The only way I
can think to find [the communities of the future], the only
archaeology that might be practical, is as follows: You take
your child or grandchild in your arms, or borrow a young baby,
not a year old yet, and go down into the wild oats in the field
below the barn. Stand under the oak on the last slope of the
hill, facing the creek. Stand quietly. Perhaps the baby will
see something, or hear a voice, or speak to somebody there,
somebody from home.
-- U.K. LeGuin
We come from many cultures. Not all our biomes have oaks and oats;
not all our cultivations require farms and barns. We grew from widespread
roots, branched, and will continue branching. But whether we hold
the baby beneath a palm facing the lagoon, or beneath bamboo facing
the lake, we can all embrace living bridges to future generations.
How do we carry that embrace with us into systems for negotiating
our relationships with each other and with the earth? Such tender
concepts translate badly into the corridors of power, where tough-minded
types are coming to grips with the hard questions, damning the torpedoes,
making it or breaking it.
Hindsight, of course,
suggests that for the past hundred years they have primarily been
What would a system
of governance look like if designed to sustain future generations
in harmony with the web of life on the planet? What system would
give them the greatest flexibility forward into the future? What
would allow them the greatest creativity in expanding human potential?
What does governance look like that enhances creativity and cherishes
Answering such questions
is problematic. In orchestrating our relationships within communities
and nation-states we have devised political technics arising from
differing cultural, religious, and philosophical traditions; it
is perhaps over-optimistic to think we can discuss "a" system of
governance for future generations worldwide. Over-optimistic as
well to presume we can tease the single thread of governance away
from the tangle of economic structures, educational systems, and
religious institutions. Yet in broadening our discussion we may
lose our focus and succumb to the superficial.
This essay is only an
initial exploration, and may display all those flaws. It sketches
potential attributes of future systems of governance focussed on
the long-term well-being of life on Earth. To do so, it draws on
glimpses of alternative futures relayed by visionary writers. Novellists
were chosen rather than political commentators because merely rehashing
the pros and cons of extent systems limits the discussion. To paraphrase
Churchill, "Democracy is the worst form of government in the world
-- except for all the others," so why not start fresh with the imaginary?
In conclusion, the essay highlights constraints and opportunities
affecting efforts to future-focus current governance, and suggests
some trailheads to transition.
When? Who? What?
Before exploring the future of governance and the well-being of
future generations, let me bound the explorations with initial answers
to the following questions: 1) when is the future? 2) what do I
mean by "future generations"? and 3) what might constitute their
"welfare," and what obligations do present generations owe to that?
When is the future?
With respect to political leaders, people often answer that question
with another: "Well, when is the next election?" And yet nations,
states and provinces, even local communities often initiate large-scale
public projects which will take the greater part of a decade to
build [the Honolulu airport by-pass springs uncontrollably to mind],
and several decades to pay off [the Channel Tunnel ditto]. Furthermore,
our systems of governance attempt to coordinate community action
with regard to other large, complex systems -- whole societies,
the global economy, the planetary biosphere -- characterized by
massive inertia. These systems can be difficult to change, and once
change begins, it can be difficult to stop on a temporal dime --
like the next election. Clearly, between the institutional culture
of governance and the realities it must address gapes a temporal
often ask workshop participants to build scenarios or visions for
the future thirty years out. This target carries change ahead one
generation; it requires people to link their own present with the
adult present of their children, and the childhood of their grandchildren.
Environmentalists in the U.S. are often heard borrowing a page from
Native Americans, and thinking ahead "seven generations." Considering
impacts "unto the seventh generation" is a Biblical concept as well.
But perhaps that stretch is also insufficient. Political leaders
are even now mulling over reports from committees assembled to suggest
labels for nuclear waste sites such that the sophonts who inhabit
or visit our planet in millenia to come will understand which hot
spots to avoid.
