How we now perceive the global crisis —and communicate among ourselves in response to it—will have systemic consequences for humankind and the biosphere, 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 non-violent transition to a regenerative future is still possible; 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, spiritual beliefs, political ideologies, social structures, scientific paradigms, economic dogmas, certainties, prejudices, blind spots, cognitive biases, doubts, misunderstandings, confusions, illusions, delusions, suspicions, justifications, excuses, anxieties, 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. The outcome of the crisis essentially depends on what we perceive, and this depends on our ways of seeing and discussing it. The time has therefore come to take personal and social responsibility for how we perceive and how we communicate.