by Jason Weston

Will We Survive?

The threats to our survival—including global warming, nuclear proliferation and military conflicts, poverty, and environmental decline—are well known and well documented. What is surprising is humanity’s completely inadequate response to these eminent dangers. The great survival strategy of our species is a large brain that can anticipate danger and take corrective action to avoid that danger. Yet, in the face of multiple global catastrophes, we seem intent upon accelerating our pace toward the looming dangers. It is clear that the political and economic structures and practices that are currently in place are failing utterly.

Einstein said that “The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.” The complete failure of our current political and economic systems to ensure the very survival of our species (and countless others) is rooted in the fact that they were created at an earlier era under different circumstances. Consequently we find our-selves trying to solve our global problems at the same level of thinking that created them. Clearly if we are to avert a catastrophe this large brain with which we have been endowed must begin to generate some new ways of thinking.

The issues that confront us seem too big for an individual to change, and too depressing to fully embrace. Consequently it is tempting to simply try to put the endless wars, terrible poverty, economic perils and ecological catastrophes out of our minds. So we try to get on with our daily lives as best we can. We go about our usual activities with our work, and our families and friends, and try not to think about the world’s major issues. This pattern of avoidance is a temptation to which most of us succumb to one degree or another.

The very nature of global problems, coupled with the absence of a clear path for working on them, disempowers individuals from participating in resolving them, leaving people discouraged and apathetic.

What Then, Are We To Do?

The world’s major problems all stem from the collective consciousness of human beings. Just as an individual’s beliefs and values determine the course of her or his life, so our collective values and beliefs determine the course of world events. If we think overpopulation is not a problem we will fail to choose smaller families, and fail to institute policies that discourage overpopulation. If we all think war is inevitable, we will continue to participate in violence, and there will continue to be wars. What’s missing is a clear methodology and framework for working together to resolve these interrelated problems, with some confidence that the work invested will really make a difference.

As the source of our difficulty is collective, so must the solution be collective. The key is conversation. No one person or group has all the knowledge or ideas that are needed, or the capacity to either design or implement the needed solutions. We must open our minds and begin to think in entirely new ways. We must share our thoughts with each other in ways that transcend the traditional categories of “right” and “left.” We must step outside our traditional patterns of thought, dialog, and refusal to engage in dialog. Only then will have the capacity to design economic and political systems that are adequate to the contemporary challenges we face—humanized systems that will ensure that the material and health needs of all people are met, that will provide education to all children based on their needs and natural interests, that will facilitate a lasting peace, and that will enable the natural world upon which all life depends to thrive.

But Whom Can We Trust with Such a Task?

I propose a conversation in which all people are encouraged and enabled to participate. We will be able to move beyond the hopelessness, frustration and apathy that currently paralyze so many of us and, to the degree we are able to facilitate such open-ended dialog, we will energize ourselves and each other with vitality and hope as we work collectively to create a common vision, and put forth the effort to realize that vision.

The first part of this conversation will need to focus on how we, individual human beings, are to transform our own lives and priorities to be in alignment with the requirements for the long term survival of our species: a sort of intentional, rapid, evolution of human consciousness in which we supplant our present ‘you or me’ orientation for a more life-serving ‘you and me’ perspective. This conversation will obviously need to include collectively identifying what those requirements are.

The second part of the conversation will focus on how we can create healthful and life supporting political and economic structures. A key question in this regard will be how to design and implement such structures without creating chaos and destruction along the way. It may be that transforming existing structures is the best route, or it might be that new structures need to be created, and phased in in some way. These are questions we all need to grapple with together. What I’m interested in at this point is encouraging this kind of conversation. It is through such conversation that we will be able to choose our shared future.

I want to close by inviting you, the reader, to begin having this conversation now. Eventually the conversation may move to the media, and especially the Internet, but for now, perhaps we can begin by talking with those closest to us, and to each other. As Booker T. Washington said, when faced with a seemingly over-whelming challenge, “Cast down your buckets where you are.”

Choosing our Future is the working title of a forthcoming book by Jason Weston.

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