With that in mind, I
wish to second Danny Hillis of Thinking Machines when he suggests
that we symbolize our notion of what the future really means with
a "millenium clock:" "I want to build a clock that ticks once a
year. The century hand advances once every 100 years, and the cuckoo
comes out on the millenium. I want the cuckoo to come out every
millenium for the next 10,000 years." This seems to bridge the gap
nicely between Braudel's long duree and the comparatively
short span of most human life projects. With two qualifiers: the
millenium clock really needs to be composed of living systems rather
than just mechanical [or electrical!] components, and it needs to
be translated or adapted to a variety of cultures, e.g., the "kalpa
[time namer/marker]." I would certainly be pleased if his design
somehow included non-human organisms -- like that millenially old
lichen living up in Oregon, or several agave plants, or redwoods
-- but it would be even better if we could imagine it as a technology
of social links, contained within ourselves, and existing materially
only as art, as symbolic representation. We could create time capsules
of activities, of celebrations, to be passed on reverently from
one generation to the next, and benchmark those goals against the
timeframe of the cosmos: the next ice age, the cooling of the sun,
the heat death of the universe. Imagine your own list, suitable
to your own beliefs and mythologies.
With the when
of the future benchmarked, we can then consider who, or what,
are the future generations we wish to respect. In discussing this
in Honolulu in January 1996, we first acknowledged that what we
currently call "democracy" represents only adults living NOW, in
the best of systems. It fails adequately to either represent or
address the concerns of minorities, socially or economically marginalized
people, unborn generations, other species and their unborn generations,
or current and future mana [spiritual energy fields].
In this essay, then,
"future generations" will refer to the potential descendants of
all humans, of all flora and fauna, of all geological formations,
as well as the spiritual energy [either embodied or free floating]
developing on the planet. [We are going for The Big Picture here,
folks. Deal with it.] This definition presents us with the immediate
challenge of conflicting group interests, both across these meta-categories
and within them: as potential "interest groups," none of these categories
are homogeneous in their potential future needs, nor in the obligations
we will consequently have to them in our role as present stewards
of what will be their founding past.
The Honolulu discussions
also wrestled with the difficulties of defining "welfare" for groups
whose possible goals, value systems, and Weltanschauungen
we cannot presently assess or accurately forecast [this rather goes
without saying in the case of geological formations]. The best formulation
we could offer for "the welfare of future generations" had two components.
Borrowing from the Hippocratic oath, the first constrains: above
all, do no harm. The second exhorts: all our efforts at whatever
scale of governance or other human endeavour should create more
possibilities for future generations.
We would thus be obliged
to assess our systems and technologies currently in place, and those
we develop as time expands, via measurable benchmarks linked to
our goal of "creating more possibilities" for each of the generations
listed above. Just as countries are presently evaluated on quality
of life, pollution, and human rights, we must think in terms of
a "future generations audit" measuring to what extent current generations
are maximizing choice for future generations. It would, of course,
also applaud communities or bioregions or continents which begin
well: "first, stop extinguishing possibilities." Clearly, this will
provide us with an interesting challenge in terms of optimizing
competing norms. Sort of an ethical Apollo project.
Envisioning Intimate Governance
To envision systems of governance that could maximize possibilities
for future generations, let us first consider the context. The Earth
and all her systems are unbalanced. At least, she is wobbling badly
wherever influenced by the global capitalist world-system and the
Western industrial worldview from which it sprang. The natural environment
is showing stress in changing climate, eroded soil, aquifer depletion,
and continual extinctions. Global economic systems are showing stress
in inflation, stagflation, and recessions. Geopolitical stresses
are erupting as bitter civil wars, terrorism, and government dissolutions.
Social stresses are emerging as crime, homelessness, loss of community
cohesion, and the dissolution of families. Arguably, these systems
were once in equilibrium [although perhaps not always simultaneously.]
However, in the past
fifty years people have greatly extended their reach -- out to the
birth of the universe, and down to the possibilities that hold the
particles that make atoms. With this extension of reach, people
have accelerated the rate at which they can distribute change, and
increased the magnitude of systems whose change they can encompass.
Earth's various systems had achieved their own equilibria at one
level of input; our extended reach has resulted in the dramatic
expansion of that input -- whether physical resources or energy
[both terms used loosely] -- to those systems, resulting in disequilibrium.
Here at the turn of a Western millenium we are riding a phase shift,
a system bifurcation.
To focus on the political,
social, and psychological, we have lost our balance along several
- with regard to the
balance between individual rights and needs, and the rights and
needs of communty, we are skewed far to the side of the individual
[as neo-Confucian leaders in Asia point out];
- with regard to the
balance between the logical-rational and the intuitive-ecstatic,
we are skewed far to the side of the logical-rational [as Roszak
and Mumford, among others, point out];
- with regard to the
balance between the instrumental-physical and the potential-spiritual,
we are skewed far to the side of the instrumental;
- with regard to the
balance between leadership-responsibility and followership-passivity,
we are skewed far to the side of followership and passivity;
- with regard to the
balance between cherishing traditions and encouraging innovations,
we are skewed so far towards the latter that it constitutes an
addiction [most true of the U.S.A.; less true of Europe; Japan,
Korea, and China may actually represent balance here; much of
the world still struggles with the trade-offs involved].
The lack of dynamic balance
along each of these axes in itself closes down options for the future,
and so any system of governance which aims to maximize choice for
future generations must find new equilibria, and be flexible enough
to adapt to new balances once they have been achieved. If we have
reached a bifurcation point, however, we may have an unusual opportunity
to create new social systems in the fluid conditions accompanying
The following sections
describe possibilities for flexible governance. The first, "organic
leadership," may be considered the least probable, as it would require
massive change along several social, political, and economic dimensions.
I offer it first because it might represent the longest-range goal
-- and because the subsequent possibilities could serve as building
blocks to create this system. The second, "servant leadership,"
is an idea at least two decades old that business leaders are adopting
with increasing frequency to "govern" their communities. The third
possibility, "accountable leadership," has some traditional precursors,
some modern theoretical adherents, and would, in this age of political
disillusionment, garner a great deal of public support. The final
two sections briefly address potential changes required in economics
and education to buttress these changes in governance.
In many countries around the world, systems of governance specify
political leaders chosen for fixed terms representing geographically
defined populations. Some of those systems limit the length
of terms of office; some of them limit the number of terms
of office a leader may serve. Some leaders abide by those restrictions;
others, while leaving the system of governance on the books, so
to speak, ignore or "temporarily suspend" the restrictions. Given
the intensity of desire and assertiveness required to attain high
government office, it probably makes very little difference whether
candidates are assembling arms and soldiers for a military takeover
or assembling campaign funds and votes for a "legitimate" attainment
of office: in both cases the result are aggressive, ambitious officeholders
with major ego investment in consolidating their positions.
Some few of these officeholders
may actually consider the future of fellow citizens, the future
of "the other," or the future of the planet. They are rare. Most
focus on their own immediate future, or the future of their government.
Their concerns are hobbled externally by the interest groups who
supported their entry to office, and internally by their own ambitions.
How, then might we expand the dialogue that achieves governance
and represent many different interests, without engendering interest
Mihailo Markovic once suggested that rather than specifying political
leadership for fixed terms representing geographically defined populations,
that leaders be seconded from their regular work specifically to
solve a problem, and that upon its solution, they return to their
usual work within the community. That is, that a systemic interrelationship
among individuals, expertise, and community ought to exist such
that the emergence of a problem "called" the appropriate problem
solvers to office. Let us call this "organic leadership." What would
it look like?
The two selections,
inset, from Voyage to Yesteryear depict the mutual confusion
when representatives of a traditional Earth government meet the
"organic" government style of the colony planet Chiron. The colonists
live in something of a subsistence-abundance anarchy. The first
generation was raised from embryos by "machines of loving grace"
whose idea of education included critical thinking via Socratic
questioning. With few material constraints on their political-economic
system, governance becomes simply a matter of the community getting
things done as effectively as possible, which suggests ensuring
that the most appropriately skilled and trained person addresses
each problem or goal as it arises.
What is useful about this system? First, the immediacy of expertise
with regard to the problem at hand. Two decades ago, Peter Berger
made the point with regard to development planning that local residents
are the experts as far as local conditions affecting local
problems. They are the people who define what "problems"
are locally. Where a problem might need additional, focussed expertise,
organic leadership systems assume people will call in outside assistance
as they need it. In the case of Chiron, the planetary database quickly
lets them locate the expertise required, from which they assemble
a "virtual task force," which solves the problem -- and then dissolves.
A trick no government bureaucracy has ever learned.
Second, with people
able to invoke "virtual governance" at whatever scale works, whenever
and wherever necessary, this system addresses the problem of "disembodied
representation." That is, in any governance system larger than a
single community, people will feel that someone, somewhere else,
is making the decisions, and often making decisions unsuited to
local conditions. More generally, disembodied representation also
sums up the externalizing of civic responsibility: we don't have
to take the initiative, because those people in government -- wherever
they are, exactly -- will take care of it. Despite people's irritation
with decisions made in a distant center affecting their local periphery,
this disengagement from civic responsibility, this political malaise,
is becoming more prevalent in post-industrial society. Gibbon sums
it rather well in describing Athens: "In the end, more than they
wanted freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable
life...When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society,
but for society to give to them; when the freedom they wished for
most was the freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to
Organic leadership embodies
governance within every individual in the polity. It discards all
notions of Great Man/charismatic leadership and simply assumes that
everyone has the capacity for leadership in some arena. It dispenses
with a political center for decision-making, and creates instead
nomadic decision-making: simultaneous, free-floating, multiple "centers."
On Chiron, leaders emerge as they are needed; in Markovic's model,
leaders are called to the situation by the people who identify the
problem; Dator has updated the lottery system of the Greeks with
"quantum politics," a model that includes randomly sampling the
population to fulfill whatever governance needs arise. But people
raised to organic leadership would simply feel enough responsibility
towards their community to initiate problem-solving with others
Why does this approach,
as Hogan depicts it, appear to work? First, because leadership is
a matter of team-building rather than power, ego, and control: everyone
knows her self-worth, which is invested in skills and expertise
rather than status -- everyone is equal in status, so no economy
of power develops. Second, everyone assumes responsibility and everyone
calculates potential consequences. In a social system characterized
by mutual respect and a moving balance among its many parts, leadership
flows along the web of relationships among those parts, impelled
by an intuitive understanding of who would serve the community most
appropriately in the given circumstance and compelled only by individual
responsibility. It is micro-governance, intimate in its relationship
to context, community, and the problem at hand.
Organic leadership does
have one obvious flaw with regard to the welfare of future generations,
however. It appears to focus entirely on solving the problems of
the moment, with no concrete mechanism for explicitly incorporating
the future into decision-making. The mechanism is, in fact, embedded
in the values of responsibility and of consequence: Chironians have
problematized their present actions with regard to impacts on the
colony's range of future options.
While Le Guin has chosen
a similar model for Anarres in The Dispossessed, she initiated
her model run, so to speak, with participants already psychologically
formed in a more hierarchical, less communitarian political economy.
Thus her scenario illustrates the intransigence of the ego's need
to control, and the efforts this society must make to remain truly
status-free and egalitarian in its approach to organic leadership.
Diane Duane's Vulcan scenario [inset right] illustrates the cultural
and linguistic outcomes of such a model working successfully for
millenia. In doing so, it suggests two benchmarks for humanity:
one, attaining a lifespan of two hundred years[!], and two, that
ninety-eight percent of us should have held some sort of public
office by that age. Although a more feasible near-term benchmark
might simply be that ninety-eight percent of us are paying attention,
and participating. [Then again, research on aging seems to be producing
more practical results lately than research on political participation.]
More than twenty years ago, Robert K. Greenleaf coined the term,
"servant leadership." Over the past decade, a growing number of
management and leadership texts have incorporated it. Management
texts first, because Greenleaf's studies of leadership occurred
on the job in management at AT&T, rather than academically in observation
of political systems. He wanted to identify the characteristics
of the best leaders he knew, in order to reduce the levels of incompetence
he observed. Arrogance and abuse of power were among his main concerns,
as they hamper building networks among people. A chance reading
of Hesse's Journey to the East finally provided him with
the metaphor that organized his observations, in a character whose
role throughout much of the story is a servant, but who in fact
is discovered to be a great spiritual leader. "Greenleaf concluded
that the central meaning of this story is that great leaders must
first serve others, and that this simple fact is central to his
or her greatness. True leadership emerges from those whose primary
motivation is a desire to help others."
