THE FOURTH TURNING

America feels like it is unraveling.

The Fourth Turning 

William Strauss & Neil Howe

 

We live in difficult times. I wrote this piece in 2010. Looking back ten years, we can see how prescient William Strauss and Neil Howe were and what American history and deeper patterns of change can teach us.

 In The Fourth Turningauthors William Strauss and Neil Howe identified a recurrent pattern in American history: America transforms herself about every 80 to 100 years. Four turnings each about two decades in length—make up a cycle that comprises history’s seasonal rhythms of growth, maturation, and entropy.

The fourth Turning:

The First Turning is a High: an upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individualism, where a new civic order implants and the old values regime decays. In the current cycle, the First Turning was the American High of the Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy presidencies.

The Second Turning is an Awakening: a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when the civic order comes under attack from a new values regime. The Second Turning was the Consciousness Revolution, stretching from the campus revolts of the mid-1960s to the tax revolts of the early 1980s.

 The Third Turning is an Unraveling: a downcast era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when the old civic order decays and the new values regime implants. The Third Turning has been the Cultural Wars, an era that began with Reagan’s mid-1980s morning in America and is due to expire around the middle of the Oh-Oh (2000’s) decade….

The Fourth Turning is a Crisis: a decisive era of secular upheaval when the values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one. The Fourth Turning is history’s great discontinuity. It ends one epoch and begins another.

Strauss and Howe:

The next Fourth Turning is due to begin shortly after the new millennium, midway through the Oh-Oh decade. Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation, and empire. Yet this time of trouble will bring seeds of social rebirth. Americans will share regret about recent mistakes—and a resolute new consensus about what to do. The very survival of the nation will feel at stake. Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II.

The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort—in other words, a total war.

Yet Americans will also enter the Fourth Turning with a unique opportunity to achieve a new greatness as a people. America’s post-Crisis answers will be as organically interconnected as today’s pre-Crisis questions seem hopelessly tangled. By the 2020s, America could become a society that is good by today’s standards, and also one that works.

The rhythms of history do not reveal the outcome of the coming crisis; all they suggest is the timing and dimension. Thus might the next Fourth Turning end in apocalypse—or glory.

Today, in 2010, now already into the Fourth Turning, we share the sense that America is coming apart; a mood of crisis engulfs us. Few trust leaders, institutions, or government. The great spirits at all levels throughout our nation who strive to move America forward face vicious resistance from those wedded to a world view that can no longer solve problems. Americans face economic hardship not experienced since the great depression. Two wars will not end well. Politicians don’t even talk about war or energy policy as they campaign for the November 2010 mid-term elections. Neither political party knows what to do. Yet they desperately seek power. We spiral downward.

In 1997 Strauss and Howe described present-day (2010) America accurately, except we do not yet have a new consensus about what to do. In 2010, we are more polarized than ever, our politics more extreme, entitlement reigns strong, our sense of community weak, and our desire for a quick-fix more addictive than ever. Many Americans remain in denial about our many challenges.

Nihilistic Americans want to say “NO” to the transitions we must make. Heavily invested in ways of doing things that benefit them but no longer solve our national problems, they slow America’s evolution. Frozen in fear and denial, they long for a romanticized time that never existed; we cannot live life in reverse. We can only go forward into the unknown of the future. These people need to believe in values beyond themselves.

Other Americans want a hero to rescue them; they are irresponsible and immature. They don’t understand that real change is hard and calls for them to engage, sacrifice, and be patient and persistent. They need to find their courage and strength.

Strauss and Howe:

History offers even more sobering warnings: Armed confrontation usually occurs around the climax of crisis. If there is confrontation, it is likely to lead to war. This could be any kind of war—class war, sectional war, war against global anarchists or terrorists, or superpower war. If there is war, it is likely to culminate in total war, fought until the losing side has been rendered nil—its will broken, territory taken, and leaders captured. And if there is total war, it is likely that the most destructive weapons available will be deployed.

With or without war, American society will be transformed into something different. The emergent society may be something better, a nation that sustains it Framers’ visions with a robust new pride. Or it may be something unspeakably worse. The Fourth Turning will be a time of glory or ruin.

All of life is interconnected, intertwined, and interdependent—far too complex for anyone to know what will happen and what further dynamics will be set off by what does occur. Other nations have their cycles of change, as does our planet. We are not separate from other countries or nature.

We would be wise to walk boldly into the future. The given is that the global and national transformations brought forth by the seasons of life will occur. We cannot avoid them. The outcome of these transitions is still unknown. We cannot control outcomes; we can only influence them.

