandisement and the desire for personal power and gain? They seem to be everywhere. They appear to be individuals without self-insight, with little psychological or spiritual development, hence no wisdom, but often with great cunning and charisma, the ability to appeal to large segments of the population.
Voting appears to become more like a popularity contest than one in which the electorate consider what would be best for their country. The popular media love to play this game, as divisive as possible, it makes for good copy.
Serious and complex issues get over-simplified and trivialised. Politicians align their speech with their party line, and people no longer believe or even hear what they say.
The real issues, like climate breakdown, like social care in the UK, are first denied and then deferred to a later date.
This is no way to run a human society, we need all the wisdom we can muster to address the drastic challenges facing our societies.
Within our human collective we know how to make wise individuals, we know how to make learning organisations, we have many exemplars of wise leaders. None of these involve big egos, but involve people engaged with personal insight, growth and transformation.
Perhaps these big egos are there to provide just the counter-example we need!
We’re driving through the Limousin countryside on a Sunday morning. I become aware of strange goings-on. A man is sat on a chair on his own on the edge of a field. A car is parked in a field entry. A man is striding along with a shotgun. Two men are in a raised wooden platform in the middle of a field. All men. All with guns.
Yes I’ve heard that shooting anything that moves is a French country pastime, this is the real thing.
Now, as far as I can see, there is no great preponderance of wildlife in this part of France. It’s much like the rest of Europe, over-cultivated and lacking in the huge biodiversity of some other parts of our planet. Even perceptibly over a lifetime, nature’s abundance has been reducing, notably with declining populations of insects and birds.
Yet still many thousands of country dwellers continue their ‘traditional’ pastime, once essential for feeding the family. Some of it is no doubt to keep down exploding populations of wild boar, due to lack of top predators. But I cannot see that this requires so many shooters, and suspect that they shoot anything that moves, rather than just what the authorities approve.
Other countries face similar problems from this apparent male bloodlust – migrating birds shot in Malta, hunting and nature conservation are almost synonymous in the US, imported birds systematically shot by ‘traditional’ grouse shooters in the UK, and on and on.
You could say it’s in our blood, the old hunter-gatherers – that is how we once survived. But now, it seems perverse to increase the stress on natural populations already struggling. There are surely now too many people on our planet for these old ways to be sustainable.
If only more people would abandon the gun for the camera. Similar skills can be deployed to ‘shoot’ the wildlife, while leaving natural populations relatively undisturbed.
“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost‘s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”
Sustainability – in the sense of the continuation and preservation of what is – is not a realistic long-term option…
Thomas Lombardo in Future Consciousness
It’s a bit of a shock to realise that Lombardo is probably right.
Psychologically, evolution is the key to understanding this. We seek not to go back to some previous situation, but to evolve and grow to a new, transformed level, where we have learned from the past to address the challenges of the present new situation.
Evolution does not demand that we abandon technology and go back to feudal times, that we abandon large scale farming for rotation farming of small plots, that we stop travelling around the world, that we become Luddites and reject all new technologies, and retreat into our localities. Life does not, cannot, go backwards.
Evolution does demand that we, and the system of which we are a part, evolve and grow. We must transcend and overcome the problems that have emerged from previous stages of our development, from the over-development of the little ego, from the corresponding misapprehension of the role of the egoistic ‘sovereign’ nation state, from the lack of recognition that the economy is part of the ecology rather than a competing and overwhelming competitor, from the lack of real empathy with others and the natural world. This is what climate breakdown, pollution of land, sea and air, species extinctions, gross economic inequality and associated problems are teaching us.
The longer we take to respond, the more extreme the provocations caused by ourselves become. We have so-called ‘leaders’ acting like spoilt children, trying to inspire populations with supposed earlier glories and visions of becoming ‘great again’, trying to win some great power game against each other. This is all illusion and regression.
It is time for humanity to grow up and flourish through addressing these problems, rather than retreating to supposed former glories while they overwhelm us.
This is the evolutionary meaning of sustainability.
“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands …” If everyone were to sing this well-known ditty, which age groups would clap the loudest? 1-5 year olds? 10-20 year olds? 40-50 year olds? 70-80 year olds?
