I keep mulling over what is happening with the riots, the financial system, and the apparent collapsing of an old world under its own weight. Like many I keep thinking of ways to “sort it”. Each time I fall into the trap of coming up with some system or ideology or framework – all the grown up stuff that is meant to be how we fix things. But every time I come back to what I can do now, myself – how I behave moment to moment, and how I treat both myself and others.
If I allow myself to feel sorry for myself, hard done by, or victim of some perceived injustice, I give myself permission to feel justified in behaving badly.
If I think that something outside myself will make things better – God, the state, other people or buying more stuff – then I absolve myself of the responsibility for changing things and render myself powerless and a victim of someone else’s view of the world.
If I allow myself to see other people as a mass, and not made up of individuals like me, I open the door to demonising them or being overwhelmed by the futility of that mass ever changing.
If I see work as inevitably being a cog in a huge wheel with little or no control over what that wheel does then I consign myself to the life of a wage slave keeping my head down long enough to make it to my ever diminishing pension and the promise of happiness tomorrow.
And if I read mass circulation newspapers or watch mass media I exacerbate all of the above challenges and become even more powerless to change either myself or the world around me.
This is why I am so passionate about the web and the ability it gives us, to quote David Weinberger, to “write ourselves into existence”, to see the world as made up of connected individuals with the ability to shape their shared future rather than as a mass or ideologically driven herd.
This is also why I feel so motivated to work with the large corporations and institutions that so dominate our modern world. If I can help any of the individuals who make up those organisations to feel a little bit more self aware, a little bit more capable, and a little bit more able to think for themselves and speak for themselves, and to do so as part of networks of others doing the same – then I will have done my job.
Perhaps they will feel able to stand up and make their voices heard about the things that their organisation is doing that they don’t feel comfortable with or that they know deep down aren’t making the world a better place for their kids.
Maybe if we all do that we will stop fooling ourselves that the mass is anything other than individuals pretty much just like us.
Maybe if we stop fooling ourselves there will be less of a gap between the haves and the have nots.
Maybe our care for the planet will increase.
Maybe we can collectively build a new world based on tolerance and mutual responsibility before the very different one we currently inhabit falls apart.
Maybe we will be able to grow up in time.