A year after the 18-year-old unarmed Michael Brown was shot to death by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, the town is once again in turmoil. A lot has happened since Brown’s killing last year. Today’s America is not as it was a year ago. Brown’s death, and the controversial decision not to indict his shooter, officer Darren Wilson, has sparked a wave of protest and fury throughout the country, and exposed the rifts among various parts of the nation.
The growing bitterness surrounding the difference between the police’s treatment of blacks compared to that of whites in many communities, the debate around the Confederate flag in Charlotte, SC, the carnage in the Charleston, NC church, perpetrated by white supremacist, Dylann Roof, the emerging debate around the Voting Rights Act, these and other issues have highlighted chasms in American society. These rifts have always been there, but they seem to be growing right at a time when you’d expect them to diminish.
This week, again, authorities have declared a state of emergency in Ferguson due to violent protests following the anniversary of Brown’s death. But the state of emergency did not start with this anniversary; it has been there for years and requires a far deeper treatment than deployment of National Guard troops.
Like all crises, emergencies point to profound changes underway, of which we are either unaware or unwilling to embrace. In the current emergency, the change should really be termed a “transformation.”
The American society is undergoing a dramatic change. As more ethnic groups are rising to dominance and demand self-expression, social tensions and animosity are intensifying. The right to self-expression is one of the foundations of American society, almost to the point that we take it for granted. But what happens if one person’s self-expression entails the extradition from society, or even annihilation of another? The case of Dylann Roof demonstrates how dangerous this can be.
Moreover, the change in people’s attitudes is not happening only in America. It is as though the whole of human nature is transforming into something new. Throughout the world, people are growing so individualistic that staunch allies are becoming fierce enemies, as in the case of Russia and the Ukraine, and rights we all took for granted, such as the right to vote, are being questioned as if it’s 1861 all over again. These examples are not disconnected; they represent different manifestations of the same trend—self-absorption and negation of the other.
If this global trend continues, it will not be surprising to see not only the European Union crumble, but the countries themselves may become dismembered by their own citizens. Switzerland, for example, could become four independent countries, Belgium could become two countries, and other countries with multiple nationalities might undergo a similar process.
Even the US, with its powerful central government, is not immune to the trend. It, too, could still see itself engulfed in internal conflicts, the sprouts of which we have seen lately in Texas and South Carolina. This may not necessarily happen tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, but the trend of alienation is very worrisome on many levels.
As nanotechnology improves, local production and even self-production become increasingly accessible and affordable, and robotic companionship is already a reality. Coupled with the intensifying narcissistic inclination, this could mean the demise of society as we know it. This may not be so undesirable in the eyes of some, but without a proper substitute, it will be disastrous.
This trend is why I named the method I developed with the late Prof. Anatoly Ulianov, “Integral Education,” designed to help us develop integral thinking – a comprehensive and encompassing approach, which offers an alternative to the rising self-absorption. Using this method, we have learned that people can transform their thinking and truly grasp that their personal benefit is tightly linked to the benefit of their community, country, and ultimately the world. We have been implementing the method with great success for the past five years in the US, Europe, Israel, and even Australia. The feedback we receive indicates that people realize the “me first” culture we have cultivated is no longer sustainable, and change must come.
Integral Education alone will not do the trick. Only if everyone chips in and contributes to a shift in our perception of ourselves and our societies we will be able to make a lasting transformation. We need to reeducate ourselves and realize that only if we unite we will remain viable societies. Moreover, unity will be a guarantee for our personal security and well-being. In today’s reality, you might have ten guns stored inside your home, but you will still be vulnerable. Only if we develop mutual responsibility we will guarantee that all of us are safe and sound.
Just as every organism consists of different organs united under the common goal of preserving the entire organism, all of humanity will have to unite under the common goal of survival of ourselves and our environment. It may sound undoable, but when considering the options, unity sounds quite appealing.
This doesn’t mean we have to be the same. The organs in our body are very different, yet are all united, just as in the above example. Our goal of working for the sake of humanity must therefore be common to all, or we will not survive as a species and perhaps even as individuals. But when we unite and educate ourselves toward that, we will be able to overcome our egos.
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