PERCEPTION IS A POLITICAL ACT

BY MICHAEL O'CALLAGHAN

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How we perceive the global crisis today has systemic consequences that will determine the fate of humankind in this decade and for thousands of years to come.

Climate change, limits to growth, mass extinction, mass migration, economic turbulence, institutional dysfunctions, inequality, social unrest and democratic erosion threaten a collapse of civilisation. A rapid non-violent transition to a regenerative future is necessary; but this would require a level of collaborative action between public and private stakeholders that seems impossible today because of their perceived conflicts of interest. The only way to overcome this blockage is to change our perception.

Perception is key, for we inhabit a kind of planetary ecology-of-mind — a complex dynamic cognitive system of conscious and unconscious ideas and messages which reciprocally contextualise, interact, feedback, influence, multiply, cancel or reinforce each other as they resonate throughout the global mind-at-large.

These perceptions are embodied in our cultural worldviews, social structures, institutions and psyches. They include our body feelings, gut reactions, emotions, attitudes, assumptions, mindsets, narratives, values, principles, expectations, opinions, concepts, ideas and dreams. They maintain our myths, religions, beliefs, ideologies, social structures, scientific paradigms, economic dogmas, certainties, prejudices, blind spots, cognitive biases, doubts, denials, deceits, misunderstandings, confusions, illusions, delusions, suspicions, justifications, excuses, anxieties, our hopes and fears.

Perception informs our conceptions of reality, order and chaos, space and time, life and death, good and bad, man and nature, mind and body, the individual and community, public and private, us and them. It shapes our notions of human nature, evolution, history, identity, gender, race, class, ethics, justice, love, human rights, responsibility, leadership, power, politics, property, progress, karma, compassion, creativity, art and sex. It makes the difference between war and peace, tyranny and democracy, oppression and freedom, authority and responsibility, servitude and sovereignty, poverty and wealth, passivity and action, ignorance and wisdom, success and failure. Perception structures the fundamental paradigms of our societies including science, technology, agriculture, medicine, education, economics, trade, security and governance. It pervades our communications media. It is immanent in our linguistic structures and vocabularies. It determines how we think and behave. Perception is a political act.

How citizens, governments and corporations see each other, how the rich see the poor, how we see ourselves and future generations, all this is interdependent —and perceptually changeable in the blink of an eye.

Another world is possible, but we have only 10 years to implement the sustainabililty transition before it is too late. The first step is to acknowledge the limits of our understanding and to think outside the box of our comfort zones. The time has therefore come to become accountable for how we perceive and how we communicate.
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The Politics of Perception project is a strategic response to this challenge. It aims to construct and film a historically significant global event designed to focus attention on humankind's perception of itself and the biosphere on which our life depends. Let’s create the future!