A Global Community & Resource Centre for Sustainable Business
As the world has just moved through yet another consumer glut over the Christmas period, perhaps the regular and increasing surfeit of both food and goods has raised some questions in people’s minds over the current fetish with economic growth that dominates our media and hence our minds.
In amongst the mayhem and indeed panic around the Christmas period, we may have found some time to reflect on our individual and collective trajectory over the past years, and whether this is really what we want. Usually caught in the time-bound space of industrial living, there is not a space in which are minds are not captured or driven by a need for survival or in the ever dissatisfactory pursuit of desire. For this is the fuel of the capitalist system, and it is a fuel that is running out both literally and metaphorically.
As sustainability has become an issue at both organisational and governmental level maybe it is time to begin to question what it is we wish to sustain? What is the benefit, for example of pharmaceutical companies tinkering around the edges of corporate social responsibility, when what they are driven by an agenda to create more and more drugs to deliver to more and more people with ever-increasing illnesses caused by the capitalist system itself? Whilst the capitalist system has been sustained and fuelled by oil, maybe humanity needs a different way of organising rather than manipulating the old in an attempt to keep much of the same.
If this is so, then the question is not so much as ‘sustainability’ but more that of changing our habits and minds so that we can explore and articulate a different view of the future. Since we have all been conditioned into the current state, with expectations fuelled by industrial and consumer capitalism, this change of mind is not easy since it threatens the existing strategies and behaviours that have ensured our individual and collective structures and lives. This means that we are attempting to provide the answers to the current crisis with the mind structures that created it in the first place.
This collective conditioning has grown ever more powerful as technology has been used both to good ends, but also, through the media and internet, so that it has been able to shape minds not only within, but also across cultures. There is so much to which we have become habituated, that we have forgotten to ask some simple questions. For example, it is absolutely normal for human beings to sit in their homes at night, watching the television, and to be constantly bombarded with goods and services for sale. Some people choose to avoid this altogether, but for most, it is a normal thing that we may complain about but feel we cannot do anything. It is normal because consumer capitalism has created a collective psyche which feeds off material goods. Advertising provokes an emotional, visceral response on which our personalities tend to be shored up. The patterns of material desire are hard-wired in the brain, and it takes a disciplined effort to resist this.
However, it is a change of consciousness of this magnitude that will be required in order to steer the ship of humanity into more nourishing waters. Whilst scientists tackle climate change, and seek ever more imaginative solutions to the fuel crisis through manipulation of the external world, only an inner revolution that transmutes the patterns of material desire will give sufficient impetus for the conscious shift required to meet the crisis at a different level.
This is not to say that attempts at resolving this externally through science are not necessary. Indeed they are. But it is only when the mindset that has created and is fed by the current dominant capitalist institutions also changes that the institutions and structures of the future that will be sustainable can emerge.
This will be a mindset that understands that nature and humans co-emerge, in the same way that discoveries in modern science are suggesting that matter and consciousness co-emerge. Thus, this will be a mindset that no longer wishes to exploit nature, but one which lives in, and follows nature’s cycles. It is from this co-creation that new forms and structures can be created which are sustainable for both planet and people. Tinkering around the edges with an outdated understanding will not do the trick.
Fortunately, throughout the globe there are networks of people beginning to understand the necessity for, and the possibilities of, a change in consciousness. Part of this understand is emerging from schools of consciousness development such as the evolutionary movement , largely in the States, from spiritual traditions who are using spiritual processes to work with the psyche, to activists and intellectual in business and communities who are taking great risks to effect change. These people are beginning to work together and gain some traction in their efforts and in their lives. The scale of the human effort to make this change is not to be underestimated – as it requires a shift as big as the one traditionally know in many spiritual traditions where one has to face death in order to effect transformation. This process is different for every individual, but for each, it requires a dismantling of the personality structures which have ensured their survival in the past.
Whilst the individual circumstances in which this takes place vary, it is possible for those who have gone through the process to provide supportive conditions for the transformation to take place. This would be largely an ability to explain what is happening, and to maintain a ‘holding’ as the individual moves through the process. This can be likened to the difference between ritual and trauma – ritual traditionally provides a ‘holding’ for transformation, whilst those left in trauma are meeting the same strong internal forces as those people in a ritual, but are left isolated, and so become overwhelmed by the experience. It is perhaps no coincidence that that the present moment so many people are in crisis, and/or have mental health problems which is an indication of the old that is dying, and of the new that is trying to emerge. In this we can learn to support one another, and by so doing, will probably also create new patterns of relationship and structures that support a collective transformation.
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