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Welcome to the ClubofAmsterdam Journal.
Each year we organise a series of 8 or 9 Season Events with the topic “the future of …”. It is again time to talk about the content of the next Season Events. We would like to invite you to join our brainstorm session and suggest topics, speakers, venues or even sponsors …. Please send your ideas, suggestions etc to email@example.com
Join us at our Special Summer Open Round Table Urban Tribes – where is the magic? – Sunday, 22 July in Germany!
…. interested in knowing more and sharing thoughts and ideas …. email us!
Felix Bopp, editor-in-chief
Autonomy and Solidarity
| Prospects of an Unconditional Basic Income|
The idea is simple and powerful, challenging and disturbing. It has been around for years in academic circles, but has recently gained momentum ever since the idea has been advocated for publicly (e.g. in Germany since 2003). But what roughly is it about?
An Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) would be provided from cradle to grave, paid to individuals not to households, irrespective of any income from other sources, without requiring the performing of paid work or any expression of a willingness to work. Pundits berate the idea as naïve, a land of milk and honey-vision, which, at the very least, confirms the decline of modern civilization.
It might seem so at first glance, especially when looking back and remembering that workfare policies have dominated European welfare states for more than a decade. But the closer you get the less plausible such objections appear. Of course, a UBI counters workfare policies and the idolatry of wage-labour as the most valuable contribution to community-life. But a closer look also shows us that a UBI is consonant with the lives we live in modern times. Moreover, the core idea reminds us of the basic premises of republican democracies: namely, the sovereignty of the people as citizens.
Why is “unconditionality” so important? Present welfare states beyond all variations provide an assortment of different insurance benefits (unemployment benefits, statutory pension insurance schemes etc.), forms of assistance and allowances often managed by independent funds. All are conditional; they either require willingness to work, acquired entitlements or claims to benefits through contributions, a certain age (child benefits), or means testing. For adults wage-labour is pivotal, so that benefits are conditional as a way of guiding one back into the labour market; to get off the benefit roll is the ubiquitous normative goal.
The term unconditional refers to the achievement-conditions a beneficiary must meet to receive benefits today, and it is this which the UBI wants to get rid of. In this way, a beneficiary of UBI must meet status-conditions, either citizenship or a permanent residency, a fact, which does not-as some say-contradict the idea of unconditionality. Unconditionality is conditional, because it presupposes a political community to provide UBI.
The higher a UBI is in terms of purchasing power, the more means-tested allowances it eliminates and the further it gets in recognizing wage-labour as only one among other important activities within a political community of citizens. A consequence would be that the status of wage-labour would decrease, while that of child-care, volunteering and other activities would increase. UBI would not have this equalizing effect immediately, but it would come about as a result of recognizing people as citizens and not as contributors through wage-labour. By being provided without obligation, UBI tells ‘beneficiaries’ that they receive it for their own sake. Just as citizen rights are bestowed without obligation, so is UBI.
Through a UBI, high enough to secure a livelihood, employees would gain bargaining power. Being independent of wage-labour implies the ability to say ‘No’. On the one hand, companies could rely on motivated employees who work voluntarily and, on the other hand, companies would have to offer attractive working conditions and an attractive working environment. Both would help to create an innovative atmosphere in companies and organizations. A controversial argument is that the community could get rid of the legal restrictions necessary today to protect an employee’s status; for example, regarding restrictions on the laying off and hiring of employees. To hire individuals for only a short time in order to work on a project would become common (if employees agree) and not a threat to the individual. Because of bargaining power, it would be up to them to define acceptable working hours. Each individual would be in a much better position to find an appropriate answer in accordance with his or her life, inclinations, capacities, and so forth. The amount of time someone is willing to spend in an occupation depends on what he or she regards as reasonable.
Some accuse UBI of being a neoliberal Trojan Horse. It helps, they say, to extend the low-wage-sector and by doing so perverts the idea. But a relatively low wage under the circumstances set by UBI does not necessarily mean low income. Today wages fulfil two functions: 1) to secure a minimum income and 2) to provide a share in a company’s success. With UBI the situation is altered. A UBI would secure a steadily available minimum income, while a wage would be additional and separate. Consequently, if UBI were relatively high, a lower wage than today would not imply a lower income (UBI plus wage).
