We have an interesting debate at the office right now and we would like to have your opinion on this question:
If we want a better world, on what should we focus the most?
a. changing ourselves?
b. changing the unfair political and social structures?
Currently, does the civil society sector focus too much about changing the world and not enough about changing ourselves?
Food for thoughts with this quote of Tolstoy:
Looking FW to your feedback :-)
We are proud to announce you the publication of our first Think Piece "The story we tell ourselves", written by Rene Susa, steering group member of the CONCORD DARE Forum and participant of the Global Conference.
This reading will probably shake your mind and turn your vision of change into something new...
Enjoy the reading and please share your thoughts with us here under.
Interesting comment by Joe Brewer, one of the Global Gurus of culture design, on the think piece:
On the topic of stories we tell ourselves, I'd love to hear your thoughts about our effort to replace three cultural mythologies about humanity -- (1) humans are bad for the planet; (2) humanity is fragmented and polarized; (3) We are unable to solve global problems -- with hopeful alternatives.
We are embarking on a journey of discovery to find the stories that spread well and build up the societal belief that humans are good, we are coming together, and we are equipped for this crisis.
Would love to hear your thoughts!
But isn't it all connected? Are "we" as people not part of the world, we are trying to change? We are not isolated beings, so any changes we make to ourselves will influence the ways we interact and relate to others around us in the world and the kind of choices we make. The unfair political and economic structures have not been imposed upon us from nowhere, but have been created by people, by us. So surely trying to change them, must require changing ourselves at the same time?
Hi, this is a bit long response to Joe Brewer's question:
I had a look at culture lab website and I think that is full of great ideas.I would certainly agree that we need to look for new stories that will inspire us, but I also think that we should be careful of becoming too attached to them, no matter how positive or convincing they are. In the end, they are again just stories...
Thanks to all of you for your reaction and more specially to Rene for his enrichiching input!
As we want to continue this challenging discussion, we organise on March 20th a webinar "Changing the World or changing ourselves" in which Rene, the writer of the Think Piece, will be one of the speakers.
More information about the webinar here.
You are invited to share your thoughts, questions and reflections here under. Some of the questions raised here will be selected for the webinar.
Looking forward to it!
An interesting approach is the one of Alberta, Canada where students get Wellness Education:
"Wellness education nurtures the whole child and enhances students' capacity for achieving their full potential—intellectually, physically, socially, spiritually and emotionally."
Which made me wonder: can you teach Personal Change?
thanks for sharing the link above. While I see the benefits of a more integral approach to education (not sure I am so keen on the word wellness - due to the spa associations that it brings up in my mind :) )I think that there is a danger involved in pushing the personal/ individual dimension too far as to now counter-balance the emphasis that was put on the social and political dimension before. Such a sweeping shift may see us marching further on the road towards either slavationism (we have it all figured out and we're great, because we are now also emotionally and spiritually developed) or towards self-complacent withdrawal from the world (I am happy within myself and I am no longer touched by the injustice of the world). Having read through the wellness education programme I failed to notice any significant ethical references for individual or collective action to address the inbalances of the world. And I would that there is a great danger hidden in there and I'd like to take the topic up in the webinar discussion - so thanks for bringing it up!
The webinar is now finished! But the conversation is not over, let's use this space to keep it ongoing...
We would like to thank the speakers for their participation. The discussions were interesting and very fruitfull in only one hour of time.
If you missed the webinar, you can watch the video on.
We wanted to share here the other questions that were raised in the chatbox during the webinar:
1. To be honest I loose track of what it is we want to achieve - what do we want to transform ourselves or society into?
2. Relativity, acknowledging difference, compassion and, fundamentally, solidarity are essential for educators and campaigners. But, to engage meaningfully with global justice issues, there is a need to take positions. There seems to be a danger here of in trying to correct one type of thinking, going to a completely different type of thinking. There is a danger of propogating the absolutism you criticize in rationalism, and replacing it with an absolutism in emotionalism / relativism. How do you propose these can be balanced – the need to work within ambiguity, and the need to take positions within ambiguity?
3. Human frailty turns spirituality into religion, which goes on to achieve the opposite of its intentions.
Feel free to add your contribution and questions here under.
Enjoy the International Day of Hapiness and we hope this session was a small contribution of your daily bliss ;-)
On Marteen's link and question: How to approach education is so thorny and, unfortunatley, political in most places. To my mind, the challenge is to help people (kids or adults) to build the skills necessary to be able to 'be' in the world, as much as 'do' in the world. This is partly about letting go of some of our obsession with external reason and rationality. Partly about providing an antidote to the cult of individualism we are encouraged to glorify. I agree with Rene, the problem with some approaches seems, to my little brain, to be that it promotes the belief that everyone has the duty to stand out, be special, succeed at your wildest dreams (because everyone can, right!) in a way that is really grounded in the ideas of competition and status. It's actually about being MORE special than your friends. Or MORE successful at reaching that dream. Or just HAPPIER. That's an externally focussed motivation, and has more in common with consumerism than it does with mindfulness and awareness.
Hi, I'd like to share some thoughts on the questions that were left unheard in the webinar and I'll do it just in points - 1,2,3. I think that they are all very relevant and it would be great if we had the opportunity to discuss them in the session. So...
1. What do we want to transform our society or ourselves into? I think that there are many ways on how to even approach answering this question, but I would start by saying that I doubt that we have to have a single answer to it. The single answer to what our society should look like has been at the core of all imperialistic/(neo)colonial exploits. It think that we have some common values that underpin all actions, but probably nothing more than that. Form should be as diverse as possible, so that we don't all suffer the blow when one mechanism isn't working right. I think we can compare this situation to a monoculture plantation vs. a forest. If we only grow bananas (of single origin) than a potential disaease can wipe them all out and we are left with a barren land. A banana disease in a forest will only affect bananas (and not even them to such a big extent probably), while everything else will continue to thrive. So, form should be diverse, but values such as justice, compassion, understanding, peace... can be to some extent common. However... we should engage in very deep conversations about how we understand each and everyone of them. We might be very much suprised at how differently they can be understood by different people.
2. There is a danger of propogating the absolutism you criticize in rationalism, and replacing it with an absolutism in emotionalism / relativism. How do you propose these can be balanced – the need to work within ambiguity, and the need to take positions within ambiguity?
I'd absolutely agree. Balancing the pendulum by pushing it to another extreme is very very dangerous. I think that this is a point that will come up a lot and it is again a result of our socialization into wanting single answers. While it may be obvious that I am very much in favour of increased engagement with non-rational or non-discursive knowledge that does not mean that we should be unreasonable in doing that. Personally I would be terrified of any action that we may take that is made on purely emotional grounds. All totalitarian regims and cults of personality were/are built on this and some of the greatest horrors of the world were committed out of some perverted form of love (for God, for a leader etc.). Kurt Vonnegut wrote a plea once: Please, a little less love and a little more common decency! :) Also there is big difference between the emotional and the existential (or spiritual if you prefer) domain. There is a danger in conflating the two, some authors (like Wilber) would differentiate between the pre- and the trans- rational, which I think is a useful distinction. I this context I would argue that we need to move beyond Cartesian rationality (I think therefore I am) because of its totalizing nature (Martin spoke about us drinking a bit too much of Enlightment Kool-Aid) to include also other notions of existence (perhaps begining by playing with a mirror version: I am therefore I think). But reason is not without function, it is also a safeguard that protects us from doing dangerous things. It is however occasionally (or quite often) an obstacle for us to learn and experience more profound things, because it tells us about what is and what is not possible. However, if we try to forcefully suppress it, it will only come back in its more violent form. I would argue that we should look for more plural notions of rationality, rather than an annihilation of rationality. Slow the pendulum down and make it spin in different directions and new patterns, rather than push it to the other extreme. However this is much easier said that done. And the path is not without pain it seems.
3. Human frailty turns spirituality into religion, which goes on to achieve the opposite of its intentions
This point sounds like a very important warning and I think that Einstein said something similar: "Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind." And in our understanding of the world science is probably the most powerful religion of all. It certainly is able to provide us with the most tangible miracles. However what we understand by religion has many faces and while I would agree that some of the more widespread (and certainly monotheistic) religions have managed to achieve a formidable suppression of human spirit you can always find in any of them the mystical traditions which emphasise the directly and personally experienced connection between us and the divine over any cannonized interpretion of that force (God, Alah, Brahma, Great Spirit etc.) wants us to do. If I may borrow from an unknown author: God created Man in his image. But Man certainly returned the favour. :) Religions and other systems of beliefs are like maps that help us orientate. But we would do ourselves a great misfavour by again mistaking the map for the territory. The territory can be experienced I guess, but not narrated. Not really.
Another case against focussing on personal change in Orion magazing: