Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Nature of Mass Events

The Nature of Mass Events

Pondering the tragedy in Haiti I can't help thinking back to a book I read many years ago, Jane Robert's "The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events." It seems to be available on amazon.com if anyone is interested. Anyway, the premise is that these large or mass events, like the earthquake in Haiti, Hurricane Katrina, and the tsunami in Asia a few years back, are brought on by a group consciousness. I know this doesn't make sense scientifically, but it is interesting to be open to the idea that our collective unconscious does affect life here on Earth. With so much suffering on this planet and little being done about it on a large scale, does all that ignored suffering somehow bring about these types of cataclysmic events in order to get our attention? It does seem like there are more of these large-scale events happening in the last few years.

Every time there is an event like this there is a great outpouring of help, sympathy, and humanitarian aid. This is great and it always makes you feel good seeing people in need being helped, but this is a small band-aid in an otherwise miserable life. It's the same as putting a finger in the dike hoping to keep the water back. Things were terrible in Haiti long before the earthquake. These events provide a bold reminder of just how bad things are for so many people around the world. And it takes these kinds of events to make our species wake up and come together to help. Unfortunately, several months afterward, these people are forgotten and we once again go about our business.

Wouldn't it be great if we could change this so that we consciously work on mitigating people’s suffering as a part of everyday life? It's easy to say, “How can we doing anything about this, it's been going on for thousands of years and it's just too big?” This is true, but if we are ever to realize our potential as a species, we need to take care of the less fortunate and have that be a priority. We get caught up in our own survival mode, understandably so, and forget about others. There are many wonderful, responsible people in this country and around the world who are doing everything they can just to keep themselves and their families’ heads above the continually rising tide. It's hard to think about others when we are barely making it ourselves.

The problems our species' faces are huge and it is going to take a systemic change to bring about any significant long-term positive solution.

As I have stated before, much of our suffering and the difficulty of making it through everyday life for a vast majority of people is a result of the dominant competitive paradigm that we are all living in. A competitive dynamic dominates our activities and our consciousness. We are taught to see others as opponents, adversaries, enemies, or obstacles to our goals. It's an “eat or be eaten” mentality. This mentality is why things never seem to change or get any better. It has become habitual behavior.

Abraham Maslow, in his Hierarchy of Needs, shows that when people have their most basic needs met, it allows them to think about and begin to work on their next higher level of needs. If we took this approach as a species and worked to help everyone get his or her most basic needs met and then moved on to the next higher level, there would be significantly less suffering, pain and violence. And more people would be able to attain their potential, which would also help improve conditions for everyone.

Instead of the competitive dynamic that keeps us in an "us versus them" mindset most of the time, we need to move to a new paradigm that keeps us aware of those less fortunate than ourselves. These mass events remind us of the fragility of life and how we all are tied together in our humanity.

The means to accomplish such change is through a non-competitive education system, where we can teach and promote the idea that we are partners and friends with each other, instead of adversaries and enemies. By gradually moving to a non-competitive paradigm on a species-wide scale, we can begin to end the horrible suffering of a majority of the planet.
Although this is a long-term goal, it is where we need to head in order to make life better for more people on the planet, and even more importantly for future generations. If you have children, are you confident that the world will be a better place for them to live after you are gone? What about your children's children?

This is an enormous project, but if we want to leave this world a better place than when we came in, we need to get started. As philosopher and mathematician Norbert Weiner stated, “What gives our species its evolutionary edge is our vastly superior ability to change our behavior in response to feedback: changing information about the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of past behavior and new information about present conditions. We have a further evolutionary advantage in that we can change our behavior quickly.” It’s time to change our behavior, because the feedback is overwhelming.

To learn more about how to bring about this change please go to www.evolutionaryeducation.com. Thanks for your time.