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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Macro Trends -- Post 8: Empathic Civilization

I am skipping to my 6th macro trend which I call "Empathic Civilization," after the book by Jeremy Rifkin who has spent a lifetime of writing on entropy in social systems (our fourth macro-trend; see macro-trend post #7).

In this book Rifkin describes a race occurring between the breakdown of our human systems (including destruction of our biological habitat and our social order) and the culmination of our movement to empathy in which we humans act in concert, based on our shared sense of vulnerability and consequent commitment to ensure universal community, justice, equity, and freedom.

I heard David Sloan Wilson discuss the role of "meaning systems" in communication and community building.  In other words, to have an empathic civilization, we need a shared meaning system.

I propose that humanity and its survival today begs us to develop a shared meaning system.  Meaning systems are expressed in "belief systems" and our diverse belief systems, which rationalize narrow clan and class interests,  are not only tearing us apart, they are holding us back from achieving our potential; and, more, they are destroying us.

I also propose that a shared meaning system for our time and world needs to have the following characteristics.  It needs to:

1) capture our imagination, be attractive and exciting, be a compelling story;

2) allow for and support many belief systems, a range of religious teachings, economic ideologies, political systems;

3) have global expression and influence though inclusivity, not domination;

4) affirm parts in the whole and whole in the parts; encourage us to act locally in communities and regions where we can have the most effect on the globe and the universe.

5) be compatible with new science and technology, open to inquiry, scientific method, and transparent communication systems;

6) balance resources, supporting new evolutionary progress without destroying the conditions for human existence;

7) constitute a ground for moral behavior, a base for a universal ethic;

8) value above all human freedom (boundaries that foster personal and collective decision-making); power (ability to fulfill potential personally and collectively); equity (dignity of every human person);

Each of these characteristics need to be further developed into a compelling narrative.  And yet once expressed and accepted, it becomes a belief system competing with other belief systems.  And history goes on. 

Also while I think cultural values are motivators for human action, so are political affiliations and economic interests.  So developing a shared meaning system needs to be coordinated with political (community) organizing or public building for socio-economic justice.  I for one do not buy the "clash of civilization" marketing piece that centers on culture.  This doctrine just repeats the same tired belief system that hopefully we are outgrowing.

But I think it is worth exploring our diverse belief systems and try to hone in on a shared meaning system "behind" or "underneath" our diverse belief systems.  Isn't that what the United Nations, cultural exchange, liberal or humanities education, and the search for cooperation and peace are all about?

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