Scythe Buyers' Guide
"Global Mind Change" is the title of a book by Willis Harman but also a fitting description of a gradually manifesting phenomenon which some authors view as the spontaneous evolution of the human psyche. Others interpret it as a survival instinct-induced reaction to the conditions mankind created.
"What conditions?" some sleepy child living in America might ask. The explanation is easy: Exceptions notwithstanding, the world is not happy. The majority of the populace - the poor - has been exploited in one or more ways and find themselves culturally or physically displaced, hungry and miserable. The rich, still anxious to have more, experience periodic skin-deep "satisfaction", but not true contentment. Their cultural connections have been uprooted as well. The sense of belonging to a community of people and the natural world, which has for millennia functioned as medicine for the soul and given deeper meaning to each individual's existence, is becoming increasingly rare.
Growing numbers of people everywhere have been concluding that "something" is seriously amiss. Climate change is certainly not the only side effect of our path of progress, but it may become the unavoidable wake-up call. That a major environmental crisis of a scope unprecedented in written history is inevitable in the relatively near future, much of the scientific community is finally beginning to acknowledge. It should, however, hardly be news; many eco-thinkers of the last decades, from Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson to Wes Jackson and David Suzuki have been ringing the bells of warning…
Now the ecological degradation is already eroding the pillars upon which the global economy shakily stands. Consequently, all aspects of our society - from the way we lead our individual lives to the conduct of commerce, legal institutions and political systems - are in need of deep re-structuring.
Although a slow change in the right direction has been in progress for a considerable time, the average citizen appears unaware of it. Still, creative ideas have sprung from numerous sources. That even some entrepreneurs of the business world have been waking up - and why they should – is succinctly presented in Paul Hawken's The Ecology of Commerce, for instance.
Unfortunately, most governments are still reluctant to face up to reality and instead continue dealing with the imminent crisis by way of the usual aspirin-style strategies.
The lasting solutions must therefore come from the grassroots movements and the collective conscience of masses of individuals. It is this sort of evolution - or revolution - for which Willis Harman (along with many others) is presenting the evidence. The publishers of the second edition of Global Mind Change chose the following statement to sum up the book's theme:
We are living through one of the most fundamental shifts in history - a change in the actual belief system of Western society. No economic, political, or military power can compare with the power of a change of mind. By deliberately changing their images of reality, people are changing the world.
Part of the last chapter may qualify here as a further explanation:
It is critical to understand that a shift at such a fundamental level of belief as we have been considering implies basic change in economic, corporate, financial, political, research, educational and healthcare institutions - in all the most powerful institutions of society. As the pressure for these changes becomes more and more evident, it is likely to be accompanied by a good deal of fear. Fear and anxiety are the root cause of the social disruption and widespread misery that have most often accompanied such revolutionary changes in the past. The greater the level of understanding about what is happening, the less anxiety will be present.
FOUR CHALLENGES TO THE PRESENT ORDER
Around the world one detects murmurings that industrialized and "developing" countries alike have need for a new social order; that in fact, the situation calls for a worldwide systemic change. This sense comes from at least four challenges:
It is important to recognize that these challenges are in some sense the consequence of modern society's successes in achieving the goals of the existing order. That fact in itself suggests how profound the required changes may be.
Around the world, society is presently in a period of transition. The old order is showing obvious signs of decline, such as the militarization of societies around the globe; the recognized drift toward anarchy; underemployment and homelessness; widespread alienation and inner-city violence; general breaking of the social contract between society and worker; inability to halt the environmental destruction taking place on a broad front; the inherent ineffectiveness of the "war against drugs"; and a growing schism between the rich, consuming North and the populous, poverty-stricken South.
The shape of the new is not yet discernible, although we seem to see elements of it in an assortment of new kinds of entrepreneurial enterprises, new forms of community, alternative economies, and other social innovations that embody values and principles congenial to a new paradigm.
One subject that has received insufficient attention is the constructive role of business in this time of radical transformation. Business and the economy have become the dominant institution on the planet. By virtue of that fact alone, business must share in responsibility for the present and future well-being of the whole. But business has no tradition of such a responsibility. To the contrary, the tradition of business tends to be summed up in "the business of business is business" - with a little social responsibility added on to satisfy some stakeholders. What is required at this point in history is far more - a genuine stewardship of human societies and the planet. This implies a change in thinking that is by no means easily accomplished.
It will be helpful to explore briefly the four challenges above.
THE SUSTAINABILITY CHALLENGE
No crisis in the history of civilized humanity compares with the challenge that the entire way of life of the modern world is not sustainable on a finite planet in the long term. It makes little difference whether by "long tern" we mean half a century or two centuries. Once we become aware of the conclusion, the crisis is the same. Nothing short of fundamental transformation of all our powerful institutions, and underlying that, of modern thought and prejudice, will alter the ultimate catastrophe.
That's the bad news. The good news is that, perhaps through the unconscious wisdom of ordinary people, the transformation has already started. The depth of the transformation will startle us all.
The professional career of Willis Harman was nearly equally divided into three twenty-year periods. Beginning as a professor of electrical engineering and system analysis, he went on to become a senior social scientist with SRI International, a global-futurist think-tank "helping clients in government and business do strategic planning over a very wide range of practical policy issues. My particular task was to help them think about the issues in the context of the future environment in which the consequences of their decisions would manifest." From 1977 until his death in 1997 he worked with the Institute of Noetic Sciences whose mandate is "expanding knowledge of the nature and potentials of the mind, and applying that knowledge to the advancement of health and well-being for humankind and the planet."