Our choice of leaders will affect the outcome of our Fourth Turning and the coming crisis that is the culmination of the last era and the birth of our next epoch. We will have crazy, immature, irresponsible, and even evil people and many rational, wise, sober, and spiritual people who will gain followers as they seek to lead us.  

But followers will have an even more significant influence on our future than the leaders they select. We are responsible for changing what we think about how to live on our planet and in America. Will we remain asleep, entitled, ignorant, and easily manipulated to vote against long-term self and national interest? Will we stay passive, helpless, and irresponsible victims of the tides of change?

Must we suffer even more significant loss as life drags us kicking and screaming to our next era? Or can we walk boldly and proactively into the unknown of the future?

Can we hear deep within us the call for the rebirth of America, and as Strauss and Howe wrote, where “the nation considered no obstacle too big, no challenge too great, no goal too distant, and no sacrifice too deep?”

We need a national “moment of authenticity” where together we shout “NO” to all the dark forces around us and speak up loudly for the best that is within us to come forth as we move to a new era for America.

See: Are We Ready to Change or Not?

See:  Leading in Chaos: Character Comes First

ARE WE READY TO CHANGE OR NOT?

Man was born to turn the world into paradise, but tragically he was born flawed. And so his paradise has always been spoiled by stupidity, greed, destructiveness, and shortsightedness.

Daniel Quinn in Ishmael

 

Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute, Washington D.C., wrote, “A sustainable society is one that satisfies its needs without diminishing the prospects of future generations.”

Our most fundamental problem is that almost eight billion people (10 billion by 2050) are addicted to the consumption of our alive planet. We are consuming our biomass. We cannot sustain this growth.

Two immediate existential threats to life as we know it overshadows population growth.

Climate change has battered our denial for a long time. America’s president denies its existence. The loss of lives and the destruction of property from climate change continues and grows.

Today, we are consumed and quarantined by the COVID 19 pandemic, which spread over the planet in about eight short weeks. Our president denied that too, while the virus spread freely. People got sick and died while the president dawdled.

But this time is different: Coronavirus is in real-time, and we watch it unfold in front of us. The president cannot hide behind lies, distractions, and scapegoating. As COVID 19 silently spreads into the nooks and crannies of the planet, our president undoes environmental regulations that help us fight climate change. What goes on in his mind?

A “Call” is a summons to higher consciousness. America has come to a stop: a significant pause. What we see on our nightly news is our new America. The future is unknown.

Rollo May wrote in Freedom and Destiny,  “In the pause we wonder, reflect, sense awe, and conceive eternity. The pause is when we open ourselves for the moment to the concepts of both freedom and destiny.” I hope we use this pause to think, reflect, and ask ourselves what matters in our lives. John Stuart Mill wrote that no significant improvements could take place in the lives of people until a dramatic change takes place in how they think.

We need to think of our planet as an alive, interconnected, intertwined, and interdependent whole. We need to gain the humility to see that we are but one species more powerful but no better than any other species. We need to live in harmony with nature, not be at war with her. We need to mature. We need to learn how to live.

If we change, we will defend against the virus that threatens us today and those on the horizon, reinvent our economy, value diversity, restore American global leadership, and help save the planet from climate change. We will feel alive. We may experience a new renaissance of ideas and an indefinite future. If we don’t change how we live on our planet, the momentum that carries us to possible extinction may become too great to overcome.

Without change, nature will continue to try to get our attention. Each call will be more destructive than the previous one. Within 200 years, after unimaginable suffering and destruction, we may perish as a species or a few islands of prosperity and privilege may survive surrounded by a sea of misery and violence.

Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” It is past time to fundamentally change our relationship with nature, not by changing her, but by changing ourselves.

We need to listen to the calls of nature. We need a spiritual awakening, a moment of metanoia, a shift of mind. Scientist Rupert Sheldrake said, “It is like waking up from a dream. It brings with it a spirit of repentance, seeing in a new way. This conversion is intensified by the sense that the end of an age is at hand.”

We are responsible for our collective fate. The significant threats of climate change, deadly pandemics, population growth, species extinction, resource depletion, inequality, and global poverty have called for change for a long time. Are we ready to listen and to change how we live together on this planet?

The change will be difficult, but ease or difficulty is not the issue. The question is: are we ready to change or not? If we are ready, we will create a new vision for how we live on our planet. Let’s not go forward led by crazy people, those stuck in the past, those who profit from America’s decline, or those invested in failed ideas. That would be disastrous.

