In my latest book – The Great Growing Up - I attempt to make a case for the urgent need for our species to grow into full adulthood, to voluntarily evolve, and to cease our adolescent indulgences that are creating such havoc in the world. Ceasing this immature behavior involves recognizing it, pointing it out and saying enough! Let us stop legitimizing this behavior and insist on adult responses to our challenges as a species. Remaining silent is to condone it. Worse yet, remaining silent gives it legitimacy!
My recent interest in Vaclav Havel’s work and, specifically, his 1978 essay “The Power of the Powerless” has revealed this pearl of wisdom (amongst many others):
You have to begin with the imperative that you’re responsible for the whole world. And if young people take that kind of position, there’s a lot of hope. In fact, it is the only hope there is.
This “position,” as Havel calls it, is the ultimate adult stand for humankind’s future – each of us needs to be responsible for “the whole world.”
The good news here is it won’t be necessary for everyone in the world to grow up. But it will take a critical mass to shift the culture so that adolescent behavior is frowned upon, where it is not only unfashionable but socially unacceptable. This requires taking a firm stand for something that is wanted, nay demanded, not a position against something that is unwanted.
Changes of this scale have occurred in our lifetimes so we know we can do it, if we have the collective will to do it.
Women’s right to vote, civil rights, and the environmental movement are all outcomes of mental models that have undergone large scale cultural shifts in the past century here in the U.S. More recently we’ve seen this in the mass demonstrations against tyranny and oppression in the. Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement.
In closing, I quote Lynne Twist who writes about the distinction between a stand and a position:
Taking a position does not create an environment of inclusiveness and tolerance; instead, it creates even greater levels of entrenchment, often by insisting that for me to be right, you must be wrong.
Taking a stand does not preclude you from taking a position. One needs to take a position from time to time to get things done or to make a point. But when a stand is taken it inspires everyone. It elevates the quality of the dialogue and engenders integrity, alignment, and deep trust.
When you find yourself in the midst of it, speak out against silly “acting outs” by politicians, the media you consume and any other places where you observe it. You may have to muster up some courage and risk some criticism but I guarantee you will feel better.
[To see my editorial on Havel – “The Myth of Powerlessness” - from my March newsletter click here]