Come along on Thursday 21st March at 5.30pm to‘Phoenix Rising’ to discuss the emerging issues of our time (social & environmental), suggest & publicize ways of resolving these - we invite people of all ages to express their views, study Ancient Wisdoms and promote the ways of Peace. Call Marcello Serini @ 0412 981 355.
THE DECADE AHEAD
Since the end of the 20 th century, the world community of nations is no longer a collection of independently acting units forging ahead as convenient. THE WORLD COMMUNITY HAS BEEN TRANSFORMED INTO A WORLD SYSTEM. Requiring perforce a fresh approach, not only on how we deal with issues but of government itself. Outside events have become connected in the changing environment of our 21 st century world. Altering the very texture of our society or operating field. Leading, automatically, to irreversible changes and calling for a fresh approach. This applies to all connected entities whether individuals, organizations or nations.
In the terminology of Systems Dynamics, the most relevant to our present day situation is “The Disturbed Reactive Environment” and the now emerging and more complex “Turbulent Fields”. We must remember that though Systems Theory was originally evolved to deal with technical matters, it essentially deals with relationships, structure, and interdependence [D. Katz & R.L. Kahn], issues that are very pertinent to our lives and constitute an integral part of the teachings of the Ageless Wisdom.
According to this approach, as in the first instance above, organizations become so large and so linked that through their interaction, dynamic properties arise. They become enmeshed with legislation, the public and society at large. Their research and development (R&D) bring about a constantly changing gradient in the environmental field.
In the second case -‘The Turbulent Fields Environment’ – the new situation gives rise to dynamic processes; and the field itself may be said to be in motion or constantly changing. The emergent ‘field forces’ can attenuate lines of action or unexpectantly amplify these, resulting in a situation of ‘Relevant Uncertainty’ – the sort of thing that is happening today. Because we are accustomed to ‘relational thinking’ we fail to readily recognize these factors at work. Consequently, are unable to perceive the new approach that characterizes the situation. This approach may be termed Sustainability, Synergism, Systems [“The 3 S”]. A New Situation Now Arises. Forever Changing the Ways of Society and the Body Politic approach to things.
This may be summed up as follows: 1 [ The systems analysis to] “Problem solving must be undertaken by those that understand what is well and what is not...results must be communicated in a politically meaningful way...” [D.P. Loucks – Cornell University]. 2 “In such a system the growth of any one part depends on the growth or non- growth of others...undesirable factors of any one part threatens not only that part but the whole as well” [Mesarovic & Pestel].
Thus in the light of system dynamics, major changes will become inevitable over the next few years, altering the inherited way of doing things.
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The Emergence of (New) Values The reason for this being the resulting interactivity, requiring ‘stability’, achieved through shared values that essentially become ‘power fields’, acting as injunctions. Under these conditions hierarchical structures no longer apply. Relationships between dissimilar organizations become correlated. Resulting in co-operation and accommodation between parties. But the transformation of the former status quo does not provide environments identical to the original and established landmarks disappear. Transformation takes an indefinite, variable, accelerating period of time.
Time is no longer consonant with generational change. But with the influence and pace of the Media and the Internet fostering new awareness. These, in turn, give rise to new collective values that emerge to alter the collective consciousness of society.
The individual requiring to: * Redefine one’s identity * Reverse basic values * Refashion one’s organization or life style * All at the same time.
Pertinent to the above developments are the points raised by the historian E. H. Carr in his book What is History? Who noted that: * An expansion of reason (or perception) means, in essence, the emergence into history of groups and classes, of people and continents that hitherto lay outside society’s immediate interests i.e. – the world village -.
* Giving rise to a universal history ‘distinct from the combined history of all countries’.
* That the power of reason, as applied to man in society, is not merely to investigate but to transform.
* This “ heightened consciousness of the power of man to improve the management of his social, economic, and political affairs by the application of rational processes seems to be one of the major aspects of the 20 th century revolution”.
As far back as 1910 S. Leathes wrote of “The belief in the possibility of social reform by conscious efforts is the dominant current of the European mind” [Cambridge Modern History, xii]. Today, mankind appears to seek knowingly it objectives and ends. The widening horizon – Brought about by international relations - encompasses the whole world and is moving out to the universe!
