Much like individual change, societal developmentshappen gradually, often painfully; even when sudden shifts take place, seemingly ‘out of the blue’, they arethe result of an accumulation of incremental steps – the last straw on the camel’s back as it were. Small developments may slip by unnoticed, major events scream out and demand our attention. Take man-made global warming – going on for 70 years or so, ignored for most of that time, until one July, when, in 40°C heat people collapse, crops are wiped out, water is rationed and drought blights the land.
Whilst it’s true that change is, paradoxically, constant, dramatic shifts, life-changing developments, by their very nature, occur only rarely, at key moments. Globally, we are living through such a time of majorchange; a transitional time akin to that step from one age group to another, adolescence into early adulthood for example. A moment when everything is, potentially, set to shift and evolve, when old habits and ways of living, recognized as inadequate, either fall away naturally or are rejected.
Signs that we are living through such a time have been evident for a while – decades, longer probably, and have year on year become more and more widespread and diverse. The momentum for change, and with it resistance (which is intense) from those wedded to the status quo, appears to be reaching a point of crisis. Battle lines are exposed delineating the choices before humanity, alternative values and modes of living that are becoming more defined, and more opposedall the time.
The political-economic arena has been the primary field of conflict and resistance, and also opportunity. This all-pervasive space encompasses most, if not all areas of contemporary life, including education and health care, the environment, international relations, immigration, defense, etc; it shapes values and determines the direction of collective travel. Differing viewpoints have become increasingly polarized, opinions hardened. And, growing out of the vacuum created by government’s inability to meet the challenges of the time, and the uncertainty caused by clinging to systems and modes of living that are day by day being drained of life, extremism has exploded; populism, on the left and most fiercely, on the right of politics. Intolerance, prejudice and hate have accompanied this political polarization, dividing societies around the world.
Cynical politicians hungry for power have fueled and exploited these splits, enflamed divisions with the politics of tribal nationalism and intolerance. Truth has been perverted, facts undermined and/ordisregarded; democracy, limited to begin with, has been undermined and autocratic leaders/demagogues have surfaced, or intensified their stifling grip on power.
When and how?
As points of crisis draw near in diverse, yet interconnected areas – climate/ecosystems, economic uncertainty and mass migration/displacement of persons, energy supplies and war, food security and global health threats, demands for solutions intensify.
Current socio-economic-political methodologies hold no answers, and are increasingly seen to be inadequate. Rooted in the Ideologies of Division Exploitation and Greed (Imperialism and Neo-liberalism), they are an integral part of the problem and cannot therefore respond adequately to the current challenges, which are immense. Creative solutions consistent with the emerging times are called for; compassionate alternatives rooted in social justice and freedom.
Systemic change in the economic sphere is desperately needed – Neo-Liberalism, which dominates the global economy, is a poisonous unjust ideology that relies on unlimited, irresponsible consumption and promotes greed, exploitation and inequality. Once change in this area takes place, and a more humane unifying and just model is introduced, then development in a range of other related areas becomes possible – health care and education, the eradication of food insecurity and large scale action on the environment.
It is values that need to change first though, and among many people they are changing; systems, policies and structures will naturally follow. Central to shifting values is the idea of unity, a recognition that humanity is one, varied, diverse but whole. This is not some incense-coated pseudo-religious fluff, but a fact (spelled out many times by visionary figures throughout the ages) in nature that is sensed by people everywhere; a fact that the existing socio-economic ideology, with its emphasis on competition and selfishness, actively works against.
Unity is a primary quality of the time, as is cooperation and tolerance. From these primary Principles of Goodness a series of positive consequences, or secondary colors flows: social and environmental responsibility, the eradication of prejudice; sharing as an economic social principle; social justice and equality, brotherhood — talked about for at least two thousand years, known in the heart but expressed fleetingly — and understanding of self and others. Unity shatters tribalism and strengthens collaboration; working together encourages relationship and erodes fear of ‘the other’, which in turn dissolves tensions and creates a space in which conflict is less likely. These are the values and ideals of the time, not radical, not new, perennial values that have been long buried and are now re-surfacing, influencing thinking in all areas of society. Coloring social and environmental initiatives, empowering popular action and driving change.
Momentum is building and, despite entrenched resistance from fearful forces determined to maintain control and ensure the perpetuation of systems and attitudes that breed division and suffering, the question is no longer will there be fundamental change and the inauguration of new modes of living, but when and how.
The ‘when’ is not a fixed moment in time but a dynamic flow expanding throughout the now; the ‘how’ is a creative explosion of collective action, examples of which are all around us, in every country of the world.
Wherever voices are raised in praise of social justice there is the how and the now; when people, young and old stand together, despite the risks, demanding freedom from suppression, that is the how and the now; it’s individuals forming groups, acting in unison, crying out for substantive environmental action; it’s the rise of Trades Unions; its thousands of community initiatives, large and small, throughout the world; it’s Citizens Assemblies and the fall of demagogues – some, not all; it’s the growing influence of so-called Green Politics and demands for equality in all areas.
These are the signs of the times; diverse worldwide manifestations of ‘the how’, occurring within ‘the now’. Daily they multiply and strengthen, and the forces of resistance falter; they are the seeds of evolving socio-economic-political forms; they are the promise of things to come, the forerunners of The New time, which, no matter how the forces of resistance kick and scream, cannot and will not be held at bay.
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