This blogpost is my reply to the request from Evolve magazine to address the question of “What is the ‘new’ in a new we-culture?” in 200 words, which will be published in their next issue.
It is Springtime and seeds are breaking through solid soil; sprouts stretching towards the Sun. With the same elemental force (and fragility), individual and collective human consciousness is stretching towards ever-new heights. In the tip of the current wave are self-organizing associations of autonomous agents, connected by a shared passion to evolve consciousness and culture as themselves.
When the spiral of the We line of development is turning from the ego-centric to the world-centric stage, as is the case for many “We-space” groups, then dots are connecting, systemic interdependences are becoming visible and lives more meaningful. Evolution is shifting from happening to us to happening through us.
In this new culture we exercise our response-ability to the community that is not an antithesis of our individual autonomy, but a garden, in which it can truly blossom. Thanks to the Internet, the new we-culture can develop collective sensing and meaning making organs. Realizing that possibility is our next step in the long march towards the awakening of humankind’s collective sentience: the capacity of the We (at any scale) to care for the well-being and evolution of the whole and all of its parts, as well as, its habitat, the larger encompassing whole.
The German translation was published in the beautiful, June 2015 “Wir-Räume” issue of Evolve magazine. See below:
Es ist Frühling und die Sämlinge durchbrechen die feste Erde, Sprossen strecken sich nach der Sonne. Mit derselben elementaren Kraft (und Zartheit) streckt sich das individuelle und kollektive menschliche Bewusstsein nach ewig-neuen Höhen. An der Spitze der neuesten Entwicklungsbewegung finden sich selbstorganisierte Zusammenschlüsse von autonomen Akteuren, die die Leidenschaft verbindet, Bewusstsein und Kultur – als sich selbst – zu entwickeln.
Wenn sich die Spirale der Entwicklung des Wir von einer egozentrischen, nur den Eigeninteressen verpflichteten, zu einer weltzentrischen Haltung des globalen Interesses wandelt – so wie es für viele Gruppen, die mit Wir-Räumen experimentieren, der Fall ist –, dann entstehen neue Verbindungen, systemische Wechselbeziehungen werden sichtbar und das Leben wird bedeutungsvoller. Die Evolution geschieht uns nicht mehr, sondern sie geschieht durch uns.
In dieser neuen Kultur werden wir unsere Verantwortlichkeit gegenüber der Gemeinschaft wertschätzen, wodurch aber unsere individuelle Autonomie nicht beeinträchtigt wird – das Wir wird der Garten, in dem unsere Individualität erblühen kann. Dank des
Internets kann die neue Wir-Kultur Organe entwickeln, um kollektiv zu spüren und neue Sinndimensionen zu eröffnen. Die Verwirklichung dieses Potenzials ist unser nächster Schritt auf dem langen Weg zum Erwachen einer kollektiven Empfindungsfähigkeit der Menschheit: die Fähigkeit des Wir (wie groß es auch sein mag), für das Wohlbefinden und die Evolution des Ganzen und all seiner Teile Fürsorge zu empfinden und Verantwortung zu übernehmen.
It seems to me that part of generating stability is getting individuals to consider their self interest on a sufficiently long timespan that they see clearly that our own self interest contains a large component of the interests of all others. Life extension, or the reasonably probable expectation of life extension is part of it.
Another part is recognising the reality that all major advances in the complexity of living systems are characterised by new levels of cooperation stabilised by attendant strategies to prevent cheating. In this view, the evolution of global cooperation is the natural next step in evolution.
Another part is recognising that markets value scarcity and not abundance. In times of real scarcity (most of human history) markets made good sense. Now we have the technical ability to produce all the essential goods and services at a level of universal abundance, but that would drop their market value to zero, and collapse the economic system. It is profound disturbing to realise that the elimination of poverty would collapse the market based economic system that most people equate with value. In a very real sense money is a useful myth, nothing more. Our security demands that we go beyond market values, and move to valuing individual life, and individual liberty above all else (part of life and liberty is having a thriving and abundant ecosystem within which to exist).
