Spiritual BrutesTWO SELECTIONS FROM THIS CHAPTER.
A Mixing of PeoplesAt present, there are extraordinary pressures on the cultures of all peoples around the world, from the many impacts of social and economic globalisation. The level of interaction between human cultures has been increasing rapidly over a relatively very short period of time (in terms of human generations) and the rate of this interaction is also increasing. Accelerating technological innovations and their rapid implementation has give rise to an explosion of information and of physical mobility. For at least a significant minority of people, world-wide travel is not just a possibility, it is becoming the norm. There are large-scale migrations of people between states and continents, whether by choice or under various forms of duress, that are substantially inter-mingling peoples of diverse cultures.
The globalisation of commerce, with trade and investment becoming more and more international and managed by very large transnational corporations, is altering the lives of everyone, whether they are part of the global movement of people, goods and ideas or not. Everywhere the environment people live in is being drastically altered. The long development of civilisation is now suddenly transforming the environment of the Earth, and to an extraordinary degree and in a very far reaching way, and this is altering both the living conditions of people and the way human life is being sustained.
People now, throughout the world, mostly live in cities, while the countryside is mostly farmed or actively managed in some way. The settled lifestyle of agriculture and urban living, that characterises civilisation, has been extended to most of the land area of the Earth - away from the most difficult terrain and areas of climatic extremes. The oceans have not been left alone either. The "natural" environment has been confined to 'reserves' or 'conservation areas', and even in these areas we manage the environment for 'pests' or the 'devastation' of fire.
The impacts of these societal and environmental changes on the personal lives of people throughout the globe have been profound, and the pressures are increasing. The certainties of cultures have been destroyed, by the rapidity of change and the continual and unrelenting pressure from outside forces and influences. The guidelines of behaviour and acceptability from cultural norms and ceremonies have been weakened, if not completely undermined, with individuals and families being left to their own devices. How do we act in these changing times? How do we communicate effectively when both the means and the rules of communication are constantly being altered? What is the basis of our personal trust of other people when everyone is unsure of the 'proper' way to behave?
What does it mean to be human in today's world? What cultural norms are appropriate, and how do we deal with the diversity of life as expressed culturally? How do we relate to each other, within our own community and across cultures?
A Wider and More Complex ViewHow we resolve disputes and what we tolerate are two basic issues about relationships that are critical to effective social living, and must be properly addressed in any cultural transformation to sustain larger societies and global levels of interaction. Whether we like it or not, violence is not always bad. Life is far too complex for rigid prescriptions of right and wrong, and some disputes are too intractable to completely eliminate violence. It is the context and the purpose that is important. Will it, in the wider context, impair relationships and destroy the opportunities of life, or will it reduce tensions overall and enhance longer term prospects. Tolerance, conversely, is not all inclusive, and should not be confused with an irresponsible acceptance and a disregard of consequences or indifference to the plight or concerns of others.
The general principle is learning to see the wider context. In decision making it is a constructive engagement of all the interested people or parties with an effective communication of the issues within their widest practical context. We need to have a longer viewpoint, a greater past (the memories of many cultures) a more in-depth understanding, wider and more complex relationships. We are striving for a higher synthesis of cooperation and inter-dependent co-action.
It is our perception of the world that has to change, our base viewpoint, and we have to develop more appropriate symbols and conceptual forms. Observing the patterns of nature, and learning directly from nature to think like a natural being should be fundamentally implicit in our learning. Instead we are isolated from nature in cities and 'learn' in square school rooms, from square books in a linear repeat-it-after-me fashion. Is it any wonder we do not understand natural living processes, and are lost and alienated from our natural heritage?
Most people throughout the world now live in cities or in a highly modified countryside of farm land. The patterns are square and linear, and differences are seen as opposites - in dualities of right and wrong, male and female etc. Third ways of doing things may be an attempt to go beyond the dualities and seek another solution, but a three way description can still be very rigid, and not much less confrontational.
The simplest interaction we should think about, the simplest model we should use in describing life and its possibilities, is a four way one. And we should see the interactions as both feeding back and open ended, in terms of interweaving spirals and not lines or circles. This double duality or four way representation has been commonly used in traditional stories and representations, eg the Sun & Earth and Water & Wind, or the traditional elemental representation of Fire, Earth, Water and Air.
One way of picturing this 'dynamic' is to think of (or actually use) sticks, and first stand up one, then two together, then three and finally four. One stick falls over unless very well balanced. Two sticks tied together (at one end) have a stability in one direction, but still fall over. Three sticks tied together at the top are very stable, and can generally be easily made to stay up even on a rough and sloping surface. It may though be too rigid for life, which needs some fluctuations or pulsing. Four sticks have a stability but general wobbliness unless they are all cut to the right length - for instance, all very much the same length when it comes to chairs. Like four sticks, life is meta-stable. It always wobbles!
Thus the simplest factor analysis or representation of life's dynamics should be a four-way one of cross-linked dualities.
A complex world needs complex relationships understood in complex ways. Decision-making processes must have a more involved and inter-weaving dynamic, based around consensus and with a continual feedback of monitoring and response.