Whatever we do, something dramatic is going to happen. We will experience an evolutionary bounce or an evolutionary crash. We can choose to act or to be acted upon, and our choices will determine our destiny.

THE ECOLOGICAL WORLDVIEW: THE PATH TO SUSTAINABILITY

But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change. With the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. Thomas Jefferson

 

This piece is the second of two posts on worldviews. The first was The Mechanistic Worldview.

The mechanistic worldview has exhausted its ability to solve our most complex and urgent problems. This worldview has been eclipsed by a more encompassing worldview, which I call the ecological worldview that offers new knowledge and understanding for solving the severe threats we face. The mechanistic worldview works for space travel, accounting systems, and other linear processes but not for living systems.

The destructiveness of the dark side of the incomplete mechanistic worldview is apparent. We watch climate change evolve and worsen before our eyes: species go extinct, and forests burn. Mass migrations begin and are met with violence. Droughts make life unlivable. People die. Republican politics and politicians regress: separating children from their parents at the Southern border: That’s not America. We see the decline of our institutions and the lack of integrity in many of our leaders. Corruption is the culture of the White House. Images of these things break our hearts. We live in fear and anxiety. Aggression surrounds us. And our president and Republicans in Congress deny or justify it.

America’s president is the personification of the dark side of the failed mechanistic worldview. Those who want to guzzle, raze, and reduce much of our world to ashes and wastelands for ego, money, power, and greed resist change mightily. When a worldview is in deep decline, and nothing can renew it, those invested in it eventually lie, cheat, and steal to maintain their power.

A significant minority of Americans support this destruction, somehow thinking that they will benefit from it. They are not thinking straight, and their ignorance, blindness, and false beliefs drag the country and their communities down. Robert Greenleaf wrote in The Servant Leader that the real enemy is fuzzy thinking of the part of good, intelligent, vital people…

We still have time to change our thinking and take dramatic actions to save the planet as we know it, but time is growing shorter faster than anticipated. Millions do think clearly and want transformative change. But we need more urgency. Every day of delay leads to enormous suffering, more annihilation, and makes transformation more unlikely.

Patterns of thinking hold us in their grip. If then, we want to change society, we must begin by changing the way that we think — Danah Zohar in the Quantum Society.

Our worldview will not be changed by those who cling to the problems we face. As long as they make money and hold power, the scoundrels will continue doing things they know are wrong. Our view of how life works most optimally will be changed by new thinking from new people.

America needs fresh people with new minds in power. This year’s elections allow us to elect new leaders who are younger, diverse, and with more women at all levels of government.

Changes in how we relate to the world.

Sit down before nature like a little child, and be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abyss Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.
T.H. Huxley

The ecological worldview began to form with the discoveries of quantum theory early in the last century, followed by the learnings from the study of living systems. This worldview focuses on life itself and the relationships that connect all living things. The ecological worldview is striking in its similarity to the organic worldview of indigenous cultures, most of which were destroyed by the mechanical thinkers of our industrial world. Science is discovering what nonmoderns have known for thousands of years.

When we look through the lens of an ecological worldview, we see the world differently than when we look through a mechanical lens. Ethics, spirit, values, quality, deep awareness, and the five senses again matter. We have new thoughts, feelings, and will see transformative creative possibilities. We speak and write differently.

The universe is alive: a network of dynamic relationships that are interconnected and interdependent–not dead and mechanical. Betterment flows from the totality as the diverse elements interact and self-organize together in patterns that optimize and sustain the essence of the whole. We see life organically rather than mechanically. Change is not linear or mechanistic.

We need to think exponentially. We see networks, processes, patterns, beliefs, and relationships. We can influence events but cannot have total control, accurate prediction of distant events, or certainty. We must shift from unawareness to mindfulness of ourselves and the world around us. Chaos, paradox, and discontinuous change happen faster and faster. They require us to be mindful. Margaret Wheatley wrote, Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful. Absent awareness, we are lost.

The mechanistic worldview is an either/or world. Either/or thinking gives the illusion of control and stability. Dualistic thinking creates enemies, simplifies relationships unrealistically, and establishes boundaries to defend. Either/or thinking is not helpful in the world of quantum physics and living systems.