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Ted, I find your line of reasoning brilliant, up till the last sentence. I would say, valuing individual AND communal wellbeing and evolution. Valuing individual liberty? Certainly, as long as it doesn’t threaten the common good. What would enable the creation and protection of “a thriving and abundant ecosystem within which to exist”? We know that neither the market, nor the state would. Why not give the commons a chance that Elinor Ostrom talked about?
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Understand your confusion.
I packed that sentence a little too dense.
What I meant was that if we take a big enough perspective on what valuing individual life, and individual liberty might mean, then it leads us to value the ecosystems that support us, and the diversity of life we see around us, as something to treasure for the opportunity it provides, for what is liberty worth in a sterile environment.
And I get that even this probably still takes too many shortcuts to be immediately apparent to many.
The Maori language of New Zealand has a word – Kaitiakitanga – which is kind of like guardianship, and like stewardship, and expresses our fundamental interconnection and duty of care. I don’t agree with a lot of Maori culture, but that idea I find very powerful, and a direct outcome of my own in-depth investigations into security, longevity and freedom. The only real security comes from universal abundance, universal security.
In the longest term view, their is little difference between self and other. If we care for self, then that care of self demands of us a care for others.
I see danger in a focus on community over self.
I see power in community arising out of a recognition of self in other (and these words, this language, is inadequate to express the concepts in my mind).
I see that the terms “commons” is often used to impose a tyranny of the majority onto a minority, every bit as much as our economic system imposes a tyranny of a minority on the majority.
In the sense that community flows naturally from rational self interest, of individuals cooperating for their mutual benefit, then I support it. In so far as the idea of the common good is used to restrict any in the interests of a subset, then it is a danger. And we all need to demonstrate reasonable care for the lives and liberties of all others.
Isn’t it interesting that each time I say or write “Individual AND communal” there’s a knee-jerk reaction to focusing on community OVER self. That’s definitely not my position.
> “commons” is often used to impose a tyranny of the majority onto a minority,
I think you confound commons with communism. I’ve never heard of commons imposing a tyranny. Regardless whether it is or isn’t, I clearly stated in this blog my appreciation for “community that is not an antithesis of our individual autonomy, but a garden, in which it can truly blossom.” That is in full alignment with what you wrote: “the community flows naturally from rational self interest, of individuals cooperating for their mutual benefit.”
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I see in practice today, in the politics being expressed in the country I live in (New Zealand), the term “commons” being used by a significant section of the political left (mostly within the Green movement), as a justification for the imposition of rules.
In a sense I can acknowledge the need for change, as the levels of behaviour being expressed do not work. And in another sense I see that the strategies being imposed are very much just more of the same, but with a different “twist”. And as such offer no real change, no real freedom.
I have spent a long time in the details of fisheries management in this country. The most popular recreational fish here is a thing called snapper (Pagrus auratus). In the vicinity of our largest city (Auckland) there is about 10,000 tons (16 million individual snapper) caught each year, currently split about 50/50 between commercial and recreational. This is very close to the sustainable limit. The fishery is in rebuild, from a crash caused by extreme commercial exploitation over 40 years ago. We introduced a Quota Management System (QMS) into commercial fisheries in 1986 (I first attended meetings discussing the idea in 1980). For the most part the QMS has worked, and the fishery has been recovering, and it has now reached a level of abundance where it is quite easy for recreational fishers to catch fish. Now we have hit new problem, the disjunct between expectation and reality.
We have about a million people who go fishing at least once a year within that region. Some of them go fishing over 100 times a year. We used to have a recreational bag limit of 30 snapper, and that has been reduced over time and is now at 7 fish, with a minimum size of 30cm (increased from 27). Public perception is gradually changing, but not fast enough to meet reality. The reality, from the numbers, is that if everyone who goes fishing (not everyone in the population, just the subset of fishers) were to take their bag limit every year, then the bag limit would be 8 fish per year.
There is a huge industry selling people fishing gear, vessels, bait, sonar, GPS, ….. that would not exist if people actually got how much fish a reasonable take actually is. People don’t get that the impact of numbers of people.
