Is it time for a cultural upgrade?
The current crisis of addiction, depression and anxiety should not to be blamed only on peoples lifestyle, genetics or 'disorders'. These are symptoms of the profound disconnection that human beings are experiencing all over the world. The disintegration of communities might be subtle in some cases and yet— suffering adds up... With less co-regulation, low inner (community) resources, and a fragmented common (ecological) ground for meaning, purpose and values, connections fall apart and with them so do people and families. In his brilliant article titled "How to Enslave People With Addiction", Eisenstein, (2014) writes:
Remove as much as possible all opportunities for meaningful self-expression and service. Instead, coerce people into dead-end labor just to pay the bills and service the debts. Seduce others into living off such labor of others ... Cut people off from nature and from place. At most let nature be a spectacle or venue for recreation, but remove any real intimacy with the land. Source food and medicine from thousands of miles away ... Move life— especially children’s lives —indoors. Let as many sounds as possible be manufactured sounds, and as many sights be virtual sights ...
Eisenstein is pointing at a (very) sad truth. When such abandonment of our deepest needs occurs, people use avoidance strategies to neither hear the ‘scream’ from within nor sense the devastation of their communities and environment.
Alexander (2010) and others ask us to take a broader view into the social conditions of human suffering (such as disempowering groups, poverty, and lack of fair opportunities). When we understand how deeply global changes and the forces of the free market ideology have effected each and every level of our social-cultural engagement (from micro to macro systems of interactions), we start to register that like any other force, current global economics are carving our social typography and redefining the ways in which we understand ourselves and our place in the world.
As globalization 'hits' new shores, humanity is responding as best as it can. However, it seems to me that we are mostly re-acting instead of adapting. And adaptation (which is part of evolution) is what is needed most these days— Not only on a personal level, but also between people— in groups, with friends, within families and in communities.
What can be done? I believe that we need to upgrade our cultural 'operating system'. This new 'operating system’ should help us arrive at the future of our choice, not the future of our misdoings. As we increased in complexity, the need for a socio-cultural vision that could hold multiple perspectives while simultaneously focus on the holistic, global and integral nature of things grow. A vision that holds depth and span (beyond the post-truth era) and allows for synergy and a new view of our unfolding essence.
What would this look like? Well, that's complicated.... :)
I promise I will be writing much more about this critical issue in the months to come. I will point at what can be done and the reasons to our current situation. But for now, I would like to focus on three basic foundations for a successful upgrade to even be possible:
Less ideas, better integration: We have so many ideas, programs, platforms and solutions to the epidemic of addiction and the explosion in depression and anxiety. Most of them are great and highly effective on the individual level... However, they work on the micro level (if you have the resources) but don't have as much efficacy on the wider scope of change. It's not because we don't have solutions, but rather we lack in integration for the sake of increased cooperation within our incredible complex and dynamic life. Implementation of integral models and comprehensive cooperation are deeply needed.
Safety is key: There cannot be sustainable growth without equilibrium and that can only come when the organism feels safe. Safety is the ground on which life can thrive and bloom. The lack of safety and ground is one of our biggest challenges as a society because so many people are uprooted and dislocated. Without this foundation, it is extremely diffcult to explore needs, values and feelings. Without learning how to be together in a respectful and caring way (that honours the developmental needs of ourselves and others), people won’t feel they can show up as who they are in their full beauty AND ugliness, in their brilliance and small-mindedness. I do not believe we currently have systems that can hold such dynamic space. A space that can facilitate all of our inner ‘us’, where we can be curious, loving, and deeply interested in life as it manifests through it’s human (and natures) diversity.
More adaptation and less re-action: When new epidemics erupt, new medications are needed. If we use this metaphor for our times, we can see that we will not resolve this crisis just by behavioural reactions (spending more money, providing more psychiatric medications to clients and so on). The new 'medications/solutions' will be found in the most basic patterns of life... In the basic patterns of evolution, adaptation and human development. If we use the current US election as one example, we will discover that the election was less about left vs. right and more about stages of consciousness 'fighting' for dominance. In other words, a more holonic stage of consciousness ((liberal, postmodern) discovering its own limitations and instead of adapting, collapses into collective regression. Steve Dinan writes:
Although the general trajectory is to move to higher, more complex Memes, we retain the less complex Memes and can draw upon them, hopefully in healthy ways, when situations demand it....As this changes, the condition emerges in which the old vMemes begin to be inadequate to deal with changing circumstances. This is a time of uncertainty, questioning, and doubt. From here, there are two possibilities: Reform (an evolutionary change) to create a new alpha fit with more sophisticated vMemes or Revolt (a revolutionary change) that generally stems from a slow initial reaction to change. Revolt emerges from something they call a gamma trap, a zone of frustration and hopelessness. If people are fortunate and savvy, a transformational pathway emerges (called the delta surge) to the next alpha fit. If not, regression occurs, or the organizational structure dissolves (Steve Dinan, Esalen Institute)
As a global community, our social challenges and personal burdens can be transformed—or at least find equilibrium—by a deep listening to life, nature and soul. Life calls us to re-invent ourselves as co-creators. Always available for discovery—Evolving, Self-organizing, unifying. For we are born from and are a part of the Cosmos. This means that a pulsation of harmony is present in us at any given time when we pay attention.
It might not be enough to ‘fight the power’ on a global scale, but it may be enough to help our family members and clients find new connections and purpose that are bigger than their sense of isolation. I see this pulsation to be the baseline for my work and my research, not for its ontological truth, but from a place of open inquiry and hope: hope that is desperately needed years to follow. I hope to dedicate the rest of my life for this project and (again) I promise to be writing and speaking a lot more about this in the coming months.