The ecological worldview is primarily a both/and world. We transcend fragmented parts with rigid boundaries and identify with a more inclusive whole, often with permeable boundaries. Both/and thinking provide space for our creative abilities and relationship skills. Humans are a presence in nature, just like the species of plants and animals. People are part of the unbroken whole–not separate, detached, and superior. This world is the alive and creative world of choices–a world of gray–a both/and world where little is certain.

This world was never as self-evident to me as the day I sat in a small boat in the Baja of California bobbing in light waves. I watched as a 40 foot long and 40-ton great gray whale surfaced beneath the boat and introduced her new child to the boat’s elated occupants. I peered into the large, serene eye of the mother and tried to imagine her life. Her gentle and knowing return of my enthusiastic reaction linked us in a mystical moment. I realized that in one slight movement, she could destroy the boat and kill its occupants. Instead, she chose to form a relationship with us. The mother and child floated with the boat for a few minutes. They allowed the exhilarated people to touch them and to lean over and kiss the barnacle-covered parent before mother and child submerged and disappeared. For a few short moments, the sky, the ocean, the people, the bobbing boat, and the whale and her child were one interconnected living system.

An ecological thinker’s purpose is sustainability. In the subatomic world, elements are life-like, in a relationship, exchange information always, and transform based on these dynamics. Humans are alive and meant to be in a relationship with one another and with the life around them. We develop through our relations with all of life.

We cooperate with our environment rather than be at war with nature in our insane rush to consume her. Living in monocultures is not sustainable; diversity is our strength. To be sustainable requires that growth must be limited, and our economic systems transformed. These “rules” are how life works optimally.

Institutions aren’t the only things that have to stay current with new knowledge. We, people, do too. We would be wise to examine our assumptions and change how we think to adapt ourselves to the insights and illumination that emerge from Quantum Physics and the New Sciences. Life calls us to evolve our awareness and creativity, to engage with others and learn together, lead differently, and transform how we live on the planet, Then we will develop ourselves and live sustainably.

If we refuse this call, we do so at our peril.

 

From 1991-94, I was privileged to lead a business unit that, I later learned, embraced the concepts of Quantum Physics and Chaos Theory. My first learning about the science merging with leadership and organizations came from author and consultant Meg Wheatley. I recommend her book, Leadership and the New Science (Third Edition).

My eBooks at Amazon.com offer more insight into my learning: Learning to Live: Essays on Life & Leadership and Value Driven Leadership: A Story of Personal & Organizational Transformation.

 

WANT TO SAVE THE PLANET & FEEL ALIVE?

  The world we think we live in is the world we live in. 

         That is how important worldviews are.

                                             Matthew Fox

                                                                       The Reinvention of Work

 

                       Patterns of thinking hold us in their grip. . . . If then, 

                       we want to change society, we must begin by changing 

                       the way that we think.

                                                                       Danah Zohar

                                                                      The Quantum Society

Before about 10,000 years ago, most people lived by herding, hunting, foraging, and gathering. Life centered on the community, and they lived in relationship with the earth and its inhabitants.

Ted Perry captured their worldview:

The earth does not belong to the white man, the white man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

I love the worldview of the ancient people, but I do not want to romanticize their lives. When I visited the Maasai of East Africa, I became aware of the dark side of their existence: disease, deprivation, and early death are a part of their lives as is a balanced life lived in concert with nature and relationship with one another.

The worldview of indigenous people worked for them for thousands of years. Most of those cultures were destroyed by people who spread disease and had powerful weapons–not more creative or intelligent people. We can learn much about life from the cultures our ancestors conquered.

Life on earth changed with the agricultural revolution that began around 8000 B.C. and rolled over the planet unencumbered until approximately 1650-1750 A.D. Farming became a way of life with land at its center. For the first time in human history, large populations could be fed indefinitely. While life changed, people continued to see the world as a living whole, with all of its elements dependent on one another.

The holistic worldview changed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with the philosophical and scientific revolution that changed the way people looked at themselves and their relationship with nature. The world as a machine became the dominant metaphor of the modern era.

Who led this radical transformation in worldview? Galileo Galilei, the father of modern science, quantified the tangible world. He believed only the quantifiable was real; the non-quantifiable was outside the scope of science. Scientists ignored, denied, or discounted nonlinearity. Galileo’s empirical approach and his use of mathematics to describe nature became paramount aspects of science.

Francis Bacon established the scientific method: carefully controlled and documented experiments from which scientists could make general conclusions. For Bacon, the goal of science was to accumulate knowledge that could be used to control and dominate nature, which he referred to as a “common harlot.”

