Question: What is your view of the state of the world at this moment? Do you think we’ve a hope of making it or are we toppling right over the precipice?
Well, if we just get our information from the media, you’d think we hadn’t a hope in hell as the media just loves telling us about what’s going wrong with everything, the result being that we all get a bit hooked into disaster and some of us even take a vicarious pleasure out of it, plonking down in our armchairs of an evening to watch the news to see was what’s the next juicy bit of ghastliness coming up? Who has Trump offended now? How many died in that earthquake? Have ISIS really got hold of nuclear material? And so on…
OK, this is all happening and some pretty terrible as well as some very superficial things are going on, but many other very good things are also taking place which we are often wholly unaware of as they don’t get reported about. Why? Because good news isn’t dramatic or exciting and so it doesn’t sell newspapers! Many years ago a group of us got together to try and start a positive newspaper, only giving the good news. Guess what. It never took off!
Actually, there are many wonderful people all over the world doing many incredible things – designing new technologies to irrigate deserts, creating new economic systems to try to eradicate inequality, helping refugees damaged by the ravages of war, etc. Look at Médecins Sans Frontières, for example; fantastic bunch of people. I recently wrote a book which explored how we can ‘make a difference’ in the world and this led me to discover that actually millions of people have this as their aim. And in every country: Russia, China and North Korea all very much included. Generally, they do their good work behind the scenes. Thus, for every brave woman like the well-known Afghani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai who, if you remember, stood up against the Taliban who shot her in the face for championing the education of girls – there are hundreds of other equally brave women standing up against evil and corruption and equally deserving of Nobel prizes. The problem is that they are completely unknown.
Anyway, it is because of such people, that I have great hope in my heart. I feel it won’t be too many years in the future when we will stop awarding knighthoods to the likes of ‘Sir’ Philip Green – who, a few years ago, stole £571 million out of the pension fund of BHS to help fund the construction of his third super yacht – and award it to truly noble people, who do truly good things for the world, for these people sure exist. As my hero Bob Dylan put it ‘The times they are a-changin’, and yup, Bob, they’re doin’ so a hell of a lot quicker now than half a century ago when you wrote that immortal song.
It’s interesting: we seem to get two kind of messages today. One side says ‘Yes, it’ll be tough. We’ve got some dark roads still to go through but we’ll make it – fear not,’ while the other side categorically says ‘No way José. Things are too far gone. The environment is now too damaged, the system too dysfunctional, we’ve gone beyond the point of no return. No way back. Sorry!’
Yet perhaps it is good that we receive this conflicting information. If we all felt things were going to be OK, we might sit back and do nothing and so things wouldn’t be OK (for, after all, if they are to be OK it is up to you and I to make them that way. Change, if it happens, happens through us!) Conversely, if we felt everything was hopeless, we might give in to supercharged despondency and also do nothing. This way, we are challenged to stay on our toes as the world is full of surprises, nothing more so than the continued ascendance of ‘The Donald’. But perhaps here, there is some method in madness. The fact that so many people support him is a reflection of some part of the American psyche ( or should I say ‘American psycho’!)
The thing is that so long as our dragons are buried in their lairs, we can’t see them. They breathe their fire on us but we can’t do anything about it as we don’t know where the flames are coming from. However, once the dragon is out of his lair and we see him for what he is, then there are things we can do, and I think the gift that Trump’s presence is giving the American people is that he is reflecting for them a certain part of their dragon-like nature which needs a lot of addressing as it sure ain’t pretty and it is very dangerous. The good thing is that a lot of the American psyche is also very good and very noble and this part of itself is, even now, contemplating how best to deal with its dragonry…
My reading of the world at this moment is that a huge struggle is going on between two hugely conflicting worldviews. On the one hand, we are surrounded everywhere by outmoded behaviours and values, which are both holding us back and destroying our planet and therefore need to die off, yet are often fighting furiously to try and stay alive and maintain their positions. On the other hand, we are seeing many movements for change going on all over the world and which are being led by people totally committed to working for a new and healthier future and who are aware that the process of salvaging our society requires nothing less than a wholesale transformation of dominant cultural patterns, a dramatic shift in the very design of human societies.
What I find so reassuring is that those leading this transformation are no longer society’s outcasts, poets and assorted weirdos, but those in high positions in government, industry, science and the arts – people in positions truly to make a difference. Put simply, what, forty years ago, had existed at the edge of our society – etc, namely alternative technology, alternative medicine and strategies like my spiritual retreats – are today at the centre of society (the word ‘alternative’ being changed to ‘complimentary’). People who come to my retreats nowadays are no longer a groups of out of work ‘consciousness explorers’ but people in government and corporate leaders. I remember when I worked as a publisher in my youth, going to have lunch in a little whole food, vegetarian restaurant in London called Cranks. Often, my friends laughed at me. Today, you are seen as a bit of a crank if you don’t eat wholefood! And this is all healthy.
So that is why, in answer to your question, I am hopeful and positive. If we believe that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come, then surely its corollary also applies and there is nothing weaker than ideas whose time has past! Perhaps, this is one reason why we are currently seeing the implosion of the Republican party in America. Yes, one doesn’t like what ISIS is up to and it is true to say that the world is finding it hard to address the many very complex problems lying behind the emergence of terrorism. And goodness knows what that tubby-faced little creep with the weird hairstyle and an inferiority complex in North Korea, will get up to next – certainly the ‘being a tyrant ‘ business has not yet lost its allure – and yes, global warming is a damn serious issue (despite what the climate deniers believe), yet despite all this I believe a powerful new integrative spirit is afoot in the world and that the forces for goodness are more powerful than those for badness. However, as I said earlier, I do still think we all need to stay on our toes, take nothing for granted and avoid complacency.