A worldview is a basic way of interpreting things and events that pervades a culture so thoroughly that it becomes that culture’s concept of reality — what is good, what is important, what is sacred, and what is real. It is so invasive that it is invisible. It is simply assumed to be true apart from any inquiry into its validity.
If a worldview maintains that the emperor is clothed, then, even if he is stark naked, he is seen as clothed. The beliefs, values, and behaviors of any culture stem directly from its worldview.
Our current worldview has, since World War II, slowly and incrementally evolved into an extractivist, anthropocentric position. It places humans at the top of a species hierarchy which then grants them the right to extract whatever they want, in any quantity, from the Earth. This worldview has led to dire consequences, including resource depletion, climate change, economic instability and class division.
If we are to continue inhabiting the planet, significant and immediate changes need to be implemented. And that means changing, first, the way that we think about things: our thoughts, beliefs and opinions.
But, how do you change a worldview, an unquestioned ideology that is insidiously invisible — that is assumed to be “the way it is”?
Slow but sure change
It happens slowly, as people begin to wake up to an accumulation of anomalies in the current worldview. People begin to notice that things simply aren’t working. The very observant even begin to notice that the emperor is naked.
This is currently happening all across the U.S. Many have begun to realize that we are trapped within an economic system that has it backward; behaving as if there is no end to what is actually finite while insisting that there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually quite flexible: the financial resources that human institutions manufacture, and that, if imagined differently, could build the kind of inclusive society that we need.
The new worldview that is arising is beginning to challenge the current dominant paradigm. This new view is invested in interconnectedness rather than hyper-individualism; reciprocity rather than dominance; and cooperation rather than hierarchy. This new paradigm offers an opportunity for rebuilding and reinventing the idea of the collective, the communal, the commons, the civil, and the civic after many decades of neglect.
The various forms of magical thinking that have distracted us — from blind faith in technological miracles to the worship of benevolent billionaires — are fast losing their grip. It is slowly dawning on a great many people that no one is going to step in and fix these crises. And also, that if change is to come, it will only be because leadership bubbles up from the grassroots.
As author Naomi Klein so aptly points out in This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, creating change is not just the job of the people we vote into office and then complain about — it’s our job:
For most of us living in postindustrial societies, when we see the crackling black-and-white footage of general strikes in the 1930’s, victory gardens in the 1940’s, and Freedom Rides in the 1960’s, we simply cannot imagine being part of any mobilization of that depth and scale. That kind of thing was fine for them but surely not for us—with our eyes glued to our smart phones, attention spans scattered by click bait, loyalties split by the burdens of debt and insecurities of contract work.
In other words, we are the products of our age and of a dominant ideological project — one that too often has taught us to see ourselves as little more than singular, gratification-seeking units, out to maximize our narrow advantage, while simultaneously severing so many of us from the broader communities whose pooled skills are capable of solving problems.
As we craft the new worldview, we will need to be unafraid of the language of morality — to put the pragmatic, cost-benefit bottom-line arguments to bed and speak instead of right and wrong, of love and indignation. Cultural values, though somewhat ephemeral and difficult to quantify, are central. It is time to dream in public, to show humanity a better version of itself, to model different values in our own behavior, and in the process, to liberate political imaginations and alter the sense of what is possible.
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— Sherry Ackerman, Transition Voice