We’ve Got Your Examples Right Here: Fundamental Changes in Values

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote that if you want to affect any sort of change in society, you need three types of people working in concert: 1) A true visionary, a brilliantly creative person with a revolutionary idea, 2) A highly respected individual who can and will endorse the visionary, reassuring people that they aren’t insane and 3) An effective communicator, or as Vonnegut put it: [Someone who] “will say almost anything in order to be interesting and exciting. Working alone, depending solely on his own shallow ideas, he would be regarded as being full of shit."

I’m acutely aware that I might be viewed as falling into that third category. And I’m acutely aware that I have and will be viewed as being “full of shit.” I certainly hope this won’t always be the case, but for now I accept it, happy that I can be of service in some way to anything positively transformative.

With that in mind, I turn your attention toward something I and my fellow TOP teammates are calling the 21st Century Enlightenment. Click the link for a rather stimulating description of this phenomenon, but to put it succinctly the 21st Century Enlightenment refers to a major shift in the way in which we as a species view our humanity and our engagement with each other. It refers to a myriad of changes, from major political and economic shifts to an evolution in the way in which we communicate and relate. Engagement with governments, businesses and social institutions will all be drastically altered from what is now considered an entrenched status quo.

“Wild assertions!” you might say. It’s understandable that you might think that, but I’m confident that it’s happening—and not just because plenty of indicators exist within THEE, (you’re welcome to delve into the epistemological underpinnings of THEE if you like) but because ever since I’ve been turned on to the idea, I see evidence of it all around. In fact, the more you’re aware of what’s happening in society, the more radical and revolutionary our particular point in history appears.

It’s probably no surprise that most of what’s happening revolves around Internet technology, but here are a few examples:


I’ve been researching this new type of currency and the implications are quite exciting. It’s rife with problems and perhaps Bitcoin itself won’t be the currency of the future, but something like it might be. Crypto-currencies could give us the ability to separate our money from governments, central banks and the financial institutions ready and waiting to pull a fast one with our bank accounts. And even further evidence of its significance is the fact that the powers that be—corporate and government economists, corporate media pundits and journalists, and government agencies—are going out of their way to tell us how ridiculous such an idea is.

Social media

We’ve heard it all before, but sometimes the power of Twitter is mind-boggling. Its trending feature allows users to catch events of importance from across the globe. For example, CNN Turkey was broadcasting cooking shows and pictures of cats recently while Turks revolted on the streets below. In the old days, we might have never known anything significant was going on in Istanbul, but thanks to social media, the whole world was aware and the people of Turkey were given worldwide support. 


It’s a new word for an old idea: changing the system from the inside. The great thing is, people willing to press their employers for higher product standards, better working conditions and social/environmental responsibility are being supported by wider society. And big organizations like Google are realizing the value of giving their employees more freedom to innovate. One of the features of the 21st Century Enlightenment is that people take responsibility for the organizations they work in, and that govern them, rather than just accepting what exists despite possible incongruences in values.

In the end, it’s all about values. And what’s happening now is the emergence of new values like respect and responsibility toward the environment, respect and acceptance of diversity, an expectation of integrity from our leaders and organizations and an individual desire to be authentic.

If that’s not enough to convince you that times are changing, I don’t know what will. Perhaps you don’t want to call it an “Enlightenment.” Fine, but parallels to the 18th Century Enlightenment, when considered in terms of values, are hard to ignore.

I’m finding that THEE is hard for people to penetrate and accept. I do understand why. But I am able to easily point out examples of what has been discovered by working with THEE, and not just in the context of a coming Enlightenment. Every bit of THEE is based on common sense, has real-world application and can be found in your own experience if you’re willing to look. It’s not a theory (which has been a roadblock for some, strangely), it’s not some fringe spiritual movement and it’s not wild, unsupported assertions. It’s simply you and it’s happening within you and without you at this very moment.

Carne Ross: A Voice for the Times

So I get an email the other day from a friend about this fellow Carne Ross, advising me to look into him as he’s likely a person I would be interested in, not just because he seems to share my personal approach to politics and society, but also because his ideas seem to align with my work. 

Well, I did—look into him that is. On the surface, he’s a former high-ranking British diplomat who resigned his post over disagreements regarding Britain’s involvement in the Iraq War. He then founded an independent diplomacy service and is now attempting to represent Syrian rebels on the world stage. 

First impression: impressed. Clearly, we’ve got a man of principle, intelligence, courage and conviction. His bread and butter was peddling the agenda of the British (and U.S.) government—and a fine living it was, I’m sure—and he testified during the Butler Review that Iraq did not have WMD’s, undermining their justification for war. Some considered it a profound betrayal and the UK toyed with prosecuting him… for something or other.

Then I got into Ross’ book, The Leaderless Revolution, started reading his Op-Ed contributions to various news outlets and watching his promo videos. What I found was a man with a small but significant voice in the limelight, painting an accurate portrayal of the current political paradigm: democracy is flailing and the people are effectively powerless, banks and financial institutions eat away at society’s ability to function, corruption in politics is rampant and the entire system is unsustainable. 

