It’s the beginning of autumn in the northern hemisphere, a beautiful and refreshing space between the heady days of summer and the chill of winter, a transitional time. And collectively we are living through a time of global transition; a shift from one civilization, colored by certain influencing qualities, to a new time, growing out of the old but infused with a different energy, with distinct unifying qualities and evolving modes of living.
Inherent in this natural movement is the promise of change, but also resistance and tension, resulting in conflict and fragmentation. Ancient divisions are being strengthened, new divisions fermented, injustices highlighted; under the action of cleavage all are being drawn to the polluted surface of human affairs.
With every day the weight and impact of the new intensifies, the forces of the old, the forms and systems, institutions and structures decline, fragment and decay. Despite this disintegration, attachment to the familiar is strong, and change in any direction, particularly when it threatens to weaken the control of the controllers, evokes a strong opposing reaction. Broad lines of demarcation between people desperate for a different way (the majority in many cases), for social justice, environmental action and freedom, and those fighting to maintain the status quo have become increasingly stark.
Resistance is fierce among those groups that are wedded to the existing unjust, dysfunctional ways, many of whom hold the reins of power – political and corporate; believing in the doctrine of greed, which has served them well, and defining life in narrow materialistic terms, they refuse to see any alternative to the ideology of money and nationalism, and will fight to the bitter end. But transition to a new way of living is beginning and will accelerate, impacting on all areas of society. Some transitional trends have been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, including working practices, transportation (particularly in cities) and the shift to online shopping.
The old is established, its modus operandi defined, institutions and systems, ideologies and values well known, imbedded in the minds of all. The shape of the ‘new’ is not known. Forms need to evolve, but its qualities are becoming clear. It speaks of unity, cooperation, tolerance and understanding, social justice and freedom. Universal perennial principles held within the hearts of many for generations, which under the ideology of division, have been ignored or buried, at best partially honored, selectively demonstrated; broad principles that will increasingly determine the tone of the new civilization.
Modes of living, systems, institutions and values are formal reflections, or constructs, of the consciousness of those within society, local and global; the nature of this consciousness is the underlying cause of the interconnected crises facing humanity and constitutes the fundamental crisis; we are the real crisis. All proceeds from this murky source, and, for the required transitions to take place a much needed shift in attitudes is needed; a move away from actions motivated purely by selfish gain or reward to a growing sense of social and environmental responsibility; a transition from fear, desire and division to unity, love and compassion. This is a process that has been building in momentum over the last forty years or so, leading to the unprecedented global protest movement (including the passionate response to the environmental emergency) among other positive developments.
As transition becomes more widespread and momentum builds, it is crucial that in those areas impacted most (the energy sector, for example, and, with the expansion of artificial intelligence, all forms of manufacturing), the changes be just, and in order to be lasting, are made with the broadest possible consensus. Of the many changes needed a radical transition in consumer habits is foremost: Like many areas of contemporary life consumerism is an integral part of the socio-economic system, an immoral paradigm sitting at the core of many, if not all of our problems, that must be radically overhauled if social justice, and indeed peace (for there will never be peace without justice), is to be brought about.
Consumerism, including the consumption of animal food produce, is the underlying cause of the environmental emergency; a change in lifestyles and movement away from excess to sufficiency is imperative if we are to reverse centuries of environmental vandalism. Changes in education are also key – a transition (already underway in some countries, and theoretically prominent) away from a system of propaganda and conditioning, with schools and colleges functioning as little more than feeding grounds for employers, to creative centers of learning that encourage independent thinking, freedom from sociological and psychological conditioning, and self-enquiry. Creating social justice – something again that is conditional on changing the economic model – facilitating freedom for everyone everywhere, and bringing about an end to prejudice of all kinds are other key areas of change. And while there is a growing awareness of the need for acceptance and understanding, ignorant flag-waving groups bent on violence still soil our streets, defame our shared humanity.
Tolerance and acceptance in opposition to division and bigotry is one area of many in which polarities of views can be seen, the environmental emergency is another, as is immigration, education, and state support for, say, health care. Differences, which often find a focus in political allegiances, but differences which run much deeper and are broader in tone, between those who are in tune with the rhythms of the age and backward-looking fearful groups attached to old ways of thinking and living, who are determined to obstruct any progressive movement for change. Change that cannot be stopped, but change that can be delayed, and given the intense need – the crippling poverty, armed conflict, displacement of people, and, the major issue, the environmental emergency – delay is something neither we nor the planet can countenance. The house is on fire, our house is on fire, and urgent sustained action is desperately needed.