The founder of modern philosophy, Rene Descartes, believed the world was a vast machine that obeyed mathematical laws and extended that belief to human beings, “I consider the human body as a machine.”

Isaac Newton took Descartes’ philosophy and developed the mathematical formulation of the mechanistic worldview. The Newtonian universe was a mechanical system put in motion by God and operated by exact mathematical laws. This universe was deterministic. If scientists knew the rules and first conditions of the system, they could predict accurately what the system would do and where it would go.

The universe of the scientific revolution was a vast, cold, clockwork machine. Its mathematical and mechanical laws governed every movement and aspect of matter, including people, plants, and animals. God created the material particles, the forces between them, and the laws of motion. After that, the machine ran on its own–purposeless, meaningless, and soulless.

The five senses no longer mattered, and ethics, spirit, values, quality, and consciousness were marginalized because they were unquantifiable. The only things real in this universe were measurable, and the knowledge of science was specific and absolute. People used scientific expertise to seek truth and to dominate and control nature. This worldview offered an emotionless world of rule books and impermeable boundaries–a black and white world–an either/or world with human beings–the pinnacle of evolution–dominating the natural world.

This science fit with the beginning of industrialization, which Gregory Bateson wrote in Steps to an ecology  of Mind had the following underlying beliefs:

-It’s us against the environment.

-It’s us against other men.

-It’s the individual (or the individual community, or the individual nation) that matters.

-We can have unilateral control over the environment and must strive for that control.

-We live within an infinitely expanding “frontier.”

-Economic determinism is common sense.

-Technology will do it for us.

Metaphors of the mechanistic worldview justified the exploitation of nature that materialism, industrialization, and unchecked appetite and greed demanded.

The benefits derived from the scientific and industrial revolutions are clear: longer lives, technological advances, and previously unknown comfort and prosperity for tens of millions of people. Organizations became more efficient and provided undreamed of goods and services to people. With so much surface success, we can be blind to the devastating unintended consequences of the mechanistic worldview on people, nature, and our interconnected planet.

The industrial revolution changed life to fit the machine worldview: Managers designed jobs, machines, factories, and management systems as machines. Machines became the principal agent of change, and factories and workers adapted themselves to the efficient working of mechanical things. Creativity and “aliveness” were exchanged for routine and control. People who saw their traditional lives destroyed by the creation of dehumanizing jobs in factories were traumatized.

We know the impact the mechanistic worldview has on human beings in organizations. We feel the alienation of being treated like a machine, although we don’t talk about it–machines don’t feel. When we think of corporations as machines, management is equated with control; employees are treated like children; managers motivate by fear; change is synonymous with pain; and many people feel bored, afraid, confused, alienated, and angry. Many experience those emotions as “numbness.”

The mechanistic worldview changed nature dramatically. Former Vice President, Al Gore wrote in 1993:

The mechanistic worldview generated the arms race, the population explosion, the greenhouse effect, and the extinction of species of animals and plants at a rate 1,000 times faster than at any time in the past 65 million years. This philosophy of life pollutes the air and the water, destroys the rain forest at the rate of 1 1/2 acres a second, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and floats waste-filled barges in the ocean seeking a home. The destruction of forests endangers almost half of the 235 species of primates. Another 20 percent are approaching threatened status. This worldview produced spreading deserts, drying seas, and topsoil loss. These beliefs have alienated human beings from themselves, from each other, and nature and have fostered addiction to substances and processes. These beliefs have destroyed and homogenized thousands of diverse cultures. This thinking threatens the sustainability of the planet.

Mr. Gore had it right.

A metaphor helps us understand something compared to something else. During the industrial revolution, people took the metaphor of the universe as a machine and applied this comparison to factories and then to people. How absurd! People began to think mechanically and tried to make the thinking real by acting like machines and by treating one another as machines. Then they taught this metaphor to new generations who had no awareness of this lunacy.

People forgot the organic worldview of the ancients that was sustainable for thousands of years. Most of us never knew that another worldview existed before the mechanical worldview, which has had devastating impacts on our lives and planet in only 300 years.

Science has discovered new sciences that invite us to change how we live, work, and lead if we want a sustainable planet and more conscious and fulfilled lives. The five senses again matter and ethics, spirit, values, purpose, and quality return to our lives. A new worldview brings back the feeling of aliveness to those who see new ways to live.

We change our mechanistic worldview by becoming aware of our mechanical, black and white, either/or beliefs, and our disconnections from others, nature, and ourselves. We learn that the above underlying tenets of the mechanistic worldview are wrong.