Plurality would be encouraged. Neither growth nor labour is a goal in itself. With a UBI different ways of living a self-determined life are respected. Instead of financing employment-programs and educational trainings to “bring” people back into the labour-market-both of which are more or less compulsory for the unemployed-education could be a goal in itself following the individual’s interests and inclinations. By providing a UBI, the community signals that it trusts the citizens’ will to contribute to the wellbeing of the polity and, thus, fosters solidarity.
Workfare these days put enormous pressure on families. The value of work even exceeds the value of family as debates about extending childcare institutions to support working parents show. Some proponents of UBI argue that what seems to be progressive and emancipatory turns out to be the opposite. Parents are put under increasing pressure by public debates and political decisions. They have to decide whether they should take care of their children, or whether they should pursue their professional career to fulfil the community’s normative expectations. By enhancing childcare institutions without providing means, such as UBI, to opt out of the labour market, the normative ideal of doing wage-labour is reinforced. Therefore, what is considered to be a step into the future by praising, for example, Scandinavian childcare policies, is a step backward. In the common use of the term, stay-at-home parents are unemployed because they do not work in the wage-labour market. Of course, they contribute to the common welfare-without families the political community has no future. Nevertheless, their contribution neither helps to acquire entitlements to benefits, nor is it recognized as central in the same way as having a full time occupation. UBI, however, would open up the opportunity for staying at home, without stigmatizing it. It would leave the decision up to parents, without directing them toward any normative goal.
Why is it so difficult to get UBI on the political agenda? Is it an idea existing in Cloud Cuckoo land? What the situation reveals is a contradictory phenomenon that helps explain why UBI is still confronted with unrealistic objections. On the one hand, there is a discrepancy between the fundamental meaning of citizenship and political community already incorporated in democratic institutions. Political communities still trust the citizens’ will to contribute; on the other hand, there is how this is interpreted in the self-conception of the people. In Germany especially the ongoing public debate about UBI has helped to make this contradiction apparent and, thus, set interpretive patterns going.
Dr. Sascha Liebermann (PhD in Sociology, Master of Arts in Philosophy). Research focus: Political Sociology, Welfare State, Economic Sociology, Theory of Professions, Sociology of Socialization, Qualitative Methods. Assistant Professor at Ruhr-University Bochum, Visiting Fellow at ETH Zurich (Switzerland); Founding member of “Freedom not Full Employment” (www.freiheitstattvollbeschaeftigung.de) (in 2003), a group of German citizens arguing for an Unconditional Basic Income.
Upcoming books (August 2012) to which the author contributed a chapter about the UBI-debate in Germany:
“Manifold Possibilities, Peculiar Obstacles -Basic Income in the German Debate”, in: Basic Income Worldwide. Horizons of Reform, edited by Carole Pateman and Matthew C. Murray, Palgrave Macmillan – International Political Economy Series
“Far, though close. Basic Income in Germany – Problems and Prospects” in: Basic Income Guarantee and Politics: International Experiences and Perspectives on the Viability of Income Guarantee, edited by Richard K. Caputo, Palgrave Macmillan – Exploring the Basic Income Guarantee Series,
Special Summer Event
Special Summer Event
Urban Tribes – where is the magic?
Open Round Table
A Club of Amsterdam event in collaboration with MySTèR.
Sunday, July 22, 2012: 15:00 – 17:00
Location: MySTèR, Christian-Rötzel-Allee 18, 41334 Breyell-Nettetal, Germany [near Venlo, Netherlands]
Participation is free – you are invited to contribute a small donation at the event.
Please register by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please let us know in case you intend to stay for dinner.
There is an option to stay for a modest amount at the B&B.
Open Round Table with
Ola Parcinska, Culture Specialist
Luc Sala, MySTèR
Robert Sheperd, Founder, Eduverse
Khannea Suntzu, Second Life Extravaganza
Aja Waalwijk, Artist, Ruigoord
and more …
Our moderator is
Arjen Kamphuis, Futurist, Co-founder, CTO, Gendo
You are invited to participate – actively or by active listening!
