Jim Garrison on Integral Naked - In Hot Water
May 12, 2008 12:27


Politics in the 21st Century. Part 3. In Hot Water.


Jim Garrison discusses the increasingly dangerous crises the world is currently experiencing, and the unique ability for Integral consciousness to face the precarious challenges of the 21st century head-on.

"Nobody on this planet goes to bed at night hungry because of lack of food. They go to bed at night hungry because of lack of political ideas, and the lack of political systems to get them the food."

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Who: Jim Garrison is the chairman and president of the State of the World Forum, which he cofounded with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1995. The State of the World Forum (SWF) is often thought of as a "shadow UN," in that it is the largest forum of world leaders outside of the United Nations. From Margaret Thatcher to Ted Turner, from the Queen of Jordan to Desmond Tutu, from Jimmy Carter to George Bush Sr., all have been part of the extraordinary dialogue that is the State of the World Forum.

Summary: It is said that if you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will jump out immediately and without hesitation, as any self-respecting amphibian would—but if you put it in a pot of cold water and slowly turn up the heat one degree at a time, the poor thing will eventually boil to death, fatally oblivious to the increasing threat its environment portends.  While as macabre as they come, this analogy pretty aptly portrays the condition of our current place in history, in which our entire world seems to be coming to a boil right before our eyes—a slowly culminating but inevitable transformation of history from one state to another.  And we have, until recently, been largely oblivious to this—but now we are beginning to take notice, and like the frog who suddenly realizes that it’s getting just a bit too warm for comfort, we are collectively faced with an existential ultimatum—either jump out of the pot, or boil alive.

But can we jump out?  Is there any hope for us at all?  Can we possibly transform in time—and if so, how?  On the one hand, transformation is an utterly mysterious process, often happening suddenly, violently, and without any warning at all.  On the other hand, Western science has very proficiently demonstrated that evolutionary leaps—both biological and psychological—tend to occur when environmental pressures demand them to.  According to the biological fossil record, this has usually been due to such things as drastic climate change or the geological merging of two previously isolated ecosystems.  In terms of psychological development, when asking the question "why do people transform?," we can look to the concept of the "dialectic of progress," which essentially states that every new stage of psychological growth brings with it its own "good news" and "bad news," the good news of each stage being the resolution of the bad news from the previous stage.  Or, as Albert Einstein famously quipped, "problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them."  We ascend the spire of psychological and cultural growth simply by solving our own problems—and every step forward comes with its own new set of emergent problems, which can only be addressed by taking yet another step forward, as consciousness continues to bootstrap itself ever closer to the evolutionary horizon.

Taking this sort of evolutionary view can actually be a great source of solace for those who might feel somewhat overwhelmed in the face of our current global crises, as feelings of hopelessness and desperation begin to seep in through the cracks of disillusionment.  If evolution has shown us anything at all, it is a silent yet unyielding current that tirelessly flows toward ever-greater depth, complexity, and emergence—like a mighty river that patiently but relentlessly carves through anything in it's path, there is nothing that can stop this extraordinary force.  Evolution has never taken a U-turn—even when the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs struck the earth, it only cleared the path for mammals to inherit the planet, marking a critical leap forward for the evolution of life.  We are not separate from this evolutionary process—indeed, humanity itself is the vehicle through which evolution is slowly becoming self-aware.  And by recognizing this fact we can consciously bear the responsibility of our extraordinary heritage, billions of years in the making, and continue to breathe life and light into a long-slumbering universe.  We are evolution—all of our beauty, brilliance, and blemishes—and that is itself a tremendous source of faith, guidance, and inspiration.

From this evolutionary perspective, the question seems to shift from the detached and disempowered "can we make it through this?," to the much more positive and pragmatic "how is this going to go down, and how can I help?"  One thing is clear: we are dealing with an entirely new set of global challenges, the likes of which are absolutely unprecedented, and which will require nothing less than an Integral perspective to even begin to address.  Our problems are so inextricably interwoven, that none of them can be addressed individually without making the others worse—our environmental crises, our economic crises, our energy crises, our culture-wars crises, and nearly every other crisis we are currently facing all need to be addressed simultaneously, or else our very best intentions incur disastrous results. 

