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Tony Judt, Cultural Creatives and VIGDEOCs

February 14, 2010

This Post is a continuation of Dissolving The USA’s Utterly Broken Systems.

VIGDEOC means Viable Innovative Gaian Democracies Enterprises Organisations and Communities.

In an earlier post I quoted some reflections by Tony Judt on his conversations with members of the public after his lectures on social-democratic alternatives to the USA’s extremist model of capitalism.

This is the second generation of people who can’t imagine change except in their own lives, who have no sense of social collective public goods or services, who are just isolated individuals desperately striving to better themselves above everybody else.

Judt now intends to devote himself to writing a book to help young people think collectively again.

It could really have an impact if I get it right. Something that will get the next generation to see there is a way to think about politics that is not just the way we’ve been habituated to do it. I care about that and I think I can do it.

In response, “Claire” wrote a long and thoughtful comment from Devon in the UK.  She concluded:

I have the good fortune to live surrounded by compassionate, earnest humans who try to make the world a better place AND make school pick up. None are party members but many are micro activists, trying to make a direct and long-lasting impact in their own community,
The age of global communications, instant access and 24 news highlights to many the futility of attempting meaningful and lasting change through the political system. But in many ways it hasn’t made the world smaller – it has actually turned people’s focus once more on their immediate surroundings. If we can’t change the world, we can still do something about the way we ourselves live. James and I have consciously cut our carbon output by around 40% in the past year. We are actively engaged in discussions in the village on where to site a community wind turbine. Our school is run via a dynamic group of parent volunteers. Our village film club opened with The Age of Stupid (and then we all went back to the pub to discuss). The examples of collaborative working for common good are many-fold.
What does this mean to those rightfully frustrated with our lack of oomph? I don’t know exactly. Perhaps be intelligent with your expectations and tailor your battle-cries? Don’t mourn the passing of the old ways without acknowledging the potential power of the new? Don’t give up hope.

The best way I can think of to respond to Claire, and Tony Judt is to try to indicate how hundreds of millions of people  like Claire could (admittedly, its a big ‘could’) begin to think, act and learn together to achieve fundamental systemic change at every level from the local to the global.

Informal networks such as that Claire is rightly proud of, exist in thousands of unremarkable communities around the world.  They are networks of what Paul Ray calls “Cultural Creatives”.

These creative, optimistic millions are at the leading edge of several kinds of cultural change, deeply affecting not only their own lives but our larger society as well. Innovation by innovation, they are shaping a new kind of American culture for the 21st century.

As Paul Ray sees it, Cultural Creatives are questioning the unspoken assumptions of the old culture and opening up new insights and forging creativity in people’s lives at the grassroots.  They tend to be better-educated, better-off,  more concerned about global warming, the ethics of work, business and politics, violence against women and children and similar issues than the rest of society.

And two-thirds of them are women.

Paul Ray’s research indicates that Cultural Creatives comprise 25 – 30% of adult populations in the English-speaking world and Western Europe.

What follows are some introductory remarks that might be made to a group of  “Cultural Creatives” who have indicated they would like to know more about “a global network  of diverse and self-organising VIGDEOCs: Viable Innovative Gaian Democracies Enterprises Organisations and Communities.


The Power-Elite’s World View

February 14, 2010

The reason today’s politicians, economists, business leaders, academics, administrators and commentators are failing so badly is because they have yet to use the scientific knowledge that has become available in the past half century to co-create VIGDEOCs (Viable Innovative Gaian Democracies, Enterprises, Organisations and Communities) that can define and resolve the dilemmas that baffle the current system.

They are working within a set of theories and practices that go back hundreds of years. Here is a summary of how they see the world by the Canadian philosopher, John McMurtry.

  • Each country is first and foremost a competitor in the global market and should act according to its own interests.

  • All states have a right to use all resources within their reach.

State governments

  • Are the ultimate source of civil order.

  • Should keep out of the markets.

  • Should encourage trans-national companies to play a full part in all national and international decisions affecting global trade and development.

Representative democracy

  • is the nearest approach to an ideal democracy that is practicable in the real world and is the true guardian of a free society.

Science and technology

  • We can ignore the ‘doom-mongers’ because science and technology will always find solutions to the problems that worry them.

The market economy

  • All human needs express themselves in the market place in monetary terms and therefore the market will lead to optimal solutions for all problems.

  • Permanent economic growth is desirable and necessary, with no inherent environmental or human limits to the conversion of life into saleable commodities.

  • Individual consumer desires are permanently increasing, unlimited and good.

  • Those who do not or cannot express themselves in the competitive process are a problem, but not one that calls for radical reflection.

  • The great majority who have only their labour to sell must do so.

  • Ever larger trans-national corporations are perfectly natural.

Market forces

  • Competition is the dominant principle governing relationships of all kinds.

  • Freedom to buy and sell in money exchanges is the basis of human liberty and justice.

  • Profit maximisation is the engine of social well-being and is not to be hedged by public regulation or ownership.

  • Private property s good in all things.

  • Information is a proprietary and marketable good and a legitimate means for acquiring wealth, power and privilege.

  • Aggressive individualism on the part of individuals, companies and states is acceptable.

With minor variations, those ideas have dominated human affairs for at least 200 years and have their roots in much earlier times. They go back 2500 years to Plato and Aristotle, 500 years to Machiavelli, to the Westphalian Treaty of 1659, and the thinking of John Locke and Isaac Newton, and, of course, to the free-market theories of the French Physiocrats and Adam Smith and Ricardo that have shaped the dominant economic paradigms for well over 200 years.