The Path to A Future: Congruity

Congruity, [con-gru-ity]: simultaneous,mutual reinforcement in proximity and extremity.

Congruity is our word used to describe the process of building The Path. It symbolizes the unification, interdependence and broad reach that our actions must have, because although we can accurately describe The Path as linear, going from peace to security to sustainable prosperity, we will have to embark on all these processes concurrently.

The reasons for this are twofold: we are short on time, and each step reinforces the others.

We are really short on time! We’ve probably got a decade to get the ball rolling, a decade to get processes up to speed and a decade to spread the changes across the globe. Even once we are on The Path, we will be leaning on advances we will have made just to cope with the wrenching climate changes that will still come our way over the next half century or more. If we can’t get the ball rolling in the next ten years, then we run the very real risk that the changes being forced upon us by then will drive people to reaction, and the opportunity to promote our common good will narrow or even fade completely.

The second reason for congruity is the corollary of why attempts at peace have failed in the past. Peaceful people in the past, particularly prosperous and peaceful people, have been subjected to the crude interruption of the brutally violent. The reason for this was because the prosperous and peaceful were unable to spread the benefits of their prosperity to those others. If we are to succeed on our Path to A Future, we will have to bring rapid change to as broad an audience as possible, as fast as possible and to spread the benefits as widely as possible. Partly because we are all dependant on each other’s actions as we inhabit a single biosphere, and also because our path must travel through peaceful lands, it cannot be built with fences.

As we explore the practical applications of The Path you will see that the elements that make up The Path are interdependent. Peace is a critical element, without peace we cannot afford to secure our social fabric and our personal security is necessary to liberate our prosperity. All of these processes reinforce each other.

On The Path, not only must these congruous processes happen in one place at one time, they must spill over to impact the lives and societies of others at the same time.

That is “congruity”.


Part 15 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future.
A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
To get a free PDF of the book go to www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.

The Path to A Future: Landscape Lessons

So what can we glean from this brief review of the features (conflict, traditions and morality) we must navigate on our path?

• First, all those features do exist and must be navigated. We cannot wish them away.
• Second, they have formed naturally. That is to say that they represent some basically natural aspect of our collective makeup that we must individually own up to. They are not aberrations that we can dismiss as unfortunate. They are simply possibilities that we can seek to exclude from our future, by choosing different aspects of our nature. The difficulty of our passage through them can, and should, serve as a reminder to us about ourselves.
• Third, they are unavoidable and natural, so it behooves us to seek a path that is in harmony with the landscape, which takes advantage of the natural slopes and shelters in the coves eked out by the passage of time. The Path must get across the landscape in order to deliver us to our final destination, and it serves no one to make the journey about flattening mountains or filling valleys. Passage is the password and having built the Path, it will allow everyone to travel along it, from wherever they are now.

In summary, there are three aspects of the world we live in that our path of change has to accommodate: conflict, traditions and morality. These are all reflections of perfectly natural aspects of our human nature, and to fight against them is both futile and fatally distracting.

We have to remember that our purpose is to reach our destination. To do that we need only define a path that navigates the landscape. We need conflicts to be calmed, to reduce their senseless waste. We can allow traditions to fill their role, so long as they do not stifle progress. Morality can continue judging, if it is not harming. To do other than these is to try to change our natures, and that is not the purpose of The Path. The goal of The Path is to show us the way to a sustainable and prosperous future, with, if necessary, all our imperfections unremedied.

So if we’re not going to change these features, what will we do about all the people who have come to identify with them?

Carry on building.

When The Path is mapped all the way to its destination, when they can see the value of the destination and the holistic coherence of its route; their aspirations will trump their old attachments and they will travel with us on the same road.

Fear not!

There is a path across this landscape. We can determine its course, and we can build it.


Part 14 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future.
A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
To get a free PDF of the book go to www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.

The Path to A Future: The Quagmires of Morality

The most dangerous of the landscape features that need to be navigated are the bogs and swamps of the lowlands. These seemingly flat and vegetated expenses are the premature terminus of many a journey.