Yes, this is all sounding very THEE.

Ross was (maybe still is) heavily involved with the Occupy movement. His aforementioned book was a response to the ideals he experienced working within the movement. He promotes and glorifies the leaderless decision-making of Occupy and sees it as a model for the next evolution of governance. 

Initially, I was skeptical of this. First of all, leadership is absolutely fundamental. Society couldn’t get by without it. Secondly, my own experience with Occupy was quite frustrating, in part because half our meetings seemed to get hung-up on extremely trivial details like how we can accommodate our gluten-intolerant members at the next picnic. But Ross addressed this during an interview on The Colbert Report, rightly pointing out that decisions in government are equally cumbersome—if not worse—and I thought to myself: “It’s actually great that every Occupy participant’s needs were addressed. I mean, that’s what we want in society, isn’t it?

Ross is certainly an idealist, and an eloquent one. He wrote: 

“This is the start of a new politics, but obviously mere meetings and protest marches are not enough. There is nothing certain about the future, save that it is our actions that will create it and that others are already exploiting our inaction. It is no longer sufficient to appeal to government to put things right; a corrupted system will not reform itself. We must create new systems, new modes of decision-making and interaction, and new forms of economic behavior to replace the old.” 

So what is this new system, the new mode of decision-making? According to Ross, it’s going to be reminiscent of Occupy, where the group calls the shots for society as one. For many, this may sound, frankly, inconceivable. But it’s difficult to see past what currently defines our reality.

If THEE’s Spiral of Political Maturation is correct, however, Ross has managed to see through this cloud of current thinking and capture the spirit of precisely what defines the next mode in our political development—something THEE calls Conventionalism.

I’d like to call him forward thinking, but that’s not it. It’s more that he’s acutely aware and his thinking is perfectly appropriate for what’s required at this exact moment in human history. From the belly of the beast, Ross emerged to tell us these things about the present. And thank goodness. The more it’s said, the more it will sink in for us. And the more we can start orienting ourselves now to what truly will be a pretty amazing shift that we all need to be discussing and working on each in our own way.

Not Lost but Searching: Why Millennials Matter

They call us the “lost generation.” I suppose I can see why, but I’ll have to disagree with the label. 

Sure, we’ve got a bit of an existential streak but who could blame us? We’re a generational fulcrum, a pivot point, that split second when a pendulum stops before changing directions. We’re caught between the old traditions of our parents and a future that, while inevitably transformative, we have no way of understanding. It’s a situation that would have any generation raising tough questions.

One thing is for certain: we’re talking. The questions we have are being asked. The chatter of the Millennial generation permeates the web, the classroom, the television, radio and newspapers. Our keywords even occasionally make it to the auditoriums of power—if for nothing more than political currency. We share what we had for breakfast and our deepest insecurities with each other. Be the subject matter inane or the most fundamental aspects of being human, no generation has ever been so close and connected.

Just imagine the awesome power inherent in that fact.

And yet, we feel powerless. We are pinned down by the institutions raised and supported by those who came before us—conventional paradigms in education, conventional approaches to family, work, money, society, politics, race, religion, sex, relationships, nationalism, culture, morality and more. And we look around, having been told the “right way” and the “wrong way” and watch everything crumble under the weight of convention.

Our leaders struggle to use a smartphone or send an email. Their feeble attempts to grapple with this new reality—the reality we created—begs the question: “Why are they in charge?”

We’re unemployed and underemployed, yet highly educated. Is it that the previous generation’s institutions robbed us and our children of opportunity? Partially, perhaps. But it’s also that we don’t fit into these institutions anymore. We are dynamic and fluid. They are static and rigid, fighting to defend the status quo because it is all they understand so they call us “lost,” and the “generation of me.”

But if we are lost, it is only because it is always difficult to imagine new paradigms when the old ones surround us. There are very few role models to admire and very few paths to follow when you are the trailblazer.

So where do we turn for guidance?

  • Academia? No, academics are torn between defending their narrow little disciplines and being so open-minded that their brains fall out. It will be up to us to foster transdisciplinary inquiry where our focus is the holistic, sweeping realities of human experience rather than a minute sliver. We must acknowledge the interconnection and interrelation of the arts, sciences and humanities. Luckily, forward-thinking members of the previous generation have gotten us started. 

  • Our managers and bosses at work? Not likely. It will be up to us to foster an imaginative new approach to management and leadership, one that focuses on creativity, commitment, authenticity and diversity and develops tools to facilitate these things. No longer will we be satisfied making decisions solely based on things like hard information, procedure and protocol. 

