Monday, March 29, 2010

New Social Formations

The upcoming decades will be different from what has gone before. Our global society is in the midst of a great transition which will usher in new social and cultural formations. Many nations have been living the ‘high life’ as a result of the prosperity afforded by rapid industrial, technological, and material growth. The long-tail of this – the Technological Revolution – has been fundamental in stretching tentacles of dependency far and wide. Complex structures of supply, demand, and energy, are now near to breaking points.

Some of the converging crises now facing us range from global climate, energy resources, urban population growth, geopolitical insecurities, and solar storms. Having the potential for a range of critical impacts to converge simultaneously upon our social systems offers the possibility for a major revolution on a worldwide scale. Some of the consequences of these unstable systems are already beginning to play out on the global stage. If, on top of these crises, we witness the reality of political mismanagement then the ensuing fallout may be exacerbated. The new century for humankind begins as the traditional structures provided by governments, social and political institutions, are overwhelmed and no longer capable of serving humankind in its best interests. Problems and difficulties are likely to rise up, like a tsunami, and manifest in our immediate social environments. Yet unlike a natural tsunami, this one will serve also to clean the slate and clear the brushwood. It will provide the opportunity for individuals and communities to re-evaluate their life priorities. It will be a time for re-construction upon newly emerging perceptions of how better to lead a fulfilling life. Yet perhaps not for everyone: there will still be many who choose to return to the old familiar – tried and tested – ways, especially if they wielded power in those systems. However, this will prove difficult as some of the old systems will not longer be functional. New forms of social innovation will have the energetic support to emerge from the chrysalis of the fossilized structures. By this it is meant that more appropriate and creative social, economic, technological, cultural and political edifices will emerge. New skill sets will be required for the new social and community roles. This may force many to shift from office, administration jobs, from the service and manufacturing sector, towards functions that serve a regional localized need. These may include community teaching (in both theory and practical skills); maintenance and construction skills; localized economies (both currency and barter); permaculture; farming; creative inventions; security management; community committees, and more. Many farms will return to organic forms of agriculture and crop growth in order to combat the rise in soil depletion. According to philosopher Meishu Sama, petrochemicals and synthetic fertilizers negatively polarize the soil. Whilst this may produce apparently abundant growth in the short term; in the long term, they deplete the soil and exhaust its natural growing capability. The food produced is thus often lacking in nutrients and minerals. In short, many methods now employed will be forced – or catalyzed – into change. Never doubt that individuals have the necessary skills to respond to critical needs. As the expression goes – necessity is the mother of invention. New knowledge sets can be learnt and passed on; the days of apprenticeship may become more widespread once again as sustainable skill-sets become more valuable and appreciated than institutional and service-sector jobs. Never doubt that communities can find the resources to re-shape local cohesion and growth. Creativity and inventiveness are central to the human talent for tinkering. Innovation is the prerogative of people, not the governments. Again, as Meishu Sama reminds us, transformation comes from the tiniest changes:
…the fruit is the world and the seed becomes the center...and at the center of the seed itself is its essence. Because of this, in order to change the world the smallest seed only need be changed. It is just like throwing a rock into a pond - it creates ripples. In this way, making this world into heaven, the very center of the center, the tiniest point - that's where the various changes are made. Make these changes and you create a paradise on Earth.

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