The Revolution Issue

21st Century Enlightenment

The rebirth of the political left will depend on how well we can incorporate this big idea.
Photos by Roderik Henderson - Island: A Bare Skeleton of Being

Photos by Roderik Henderson - Island: A Bare Skeleton of Being

Audio version read by George Atherton

The 18th-century enlightenment concept of the individual self is running out of steam and a new paradigm of human nature is emerging. Our sense of being separate, autonomous beings each with our own distinct, self-authored identity is melting away. That we should strive to become islands of free-floating individuals, each absolutely responsible for our own destiny and journey through life, now seems impossible and even undesirable: We understand that we are the products of both nature and nurture. The enlightenment idea of a world of self-interested individuals, impermeable to hands and ideas that would nurture us seems dystopian now.

Freedom – the grand unifying cause of our modern democratic societies – has not been realized by having an ever-expanding array of personal lifestyle and product choices. And progress is not advanced by the constant expansion of those choices. As we witness the destruction leveled against people and nature in the name of personal gain, our lives lived within our current consumer capitalist paradigm feel increasingly hollow. We see more mental health problems and suicides than ever before. And the Earth bears horrible wounds of our egocentric greed.

Community – not more individual freedom – is what we now crave. And what is emerging from this craving is a convincing new account of what it means to be human and live a good life: a new paradigm of human nature that reconnects us to each other and the natural world.

We are standing on the verge of a 21st-century enlightenment.

The rebirth of the political left will depend on how well we can incorporate the new, 21st-century enlightenment paradigm of human nature into our narratives, agendas and visions of the future.

Kalle Lasn, inspired by Madeleine Bunting

64 comments on the article “21st Century Enlightenment”

Displaying 21 - 30 of 64

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Anonymous

Community...
We can't have community until people learn to have a mature perspective.
What good is community if all we end up doing is inventing the same hierarchies and divisions. If we hold high minded concepts over each other and compete for competition's sake. I wouldn't mind a community of my peers, or even one that would intelligently challenge my views and help me to gain a better perspective on things. I have not seen such a community, I see more elitism dressed in leftist radicalism

Anonymous

Community...
We can't have community until people learn to have a mature perspective.
What good is community if all we end up doing is inventing the same hierarchies and divisions. If we hold high minded concepts over each other and compete for competition's sake. I wouldn't mind a community of my peers, or even one that would intelligently challenge my views and help me to gain a better perspective on things. I have not seen such a community, I see more elitism dressed in leftist radicalism

Anonymous

I would disagree with the premise of the article...the separation of individuality and community. Let's face it, the Dark Ages sucked because the COMMUNITY'S PRINCIPLES. And the Renaissance period was great because it's community's principles, of which foundation is freedom and individuality.

Frankly, "community" is sort of a given. It's principles are not. So I'd like to know what principles the author wants to replace the community principle of appreciating and allowing individuality.

Does the author want to go back to ascription-based communities? The class system? Kings, Emperors, aristocrats, merchants, slaves. I seriously doubt it. So maybe someone can clue me in about what George means by "community". I surmise he means we become more group-oriented...more tribal. Well, I've been in the corporate environment for a long time and that is exactly what the wealthy are: companies (of men), good ol' boys, wolf packs, tribes. In fact, there are several business books about tribes.

So it is wrong to say that tribes = good. Again, it comes down to what are the principles of the tribe.

Indeed, I would agree that good and decent people should purposely seek out or create tribes with good principles.

Also, the article seems to blame freedom on "destruction leveled against people and nature", "hollow" feelings, "mental health problems and suicides", etc. Those things come from tribes/communities with bad principles.

Indeed, we need to combat these bad tribes/communities with good tribes/communities.

People are already trying to do that via politics. But the problem is that these well-intentioned people don't know that the established political parties are a dead end. If these well-intentioned people created their own tribes, they'd be able to do more good.

Anonymous

I would disagree with the premise of the article...the separation of individuality and community. Let's face it, the Dark Ages sucked because the COMMUNITY'S PRINCIPLES. And the Renaissance period was great because it's community's principles, of which foundation is freedom and individuality.

Frankly, "community" is sort of a given. It's principles are not. So I'd like to know what principles the author wants to replace the community principle of appreciating and allowing individuality.

Does the author want to go back to ascription-based communities? The class system? Kings, Emperors, aristocrats, merchants, slaves. I seriously doubt it. So maybe someone can clue me in about what George means by "community". I surmise he means we become more group-oriented...more tribal. Well, I've been in the corporate environment for a long time and that is exactly what the wealthy are: companies (of men), good ol' boys, wolf packs, tribes. In fact, there are several business books about tribes.

So it is wrong to say that tribes = good. Again, it comes down to what are the principles of the tribe.

Indeed, I would agree that good and decent people should purposely seek out or create tribes with good principles.

Also, the article seems to blame freedom on "destruction leveled against people and nature", "hollow" feelings, "mental health problems and suicides", etc. Those things come from tribes/communities with bad principles.

Indeed, we need to combat these bad tribes/communities with good tribes/communities.

People are already trying to do that via politics. But the problem is that these well-intentioned people don't know that the established political parties are a dead end. If these well-intentioned people created their own tribes, they'd be able to do more good.

Anonymous

I agree with what your saying. I think that both political parties are basically a charade that aren't helping us solve real problems. The corporate elite basically control the government. How do we establish an equitable system when the middle and lower classes are getting squeezed as corporate fat cats steal from us daily.

Anonymous

I agree with what your saying. I think that both political parties are basically a charade that aren't helping us solve real problems. The corporate elite basically control the government. How do we establish an equitable system when the middle and lower classes are getting squeezed as corporate fat cats steal from us daily.

Dolphine

This is what happen..
Government: hey, you have been cutting more trees than the standard I set for some reserve.

Corporate elite: ok bud, thats seem you don't need us anymore,we could have just leave.

Government: Ermm.. here is the deal i let you have another 20% of the tree reservation, but you have to pay the heavy fine.

Corporate elite: That seems fair enough, here is 2 million, take it and get the hell out of here.

Government supporter: Screw you guys up, for exploiting my friend...

Corporate elite: here is another 2 million for you.

Government supporter: I take back my words.

Dolphine

This is what happen..
Government: hey, you have been cutting more trees than the standard I set for some reserve.

Corporate elite: ok bud, thats seem you don't need us anymore,we could have just leave.

Government: Ermm.. here is the deal i let you have another 20% of the tree reservation, but you have to pay the heavy fine.

Corporate elite: That seems fair enough, here is 2 million, take it and get the hell out of here.

Government supporter: Screw you guys up, for exploiting my friend...

Corporate elite: here is another 2 million for you.

Government supporter: I take back my words.

Krs

This comment is actually for Tactical Briefing which for some reason keeps giving me errors on the input text and tells me the captcha is wrong...did you turn it off?

Anyways,

My initial reaction was to tell you to "Just stop borrowing money for shit that you can not afford.

My second reaction was, your value systems are messed up.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to give someone a present on a special day. It is the fact that you associate that with money and not love which is killing you all.

This is why you are slaves to the jobs you all hate but can not leave.

Lulz

Krs

This comment is actually for Tactical Briefing which for some reason keeps giving me errors on the input text and tells me the captcha is wrong...did you turn it off?

Anyways,

My initial reaction was to tell you to "Just stop borrowing money for shit that you can not afford.

My second reaction was, your value systems are messed up.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to give someone a present on a special day. It is the fact that you associate that with money and not love which is killing you all.

This is why you are slaves to the jobs you all hate but can not leave.

Lulz

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