Daniel Quinn wrote about our growing awareness in Ishmael: 

Once you learn to discern the voice of Mother Culture humming in the background, telling her story over and over again to the people of your culture, you’ll never stop being conscious of it. Wherever you go for the rest of your life, you’ll be tempted to say to the people around you, “How can you listen to this stuff and not recognize it for what it is?

William Least Heat-Moon in Blue Highways wrote,  “Ghost dances, desperate resurrection rituals, were the dying rattles of people whose last defense was delusion—about all that remained to them in their futility.” A significant percentage of our citizens do not think straight when guided by their own false beliefs. To live by their delusions will destroy our democracy, the natural world, and life as we’ve known it.

The mechanistic worldview still works for machines, space travel, and accounting systems. But this worldview has been eclipsed by a more encompassing worldview. We must change our dominant and exhausted mechanistic worldview to a more real living system worldview that sees the cosmos as alive and interconnected if we want to evolve our humanity and create a sustainable planet.

My next blog will be about living systems.

MORAL JOY: CLIMATE CHANGE & DEMOCRACY

On the surface of our lives, most of us build the hard shell to hide our fear and insecurity and win approval and success. When we get to the core of ourselves, we find a deep yearning to care and connect. David Brooks in The Second Mountain

Brooks wrote of transcendent joy: the brief moments when we feel at one with nature, the universe, or God. Such experiences may only last a few minutes but can alter our lives. “People have a sense that they see into the hidden reality of things, and afterward, they can never go back to their false selves.”

Brooks wrote of the highest layer of joy, which he called moral joy. Our daily actions align with our deepest commitments. People who experience moral joy are grateful for finding their core passion in life and for saying “NO” to soul-destroying pressures that surround them. Transcendent moments transform our lives: they are moments of metanoia, spiritual awakenings, and an expansion of our consciousness.

I wrote about this process of awakening on the way to higher consciousness in “The Allegory of Plato’s Cave.” In my 1996 essay, I quoted Gareth Morgan from Images of Organizations:

The allegory pictures an underground cave with its mouth open toward the light of a blazing fire. Within the cave are people chained so that they cannot move. They can see only the cave wall directly in front of them. This is illuminated by the light of the fire, which throws shadows of people and objects onto the wall. The cave dwellers equate the shadows with reality, naming them, talking about them, and even linking sounds from outside the cave with the movements on the wall. Truth and reality for the prisoners rest in this shadowy world, because they have no knowledge of any other.

However, as Socrates relates, if one of the inhabitants were allowed to leave the cave, he would realize that the shadows are but dark reflections of a more complex reality, and that the knowledge and perceptions of his fellow cave dwellers are distorted and flawed. If he were then to return to the cave, he would never be able to live in the old way, since for him the world would be a very different place. No doubt he would find difficulty in accepting his confinement, and would pity the plight of his fellows. However, if he were to try and share his new knowledge with them, he would probably be ridiculed for his views.

For the cave prisoners, the familiar images of the cave would be much more meaningful than any story about a world they had never seen. Moreover, since the person espousing this new knowledge would now no longer be able to function in the old way, since he would no longer be able to act with conviction in relation to the shadows, his fellow inmates would no doubt view his knowledge as being extremely dangerous. They would probably regard the world outside the cave as a potential source of danger, to be avoided rather than embraced as a source of wisdom and insight. The experience of the person who left the cave could thus actually lead the cave dwellers to tighten their grip on their familiar way of seeing.

The cave stands for the world of appearances and the journey outside stands for the ascent to knowledge. People in everyday life are trapped by illusions, hence the way they understand reality is limited and flawed. By appreciating this, and by making a determined effort to see beyond the superficial, people have an ability to free themselves from imperfect ways of seeing. However, as the allegory suggests, many of us often resist or ridicule efforts at enlightenment, preferring to remain in the dark rather than to risk exposure to a new world and its threat to the old ways.

Each of us has Plato’s Caves in our lives — places where fear, habits, wounds, denial, conformity, ignorance, delusions, manipulation, and even a cherished way of life blind us to greater insight, a more encompassing reality. We can choose to leave our caves. Many in America who deny climate change and believe Trump is making “America Great Again” live in Plato’s Cave. Their denial contributes to the destruction of our environment and the degradation of America’s Democracy.