Offering the delusion of easy passage, their self-reflecting pools and slippery sod are the perfect traps for fools. Seen from a distance they show neither the steep ascent of mountain ridges nor the obvious cut of valley grooves, and would seem to represent a clear distinction between the hubris of the high and the laments of the low. In reality, these are the mosh pits of morality.

Quagmires are the places where we lose sight of our real purpose, and get caught up in the attempt to assert our moral standards over and on to others. Being right is not the objective, getting to our destination is.

Without delving into moral judgments about morality, let’s consider what happens when attempting to cross a quagmire: you get bogged down. Endless effort is expounded in simply moving from one pit to the next, and soon the entire endeavor becomes focused on navigating the swamp; forgetting that there is a destination beyond there.

Path building is an intensely practical task and there is much ground to be covered. It is a service to all beings on the planet and does not discriminate between opinions; we have neither the luxury of time, nor the surplus resources, to engage with matters less practical than reaching our goal of sustainable prosperity.

Because we often have difficulty identifying quagmires from a distance, we must develop our sensitivity for recognizing when we are entering one. As soon as we find the ground shifting beneath us, we must turn and seek the firm ground that surrounds the swamp. Don’t worry, there is always another way; a course for The Path that is lit by the lamp of freedom.


Part 13 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future.
A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
To get a free PDF of the book go to www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.

The Path to A Future: The Mountains of Tradition

Towering over the landscape we can also see the great icy peaks of mountains formed out of the chance encounter of great land masses, rising up faster than the natural forces of erosion can soften their edges. Their peaks are cold because they rise up to where the air is thin, and the clouds gather around their shoulders to obscure their view of the land beneath.

It is in the nature of mountains that they are unaware of their shadows, as they bask in the light that strikes them. The taller they grow, the more inhospitable their peaks become; places from which the beauty and gentleness of the land below becomes almost impossible to recall. They find their identity in the height of their tops. They are jealous of neighbors and oblivious to the violent weather, freezing temperatures and thinning air that surrounds their highest accomplishments.

Beheld from a distance their majesty is clear to see, but up close their inhospitability is keenly felt. Unaware of the simple fortune that created them, and their final destiny as the sand on the shore, they are both dividers of lands and peoples as well as bringers of rain and nourishment.

These mountains represent institutions and traditions of every kind; from the monolithic mega corporation to giant government departments, from established religions to superstitions and legacies laced through every culture. They started with a useful purpose and many still serve valuable roles in our societies, so it is better that we see them for what they are, acknowledge them and then move on.

In navigating the Path, the mountains of tradition are better skirted than summited, tunneled than toppled and appreciated than admonished. For they know not of their origins, their shadows or their value, they know only of their height and the weight of their ice.


Part 12 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future.
A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
To get a free PDF of the book go to www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.

The Path to A Future: Valleys of Conflict

One of the most recognizable features of our landscape today are the valleys of conflict that cuts across the view, trapping people and resources into separated schisms covered by whirling fog. These are the conflicts which obsess our headline writers and dominate our news. They are not most people’s everyday experience of life, but they obscure our view and add so much to the difficulty of navigating across the land that we have no choice but to build the bridges necessary to unite the different sides. We must bring the light of day to all those enured in conflicts, so they can see the view from the outsides of their chasms.

Conflict entraps all those who are touched by it, innocent or not, perpetrator or victim; they are compelled to look in instead of out. The irony is that many of these valleys were dug out purposefully, by some group expecting to improve their view by placing another group out of sight. Not unnaturally, those forced into the valley resist and start to climb out, at which point the original creators of the valley return to dig wider and deeper, until they find themselves living in the same valley with those they sought to displace.

While conflicts originate with an intention to hoard resources, they act like valleys and inevitably develop watersheds that divert resources from all around to flow down their course. The resources (approximately $3,000,000 a minute as of the time of writing this) consumed in conflicts are stolen from their better uses, be they people or materials, ideas or energy, they have been diverted from their alternative application.

Whatever their origins, we must clear the fog and build the steps that will allow those inside and outside the valleys of conflict to look up and move forward.


Part 11 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future.
A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
To get a free PDF of the book go to www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.

