freedom: deep participation with others

I wonder what is the ratio – in the world of politics and culture etc – of diagnosis to prescription. I would guess it is heavily weighted toward diagnosis: everyone and his dog is talking and writing about how bad everything is and I’m not convinced there are as many who are coming up with viable solutions.  One exception to this rule could be our self help culture of talk shows and books but they’re more about personal fulfillment than geo politics.

We’re in a post solution world, so that doesn’t help.  Statesmanship is all but extinct; we’re a country of editors and responders.  Stick your neck out and risk losing it along with your head.

Here is an unusually prescriptive set of ideas taken from an essay by Jeremy Rifkin who writes on empathy among other things.  In it he describes two worlds, the first called the old geopolitics and the second the new biosphere science.  The first is the old world we currently occupy which is dying a slow and painful death.  It is based on expansion, production, domination, competition, and individualism.  Another word for it could be Darwinian positivism.  Each sector of the world we know and live in, including nature and the environment, social bonds, economy and work, is collapsing because the ideas it was built on were fatally shortsighted and can no longer sustain us.

In direct opposition, the coming new world that Rifkin describes will be characterized by sustainability, partnership, deep knowledge, and participation.  It will usher in a third industrial revolution.  It’s a prophesy of sorts, which offers a radically new vision of how we will live, work, and relate to one another and the planet.

I have broken out the descriptions of each world in a handy chart below, and following is the excerpt:

The old geopolitics The new biosphere science
Detachment, expropriation, dissection, reduction Engagement, replenishment, integration, and holism
Committed to making nature productive Making nature sustainable
Seeks power over nature Seeks partnership with nature
Puts a premium on autonomy from nature Re-participation with nature
Competitive, autonomous being Shared nature of knowledge
American dream: material self-interest, autonomy and independence Quality of life: collaborative interest, connectivity and interdependence
Unbeholden to others and an island to oneself Deep participation with others

The old geopolitics was accompanied by a scientific paradigm that viewed nature as objects; the new biosphere science, by contrast, views nature as relationships. The old science is characterized by detachment, expropriation, dissection, and reduction; the new science is characterized by engagement, replenishment, integration, and holism. The old science is committed to making nature productive; the new science is committed to making nature sustainable. The old science seeks power over nature; the new science seeks partnership with nature. The old science puts a premium on autonomy from nature; the new science, on re-participation with nature.

Preparing the workforce and citizenry for the new society will require rethinking the traditional educational model, with its emphasis on rigid instruction, memorization of facts, reductionist thinking and autonomous learning.

The dominant top-down approach to teaching, the aim of which is to create a competitive, autonomous being, is beginning to give away to a “distributed and collaborative” educational experience with an eye to instilling a sense of the shared nature of knowledge. Intelligence, in the new way of thinking, is not something one inherits or a resource one accumulates but, rather, a shared experience distributed among people.

The American dream, long held as the gold standard for aspiring people everywhere, is squarely in the Enlightenment tradition, with its emphasis on the pursuit of material self-interest, autonomy and independence. Quality of life, however, speaks to a new vision of the future — one based on collaborative interest, connectivity and interdependence. We come to realize that true freedom is not found in being unbeholden to others and an island to oneself but, rather, in deep participation with others. If freedom is the optimization of one’s life, it is measured in the richness and diversity of one’s experiences and the strength of one’s social bonds. A life less lived is an impoverished existence.

The Third Industrial Revolution, Jeremy Rifkin

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