Creating stories and our world created by stories
We’re seeing fractures all around the world. Multiple reactions and people crying out for—setting out to create—a better world for all.
Modern-day innovation, politics and society brings benefits. Yet, much pain, inequity and symptoms arising—states of emergency (climate & curfews)—are impossible to fix with modern-day thinking.
What can we do?
The two pieces below address our sticky modern-day stories. They are about shifting sticky, outdated, memes. Today we know better—we’re not separate from the environment. And, we live in a globalized world—what happens in Santiago matters in Sydney and San Francisco.
What does it look like when we start, consciously, authoring our future? First is Sandra Waddock on the what and why of transformation. Second is Chris Riedy from Our Entangled Future.
Transformations2019: A Perspective
by Sandra Waddock
The Transformations2019 conference held in Santiago, Chile, presented a unique opportunity for reflecting on the what and the why of transformation.
The ‘what’, of course, was the focus of the content of the conference. The ‘why’ exploded on the last formal day of the conference when protests broke out throughout Santiago. The protests almost seemed like a metaphor of rationale for the conference itself. Triggered by a fare increase for the Metro, the protests, which sometimes turned violent, highlighted long-term discontent with inequality, living costs, rising debt, and corruption in the country.
Chile’s protests, along with numerous others simultaneously erupting in many parts of the world, both symbolically and in practice underscore the need for transformation. Many citizens are frustrated with the status quo of today’s winner-take-all, competitive rat race, where the rich seem to always win and most people get left behind, and where the natural environment is pillaged in the name of profit and wealth.
Climate change, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, violent weather patterns mirror the unrest about inequality, corruption, high cost of living, and other societal ills that suddenly spilled into public view as the conference wound down. In Santiago and in numerous other cities in Chile and elsewhere in the world, many people were (and are) demanding through public protests that leaders move their societies towards greater equity for all.
The ‘what’ of the conference perhaps can potentially shed a bit of light on the visions for a better world that some conference participants hold. One premise that I and some of my colleagues brought to the conference was the idea that the important stories and narratives that people hold about their world, or what anthropologists call their cultural mythologies, frame the way they see and ultimately act in the world.
The idea is that to begin to transform towards a better world, we all need to shift our framing—our cultural mythologies—to understand the world in a new way. Today’s dominant mythologies tend to be economic, and around individualism, growth at all costs, and purportedly free markets. This mythology has led us to today’s many ills, including climate change and social inequality—the very stuff of which protests are made, even as envisioned by some of Chile’s children (see photo, below/right of children’s artwork displayed at the conference).
Many people and certainly many conference attendees envision a different world with a different type of myth. Here is one synthesis of some key ideas emerging from the conference, particularly in narrative sessions in which some future visioning was done. Maybe these ideas can begin to form the basis of a new cultural mythology for a transforming world:
Harmony between Mother Earth and human beings, recognizing that we humans are inextricably linked to the natural environment’s flourishing and to all other living beings on the planet.
- One phrase that came from the workshop was “Mother Earth took care of us. Now it’s our turn to take care of her.”
- Partly, this harmony means acknowledging ancient wisdom acknowledging our human interdependence with each other and with nature. These ideas were expressed in a number of ways including the idea of Ubuntu, the pan-African notion that I am because we are), Mitákuye Oyásiŋ (the Lakota idea that ‘We are all one’ or ‘All my relations’), or the Bhutanese worldview in which reality is perceived as interdependent and impermanent, knowledge is viewed as wisdom and co-existing in harmony, and a core value is benefitting others.