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Rabbit Holes 🕳️ #54
From shifting from a consumer to a citizen story, the root problem of wealth supremacy, planetary identities, everyday utopia and rethinking seasons
THIS WEEK → ✊ The
Consumer Citizen Story 🏦 Capital Bias & Wealth Supremacy 🌍 Planetary Identity ➕ Everyday Utopia 🚿 Microseasons
Rabbit Holes 🕳️
As always, here are three perspective-shifting ideas to create a better world, plus some fun extras below. Enjoy!
#1 ✊ The
Consumer Citizen Story
In this article, Jon Alexander, author of Citizens, showcases the implications of living within the “Consumer Story” such as individualism and competition, and explains how people can shift towards a “Citizen Story” defined by collective power, action, and interdependence. This reminded me a lot of my issue about The 6 Commandments of Capitalism and the recent From Self-Reform to Worldview-Reform post.
“I believe we have been living within what I call the Consumer Story for the past 80 years. In this story, our role as individuals is to pursue our own self-interest, on the basis that will aggregate to the best outcomes for society. We define ourselves through competition. Along the way, our choices represent our power, our creativity, our identity – they make us who we are. Every organisation and institution, from businesses to charities to government, exists to offer these choices. All are reduced to providers of products and services.
What’s more, I see the crises of our time as consequences of this story. We have a crisis of inequality because we have been living within a story that tells us success is competition and accumulation. We have an ecological crisis because we are trapped in a story that tells us we are separate from nature and must dominate it. And we have a loneliness crisis because the story tells us we are independent individuals, who must make it (or not) alone. Most dangerously of all, our sense of powerlessness in the face of these crises is also a consequence of the story. Because our individual choices represent our agency, the story tells us that all we can do to address the problems of the world is to make different choices – use a reusable cup, take shorter showers, take the train instead of flying. Even voting, supposedly our most powerful act, is arguably just another expression of individual choice. Don’t get me wrong, these things matter and are good to do – but, deep inside, I think most people would recognise they are not commensurate with the challenges we face. […]
When you see that the limits of the story are not the limits of the world, you can step into a different story. The story I see rising everywhere today is the Citizen Story, and what I’m offering you in this Guide is support to see the possibility of this story, and step into it. When you do, everything changes.
Even as the Consumer Story collapses and threatens to take us down with it, the Citizen Story is rising, across the world and in every sector of society. It is rooted in the insight that our agency is collective, not just individual; that we are defined by our fundamental interdependence, not our independence.”
And here is a screenshot of Jon Alexander’s guide on how to be a hands-on citizen:
#2 🏦 Capital Bias & Wealth Supremacy
This is such an interesting interview with Marjorie Kelly, the author of Wealth Supremacy. I urge you to check out the whole thing on Forbes (yes…Forbes magazine published this 😉). Marjorie argues that we should think of the capital extraction or wealth inequality system as a type of bias and illegitimate supremacy. It’s super interesting to read how she describes this systemic bias towards the 1% and the myths or thinking attached to it.
“The problem is in the system. The system – the mind that says I'm going to maximize profits for capital, at any cost, in any way that we can – that mind simply flows around any barriers we put in the way. Until we challenge that mind, until we admit it’s an archaic and illegitimate bias toward the few, our change efforts will fail. We can no longer operate a global economy to benefit a wealthy few. So that's the first error – that we can’t solve this at the level of the individual company or individual portfolio. The problem is in the paradigm, the mind out of which the system arises. […]
I call it a [capital] bias, because it's a way of thinking that’s largely unconscious, very much like gender bias or racial bias. It tells us who matters, what matters. And, by the way, who doesn't matter and what doesn't matter. What the system says is that capital matters, anything that benefits capital is good. Everything else is essentially irrelevant.
In the book, I unpack a series of seven myths, which really form the operating system of the mind of capital extraction. The first is the myth of maximizing, that no amount of wealth is ever enough. […] Then there's the myth of materiality. Material means something that's corporeal, physical. But in the upside down, Alice in Wonderland world of corporate and financial accounting, something is material if it impacts capital, if it shows up in these ethereal numbers, balance sheets and investment portfolios. If you're going to do something that will harm capital […] well, that's material. […] But is it going to harm the planet? Is it going to harm workers? Is it going to damage society? None of that is considered material in and of itself. […] That's just topsy turvy. That's inside out. […]
There’s also the myth of the income statement, which tells us that income to capital (delightfully called “profit”) must always be increased, and income to labor (called the horrid name “expense”) must always be decreased.