An immediate example of this can be seen in America's efforts to invest in biofuel technologies, which is made from food crops such as corn and sugar cane, in reaction to oil prices approaching $100 per barrel.  25% of the country's corn supply is currently being dedicated to developing viable ethanol-based alternatives to fossil fuels, which is in turn raising the costs of corn in the global food market, exacerbating the already horrific food crisis the world is currently experiencing.  If we are not careful, and do not approach these problems with the level of sophistication that they demand, our very best intentions will likely incur devastating effects upon many of the vulnerable populations of our world. 

Add to that the fact that it requires a fairly advanced cognitive capacity to even be able to recognize many of these global crises, and a similarly-advanced moral intelligence to care enough to do anything about it, and things might begin to seem dire indeed—especially since the people with this level of cognitive and moral sophistication form a painful minority in the world, and their voices are often lost in the white noise of our increasingly lowest-common-denominator focused media.

So if that's the bad news of our current predicament—that all these problems are really massive, really tangled, and people are dying right now because it is so damned difficult to untangle—what, then, is the good news?  As Jim and Ken mention, we already have everything we need to solve the majority of these problems, in terms of the technological means that are required.  We are not short on technological solutions, we are short on will.  As Ken says in the interview: "Nobody on this planet goes to bed at night hungry because of lack of food.  They go to bed at night hungry because of lack of political ideas, and the lack of political systems to get them the food."  Adding to our previous example, we are currently in the midst of a horrific food crisis, as food costs continue to skyrocket around the world, and millions of men, women, and children are forced to starve to death—and yet, this crisis does not stem from any sort of real food shortage.  In fact, many economists claim that we currently have a global food surplus—and though what exactly "food surplus" means remains a highly debated topic, it suggests exactly the sorts of politically systemic problems we are actually struggling with.

There is more good news—we are currently witnessing the evolutionary rise of a new stage of psychological development, the only one properly equipped with the right tools to make sense of our tangled web of a world.  A new generation of Integral thinkers are beginning to emerge, just as our world begins to cry for an Integral response.  It is happening around the globe, on both elite and grassroots levels of influence—and make no mistake about it, they are the future of this world, if a future is to be had.  As Jim mentions, "everything we're doing now is happening within the context of a grand historical denouement that is not too distant down the trail...."—and only the rise of Integral consciousness allows for the sort of synthesis between spiritual realization and civic duty that we so desperately need.  And you, assuming you have any interest at all in such Integral topics as these, are part of this evolutionary wave, and by simply acknowledging this fact you vow not to remain an idle spectator to the world, but an evolutionary agent within it.

So, finally, we come to the all-important question: "what now?"  As Integral thinkers, practitioners, leaders, artists, and activists, it is essential that we live up to a new standard of global citizenship, in which some sort of civic engagement becomes as intrinsic to our personal practice as any meditation, study, or physical exercise.  These inner-focused practices must be allowed to come to fruition and find full expression in the world, or else we begin to swallow our own light, rather than sharing it with those who need it most.


Integral Civics in Five Generic Steps

Step 1 - Wake up!  Continue to practice, practice, practice, in as many fundamental areas of your life as you can.  If our problems demand an Integral response, the Integral response demands your ongoing efforts to enact it.  This is arguably the most important step, which is why it is the first step—but it cannot be the only step.

Step 2 - Get informed!  If you wish to do something to help the world, then you need to understand what is going on.  Find perspectives that you trust, and use the Integral framework to deepen your understanding of these perspectives.  While many feel that staying in touch with the news in our sound-byte-driven media can feel like standing on a mountain of marbles, there are indeed sane and stable voices out there, who retain some degree of journalistic integrity.  Find those voices.

Step 3 - Interact!  Share your perspective with your friends, your family, and your community, Integral or otherwise.  Pay attention to where you agree, and where you disagree, while keeping in mind that, from an Integral perspective, everyone is always right—even if some are more right than others.  Simply sharing your ideas and values with others helps to further refine and focus your views, especially while keeping an eye out for your own personal and cultural shadows, biases, and blind spots.

Step 4 - Get involved!  Decide what level of engagement works for you, whether that means donating a portion of your disposable income to a particular cause or candidate that you resonate with, all the way to taking it to the streets in public protest—of course, at an absolute minimum, if you have any Integral perspective at all, you should be voting!

Step 5 - Wake up!  The alpha and omega of Integral civics.  You are asleep, and are having a dream.  In that dream, millions of people are suffering needlessly.  What is the best way to immediately liberate all of these people, to alleviate all of this pain? 

Just open your eyes, and wake up.  Now.

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