A New Blueprint for Human Liberty

We want a future characterized by freedom from tyranny and deprivation. We want a future characterized by open access to education and empowerment. These wants are also needs, if we are to build a human civilization capable of the flexibility and resilience required to outlast the risks that flow from our own frailties. The metaphysical structures we call institutions have developed over long centuries fraught with scarcity, conflict, injustice and the reaction to injustice. We know this, and we let ourselves forget it. So, it is worth remembering: we are always, in subtle and deliberate ways, striving to free ourselves from the inefficiency of rigid institutions that ignore human need and the nuance of life as it happens at the human scale.

We can design the future we want. We can design institutions that “know” how to receive, to sift through, to leverage, and to be enhanced by waves of change. Knowledge is a constellation. The knowledge in your own mind is a constellation, but the constellation of all that is known extends to all human minds, and to all that we use to document what we perceive and comprehend. That constellation of knowledge relationships is also a map of the future, though we don’t yet know with perfect clarity which elements we will inhabit and which we will escape.

We tend to view as sacred all that we experience as doing this, and so we develop and define a heritage of life-sustaining values, and we call it “culture”. We live an acculturation of value; we experience an acculturation of being; we see ourselves as constants in a sea of influences. What pulls a society together is the shared cultivation of something that is greater than erosion and diminution. This is a cooperative effort, and requires that we both give and receive meaning. What makes sense above all kinds of common sense is the cultivation of what sustains life. What feels to us like culture becomes the pathway to the sacred act of sustaining life, and so becomes itself sacred. The big and maybe unanswerable question is: Can any narrowly defined cultural endeavor be treated as sacred and life-sustaining, if it misses much of what allows others to do, think, and deal in this way? Can the partial also be the sacred? The violent tensions that come from resolving this question only partially are the same tensions that lead to violent conflict.

We now face a new sacred need: All that we have not seen clearly before has led to the situation in which the sum total of our efforts at progress and development is a depletion of what allows life as we know it to thrive on Earth. Everything we know, combined with everything we do, in the prevailing practices of our time and of times past, amounts to a systems failure. This is not the end of the story, but this trend toward systemic failure that needs to be addressed. To answer the ethical call of our times, to transcend this experience of depletion, disruption and collapse, we need to replace the failing system with one in which the fatal design flaws are no longer there.

We need a new blueprint that brings together the shifting sands of the macro-dynamic with the invisible concreteness of the micro-experiential, in a way that allows for an optimized future. This blueprint needs to provide us with a new kind of human space, a new way of dwelling on Earth, where we can do good together and apart, for those we know and cherish, for those far away in time and space, and for the general welfare of human beings and of natural systems. What does such a space look like? And more deeply: what kind of blueprint will allow us to bring it into being? We need to honor and expand on the value of freedom of thought: both the freedom to ask questions, even when they might be disruptive and inconvenient, and the freedom to get involved in the asking, even if one is far removed from the administrative and commercial centers of gravity. Freedom of intellect and the freedom of access to capability are live-sustaining resources, which we now need everyone everywhere to enjoy.

[ The Note for July 2016 ]

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Written by Joseph Robertson

Joseph is Global Strategy Director for the non-partisan non-profit Citizens' Climate Lobby. He coordinates the building of CCL's citizen engagement groups on 5 continents, leads the Citizens' Climate Engagement Network and represents CCL in the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, UNFCCC negotiations, and other UN processes. He is a member of the Executive Board of the UN-linked NGO Committee on Sustainable Development-NY and of the Policy and Strategy Group for the World We Want. He is also the founder of Geoversiv.net and the Geoversiv Foundation and the lead strategist supporting the high-level climate dialogue series Accelerating Progress, Advancing Innovation.

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