It is noteworthy that the renowned ethnologist Oswald Spengler in his famous opus “Decline of the West” denoted our Age of Reason as: “The greatest happiness of the greatest number,
enlightenment, economic progress, national freedom, the conquest of nature, world peace”.
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Despite the wars and horrors of last century we seem to be heading for just that. Except, that, we shall have to first contend with the following dominant issues: World – Cities, The Economy, Money, High Finance plus the Environment and their impacts on our lives.
The world –City and Province Spengler went on to write of the above two basic ideas of every civilization; the very problem and issue that we are living through today “with hardly the remotest conception of its immensity”: * In place of the world, there is a city, a point, in which the life of a whole region is collecting while the rest dries up * In place of a type- true people, born and grown on the soil, there is a new sort of nomad, cohering unstably in fluid masses * The parasitical city dweller, tradition less, utterly matter-of-fact, religion-less, clever, Unfruitful, deeply contemptuous of the countryman... [p. 39] * To this, must now be added, the sheer flood of country people migrating to the cities in search of work. Living in squalid conditions, on poor diets that, have now given rise to the greatest pandemic in history: the incidence of NCD. Assuring the inhabitants of shanty towns – caught in a downward spiral - increasing poor health and a decline in life span. With their inability of ever raising above poverty this class of tragic destitute now number at least one billion.
Economic Life With the prescience of a prophet foreseeing the current Western dilemma by 100 years, Spengler went on to write that:”Economic thought and action are a side of life that acquire a false appearance when regarded as a self-contained kind of life... and is anything but common to humans”.
Seeing economic life as the expression of a soul-life; he noted that “Economic thought... sets in only where Art and Philosophy have irrevocably passed away”. And whilst Politics sacrifices men for an idea...Economy merely wastes them away.
Furthermore, the acquisitive kind of economy – uses as an object, as a source of nourishment - tribute and plunder. The film by the humanitarian John Pilger ‘The New Rulers of the World’ amply illustrates the case; where 200 giant corporations control one quarter of the total world production of goods and services. Condemning the extorted workers in underdeveloped nations, and their countries, ‘to a debt that can never be repaid’. But there is a kind of inbuilt retribution to this approach for according to Spengler “he who is out for purely economic advantages, is correspondingly incapable of purely political thinking”. The consequences of which – around the world today - are truly tragic.
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Money Forms part of world thinking as much as mathematical, juristic and technical matters. With ‘prices’ supplanting the earlier values placed on wares. Modern fortunes are ‘quantum of money values’ centred in the city that becomes the money – market. Traders become the master. The future of world economies decided in a few places. Whilst in ancient times ‘muscle power’ gave rise to money. Its equivalent in modern times becomes ‘energy’ which equates with expansion. Thus Money = Function = Effect. And thinking in money gives rise to more money...”becoming intellectual energy concentrating all aspects of social living”; dynamically disposing modern life.
Work Becomes that which is worked up and functionally related to one-another, giving rise to efficient centres of activity. In these centres, machines and firms become miniature cosmos obeying the will of Man. Giving rise to the Entrepreneur, Engineer, and Factory Worker. The mind of managers keeping these together. A point is arrived at where: Force + Efficiency take the place of persons and things.
High Finance The unique quality of this last is that it is wholly intangible and free giving rise to a polarity of either thinking in terms of technicality or money. It is noteworthy that those that deal in high finance – the Private Powers – “want a free path to the acquisition of resources”. No legislation must stand on their way; laws are sought for themselves and they subsidize (political) parties to that end.
The New Setting We have noted that with the shift in populations to cities; the rise of economic values; the concentration of financial power; the influence of money; the ‘compression of time’; and the emergence of new values; a shift has taken place from being to becoming . An outward focus takes place and what was once a spiritual culture becomes a secularized civilization. Significantly, according to Spengler, rationalism overcomes the soul. In burying centuries of spiritual growth; the intellect rules supreme in the ‘logic of the situation’, and make only use of the ‘becoming’ mode.
