An important pattern inside both individual and societal evolution is one of cycles. Aided by advances, individuals and our societies, go from simple to more elaborate, both in size and complexity. Individual cycles are driven by our bodies and minds interacting with our environment and with knowledge; societal cycles are driven by technology. When either of these collapses, they usually do so because there is a failure to adapt to the negative effects of old, embedded patterns. With collapse comes chaos. Humans are naturally averse to chaos and seek to experience life as manageable. This is one of the reasons patterns make sense to us. Within them, we see cycles; and cycles play a key role in our quest for manageability.
Currently, the evidence around us points to the raw truth that humanity is experiencing a cycle of greed not unlike those that have caused the collapse of many societies in the past. Greed is an aberration of a basic survival pattern born in fear…fear of ‘not enough’, (food, territory, power, material goods, attention, etc). Because this, and other social cycles vary in character, we can look to larger patterns for clues about how this particular cycle might play out.
The last great cycle of rampant greed took place in Europe at the end of the Roman Empire. When it collapsed, it took over a thousand years for European society to reach the same level of social organization as before. Religious wars, the Black Death and social destruction leveled the population. But what also took place during that time was the transformation of social development from slavery to artisanship. It was a major transition, which we now herald as the beginning of the modern era. The next cycle in Europe and North America was marked by democratic revolutions in the late 18th century to early 19th century. These revolutions took place in the United States, Great Britain and France. Each reflected the unique differences in the three societies, as well as the leadership that emerged in each one. I maintain that we are on the cusp of the next great cycle. But this one is global. The next two or three decades will likely determine if we are on an adaptation course or a course of failure.
Humans are hard-wired to seek guidance (direction) to lead us through troubled times. Whether the direction we seek is personal or cultural, we appear to understand that the quality of leadership is important in getting us through. Are the conspiracy, misinformation mongers like Alex Jones, or the leadership of the autocratic practitioners like Bolsonaro, Putin, Trump or Victor Orban of Hungary consistent with your vision of leadership for the future? It’s been clear throughout history that lies and misinformation only serve to support the pattern of greed and self-interest of those disseminating them and create huge barriers to clear, honest communication needed in a democratic culture to deal with real problems. And real problems are at hand right now.
What is needed is a new vision that sees and understands patterns and considers them differently than what has gone before. How do we know which patterns need to be revised? Which ones need to be cultivated? How do our patterns inform our choices, personally as well as culturally? What bridges truly need to be developed in any transition? What leaders are we looking to for guidance and are they truly capable? The outcome will be determined by the leadership that is emerging, and our individual abilities to choose in favor of a reality that is adaptive and sustainable.
You can be, or perhaps already are, asking yourself many of these questions. I suggest that you open your mind and look within as well as without. Identify what and who is pulling your strings when it comes to guidance. I am suggesting that you lean in the direction of a better world and act upon it from within the realm you’re currently in, or that you aspire to, or have an affinity with. Don’t misjudge the fact that the shift is real, it involves all of us, and the stakes are very high. Here are a few last thoughts that I think may be useful to you:
- Understand that those who have power in the existing order are resistant to change.
- Recognize the reality in front of you rather than the stored thought-patterns (in yourself and the culture) that are outdated or not true anymore. By releasing the mental power stored in these loops, you free your intellect.
- Use your intellect to envision the world you want and live into that vision.
- Realize that it’s going to take some degree of decent into chaos; practice seeing beyond it.
- There will be gains and there will be losses.
- Collaboration and creation hold the keys to survival.