If you were to read John Persico’s blog post from earlier this week (and he’s not always as negative as this), you would definitely think that it must be the 40-50 year olds, those at the peak of achieving the goals they started in their youth. He suggested that youth is a time of “getting” (friends, education, a career, a spouse, kids, a home, promotions, status, etc.), whereas old age is a time of “losing” (our careers, friends and family as they pass away, teeth, hair, eyesight, hearing, flexibility, dexterity, balance, our knees, our hips, our homes because we can’t climb the stairs, and our money to pay…
How sad to see Our Lady, Notre Dame, in flames today.
My relationship with Our Lady began in 1967, on our honeymoon in Paris, a first introduction to one of the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe. We climbed the towers, took in the views, admired the gargoyles and the magnificent architecture.
Since then, we’ve visited Paris round about every decade, and of course Notre Dame always figured in the itinerary, renewal of that ever-present inspiration. She lives in my soul, is part of my conception of Paris, France and Europe.
Now, it is difficult to believe that she is disfigured, just as over the centuries, many of those great Gothic edifices have taken their turn at the destruction wrought by fire, earthquakes and other natural disasters.
Incredibly, the spirit of man is such that they are often lovingly restored. Hopefully that will also happen to Our Lady, a glory of the exceptional beauty that religions can inspire in the hearts of men and women.
Night photo by Gpesenti via Wikemedia Commons
Featured image cut from Twitter
It’s surely obvious that the current economic system is not working, what with increasing inequality, increasingly low wages at the bottom, squeezed public finances, financial crashes, resulting populism, ever-increasing automation, ineffectively-addressed global warming and so on. And it seems equally clear that the global elite haven’t a clue what to do about it and plan to just let it run while they continue their comfortable lives.
Rutger Bregman’s book Utopia for Realists: And How We Can Get There brings up the heretical suggestion that we can do something about it, all we need are the visionary ideas and the determination to follow them through.
There is no reason why we cannot end poverty, give free money to everyone (basic income), move towards a shorter working week, pay important workers like nurses and bin men a commensurate salary, and open borders once the imperative to move anywhere but home is removed.
That sounds like a Utopia, you say. Yes it is. But we need a stretching vision of where we want to get to and then maybe we’ll start moving there.
Bregman cites the fascinating story of how neoliberal free market ideas moved from being the interest of just a few economists in the years after WW2, when Keynes dominated economic thought, to becoming the dominant force behind world economics from the 1970s to the present. These ideas have now run their course and are actually the cause of the predicaments we increasingly find ourselves in.
We desperately need these new Utopian ideas to gain momentum. So go read Utopia for Realists.
What human energies could be freed up for a New Renaissance!
Education is of paramount importance in establishing a right relationship with the earth in future generations. In the 50s and 60s I was taught about maths, science, languages and a little bit of history and geography. I had one day out in nature, plus quite a few murderous cross-country runs I was not properly trained for. Luckily I lived on the edge of a city and wandered around the surrounding fields; most children today are not so lucky.
Modern educational thinking and practice is much better than this, but they fight such a materialistic paradigm. Look at the world and its trends; there is way more to do.
Another blog post by Bill Graham has distilled some of the thinking of educator David Orr into seven propositions for earth-centred learning. Let’s hope they become more widely understood and applied. I’ve edited his points for my own understanding
All education is environmental education.
[Conventional education, for the most part, excludes our dependence on nature.]
Environmental issues are complex and cannot be understood through a single discipline or department.
[Most institutions are discipline centered.]
The study of place is a fundamental organizing concept for education.
[Formal education prepares students to reside, not to inhabit. The inhabitant and a place mutually shape each other.]
For inhabitants, education occurs in part as a dialogue with a place and has the characteristic of a good conversation.
[Good conversation with nature has the purpose of establishing what is here, what nature will permit, and what nature will help us do here.]
Environment education should change the way people live, not just how they talk.
[Real learning is participatory, experiential, and interdisciplinary, not just didactic. Teachers function best as facilitators, and students are expected to be active agents in defining what is learned and how.]
Experience in the natural world is both an essential part of understanding the environment and conducive to good thinking.
[Understanding nature demands a disciplined and observant intellect.]
Education that addresses the challenge of building a sustainable society will enhance the learner’s competence with natural systems.
Featured image is of Himalaya rivers and snow, from NASA.
