You Can Change the World. Yes, You!
The 21st century, it turns out, isn’t shaping up to be the best of times. We are separated from each other in so many ways and social and political trends seem to be increasing the distances and detachments. The good news is that we have before us the answer. We just don’t understand where to look.
Mankind evolved on planet Earth only after a suitable environment was put in place through the development of first the inanimate, then the vegetative and animal levels of nature. Everything we need for survival and comfort we are able to find in this vast and integral system of nature. Primitive man survived off the land, living in caves, eating plants and animals, drinking from rivers and lakes. Once basic needs were assured, the social needs for companionship, living in relative comfort, acquiring wealth and power and gaining knowledge emerged. The human ego was the engine as it impelled the satisfying of all desires.
Then an interesting thing happened. We acquired everything we need and expanded from clans and tribes to a global community that inhabits the entire planet. The force of ego, however, remains formidable. We are now driven to take what we need… and much, much more. We want everything for ourselves and we don’t want to give up anything.
So here we are, consuming all that is to be had, more and more alienated from each other, and facing the very real possibility of causing our own extinction. Is there a bright spot anywhere? Yes. It is globalization itself — the inevitable end point of our desire to broaden our connections, from clans to a global community.
Together we can help transform the global economy into a global community.
Robert Alan Silverstein, author
Silverstein got it right. It’s a matter of taking a broader look at this idea of globalization. The ability to be in touch with the entire world is what our environment is showing us. We are now fully and irrevocably interdependent. It is this factor alone that can lead us to extinction or to peace, depending on how we interact with each other in this paradigm.
In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is “the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.” (Wikipedia) Watch the news for an hour, and it’s there — the global effects of one or another entity’s actions. It operates in politics, finance, education, ecology and every other institution that creates the structure of our lives. Sadly, our relationships with each other as we respond to our increasing influence from all corners of the globe are seriously broken.
Interdependence also extends to our thoughts and feelings. There are many studies that demonstrate this. Princeton University’s Global Consciousness Project is ongoing and very interesting. There is also the fascinating research of Christakis and Fowler.
The causes of our current global crisis can be expressed through this formula.
This is the fix we are in, of our own design, aided by the ever growing collective ego of mankind. It is a truism that in order to know what we want, we have to first experience what we don’t want. So what do we want? Harmony, not crisis.
Nature is Our Template
Taking a close look at nature reveals our destination. Nowhere in nature, except on the human level, do we find an entity that takes from the general system more than it needs for survival. This principle operates on every level of existence — inanimate, vegetative and animal — and among them. Nature is the template for peaceful co-existence and mutual benefit. Everything is connected to everything else and there is an instinctual awareness of this, that survival for one requires survival of all the others. And because the essential law of nature is unity, we will be taken to that state either pleasantly or through great suffering. Only when we learn how to connect with each other and act collaboratively and cooperatively will we have an easy time of it.
Nature is a deterministic nonlinear system and we are part of it. Humanity is the fourth level of existence, evolving after the three mentioned above. We arrived on the planet with all the qualities of the levels that preceded us and with additional qualities, including ego.
Ego has been the engine for the motivation of evolution. Its force caused mankind to find in his environment everything needed to fulfill our desires for survival, comfort and pleasure. But now that we no longer need ego for that purpose, we see its other side. It demands that we fulfill all of our desires, even at the expense of others. This is not nature’s way. The collective ego has become so bloated that we can no longer understand that the state of our world is the direct result of our being out of alignment with nature’s laws. We don’t remember that we are part of nature and totally interdependent with every entity in the system.
We are one. Interdependent and interconnected. There’s no getting away from it.
How Do We Find Our Way?
Interdependence is about life. It’s about the big changes shaking our world — in technology, the environment, education, economy, culture, society, people… everything.
How do we awaken ourselves to the reality and implications of global interdependence? The process began long ago.
· Development in our societies of competitive individualism — a process of spreading and multiplying with a focus on fulfilling self-interests.
· Crisis of competitive individualism — crisis emerges when the multiplication of self-interested parts reaches a threshold: resources become scarce, and the parts surviving off those resources become more competitive. Many of those parts then get killed off.
· Awareness — of crisis in competitive individualism while interdependent.
· Cooperative Mutuality — through awareness that survival of all parts is impossible in the competitive individualism plus interdependent situation, a new approach emerges to the interdependent situation: cooperation for the sake of mutual survival.
· New Entity — not only does a new approach emerge, but through this new approach emerges a new entity. This new entity is expressed by cooperation of all parts, where each part receives what’s necessary for its sustenance, and gives any surplus for the benefit of the whole.
