A New National Narrative: Social Patterns of the Transformative Worldview

Below, in Part 4 of our seven-part blog series on the transformative worldview, we consider the social patterns of this worldview. In Part 1, we introduced the transformative worldview; in Part 2, we considered its cultural aspects; and last week we explored its political perspectives.

Some people adhering to a transformative worldview see the rights of indigenous people, women, non-elites, animals, and the environment as worthy of promoting. Some people earnestly work toward eradicating racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia around the world. Since around the 1990s, for example, LBGT movements, a term that was not in widespread use before 1990, have been achieving human rights for lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, and transsexual people around the world. The LGBT social movement advocates for the equalized acceptance of LGBT people in society. Although there is not an overarching central organization that represents all LGBT people and their interests, many organizations are active worldwide. Today these movements include political activism and cultural activity, such as lobbying, street marches, social groups, media, art, and research. The 1990s saw a rapid push of the transgender rights movement, and it continues today.

17 LGBT rainbowSome people who promote a transformative worldview believe that education is the key to ushering in alternative changes. Some wish to deinstitutionalize our educational establishments and make our schools diverse, engaging, and beneficial to all, not just to an elite group. They are critical of No Child Left Behind, which they believe overemphasizes testing and “punishes” schools that “fail” to meet arbitrary national standards. Popular among many educators (including this author) are holistic educational practices that encourage diversity, inquiry-based learning, activities that connect with our multiple intelligences, a global perspective, and a holistic world history!

The importance of communal values, rather than an overemphasis on individualism as the central cultural value, is important to many people connecting with the transformative worldview. Emerging social values can be gathered from contemporary culture, from diverse ancient traditions, and from our own imaginations. For example, we can learn to draw upon the wisdom of our elders and their historical insights. Intense individualism is a learned behavior historically created and promoted by Western society, especially the United States. Those who support a transformative worldview believe a shift to a worldview that emphasizes greater cooperative, supportive, and life-enhancing attributes is a viable and necessary alternative. Visionary Mary Clark notes, “We urgently need to reinstate feelings of relatedness and community into our social vision.”i  18 !Kung Elderly Woman

The negative and positive effects of rapid social changes in the 20th century and early 21st century are playing out today. Our society is fraying at the edges because of social fragmentation and alienation. The social structures that are in place in the U.S. today widen the income gap, perpetuate poverty, alienate individuals and families, foster rampant individualism, and encourage the growth of a consumer society at great cost to the environment and individual well-being. When these seemingly intractable problems are looked at from a holistic perspective, they can be addressed more effectively. We are constantly blaming groups or individuals for “causing” these problems: Politicians blame teachers for not educating students satisfactorily, teachers blame parents for not providing a good foundation for education, liberals blame television and social media for “dumbing down” students, and advertisers say to just be “cool,” and all is well. Yet the whole system is out of balance.

The values and beliefs of the modern and globalized worldview govern our social system. Some supporters of the transformative worldview say our society drives us to pursue individual rewards, pleasures, and recognition, while the family, community, and commons are devalued and rendered subservient to the individual. Children are trucked to day-care centers so that parents can earn money in the marketplace, taking them away from the home and their children. Even when there is enough leisure time for family or community enjoyment, it frequently revolves around the marketplace providing platforms for entertainment. The adage “it takes a village to raise a child” has been replaced by “it takes a day care to raise a child.”  19 Extended family, Spain

The indigenous worldview provides valuable insights into societal readjustments. Historically, the band, group, family, village, clan, and tribe have provided mechanisms for human belonging. Humans have a universal, innate sense of wanting to belong to something bigger than just themselves. It is in our deep collective unconscious to live in connection with each other; it has only been recently that we have deviated from this norm. 20 Communal !Kung People

Instead, there has been a shift from community to the individual. This has intensified since the end of World War II and further intensified since the 1980s, when the ideal of the individual reigned supreme. Now rampant individualism has reached a crisis point. Social disengagement and alienation are expressed in the upsurge in the use of anti-depressant drugs, the rash of teen suicides, and an untold number of broken families. For example, from 2001 to 2014 there was a 2.8-fold increase in the total number of prescription-drug-related deaths. We have become untethered from our innate human need—the need to belong.

