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Sustainable Civilization: Integrated Individual and Societal Health

March 19, 2013

“Before it’s too late, we need to make courageous choices that will recreate a strong alliance between man and Earth. We need a decisive “yes” to care for creation and a strong commitment to reverse those trends that risk making the situation of decay irreversible.”

~ Pope Benedict XVI

What is societal change? We often think of it as something outside ourselves, as society itself exists outside our being. How we function, however, creates society.

Our views, values and behaviors create society. When we change these, we change society. Our internal psychology corresponds to our external social behaviors individually, as our internal culture corresponds to external social institutions societally.

Exploring this interaction offers innovative insight into the current state of affairs and the evolutionary path to a robust, dynamic and diverse sustainable civilization.

The Interplay Between Internal Individuality and External Society

Society’s cultural worldview shapes the social institutions that organize and provide functionality to our lives by regulating and coordinating patterns of individual behavior through actions and psychological structures. The interplay is that both social institutions shape our psychology and actions, but our psychology also shapes institutions.

Highly interactive societies inevitably embed deeply into our entire psyche. Our health is as dependent on the health of the system we live in. For instance, Graeme Taylor of BEST Futures notes “the world system is destructive and violent because its structures are designed to maximize the exploitation of both humans and the natural world.”

Ultimately, a society that supports individuals to realize their potential via self-driven values will reshape fractured societies. Our behaviors can either coincide with the institutions in place, reinforcing them, or help progressively change them.

A Globalized Perspective

Our interaction with society begins when we are kids, before we have any established worldview or position of influence. External realities in our youth shape our internal essence that carries with us into our active roles in society – where our worldview and actions are influential.

In an increasingly globalized world, there are no boundaries to social exposure. When we grow up our immediate family and social institutions most significantly influence us, but our worldview is inevitably affected by globalization.

The issue is, the most powerful cultures can most afford and profit from disseminating their worldview and become dominant. Just look to see how industrialized western values have taken root across the world.

Collective Health

We are most psychologically fit when we function as individuals but have strong community ties. Industrialized societies focus on production and consumption through competition and individualization. This is not new information.

What’s important is that we refocus on positive relationships and community building within our societies. Industrialization has created a community connection crisis so potently imbued throughout the social institutions comprising our psyche and culture that strengthening the sense of collective connection has become a formidable challenge.

Not only is it vastly influential to our individual and collective health to meet this challenge, but it also offers a positive opportunity to help create constructive social change. The process and result will be fruits of synergistic coordination, where results of individual’s behaviors will be far greater than the sum of their actions.

Cultural Evolution of A Sustainable Civilization

Change cannot be created in a day or a month; it is an evolutionary process that will include both failure and success, like any endeavor.

To replace the old, evolution must lead to diverse new societies worldwide that function better – that meet our social and human needs more effectively, are more adaptable and environmentally relevant, have improved energy, resource and information access and usage, and develop interdependent, reciprocal views, values, social structures, economic processes and technologies.

Government, education, social organizations, economies, science and technologies wrapped up in worldviews and cultural aesthetics will evolve to predominate diverse communities of individual collective health.

The evolution from an industrial age to an information age offers the most pressing, positive challenge in history with the highest potential for restructuring to robust, sustainable, resilient societies globally. Imagine holistic, self-regulating, integrative, decentralized, information, systemic, networked, renewable and ecological hubs of dynamic, healthy individuals interacting, adapting and evolving with social institutions.

It’s a breath of fresh air, but no easy feat. There is no way map a plan or formulate an outcome. The process of evolutionary development toward a sustainable civilization comes with uncertainty and due diligence, like any challenge worth struggling to achieve.

What do you think? Are we on the evolutionary path? What can we do to rev up change-making societal interaction between individuals, collective health and diverse global evolution?

If you wish for more information, please check out the book that inspired this post and provided sprinkled bits of information throughout – Graeme Taylor’s Evolutions Edge: The Coming Collapse and Transformation of Our World.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Alex Jones permalink
    March 19, 2013 1:22 pm

    Change starts with the individual, ripples out to family, then community, then the nation then the world.

    • March 20, 2013 11:48 am

      Very true. Complexity riddles the equation when the family, community, nation and world are continually impeding on the individual, making the necessary change you highlight within the individual so powerful. Only then will it ripple out and effect the surroundings.

  2. March 21, 2013 7:36 am

    Your introduction to this article is a powerful thing. A realization and awareness of this is lacking because most people assume that change in itself is a hard process to begin. But to know that any kind of change, no matter how big or small, starting with oneself, is already an influential cause that can catapult an inter-connectivity for more and bigger change/s.

    • March 21, 2013 4:03 pm

      Hi, Miles. Thanks for the elegant words. Everything starts somewhere, and for us, we must start with ourselves and work outward. “catapult an inter-connectivity for more and bigger change/s” – awesome!

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