35. Breakthrough: Contextual Shift
The 20th century political battle between the Left – collectivism and socialism – and the Right – individualism and capitalism – is now being eclipsed by a larger question of awareness and responsibility. Political and news agendas tend to reinforce materialistic, competitive, male-prevalent, urban-industrial and inherently unsustainable values – whether inclined leftwards or rightwards. Both Right and Left have chased the ubiquitous goal of material 'progress', as if it somehow resolves the problems of being human, and both have thus been equally part of the problem, not necessarily part of the solution.
As a result, democratic countries are nowadays faced with but a marginal range of choices between different shades of centrist political economism which subscribe to uniform principles: economic growth, consumerism, populist voter appeasement, militarism, high-technological advancement and 'business as usual'. Business as usual is a crucial mindset: from its own viewpoint, any advocacy of change is seen as a costly disruption and loss for vested interests – though vested interests usually present themselves as 'the public interest' or 'the national interest'. Advocating change not only loses votes and upsets markets – it is often portrayed as a threat to the very basis of civilisation as we now have it. This puts reformers and terrorists falsely in the same bracket.
Meanwhile technological, populist and consumerist changes – gizmos, styles and shopping malls – are instead presented as expressions of change and choice when in fact they simply extrapolate and continue the existing scheme of things. This delays and marginalises all motions toward fundamental systemic world change, while democracy gives electorates a false feeling that they, ordinary people, have a say in the future of their nations. Above all, business as usual!
However, something else is also going on. An undefined alternative movement exists, characteristically non-organised, yet close to the ground and to the real concerns, experiences and feelings of ordinary people. This movement has many aspects to it, generally aligned more to lifestyle and consciousness than to ideology or rigid belief. Many people belong to this movement without knowing it. Membership is defined by the ideas, spirit and behaviour one personally lives by.
At root, the core belief is in psycho-spiritual growth and forms of world change which are neither specifically political nor religious – this differs from previous major radical movements in history. This alternative movement has coalesced around a 'rainbow spectrum' of interests: human, women's, gay, ethnic, children's and minority rights, holistic healing, organic land-use and reafforestation, natural birth and conscious dying, new education, psychotherapy, pacifism, new forms of music and arts, interest in ethnic and ancient cultures, spiritual seeking and magical activities, involvement with extraterrestrial, psychic and paranormal research, small-scale economics, qualities over quantities and many other aspects. Some aspects of this movement are exceptionally sane and others are distinctly eccentric.
These are all facets of an emergent diamond, the sumtotal of which is clearly seen only by a few. Yet this diamond constitutes a wholeness which provides a strong substitute picture for the future. Its strength is shown by the extent to which authorities and media have, in the 1970s-90s, displayed a need to contain, downplay or destroy it. One example was the ongoing furore over the relationship problems of Charles and Diana, 'the Waleses', in the early 1990s: their thoroughly modern and perfectly normal marital difficulties were publicly exposed and howled at in a backward-facing expression of media outrage over the breaking of tradition and 'proper' behaviour. This had the convenient effect of obfuscating the paradigmatic issues Charles and Di presented to the public: the two royals were in effect rubber-stamping major social changes, experienced by millions in isolation, as legitimate, even progressive mass social changes. They were also espousing ideas and beliefs – in favour of organic agriculture and against landmines – which were regarded by vested interests as questionable-to-subversive.
Another example of containment is the apparent willing adoption of 'green' and non-sexist values by corporations and institutions, when in fact they are doing the minimum necessary to make it look as if they are changing their ways. Only when unavoidable public pressures and the threat of the loss of markets or legitimacy or profits arise do more genuine and effective changes come in. Meanwhile, prominent individuals are rubbished when they propound progressive ideas, and ideas are suitably debunked by an apparently-overwhelming rational logic. "There is no evidence that what protesters say is true...". "Important public issues should not be permitted to be decided by extremists...".
Media coverage of progressive ideas, innovations and changes are blocked, twisted or diluted, cults are pressured, psycho-active drugs are criminalised, community experiments and adventurous projects are restricted by financial limitations and regulations, and old, backward-facing social agendas are plugged relentlessly. Sophisticated diversions are employed too: arguments over divorce laws studiously avoid re-examining marriage and its vows in themselves, and arguments over abortion avoid examination of the real issues around contraception, life, death and many other major social-psychological issues.
While this movement is neither centrally organised nor directly politically influential, it penetrates the homes, bedrooms, personal lives, offices and canteens of all strata of society, acting as an opinion-shaping force and a nexus of cultural revival – particularly through women. Women constitute some 60ish% of this movement and its energy: their increasing involvement in public affairs and their roles in the lives of influential men play probably the key role in transforming the world – unless we add children and young people to this assertion. However, it is a people's movement, and any tendencies it has demonstrated toward polarisation or separatism in the 1960s-90s can be seen to represent an incubation phase in which the separate and isolated development of all aspects of this movement has been necessary as a precursor to eventual unitive action.