Leading in technical parlance to: “Open systems that maintain themselves with the environment through a continuous inflow/outflow of matter and energy (in the case of nations through commerce and communications)”. In this situation, no social structure is self-sufficient or self-contained. Henceforth, the raison d’être (of a nation) is no longer to
be found in past historical events but in the interrelated set of events and the ever renewing cycle of activities.
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The Changing Nature or Texture of the Environment We note that under the impact of technological development, environmental contexts in which organizations exist are themselves changing. To this must be added such factors as: climate change, population growth, resource needs etc. Demanding considerations - or solutions – in their own right. Eventually, these become the new values that will call for:
Conversion to a Peaceful Economy * This requires political and Institutional transformation and alternative use planning
* Transferring resources from military to civilian uses [along lines of the Weiss Bill - USA; Uppsala University Courses – Sweden; the demilitarized example of Costa Rica]
* Diverting funds to reconstruct and regenerate underdeveloped sectors of society.
* Strengthen the UN and the ‘world body’
* Establish Economic Vitality, Social Justice, and Ecological Stability. The Sustainable Society
* Recycling goods & Nutrition
* Recycling human wastes
* Biological resources placed on a proper footing
* Alternative crops that are salt & drought tolerant
* Agro forestry
* Revitalizing degraded lands
* Species diversity
* Improving photosynthesis by plants
* Equitable land use
* Replacement of the GNP approach with other “Quality of Life” indicators
* Cooperation & coordination at the International level
* Sustainability as a common cause
* Shared sets of values that include: Democratic Principles, Innovation, Human Rights, and Diversity. [State of the World 2009 & 2010].
The Decline of the West Because of the changing environment, what we are seeing today in the Western Industrialized World is: * Loss of Perspective * Loss of Dimension * Loss of Principles * Breakdown of Morality * Cheap Credit to Fuel Spending (in the hope of sustaining the economy) * Loss of Production of Goods and Services needed to equilibrate the system * Lop sided Globalization undermining the social system.
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This decline in dominance is further exacerbated by the seeming insensitiveness of governments with their economic plans and short term policies. And, by large, powerful transnational corporations bent on immediate profits; with little consideration for environmental matters or future outcomes.
Systems dynamics readily demonstrate that ‘operating systems’ are notoriously insensitive to external factors. That any changes to the interactive field must come from within the systems themselves. And this is particularly relevant to a people’s life style and to nations. The 1990 edition of ‘State of the World’ – A Worldwatch Institute Report on Progress Towards a Sustainable Society – focused on major policy initiatives needed to stabilise the climate, improve air quality, and reduce poverty. It went on to describe what a sustainable society should be like: * “Meeting the needs without consuming the resource base of future generations, efficient in all senses.
* Powered by renewable energy sources, rather than fossil fuels.
* Relying on less damaging agricultural practices and recycled materials”. Twenty four years later we are still debating the issue. Whatever small progress has been achieved, can only be described as ‘incipient trends’. To counter this a: ‘change in consciousness will be required’!
The Issue of Poverty Revisited
* Close to a billion people are now trapped into a down-ward cycle of poverty. Deforestation, desertification, fuel-wood scarcity, water scarcity, erosion of mountain slopes, urban air pollution, all of these factors continues to enhance the problem. With uncontrolled climate change these trends will accelerate. By 2050 an estimated 2 billion people will be in absolute poverty.
* Education is the way out. At the very time when the present patch-work approach – if sustained – will spell disaster for all of us; a process of social evolution and the intelligent management of Earth’s resources becomes imperative.
* Studies have shown that as the female literacy rates rise so do income levels, nutrition levels, and child survival rates; whilst population growth slows. The social measures undertaken in the state of Kerala [India] demonstrate this succinctly. But a ‘higher’ type of education is called for that goes beyond the conventional approach. Exerts of Pope Benedict XVl‘s address to the members of The Pontifical Academy of Sciences [6 Nov 2006] illustrates the case succinctly:
* “Man cannot place ... so radical and unconditional a trust as to believe that scientific and technological progress can explain everything and completely fulfil all his existential and spiritual needs”.