What was stable in my father’s time when there were less than 100,000 fishers, and no GPS or sonar to allow them to find rocks and holes every time with consistency, and what is stable now, with 10 times that many fishers and even a pure novice can go straight to the best fishing grounds every time, to an accuracy of a few meters, is very different. The impact on fish is enormous.
So it is a really tricky position I find myself in, as president of the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council. Many people expect me to be an advocate for the rights of recreational fishers, and I am. But in the eyes of most that means advocating for larger bag limits, and that I cannot do. Even if we eliminated commercial fishing completely (meaning that snapper would only be available to those who caught it, and not to those who wanted to buy it), then the bag limit would only be 16 per year, meaning those who get their bag limit every trip could only do two trips per year – if everyone who fished were to take their bag limit in a year.
The only way bag limits work, is because there is a distribution of catches that mean most people only catch zero or one fish in a year, so that a few can catch a lot.
Even if we reduced the recreational bag limit to one fish per person per day, it would not constrain the recreational take to within the available limits as the fishery rebuilds to target biomass, and target abundance levels. Yet people are not willing to accept that yet.
We actually have the technology that everyone could easily take their limit, but not at 7 per day, at 8 per year. But not many people are willing to hear that yet.
We could quite easily develop enhancement technologies, but that is not really an option within market based system, as markets tend to drive wages down, not up, reducing the ability of average people to participate. Inflation gives the illusion of wealth, and some technologies (particularly information technologies) really are getting cheaper and more available, even as others (land and housing) become less affordable.
The whole system is too much “smoke and mirrors” in the interests of a select few. Distractions to keep people from considering real issues.
We can deliver universal abundance to everyone, but not within a market based set of values.
Markets will always tend to destroy abundance.
Most of the laws in most jurisdictions are more about the creation of scarcity that anything else. Consider copyright and patent laws. Consider the laws around capital creations and acquisition. Consider the public health and public safety laws, and what their actual market economic impact really is.
Real liberty is not something our systems are tuned to deliver or to handle.
Most people live out their lives within the prisons of unquestioned cultural constraints.
Entire industries are devoted to reinforcing those constraints.
Very few people have ever really considered what freedom might be, let alone experimented with it.
Very few have ever questioned or understood what market value is, and how it shapes thought and action, and what else might be available and useful, even Marx did not get out of that constraint, he simply worked within it in a very real sense.
What is freedom – really ? ? ?
How willing are people to really consider and explore that vast uncertainty beyond the cultural illusion of “truth”?
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How well described, and at the same time so fresh and deep in expressing the message..thank you,V Dne 9. mar. 2015 10:40 je oseba “Blog of Collective Intelligence 2003-2015”
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George, you said: Evolution is shifting from happening to us to happening through us.
Much as I love the thought, it seems to me that the line needs to be tweaked. What we are waking up to is that social and human evolution, and some degree recent geological evolution, has always happened through us. The condition is not hew. It’s just that no culture up to and including today, has had the wit and courage to see, explore, and brace and live as if this is the case. Now we are slowly waking up to just how profound and powerful our role is (not “can be”… “is). Some insights come by the Anthropocene, some by the sociology of knowledge, some by linguistics and hermeneutics, some by fresh understandings of the dynamics of the evolution of complex living human systems. Your own contributions have been substantial. I am thankful. So…
“Our consciousness is shifting from evolution happening to us to evolution happening through us.”
This thought is one of several at the core of a “we” civilization. I prefer to characterize it as a co-creative form of civilization.
Or so it seems to me.
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Welcome Ruben to the Blog of Collective Intelligence. I’ve been following your work for loooong time and am grateful for your comment. You are right, in a sense human and social evolution has always been happening through us. I will have to rephrase it to reflect more accurately the essence of my thinking about what is truly novel: the opportunity for intentional evolution.
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I have been very excited to discover and meet more and more people over the last 4 to 5 years who are deeply connecting to the ‘WE’ culture from many different backgrounds and perspectives….coming to similar and in some instances the same conclusions. As I see it, this is the hope for humankind’s real evolution and hopefully survival.
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