The strength of this movement is manifold. It is near-impossible to successfully suppress – it grows like weeds in a sidewalk. It has no registered membership, so its size cannot be fully assessed – membership depends on one's focus of attention at any time more than any specific distinguishing factors. It derives its strength from experienced realities rather than from stated ideologies. It counts amongst its members many highly intelligent and well-placed people. It draws in younger generations – emergent power-holders. It addresses human nature itself, gradually evolving prototypes for future times. It propagates itself not through conversion and persuasion but through individual illumination precipitated by personal crises and dilemmas. It arises from a perennial human capacity for awareness, which has stored up a tide of pent-up kinetic energy. It addresses every issue in the world that there is to address, where and when it is needed.
It has not achieved majority nor even large-scale minority impetus, yet its influence is larger and more pervasive than its avowed subscribers represent. It has many similarities to other nascent movements of history, such as Christianity in the two centuries following the Nazarene's mission, or the early pre-Renaissance enlightenment movements, or the early religious nonconformist movements such as those of Wyclif and Hus in the late Middle Ages. These were all small movements with a big element of historical inevitability to them, since they embodied a deeply common though long repressed need.
Although this movement mostly does not set out to be politically active or subversive, by nature it is so. Its longterm effect is to swing the gravitational centre of human thinking and activity away from established channels. It operates within the context of the modern system – it is born of photocopiers, telephones, jumbo-jets and cars – yet it is not of the system and points beyond it. It infiltrates the lives of people through the agency of their own experience – health problems, relationship and family breakdown, sudden loss or intense personal predicament. The consequent inner growth arising from such life-crunches enlarges the spectrum of solutions available. The very means of resolving problems itself changes. The whole context of life changes.
The small numbers of pioneers in this movement, acting ahead of time, are clearing a way for the future. The time of preparation seems long and arduous for veterans who started in the 1960s-70s, yet historically the movement is progressing fast. Its starting point arose amongst the Beatniks and Hippies and other eccentrics of the 1950s and 1960s. While this movement was catalysed and fuelled greatly by use of psychoactive drugs, it was not caused by them, nor was it dependent on them – changes would have happened anyway as a result of wider factors such as globalisation and changing social aspirations. Once impetus had grown in localised centres such as San Francisco, New York, London, Liverpool, Ibiza, Goa and Sydney, it spread and stimulated many other related areas of activity, including meditation, lifestyle-change, holistic healing, electronic music and computer-aided design, black power, feminism, new business practices, agriculture and alternative political agendas.
These broad areas of breakthrough have immense general and detailed implications. Events of the early 21st century are likely to be increasingly preoccupied with them: situations in which crises hit us, new connections and configurations are established, changes are made by pragmatic necessity, positive precedents are set and crucial issues are resolved in fundamentally new ways – under the threat of dire consequences in the event of failure. The phenomenon of world transformation and the challenge of confronting world disaster is, in such a context, not one specific short-lasting event or intensive action, more a hyperactive historical period and process, covering at least decades, if not generations.
However, within this there would be moments of intensity in which it genuinely feels as if it all happens on one day or in one month or year – yet these will be accelerations which play a part in a larger, longer-lasting tide of changes. This process might already have started around 1988-89, on an unconscious level – a reality-shift at that time revealed many new possibilities and imperatives to the general public and began changing the very nature of time and the world situation, regardless of 'business as usual' and the attempted jump-starting of yet more unsustainable upswings in economic growth.
Rather than constituting one big crisis, mass awakening could therefore take the shape of a stream of crises covering, one by one or in bundles, all of the salient issues we must face. Crises which force humanity to address a full field of issues and up-coming dilemmas, like an historical obstacle course set by mysterious powers. Many of these issues might be localised, reaching everyone else through media coverage, emotional impact and secondary consequences. A growing sense of connectedness and identification between different peoples causes localised eruptions of disorder and public pain to be felt by people worldwide.
As general physical ill health can concentrate in specific weakened areas of the body, so too, amongst humanity, local trouble-spots can attract, focus and draw on collective unconscious ill-feelings and the shadow aspect of humanity as a whole. There is a cruel irony here, inasmuch as people in intense troublespots also experience great wonders which can arise out of instability and danger – outbreaks of sharing, human warmth and compassion which counterbalance suffering and hardship.
During the Bosnian war, Sarajevo was a place of concentration not only of suffering but also of spiritual beneficence and human goodness, as ordinary people supported each other through shared hardships and risks. People in comfortable, routinised, insulated environments miss these. Safe, insured lifestyles do have a way of suppressing the life-force of people and blocking opportunities which are available. However, insecurity and suffering are poor substitutes for the need for social transformation.
Are people actually learning from modern events and horrors? As holistic reasoning will have it, events take place because they are somehow needed for our inner education. They draw our attention to things we're omitting to look at. They demand resolution not only of immediate issues but also of their historical roots and thematically-connected issues. As soon as the origins, causes and issues are recognised, the healing process is already well on its way.