The New Purpose of Business and Government
By Chris Thomson and Mike Jackson, Founder & Chairman, Shaping Tomorrow
A global revolution is taking place. Although it does not yet have a name, its essence is already clear. People all over the world, in larger numbers than ever before, are waking up and wising up. They are more aware and better informed, they are changing their lifestyles and ways of working, and they are changing their values and expectations. They want to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. And they insist that business and government also become part of the solution. The pressures to be part of the solution will grow, as business and government come under powerful spotlights from many directions (e.g. Transparency International, YouTube, investigative journalism). The best businesses and governments will wake up and wise up at least as quickly as the people they serve.
Increasingly, social and economic change these days is being shaped less by governments, and more by grass-roots movements, such as those on the streets of Madrid, New York, Cairo and in many other places. Peer-to-peer governance is on the rise everywhere. Typically, businesses and governments are taken by surprise (by banking crises, for example), because they are scanning the horizon with outdated “lenses”, no longer fit for purpose. In contrast, individuals, NGOs and ad hoc communities are setting the pace, by doing things differently and by doing different things – for example, the viral success of “Invisible Children”, and George Cooney sponsoring satellite monitoring of Sudan.
Of course, there are understandable reasons why businesses and governments tend to be behind the times and slow to respond. Governments believe, for instance, that they have to keep satisfying the middle ground of the electorate if they want to stay in power. However, that middle ground often represents conservative values, resistant to change. And passing new good laws cannot be done overnight. At the same time, many enlightened business leaders complain that their hands are tied by having to comply with the primary duty to maximise shareholder value. That legal duty sometimes leads them, reluctantly, to take decisions that cause harm to people and planet. That said there can be little doubt that people are insisting on deeper, more lasting solutions to the big problems of our time – climate change, inequality, destruction of the biosphere, corruption, abuse of human rights, and pandemics and terrorism – and they are insisting the business and government lead the way in this.
We live in a very different world, which we are just beginning to understand. Complexity is increasing and new players are bringing new solutions and breaking old rules at ever increasing speed, to the disadvantage of traditionalists. If business and government aspire to be part of deeper solutions, they will need to learn how to “look under the radar screen” and how to use new “lenses” to scan the horizon. They will also have to exercise a new kind of leadership, which knows not only how to scan the world differently, but also how to facilitate the social and economic changes that people are demanding.
Under the Radar Screen
There is a widespread assumption that the banking and financial crises of recent years took everyone by surprise. That is untrue. A lot of people have been predicting these crises for years. Since the 1960’s, for example, they have been speaking and writing about the need for a “new economics”, with new kinds of banking and financial institutions, new indicators, and radically different ways of running the economy. However, because their thinking challenges the status quo, they have been largely excluded from government, business, academia and the mainstream media. So effective has been the exclusion that, even today, very few people know what the New Economics is. In many senses, it is exactly what is being discussed and developed in thousands of “alternative” initiatives all over the world. However, so long as they remain “alternative”, humanity is unlikely to make much progress in solving its big problems. If business and government had used different “lenses” to view the world, they would have seen all this a long time ago and, hopefully, taken it seriously and acted accordingly.
One very useful way to understand what is happening globally is to study the phenomenon of
“Cultural Creatives”, because they are the fastest growing and most influential subculture in the USA and many other countries. Cultural Creatives tend to have the most enlightened views on society and the environment, with behaviours that tend to reflect these views. In the last 20 years they have grown from 20% of the US population to about 35% today. The two other subcultures – Traditionals and Moderns – are both in decline. Although there is still much research to be done, the evidence so far indicates that the rise of the Cultural Creatives (and decline of the other subcultures) is a global phenomenon.
Cultural Creatives do not have the monopoly of “right” opinions and behaviour. But they probably represent one of the most significant social trends in the world today, reflecting the fact that, as more people become more aware of global and national issues, they expect higher standards of behaviour from themselves, their fellow citizens, and from business and government. With this in mind, all those in business and government should make themselves familiar with the values and behaviours of Cultural Creatives and “alternative” movements in their own country and elsewhere, and consider what it would mean in practice to respond effectively to this global trend. They should also learn from best practices in the most ethical companies and most far-sighted organisations wherever they happen to be in the world. What follows does not claim to be comprehensive. It is designed simply to give you a flavour of the kinds of issues likely to be at the heart of the New Governance.
