Open Future NZ "The responsibility for change lies with us"
Alvin Toffler
printPrint Two Pages   print

We Need to Initiate Change Ourselves

Alvin Toffler: "We are left with only one option. We must be willing to shape ourselves and our institutions to deal with the new realities. Much depends on the flexibility and intelligence of todays elites, sub-elites and super-elites. If these groups prove to be as short-sighted, unimaginative and frightened as most ruling groups in the past, they will resist the Third Wave and thereby escalate the risks of violence and their own destruction.

We become what we think about. We will be significant or insignificant because of the quality of the choices we make. "If it is to be, it's up to me", leadership is an action process, not a position.

The world changes and we struggle to adapt. In The Maori Wars in New Zealand (1850's), the local Maori successfully engaged in trench warfare against superior forces. British generals were informed about this successful strategy but were slow to learn the lesson, they were not expecting to get instruction on warfare from aboriginal's. In Crimea and in WWI trench warfare was adopted, but reluctantly. Many men died because the old generals couldn't adapt. The problem is compounded because the politicians say, "we have to trust the judgment of the generals".

In the 1960's after the post war boom, people were very optimistic about the future. The science of economics would ensure the mistakes of the past were avoided, we could all be rich. We would live long productive lives. We would work only a 20 hour week, and still be able to retire early.

We must learn from the present to anticipate the future, and to do that we must know and understand the present situation. (John Naisbitt in "Megatrends", 1986)

James Burke in a television series tells us that "our ancestors were as certain about their facts as we are."  We know that much of what they believed was entirely wrong.  We see what we expect to see, we're all conditioned by social and cultural pressures to "see" some things as important and to ignore what's unimportant.  Forty years ago I went to a local stream to study the ecology.  What I found didn't match what my text book said.  The stream was "dead" except for red thread worms in the mud, no plants growing in the water, and nothing else living in the water that I could find.  I was shocked, but my tutor didn't think it was important . I looked for another stream.  What a mistake.  The environment had a message for me, but I couldn't read it.  I wasn't "ready" for that lesson and nor was my tutor. 

Your world view dictates what you think is important, what questions you can ask, what you imagine is reliable evidence, and how you can respond.  If you do not expect to find change you are unlikely to find it.  If you don't believe you can be effective as an actor in the world, you won't make the effort.  If you choose to see the world as "perfect as God intended" then you can't see the economic, political, environmental and social dysfunction that I see. 

Sir Karl Popper: "We must relentlessly search for errors in our own thinking. The readiness to discover errors in our thinking is essential if we are to learn from experience. ... Free criticism and discussion is essential not only in science but also in the life of the nation. ... Any policy, blueprint or political theory will always have unintended consequences. ... There is always much room for improvement."

The eruption at Mount St. Helens came after much warning from the scientists on the mountain. Evacuation was resisted by the local authorities. When the authorities finally had the courage to act, the people who lived on the mountain organized a petition to stop the authorities evacuating the mountain. Finally the authorities won, and an official evacuation was ordered, but some people refused to leave. When the mountain exploded, 58 people were killed.

In the modern world we must learn to recognize the importance of measurement.  The numbers on the screen are telling us something.  Do we understand what that message is?  Can we tell when the numbers are important and have to be acted on, and when the numbers are insignificant?  Sadly not.  On the screen significant numbers and insignificant numbers tend to look the same.  It's too easy to ignore the message.  If we can measure something, perhaps we do know at least one thing, one reliable thing, about it. 

Michael P Nichols: "Most people take the path of least resistance. Real change is hard to achieve. ... Unless you know what a rewarding, full and complete life might be possible, you can't choose to have one."

Alvin Toffler (1980): "Nowhere is obsolescence more advanced or more dangerous than in our political life. (There is) widespread disillusionment, anger and bitterness against the worlds Second Wave Governments."

The responsibility for change, therefore, lies with us. We must begin with ourselves, teaching ourselves not to close our minds prematurely to the novel, the surprising. the seemingly radical. ... This means fighting for the freedom of expression - the right of people to voice their own ideas. ... Above all, it means starting this process of reconstruction now (1980), before the further disintegration of existing political systems send the forces of tyranny jackbooting through the streets.

Sadly we have hardly begun the process of changing the way we do business in politics. Thirty years later the Second Wave Governments are still firmly in control, and steadfastly opposing necessary change. For ten years I've been talking to people in the USA, about the need for substantial political reform. Many people understand what I'm saying, and agree, but the USA doesn't really have open political debate. There is no debate in the public view that might lead to change. Social permission to engage in such a debate doesn't exist. People who question the system are labeled as disloyal. "Your duty is to support the President, and support our troops."

Open Future Limited hopes and expects that by networking person to person on a global basis, Americans may begin to see that they have other options and that other countries are not so deeply entrenched in policies that try to recreate a long gone past.