Redesign: breakdown and breakthrough
At times of social breakdown, a critical choice is offered: people may see strangers or change as a threat, or they may choose to accommodate and collaborate with them. If pain or loss are involved, the threat option is often chosen. The emotional complex of Us against Them hardens and strengthens as a result.
This breakdown of social trust is probably the greatest collective emotional trauma humanity has ever faced. In Britain it happened around 1200 BCE, at the end of the bronze age megalithic era.
Today's civil wars, sectarian rivalry, nationalism and polarisation have their roots in this collective emotional breakdown long, long ago. Its memory is so long forgotten that it seems mutually-assured trust and social sensitivity never really existed.
The worst kind of social breakdown happens within the family itself. When kinsfolk fight, pain and betrayal are perhaps the most hurtful of all – Israelis and Palestinians, for example.
The collective pain arising from the shattering of the 'ring of power' is buried deep beneath the strata, rubble and dust of subsequent history.
Dominance and victimhood patterns derive from social pain and the resulting emotional hardening. A broken people or culture often overreacts, fights back, attacks, dominates or at minimum ensures that others' happiness and progress are blocked.
We do need a healthy sense of national, regional and community identity. Everyone needs to identify with their own kind. Each people has a contribution to make to the global matrix, weaving its own thread in the world tapestry. But this does not mean we need to exclude and dehumanise others.
We need to overcome antipathy, indifference and narrow interest: this is a major task for the 21st Century. Demeaning and demonising others demeans and dehumanises us too. We lose intimacy and security when intercommunal trust and feeling harden. Security measures increase insecurity in the longterm. We become socially underdeveloped.
Nations aren't dying. But the world's political geometry is indeed shifting.
Nowadays, many nations don't reflect real cultural, ethnic, geographical or contingent needs. Many Middle Eastern, African and Latin American states were created by foreigners: their states and peoples are now incongruent.
The world needs a redesign. This is impractical in today's geopolitical context, but it would remove many causes of conflict.
But the key really lies in social choice. Conflict is a choice, and cooperation is a choice. Structures take time to change. Attitudes and beliefs transform faster, and this is where change starts.
In the end, the passing of generations changes things. But, with a little commonsense, we can do things faster than that.
In a globalising world we need to establish common standards, yet we're also faced with a need to accentuate our cultural differences. Otherwise human diversity and culture suffer and too much is lost.
In community, diversity and individuality are not wiped out. Possibilities actually increase. In the 20th Century globalisation brought much standardisation but, in the 21st Century, social-cultural variegation and mutual respect are the name of the game.
Cramped by imperialism and then by superpower dominance, only since 1989 have the world's nations and peoples truly been coming to meet with each other properly. This isn't easy or comfortable. It brings up old ghosts and ghouls.
The old superpower agenda of the 20th C is giving way to a shift in global geometry. Something to do with 'the international community', though also there is a lot of jostling amongst larger and richer nations for influence in it, and a lot of hypocrisy around it.
This process is happening in the world of summits and big organisations, but it's happening on the people level too.