The beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect on where we are compared to where we want to be. A few days ago I came across a post by British MEP, Richard Corbett. He wrote about how the pragmatism of the EU is important for solving problems, but “when we focus exclusively on self-interested arguments, we risk forgetting the underlying motivation for what we do – and this is dangerous.”
Mr. Corbett describes three reasons why this is dangerous, and why we should avoid isolationism. I would like to focus on one particular suggestion that he makes there: “The best way to fight the negativity of narrow-minded nationalism is to present an alternative, positive story which shows the myths up [about Europe] for the nonsense they are.”
The problems of self-interest and narrow nationalism that Mr. Corbett points to are definitely on target. And yet, merely pointing out the problem won’t make it disappear. The forces that push for segregation are far greater and deeper than meets the eye, and require a conscious effort on the part of many organizations working in sync to provide a sustainable, long term solution.
Self-interest is at the core of our society. It is the mindset of every society, even social-democratic ones. It is at the foundation of human nature. It is not bad in and of itself, but when idolized and cultivated to an extreme, it becomes nocuous. This is where we stand now on every level—personal, social, national, and international. We’re living in the Me, Me, Me, era, a culture of narcissism. But every therapist will tell you that narcissists don’t see reality for what it is. When the whole of the Western civilization is approaching that state, it is very dangerous indeed.
The cure, therefore, has to include steps toward reversing that trend and establishing a more cohesive society, where solidarity and mutual responsibility are deemed greater than self-promotion. I do subscribe to Corbett’s words that “The best way to fight the negativity of narrow-minded nationalism is to present an alternative, positive story which shows the myths up for the nonsense they are.” And I believe that if we build an education program that gives people a personal experience of social cohesion, we won’t have to worry about narrow-minded nationalism, or any other narrow-minded self-centered approach.
At the ARI institute, we offer such a method, called Integral Education (IE), where people learn to communicate and relate to one another in a completely new way, and on a completely new level. We have implemented it all over the world, from the US to Europe, to the Middle East, and more often than not, in conflict weary societies. The results have been outstanding. Using a few simple rules of discussion, people discover, then cultivate, a new sense of kinship, and wish to preserve it.
The logic behind IE is simple: the world is interconnected and interdependent. Our values, on the other hand, are the complete opposite: self-indulgence, brutal competition, and alienation. By learning the new method of connection among us, we align ourselves with the reality of our lives. This eliminates the conflict between our need to feel superior (due to our ego-prone education) and the interdependent reality of life. When that happens, the “positive story which shows the myths up for the nonsense they are,” as Corbett so nicely put it, emerges by itself, effortlessly.
May 2015 be a year of positive shifts for all of us.
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