From the knowledge economy to the intelligence economy
All countries want to survive and prosper. To do so, it will be increasingly important to be intelligent, not just in the sense of being smart and informed, important as these are, but in many other senses too, such as those suggested by Howard Gardner. In fact, if the Cultural Creative shift is indeed a global trend, it means that people are already becoming more intelligent in three important respects – they are more aware and better informed; they think more clearly; and they behave better, in ways that enhance society and the planet.
The countries and businesses likely to do well in the future will be the most intelligent ones, in at least the three senses just mentioned. This will mean many things, but it is likely to mean doing whatever it takes to increase the percentage of Cultural Creatives in your society. It will also mean making changes to your education system, so that the emphasis is more on cultivating intelligence in the widest sense.
From Share Value to Shared Value
Business tends to be seen as part of the problem. Arguably, the main reason for this is that companies are obliged by law to give the highest priority to shareholder value, even if this means damaging society or the environment. It is this aspect of company law, above all, that means that companies are still far from being as fully responsible or as fully accountable as they should be. Thankfully, there is now an emerging, but strong, movement, led from within the business community, to give as much importance to the “public interest” as to shareholders. Robert Hinkley, for example, is spearheading a campaign to change US corporate law, state by state, so that directors of companies will have a high-ranking duty to “have regard to the public interest”. The terms have deliberately been left vague, so that the courts can decide, on a case by case basis, what constitutes the “public interest”. At the same time, Michael Porter at the Harvard Business School is actively promoting the shift away from share value to shared value, which chimes well with the need to give the public interest much higher priority. Hopefully, as this movement gathers pace, business will become part of the solution rather that, as currently perceived, part of the problem.
Aim high on the new indexes
There are many new indexes in the world today, such as the Happy Planet Index, the Best Government Index, the Good Company Index, and the Genuine Progress Indicator. By making just a few key changes, your business or your country could move even higher in these indexes. Doing this is not only inherently desirable, because it means social and environmental improvements it will also be demanded by your people. They will want to be high on these indexes, not just because of the desirable changes in their lives that this implies, but also because it will enhance the reputation and attractiveness of their country or their company.
This motto, sometimes used in medicine, and meaning “at least do no harm”, is highly relevant in today’s world, where our individual and collective behaviour threatens the biosphere on which we depend for our survival. We all know about climate change and pollution and congestion. And some of us know that habitats and species are being destroyed at an alarming rate by commercial exploitation. But how many of us know that, according to the World Resources Institute, every life support system on the planet is in decline – i.e. clean air, clean water, forests, topsoil, aquifers, fisheries, wetlands, biodiversity? An important component of the changing roles of business and government is to aim explicitly to become a zero contributor to global and national problems. This will not be easy, not least because it is difficult to know what the full consequences of your actions are. But it is an excellent principle, one that is likely to become prominent in government, business and elsewhere.
A new central purpose
So long as economic growth remains a central purpose of society, and so long as financial considerations override all others in business, we will continue to generate serious social and environmental problems. We will do this not because we behave badly. It is our normal behaviour within our current systems that is causing our problems. Both business and government urgently need to undergo systemic change. When that happens, our “normal” behaviour changes, and we will automatically cause fewer problems. By far the most effective and efficient way of making systemic change is to find a new central purpose, because all parts of the system have to change to be able to serve the new purpose.
Meanwhile, there is widespread concern that pushing for perpetual economic growth is not just damaging the planet, but is harming society and individuals too.
As Clive Hamilton points out in his book Growth Fetish:
“Growth not only fails to make people contented; it destroys many of the things that do. Growth fosters empty consumerism, degrades the natural environment, weakens social cohesion and corrodes character.”
Let us assume that we were able to decide a new central purpose, which reflects what we really want in life and what we want to be as a society. We would then need to find ways of getting there, and we would also need to design indicators to tell us whether or not we are on track. Importantly, we will get there only if the means are the same as the ends.
“Many enlightened capitalists, and socialists who connive with them for the sake of economic growth, believe that solving the problems of production will lead people, once they have enough, to turn towards the higher things of life: beauty, spirit, art, love. They are wrong. Making the market the principal instrument of human development has transformed it – in the form of shopping – into society’s principal cultural expression. It is no use changing the goals from economic growth to basic needs or sustainability, for example, if the means, the economics, remains the same. It is the means that determine where we end up. The challenge is not only to decide on another destination…but also to design an economics, and a development process to go with it, that is as sustainable, participatory, equitable and satisfying as the end that is in view.” Wealth Beyond Measure: Paul Ekins (1992)
How a new central purpose is co-created is a key question for businesses and governments to think about and act on.