Servant leadership "...attempts to simultaneously enhance the personal
growth of workers and improve the quality and caring of our many
institutions through a combination of teamwork and community, personal
involvement in decision-making, and ethical and caring behavior."
This leadership model, if any, is the precursor to the organic leadership
described above. Servant leadership focusses on the long-term welfare
of the community through emphasis on the continual personal growth
of the individuals within it, creating new possibilities for the
community by creating new options for its members. This is governance
for the welfare of future generations expressed one-on-one: this
is the seed of intimate governance.
Greenleaf suggests that
ten characteristics distinguish a servant-leader. One, they listen
well and sympathetically: they pay attention to what others say
and are trying to mean. Two, they are empathetic: they try to perceive
and feel other people's perspectives, to experience as the Other.
Three, they are adept at social healing, making an effort to mediate
and resolve conflicts among people. Four, they are both self-aware
and externally aware: not in a serene sense, but open to insights
which might disturb and unbalance, but which might also awaken.
Five, they organize via persuasion rather than brute authority.
Six, they are skilled at conceptualization: they "nurture their
abilities to 'dream great dreams.'" Seven, servant leaders use foresight:
they look ahead in an attempt to gauge potentials, possibilities,
and consequences. Eight, servant leaders are stewards, often holding
something cherished in trust for others. Nine, they are committed
to the personal growth of those with whom they work and interact.
Ten, they work to build community.
Greenleaf has perhaps
articulated the most specific vision of servant leadership, but
the idea is not in itself new. Juana Bordas reminds us, "Servant-leadership
has very old roots in many of the indigenous cultures. Cultures
that were holistic, cooperative, communal, intuitive, and spiritual.
These cultures centered on being guardians of the future and respecting
the ancestors who walked before." Thus they were stewards of the
bridges across generations, a function which Sasaki suggests the
ideology of progress destroyed. "[S]ocial solidarity across generations
in time came to be replaced by political solidarity on the basis
of ideological interests across groups in the present." Those interest
groups demand immediate political response to the problems of the
present, resulting in a victory of responsive politics over responsible
P.R. Sarkar's model
of governance presents us with a similar view of servant leadership.
Inayatullah explains that Sarkar's model has two foci. One is "compassionate
service to all, the transcendence of individual ego to the social
good." The second is foresight. It is interesting that Sarkar so
valued foresight within his model that he gave it equal pride of
place to service. These two components together create constructive
social, political, and economic action.
One view of servant
leadership in a highly technological future is offered by Walter
Jon Williams in his novel Aristoi [inset preceding page].
Where the colonists on Chiron created material abundance with advanced
technologies but flattened their political hierarchies to the ground,
citizens in the galaxy-spanning culture depicted in Aristoi
create material abundance via nanotechnology, but manage it via
a neo-mandarin, meritocratic approach to servant leadership. This
meritocracy tests self-nominated candidates in every conceivable
human skill -- scientific and artistic, instrumental and spiritual.
As candidates obtain ever higher ranks, they have greater responsibilities
to tutor and mentor new candidates -- to increase the human potential
within the community, and the ability locally to address problems
and create new possibilities for everyone. Given human nature [no
matter how self-actualized], such a system has vulnerabilities,
and the plot explores two obvious ones: corruption in testing, and
cultural stagnation from surfeit. Within the compass of his plot,
the author offers solutions to both, indicating, perhaps, a galaxy-spanning
optimism. The scale of self-realization he portrays as possible
for single individuals is certainly breath-taking.
and codify servant-leadership with a system of exams and it could
reify. Greenleaf himself supports evolutionary change: recognition
of servant-leadership as a useful concept building to informal and
formal training and practice in its skills and its subsequent widespread
application. From an evolutionary perspective, it is a necessary
but perhaps not sufficient precursor to organic leadership. It does
not dismantle centralized, hierarchical government, it simply attempts
to improve leadership whatever the size or structure of the community
The two preceding sections have explored governance models which
could maximize possibilities for future generations. This section
will address the constraint: above all, do no harm. A good
start would be to implement disincentives for doing harm. To be
effective, these disincentives would need to be levied on specific
individuals. It is a wonder and, yes, a shame that the politicians
at the center of scandals in the U.S., in Japan, in the U.K. and
France and Italy and Germany and... well, practically everywhere,
evade serious penalties. Many such scandals epitomize self-centered
short-termism: what's in it for me, and how can I get my hands on
it before I leave office?