Fakes and charlatans with venal and regressive visions that return us to a more primitive condition clamor for our trust. We look around and see people under high stress — from our national leaders to everyday people in organizations, to the fringes of our political parties—become small, petty, and greedy and try to return to their caves for safety. Some deny the facts and truth. Others can feel strongly about every side of an issue depending on the audience. Some reject science for self-serving opinion. Many substitute intellectual honesty with black, white, and senseless beliefs grounded in fear and their inability to cope with the uncertainty and ambiguity of life. Their fear consumes them, and they live in darkness. In dangerous times, we need to be our best selves, not our worst.

As I write this post, two transcendent events call those who live in delusions to open their eyes, awaken, and experience their transcendent moments.

A wise and courageous Greta Thunberg (16 years old) started the school-strike movement in Sweden, which has now spread to other countries. She and other activists give form to a political revolution to fight climate change. They became spokespersons for younger generations who suffer high anxiety and depression about what their futures may or may not be. Ms. Thunberg now offers them a purpose and a movement they can join. They will find that they are not alone in their suffering. Ms. Thunberg’s “How Dare You” speech at the United Nations is a must-watch for all. Her disdainful look at Trump spoke for the tens of millions around the world who feel as she does. What a courageous young woman!

Then a Whistle Blower filed a complaint against Trump. The Whistle Blower alleged that Trump had attempted to pressure (by withholding foreign aid) the President of Ukraine to dig up bogus dirt against presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Biden is leading in the Democratic presidential primary. Trump’s goal was to damage Biden’s campaign to help himself win the 2020 election.

Fair elections are the bedrock of our democracy. Can you believe it? After the Russia involvement in 2016, encouraged by Trump, he tries to get another nation to help sway our 2020 election? What Trump did was immoral, unethical, and unconscionable. He would turn America into a banana republic, where the abuse of power, at all levels of authority, is normal.

The Whistle Blower also alleged that White House officials attempted to cover up the phone conversation and other earlier conversations with foreign leaders, including Putin. They knew Trump had gone too far. The House of Representatives began an impeachment inquiry. Finally, Democrats found their courage and stand true to their values regardless of the outcome.

Listen to Trump roar: what he says about others is true of him. His rants are his confessions and self-exposures.

I am stunned but not surprised by the darkness that has come to light in only two days. The complaint of the Whistle Blower is just the first of the secret dark side of Trump’s dystopian world to come into the light of day. After all, Trump is not a good man who made a big mistake; he is a monster being who he is. He cannot be someone else. Trump has been being himself since he took the office of the president. How much more is covered up and hidden away?

We have only one healthy choice: to leave the caves of our lives, to see reality clearly, and become more connected, conscious, courageous, discerning, intelligent, and compassionate. And more mature. We cannot go backward — unless we want the threats to our world to become realities. My life experiences taught me that it’s best to walk into the future with a clear vision, guided by my deepest values, and my purpose for my life. I find this approach better than following liars, blamers, crooks, con artists, and people only out for themselves–no vision, values, or purpose with them — just greed and selfishness. I know if I follow them, I’ll become like them.

Some believe Trump’s darkness will crush the investigation and lead to Trump’s re-election. Maybe, but no one knows what will happen over the next year. Predictions today mean little. I say: “Expect the unexpected.”

Former Vice-President Al Gore wrote about climate change this week in the New York Times. I think his words apply equally to the Whistle Blower’s complaint:

Are we really helpless and unwilling to respond to the gravest threat faced by civilization? Is it time, as some have begun to counsel, to despair, surrender, and focus on “adapting” to the progressive loss of the conditions that have supported the flourishing of humanity? Are we really moral cowards, easily manipulated into lethargic complacency by the huge continuing effort to deceive us into ignoring what we see with our own eyes?

Our Constitution, our uncorrupted legal system, and the hearts and minds of caring and courageous people will guide us. The purpose is clear: expand our awareness by coming out of our caves. The vision is simple: create a sustainable planet and a thriving democracy.

Al Gore again:

The political reconfiguration we have desperately needed has been excruciating slow in coming, but we now seem to be at an inflection point, when political change begins to unroll more rapidly than we thought was possible [Gore wrote this piece before the Whistle-Blower complaint becoming public].

The people, in their true function as the sovereign power, are quickly understanding the truth of the crisis, and they are the ones who must act, especially because the president is not on speaking terms with the truth and seems well beyond the reach of reason.

To address the climate crisis, we must address the democracy crisis so that the people themselves can reclaim control of their destiny.

Do not despair: get engaged. We must remove from office, at all levels of government, those who deny climate change and those who follow Trump.

