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A New Consciousness for a World in Crisis

A New Consciousness for a World in Crisis

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Published by Muhammad Zeeshan
EnlightenNext Magazine talks with Dr. Don Beck
EnlightenNext Magazine talks with Dr. Don Beck

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Published by: Muhammad Zeeshan on Feb 24, 2010
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02/24/2011

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 EnlightenNext Magazine (formerly
What Is Enlightenment?
)A New Consciousness For a World In Crisis
Geopolitical activist
Dr. Don Beck 
shines new light on our greatest global challenges by Jessica Roemischer  When Dr. Don Beck speaks about our most pressing humanitarian issues, he revealsdisarmingly intuitive insights into what often appear to be irreconcilable situations.Having developed and championed Spiral Dynamics—arguably one of the mostaccurate models of cultural development—Beck's thirty-year career has led himfrom corporate boardrooms to government offices to inner-city schools. Mostnotably, he spent eighteen years traveling to and from South Africa, where hetirelessly committed himself to helping catalyze the peaceful transition out of apartheid. Willing to risk his own safety to create open channels of communicationacross highly polarized racial divides, Beck conjured a vision of a future beyondapartheid that played no small role in convincing the de Klerk government torelease Nelson Mandela from prison.In the spring of 2004, Beck established the Copenhagen Center for HumanEmergence (CCHE)—the first public institution dedicated to this new paradigm of solution- making, and the next and perhaps most significant chapter of his work.Beck's ongoing conviction is that we must understand the fundamental and oftenwidely differing ways in which both individual human beings and entire culturesthink about things and prioritize their values. Only then can we address the root
 
causes of social fragmentation and conflict and create a form of global governancethat will guide the emergence of a new society in the twenty-first century.
WHAT IS ENLIGHTENMENT:
Why do you feel that the old models of global  governance are no longer adequate for addressing the problems and challenges we face?
DON BECK:
Since the dawn of civilization one hundred thousand years ago,humans have migrated over islands, continents, mountain ranges, steppes, deserts,and other landforms, and have even escaped Earth's gravity. We have formed clans,tribes, holy orders, enterprises, and egalitarian communes. There are now six billionof us, and while we are more culturally fragmented than ever before, we are alsomore interconnected. Everything is both global and local— 
everywhere
. Yet themodels for global governance that we have in the League of Nations, the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and others simply donot have the complexity of understanding to deal with the fragmentation we'refacing. In short, our problems of existence have become more complex than thesolutions we have available to deal with them.While on the surface it often appears that conflicts are tribal or involve competingempires, or ideologies, or even national interests, the real issues are in theunderlying
worldviews
 —the deeper human dynamics that can
dramatically
differ from one culture to another. It is these underlying cultural dynamics that shape theactions and choices we make, that determine how we live our lives, how culturessubsequently form, and why they often collide.
WIE:
Can you give an example of how perceiving the fundamental differencesbetween cultural worldviews could change our perspective and therefore the waysin which we endeavor to solve global problems?
BECK:
The issues surrounding the Arab and Muslim world are awakening us to thefact that there are very different thought structures and value structures in different parts of the planet, and if we don't know how to deal with these, it will come back tohaunt us. It already has. For example, we went into Iraq with a disastrousassumption coming from the White House, based on our free-market, multi-partydemocracy, in which each person is a free and independent agent acting on their own behalf. We assume that everyone else in the world is like us. And so weentered Iraq believing that democracy would be embraced there—that anybody, nomatter who they are, can become anything they want and will do so once given theopportunity.What this fails to take into account is that a tribal worldview is still very, very powerful in the Muslim world, with the primary emphasis being on the extendedfamily and the intermarriage of cousins. Because these cultures come out of heavytribal enclaves and power-driven kingdoms, nepotism is almost a civic duty. Eventoday, the Arab countries are not really nation states, and they are nowhere near  being democracies. The “people of the sand” have not yet developed theinfrastructures that would support a one-person-one-vote/majority-rules system. Imean, it's just insane to think that's got any chance. At the same time, money has poured into these tribal family kingdoms from the West because of oil, benefiting
 
immensely those in the royal family lineages. And those who don't benefit becomethe “Arab street,” and that's where the anger is generated.So the real source of terrorism is the brotherhoods that are assaulting the currentsystem, assaulting the patronage and the family heritage of the old order that haskept the commoner out of the booty, and which is keeping fifty million Arab malestrapped in archaic kingdoms. And these terrorist brotherhoods are networks, asopposed to regiments of armies. So dropping bombs on them is simply going tospread the problem.
WIE:
You have also applied this perspective to the AIDS pandemic in Africa, another major global crisis. Could you speak about this?
BECK:
The AIDS pandemic is among the greatest humanitarian disasters we'refacing. In Zimbabwe alone, life expectancy has fallen to thirty-three because of anHIV rate that is among the highest in the world, with one out of three non-elderlyadults infected with the virus. While the campaign to reduce HIV in Africa has tendedto focus more on the medical aspects of the pandemic, it has all but ignored thecultural dynamics that have in large measure created it. The HIV pandemic in Africais largely the result of sexual practices that are best understood in terms of thedynamics of underlying worldviews or what we call value systems—in this case, thefemale
tribal 
system and the male
egocentric
system. These ways of thinking are notspecifically African and they're not specifically black; they're not about genetics or geography. They're
value structures
.In the tribal system, women want to give birth to numerous children as their form of social security, and therefore they continue to become pregnant and often contractAIDS from their husbands in the process. They know that many of their children willdie, and yet they need their children to look after them in old age as their guarantee of survival. And on the other hand you have men in the egocentric system, who aredriven by a deep need to prove their masculinity, and therefore having AIDS is seenas a sign of their prowess, reflecting the fact that they have probably slept withnumerous women and are not using condoms. To further exacerbate these trends,superstition is highly prevalent in both of these value systems. There's a common belief, for example, that HIV can be cured if you have sex with a virgin—hence theongoing prevalence of child, toddler, and baby rape in southern Africa. Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki and so many of the Europeans who have gone toAfrica won't talk about these issues for fear of being called racist. But these are primeexamples of what
has
to be talked about. It's not enough to send medical cocktails,which in fact may only
increase
HIV if these cultural dynamics are not taken intoconsideration. Why? Because in the context of these value systems, the drugs are seenas an instant magical cure. And people think, “If I can get that magical cure, I cancontinue my behavior.” So without the knowledge of culture, the understanding of these value systems or worldviews, the millions or billions of dollars we spend on thiscrisis won't address the real dynamics that are creating the pandemic in the first place.
WIE:
 Do you see evidence, in politics, business, or elsewhere, of the recognition that we must begin looking for new kinds of solutions?

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