3/5 Vital Conversation: The Challenge of Divergent Worldviews

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Welcome Conversation Starter Marco Morelli, a poet, activist, and spiritual practitioner.  A philosophy student in college, he left the academic path in his early 20s to do volunteer work and writing in Central America.  Marco's first book of poetry was a series of translations of Nicaraguan poetry called *Ruben's Orphans: Anthology of Contemporary Nicaraguan Poetry*. It featured the work of the generation of young poets writing after the end of the Sandinista Revolution in the 1990s.

Returning to the states, he discovered Ken Wilber's integral philosophy and became a close student, working with Wilber's Integral Institute from 2003-2007 where he co-authored, with Ken Wilber, Terry Patten, and Adam Leonard, the book *Integral Life Practice: A 21st Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening*

Marco is currently working with Terry Patten on a book entitled *The Integral Revolution: The Future of Consciousness, Culture, and Society in the Planetary Age*.   The Integral Revolution aims to bring together the worlds of integral philosophy, evolutionary spirituality, and progressive activism to further the movement for global justice, sustainability, and peace.

Marco lives in Longmont, Colorado with his wife and 2 1/2 year-old daughter.

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Monday's Vital Conversation is sparked by this Occupy Cafe blog post from Stephen M. Demetriou "On Blacklisted Conversations."  While the specific context of Stephen's inquiry is the "Truther" theory that 9-11 was a "false flag operation," it touched on a broader set of concerns that bear exploration.

Whether it is the events of 9-11, the "true nature" of our monetary system, climate change or the degree to which we hold or eschew various religious and spiritual beliefs, there are a number of volatile issues that potentially divide us from one another both within the Occupy movement and in the wider world.  For the most part, we avoid debating these questions because our experience is that such conversations take up lots of time and energy, rarely resolve anything and often become contentious and divisive.  Instead, we either cluster with those that agree with us or try to set the issue aside by "agreeing to disagree."

However even when we don't have these conversations openly, the divergences often show up in subtle ways that create friction, such as a disparaging tone that we might use when referring to people who hold beliefs we deem irrational or naive, or an air of certainty in the way we express what we hold to be the truth that is experienced by those who disagree with us as arrogance or dismissal. These unspoken assumptions can also inform strategic thinking, since the plans we each advocate have everything to do with the way we believe "the system" works.  

Naomi Klein talks about how this shows up in the climate debate in a recent interview with Solutions:

The Yale cultural cognition project has looked at cultural worldview and climate change, and what’s clear is that ideology is the main factor in whether we believe in climate change. If you have an egalitarian and communitarian worldview, and you tend toward a belief system of pooling resources and helping the less advantaged, then you believe in climate change. And the stronger your belief system tends toward a hierarchical or individual worldview, the greater the chances are that you deny climate change and the stronger your denial will be. The reason is clear: it’s because people protect their worldviews. We all do this. We develop intellectual antibodies. Climate change confirms what people on the left already believe. But the Left must take this confirmation responsibly. It means that if you are on the left of the spectrum, you need to guard against exaggeration and your own tendency to unquestioningly accept the data because it confirms your worldview.

So, given how potent these world views are and how difficult--perhaps even impossible-- it is to get people to change them, what are the implications for those who would help to build a mass movement  to bring about systemic transformation?  Here are a number of questions to consider as we begin this conversation here on the Occupy Cafe forum:

  • What is your experience with the ways that our divergent beliefs affect our ability to communicate and work together when we choose to articulate them?  Even when we don't?
  • What core beliefs or worldviews underlie, consciously or unconsciously, the issues, strategies and tactics about which you are most passionate?  What core beliefs and worldviews do you find to be incompatible with yours?
  • "To what extent can we "agree to disagree?"  On the other hand, what core beliefs about the way the world works do you believe we need to align on in order to strategize and collaborate effectively?
  • What kinds of strategies and collaboration might allow us to sidestep, transcend or integrate the differences in our worldviews?

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Maybe this is an answer to your questions about what I believe/advocate.  One of my favorite short videos, featuring Prof. Jeremy Rifken and produced by the Royal Society for the Arts:

 

Ben, I share your belief, I know it is not common, it has to be advocated.

So could we agree the point of our divergence upon the film you linked? I think it is 10th minute of the film. Prof. Rifken says what we have to do, what we need to do.

I think reaching this point is not enough. My issue is the question why we (as human collective described in the film) can't start doing what we know we need to do, and what millions of us believe we can do.