For individual well-being, those supporting a transformative worldview argue that our social currents need to change to a more equitable, nourishing, and sustainable way of life. 21The good news is that many people recognize this is an urgent issue and are remaking social institutions to foster more community spirit. They are rethinking the self-serving individualism that permeates the values and attitudes of many parts of American and world society. For example, many religious institutions are once again encouraging their places of worship to provide a setting for social interaction and support for their members and others in the community. Changing parts of the system can trigger changes in the whole system. It is a huge challenge, but once awareness is reached, change can come about. Perhaps once again we will be able to claim that it takes a village to raise a child.

questions-to-consider
Questions to Consider

  1. What does the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” mean to you?

Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator and president of the nonprofit Center for Global Awareness. The Center for Global Awareness develops books and materials with a holistic, global focus for adult learners and educators. In 2018, the CGA will launch the Global Awareness Adult Conversation and Study Program, or Gather. In this unique program, adult learners form small study groups to launch conversations about pressing global issues, seeing different perspectives, transcending deep political and cultural divides, and engaging with others to create positive change. Please email info@global-awareness.org or visit www.global-awareness.org for more information.

i Mary E. Clark, Ariadne’s Thread: The Search for New Modes of Thinking (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989), 490-492.

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A New National Narrative: Political Patterns of the Transformative Worldview

In this seven-part blog series, we are exploring the transformative worldview and its many complexities. For an introduction to the transformative worldview, please refer to Part 1 of this series. Last week, we explored the cultural patterns of the transformative worldview, and today we take a look at its political patterns.

The transformative worldview advocates for a decrease in the dominance of the nation-state arrangement. Other political configurations are emerging to challenge or complement the sovereignty of the nation-state. The organization, structure, and services that governments provide for their citizenry are changing markedly because of the shift by many nations from managed capitalism and socialism to neoliberalism and state capitalism. With more wealth concentrated in the hands of the elite, politicians have increasingly supported policies that favor the wealthy. Although the political organization in the U.S. is a republic with democratically elected representatives, increasingly we see that democracy is divided into two contending segments, which I call elite democracy and participatory democracy.  12 Clean elections

Many in the transformative movement favor involvement in participatory democracy for the benefit of all, not elite democracy in which a few wealthy oligarchs dominate the political agenda. For example, a movement for what are called Clean Elections strives to make elections publicly funded from government sources and small constituent donations, instead of from wealthy corporations and individuals who expect favorable responses to their agendas from “their” elected politicians. My hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, for instance, passed Clean Election regulations for local elections in 2005 and elected a Clean Election mayor in late 2017.

Peace and justice movements have had renewed vigor since the invention of the internet and social media communication. There are many local peace and justice chapters that encourage local engagement. (For example, I am a member of the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice.) 13 no captionBecause millions of people can now be connected instantly, the issues of peace and social and economic justice are garnering attention and action. Among some of the many causes advocated by this diverse movement are democratic reforms, peace efforts, nuclear disarmament, population control, human rights, animal rights, gay rights, equality for non-elites, indigenous people’s rights, women’s and children’s issues, racial equality, and protection from hate crimes. These causes are moral and ethical standards that guide nations’ policies and action. For instance, advocacy groups in the United States are lobbying for a Department of Peace to balance the Department of Defense’s enormous financial outlays and influence.

World institutions and organizations are gaining more authority and legitimacy as they try to complement the authority of the nation-state. During the 20th century, world political institutions evolved that reflected a more interdependent world. One of the first such institutions, the League of Nations, established after World War I in 1920, failed to prevent the outbreak of World War II, although its successor, the United Nations (UN), has proven to be a more successful organization. The UN has a peacekeeping wing to enforce its objectives. International political entities today include nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and world, regional, and citizen-diplomat groups. International organizations, such as the already mentioned UN and the International Court, are charged with the overwhelming task of helping to stamp out terrorism, regulate arms, monitor human rights, prevent disease and hunger, and protect the environment. The WTO, World Bank, and IMF are global institutions charged with governing the global economy. 14 United Nations, New York City

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are privately created organizations with an international scope, unaffiliated with a particular nation. NGOs transcend narrow national interests in dealing with issues affecting the world and include such well-known world organizations as the Red Cross, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Doctors Without Borders, and the Human Rights Watch. Many of these organizations have local and state chapters for easy engagement by ordinary citizens. 15 Human Rights Watch, an NGO

Regional political organizations complement national governments. Regional organizations include the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which has taken on new objectives, along with its primary Cold War goal of protecting Western Europe. The Organization of American States (OAS), established in 1948 with 21 members, is the oldest regional organization of states. The European Union (EU), a regional organization of currently 28 member nations, has achieved a cooperative economy, established its own currency, the euro, and removed tariff barriers for easier trade. 16 Euro symbol, Frankfurt, Germany, photo Denise Ames

Formed in 2001, the African Union has 54 members on the African continent. One of its objectives is the promotion and protection of human rights, such as the right of a group to freely dispose of its natural resources in the exclusive interest of its members. In 1945, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Saudi Arabia signed the Pact of the Arab League States and created the League of Arab States, with 22 members in 2017. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has 10 members and was formed in 1967.

questions-to-consider

Questions to Consider

  1. Do you think there is a role for the nation-state in a more globalized world? If so, what would its role be?

Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator and president of the nonprofit Center for Global Awareness. The Center for Global Awareness develops books and materials with a holistic, global focus for adult learners and educators. In January 2018, the CGA will launch the Global Awareness Adult Conversation and Study Program, or Gather. In this unique program, adult learners form small study groups to launch conversations about pressing global issues, seeing different perspectives, transcending deep political and cultural divides, and engaging with others to create positive change. Please email info@global-awareness.org or visit www.global-awareness.org for more information.

