- The Kit
All the Dreams of the World
I have within me all the dreams of the world.
It may be inconvenient and controversial to say it, but right now there are enough dollars, people and technologies at our fingertips to solve the vast majority of our most pernicious social and environmental problems. We could solve poverty within a year from now if we all wanted it to disappear. We could all but eliminate the incidence of heart disease, depression, obesity and diabetes if we had a mind to. We could magic away conflict, violence, rape and murder if everyone wanted it. We know how to stop creating carbon dioxide and to prevent climate change. We just don’t do what needs to be done. If these problems are not waiting for something external to solve them, then they must stem from the ideas and ideals we have inside us. When we penetrate to the hidden order of things, the root cause of our financial, environmental and social crises is a widespread and paralyzing crisis of our ideas.
The good news is this: If we change the ideas, we can change the things that they have created. All our problems can be solved if we allow our social imagination to run free from all the ideas that have held us back for centuries.
There is one such idea that I believe is foundational to every part of our life – including many of the things that we are most frustrated and saddened by in the world around us. This idea is the idea of separation. At the dawn of the modern era, a few hundred years ago, the French mathematician and philosopher René Descartes wrote ‘I think, therefore I am’. As he wrote it, he immortalized for future generations the notion that men are separate from each other and from the rest of Nature. This idea became the lynchpin which now holds up the scientific, political and economic ideologies that have carved up the modern world, complete with all their discontents.
By separating the rational mind, ‘Me’, from the rest of nature, Descartes helped birth ‘objective’ science, and with it, the world as we now know it. Driven and inspired by the idea of separation, we conceived of the world as a mechanism, a clock with many working but separate parts; rather than as an interconnected living system where everything is (metaphorically and literally) connected. The theory went that science, premised on a separate subject (the scientist) observing and measuring a separate object (the finch’s beak or atomic particle) could free us from the shackles of religious superstition and persecution.
But suddenly alone in the world, we saw ourselves as naturally selfish, condemned to fight tooth and nail against our brothers for land or power. Our economic system is premised on this belief. Lonely on our own, we felt anger and resentment at those outside us who tried to hurt us or control us. Our addictions and emotional dramas are designed to ameliorate these feelings. With only our selves to rely on, we felt we had to compete with other cogs in the machine to achieve fame and fortune. Our conflicts – commercial, romantic or military – are based on this tug of war. Hungry to fill a hole created by our sense of separation, we eat, shop and exploit more of the Earth’s bounty that we need. Our water wars, oil slicks and GM foods are premised on the acceptability of this exploitation.
So what would society look like if we shifted our life philosophy from one of separation to one of interconnectedness? From a mechanism to a living system? Would would happen to our politics, our welfare programs, our economic theories, our business practices, our career choices, our consumer behavior and our global society if we replaced the idea of separation with the idea that we are far more interconnected than we are separate, and therefore that we feel less alone, lacking and needy?
Would we feel a desire to help one another more as we have far less to fear? Would we be more compassionate to our sisters and brothers and more respectful of the land which support us when we desire less to fill us up? Would we no longer want to horde capital and consumer goods, and instead look to contribute our ideas and ingenuity to social innovations and social and ethical enterprises? Would we self-organize without conflict because we feel so deeply how much we share rather than what separates us? Would the career of choice become a social entrepreneur – harnessing our individual ingenuity for the good of the whole?
For this project, I will be interviewing civic leaders, community managers, social innovators and political pioneers who are running real-world projects all across the world focused on social justice, peace-building, urban rejuvenation and poverty and disease reduction that are underpinned by a understanding of our inherent interconnectedness and interdependence, whatever that means for them.
There will be a book and web TV channel exploring this crucial topic, showcasing innovators who are putting their commitment to action in line with their life philosophy and through this, transforming the world into one that works for all its constituents, not just the privileged few.
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