The Path to A Future: The Landscape of the Path

Before we build our Path we should understand the nature of the landscape we intend to cross: the state of the world today. We need a clear view of reality, so we can determine the line our Path should take.

We live in a world that is still ravaged by many conflicts, and where the disparities between wasteful over-consumers and the desperately poor grow wider every year. For all our good intentions, we are not living within the bounds of the resources available to us; and the vast majority are not free to enjoy the passage of their lives in peace and security.

The good news is that we do not have to achieve the impossible to remedy our situation – we will not have to fix everything. We do have to change the way we organize our societies and the structure of our economies, and we have to change them pretty fundamentally. Along the way we are going to be challenged, distracted and tempted by our attachments to old ways of doing things. But making fundamental changes, and staying the course through difficult times, are the hallmarks of our greatest moments. Our ability to be flexible and resolute in the face of adversity are natural features of the human landscape, and therefore of you too.

The Path to a Future is all about finding a way from where we are today to a prosperous, sustainable and peaceful future. The Path will not remake the landscape as we find it, it must negotiate the landscape as it is; and that includes us as we are.

Some of the greatest barriers we will have to cross are our own assumptions about what is possible, about what others will do and about what we really think is important. To get started down The Path we’re going to have to open our own gates, step out and get a clear, fresh view of the landscape.

Take a walk with me and let’s have a look at the lay of the land. Using the analogy of a physical landscape, we can examine the contours of our cultural and emotional world. We can get some perspective on the challenges we face, and assess the most effective way through them.


Part 10 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future.
A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
If you want to get a free PDF of the book go to www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.

The Path to A Future: It’s personal, this time.

I realize that it’s a personal moment, it’s just my time to stop hoping, to stop waiting. Don’t get me wrong, I have replaced hope with intention, waiting with action. This is a positive moment for me.

I’m not angry. After all, until I reached this moment I was a contributing member of the lethargic, hopeful establishment. I was waiting for other good people to come out and make a difference. I was hoping that a little better and a different emphasis was going to lead to something. Hopeful that change was just around the corner.

Now I know. Now I’m satisfied that tinkering incrementalism and insider knowledge are not the keys to change. Now I can skip the mini-steps that I had hoped would lead to the big stride, and go straight for the stride.

I no longer look at the moderate candidate that just beat the really extreme candidate, and breathe a sigh of relief. Now I know; they’re not really going to change anything anyway.

They were brought up in that house, they know that house well, and they live in that house. To them, redecorating the inside and repainting the front door are big changes that will require lots of work, coordination and coalition building.

I’m out the front door and past the garden gate, and I can see for myself that I want a different house.

When I see all the public support for change, I see people asking for new houses. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking, but I now know that I’ve always wanted a different house. I also used to think that redecorating the old house would somehow, magically, make it different.

Now I know. It won’t. I’m building a new one.

 


 
Part 8 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future. Real security. A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy! If you want to get a free PDF of the book go to www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.

The Path to A Future: Platting the Super-Trio

So there you have The Path: a new democracy, real personal security and a micro economy. No barriers to their implementation save for our own decisions to do so, especially if led by the ‘developed’ world.

To use the same language that you will see repeated later in this book, the term “super-trio” refers to the presence of all three of these primary elements of The Path: super-democracysuper-security and a super-economy.

There is a great deal of synergy between these three aspects of The Path, and in many ways they are interdependent. For instance, the promises of micro-economic inspired prosperity will not bear fruit without universal personal security.

Embedded in the required precursors for the new democracy, are the freedoms and protections that will enable the new economy to leverage technology fully, as is necessary for marketplace development. The new democracy is dependent
on the promises of security and prosperity to stimulate the effort required to make the changes that are necessary. It’s all intertwined.

Although one inevitably wants to start somewhere, all of these processes are interdependent and it is important that we make progress in all aspects of The Path as soon as we can. If we can harness personal security before we have the chance to change the democratic structure, we should do so. If we can start introducing digital marketplaces for micro needs, we should not wait for personal security to arrive first. We don’t have a lot of time, and every small aspect of the path that comes into being supports the rest of its development.