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A New National Narrative: Cultural Patterns of the Transformative Worldview

In last week’s blog, I discussed the transformative worldview, in which “diverse paths are possible and attainable, and a globalized worldview or other visions of the future are not an inevitable scenario of how the future will or should play out.” Today I will focus on one complex aspect of the transformative worldview: its cultural patterns.

Cultural Patterns of the Transformative Worldview

Many people hold to new and emerging transformative ideals such as cooperation, community, and holistic thinking. “Holistic” means that all the traits of a culture—economic, technological, social, political, religious, ideological, and cultural—interact with and reinforce each other. Holistic thinking also sees the world as an intricately interconnected organism; accentuates uncertainty, approximations, and relativity instead of absolutes; calls for interdependence instead of independence; and recognizes seemingly paradoxical concepts. Highly regarded are Eastern philosophies and religious thought that emphasize cyclical thinking, highlight harmony with nature, and see unity within diversity and diversity within unity.i 08 Gaia, Our Earth

A holistic perspective recognizes that nature, which has been treated for centuries as dead and mechanical, is an animate, invisible organizing power. The Earth, Gaia, is seen as a living organism, interconnected within a web of life. This perspective counters the split between nature and humans, which threatens life on Earth. A holistic view intuits that an underlying consciousness circulates within humans, life on Earth, and the Universe, connecting all into an intricate, interdependent circle of existence.

Some people holding a transformative worldview are embracing alternative forms of spirituality, which depart from the universal religions that arose over 5,000 years ago. The New Age movement, emerging out of the West in the 1960s and 1970s, is an umbrella term that embraces an eclectic array of spiritual beliefs and practices. It encompasses a wide range of personal development strategies and healing tactics to improve human well-being. Deepak Chopra, the spiritual teacher, states that New Age values support conscious evolution, a nonsectarian society, a nonmilitary culture, global sharing, healing the environment, sustainable economies, self-determination, social justice, economic empowerment of the poor, love, and compassion in action. 09 no caption

Some women have resurrected feminist spirituality, which encourages a connection with the sacred feminine and worship of the goddess who they claim has been suppressed by male-dominated universal religions. My cousin, a practicing shaman, performs rituals for clients and friends, such as fire ceremonies, that she contends burn away negative feelings and evil entities, resulting in a cleansing of the soul and renewal of positive energy.

The field of ecopsychology, connecting psychology with ecology, offers many people a way to spiritually connect with Mother Earth. Ecopsychologists maintain that this emotional connection between individuals and the natural world will help them develop sustainable and simple lifestyles and remedy alienation from nature. They support preserving nature on public lands, bringing nature into civic spaces, and connecting nature to their own personal space. Instead of the traditional lawn of green grass and shrubs, my neighbor has a menagerie of native plants that provides a welcome sanctuary for birds and other wildlife. 10

In some ways, postmodernism is part of the transformative worldview. Postmodern thinkers of the 20th century deconstructed the objective, scientific, modern worldview that has held sway for centuries and instead posited that there is no fixed meaning, canon, tradition, or objectivity, only infinity of meaning. This way of thinking erodes classical, rational liberalism, the cornerstone of the modern worldview.ii

Aesthetic expression in a transformative worldview differs from that of the globalized worldview. In many instances, the distance between the observer/observed or entertainer/entertained is reduced or eliminated. A person does not necessarily go to a concert and sit passively as the observer but may participate in the musical production by performing him- or herself or helping with the production. For example, a dancer in the audience might spontaneously participate in the dancing. The professional qualities that make certain artists celebrities are blurred, and the boundaries between the performer and audience fall away. A small, neighborhood theater in Pennsylvania, for example, featured audience participation as they followed sing-along tunes reminiscent of the 1960s television show Sing Along with Mitch. The audience was the performer.  11

Another example is the self-publishing book industry, which has recently skyrocketed. The big publishing houses no longer dictate what will be available to the book-buying public. Instead, individual authors can “self- publish” their own books, freed of restrictions imposed by corporate publishing entities. Also, blogs, tweets, and other forms of social media are not governed by established rules; authors can publish whatever they determine is important to them.

questions-to-consider

Questions to Consider
1.  Do any of the cultural patterns of the transformative worldview resonate with you?


Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator and president of the nonprofit Center for Global Awareness. The Center for Global Awareness develops books and materials with a holistic, global focus for adult learners and educators. In January 2018, the CGA will launch the Global Awareness Adult Conversation and Study Program, or Gather. In this unique program, adult learners form small study groups to launch conversations about pressing global issues, seeing different perspectives, transcending deep political and cultural divides, and engaging with others to create positive change. Please email info@global-awareness.org or visit www.global-awareness.org for more information.

i Fritjof Capra, The Turning Point:  Science, Society, and the Rising Culture (Toronto: Bantam Books, 1982), 21-53.

ii Norman F. Kantor, American Century: Varieties of Culture in Modern Times (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), 425-431.

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A New National Narrative: The Transformative Worldview

For the first time in human evolution, the individual life is long enough, and the cultural transformation swift enough, that the individual mind is now a constituent player in the global transformation of human culture. … – William Irwin Thompson

In the last two blogs of 2017, I outlined the unsettling times we are currently experiencing in the United States and much of Europe. There is a populist attack on the Liberalism (not associated with the Democratic Party) that has been entrenched in the psyche of the American citizenry. Liberalism pulls from the traditions of the European Enlightenment, which includes the principles of an open society, democracy, freedom of speech and religion, individual rights and dignity, fairness and justice, checks and balances on governments’ authority, scientific reasoning, and a free-market economy. Populism is displacing Liberalism as a guiding narrative of the American story. But as I have outlined in the last two blogs, populism is fraught with problems.

I suggested that we need a new national narrative. I will describe my vision of a new national narrative in the next several blogs. I call this new narrative a transformative worldview.

An Introduction to the Transformative Worldview

At this point in time, millions of diverse people around the world are actively calling for a different worldview. Some say a different story is urgently needed to assure the continuation of our human species and life as we know it on Earth. Some people in diverse fields—educators, religious leaders, business entrepreneurs, international political leaders, indigenous farmers, political activists, politicians, environmentalists, entertainers, scientists, working people, artists, writers, small business owners, academics, economists, concerned citizens, and many others—are contributing to the creation of what I call a transformative worldview. 01 Our Earth

Those who adhere to a transformative worldview, at least in part, imagine that diverse paths are possible and attainable, and a globalized worldview or other visions of the future are not an inevitable scenario of how the future will or should play out. They are promoting alternative ideas and diverse options for a different worldview and voicing their convictions in a forceful, yet usually peaceful, fashion.

Elements in the formation of a transformative worldview come from diverse sources; some are positive aspects of the four other worldviews (see Five Worldviews). For example, highly regarded from the indigenous worldview is the wisdom of indigenous people who call upon the wise council of their elders, respect and connect with nature, draw on the support of extended family, and value the strong relationship with territorial place. 02 Wise elders, !Kung woman, Africa photo Izla BardavidFrom the modern worldview are gleaned the ideal of liberal democracy, the advancement of scientific inquiry, medical improvements, beneficial technological innovations, public-supported mass education, and progress in the expansion of human rights to include women and people of color. All are noteworthy accomplishments. From the fundamentalist worldview come the close connection to family and community and the recognition of a greater power than individualism alone. The stunning technological developments from the globalized worldview, especially high-speed, integrated computer networks, and reasonably-priced global transportation have provided instantaneous communication, linking diverse people around the globe. Even some indigenous people in remote villages are linked to the internet and use appropriate scientific knowledge for enhancing their own goal of self-sufficiency in food consumption. And some would say that the globalized worldview’s vision of “opening up” the world to unfettered trade has benefited many people with a more materially comfortable standard of living than ever before experienced. 03 Computer technology in Rwanda, Africa

All of these worldviews have some positive contributions in creating a different worldview, but those advancing a transformative worldview believe that there needs to be selectivity and mindfulness in fitting the values of the four other worldviews into a new framework. Therefore, a different worldview needs to continue its evolution and offer alternatives to prevailing notions of cultural uniformity, rigid fundamentalism, corporate dominance, consumer-driven values, selfish individualism, oligarchic concentration of wealth and power, political stalemate, and environmental destruction. Even though those who embrace a transformative worldview have a diverse array of thoughts, beliefs, ideas, theories, lifestyles, choices, and actions that defy rigid categorization, they do share common principles and ideals that I have placed under the umbrella of a transformative worldview.