Leading by example
This is arguably one of the most important features of the changing roles of business and government. In recent years, there has been a massive decline in trust in business and government. Possibly one of the main reasons for this is that “leadership” often takes the form of “do as I say, not as I do”. People are beginning to insist that leaders set the standard in behaviour and lifestyle. For example, if our leaders ask austerity of us, as they do in Europe and elsewhere, they must first ask it of themselves. Another reason for the decline in trust is that leaders often ignore the wishes of society (e.g. Tony Blair taking to UK to war in Iraq; the current UK Government thinking about selling a sizeable part of the Royal Bank of Scotland to the royal family of Abu Dhabi). Even in authoritarian Russia and China, this is becoming increasingly unacceptable.
There is no “one size fits all” approach to the new purposes of business and government, but it will probably include the following:
1. Enlist the help of your citizens or your stakeholders to develop a new central purpose for your country or your business, a purpose that reflects the waking up and wising up that is happening all over the world, and people’s changing hopes and values
2. Address the deeper causes of your problems, rather than the “symptoms”, as so often happens. Avoid legislative, managerial and technological “solutions” wherever possible. They are often costly and ineffective. Intelligent simplicity is usually cheaper and more effective
3. Adopt new indicators for your government or your business, based on new understandings of the meaning of “success” and “progress” (e.g. the Genuine Progress Indicator). Not only do they give a much more accurate picture of how countries and businesses are doing, they also help them take a different, more sustainable path of development
4. Promote systems of education that enhance the latent intelligence of your people and that encourage them to think and act for themselves. When doing so, keep in mind the important distinction between education and schooling. The former tends to produce good citizens and good workers who are creative and self-reliant. The latter tends to produce people who think and act alike, and who prefer to follow rather than lead
5. Devolve power as locally as possible. This is as true for business as it is for government. For example, central government should consist only of what remains after this has been done. As for business, it needs to move away from the outdated Predict-Command-Control model towards the Sense-Adapt-Respond model, which is not only more flexible, but also tends to optimise the creativity and intelligence of everyone in the organisation. This trend towards devolution is already evident in many places, such as Scotland and Catalonia. It is a healthy counterbalance to the trends towards centralisation (e.g. the EU) and homogeneity
6. Use technology only when necessary, and use it wisely. At present, we are not very good at this. As Martin Luther King said: “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles, but misguided men.” Just as subsidiarity and localism are necessary counterbalances to globalisation, we also need counterbalances to our overuse and misuse of technology. Without wanting to appear simplistic, this may mean just being more human.
Club of Amsterdam blog
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Burning Issues: Education
Burning Issues: Resources: Water, Energy, Air, Food
Burning Issues: Health
Burning Issues: Climate Change / Sustainability (1)
Burning Issues: Climate Change / Sustainability (2)
Burning Issues: Economy / Stock Market / Poverty
Burning Issues: Waste / Pollution
Burning Issues: Globalization
The ultimate freedom: beyond time
Limits to Knowing
News about the Future
The State of East Africa Report 2012
Deepening Integration, Intensifying Challenges The State of East Africa 2012, with support from TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), compiles and analyses data across key economic, social and political indicators from the five member states of the East African Community (EAC)
Beyond Efficiency: Public Administration Transformation
Steria has released the results of a European-wide study which surveyed senior civil servants and public officials in government departments and agencies about their attitudes and actions in the face of a pressing demand for public administration transformation. The report revealed that open data, citizen-centric services, collaboration between private and public organisations and citizens as well as shared services are the top issues facing public sector leaders across Europe. One third of European civil servants feel that breaking down departmental silos is vital to developing more citizen-centric services.
The TOKYO SKYTREE mural
|The TOKYO SKYTREE mural is on the 1st Floor of TOKYO SKYTREE, it is 40metres in length and 3metres tall. 13 monitors are embedded in the wall and they form a seamless picture; with the parts of the mural in the monitors being animation.|
In Japanese art, traditional there is no centre of focus, there is no fixed time frame, and a huge amount of information is depicted. This art work presents Tokyo as a mix of reality and fiction, history and future; it exceeds human limits and contains an overwhelming amount of hand drawn objects, and a colossal amount of information.