Awareness of our condition is beginning to emerge. We observe a world where all of our major institutions are declining. Divorce rates are at an all-time high. Distrust of each other is rampant. We can’t solve problems without engaging lawyers or third-party legal agreements. The markup in goods and services is staggering. The financial crisis of 2008 dramatically exposed our interdependence as we saw the domino effect of tumbling economies. Education, government and health care are corrupt.
We seem to be stuck here, reacting with outrage, disappointment, fear and separation. But it is possible to move forward, if we are willing to step up. Here’s how.
Learn the Wisdom and Share It
Find scientific/factual materials or emotionally inspiring materials that educate about, raise awareness of and promote:
· Humanity’s increasingly tighter interdependence and interconnectedness
· The detrimental effects of competitive self-interests in an era of tightening global interdependence
· The beneficial effects of cooperative mutual interests being practiced or tested
· Examples of interdependence and cooperative mutual interests in nature (inanimate, vegetative and animate)
· Social influence‘s and public opinion’s major role in shaping what people think, want and do
Create a Group of Like-Minded Others
Nothing influences as strongly as ones environment, so forming a small society working toward the same goal provides mutual reinforcement. The overriding principles of such a group need to be:
1. Confidence. When people feel confident among their peers, they feel more willing to experiment, push forward, break barriers and express themselves fully. Therefore, the group should provide each of its members with such a feeling of confidence that they can reach their goal. By contributing more and more to an atmosphere of cooperating toward a mutual goal, they become more and more respected, appreciated and honored, thus making them feel increasingly confident.
2. Encouragement. Cooperation towards a mutual goal is possible if there is an atmosphere of positivity and encouragement. Therefore, members of a group aiming to bring cooperative mutual interests to the forefront should each continually think and act in a way that positively encourages all the group’s members. This is an endlessly creative area that can involve supportive gestures, encouraging words, gifts and creative works to uplift the spirit of the group and its participants.
3. Activity. In order to nurture an environment based on cooperative mutual interests to stand up to the beehive of activity in the wider environment of competitive self-interests, the group’s members need to actively add to this environment consistently. There needs to be constant, regular activity in the group: the maintenance of a regular framework for learning, discussions, social activities, as well as sharing its ideas and activities with others, and work in growing the group.
We are aiming at a connected world, so having a real experience of connection ourselves inspires us to continue moving forward. There is a method for this called the Circle Discussion.
A topic is chosen that is relevant to all members and related to the purpose of the group. Questions are created about the topic that aim the participants through practice and specific points. A moderator guides the discussion, creating a warm and supportive atmosphere, and helps the participants arrive at a concrete conclusion. One member documents the views expressed in order to facilitate a common view.
There are rules for the group. They’re called rules because conducting a discussion with them in place is how the sensation of connection is attained.
Equality — all participants are equally important
Focus — discuss only one topic in the circle
Synergy — every participant expresses an opinion
Acceptance — no arguments, criticism or judgmental statements
Flow — listen to the others in the circle
The discussion flows smoothly when each person speaks in turn. A “talking stick” can be a useful tool. An important part of the discussion is that a speaker does not say things like, I agree, or repeats what has been said. Each person adds to what has already been said, thus expanding the possibilities for understanding the topic.
Reading these descriptions and rules may not impress you, but the experience will. Do it. Practice it. You’ll be elevated by it.
Share the Experience
Once you have created among yourselves a well-oiled connection that is forming and improving, you are ready to share it with others. Doing so brings more people into the connection experience and the sharing itself further connects your group members.
Using educational and promotional means, you can host events for your group, provide sessions that involve learning wisdom (e.g. screening films, hosting lectures, meetups and gigs), and follow them up with circle discussions on topics raised during the events.
Moreover, members can be engaged online to get updated with social media on the topics discussed (i.e. share a common online group space). From the online engagement, materials that educate about and promote cooperative mutual interest values can be regularly posted and shared, helping the expansion of the ideas.
Achieve Happiness and Success
We can only give to others what we have ourselves. A group that nurtures cooperative mutual interest values provides a foundation for a harmonious society. It might now seem like an impossible utopian fantasy that society would take a turn to live according to cooperative mutual interest values, and that a harmonious existence for society is possible.
But consider this. Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. Researcher Gabrielle DeMarco led this study, using computer modelling to come to this conclusion. It makes the goal seem closer than you thought, right?
What’s important here is that this value shift from competitive self-interests to cooperative mutual interests increasingly would spread throughout our networks, and at a certain threshold, cooperative mutual interests would become appreciated by society at large.
Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.
Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.
This is doable, my friends. Are we ready to flap our wings and send currents of connection, cooperation, wisdom and love outward?
This is the formula.
My views about how to navigate life in the 21st century by understanding what is our internal work are present in most articles I write.
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