 


Part 9 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future – originally published in 2009.
A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
To get a free PDF of the book go to www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.

 

The Path to a Future: Prosperity

Part 6 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future. Real prosperity.

A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
If you want to get a free PDF of the book go to http://www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.

This brings us to the third premise of The Path: prosperity. Prosperity is a mixture of wealth, peace and freedom that delivers a high standard of life. It is a natural human ambition to aspire to increased prosperity; a natural outcome of the combination of our instinct for survival, and our desire for relief from hardship.

The challenge is to reconcile this natural inclination, with the sustainability of our actions to attain it. Prosperity for the minority, at great cost to the planet, is plainly possible for a short time. We have already achieved that, but sustainable it is not. Not only is our current path to minority prosperity environmentally unsustainable, it is also socially unsustainable.

We need a new economic vision for our future. The prosperity we create going forward must be environmentally and socially sustainable, and to do that it must be resilient to the cycles of monetary systems and resistant to the vagaries of climate change. That requires us to move beyond mastering the crude art of industrial-scale extraction, to develop the finer skills of production with reduction, recycling, renewables and, above all, sustainable resilience.

Many thanks to Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute, for the following definition of resilience, as it so well describes the economy and prosperity we must build:

“An inherently resilient system should include many relatively small, fine-grained elements, dispersed in space, each having a low cost of failure. These substitutable components should be richly interconnected by short, redundant links. Failed components or links should be promptly detected, isolated, and repaired.

Components need to be so organized that each element can interconnect with the rest at will but stand alone at need, and that each successive level of function is little affected by failures or substitutions at a subordinate level. Systems should be designed so that any failures are slow and graceful.

Components, finally, should be understandable, maintainable, reproducible at a variety of scales, capable of rapid evolution, and societally compatible.”

A finely grained, richly inter-connected economy made of many small parts that are understandable, maintainable and societally compatible. Such a micro-economy can satisfy the desires of prosperity and sustainability concurrently.

There is enormous prosperity potential latent in our societies today. The time has come to extend the opportunity to contribute at our highest capacity to the entirety of our populations. The development of communications technologies in particular, but also transport, engineering, miniaturization and alternative energy technologies, have opened the way to pluralistic economic development on a scale that was not possible before now.

These advances in technologies allow us to leverage the unique skills, interests and capabilities of people everywhere to create a rich fabric of micro enterprise that compliments and balances our industrial enterprises. There are as many unfilled needs in a day as there are people on the planet, and somewhere there is someone ready and willing to produce the product or service that will fill each one of those needs. This is the prosperity potential of our planet. If we can unleash even a fraction of that potential, we will easily generate the wealth necessary to power our societies along the Path to sustainable prosperity for all.

The two keys to unlocking this latent potential are:

  • development of micro market places
  • free availability of human resources

Marketplaces are essential to the development of prosperity, and modern communications technology creates the possibility for markets in which every person can offer their unique contributions to meet the needs of others. The reason that the congregation of people in cities has been a hallmark of our historical prosperity development, is because cities enabled marketplaces. Now we have the capability to create location-independent marketplaces in the virtual world, for products and services in the real world. We need systems that can connect the billions of needs with the billions of producers, locally and transnationally, through fluid marketplaces that allow the natural ingenuity and innovation of the human spirit to flourish.

To a certain extent, this has already started with the advent of the Internet and the appearance of market services such as eBay and craigslist. What is needed now is a set of trans-global marketplace standards that will enable different markets all over the world to interact. This flourishing of micro- economic activity will be intensely local, but it is vital that each local market can exchange with its neighbours. The barriers of language and culture are not going to go away anytime soon, and the cost of transport is only likely to rise in the future, but trade will remain a vital aspect of our economies. So a rich fabric of geographically specific local marketplaces need to be the hubs around which networks of regional and transterritorial marketplaces rotate.

Small businesses have always been the largest employers in our economies, and the backbone of our social fabrics. Now we have the opportunity to extend the chance to be self-employed to everyone, because we can provide the marketing, technical and social support necessary.