There's bias threaded all through our system. There are so many of us […] who are working to disrupt this system. I've been writing about it for decades, tracking the brilliant people trying and trying to disrupt the system, and mostly failing because the system is so entrenched.
All the positive things we’re doing will never add up until we challenge the core of the system itself. […] The ultimate tool that we have is legitimacy. […] When we recognize that the capital extraction system is wealth supremacist, I think that loss of legitimacy could bring the system down, and should.”
» Forbes | Marjorie Kelly On “Wealth Supremacy” And The Blueprint For A New Economy by Christopher Marquis
#3 🌍 Planetary Identity
This article gives an interesting overview of several planetary identities that have emerged in recent decades and their potential to pose as new metaphors for defining our “place” in the world. Going back to the point about spirituality in last week’s Rabbit Holes, I believe what’s missing in such science-driven concepts is an element of culture. What’s missing in nourishing a planetary identity – “a way of seeing ourselves as participants in the planet’s harmonies” as the article describes – is an element that resonates more deeply with humans.
“The language of spheres and harmony is a powerful and poetic way to imagine the planet. It led to the understanding of life as a “biosphere,” and more recently of our own species forming a new sphere over the biosphere, an envelope of intelligence and technology called the “noosphere,” the sphere of noos — a Greek word meaning “mind” or “reason.”
This vision of humankind as an expansive and potentially mindful world-embracing layer provides more than a spatial description of how humans have spread around much of the Earth’s surface. It also offers a poetic background for a specific kind of “planetary identity,” a way of seeing ourselves as participants in the planet’s harmonies, one sphere among the others.
But the noosphere is not the only image of planetary identity offered by the Earth sciences. Two other visions of planetary humankind have become broadly influential in the last 50 years. The “Anthropocene” has been officially proposed as the new geological epoch we inhabit, a time when human activity is pushing the Earth toward potentially catastrophic planetary disruption. Humankind in the Anthropocene is not a sphere but a geological force destabilizing an ancient system. And “Gaia theory” offers a third planetary vision, one in which human beings are ambivalent members of an immense living body, a self-regulating planet-sized superorganism called Gaia, after the ancient Greek goddess of the Earth.
The power of these paradigms is that each is at least as evocative symbolically as it is provocative scientifically. Each positions human beings in a specific planetary context underpinned by an ancient metaphor and its poetry: the cosmic sphere, the world force, the collective body. Their poetics may be the first hints of the planet’s growing symbolic presence in human life. […]
The writer Archibald MacLeish said that at pivotal moments, poets can “invent the age” by “inventing the metaphor.” […] The prospects of a planetary identity in a planetary age may depend in part on whether concepts like the noosphere, Anthropocene and Gaia can offer a resonant symbolic dimension, giving us the myths and metaphors through which we re-articulate our relationships to each other, the living world and the Earth.”
📕 Radical Love - From Separation to Connection with Earth, Each Other, and Ourselves by Satish Kumar (founder of the Schumacher College)
“‘Love should be the organising princple of individual lives, as well as of the whole of society.’ Kumar argues that too much of modern thinking circles around ‘the trinity of Market, Money and Materialism’. He argues instead for ‘the trinity of Soil, Soul and Society’ – care for the environment, a cultivation of what matters most, and social relations of cooperation rather than competition.”
📕 Everyday Utopia - What 2,000 years of wild experiments can teach us about the good life by Kristen R. Ghodsee
”This ‘must-read’ (Thomas Piketty, New York Times bestselling author of A Brief History of Equality) offers a radically hopeful vision for how to build more contented and connected societies, alongside a practical guide to what we all can do in the meantime to live the good life each and every day.”
📕 Commanding Hope - The power we have to renew a world in peril by Thomas Homer-Dixon
Thomas shows “what we need—as people, communities, organizations, and societies—to stop and reverse the cascading failure of our natural systems, the crippling of our economies, and the deepening of our social divisions. People’s worldviews are the key leverage point, [he argues]. They’re the place where personal and social action must begin, if we’re to create the virtuous cascades of the systemic, positive change we need.”
📅 Our Centaur Future: Discover the future of human and machine
An online conference held by the RADAR collective on November 8-9 (use discount code “CD10” to get 10% off 😉)
🚿 Shower Thoughts
I have been talking a lot about the need to reconnect with nature. One crucial part of that is getting people to notice their environment at all and the natural cycles that occur within it. Without this awareness, how can one recognize and be concerned about anomalies that result from the climate and biodiversity crisis? One idea that might help: a new conception of seasons…
That’s it for this week!
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