Tokyo is a city made up of the stories of each and every person living here. That is what makes it such an exciting and interesting place. In Japanese art there are rakuchurakugaizu (views in and around the city of Kyoto) and edozubyoubu (scenes of Edo on folding screens), these art works have no central point of focus, they are ‘flat’, everything is depicted with the same degree of importance and they contain a vast amount of information even down to the stories of each and every individual.
We have created this picture of Tokyo as a continuation of the above form of artistic expression, incorporating the techniques of Ukiyoe and reproducing applicably the methods of Edo print using the latest digital technology to produce an art work that has no centre of focus, is flat, and contains a truly vast amount of information.
Based on our conviction that technological evolution brings about human evolution this mural exceeds previous human limits and forms a link of connecting the Tokyo of the Edo period to the Tokyo of the future.
(teamLab, 2012, Animation + high-performance inkjet on Wall
Us Against Them: How Tribalism Affects the Way We Think
By Bruce Rozenblit
An investigation of how tribalism affected the evolution of the human mind. The analysis reveals a process that beliefs are a primary means of group identification and are a natural component of the evolution of human thought and culture. The results are mental processes that divide population groups into “us” and “them” which result in methods of thought and perception that affect major areas of human culture, specifically politics and religion. Us Against Them argues that the essential difference between the religious/conservative and the secular/liberal is driven by tribalism, not ideology. This is evidenced by the exclusive nature of conservative ideology that divides people into separate groups as evidenced by common features such as “you’re with us or against us”, “believers and heretics”, and “attack to defend”. The book is written for the general public without technical jargon and is arranged as a series of arguments in the manner of traditional philosophy.
To grow or to evolve: The Challenge for a World in Full
By Rosana Agudo, TTi – Tecnología para la Transformación Interior
“A dominant social paradigm is a mental image of the social reality that guides society’s expectations”
The solutions that we are “finding” to solve our problems, to end the crisis, to respond to the consequences of bad/mistaken management on a global scale, are directed at imposing restrictions, limits and sanctions by way of laws designed to punish, discourage or correct the conducts generated by the mental model that dictates our social system. But these solutions do not support the birth of, or the possibility generating, a superior social model of a sensitized citizenry and of laws that facilitate and support the installation of the so-called new paradigm.
We want to live in the new paradigm but we want to do it without making an effort; or, because we are so accustomed to reward and punish with money, we want this effort be “only” economic. We believe that in some way this crisis, that we see as purely economic, will be solved when we have money again, and that we will solve it with money – some paying and others getting paid. The money will be divvied up among the usual players and when we are more or less as we were before, we will believe we are already in the new paradigm.
But the installation of a new social model is an art that is difficult to master. As for all works of art, this one requires a will to create, a consciousness of service, a harmonious observation of the work during the construction process, and beauty, lots of beauty, in the eye of the artist, in the gaze of the artist. The construction and support for this new social paradigm requires many artists that dream, others that understand the dream, others that know how and who can bring it into being, and still others that execute it. All this must take place through a chain of leadership that has accepted, understood, and learned to be in the appropriate Mental Model, to value it and to propagate it.
This “crisis” has not been provoked by a “lack of values”, as we like to claim, but by our exaltation of some values and our disinterest and even our degradation of others. We might add, as a principal factor, that the values that have been an object of exaltation and glorification, that helped us at some point, have been subject, over time, to a process of degeneration imposed by an obsolete mental model that is only interested in assuring its permanence, its survival, regardless of the consequences. We haven’t been aware of this degradation because we have been too occupied in assuring ourselves a place, or in keeping the place we have, or in avoiding being marginalized in and by the system. The search for new values keeps us occupied, it has us convinced that we have found the source of our maladies and it lets us feel justified because “we are already looking for solutions.” We are looking for the solution by trying to do the opposite, but not necessarily by doing something different within ourselves. We have spent some years talking about this, trying to feel better by talking about values in an inane discourse that leads us no where because we still haven’t learned to look within ourselves. We can only, or we want only to look without, at the obvious, at the evident, at what is apparent at first glance, at what everybody else sees and at what is accepted by the majority which is what we are interested in and what we value.
