Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shared Vision

In my line of work spotting trends, seeing marco or large pictures is critical. Often these things are missed by people working and digging away at day to day life. I see this going on all the time - efforts around "green building" or "sustainability" and more are examples of people trying to attempt to define these terms without exploring or identifying with the bigger trend. These are loose terms, terms that we may not necessarily all share a clear definition on. And, it is this lack of clarity that in my opinion highlights several issues. First, these terms are only labels, they don't represent a "movement" or a shift of any fundamental nature (I will come back to why I think this) and secondly, these terms fundamentally don't redefine anything in our society.

My first point is very much linked to my second point. The very fact that the definition of these terms or any number of terms used are unclear or open to manipulation highlights the way in which they are labels and not defining philosophical ideas that can then be used to shift or build a new society upon. Think of this in terms of ideas like liberty, or private property, or something of a similar nature. I think what these terms miss is a deeper question, a deeper philosophical issue is going on.

Perhaps it is my philosophical nature that drives me to this point. However, I think that something will always be open to manipulation if it is a label used to try and band-aid over something more fundamental. What is green about? What is sustainability about? What are these terms, and their increased use and prominence, trying to highlight?

My belief is, as I have said in earlier posts, that it is about a question of values. A shift of values is what it is about and the definition of these terms is nothing less then an attempt at defining the new values of society. Yet, are we clear on what these values are? Are we really having a deep societal, global, cultural conversation around this idea? When ideas of liberty emerged in England during the Industrial Revolution (say the argument of Locke amongst many others) the question was not so much about private property, but about the definition of a new value - that of individual liberty being primary. (note that I am aware of the political economic shifts that occurred that led to the argument for private property but I think it still required/forced a reconfiguration of values)

We are faced with these sorts of questions again. What are the fundamental values that we are trying to highlight that form the basis of "green" or "sustainable"? In my opinion any attempt to define these requires us to define our values as a society. And, I think this only happens when the current system of values is shown to fail (and I think evidence is mounting for this - much as it did during the breaking down of feudalism).

We need to think about this in a deep way, but in a way that is rigorous in its logic, rigorous in its integral approach, and rigorous in its attempt to be global. These values are the values of the future, they are attempting to emerge, but in my opinion no philosophical argument has helped clarify or codify them in the way that earlier ideas were (I dream and wish and sometimes pray for the ability to write such a text).

Or perhaps they are being defined but they will only be seen as defining arguments when we have hindsight (historical perspective).

In the mean time think about what you believe are the new values of the world that will help us define and entrench certain terms.

I value relationships and I value individuality. How do we build a new philosophy that does this for us?

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