Change is in the Air – Let’s not Waste a Pandemic #35 #cong20
As we awaken from a slumber and sleep walk through life, can we create a better society.
Reading Time in Minutes
- Change is hard to start but once moving can unlock greatness
- Science fiction help us see the future
- Look to the past for inspiration
- Society is about us and we can change it
About Eoin Kennedy:
Ex teacher, ex-entrepreneur, ex-communications consultant and now a Conversation Design Strategist with Novartis. Infinitely curious. The one to blame for CongRegation.
Contacting Eoin Kennedy:
You can follow Eoin on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.
By Eoin Kennedy
Most of my conversations with people about the theme of ‘Society 3.0’ generally illicit a reaction of interest and recognition of its relevance in the era of vast change we have experienced over the last 20 years and the last 9 months in particular.
The next reaction is one of perplexion. The theme is an open call for what type society we wish to live in. Sounds simple, especially as we have skin in the game but it causes genuine difficultly.
Clare Dillions submission offers help in structures to use to come to the answer, rather than the answer, which reveals a lot to me.
We struggle with this topic because we rarely consider it, in its entirety. At CongRegation huddle in 2018 I witnessed a very articulate group struggle with a challenge of what would make a better future, instead stepping back and trying to formulate what makes them happy. The collective answer was ‘doing things for people in their community’. What I took from this was that it takes time to unravel what we really think, feel and want. We don’t wake up with a nirvana of what society should like – its just too big, challenging and ever reaching or as Dermot Casey’s and others reveal in their submission, its ever changing and evolves.
The covid crisis, despite its terrible physical, emotional and economic consequences has awoken any people from day dreaming through life. Many are evaluating why they accepted spending hours in wasted travel to work, how much time they lost to family time, how little value money has when you cannot spend it, how they should be paid, the true value of front time workers among a litany of other areas that were just accepted with a shrug of the shoulders. As news of a vaccine sparks renewed hope of a return to normal, it also potentially heralds the end of challenging the status quo, as Emma Burns points out. All change is hard and sometimes it takes drastic external factors to initiate change. However as many revolutions have shown, despite create promise and hope generated in heat, can pitter out as the hot coals cool to ash.
Starting with a blank canvas can be very intimating. It hard, takes great mental effort and does not always ponder the past. We have been here before. However we get one shot of our short time on the planet, and while it might seem easier to be guided like puppets with predefined roles and rules generated by others, the reality is we should and can have a say in how we spend our time here. If not for us, then for the next generation. While not as dramatic as those who stood by while atrocities took place, abdicating responsibility for the society we live in and frequently complaining about it, is not probably the best use of the incredible opportunity we have been given.
I often think science fiction is a easier route to tease out what type society we would like to aspire to. In the Star Trek episode ‘The Nuetral Zone’, the US Enterprise D discover and revive three cryogenically frozen humans from the late twentieth century. Many of the encounters between the 24th Century Starfleet and the humans (whose descriptions of 21st century lives, aspirations and norms we can easily recognise) are entertaining and it’s easy to ignore the irony while immersed in science fiction. One quote from Captain Picard to Ralph Offenhouse which explained their sense of purpose resonated with me “A lot has changed in the past three hundred years. People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We’ve eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We’ve grown out of our infancy.” The 1 minute clip below is worth a quick view to get a sense of one possible central tenant of what a future society could look like. Simple guiding principles can guide complex behaviours.
Just ask yourself if a future society looked back at how we live our lives and treat others, how would they view us.
If I go back the opposite direction I see Éamon de Valera, the then Taoiseach of Ireland’s vision of Irish society commonly called the ‘The Ireland That We Dreamed Of’ on Raidió Éireann on St. Patrick’s Day (17 March) 1943. Love it or hate it was at least an articulation of a future society. Michael Davitt has even more radical views of what a 19th Century Ireland should look like, which inspired Gandhi amongst others. The list goes on. They and many other have taken the time effort and frequently suffered greatly to improve the society they witnessed in an attempt to improve them. Strong leaders are important but we cannot abdicate all the responsibility to them only to throw rocks from the side line. In fact its frequently the second and subsequent people to engage in a movement that activates change as the famous Dancing Guy video eloquently narrated by Derek Sivers shows.
The more recent Global Irish Economic Forum in 2009 or the Farmleigh Gathering was good model of collaboration and spirit for progress buty was too economically focused, exclusive and did not continue to question by continually evolving. Although there were some successful outputs from it, the notion that we can bang heads together, come up with ideas, do a few things and the walk away from it, does little to make long term changes. Companies and business, imperfect as they are, can be better at planning, execution, measurement, reviewing and adapting to change. Imagine what we could achieve if we took a fraction of these evolved methodologies and applied then to the broad arena of ‘Society’. On the contrary if we leave the evolution of society, we will end up in a very frightening place.
Alternative approached sometimes need a brave step. In 2011 Iceland effectively crowd sourced its constitution. These things take effort, can be very unsettling but can inspire the best of our mental capacities. However they are not nice neat bundles and we need to be comfortable in being uncomfortable if we are to progress and really create a society that can be truly reflective of the best of the human spirit.
In an era of great comfort its easy to fool ourselves that we have reached some sort of Zenith or peak of civilisation. The stories of Easter Island, demise of the Roman Empire and other lost civilisation should serve as a warning. As many of our Maslow-esque needs have been met we are relatively easy to control. Many pursue the accumulation of power and wealth as a single aspiration of greatness while the vast population sleep walk through life while been drip fed by consumerism and comfort which serve to dull any notions of challenge. None of us are immune and those at the fringes of thinking are treated with disdain or considered as weak, if they challenge powerful forces. Frequently an awakening comes too late as people face death and ponder what they have done with their lives and what society they leave behind. Can we have this revelation when we can still make a difference rather than pass into whatever lies beyond with a sense of regret.
Humans are messy, complex, contradictory and I hope still at a relatively stage of evolution. When we focus on self or neutral family only we rarely do the broader society much good. Left to our own devices we could easy follow the script from William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’. We can show incredible empathy and despicable selfishness. When we pursue the very attractive and powerful forces of power and wealth we frequently become corrupted by them.
At a global level we have very different competing models of society, characterised by the US democratic model against the Chinese collective model. Both have merit at the principle level and both are wrong. Whether a hybrid emerges and improves upon the previous models is uncertain.
Times of crisis can bring out the best of humanity. But how much of a crisis do we need. We face the current environmental crisis with our heads in the sands, like watching a car crash in slow motion. Does it take the invasion by an alien race to awaken us to an appreciation of a common sense of humanity and global society.
The current Covid pandemic has awakened us from a slumber. Whether we treat it as a bad dream and go back to sleep is up to us. Let us not waste the memory of those who suffered and died by not improving our worlds and taking action towards a collective Society 3.0 and beyond.