Just how gullible are we human beings, and how easily do we cling on to ideas that have no true justification? This question appears increasingly relevant to those of a liberal disposition, and is indirectly the subject of James O’Brien’s book How to Be Right… in a world gone wrong.
O’Brien runs a talk show on LBC radio and has callers on many controversial subjects: Islam, Brexit, LGBT, political correctness, feminism, the nanny state, Trump… The book basically gives his own ‘take’ on the subject from a ‘reality-based’ perspective, and demonstrates how various callers from different perspectives handle explaining their views, with many entertaining dialogues.
He essentially seeks to understand the caller’s viewpoint. The striking thing is often just how shallow those viewpoints are, and what little justification is given for them when questioned. It’s as if the person has unquestioningly swallowed a viewpoint and subsequently regurgitates it, without any understanding of why it might make sense. In other words, it is blind prejudice. They have effectively been brainwashed.
O’Brien’s technique is remarkable for its persistence, sticking to the point, and not allowing the caller to get away with simply restating their prejudice in another form. As well as giving us all ideas on how to handle the prejudice we inevitably encounter, it gives some insight into the minds that are most susceptible to populism.
My previous post on ecoliteracy brought to mind a review I did of two books, both published in 1996.
The Whispering Pond, Ervin Laszlo, Element
The Web of Life, Fritjof Capra, Harper Collins
The review appeared in Long Range Planning magazine in 1997, so is written from a business/ strategic planning perspective, but the messages are widely applicable. Any books by these two authors are well worth reading.
Some of the references to current trends now appear somewhat dated, a lot has happened in over 20 years! Sadly, a lot of the change since then has not been for the better.
should business people be interested in two recent books describing
thinking from the forefront of popular science? The answer lies in
the way all our thinking is dominated by the underlying paradigms
that have crystallised in our consciousness since the scientific
revolution. This structure is being shattered by the sort of
developments described in these books. The world of the future is
likely to be founded on this emerging underlying paradigm.
It’s in the nature of polarity that neither side can ‘win’. There is always a balance to be achieved in the creative interplay of opposites.
So what are we to make of the attitude of ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ in this context? Everywhere, it seems, we see groups fighting for their ideal and resisting ever compromising on what they see as ‘right’.
In the UK, the Brexiteers will never compromise on anything short of hard Brexit. The Remainers think a big mistake has been made, which must be reversed. The US thought it ‘won’ the cold war and sought to impose its will on the rest of the world.
Of course, you can win in sport, and you can apparently win in life. In 2000, the neoconservatives ‘won’ the direction of US policy for decades, by fair means or foul.
But you cannot cheat the polarity for ever. The chickens come home to roost if the balance gets too far out of kilter. Make inequality too great, and you get unrest, then revolution. Ignore the scientific evidence on climate and the climate comes back to bite you.
Populism thrives on simple ideas about ‘winning’. We desperately need to reach a more sophisticated level of discourse. Winning is illusory, and usually involves overriding or ignoring the necessary counterbalance.
Featured image. When England won. The queen presents 1966 World Cup to England captain Bobby Robson, via Wikimedia Commons
If you wish to understand how society always organizes itself:
Equals can get along if they have nothing to do with each other or both are generous to each other.
Superior/sub-ordinate can get along if both will be merely just to each other.
There was some interest in this so I’ll explain what I mean and why it is the case.
There are and have been many forms of social organization—democracy, republics monarchies, dictatorships, bureaucracies, clubs, churches, friends, families, neighbors, villages, cities, etc.—but they all share some basic traits because they are organizations of human beings and human nature imposes restrictions upon how human beings can be organized.
In a fallen world, one of the biggest problems which needs to be handled in human relationships is how to handle when two people’s wills diverge. There are only three possible outcomes: both get their way, one…
The Rise of Fascism Through the Eyes of Everyday People
As one of a generation haunted by discovering the then-recent calamity of WW2, now disturbed by the rise in populism across the world, I found this a timely book by Julia Boyd.
It tells the story of the Third Reich through the eyes of people who visited or lived in Germany through the days of Adolf Hitler’s ascent to power, its consolidation, the increasing drumbeats towards war, and the war itself.
What is remarkable is how many people gave the Nazi regime the benefit of the doubt, despite the clear signs, such as the centralisation of all power, rescinding of civil liberties and press freedom, the early concentration camps, the persecution of Jews, the burning of books (all in 1933) through to Kristallnacht (1938) and the subsequent descent into war.