  • Our political leaders? Ok, I’m laughing at that one too. Modern-day politicians cannot possibly represent us. If they aren’t completely out of touch, they are bought-off—or both. Theirs is a world of gaming competing groups off of each other for their own gain. We will be the harbingers of a new political era that aligns with our new style and method of communication, one where we take responsibility for the society we have created. 
We must turn inward to our unique selves, understanding our own personal purposes and realizing that it is our own responsibility to pursue them. We must turn to each other, realizing that it is our combined endeavors that manifest the greater societies that we must live in. We create the values and the values create the societies.

It will take a pioneering spirit, enthusiasm, optimism and very real sense of the challenges that lie ahead. It won’t be easy, but we will certainly be viewed as an important part of history, a group of people that weathered the transition into a new Enlightenment. And we’ll do it because we have each other.

Who is "Society?"

I’m almost done with school (in fact, by the time this is published, I will be done). I’m happy about it, of course, but a little worried that I’ll lose all the inspiration I’ve gained by interacting with academics and all the students willing and excited to learn.

I previously mentioned a class where the curriculum basically involves talking about all of the most controversial topics of the day. It’s an understatement to say that it is fascinating to hear my classmate’s (and the professor’s) perspectives on these topics.

However, the running theme seems to be impassioned declarations of how things should be, rarely how they truly are. Or even better, how we can work within reality to bring about our ideals. For example, more often than not, it seems expected that government will magically bring about the realization of all of these “shoulds.”

So, I began formulating in my mind a response, something to say that would make clear why certain tensions exist in society. Why the struggle between business and government, government and activists, business and communities, etc. Furthermore, why do we tend to pick an ideology and think those who don’t agree are somehow twisted?

So, here it is: 

Let’s imagine that society is composed of four types of people (obviously there are many more, but just go with me here).

Each type interacts in such a way to benefit how they see fit.

Let’s call these four types the businessman, the politician, the activist and the neighbor. Each of these types has a distinctly different worldview. Each type possesses a unique vision as to how they and society can prosper.

The businessman wants to make some money. Not only does he see making money as good for him, he understands that a prosperous society with thriving markets is good for everyone. Jobs are available and goods, services and cash flow through society. Obviously, in his quest for more money, the businessman might not act for the benefit of others, society, the environment, etc. It happens. And unregulated, it leads to the tragedy of the commons.

The politician wants power. They want to run the show; they want to exert their influence and they want a sense of importance. It’s not beyond reason that some politicians think that if they have the power, they can make society better. But it’s a tricky game and the politician must often spend more time hanging on to their power than they do actually doing any good.

Now, this one seems to be tricky for a lot of people and honestly, if you accept the truth of the previous paragraph, a lot of other truths fall into place. In any case, I get the sense that many of us confuse the politician with the neighbor.

The neighbor sees society as one big neighborhood. They concern themselves with values like equality and fairness. They tend to feel that if we all just share amongst each other, society will become one big, smoothly functioning community. It’s a very nice thought, and possibly the reason socialism and the welfare state are such popular notions. And it might work if people were all the same, were willing to contribute equally and shared this neighborly outlook, but they aren’t, and they don’t.

Lastly, we have the activist. These folks see something wrong and they’re willing to make some noise about it. They are society’s town criers. The activist is instrumental in bringing new values, important and necessary values into society. Their greatest weakness, however, is that they must, by nature, focus on a very specific niche in society. This doesn’t do much good when all of society is in a tailspin.

The Conflict 

Some conflicts between these folks are easy to see at first glance. Obviously, the activist conflicts with the politician and, as recent social movements have illustrated, the businessman as well, if not more.

But we might not realize how the neighbor conflicts with the businessman. In the U.S., this is a raging battle. The neighbor wants things for their community, things like public transit systems, assistance programs for the poor, laws regarding employment practices, regulations on business practices, health care, etc. But the neighbor doesn’t have the power to enforce their will on the businessman, so they turn to the politician.

The politician knows that it’s the neighbor who keeps him in power (in an ideal democracy), so he does what he does best: starts handing out mandates or raising taxes, which cut into the businessman’s profits and autonomy. Society’s two great powerhouse institutions go to war.

The endgame

In society, the pendulum is always swinging. Take North Korea, it’s a perfect example of what an unchecked politician will do. On the other hand, the U.S. (depending on how you look at it) is run by the businessman. He’s got the politician in his pocket. Why? Because it’s not the neighbor or the activist who keeps the politician in power in the U.S., it’s the businessman.

In Western Europe, (in highly simplified terms) the neighbor reigns. As a result, they are ill-equipped to handle the influx of immigrants, are completely unable to keep the lofty promises of their social welfare states and government infiltrates nearly every facet of the individual’s life, in the name of security of course.

You see, we could dualize the conflict by saying that it’s a battle between the desire to be safe and secure while running the risk of totalitarianism or the desire for prosperity and autonomy while running the risk of uncertainty and/or an oligarchic plutocracy.

But all of these mentalities—the businessman, the politician, the activist and the neighbor—serve important, necessary roles in society. A balance must be struck and no, we cannot all just get along. But at least we might stop thinking of each other as stupid or unenlightened.