Image for How to bring about cultural change (Part 2)

A response to ...

Phillip #5 (HERE) – that is a whopping invitation that can’t be fulfilled in one article, and nor can any one person take on such a role.

Suffice to say that the seeds of separateness in human civilisation took place pre-Christianity some 2,500 years ago, (purportedly in Macedonia)  when a new belief took root – that homo sapiens stood apart from nature, and above it, not part of it. In time that belief became our cultural meme and Christianity and other major religions took it on,  reinforced it and gave it bold expression.

A second great cultural rift took place during the industrial revolution. This rift was exemplified by, on the one hand, William Blake who ‘saw the world in a grain of sand’ and Francis Bacon who saw the world in a set of equations. The Bacon world view eventually dominated and so society set in train the ‘tyranny of rationality’ that defines modern culture today. The one we are trapped in and is about to fall apart.

The problem isn’t that one world view was correct and the other incorrect, rather that we lost any semblance of balance. There is a strong gender component in that balance.

Because debilitating world views are now deeply entrenched in the society we live in – they are literally steeped inside our own heads – there is no easy pathway to bringing about deep cultural change. We have to collectively learn to do it and the need for this re-learning is being brought on very quickly by insurmountable ecological and other crises that are all piling on top of each other by the day.

While we may feel too feeble and dispempowered by the enormity of this great task, we are now seeing the beginnings of a cultural reformation that is finding expression in a huge global conversation and in a whole range of social movements, like Transition Towns and many other insightful happenings. The internet is playing a large part in this global reformation.

Question: Given the extreme depth of our cultural affliction, is it possible for society to respond rapidly enough to these global crises?

We can’t rub out 2,500 years of imbedded culture overnight, but it is truly amazing what change can take place in a relatively short amount of time. By way of example, when I arrived in Tasmania in the early 1960s Hobart citizens enjoyed a electrified public transport, having a comprehensive tramway and trolley bus system. We could jump on a train (with a bike) and go to Burnie. A twin-carriage commuter rail service ran between Bridgewater and Hobart, stopping at a series of platforms along the way, enabling people from Granton, Moonah, Newtown…. to come by rail right into what is now the ABC building close to the heart of the city. As a young lad I recall the throngs of people emerging from those big underpasses at the ‘railway roundabout’. I lived out at Glenorchy where huge vegetable gardens supplied most of Hobart’s vegetable needs.

Looking back I am so amazed at how much has changed within just half a lifespan. And this gives me great hope that society will be able to respond amazingly within a single lifespan as we are now being pressed to rapidly change course. The mechanics is the easy bit.

Bringing about fundamental culture change starts with all of us. It will be subliminally fed by the accumulated wisdom of many different movements, from spirituality to feminist wisdom, to ecological wisdom, to an understanding of capitalism and pervading power structures.  I think the main starting point for most people is simply to recognise the failings of the status quo and to deliberately walk away from it. We can’t drop out, but we can start to live, and enjoy, the future that we want to see. And when we start to do that we rediscover great fulfilment in the companionship and creativity of others who are sharing this adventure.

Now, this particular conversation was kicked off by the unfolding nuclear disaster at Fukushima and how that vexing issue leads us to talk about energy supply and demand. I was contesting that the dominant masculine mindset immediately gravitates to talking up various alternative energy supply technologies that can supposedly meet society’s growing energy demands. Well, that technical conversation is, of course, necessary, but it is too shallow by far, it barely scrapes the surface and it gives succour to dominant paradigm thinking.

As a way of thinking the energy demand issue through a bit differently, a small project team that I have been working with developed a range of resources including this little advisory as a sort of starting point:

This exercise is not the be-all-and-end-all of changing the world, but it does point to some of the cultural phenomena that control our lives.

Here is how people have responded to date:

These results do need some interpretation, but I was personally fascinated by the second highest response – ‘Western Individualism’.  Fascinated that so many people would recognise and appreciate that particular cultural disability. (Out of curiosity we then got some responses from the USA and Europe and got similar results.)

The nub of the issue is that we should be giving much higher priority to overcoming these deep seated cultural barriers than to building new power stations, of whatever description.

The above exercise provides us with just a little glimpse of our inner selves and the forces that shape us. How to bring about fundamental culture change in 10 easy lessons is not possible, but we can be sure that the seismic shift is well under way. It is positive, it is liberating, it is our only future so let’s all join in and enjoy the adventure of our lifetime!

*William Blake: HERE