Was just going through a pile of old magazines and found this brilliant article by John F Schumaker in the April 2008 issue of New Internationalist. The basic premise is the sentence opening the second paragraph: “It wasn’t supposed to be this way.”
It really wasn’t. How could it be? Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs stated that when basic needs are satisfied, people can move on to meet their higher level needs – intellectual, spiritual, social, existential. Schumaker quotes from 1950s intellectuals full of hope about the “people of tomorrow” and how wise and fulfilled they would be now that their basic human needs had (in the West) been taken care of.
But Maslow’s theory broke down. We are the people of tomorrow, we have more stuff than anybody’s ever had before, and we are so stupid and self-absorbed that we can’t even bring ourselves to care about our imminent destruction of the planet (voting on the X-Factor, now, that’s a different story). We are trivial. We are foolish. We are willfully ignorant. We have the attention span of a hyperactive toddler stoked up on M&Ms. We are lost.
Schumaker is spot-on with his descriptions (“drowning in our own shallowness”, “human potential taking a back seat to economic potential”, “self-absorption on a spectacular scale”) and doesn’t shy away from naming “our dangerously obsolete socio-economic system” as the prime cause. He’s a bit light on solutions, apart from vague-sounding talk of “global consciousness”, but he gives some web links to “culture change” strategists that sound interesting. I will investigate them, if I can muster the attention span.