An Empowering Vision of the Future
Posted by: eric on October 26, 2009 at 1:04 pm
The urgent need to invest in our future is more than just another way of defining the Millennial agenda. It’s also a vitally important antidote to the onslaught of negativity, pessimism, and apocalyptic thinking that dominates the conservative, corporate media-especially on those rare occasions when they attempt to glimpse the future.
There’s no doubt we live in an era of accelerating crises-political, economic, environmental, biological, social, and spiritual. But there is a positive vision for the future we can offer the world, showing what our planet can be like once we confront and seize control of these crises and use them to reverse the destructive course we’ve been on. It’s a vision that incorporates the best traditions of Western civilization even as it embraces the need for dramatic change and revitalization in the face of unprecedented challenges.
Sociologist Paul Ray, whose work we cited earlier in our discussion of the “cultural creatives,” has written insightfully about the kind of new vision that is essential to inspire the change we seek. In one essay, Ray describes “the Wisdom needed for our time” in terms of opposed dualities. According to Ray, the Wisdom our world needs includes:
The wise elder’s long-term perspectives and reasoning: what is good for all the children? Not short-term, immature, selfish, greedy, power-mad perspectives and reasoning.
Linking future-oriented perspectives and concerns to our deep collective past, and drawing from its themes for legitimacy. Not just focused on our shallow past and present to the exclusion of our evolution into the future.
Showing maximally inclusive concerns across all kinds of people and all species, for humans and nature alike. Not narrowly focused on particular tribes, traditions, or humanity only, and not exclusion, or ignorance, of nature.
Linking spiritual realization and concerns to practical action to the needs of “the planet and the people and species on it.” Not otherworldly, abstruse, or lacking relationship to people’s real concerns in their “life worlds,” and in their ecologies.
Placing crucial emphasis on the growth and transformation of both persons and the culture, both organizations and life worlds, both spirit and civilization, both local and planetary. Not static ideals, not moral absolutes lacking reference to human growth/transformation; and not focused just on individual change, lacking reference to cultural change issues.
Concerns of the elders of humanity for the well-being of all the children of the world, now and in the longer term futher adolescent consciousness typical of humanity today.
Ray’s vision of a planetary “wisdom civilization” is one we think today’s Millennials are ready to respond to and work toward. It’s just one version of the kind of overarching vision we need to inspire and empower young people and those who would support them-a vision that embraces and transcends individual agenda items and embodies long-term goals far greater than any checklist of particular political or economic projects, no matter how ambitious.
It’s also a vision that embraces the need for personal sacrifice-not in a mood of joyless self-denial or rejection of pleasure, but out of a desire to transcend the petty and the purely personal in favor of bigger, broader social goals.
Many commentators have decried the narrow and selfish perspective of the Bush administration, and more broadly, the conservative power structure currently ruling the United States. Noted particularly is its failure to call for any personal contribution to the supposedly epochal “war on terror” other than urging Americans to “borrow money and go shopping”; its insistence on massive tax cuts even as overseas wars are draining the treasury and incurring enormous future debts; and its willful blindness to the need for long-term thinking about the energy and environmental crises in favor of short-term fixes such as drilling for oil in the Alaskan wilderness.
Generation We rejects this kind of petty, self-centered thinking and are ready to embrace the need for dramatic personal and social efforts in support of worthwhile goals. In the GMS, 78 percent of the Millennials we surveyed agreed with the statement, I am willing to personally make significant sacrifices in my own life to address the major environmental, economic, and security challenges facing our country, and fully 91 percent agreed that In our country, each generation has a responsibility to wisely use the country’s resources and power so that they can provide the next generation a secure, sustainable country that is stronger than the one they inherited.
Clearly the sense of responsibility and personal mission is already in place. All that’s lacking is the vision, the will, and the leadership.