We can then save the planet and renew our Democracy.

We do live in exciting times.

Climate Change Will Affect the Most Vulnerable First; Then It Will Come to All Of Us.

From the book: Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

By Bill McKibben

 

The very same beasts

That now decide

Who should live

and who should die…

We demand that the

world see beyond

SUVs, ACs, their pre-

packaged convenience

Their oil-slicked dreams,

beyond the belief

That tomorrow will

never happen

Let me bring my home to

yours

Let’s watch as Miami,

New York,

Shanghai, Amsterdam,

London

Rio de Janeiro and Osaka

Try to breathe under-

water…

None of us is immune.

Life in all forms demands

The same respect we all

give to money…

So each and every one of

us

Has to decide

If we

Will

Rise

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the Marshall Islands & Aka Niviana from Greenland

Each poet faces the end of their way of life as the ice melts.

MASS SHOOTINGS, INHUMANITY AT THE BORDER, & A BURNING PLANET CALL AMERICANS TO STAND UP FOR LIFE

Think higher, feel deeper. Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil. Eli Wiesel

 

From Goalcast:

Elie Wiesel was born in Romania, September 30, 1928 – died in New York July 2, 2016- is widely known as an American-Jewish writer, author of 57 books, professor and political activist, and one of the most famous Auschwitz survivors. When he was 15, as the German army occupied Hungary, Elie and his family were placed in one of the confinement ghettos set up in his hometown. Two months later, all Jews were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp, and most of them were killed soon after arrival. Wiesel and his father were the only ones in the family to be spared, as they were fit for labor. The only thing that kept him going in the concentration camp was knowing that his father was still alive. Sadly, his father was beaten to death shortly before the camp was liberated, and Elie was unable to help him.

The book that made him famous – Night – describes everything he went through, both during his imprisonment in the Nazi camp and after. Recurring topics in Elie Wiesel’s books revolve around how every human value was destroyed in the harsh conditions of the camp, the shame he felt for resenting his father when he was in a helpless state, the disgust for humanity and the “death of God”.

In 1986, Elie Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for overcoming the horrible experience at Auschwitz and for sending a message of peace and human dignity. He is also a founding member of the New York Human Rights Foundation.

Wiesel’s thoughts and words came from his experience as a Holocaust survivor and fit the times in which we live in today’s America: a time of a racist president with a White Nationalist’s dark soul whose totality consists of a destructive ego and nefarious impulses.

Wiesel:

And now the boy is turning to me, “Tell me,” he asks, “what have you done with my future, what have you done with your life?” And I tell him that I have tried. That I have tried to keep the memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices. And then I explain to him how naïve we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.

We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Whenever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of our universe.

We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph. No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.

Trump demonizes decent and courageous people who only seek safety and new lives for themselves and their families but who look different than white men. We know the abuse, terror, cruelty, squalor, and humiliation at our Southern border. People die; the children get traumatized for life. America’s lack of a 21st-century humane border policy is a stain on our nation’s conscience.

Our gun-violence is a national shame. Recent mass murders make us sick. Anyone who believes that Trump’s words do not incite violence is unconscious. Trump’s and Republican reactions to Climate Change threatens the earth. Trump defiles America’s Dream, and Republicans enable him.

I believe the people of the world have been called for a long time to change how we live on our planet and with one another. When we ignore a calling, it comes back again with greater fear, pain, and suffering.

Gregg Levoy wrote in his stellar book, Callings, “Generally people won’t pursue their callings until the fear of doing so is finally exceeded by the pain of not doing so, but it’s appalling how high a threshold people have for this quality of pain. Too many of us, it seems, have cultivated the ability to live with the unacceptable.”

Living with the unacceptable can no longer be acceptable.

I’ve written for more than 20 years about indifference being the enemy of renewal and change. If we are indifferent in our local and national elections next year, we might well lose the America we grew up in and sentence our children and grandchildren to lives of despair. People like Trump will always be in our midst; regressive and afraid people like Republicans at all levels of government are not unique.

We the people need to change. The suffering on the horizon if we fail to act far exceeds the angst we will feel when we embark on a new journey. I’ve had many journeys in my life. I understand the fear of beginnings. I would do all those journeys again. I’ve wished for a long time that conscious people would imagine a better future and go forward instead of letting fear stop them. Life could be so much easier.

Do what you can to take power from Trump and Republicans, to create a sustainable planet, to protect our citizens from unnecessary guns, and to again become the country that welcomes immigrants. Then we will make America Great Again.