We want the future to get here soon; we want to finish with this phase of uncertainty and pain because we don’t know how to remain in conflict in an intelligent fashion, even though we love it. We are looking for a quick fix to our problems, creating new ones of the same sort. We live in it and for it but we do not want to learn from it. To get out of it fast is the way to reinforce it, this human paradox, this mental model that endlessly perpetuates itself.
However, remaining in conflict with an attitude open to learning is the way to find the way out, to perceive its origins and its consequences and to gain knowledge and maturity. It is not about “leaving” but, rather, about finishing with excellence, the process that has brought us to where we are today. This is difficult for us, being accustomed as we are to short term, tangible results that are easily seen and quickly convertible into money. Once again, a look within is necessary to understand what is going on without. To learn how we function is the methodology that makes us understand the results we are getting, how to improve them or how to avoid them.
We say: “This is not an Era of change but the change of an Era”. Very well, I add:
“This is the Era of Art and Perfection in Service.”
This era of Art and Perfection in Service will be one in which the economy stops meaning only “money” and converts itself into what it is: the administration of the patrimony of a society, of a country, of a person, of a family… Let us remember that patrimony means inheritance, our inheritance as human beings, one that we should care for and that includes all life on our planet, one in which we are included, but not as exclusive beneficiaries. This era will be one in which money is a means of perfecting our service in the art of living in relation to other living beings and with nature and in the art of the expansion of wealth. This is our destiny because it is our deepest aspiration and is, therefore, marking our future.
The vision, the mission and the values of an organisation are merely the expression of its aspiration, of its dream. Let’s take a look at these and we will see with what we are filling our cocoon and the contradiction we assume by continuing to function with an obsolete mental model based on the past, on what is known and on assuring its own survival, while simultaneously expressing our search for a new social arena. Sometimes we even compromise our future by linking it to the suggestion of an educational model that assures, from the obsolete mental model, the permanence of our present needs, and their future satisfaction.
At the same time, this contradiction is at work creating what I call a “paralyzing paradox”: it calls to dreamers but doesn’t provide them with forums for meeting and talking; it listens to them but does not to support them. It calls for creative people to dream our dreams, but refuses the expression of their dreams if they don’t coincide with its own. There is such a confusion of contradictory dreams that this is painfully delaying the installation of the new paradigm that is already more than a promise or a possibility; it is a reality already underway and there are a thousand and one ways to recognize how it is appearing.
As a society, we are in this larval phase, in which we gestate and mutate and where transformation towards the next stage is taking place. Here we can find all the content, not just of what we know, not just of our experiences but also of our aspirations and of our dreams. Let us not permit our past to trap our future. We don’t need new values; we need maturity and courage enough to take an honest look at and to give renewed meaning to those values that have “gone bad” because of an antiquated viewpoint that no longer provides sense or dignity.
Growing in the sense of “evolving” means liberating ourselves from the way we have been looking at things, people, the world and becoming disposed to see anew, with new eyes. This should mean, “becoming like children”. In this sense, creativity will return to our lives and will help us surpass the larval stage and continue on to materialize the dream of our future that we all dreamed together as a species. Are we talking about innovation? Perhaps, but how different it sounds.
Returning to the idea of the Mental Model that is dictating our social system, we can ask ourselves or think that this is just a theoretical concept. But we should know that we think, we decide and we behave according to what our mental model tells us is good or convenient, or bad and necessary to avoid.
To know our Mental Model and to become conscious of it, of how it works, is the fastest and most effective way to achieve real and effective transformations in any sphere of intervention that permit us to go beyond where we are.
Therefore, the basis of a Mental Model is the collection of suppositions, beliefs and thoughts we use to interpret reality. It constitutes a filter that translates what we perceive and gives way to personal experience. In any sphere, it is the collection of beliefs, thoughts and suppositions that constitute cultures and that orients strategies, actions and decisions, all the while conditioning and limiting them to the re-enforcement of the existing Mental Model. We are living an amazing moment. This is our greatest opportunity for transformation; this is our evolutionary step to carry out the realization of our most powerful aspiration.
The Mental Model exerts its effects not just in people, but also in organizations, in every social sphere, in society; it creates cultures and gives form to social stages and the historical eras… It is within us, it is us and it shapes the reality we live.