Removing barriers to micro-enterprise is also necessary. Many tax regimes and social support systems today create “poverty traps” that actually discourage people from using their skills and capacity to build their own livelihoods. That will be completely resolved by implementing super-security.

In addition to the marketplace mechanisms, people need to be free to participate in them. That freedom is a function of the peace and security of the society, and requires that we build the structures and services that support them. We all need to be delivering our maximum individual contribution to the greatest extent possible, and that means having the super-security that allows us to live above the level of survival or subsistence.

Prosperity is the fruit of the tree, and it springs naturally from the branches of well nourished and protected populations. Lots of people using their unique and personal talents to create products and services that can be sold and bought through micro-enterprise markets. That is the engine of sustainable prosperity! That is a super-economy.

The diverse and diffuse nature of micro-economic activity makes it vastly more resilient to the ebb and flow of particular markets and economic cycles. It also has the potential to generate significant wealth, because the growth of wealth is largely driven by the volume of value-generating transactions in an economy. The liberation of micro-economic potential has an explosive capacity to exponentially increase transaction volumes.

This is the “super-economy” of our future, and it needs the personal security that will enable us to contribute at our highest capacity, as well as the marketplaces in which to find the needs for our contributions. If we provide these, our individual and collective prosperity will flourish gloriously.

The Path to a Future: Security

Part 5 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future. Real security.

A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
If you want to get a free PDF of the book go to http://www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.

To reach our destination we need the full participation and maximum contribution of every person. When we talk about security on The Path to a Future, what we mean is the personal, material security of each person. Our personal participation requires that we are not wondering where our next meal will come from, or if we will have a roof over our heads when we get too old to build a house. If people are insecure about their own futures, they will not lift their sights enough to act in the best interests of everyone and the planet.

Population control, mutual cooperation and environmental management are all dependant on the personal security of each and every person in the world. The cessation of violence and focused attention on transitioning to sustainable economies are also dependent on the personal security of people everywhere. So personal security is a vital component of our Path.

To provide this security, every society will need to provide every member with the bare necessitates of life as a right of citizenship. Everybody needs to be freed from basic need; this is not the same as free from want.

We’re not talking about 20th Century social security benefits here; we’re talking about a 21st Century personal security underpinning for the whole society, what we will call “super-security”.

No cash, just services.

The security we need must come from a mutual guarantee to each other that, no matter what fortune befalls us, we will each ensure that the other has the bare necessities for life, and the opportunity to make what we can of our circumstances. Of course, the extent, breath and quality of the services will depend on the capacity of the particular constituency we live in.

At the most basic level, shelter and sustenance must be guaranteed globally, to all, at every age. Fully implemented, personal security services include healthcare, education, transport and information. These services need to be provided free of payment, at the point of need and universally to every citizen and resident of the constituency, without means testing.

This concept of personal security is, at once, so simple and so shocking. We tell ourselves that of course we wouldn’t step over the bodies of those less fortunate than us as we walk down the street; but we also tell ourselves that we cannot possibly provide everyone with free food and shelter. We think we can’t afford it, and that it would cause our whole system of commerce and labor to disintegrate.

The reality is that we can afford to do it, it’s not expensive and it creates the platform on which to build the most productive society that human history has ever known!

A same basic rate of income taxes we pay today of between 25% and 30% will fund these services, in full, in the average industrialized society. The mechanism that makes providing personal security affordable is linking the costs of the services directly to the tax system; such that an average earner is paying sufficient taxes to pay for the services they receive. Many of us in those societies already pay those rates of taxation (federal, state, local, social security and health insurance), without receiving the benefits of the personal security that could be provided!

Guaranteed basic personal security does not destroy incentives. We all know for ourselves that as soon as our most basic needs are met, our next level of desires arises, and those are every bit as strong an incentive to all of us. The difference is that in the pursuit of our higher needs we make our more valuable and unique contributions, greatly enriching the fabric of our societies, far beyond the desultory contributions we make for mere survival.

As we move forward to describe other aspects of The Path, just keep in mind that we need the maximum contribution and the full participation of everyone, if we’re going to make it to our destination. The personal “super-security” of everyone is the key to unlocking the energy and focus we need to build The Path.

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