Subscribers to email updates of this blog received a Special Bulletin of a press article last week that addressed the paradigm shift required by political parties to address the needs of the 21st Century.
The following extract from that article says it well:
“The thing is, the 21st century is shaping up to be not just slightly different to the 20th century but radically different.
For a start, economics has grown up. It no longer assumes that resources are effectively limitless or that the Earth has an infinite carrying capacity. It no longer ignores all those inconvenient externalities like pollution or climate change.
And, possibly most important of all, it is starting to adapt to the fact that we’ve virtually solved the problem of material scarcity. Consider that our world produces enough food and material goods to satisfy the needs of every human on the planet. So our problem now isn’t one of staving off scarcity, it’s of fair distribution and how high we can elevate standards of living.”
This realisation is the first step in adjusting to a new paradigm in which our function will be very different to the traditional model of our place in this world.
In “Escape from Freedom”, Fromm points out how a few centuries ago people’s lives were very predetermined. Peasants, for example, knew that they would work the same type of jobs and believe in the same religions and plough the same fields as their parents before them did, and even marriages could be arranged.
According to Fromm’s analysis, people had relatively little personal freedom in a static society. With the arrival of eras such as the renaissance, the reformation and the industrial revolution, this static quality along with the hold and significance that politics and religion played on people’s lives, slowly began to fade as people acquired more personal freedom.
According to Fromm, this phenomenon never halted but has continued and is thriving in present society.
This emancipation has led to a heightened level of freedom that has presented us with an array of decisions and choices about how one can lead their lives, choices to be made range from whether to and what religion to follow, what political orientation to adopt, where to live and even our sexual orientation.
Unfortunately while our personal freedom has been growing, our old sources of emotional sustenance and security have diminished in effectiveness.
“Fromm notes that the church, the village and the family used to provide people with a more solid base of security. In a static society people had a resolute faith for a single faith which told them exactly how to behave. Today, we have a multiplicity of churches that provide a clear value system for fewer people” (Weiten, 1990).
The stability of the past also facilitated solid friendships to occur and maintain over large periods of time. Today with our busy lifestyles people have a propensity to move and relocate to ever shifting communities where the bonds with neighbours and counterparts are much weaker.
The family has also not escaped these modifications, the tightly knit extended family has become a thing of the past, and when we consider factors such as divorce and mobility, even the nuclear family is no longer tightly knit, hence the family has become a less dependable and stable source of emotional support. This has led Fromm to conclude rather startlingly that “as our old sources of security have declined we have found it more difficult to cope with our newfound freedom. Rather than embracing our newfound freedom many of us find it scary and threatening, in fact, many of us find our freedom so aversive that we try to escape from it. This escape often takes the form of submitting passively to some authority figure such as a political or religious leader“(Weiten, 1990).
In summary, Fromm’s analyses puts forward that the progress that we are so fond and proud of has actually undermined our sense of security, scrambled our value systems, and confronted us with difficult new problems of adjustment.
Mind you, that was 25 years ago and today our concerns are more over global issues than local ones, we are starting to accept our role as global citizens within a Machine environment.
The stewardship emerging in this way is what will come to define us.
May it be for the better.
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