Saturday, March 18, 2006

2006 MAR | CULTURAL CREATIVES: True North on the New Political Compass

CULTURAL CREATIVES: True North on the New Political Compass

Every few hundred years in Western history there occurs a sharp transformation. Within a few short decades, society - its world view, its basic values, its social and political structures, its arts, its key institutions - rearranges itself. And the people born then cannot even imagine a world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born. We are currently living through such a transformation. 
 -PETER DRUCKER, Post-Capitalist Society

So begins, “The New Political Compass”, by Paul H. Ray, Ph.D., author of, “CULTURAL CREATIVES: How 50 Million People are Changing the World”, ( ). Paul Ray is helping to build a new conceptual framework for understanding the larger dynamics of our world. Framing is catching fire in the political world because of it’s power for gaining knowledge of how to influence people. The marketing world has always known this. Now, Paul Ray, a sociologist by trade, has begun to publish his research on the social and political dynamics of today’s world. The difference is that, instead of a conceptual framework of the elites, by the elites, and for the elites, Ray is offering one of the people, by the people, and for the people.

What or who are Cultural Creatives?

There is a questionnaire online if you would like to see if you might be one: ( ) Ray goes beyond standard demographics by asking people about their values and the kind of world they would like to live in. In summary, Cultural Creatives are:

* growing in numbers from around 5% in the 1960s to over 26% today and growing
* the source of all change and social innovation
* demand peace, freedom and justice - social, economic, environmental, and political
* feel isolated and disconnected from the rest of the world
* desire whole systems, whole truth, whole foods, and whole solutions
* are unaware of how many people already share their views
* are unaware of how many people might yet come to share their views if only they understood where they come from and where they will take us

What is culture?

We all have some idea of what it means to us and, yet, anthropologists find it nearly impossible to define. Margaret Mead credits Ruth Benedict (Patterns of Culture, 1921) with beginning a popular discussion on the concept of culture. Benedict theorized that any group of people exhibit a culture which is an aggregate, “personality writ large”. My favorite culture quote is:

That is true culture which helps us to work for the social betterment of all.

Other common components of culture include: values, attitudes, practices, traditions, arts, beliefs, customs, institutions, inventions, language, and technology. Others say that culture is the social construction of meaning.

The truth is constructed with skill and virtue.

Assuming Aristotle’s premise, then, that which is constructed without both skill and virtue, therefore, is not truth. Or, at least, it has only a degree of truth relative to the degree of skill and virtue used in its construction. But, if a truth is constructed with skill and virtue, but, without a social context, then, who cares and who would even know? Do not both skill and virtue require that truth or meaning be socially constructed? One person with maximum skill and maximum virtue can perceive from only one perspective. Anything one person, or a small group constructs, excludes the perspectives of others. A work of art is meant to be a personal expression and to stimulate thought and feeling and conversation. However, a culture must be of, by, and for the people – all people - who live within it.
No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive.

Maximum truth requires maximum perspective in current space and over future time. Contexts change over time, therefore, cultures of families, neighborhoods, organizations, communities, states, and nations must be continuously reviewed and improved and must be socially constructed (or cultivated) to have meaning of the people, meaning by the people, and meaning for the people – all people.
For example, who constructed or cultivated the "meaning of life" that was imposed on us without our knowledge or consent right up until the "Pleasantville" era of the 1950s? In the 1960s a phenomenon known as "counterculture" began to fully manifest. We knew that the values of previous generations were not exactly ours, but, we did not know what values we wanted. No generation had ever given itself so much freedom to choose its own values. From this new freedom - and, of course, "freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose" - sprouted several movements: civil rights, equal rights, peace & justice, environmental protection, consumer protection. From the common roots of these many movements a new culture is growing. Cultural Creatives recognizes this phenomenon and gives us a new conceptual framework for understanding it.

The most important element of navigation is fixing current position. By taking “fixes” as often as possible we can carefully keep track of:

* where we have been
* where we are now
* where we are going

For the purposes of cultural navigation, the current consensus seems to be:

* we have been in a culture of, by, and for the corporations
* we are now in transition to a new culture
* we are going to create a culture of the people, by the people, and for the people

Anytime 2 or more gather for any length of time, there is organization and there is culture. Sustainable organizing is the key to navigating our way to a new culture as safely and efficiently as possible.

How can WE do better at working together?

( WE = U + ME + U-Process )

The People-Centered Development Forum ( ) maintains a web-archive of “Global Citizen” articles by Donella Meadows – the late leader of the sustainability movement. In her article, "The Cultural Creatives Are Coming", ( Meadows comments on, “finding each other, sharing stories, building our communities and our worldwide network.” She quipped, ”...story of my life. But do note Ray's point about ‘no cohesive sense of community.’ In my experience cultural creatives are no better at working together [bold added for emphasis] than any other Western individualists. Maybe, because of our distrust of institutions, we're worse. Contradance bands and coops are about as much organization as we can stand.”
The Change Labs project of the Sustainability Institute ( ) is working on communication tools for sustainable organizing. You can see a diagram of their U-Process at . The following description is excerpted from their website:

The core social technology of Change Labs is the U-Process.

I. SENSING - transforming perception

II. PRESENCING - transforming self and will

III. REALIZING - transforming action

The U-Process is designed to enable practitioners to pay attention to, and learn from, emerging realities or opportunities. The process comprises three major stages: observing the current reality carefully and in depth; retreating and reflecting to allow “inner knowing” to emerge; and acting swiftly in order to bring forth the new reality.

Regrettably, Donella Meadows is no longer with us to help develop the sustainable organizing component of the sustainability movement. Fortunately, the spirit of Meadows’ work continues at the Sustainability Institute in Vermont.


LINKS to more Navigational Aids for Sustainable Organizing:

How 50 Million People are Changing the World

The New Political Compass [PDF]

Society for Organizational Learning

Leader to Leader Institute

Drucker Archives [ONLINE]

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