Conferencing With Doc (Video 7 minutes).
In prior posts, we have proposed that the purpose of a society and its economy is “to preserve life – all life – indefinitely.” Making money is not that objective, and obsession with money confuses us. Fortunately, a lot of people are working to un-confuse us. If the present system can be turned, perhaps we can become a “no BS society.”
Three meetings in the past two weeks mark different progressions working through this muddle. The first meeting was the Champions Club of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence. As usual, the Champions’ objective was to learn from each other and take home ideas to improve their companies’ operations. That objective they meet quite well. Yours truly stimulated them to also deeply question the purpose and mission of their companies, beyond removing waste defined as activities customers would not pay for. But in a business environment it is tough to chase any objective any more extended from a company than improving the innovation and efficiency of its extended supply chain. Company-centered performance still being the main goal, lean is not ready to take on that big ogre.
The second meeting, the Regenerative Futures Summit in Boulder, CO, circled and barked at that that big ogre. Many attendees were 30+ year veterans of “environmental movements” – several from foreign countries, older and wiser, but still eager to take their fragmented movements mainstream. Some were researchers; others were business entrepreneurs, many in growing or marketing food. The high point was many of them agreeing to coalesce into a “Leading for Well Being” movement, searching for a new way.
That name might change, but it suggests a consensus that the economy should serve a human society that learns to consume within the bounds that earth can support. To do that, our social patterns of thought must shift from the prevailing assumptions of “neoliberal economics.” Speakers gave those assumptions a beating, of course. However, criticizing is easy. Creating new systems that most people will adopt is hard. Examples of a new direction abound, but they’re puny compared with the full-blown economic and cultural transformation that we need.
Kate Raworth was there, and her Doughnut Economics was accepted as a promising way to alter mainstream views. Kate marvelously debunked the assumptions of neoliberal economics, and leading people out of that mental cage may be a necessary first step. She has a direction out of that cage, but her alternative is not very detailed, and equally fuzzy proposals have been put forward, but common to all of them is a massive shift in how most people see the world.
About half the meeting in Boulder was in discussion groups, 21 of them on subtopics from City Redesign to Communities of Faith. I got into the one labeled Conscious Leadership. It plunged deeply into how each of us experiences the world; whether we are aware of our selves and all the world around us? To what extent do we perceive our connectedness – or not – and act based on that perception?
This kind of discussion is not new, but the language used is not precise, and it refers to basic feelings and emotions. Prior posts have called it “deep ecology.” However that mush determines what we act on as being bedrock important. The center of Kate Raworth’s comparison of neoliberal economics with some new system is simple. Neoliberalism is based on the individual, me. The new system has to be we-centered, where WE is very inclusive. Individuals realize that they are but one tiny, ephemeral speck in a huge, complex, interconnected universe.
More than one speaker in Boulder noted that science could only advance after the Catholic Church accepted that the earth is not the center of the solar system, a tough admission because it undermined a belief on which theological authority rested. We are entering another era in which fundamental beliefs are being upended, even in science. Physical phenomena cannot be comprehended in greater depth if they are regarded as separate, but only if studied as parts of wholes. And this transformation, if we can make it, may be more fundamental than the Copernican one. It touches everything and will affect everything.
Science or even good problem solving needs a touchstone, a framing of reality, from which important questions to research are derived. If that framework is preserving all life in an interconnected system, questions are more comprehensive than if one assumes that everything is disconnected. If one frames science as merely to create more commerce, as is sometimes actually believed, questions are narrow indeed.
So how can you become a more conscious person, much less a conscious leader? Get a personal connection with nature. Take walks. Do contemplation or mindfulness exercises. Till some soil. Different strokes for different folks, but become a more outward thinking, reflective person. To profit-seeking numbers grinders, this is all BS, of course, but that conversion is the human challenge.
At Boulder, 300 people could not boil down their thinking into a crisp, clear press release in a couple of days, but it was a start. Everyone grasped that tinkering around the edges of neoliberalism won’t go far enough fast enough. Almost everyone saw that environmental problems can not be fully addressed without also addressing the issues of social justice. The economy is not separate from society or from the global ecology.
The third meeting was the New Economy Coalition annual meeting. The Compression Institute is one of a very eclectic roster of members. Most are small grass roots organizations trying to better the economic lot of down-and-out, mostly minority communities. Social justice dominated their thinking, although all are concerned about our ecological problems. In this crowd, it was obvious that without dealing with our social divisions, people cannot unite to seriously treat our environmental issues. The meeting resembled a trip back to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and 70s.
At the NEC meeting, there was little talk of becoming grounded in ecological awareness, of having a connection to Mother Earth. People were interested in the nuts and bolts of running food co-ops, having community gardens, creating jobs, healing the emotional scars of those in distress, and seizing control over the circumstances that poor people in a neoliberal economy battle daily. They wanted to become more self-sufficient doing things that ordinary people can do, or can learn to do, rubber meeting road.
To buck everyone up, this meeting ended with everyone singing songs reminiscent of the civil rights era.
And so, putting all three of these meetings together, I took a trip through three different worlds in ten days time. They sharply revealed the gaps between forging a new theory of economics, propagating new beliefs to support it, and doing all the grunt work in every corner of life to make a much more compressed world happen.
To span the gaps, we need to propagate better learning methodology. Somewhere in the gaps is space for Vigorous Learning, rapidly learning from experience as well as from others. Of course, the first episode in learning is just to become aware that the gaps exist, and that they need to be spanned. Perhaps a “no BS world,” free of competing isms, really can be created.