You think the answer must be grounded in the belief. I think the belief/faith is an indispensable condition, but in view of divergent worldviews/beliefs common answer must somehow refer to logic.

What you believe, what I believe is related to our respective points of view. The logic is the principle of the whole. It is common to all matter and life - we have to apply it to analyze common nature of our consciousness/thinking.

                                                                    Pawel

My issue is the question why we (as human collective described in the film) can't start doing what we know we need to do, and what millions of us believe we can do.

First, I'm not sure we haven't started.  It's hard to know the totality of what is in motion in a world as complex as this.  Shifts in consciousness, in particular, are hard to recognize or quantify.  Yet they can lay the groundwork for rapid action.  If we have a 'supersaturated solution," as you suggested earlier (a metaphor I have heard others play with as well and one I think is useful), then all it takes is a few "seed crystals" to cause a quick phase shift in the whole system.  Maybe the solution isn't quite super-saturated just yet.  Or maybe the seed crystal hasn't emerged.  Or maybe the crytallization is happening and we can't quite see it yet.

An example of this is the end of the Apartheid regime in South Africa.  Few people expected it to crumble as quickly as it did, but its opponents had worked for years to create a global field in which opposition suddenly could reach a threshold where the regime's position became untenable.

Second, if we are indeed talking about the next phase in a long process of evolving consciousness in which we are letting go of our ancient instincts of fearing "the other,"  and coming to see ourselves as global citizens, is it any wonder that it's a challenging process?  I see the logic of it clearly, but in practice we are up against some very old and deep seated fear-based belief systems.

Add to that the fact that powerful interests are profiting from that fear, e.g. the military industrial complex and the Republican Party in the US, and it's not hard to understand why such a shift is not simply emerging easily and smoothly.


Shifts in consciousness, in particular, are hard to recognize or quantify.  Yet they can lay the groundwork for rapid action…. it's not hard to understand why such a shift is not simply emerging easily and smoothly.

I would like to propose change of focus, from emergence to consciousness. The latter is emergent property of life, giving humans the power to manipulate matter.

It is rising in individuals, coevolving with all aspects of life thanks to semiotic (abstract) communication among them – individual agents of life. Growing knowledge, technology and changes of the structure of social power are new aspects, possible to distinguish within this process of coevolution. No radical change has ever happened; the process is constant and integral.    

In holistic view the present outcome of the process is dehumanized global social system. Its inertia is our problem.

I believe we share faith that dehumanization was not the purpose of the universal process or the “Spirit” in its background.

We differ in faith concerning emergence. You believe we as agents of life should act hoping in self-acting systemic emergence.

I think all we need to shift the conscious process has already emerged: 

  • the consciousness itself
  • the knowledge (including systemic),
  • the technology (enabling real time, unrestricted global communication)
  • the faith we are destined to be good and great Humanity.

Can we hope for more?

Trying to imagine your POV I would say we should shift the meaning of “The leap of faith” from traditional to dynamic:  we should consciously act faith instead of just having it naked. To have faith and infinitely wait for the emergence of “goodness” (whatever it means to anyone of us) is the essence of paralyzing inertia. 

Here are two examples of the way in which worldviews showed up for me in the past 24 hours.  Last night, I caught a bit of Newt Gingrich's speech after winning the Georgia primary.  I was struck by the sheer pleasure he and his audience took in attacking Obama.  George Lakoff has talked about the different moral frames that conservatives and liberals use, with one aspect being a sense on the Right of a life or death struggle with Evil in which the ends justify the means.  This was clearly on display last night.  Coming from the Left, I found it repulsive, even though I am bitterly disappointed in much that Obama has (and hasn't) done.  

Then I watched a video from Annie Leonard's Story of Stuff project on the production, consumption and disposal of electronics  and the way in which we "design for the dump" due to the externalization of much of the true costs of these products.(see below).  This left me feeling inspired, and I wondered if there was any chance that someone with a conservative mindset would have a similar reaction.  Or would they see the calls for government action to address these problems as job-killing infringements on our freedom that will inevitably result in a bloated and corrupt bureaucracy?

Where is the generative conversational opportunity here in terms of worldviews?  Is there room for an effort to "educate" those who accept that there is something called the 'free market" about the gaps between what that means in theory and what we have in practice?  The notion of "The Commons" seems like a key component of a "healthy" worldview, and any perspective that denies this strikes me as toxic to the ecosystem of perspectives, to use Marco's framing.

 

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