Society is heavily influenced by narrative and incentive.
The stories that we tell can be a means of turning our values into action, or they can be used against us in the name of profit over people. Awareness of this phenomenon is the best antidote.
The power of narrative – or the story that we are telling ourselves and about ourselves – is that the story itself becomes an incentive. This is the secret of the indigenous cultures that hold the wisdom of the Earth; we tell ourselves stories so that we remember what we do not want to forget.
I have experienced this reality in my city of Wilmington, NC. With our cobblestone streets and monuments to the battles of our Civil War, our local history represents the roots of the nation. We are now the leader of our region in Southeastern North Carolina; what is now, and should be going into the future, one of the fastest-growing areas in the United States.
This growth potential brings terrific opportunities, but also a tremendous and fateful responsibility to ourselves, to the people who visit and want to relocate here, and to our future. We are currently failing in this responsibility, but even worse, we are not even going through the motions. In the last municipal election, only 14% of our citizens cast a vote in the election.
Our region is attracting people and accomplishing new development at a record rate. But in our haste, we are leaving entire communities behind, and we are damaging our people. We are also damaging the economy and the natural beauty that brings people here and makes them want to stay.
This is happening everywhere in this country, and there is no telling where it is leading us. But if we don’t make some drastic changes, it is not going to be pretty. We cannot continue to use this same motivating force to move us forward and expect to solve the issues that we face. That motivating force, primarily profit before people, is the responsible party.
My prism is agriculture; I believe it is the source and, at the same time, the solution to virtually every issue that we face. Regenerative agricultural methods have the potential to bring abundance, but it is going to take a massive effort to start transitioning the 99.8% of farms that are conventional in the United States.
An Uphill Battle
Work like this will not be easy. It is going to take accountability and hard work, but the fruits of the effort will be exponential. The value that can be drawn by tapping into what unites us and brings real value is endless and invites us to consider the deeper workings of our humanity.
The way a healthy society works is similar to a healthy human body. The physical body works through the collaboration of many different capacities, but can be deduced into three larger systems that maintain a certain level of autonomy to function properly.
We can explore this idea by first considering the workings of our bodies. In the human body, we are sustained by a circulatory system, a nervous system, and a metabolic system. Each performs a critical function that cannot be disturbed or enhanced by the other.
In other words, there is no center to a human organism. Our bodies are governed by independent processes that communicate in complex and subtle ways towards the benefit of the whole.
When one area is sick, the entire system is hindered. In other words, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link – and so it is with a city.
Think About This
If we wiped the human memory of all of our dogma and conditioning right now and asked all of us to show up brand new as humans, what would we be? How would we organize?
It is an interesting question to follow. We would determine some means of exchanging value (Economy). We would carve out a platform for our human rights (Rights). And we would demand a way of expressing our individual and collective talents towards the value of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of human beings (Culture).
We can bring balance and resonance between our social organization and the raw impulse of our humanity by identifying and ensuring total autonomy and good collaboration between the realms of Economy, Rights, and Culture.
Some examples of how this works are in order. The Constitution got the separation of church (Culture) and state (Rights) correct, but this arrangement has been eroded over the years to the point of political pandering to religion. They compromise one another. When the walls of these arenas – Economy, Rights, Culture – break down, society gets sick.
Our systems of Culture are dominated by and almost solely dependent on government (Rights). Within this, imbalance thrives off of conflict at the expense of people.
At the same time, government (Rights) has been compromised by the interests of Economy, or what is called, “Corporatism”, i.e. money in politics, penalties being less than pollution, cronyism, etc.
What this means is that our social organization is not aligned with our human nature, the landscape that we engage in life on is out of tune with the impulse of the human spirit. The body social has given over so much of our authority and decision-making capacity to government that the landscape we find ourselves in is confusing. It doesn’t make sense to our humanity. It can’t.
The depth to which we can bring discernment to our humanity must be deepened. With intention, we can recognize and keep tabs on the shifting balance of the masculine (outer) and feminine (inner) archetypes that are playing out in the paradigm shift we are experiencing globally, and also in the culture and politics of our own cities and states.
The great social reformer Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) put it this way,
“The subordination of the general economic prosperity to the common sense of right is the only thing that can prevent man from being so used up and consumed by economic life that his existence no longer seems to him worthy of a human being. It is this sense of an existence unworthy of human beings that is really at the bottom of social convulsions.”
Our local government (Rights) has consumed our Culture and is in cahoots with the Economy. It must be checked and taken to task. Government is not going to fix our problems; that’s our job.
We do this by mimicking Mother Nature by using an “Ecosystem Approach” to social organization and problem-solving, leveraging systems thinking to identify hidden costs, logjams, and gaps for incentivization and correction.
Just like we cannot use pesticides to get rid of our pest problems, we cannot solve dynamic problems with linear thinking. Rather than evaluating problems and considering how to fix them in isolated and compartmentalized ways, we make “solution decisions”. Dynamic in nature, they address the entire influence and landscape of the issue.
True Cost Accounting is a tool that can help in this work by allowing us to see the truth and error in our ways. With True Cost Accounting, we can show that, for example, in addition to being the right thing to do, caring for people and the environment is profitable.
Take human health. We are currently experiencing a First World Epidemic in degenerative and auto-immune disease, and despite throwing massive resources at the problems, the rate is increasing across the board. The pain and suffering that is pervasive and almost considered normal now in society are tragic, heartbreaking, and preventable.
New data says that 1 in 2 people will get cancer in their lifetimes; 1 in 36 children born today will be on the autistic spectrum; 1 in 4 people will develop diabetes; 1 in 4 have allergies; 1 in 10 has asthma, and 1 in 3 people are now obese… the list goes on.
Modern allopathic medicine has no real explanation for this human tragedy. The reality is that we are weakening and poisoning ourselves in so many different ways that we cannot even diagnose what is wrong with us.
A big part of the problem is that food is no longer our medicine. More than 70% of the average American diet is processed; it is not even real. Only 10% of American citizens eat healthy amounts of fruits and vegetables. And 70% of produce sold in the US contains pesticide residues. We are eating very dangerously.
Our skies, water, and soil are being rampantly and unapologetically polluted. The US is currently allowing and using 85 chemicals that have been banned in other countries.
It doesn’t need to be this way. Spraying poisons on our food and landscapes is a choice. There are good and healthy alternatives to toxic rescue chemistry that, in most cases, cost less.
It is no longer radical to suggest we stop spraying pesticide poisons at schools and on public land, or at home. What if our government and politicians crossed the line of objectivity in the name of the public interest, and through action and policy started suggesting and investing in healthy behaviors?
This may sound like a pipe dream, but one thing is for sure; it cannot happen if you don’t run for office and start telling some new stories.