Of course, the desire to avoid another war was a major part of this, and there is the interesting story of Neville Chamberlain’s vain attempt to make peace in Munich in 1938, and Hitler’s dismissive attitude to the whole affair.
The book presents an interesting story, perhaps a bit long-winded at times. It certainly opened my eyes to some things, such as the fact that Germany welcomed English and American tourists throughout the 1930s, and many found the country very efficient and friendly, except where they came face to face with the persecution of Jews and supposed non-aryans.
The stories from the 1920s and early 1930s show that, after making a fair recovery from WW1, Germany was not in a good place after the shock of the great depression. The arduous reparation terms imposed by the Allies at the end of WW1 were a major cause of German suffering and dissatisfaction. It seems that these were major factors in the rise to power of Hitler.
The evident parallel today is the rise of populism following the 2008 financial crash, and the subsequent failure to make due reckoning with its causes. The missing factor today is there is no sense of national persecution similar to that caused in Germany by the WW1 armistice terms.
In the case of Donald Trump and the US, it is maybe too early to say how far the parallels go – but he clearly came to the presidency by exploiting white male dissatisfaction with the status quo that had come about – economic, racial and misogynistic. On the positive side, the US constitution appears to be much more robust in resisting over-centralization of power than was Germany in the 1930s.
Human societies get so stuck in a collective mental groove, like a railroad track, that they cannot see a way out of the predicaments caused by being in that groove. Take ‘jobs’. As automation gradually replaces many of the jobs that make society work today, we worry about where the future jobs are going to come from. For instance, what are all those lorry/taxi/delivery drivers going to do to earn a living when transport is automated? How are we going to generate enough taxes to adequately provision the public sphere and feed those who don’t have jobs?
The only answer is to get out of the groove.
Why do we need a 5-day-week job, why not 4 or 3 days?
Why does everybody have to have a ‘job’?
Why not a basic income for everyone that provides for minimal subsistence?
Why do countries across the world need to compete economically, and thus drive down standards of living for everyone, can they not co-operate?
Why is money created to the benefit of banks, not of people or of governance?
Why can’t we have a more equal distribution of wealth?
The answers lie in the human imagination. History suggests that crisis precedes the inevitable change. It doesn’t have to be that way. There are enough intelligent people on the planet, but many vested interests that do not want things to change…
The same is of course true about other issues, such as climate breakdown and its consequent travails. The forward scouts (scientists) have long told us the bridge is down on the track ahead, and the train will go over into the ravine if we stay on this track. We just need the imagination to change track.
Featured image by Mississippi Department of Archives and History – via Wikimedia Commons
We were sent to Methodist chapel every Sunday in 1950s Lincoln – morning service and afternoon Sunday School. This gave a good grounding in bible stories and hymn singing, and table tennis at the social club. Two messages became memorably ingrained into us – the evils of alcohol and gambling.
In the later teenage years, we tried beer at the local pubs. It turned out to be a good social lubricant, especially for a quiet lad like me, and we soon learned not to drink too much – the effects were most unpleasant. At university I discovered wine and that was that.
Gambling was a different matter. My dad did the football pools every week, so I got to looking at the weekly sheet that he had to fill in. At the back I noticed the ‘fixed odds’ where you could bet on the outcome of particular matches. This seemed more attractive to me than the general lottery entered by my dad. I used to notionally fill it in and then check on the results – I usually ‘lost’. But I became aware of the inner ‘pull’ of fixed odds betting, so never tried it out for real. So I can understand the attraction of the fixed odds betting terminals that have been the subject of recent controversy in the UK, where the maximum stake in a betting shop is being reduced from £100 to £2. Good thing too.
Gambling is highly regulated in the UK yet, since the relaxation of attitudes in the 1960s, plays a significant part in the economy. My own attitude to gambling has changed little since the 1950s, apart from the odd raffle ticket. Maybe that’s one up to my teachers at Chapel, or down to a wartime-induced attitude of frugality.
At times I’ve come across people who became addicted to alcohol or gambling – for them, yes these things really are evil. And Alcoholics/Gambling Anonymous provide a necessary salvation.
Featured image from 1857 report by James Haughton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons