In our age of ecological breakdown, mass migrations, and potentially nuclear war, perhaps it helps to have a positive goal. One way of phrasing such a goal is to evolve a compassionate life-affirming culture. A life-affirming culture will care for people and the rest of nature.
A life-affirming culture has two operating principles. It will:
- Operate on partnership-respect values, rather than domination-control.
- Operate within the Earth’s capacity to support us.
In partnership-respect relating, power is used to promote the well-being of the family, the community, or now our global civilization. For example, in medieval times, based on the belief that people had souls, infanticide was banned, and orphanages and hospitals were founded. In 1945 the UN was founded as a vehicle to resolve international issues through discussion, not war. (Regretfully, members of the Security Council were given veto power. This was a domination-control move.)
Some people embody partnership-respect values intuitively. For others (this has been part of my own journey over decades), there are modes of training that make us more skillful at partnership-respect relating. These include training in improvisational acting, Aikido, and professional training in disciplines such as the Feldenkrais method of body education and psychotherapy.
Unresolved trauma often fosters hostile aggression. There are now a number of highly effective techniques of experiential psychotherapy which resolve trauma rapidly and thoroughly. Bessel van der Kolk’s magisterial The Body Keeps the Score: Mind Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma tells the story.
My own Inner Work is a manual techniques people can use for themselves to resolve their own emotional issues. Clearing our emotional issues gives us access to our inmate caring and compassion.
However, the best way to have access to our compassion is to be raised in a family without violence or abuse. Love and care go a long way!
The Natural Step system conditions for sustainability provide companies with a lens they can use to assess their ecological impact. Companies such as IKEA and Interface Carpets which have applied The Natural Step lens have greatly reduced their ecological footprint.
Of course, no company can be sustainable in a globalized civilization that is ecologically unravelling.
The only indicator of success that counts in terms of the Earth’s capacity to support us is when we are no longer in ecological overshoot. So we are looking at major reductions in industrial production and in population.
Dramatically reducing industrial production to preserve our life support systems will slow the economy. Nobody wants to collapse the economy. People need to come to grips with the disastrous consequences of not slowing the economy. Then we need to work out collectively how to do it, and take care of people at the time same time. A ticklish problem, but not impossible.
Indicators of success in the partnership-respect dimension include reductions in child abuse and spouse abuse, eliminating poverty traps, redirecting military budgets to benign uses, and dismantling nuclear weapons.
Since we have been in overshoot for decades, and the current industrial production-consumption system has huge momentum, a dream of softening the unraveling which is already underway may seem pie-in-the-sky. Yet there is a great deal we could do if there were public will.
If we were to make a difference, a first step would be about communicating, communicating, communicating… to help people get realistic about our current situation, with a view to inspiring mainstream commitment to evolve a viable society.
Greta Thunberg will have reason to hope when she sees that mainstream society is committed to turning things around.