* “...Questions (must be asked) about the meaning of living and dying, about ultimate values, and about the nature of progress itself”.
* “Scientific predictability also raises the question of scientist’s ethical responsibilities...” * [Quoting Pope John Paul ll ] “Scientists, precisely because they ‘know more’, are called to serve more... access to specialized knowledge (brings) the responsibility of using that knowledge wisely for the benefit of the entire human family”.
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From the above we can see that the ‘spiritual dimension’ is being alluded. But, spirituality implies a shift in consciousness that goes beyond the rational trend of actual times. For the individual it means being centred on one’s inner self, or of being in a state of internal equilibrium, whilst the rest of the world – or system – goes on becoming.
We also know that worldwide concern is being raised by many of the scientific community about the state of the environment, climate change, impending food and water shortages, the carrying capacity of the world systems, pollution and population growth [Refer to: (e.g.) ‘Blueprint for a Living Continent’. The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists]. But how to reverse the trend remains a perplexing issue that governments are unwilling or unable to resolve. Critical to all of the above becomes the question of TIME that may be running out for us all. Yet, the urgency for constructive change, the plight of the globe, and the very real possibility of ecosystems crashing, makes TIME the pivotal factor of the matter.
There is little evidence that the generation now in power, is sufficiently awaken to the consequences of what is at hand. Nor of the full implications and outcomes of interacting systems at the international level as these reflect locally. The proactive approach that would be required is simply not in place. And, as mentioned at the inception of this article: the ‘business as usual‘ syndrome still powers the world economies - hypnotized by the Western style of modern living – whilst the degradation of human life, spiritual values, ethical principles, and of planet Earth itself continues unabated.
The article by Bryan Walsh: ’The Truth About Oil’ [Time, April 9, 2012] amply illustrates the case; whereby the newly found resources will only ensure that the current pace of development will continue unabated and thus accelerate global warming. Strengthening the case for stronger tropical cyclones, more frequent heat waves, deluges and droughts. See ‘Deadly weather disasters predicted’. [AP – Washington, March 29, 2012]. Given the trend and the anticipated outcomes it behoves responsible governments and leaders of industry to plan ahead. To come up with alternative modes of manufacturing, constructing homes and of utilising resources in such a way so as to minimize environmental impacts.
A change is sorely needed to bring back our inner sensibilities and awaken humanity to its essential nature. But it will be too late if we are to wait the transition period to the next generation.
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We need the moral integrity and strength to face the situation and to plan for the gargantuan task ahead of us to rebuild our world. In doing so, the ingenuity and inventiveness of the West will, once again, come to the fore. It is worth remembering at this stage, the 19 th century art historian Aby Warburg. Who perceived the limitations of rationality and spoke of that primal energy: “periodically suppressed and controlled by rational discourse, but always capable of boiling up from its deep sources and engulfing civilization” [Simon Schama – Pathfinders]. Is it too naive to think that it may be possible to tap on that primal energy and to use it constructively? Would, encouraging the younger generations to have their say, supply some of the answers and help to change the current outlook? After all, it was the young people who galvanized the Environmental Movement of the 1970s. May not the same be applicable today?
Marcello R Serini PO Box 2053 Toowoomba Qld 4350. firstname.lastname@example.org
Books & Referred Sources AP. Deadly weather disasters predicted. News.com.au March 29, 2012. Benedict XVl An Address To The Members Of The Pontifical Academy Of Sciences. The Vatican. 2006. Brown L. R. State of the World 1989, 1990, 2009, 2010. Allen & Unwin. Carr E.H. What is History? A Pelican Book. 1961. Emery F.E. (Ed) Systems thinking. Penguin Books. 1970. Mesarovic M. & Pestel E. Mankind at the Turning Point. Hutchinson of London. 1974. Schama S. Landscape and Memory. Harper Collins Publisher. 1995. Spengler O. Decline of the West. Alfred A Knopf. NY. 1947. Walsh B. The Truth About Oil. Time April 9, 2012.