The inspiration for this post is as a response to the general feeling of social malaise that a lot of people see in America right now. Not the recession per se, but it’s the changing of a larger cultural pattern. I’m arguing that there’s been a new moral, social and intellectual code forming that governs America, and that the solution is filled by new sustainability. Living things, resurgent connection, the environmental and financial sustainability movement. Feel me? I’ve been writing about this theory for a while, let’s see if it comes out coherent. The story is that influences of the age of tyranny and mass murder, are changing how people feel, which is accelerated and driven by the forces of technology.
During the Cold War, the idea of an oppressive force dominated American politics and popular culture. There was an enemy out there, and so we had to be wary and strong because of it. In a zero-sum world, power means a lot, and a revolutionary dictatorship is a threat to national sovereignty. In general and up through the nineties, people were afraid. It’s a culture of depression that makes more of itself. Ever since the brief light of the hippyism time period and since then, there’s a search for an intellectual and social code to live by, and it involves democracy capitalism consumerism oil dependence, our leaders decisions and all of us. Sometimes politics gave that meaning to the American people, such as the mass hysteria over communism that all our parents grew up with (Next post). But it’s not a coherent set of ideals; it’s not sustainable. The argument here is that there’s a “lost guide” during these last few decades, in which we’ve lived by capitalism alone to solve material problems and give meaning to life. Expanding freedoms, expanding standard of living sure, but an economy must have a moral start and a moral end. This is a distinction that is made in a few landmark books, including Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence, Lila, and Classic American books such as JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Finding Forrester, and The Big Sort by Bil Bishop. The moral consequences of Economic Growth are not obvious unless one spends some time on it, but it’s devaluing and weighs on you in the long run.
To back my point, let’s look at some of the consequences of this growth. In a word, thin democracy. Business as usual. Sleeping industries that do not serve the real needs of the people. Externalities, “platypuses” that our business/political/cultural vocabulary can’t address. And our Earth certainly can’t take it. Neither can our economy, with financial crisis looming over the American way of life. (Future post) But we can’t escape the economy, so we thought, and we are what we’ve created. From this dominant culture mindset, it’s only possible to play along and be a part. A gear in the running collapse of growth economics. And with more of our kids on depression medications than ever before, it’s obvious the powers that be would have the system continues. Restoration involves first realizing that something is lost. In America, this something is community, common culture, political involvement, nature, our good health and common sense. Restoring these will require a new sense of self, or a trip through recession in a game of name-calling, blame and depression. Ultimately though, we must recognize mutual accountability for these effects.
There’s an odd and unique convergence of factors happening today. At the frontlines, Frances Lappe highlights four factors that are creating an engine for rapid social change. This change is value-guided, learning-based, rapid and automatic.
- First is a communications-knowledge revolution. “Access to knowledge–and with it our power– helps to dissolve the scarcity paradigm” (Getting a Grip 64). This distribution network tool is the internet, where we now publish our own news and share insights of what is going on. “Candidates no longer control the message.” Think blogs, cell phone videos, podcasts, and YouTube. Telling the truth is getting easier, transparancy is the new norm.
Second, this is a networking revolution. Groups are working better together, and on a common platform. for a glimpse into one attempt at defining this platform, view: http://oneearth.org/.
Third, is the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. In history, this wasn’t so. Now, even a poor asian worker in a slum has rights, and people reaching out to aid the betterment of his family. This doesn’t come from just politics or the economy.. (I’ve studied how they might, but it takes a special solution for that, a cultural change).
Finally, it’s an ecological revolution. An awareness that “away” doesn’t mean gone is the biggest thing that a person can realize, because it changes his or her actions. “Us and the butterflies are in this together,” “There is no chicken there is no egg” and most importantly that interconnectedness starts in our own backyard are all messages from the field of Ecology.
These four factors represent an odd convergence, and indeed, one that if just analyzed at the physical level might miss the commonality. If you’re still with me, let’s go deeper.
The moral cause of these changes is a changing expectation. Truth, culture, value.. these ideas that go to the core of us. It’s not just living in our planet, it’s loving the world for what it is: a shining new moral code to fill the chasm of what our faith in Economics has done to us. What E.O Wilson (Small is Beautiful) means when he says “most of the rest of life, and part of what it means to be a human being.” Bill McKibben identifies it as “the moment when the essential character of the world we’ve known … is changing.” (The End of Nature). That’s enlightenment. Influences from the age of tyranny and mass murder are changing how people feel, which is accelerated and driven by forces of technology. The “how people feel” part is what’s driving the change. A change of intellectual codes, so different than history. It encompasses Native American spiritual values, those of Buddhism and the great Eastern religions, the All-mighty Tao te Ching. What fills you at this time I can’t say, but escape is natural and the space around it is what you’re looking for. That’s enlightenment. From Frances Moore Lappe: “In a world torn apart by sectarian division, could Living Democracy become a uniting civic vision complementing our religious and spiritual convictions– a nonsectarian yet soul-satisfying pathway out of the current morass?” (Getting a Grip). I think that the simple fact of environmental awareness causes a dynamic change that unites a diverse group of people in new and gripping ways that cause real change. So different from history: the idea when a change in values, expectations and technology accelerates a dynamic world.
What does this mean?
It means a moral obligation to act. If this world and our old moral code is crashing down along with it, something’s got to go. Activism, or “restorative entrepreneurs” (there’s room for both) will make sure that our children will have a future free from resource poverty, war over water, cyclical depression, overpopulation in urban areeas, and lowering (or “propped up”) health standards. If you’ve considered it, now is the time to work to improve our world. I’ve included some links to get started. But basically, the cool thing about this post is that I give the grounds not just for personal action, but even going along in the direction of the supermarket/email inbox/online news will get you there. Inspiring small changes how you can may be the best way to get there. It’s cool to do it! Just bring other people to my post 😉 https://eddiemill.wordpress.com/2009/10/10/visions-of-a-new-moral
How to improve society that you can implement now.
1. Maintain your personal health (nature, and food, and time have positive effect).
2. Become more frugal with the things you think you need (conserves resources, debt, and is actually proven to make you happier).
3. Be a native of your place. This means to create community with an event or horn honk or calling up a friend to just talk.
4. We must lower our global fertility. Consider having less than or equal to two kids.
+ a Take-Home message from Frances Moore Lappe.
Q: So what do these differences and the speed of change in behavior tell us?
A: “That this is culture, not fixed aspects of human nature. And since we create culture through our daily choices, then we do, each of us, wield enormous power.” Interview with the Huffington Post, 2008-9
From the sustainability movement Native American code of Morals, Bill McKibben, Jules Pretty, EF Schumaker, Bill Bishop, Robert T. Pirsig, Frances Moore Lappe. From the news Barack Obama, Fox News, CNN.com, the New York Times, the Economist, the writings of History, World War 2, Marx and Lenin. Che Guevara, Mao. From philosophy The Art of Power by Tchich nat Hanh, Lila: An inquiry into Value, Kant: Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, Moral views to restore the World and bring a Sustainable Future (need exact title), the immortal Tao te Ching.