“History reveals that when humanity is faced with new challenges that cannot be solved with old thinking, new capacities at mental and biological levels will evolve. We are now living at a point in history when changing life conditions are of such a magnitude that a new worldview with a transformative vision is beginning to emerge. We call that Integral.”
—Nancy Roof, Co-Founder of the United Nations Values Caucus
All this talk about oil dependency got me thinking about other global problems that our legislators make superficial efforts to fix. Thanks to constituents’ indifference and populist sentiment, political leaders apply band-aids instead of searching for comprehensive, long-term solutions.
Oil dependency, weapons trafficking, human trafficking, global warming, AIDS, widespread hunger, 16,119 species in danger of extinction, terrorism and genocide are large scale challenges that most people wish would just go away. Unfortunately they do not. That’s why it’s imperative for us to get together and manage them before they finish us off.
Most people are pretty overwhelmed by the world’s problems. They don’t want to hear about them, talk about them, or deal with them. It’s too exhausting. There are no ready solutions. Whenever flickers of hope ignite, they are quickly extinguished.
But there is a glimmer of light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. On closer inspection, you will detect the seeds of revolution – a revolution of the mind. Our collective consciousness is awakening to the need for positive change, spurring psychological, social and cultural shifts toward global transformation.
From the U.N. Millennium Development Goals project to erase poverty to Eve Ensler’s movement to end to violence against women, we are witnessing a gradual shift from ignoring human suffering to finding solutions for it. Peace movements are gaining momentum around the world, and more people are interested in integrating various thought models to create a more comprehensive strategy for change.
It’s a not a matter of good versus evil. It’s a matter of survival. As resources are depleted, it’s only a matter of time before humanity either learns to work together or tries to preserve the lives of the “few” at the expense of the “many.”
September 11th forced Americans to recognize the need for change. The unimaginable horror proved to be a wake-up call, as citizens realized that their country had become a part of the world. This change in consciousness has led us to understand that we can destroy ourselves if we don’t become attuned to the needs of all peoples. Today, the American people are starting to speak up about how the government should behave toward the rest of the world.
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean the U.S. government is listening – yet. Despite professed advocacy for freedom and democracy, our government’s actions are historically rooted in the narrow self-interests of ruling elites. The U.S. is often slow to consider the needs of others – including many of its own citizens – when it believes its commercial or security interests are threatened. American foreign policy is fossilized – even as the push for a holistic view of global problems gains momentum.
“Classical foreign policy, classical security policy, classical development policies don’t exist any more,” says Ambassador Ortwin Hennig, Commissioner for Crisis Prevention in the German Federal Foreign Office. “All three areas have to be amalgamated; in addition, economic and environmental policies are absolutely necessary for peace making.” In other words, effective policy requires significant integration of thought.
A Pew Research Center report, The View Before 9/11: America’s Place in the World, supports this opinion, comparing public opinion before and after the attack. Another report, American’s New Internationalist Point of View, determined that 50% the American public would prefer that the U.S. treat others as equals, with “roughly six in 10 (59%) now saying that the interests of allies should be taken into account by U.S. policymakers. By about a two-to-one margin (61% – 32%), the public thinks that taking an active role in the world, rather than becoming less involved, will be a more effective way of avoiding problems like terrorism in the future.”
Many argue that the number of international players and influences affecting foreign policy rose exponentially after 9/11 – making it difficult for the average American to stay abreast of issues, much less contribute to meaningful change. When things get too complicated, people eventually lose interest. As the Pew Research Center states, “public interest in international affairs has soared since the crisis began, but will it continue?”
My guess is that it will. And my wish is that people will not only pay attention, but learn – that they’ll ask more questions, and read more journals and books. I also hope that their diminishing confidence in elected representatives translates not into apathy, but into growing pressure to hold them accountable for America’s future.
The U.S. continues to operate through intimidation instead of leadership, treating other nations as either subordinates (e.g., the European Union, Japan, Australia) or enemies (Iraq, Iran, North Korea). Subordinates should willingly follow our orders; enemies will be forced to do so.
The integration of ideas can help change this. As I’ve said before, now is the time for progressive policy – policy that builds bridges, that encourages leadership not fear, democracy not exclusivity, foresight not hindsight and, most important, that encourages creativity instead of recycling failed options.
It’s vital for all nations to discard unilateralism and embrace a holistic approach. By empowering everyone to contribute fresh ideas, we can free ourselves from dependence on oil, stale ideologies and war. As the world becomes more interconnected, and a skyrocketing number of factors influence foreign policy decisions, we can’t afford to do otherwise.
Recently, a friend said she could not believe that the consciousness of the people could change. In her mind, we are all destined to live lives of suffering and exclusion, leading to eventual annihilation. I don’t believe this.
Altered consciousness is the most powerful tool humans have for effecting change. It’s the difference between believing you’re trapped in a bottomless pit, or looking up – looking up to discover a ladder leading to freedom. As our senses awaken, therefore, I’m optimistic that destruction need not be our destiny.