25 October 2019 Liam Kavanagh
Art Earth Tech is a community for a wiser world. You might ask how we see society getting wiser — we suggest that one of the main ways we can collectively become wiser is to look at our shared blind spots.
What are shared blind spots? You might think of them as collective versions of individual blind spots.
A very common blind spot develops when, for example, people do not recognize how their attachment to individual freedom impacts relationships with their families, partners, and children. The blind spot that results from the simultaneous desire for individual freedom and the inability to recognize the effects of this desire on relationships can lead to pain. We might notice our lack of connection but miss the role that our desire for freedom plays in our isolation, because such a conflict is painful to confront, and we wish to avoid giving up our attachment to freedom. Of course, we address this kind of conflict best when we become fully aware of the blind spots that make it possible, and this is also true on a large scale as people work together to mend a torn social fabric.
Many of the problems that cultures struggle to address are the consequences of shared blind spots. When everybody shares the same blind spot, it can be impossible to recognize, leading to ineffective solutions. This is a problem of culture, and of course human cultures can be as dysfunctional as families or individuals. So, in facing shared blind spots, we are at once seeking personal development and cultural activism.
Whether we are trying to transform ourselves or our society, we can move beyond feelings of guilt or shame about blind spots, and attend to them in a compassionate manner that opens the door to understanding. We believe that the best way to do this is collectively. At AET events, we gather a group of individuals who have already made a commitment to recognizing and transforming their personal suffering, whether through meditation or other forms of self-development, in order to create the conditions for transformational thinking.
In our last AET gathering, we considered the following shared blind spots:
Faith in Rationality and Progress. We are supposedly leaving behind the notion of progress — a belief in the steady and inevitable improvement of individuals and societies through developments in rational understanding and technology, or the equating of social progress with technological progress — yet it is still here with us. Do we put too much faith in our technology because of its dazzling past? Do we still overrate what science can do for us? Is it still something of a religion to believe in science and technology as the solutions to our problems? If these beliefs blind us, how do we actually let go of them?
Belief in Individualism. We tend to define ourselves as unique individuals distinguished by essential personalities. Many of our ideas about ourselves and the world in which we live are based on that simple construct. And yet, how separate are we? How much of our identities, behaviors, sensibilities, and ideas are created purely through interaction with those around us? Our humor, our values, our ideals, and even our concept of ourselves as unique individuals are forged through our social engagement. What kind of blind spots do ideas about individualism create, and how to they prevent us from tapping into our greater collective intelligence to address global challenges?
The Equality Complex. Westerners are highly attached to the idea of equality because it has done a great deal for us. At some point most of our ancestors were from “the lower classes” they were enslaved, or were peasants and surfs, and the transition over generations to more privileged positions has often been achieved with equality as a rallying cry. Along the way, our conceptions of equality have become near religious significance. But has this faith shaded into rigid dogmat. Equality as a social ideal is elusive; we often seem to confuse equality of status with sameness in talents. Has attachment to the idea of equality therefore impeded conversations around global and environmental justice? Is there an alternative way of thinking and feeling that allows us to preserve or even enhance the positive outcomes we associate with equality and avoid pitfalls?
My next three posts will discuss these three blind spots as they relate to what is probably the biggest issue of our time — the climate crisis.
Blind Spots is our new series exploring the collective blind spots of our society. We invite you to check the previous blind spot events we organized Blind Spots #1: The Knowledge Economy, the Progressive Project and the Future of Britain with Roberto Unger and Blind Spots #2: Returning to Mystery, Saving Ourselves
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