The Four Preconditions for Let-Self-Change

living on the edge 2
It’s going to take a major shift in most people’s worldview — their beliefs, intentions, goals and actions — to steward our crippled civilization to a safe landing, or even just to cope with the world that remains after its collapse. That major shift — a Let-Self-Change by billions of people — has four necessary preconditions:
  1. Awareness and Attention: to how the world really works, and what needs to be done to make it better
  2. Openness: to the possibility of better ways to live and make a living, and the possibility of making major personal changes
  3. Actionable information: about how to Let-Self-Change, what to do, how to do it effectively in collaboration with others, and how to persuade others of the need to Let-Self-Change as well
  4. Time and Energy: to do more than just worry about what’s wrong — to think through what we must do and act responsibly, appropriately and decisively
If you’re not aware or really paying attention, you’ll be able to convince yourself that someone else will solve the problems, or that there’s time to wait and see. If you’re not open, you’ll be able to deny there is any problem, or at least deny that you have any personal responsibility to do something about it. If you’re not informed, you won’t know what to do, or who to most effectively do it with. And if you lack the time and energy, you’ll just make yourself ill with knowledge you’re unable to act upon.

These preconditions are like four sequential locked doors between the corpocratic world most of us live in, many of us uneasily and anxiously, and the Edge, the way out. As long as most of us are caught inside these doors, or between them, the whole world will be caught between the distant promise of saving our society and our world, and its realization.

The inertia of the corpocracy and the lure of corporatism are powerful: The corporatists control the media, and don’t want us to know how things really are. It is not nature’s way, or human nature, to change quickly and dramatically until there is unarguably no alternative. Peer pressure ostracizes those on the Edge from the hapless but comfortable guilty conformity of the civilized corpocracy. Actionable information is hard to come by: it threatens the status quo and is therefore suppressed as subversive. Meaningful, coordinated action requires the development of good working models of better ways to live and make a living, and these are even more threatening to the corpocracy, and obstructed by every means at its disposal.

And, by keeping us busy, exhausted, isolated and discouraged, the corpocracy prevents us from opening the fourth door even when we have made our way through the first three, and hence prevents those on the Edge from developing the momentum we need for world-changing.

How could we make it easier to get through these four doors, for ourselves and for others?
  • We are increasing awareness and attention, through blogs and other alternative media. But rather than giving the legacy media a pass, we should be challenging them, shouting them down, working collaboratively to create and promote powerful, action-oriented alternative media, and undermining and obsolescing the legacy media until they go out of business. To do that, more than anything else, we need to make our message more accessible to the 80% of the world on the other side of the digital divide, who still rely on corporatist newspapers, radio and television stations for their perspective on what’s going on in the world.
  • We need to learn, practice and teach openness, in the way we engage others in conversation, in our school systems, and through millions of Open Space events that invite and empower others. Conversation and collaboration need to replace demonstration and rhetoric as our principal means of opening others to our messages and to the truths that are currently denied and repressed.
  • As Bill Maher says, we need to do the job of the media by making what is important interesting. Even those of us on or near the Edge are hesitant to bring up the need and means for radical social change in ‘pleasant company’, for fear of being depressing, confrontational, or boring. We need, too, to learn and teach each other to eschew information that is not actionable, and to focus our attention on what we, ourselves, can and must do, rather than on rhetoric and what others should be doing.
  • As for getting more time and energy, the only things we can do are (a) staying healthy, physically and emotionally, and (b) valuing our time more highly than the money and material goods that spending it brings us. Only by living more simply can we rediscover how precious time for reflection, activism and joyful activities is. This necessarily has to be the last of the four doors to open, since we will not quit jobs that exhaust, distract and demean us until we become aware, open and informed of the need to do so.
It’s really as simple, and perhaps impossible, as that.

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2 Responses to The Four Preconditions for Let-Self-Change

  1. MLU says:

    The key to making simplicity work is to identify true principles. I’ll accept a pragmatist’s definition of true. Something is true that continues to work in many times and places. That’s not the end of the story–how it got to be true, why it continues to work, how we can recognize it–but it’s close enough for many purposes and far closer to the the current fashionable lust for complexity, which seems to grow out of a hope that we can escape the demands of judgment if we can just get the right diagram or the right software.Huge changes would follow without new laws or hierarchical constraints if millions of people practiced restraint in the pursuits of worldly success by keeping sabbaths and paying tithes, restraint of appetites by regular fasting, and restraint of sexual attraction by making and keeping vows. If people learned control of themselves in the areas of money, food and sex the expansion of peace and freedom would transform all our institutions.Wendell Berry understands these things, I think. Instead of a paltry “buy nothing” day once a year, a nation which simply kept sabbaths and bought nothing unnecessary one day each week would be a world transformed. People who have the religious knowledge that Wendell Berry has sometimes see that faith is not simply belief. It is a principle of power through which worlds are not only saved–they are made.Having said that, I think the distinction between hierarchical systems and “nonhierarchical” systems is a foggy fantasy. All systems are hierarchical. Whether decisions “above” the level of the individual are made by one person or by a committee of thousands or a fantastic network of hyperconnected geeks growing pale in their relentless inclusion and communication doesn’t change the hierarchical reality.If I can only mow my lawn when everyone in town agrees that it’s time, I’m no less constrained by hierarchy than if the mayor just announced a lawn mowing schedule in an edict. I wish that brilliant systems thinker, James Madison, hadn’t been forgotten.People who live the principle of hierarchy quite well understand that it has nothing to do with inequality and everything to do with order, with keeping the demands on our attention manageable, and with allowing us to best use our talents. Most military people except recruits and many religious people except novices understand completely that the the superior remains an equal, given a particular assignment. The roles can reverse and they frequently do without it much bothering either person. If a teacher is paying attention to the crisis of one child at the moment while the school superintendent is paying attention to the legislature and to demographic trends and building depreciation schedule that move at the pace of decades, neithers life will be enhanced by demanding that they also pay attention to the other’s assignments. We live in a highly organized world and the good that comes with this far outweighs the bad.We have serious challenges, it is true. It is also true that we are adequate to meet them.The right questions, I think, are which decisions are made at what level and what principles of justice govern. Hierarchical or nonhierarchical, “indigenous” or white–these are distractions even when they aren’t invidious, which they usually are. Some decisions belong to me, no matter what the boss or the graduate-committee-in-charge-of-everything thinks. Some decisions are best made by markets, which can be marvelous information processing networks. And some that take place in realms where justice matters more than efficiency or equity should be made by officials given governing authority through laws that bind us in learning and contemplation of core principles.I like your diagram. It’s full of truth.

  2. David Parkinson says:

    Lovely. It’s been a while since one of your posts has hit me with the synchronicity stick like this one does… not that that’s an inherent quality of the post, just that it echoes something I was talking about today with my partner. It is damn hard to be open & receptive to change. So much easier to shuffle along with the crowd.<br/>Yellow card for using “obsolesce” as a transitive verb, though. ;-)

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