Over the last two weeks, I have listened to people talking about sustainability through localising economies and the framing stories that we live by. In world events, the Greek election has resulted in a government that claimed to be anti-austerity and the new Greek governments desire to renegotiate their funding package has dominated the economic news. The Ukraine and ISIS conflicts are also major news items that are a backdrop to this blog.
What hits the British news channels shows a complete lack of new initiatives, new ideas, and the questioning of the direction that capitalist society is rushing in. The dominant politicians whose voices dominate our news seem stuck in the same framing story and same objectives. They ask us to decide in the upcoming election who is best to lead us down the same path to economic slavery and self-destruction. The difference if there really is one is about the pace of the actions that they want to carry out.
I had hoped that the result of the Greek elections might have seen a new brand of politician who was prepared to stand up to the dominant framing story and say a clear “No” to other European politicians but what we see is simply a desire to stay with the same framing story but to go at a slower pace. Why shouldn't Greece take control of its own currency? Why should its people have to carry a debt incurred through private banker decision making and a philosophy that newly created money (the property of the people's efforts) shouldn't be given to the government to spend into existence? Why can't Greece default on their debt and declare an inability to pay especially when that debt is crippling the country? Why can't Greece generate new money to clear internal debts or to pay for internal projects where the resources are already available? Oh, what I am asking is not in line with the current framing story. It might mean that wealthy countries have to face up to their responsibility in bring Greece and other nations to their knees. The wealthier nations might be exposed as the new economic colonial power.
We seem locked into an economic framing story that is focussed on growth as the solution to stop austerity and austerity as the solution to solve a spirally debt crisis and as the enabler of growth. A framing story that is manipulated by all major political leaders to justify unjust actions that cause greater inequality and poverty. Further, these politicians have no shame in manipulating statistics to promote their own agendas while our news media simply accept the stories with unquestioning loyalty to the framing story. Surely, this is a recipe for self destruction.
We have been reading Brian McLaren's “Everything must change” (2007) where McLaren talks of how in colonialism, the colonialists acted with overconfidence in their own superiority treating the indigenous peoples as inferior. Supposedly, we are now in a new era where we are facing up to the consequences of our colonialist actions. Yet this same colonialist superiority attitude is obvious when you review the events around the civil rights movement in the US. The film Selma clearly shows this but so did our visit to the Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina where the first lunch bar sit-in occurred. We don't seem to be able to shake off this attitude that some people are more superior and should dictate to the rest of us.
I sense this same attitude in my workplace. Those of us at the bottom of the pay heap are treated as though we have nothing to offer in planning the future. Instead we are loaded with excessive workloads and not given the opportunities to feed into decision making processes. There is a dominate story that is about conforming to the dominant stories of the nation. Universities have lost their way as being the places for fostering critical thinking and the questioning of the direction of society. I am not saying there is no innovation. What I am saying is that those innovations fall within the direction of the dominant story of the need for growth and the capitalist economic paradigm.
Our British Prime Minster, David Cameron, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne believe they have superior knowledge to anyone else and can dictate to the nation. The problem is that I see other political leaders doing precisely the same so that the general population is enslaved to the corporate objectives. The international corporation has become the new colonialist and the politicians the puppets. Profit and growth take precedence over sustainability and equality. The rest of us are slaves to this capitalist machinery.
Despite the claims to be postmodern or postcolonial, our attitudes have not changed. We are charging down the same road to self destruction as in previous generations. It is time to stop thinking that our politicians and our democratic processes will solve our problems. We need to be taking the initiative into our own hands and forcing the politicians out of the way. I don't mean through violent force or protest. To do so, we need to foster ways of changing the dominant framing stories. We need to change our economic thinking and what it means to build for the future. Short term survival needs to be replaced with an understanding of long term sustainability and how to build a more equal society that stops writing off large sections of the population. We need a new vision and new direction. This vision may need to dismantle current economic conventions and means of measuring success. The time for change is now.
To this end, I am looking at a research project that I am calling PETTIT (peace innovation through transforming economic thinking). Like the title of Brian McLaren's book, I believe everything must change but that this change must come from a questioning of the framing story that the majority of the population live by. There are three major questions that we need to answer:
- What are the possible framing stories that we want to tell?
- How do we evaluate the consequences of these framing stories?
- How can we challenge the existing framing stories and bring dramatic change to society?
I have some ideas that flow from previous research on the way people understand phenomenon and from being involved in education. The problem is that this work isn't small. It isn't something that fits into the neat little research funding stories. It is multifaceted and it needs wide support to succeed. However, all journeys start with a single step and this is the journey that I am prepared to embark upon.
McLaren, B. D. (2007). everything must change: When the world's biggest problems and Jesus' good news collide. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.