Yet while such blatantly
self-serving behavior may shock us [although publics around the
world seem less shocked, more resigned, and more and more irritated
in the face of political corruption], it in fact probably does less
harm to the welfare of future generations than does simple incompetence.
But neither elected public officials nor career civil servants are
regularly evaluated as to their progress in meeting civic goals.
Of course, we could also ask how many governments set themselves
quality of life or environmental goals expressed as measurable benchmarks,
e.g., by the year 2000, 0% illiteracy; water usage cut by 25% with
conservation measures; fossil fuel use ditto; etc. The Republicans'
recent "Contract with America," set measurable objectives and suggested
ouster of officeholders if those objectives were not met. But the
objectives specified only Congressional actions, not achieved social
results. You can argue that Congress only designs; the executive
implements. But career bureaucrats are rarely demoted for any reason,
much less because they fail to solve publically identified problems.
Nor do citizens escape culpability, as constituents do not often
present their representatives and civil servants with measurable
community objectives which include explicit identification and acknowledgement
of trade-offs. Perhaps these disseminated faults indicate the degree
to which we all shunt responsibility elsewhere.
What are the possible
mechanisms for evaluating government work? The example from The
Copper Crown suggests first defining the basic needs the community
must meet for all members, then levying fines when responsible agents
within the community's system of governance fail to assure those
needs are met for all. This allows leaders some leeway to innovate
-- and potentially fail -- with non-critical social programs, while
ensuring attention to critical social needs. Fines are not levied
for issues subject to sudden interests or for crises, only for laxity
in maintaining community foundations. For this to work, then, the
community must have agreed upon a limited number of clearly defined
P.R. Sarkar also believes
politicians should put their money where their mouths are. He "recommends
that politicians should be legally liable for their election promises.
Citizens should be allowed to sue if various election promises are
not kept." He also suggests creating an "audit branch" of government,
independent of, and as powerful as, the other three branches.
In the United States
-- and in other countries -- mistrust of government and government
officials grows with each new headline announcing more malfeasance.
So much so, that one group of public servants engaged in scenario-building
in Hawaii selected that growing mistrust as a driving trend. In
the resulting scenario, government officials must justify their
existence once a year in order to keep their jobs. "Used to be easy,
working in the state government. 'The iron rice bowl,' they called
it. No more. It started with a few minor trends in the 80's and
80's: local and national governments doing less and less in-house,
more often contracting consultants and private firms to complete
reports, design programs -- eventually even implement them. ...
The watershed came in the late '90s, with the state procurement
scandals. Public outrage splintered party loyalties, and upset the
patronage apple cart. Demand for government accountability exploded
in the '04 gubernatorial race, when a statewide referendum required
all state and county employees to re-bid for their jobs every year,
based on the past year's performance and next year's goals. ...
[It] put the 'servant' back in public service..." Perhaps it is
time to stop tinkering and try a radical approach to accountability
Economics: Distributing Imperishable Wealth
In illustrating "organic leadership," the example of Chironian society
rests on two foundation stones: 1) absolute equality of access to
material goods; and 2) mobility of power linked to recognition of
authority. The latter concern permeates this essay; the former I
will address now. Poverty on Earth shames us because we know that
our production systems are currently capable of feeding, clothing,
and sheltering everyone on Earth. But our cultures, ideologies,
and psychologies hobble any distribution system. The only system
boundaries market economics seems to respect are those of market
saturation. The economic weltanschauung of the industrial
era, and the world capitalist system it supports, careens between
two opposing poles: the desire for the finite, indeed, the
limited and the rare, which define material wealth -- the gold standard
and its concomitant psychology of hoarding; and the need
for infinity -- for infinitely expanding markets, infinite pools
of consumers, infinite ability to substitute and externalize where
resource systems reach limits, and an infinite space for landfills.
With regard to the production of material goods, starting anywhere
but with an explicit acknowledgement of the finite, closed system
within which production occurs threatens the viability of all future
generations -- people, flora, fauna, or geological strata.