The transformative worldview is still a minority view, but it is a worldwide movement in which millions of people are reassessing the values of the other worldviews in order to find a more compassionate, equal, sustainable, and community-focused value system. I have organized 10 characteristics that briefly describe the emerging transformative worldview in the U.S. and across the world.

The Transformative Worldview: 10 Characteristics

1. Interdependent Ideals are emerging that focus on interdependence, cooperation, community, connections, support, and altruism rather than greed, aggression, independence, and segmentation. Other descriptors of the transformative worldview include simultaneity, uncertainty, relationships, networks, webs, integration, and diversity. 04

2. Community-Focused Social Values draw upon the wisdom of our elders and their experiential insights. Intense individualism is a learned, aggressive behavior, historically created and promoted by Western society, especially the U.S. A shift to a worldview emphasizing greater cooperative, supportive, and life-enhancing attributes is a viable alternative.

3. Natural Capitalism places priority on the well-being and sustainability of the Earth. It includes socially responsible investing, social entrepreneurship, micro-credit banking, community development, local businesses, self-managed worker-run enterprises, cooperatives, nonprofit organizations, and other forms of management in which individuals have a vested interest in profitability and outcomes. 05 Organic greenhouse farming

4. Ecological Awareness has awakened our insight into the interdependence of everything in nature, where every event has an effect on everything else. Humans are part of the mystery of the Universe and not isolated, separate, and superior entities.

5. Renewable Energy in the form of wind, solar, water, steam, and others is important in countering the dire effects of climate change and stimulating economic development. The devastation caused by a fossil fuel-dependent lifestyle has galvanized world citizens to start shifting from oil and coal dependence to sustainable energy.

6. Peace and Justice Movements connect millions of people instantly with worldwide communication networks. These vigorous movements include democratic reforms, peace efforts, nuclear disarmament, population control, human rights, animal rights, LGBTQ rights, environmental issues, educational reforms, equality, rights for indigenous people, women’s and children’s rights, and others.

7. Sustainable Agriculture is a shift from industrial agricultural that is no longer able to meet the world’s food needs to local and organic farming. 06 Sustainable agriculture, Mexico photo Denise Ames

8. Holistic Health offers alternatives to Western medicine, which is often dominated by a for-profit pharmaceutical industry and invasive medical procedures. It encourages health, well-being, a mostly plant-based diet, and a holistic way to cure diseases ranging from cancer to heart disease.

9. Spirituality includes alternative practices that differ from traditional religious practices. Many traditional religions have accommodated the desire expressed by many people for more connected and personal spiritual experiences, rather than rote adherence to prescribed creeds and rituals. 07 no caption

10. Holistic Education is the key to ushering in alternative changes. Holistic educational practices for adults and youths encourage multi-culturalism, open-mindedness and diversity, inquiry-based learning, multiple intelligences, a global perspective, and a holistic world history!

The transformative worldview is further explained through six patterns—cultural, political, social, economic, technological, and ecological—that I will describe in blog two of this four-part series.


Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator and president of the nonprofit Center for Global Awareness. The Center for Global Awareness develops books and materials with a holistic, global focus for adult learners and educators. In January 2018, the CGA will launch the Global Awareness Adult Conversation and Study Program, or Gather. In this unique program, adult learners form small study groups to launch conversations about pressing global issues, seeing different perspectives, transcending deep political and cultural divides, and engaging with others to create positive change. Please email info@global-awareness.org or visit www.global-awareness.org for more information.

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Unsettling Times: A Troubling Transition, Part 2

These are unsettling times. In an optimistic light, we are merely in the midst of a transitional period in which the old ways of doing things are being disrupted and rejected. From a more pessimistic outlook, we are sliding into decline as a great nation, we are saddled with a huge national debt, and the future belongs to China. Yet the path forward is still in an amorphous state.

01 CBS News (1)

CBS News

— “Unsettling Times: A Troubling Transition,” December 12, 2017

In the first part of this three-part blog series, I examined the traditional ways—the Enlightenment, or Liberal, narrative in the United States and much of Europe—that are being soundly rejected. Stepping into the national narrative void is populism—on both the right and left of the political spectrum.

But the question remains: “Can populism become our national narrative?” What would the narrative be on the political right and left? Would there be any compromises? What would bind Americans together?

I believe that populism, on the left and right, is not a viable narrative for the United States. I have highlighted a few points about the populist left and right that make populism very troubling to me. I will distinguish between populism on the right and left when needed.

