We don’t need anyone these days to tell us that we’re in a mess. Nor to explain why. The libraries are groaning with books on globalization, deregulation, privatization, debt, greed, corruption, pollution, austerity, migration.
I’m reminded of a wave of books in the 1970s which were early harbingers of this sense of crisis - The Seventh Enemy (1978) was a typical example. It described the 7 main threats to human survival as the population explosion, food shortage, scarcity of natural resources, pollution, nuclear energy, uncontrolled technology - and human nature.
The author’s experience of government and international institutions convinces him that the most dangerous was the moral blindness of people and the inertia of political institutions.
A lot has happened in the subsequent 46 years – new pressing issues have been identified –but who would gainsay his identification of the “seventh” enemy? These days, there would probably be a majority in favour of stringing up a few bankers, politicians and economists – “pour encourager le autres” – were it not illegal…
If, however, the problem has been defined, diagnosed and satisfactorily explained – why do we remain so confused and divided if not, in many cases, apathetic about the action we should be taking?
Over the years, I’ve read and collected books and articles to help me identify the sort of agenda and actions which might unite a fair-minded majority.
Like many people, I’ve clicked, skimmed and saved – but rarely gone back to read thoroughly. The folders in which they have collected have had various names – such as “urgent reading” or “what is to be done” – but rarely accessed. Occasionally I remember one and blog about it.
Only now with the new website – have I the incentive to attempt a more serious trawl, a more sustained read and more systematic search for a common agenda.
I’ve started to uplaod a couple of dozen of "key readings" – most reasonably well-known names but a few outliers….one of which is From Chaos to Change – entering a new era – a remarkable, detailed manifesto for change written by a Dutch veteran of earlier struggles, Joost van Steenis, who is one of only a few activists to have taken and time and trouble to write not one but several detailed manifestos. It can be downloaded in its entirety from the site.
I've made a casual reference to the new website on which I;ve been working feverishly over the past few weeks. It is actually now up and running - but not quite officially open to visitors. You can, however, peek in - its name is Mapping the Common Ground - ways of thinking about the crisis
This post is actually the text of the introduction to what I was going to call "the library" but I may now entitle "Readings for social change" - which will probably be one of two separate libraries, the other being "Readings for organisational change"?