A governance system
which not only acknowledged, but also contributed to, the welfare
of future generations, will only work in the context of an economic
system which does the same. Perhaps we need to think about moving
beyond the material in what we value and wish most to exchange and
collect. Yet the material needs exist and must be met. After acknowledging
the finite nature of our environment, a more viable economic system
might take the following question as its design parameter: what
is materially necessary and sufficient for each individual
to lead a good life? What are the basic physical needs whose satisfaction
should be the right of anyone born on Earth? Creating a "post-material"
economics means answering these questions at both the planetary
and individual scales.
Guaranteeing basic needs
requires not only a major cultural and theoretical shift within
the structure of the world capitalist economy but also a major shift
in psychology for the world's consumers. Kennealy's Kelts have made
it a priority in their worlds' community to define basic needs for
individuals, and assure that they are met; we have not, for our
world's community -- our economy of hoarding implies that people
who do not "earn" their daily bread are somehow stealing from the
rest of us when they demand it as a right.
But as individuals,
we must also learn to modify our demands on our community. The world-class
consumers of this era [exemplified best by the American middle-class]
regularly expect the Earth from their markets -- and have, unfortunately,
been getting it for the last several decades: at a recent xenoanthropology
conference, one space scientist suggested that perhaps our problem
as a species has been denial of our true nature -- human beings
aren't just predators and omnivores, we are planet eaters. And the
post-industrial consumer is the apotheosis of the planet-eating
species. Various New Age, environmentalist authors have suggested
that an economic aesthetic of austerity is our best path to viability.
That is summed up rather vividly by this passage from Islandia.
Too often, people want, get what they want, and move to other wants
before fully exploring what satisfactionmight mean; we exhaust ourselves
chasing moving and ultimately arid material goals.
On the other hand, Islandia
also skirts close to illustrating what we might call a totalitarianism
of austerity -- those within this society who wish a life other
than that of caring for their lands are doomed to frustration. While
expecting the world community to provide you with two cars, a motorboat,
bubble-packed snack foods, and electrically warmed toilet seats
is presumption, expecting it to provide you with the tools to pursue
high-energy physics is not, if that is where your best skills lie.
This is the debate we must all have with our neighbors: not as nations,
not as provinces, but as individuals, every individual on the planet
in discussion with as many others as each can contact. These competing
issues involve decisions in daily life, and thus cannot be left
to theorists, academicians and policy analysts to sort out.
So that's the first
step to a post-material age: defining basic needs and meeting them.
Step two is a little more radical. Author Iain M. Banks has written
a series of speculative fiction novels about a galaxy-spanning society
in the far future referred to simply as "the Culture." It is also
an abundance anarchy, loosely managed by immense and peripatetic
artificial intelligences, usually embodied as starships. "Money
is a sign of poverty," is an old saying within the Culture. Step
two: abolish money.
Education: Creating Cultures of Consequences
from industrial immediacy to spirituality?
Suspending Living Bridges
Possible Phase Shifts
Given this clean psychological
and ideological break from the traditions of old Earth, Chironian
society did not have to worry about enlightening those with "false
consciousness:" their system grew organically through the consensual
dialogue of all members overseen by mediator/facilitators with no
stake in any particular outcome [the artificially intelligent robot
caretakers]. Their society was economically homogeneous from the
start as well as secular humanist in its spirituality
"...think of what our farms are to us. They are not retreats
from the world. They are the greater part of our world. Nor
are they nests built specially for one person -- one little
unit of a man and woman and their children. They are the world
of a family past, present, and to come, a growing place, many
years old, the concern of all of us."
"I come here for hours," she said. "I must come here, for here
I feel our farm as a whole. Do you understand?"
"I'm not sure," I answered.
"I don't think anyone could understand who has not lived on
a place for hundreds of years as we have. I feel our farm as
a whole, as it is, as it was, as it will be -- ours -- our land;
and I feel ourselves and its past and future as one thing --
not me, not us, but one thing by itself..."
-- Austin Tappan Wright, Islandia
.We are the Earth's,
and we must learn to feel ourselves and its past and future as one
thing -- for the welfare of future generations, and for the welfare
of all the generations who have been, and who are.