Apr 25, 2014

Positive Change using Biological Principles Pt 3: Freedom from the Community Principle

Welcome to the third article in our series about social change strategy.

In part 1, we proposed a “Campaign Complex” comprised of  four “biological” Principles – Equilibrium, Agency, Equanimity and Energy Conservation – which might account for some common challenges experienced by change agents. We also outlined some strategies for successful campaigning suggested by these Principles.

In part 2, we proposed a “missing” fifth “Community Principle” implied by the other four. We postulated that its absence is the result of systemic changes, particularly, the advent of technology which has allowed individuals and culture to circumvent and suppress the “constraints” which the Community Principle formerly, and necessarily, exerted on personal freedom.

In this article, we discuss some of the benefits and costs of this freedom, and propose that the costs might underpin some common campaign bugbears.


Freedom: Heaven or Hell?

So what does freedom from the Community Principle look like?

ȃÀOn the one hand, ideologically-speaking, we no longer have to suffer any constraints on our individual expression. This is something which the Agency principle postulates to be a deep biologically-rooted desire we all share, with perhaps the respect and love of our peers as its unspoken goal.

In short, without the Community Principle, there is no need to share credit for our talents and successes, or the material rewards they confer.

On the other hand, without community to share the burden, the individual alone bears the responsibility of building and maintaining an enduring Equilibrium, and all the associated stresses (“Disequanimity”).

We must also do so in a current of relentless cultural transience and novelty. Towering aspirational hierarchies expose us to continual and dynamic self-expectation, social comparison, and pressure to live beyond our means. Increasing job insecurity, work demands, indebtedness and erosion of welfare and family support systems has us haunted by perpetual fear of drowning.

Many of us understand deep down that there are fundamental limits to the way we live. Yet we cling to the reassurance that the culture that has carried us so far will somehow find its own solution, and deny the evidence which demonstrates that each day this culture brings us closer to environmental and economic meltdown.

On the one hand, we’re taught to believe that only individual achievement has value. Yet, on the other, we’re increasingly confronted by power, inequalities and environmental problems so vast they render absurd the idea that one person can make a difference.

The Community Principle still stirs in us a longing for togetherness and collective endeavour. Yet our culture warns us to be wary of the constraints such commitments might impose on our personal ambition, freedom and identity.

Moreover, with the ongoing corruption of customary democratic processes by corporate interests and the power hungry, we’re increasingly losing faith in collective action of any kind because there’s decreasing evidence that it works.

With neither belief in nor experience of the Community Principle, and faced with problems of such scale and intransigence, it is perhaps unsurprising that our default response is to turn away and entrench further in those areas of life where Agency still maintains an illusion of stability and control – our homes, nuclear families, shopping, personal technologies and skills, cuisine, entertainment, sports, leisure and so on.

But in the modern age, such escapism tends to exacerbate the problems we shrink from, feeding vicious cycles of consumerism, addiction and the breakdown of faith in and relationship with our neighbours.

And while our backs are turned, the rich and powerful ramp up the diversionary propaganda, whilst quietly dismantling the neglected remains of our channels of influence. As with the rest of us, the Agency Principle dictates they push as far as the context permits, and yield nothing.

And perhaps these downsides of a missing Community Principle cast those old campaign bugbears in a more sympathetic light?

Not ignorance, but an avoidance of truths that cut too deep. Not gullibility, but an isolation-driven need to believe those that run the show can be trusted or, at least, are as good as we can expect. Not apathy, denial or carelessness, but a rejection of a burden immeasurably greater than nature intended for individuals of our species.

In summary, despite the short-term, tangible individual benefits of a culture built on Agency, which are considerable for the few, it is Arkadian’s view that in the long-term, the absence of the Community Principle can only lead to general feelings of isolation and disempowerment.

These feelings, in turn, underpin resistance to necessary change and reinforce a vicious circle which, without intervention, can only lead to collapse. All this is summarised in the diagram below.

However, as they say, perhaps the darkest hour is just before the dawn? We hope you’ll join us again Friday for the optimistic final part of this series, where we present evidence that a bleary-eyed Community Principle is stirring around the world, and propose some environmental parameters, and practical approaches, that may be responsible for the re-awakening.


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