It is common to hear that “Things are not going to change, we must change ourselves”. But I think that what we are really trying to say is, in fact, things are not going to change, “we have to change them ourselves”. It doesn’t occur to us that we are the ones who must change, change our mental model, take a look within, within each person, each organization, etc. We are the ones who are going to change reality by changing our way of understanding, of looking at and of relating to the world, to reality.
This message is also conveyed by scientific principles. We are witnessing the reconciliation of Science and the Humanities. The truths experienced by humanists have never been possible to substantiate until now that Neuroscience has at last affirmed what the mystics, meditators and humanists have been telling us for years: “that in order to change our lives, we must change our minds”, and this has been demonstrated by the science of Neuroplasiticity.
We are dedicating all our effort into pumping life-giving oxygen into a dying giant – the production/consumption social model, or else to fighting against it; both behaviours provide it with oxygen. Lets look once again. Let’s say there is more, much more that we are willing to see, to do, in a different way. Let’s tell ourselves that there is more, much more that we are willing to see in a different way, willing to do in a different way. Let’s tell ourselves that we are willing to understand wealth more profoundly, from different angles and with more amplitude.
We can leave this situation at will, one by one, all at the same time. We can choose if we want only to grow or if we want to grow by evolving, by supporting evolution and by collaborating with it. We can leave this situation by learning to look and to see new solutions; we can learn to recognize results other than those we expected to find. Up until now the results we expected corresponded to our needs, but perhaps these are no longer the same either… perhaps they never were.
Let us not miss the wonderful explosion of new ways to do business, to understand consumerism, to live, that are already beginning to make themselves visible, even though we don’t see them yet, let’s pay attention even though we don’t believe them to be viable or we think they are to costly or too slow etc., etc., etc….
We are resisting the inevitable with all our strength. Of course, resistance to change is only human even though this movement is taking us to a better place with more possibilities. We know in our hearts that we must evolve; we must evolve towards a new social model, in every sphere, in every context, and in every partition of our lives and in our perceptions of “reality”.
To open our minds and our eyes to a new way of looking and of understanding the world is the next evolutionary step and challenge for a society that is immersed in a process of deep transformation.
And this, all of it, is not just a theory. It is possible. It is inevitable. We know how to do it. We are doing it. It is happening and we can collaborate. Thousands of pioneer changemakers are bringing the tendency of social change to the point of critical mass and the different changes that produce transformation are beginning to accelerate exponentially. This is good news, full of hope, inspiration and passion.
Futurist Portrait: Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is Executive Director of the Institute for Policy Research and Development (IPRD), an independent think tank focused on the study of violent conflict in the context of global ecological, energy and economic crises. A bestselling author and international security analyst specialising in the study of mass violence, he has taught at the Department of International Relations, University of Sussex, and has lectured at Brunel University’s Politics & History Unit at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, for courses in international relations theory, contemporary history, empire and globalization.
He has written features, commentary and analysis for various publications including the Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Le Monde diplomatique, Foreign Policy, the New Statesman, Prospect Magazine, The Gulf Times, Daily News Egypt, Daily Star (Beirut), Pakistan Observer, Tehran Times, Bangkok Post, Prague Post, The Georgian Times, Open Democracy, Raw Story and New Internationalist. His work has also appeared in policy periodicals such as International Affairs (Chatham House), Survival (International Institute of Strategic Studies), Foreign Policy In Focus (Institute for Policy Studies), Europe’s World (Friends of Europe), and OurWorld 2.0 (United Nations University).
Currently, Ahmed is an Associate at the Millennium Alliance for Humanity & the Biosphere, Stanford University; Associate Expert at Transcend International – A Peace Development Environment Network; and is on the Security and International Relations Research Committee of the Center for Global Nonkilling in Hawai’i. He is also a columnist for the quarterly political magazine Ceasefire and contributing editor at the Journal for Public Intelligence founded by Robert D. Steele (former Deputy Director of the US Army’s Marine Corps Intelligence Command).
The Crisis of Civilization : Full Movie
|Special Summer Event|
Urban Tribes – where is the magic?
Open Round Table
A Club of Amsterdam event in collaboration with MySTèR.
Sunday, July 22, 2012: 15:00 – 17:00
Location: MySTèR, Christian-Rötzel-Allee 18, 41334 Breyell-Nettetal, Germany [near Venlo, Netherlands]
Felix Bopp, Editor-in-Chief