What Populism Could Mean for America

1) Strong Government or Corporations

The populist left supports a strong national government that makes the rules, such as the breaking up of large corporations, high taxes on the wealthy, and government programs and laws to rectify social inequality. They target corporations as the economic punching bag and cause of inequality. For example, they are lobbying for a single-payer, government-directed health care system. Although health care is certainly in need of separation from the for-profit system, the difficulty of organizing, reforming, and financing universal health care does not seem to be adequately addressed. 08

The populist right targets the government as the economic culprit and argues for a free-market system. They lobby for low taxes on the wealthy and large corporations, despite the evidence that this policy does not create jobs or spur growth. They work to continue to reduce regulations and government oversight. They wish to privatize social security and reduce Medicare and Medicaid, while boosting defense spending.

2)  Reduction of Small and Local Business

The populist left supports minimum-wage laws and health care mandates, which hamper small business. But they don’t have a clear policy for supporting small and local businesses, putting small businesses firmly in the right’s camp. The populist right seems to pay lip service to small and local businesses, while supporting mega corporations as their prime interest. 09 (1)

3) Authoritarian Tendencies

The populist right and left have authoritarian tendencies. The party line takes precedence over finding compromise and exploring options on the other side. Although I would argue that the right has more authoritarian tendencies than the left, actions on campuses in recent years have demonstrated that some people on the left restrict free speech, according to their terms, and reject hearing options on the other side. The actions of President Trump and his administration have clearly demonstrated authoritarian leanings, and they have skirted established protocol in many instances. For example, his presidential decrees have sidestepped the legislative process, such as in immigration and environmental decisions.

4) Compromised Free Speech and Press

Media outlets that espouse a particular party line have flourished in recent years. Although it would appear that this would enhance democracy, their suspect nature of investigating issues and reporting on controversial topics has resulted in conspiracy theories and outright lies. The party’s narrative takes precedence. This development is happening on the populist left and right. 10

5) Withdrawal as a World Leader

There appears to be a tendency in America to withdraw from world leadership and turn inward. For example, the left and right did not support signing the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership). Although the populist left had reasons for not supporting it, the result has been a retreat from world leadership. The right has vocally proclaimed that the foreign policy agenda is taking care of Number 1—ourselves. The world leadership void, it appears, is gradually being filled economically and diplomatically by China.

6) Blame

Anger on both sides has erupted into frustration and bickering. Each side blames the other for all problems. The populist right has perfected the art of blame, with Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims, and Hillary Clinton the targets of their wrath. The populist left lobs general slurs at the other side, such as racism, misogyny, and homophobia. Neither side seems to have viable policy solutions to complex problems. 11

7) A Frayed Social Divide

The political divide is actually a reflection of deep social and cultural divisions. Each side glues itself to one side of an issue—gun control, abortion, affirmative action, taxes, the environment, welfare, immigration, and so on. Compromise or talking across the divide is impossible. The split allegiance among the population makes it difficult to govern and stitch together a national narrative. The result is gridlock and inaction. 12

**

Journalist David Brooks notes in an article in the New York Times, “Today, we have no common national narrative, no shared way of interpreting the flow of events. Without a common story, we don’t know what our national purpose is. We have no common set of goals or ideals.”

Hopefully the populist scenario is a temporary pause, while a new national narrative emerges into the national consciousness. What will this new national narrative be? We all have a stake in writing it.

I will save my ideas for a new national narrative for the last of this three-part blog series, to be published on January 9, 2018.

We are taking a blog break, with no article on December 26.  We will resume our weekly blogs on January 2, 2018.

Happy Holidays!

questions-to-consider

Questions to Consider:

  1. What actions on the right and left do you think are perpetuating the social and cultural divide?

Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator and president of the nonprofit Center for Global Awareness. The Center for Global Awareness develops books and materials with a holistic, global focus for adult learners and educators. In January 2018, the CGA will launch the Global Awareness Adult Conversation and Study Program, or Gather. In this unique program, adult learners form small study groups to launch conversations about pressing global issues, seeing different perspectives, transcending deep political and cultural divides, and engaging with others to create positive change. Please email info@global-awareness.org or visit www.global-awareness.org for more information.

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Unsettling Times: A Troubling Transition

These are unsettling times. In an optimistic light, we are merely in the midst of a transitional period in which the old ways of doing things are being disrupted and rejected. From a more pessimistic outlook, we are sliding into decline as a great nation, we are saddled with a huge national debt, and the future belongs to China. Yet the path forward is still in an amorphous state.

01 CBS News

CBS News

Before envisioning future scenarios, it is important to look over our shoulders at the past and examine why the traditional ways are being so soundly rejected.

