By Joe Brewer
May 1, 2016
The world is a pretty screwed up place. So how do we fix it when we ourselves are broken? This is the question that rarely gets asked — and it is a keystone piece of the solution to all the global crises in the world.
Global Warming? Can’t fix that and create healthy relationships with the planet if we aren’t able to have healthy relationships with our own families, friends, and lovers.
Political Corruption? Aren’t going to elevate compassionate, capable leaders when we don’t work well in groups and can’t effectively organize to take collection action.
Media Lies? Won’t be able to tell the difference between truth and perception when we can’t discern patterns in our own lives that cause us harm.
Violence and Endless Wars? Won’t be able to get along with other broken people when we ourselves haven’t learned how to heal.
When I wrote about the mental disease of late-stage capitalism, I didn’t expect it to go viral. While I did know the feelings of shame and isolation have become commonplace in our broken economic system, I was not yet prepared for the immense healing that would flood through me as hundreds of thousands of people found solace in my written words.
And now — a few weeks later — I realize that my activist friends have been going about their efforts to create positive change in the wrong way. They have been fighting against their cultural enemies when healing is actually what we need. The “great transition” away from runaway consumption that will destroy the planet; intensifying wealth inequality that is starving billions as these words hit the page; and toward an inclusive, participatory society that meets the needs of every human being while finding harmony with the Earth… all of this will require purposeful actions from the largest social movement in human history.
But most humans alive right now are broken. Our communities have been stripped of gathering places. We find ourselves isolated and alone, with heads in the digital cloud and eyes fixed to the screen. We are not ready to look one another in the eye. The shame we feel as we strive to do everything right (the way we were taught) — as we fail to get jobs, are unable to keep up with growing rental prices, and are displaced increasingly from our homes — that shame and humiliation is why we don’t come together.
So how will it be possible to create a social movement with broken people? The answer is to have the change process itself be a pathway of healing. We can (and must) live through these turbulent times. While it may be true that every one of us is now a cultural refugee, it is also true that we are members of the most social species this planet has ever known.
Psychologists will tell us that we develop through childhood by interacting with adults. Anthropologists will explain how important it is for us to be in tribal groups. Sociologists will express how “normal” behavior is taught to us by our peers. Even economists, from that dismal science, must recognize the power of institutions for giving structure to markets and governments.
Yes, we know a great deal about how to build trust and cooperate. That is what nations are all about. It is how sports teams work. And every business on Earth is a collaboration among social animals that we call human beings.
What we cannot be though is emotionally damaged human beings.
In this time of great consequences — when the collective choices we make will either lock us in to runaway global warming or set us on a regenerative path — we must do the internal work of healing ourselves while improving our abilities to work with others.
I believe such a social movement of broken people to be not only possible, but essential for what we must all do together in the next few decades. It is time to face honestly our own limitations. We must each recognize and acknowledge our failings and faults. Then quickly must we each move through the discomfort this creates and into a place of readiness for action.
All future generations are depending on us now. We must understand the systems that need to be dismantled. And we must cultivate the human capacities to step-by-step move through and enact the changes that must be made. I will be doing my part, as a writer and culture designer in practice.
Will you be ready to do yours?
Onward, fellow humans.