Since its birth, the national narrative of America has been firmly planted in the traditions of the European Enlightenment. The principles of an open society, democracy, freedom of speech and religion, individual rights and dignity, fairness and justice, checks and balances on governments’ authority, scientific reasoning, and a free-market economy have been entrenched in the psyche of the American citizenry. A civil war was fought partially over these principles, and the U.S. and its allies struggled against totalitarian fascism on the battlefield during World War II. Although imperfectly realized, these principles have been the backbone of American society. The struggle was to perfect the principles, rather than reject them wholesale. 02 American Progress, John Gast.jpg

Often called Liberalism (not associated with the Democratic Party), Enlightenment principles have frequently clashed with religious conservatives’ beliefs. This uneasy tension has flared up at different times in U.S. history, but generally the Enlightenment narrative has held, as most people have prospered under its banner.

But the Enlightenment narrative, or Liberalism, has been attacked from multiple sides in recent years, and it seems to be splintering more and more each day. Many factors have caused this disruption; I will highlight a few in this blog.

Reasons for the Splintering of the Enlightenment Narrative

1) The government’s guiding of the economy, put in place during the Great Depression and World War II, promoted fairness and opportunity for many Americans. This government policy has been steadily lifted. Now government policy promotes a neoliberal economic model. In this model, policy favors large corporations and the wealthy, while ordinary workers have experienced stagnant wages and fewer benefits. 03

2) The government has pushed economic globalization, in which American workers compete with workers around the world, and companies have outsourced jobs to lower-wage countries. Although about 20% of Americans have profited from this move and the 1% at the top of the wealth scale have done exceedingly well, the remaining 80% of Americans have lagged behind.

3) Sweeping technological changes have disrupted traditional workplaces and companies, again resulting in skewed income distribution to the top earners. Many workers have not kept up with the changing skills needed in a highly sophisticated technological world. 04

4) Differing social values have frayed the nation. For example, at some universities, angry students have denied speakers with different political beliefs from giving speeches. Protesters have shouted down those with whom they disagree. The Enlightenment principles of free speech and rational discourse—the cornerstones of universities—are being challenged. These principles have been under assault by some people at universities for a couple of decades, as some believe they reinforce white privilege and existing power. 05 (1)

5) Highly partisan media outlets have given voice to angry citizens, whose rantings have created a spiral of anger, disenchantment, and demand for change. Conspiracy theories go uncontested on national media platforms and are believed to be true by gullible followers. In many venues, the Enlightenment ideals of reasonable inquiry, civil discourse, and the hearing of all sides of issues have been eroded and replaced with “alternative facts” and outright lies.

6) Disquieting social changes have left many people alienated, depressed, and prone to addictive and destructive behaviors. The social fabrics of American life that have given people stability and order—churches, extended and nuclear families, neighbors, civic organizations, and workplace connections—have frayed, with disastrous results. The epidemics of opioid addiction and depression are a visible reminder of a tattered social fabric. 06 (1)

7) The consumer culture implicitly promises to bring happiness and fulfillment to those consumers who willingly participate in the ritual of shopping. Yet after decades of these promises, and after much consumption, most Americans are not happier. Since the American economy runs on consumerism, this is a paradox that is not easily reconciled.

All of these factors, plus many more not mentioned, have contributed to the uncertainty that is sweeping America, along with other countries around the world. Most politicians seem to be clueless about where we are headed, let alone how they should guide us in this time of uncertainty. 07 Fall of Berlin Wall, 1989

The giddy times after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, signaling the end of Communism in the former Soviet bloc, have resulted in disillusionment. The promises of a neoliberal economic order and democracy, which would improve the lives of Americans and people around the world, have given way to increased authoritarianism and disappointment. Instead of euphoria at having more consumer and entertainment choices, many citizens feel alienated, frustrated, and betrayed by their leaders.

Toward a New National Narrative

The Liberal or Enlightenment narrative has been rejected by many people and has evoked lukewarm support from others. Universities, the former bastions of Enlightenment ideals, have been tepid in supporting this narrative.  Stepping into the national narrative void is populism—on both the right and left of the political spectrum. During the 2016 presidential election, there was a loud rejection of the path the country was taking. Many people called for a political revolution, or they wanted to “shake things up.” Never mind that it was uncertain what things would look like after they were shaken up, or after the revolution took place.

Can populism become our national narrative? What would the narrative be on the political right and left? Would there be any compromises? What would bind Americans together?

This is the first article in a series of three dedicated to America’s national narrative. The next blog article will look at populism as the new national narrative—on the right and on the left. In the final article, I will offer my suggestions for what I think will be a more sustainable, reasonable, and pragmatic national narrative.

questions-to-consider

Questions to Consider

  1. Do you see evidence in your own life to suggest that Enlightenment ideals are being eroded?
  2. Do you think this is a good or bad development?

Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator and president of the nonprofit Center for Global Awareness. The Center for Global Awareness develops books and materials with a holistic, global focus for adult learners and educators. In January 2018, the CGA will launch the Global Awareness Adult Conversation and Study Program, or Gather. In this unique program, adult learners form small study groups to launch conversations about pressing global issues, seeing different perspectives, transcending deep political and cultural divides, and engaging with others to create positive change. Please email info@global-awareness.org or visit www.global-awareness.org for more information.

Posted in cultural divide, GATHER, History, perspectives, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Seeing Diverse Perspectives

The 2016 presidential primaries and general election in the United States were a showcase for seeing events, issues, and people very differently. Not only did the candidates see things differently, but the electorate did as well. The mudslinging, vicious attacks, shouting, pronouncements of greatness, inappropriate behaviors, and clever manipulation of facts that took place reflect something deeper than a candidate trying to win an election. They reflect diverse ways of understanding and interpreting reality.

There were very few words of wisdom uttered to reassure the electorate and make people feel connected as Americans, let alone connected to the global community. If this raw wound is left open without some kind of treatment, these misunderstandings can cause irreparable damage to our democracy, and to open society.

The earth-shattering event of the 2016 U.S. election—as well as many other recent events—has inspired us at the Center for Global Awareness to channel our decades of educational experience into encouraging greater understanding of the differing viewpoints around the world. The program we have created, Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, is a conversation and study program of self-organizing groups of concerned citizens. This program uses a holistic approach called SEEK—See, Evolve, Engage, and Know—to study and talk about issues. Participants go beyond learning information to seeing different perspectives, evolving compassionate attitudes, and actively engaging in creating positive change.

I will explain the See Dimension in this blog article. 06

We define the See Dimension as the skill to view a concept, situation, person, or group from diverse points of view. We see global topics from a wide range of perspectives. The limitations of an individual viewpoint become clear when events seem incomprehensible. Why, for example, are many countries in Europe lurching to the political ultra-right, or why is the Middle East in a cauldron of discontent and uncertainty?

The See Dimension is about understanding that each one of us filters events, issues, and people through particular lenses or perspectives, which shape our interpretation. We would need to understand over seven billion different lenses to accurately comprehend how each person sees the world—an impossibility, to be sure. Added to the complexity is the fact that each person has multiple lenses that act as filters to reality, creating even more confusion and misunderstanding. It’s a wonder that we can get along at all! 07

CGA encourages us to take a big-picture look at the See Dimension. We will have to be comfortable with many generalizations in order to communicate about this vital-but-slippery concept. But we must also realize that below the generalizations are real people facing real anxiety and uncertainty. As a nation, we seem to be missing the point of what unites us. We have elevated the tools and techniques for dividing, condemning, differentiating, and attacking each other, but our toolkit for understanding, compassion, and empathy is at an elementary level. It is far easier to attack and belittle than it is to support and nourish. It is far easier to dismiss the opinions, hopes, and fears of others than to reach out to understand them and relate to their situations, or feel for their plights. The art of negotiation and compromise has given way to standing for our principles in a stoic way, without acknowledging that compromise is crucial in every moment of our lives. 08

We think it is essential to include the See Dimension in our Gather program for an adult audience. Adults have more varied life experiences and will be able to quickly grasp the concepts and appreciate the benefits of integrating it. The See Dimension has been developed to try to make some sense of the multiple perspectives that are expressed by each person. Although the different “modes of seeing” we explore in the See Dimension will not give a complete picture of reality, as this is impossible anyway, its purpose is to give an overview of several different lenses through which reality is perceived.

09 The notion that we are rational creatures who objectively analyze information to arrive at the “best” solution has given way to the reality that we are complex humans with hundreds, if not thousands, of different lenses through which we perceive reality. I believe there is an urgency to connect with our fellow citizens locally, nationally, and globally in order to further a more democratic, equitable, and peaceful world. We believe that understanding and practicing the See Dimension in the Gather program can contribute to realizing this goal.

questions-to-consider

Questions to Consider

  1. Have you ever encountered a person with a different perspective from you on an important issue? How did you handle it?

Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator and president of the nonprofit Center for Global Awareness. The Center for Global Awareness develops books and materials with a holistic, global focus for adult learners and educators. In January 2018, the CGA will launch the Global Awareness Adult Conversation and Study Program, or Gather. In this unique program, adult learners form small study groups to launch conversations about pressing global issues, seeing different perspectives, transcending deep political and cultural divides, and engaging with others to create positive change. Please email info@global-awareness.org or visit www.global-awareness.org for more information.

Posted in cultural divide, GATHER, perspectives, Uncategorized | Leave a comment