Lisa’s letter has inspired me to take a broad perspective in our society and look at what it is that is leading us to forget the future.

 

Judging from the recent popular movies on apocalyptic scenarios of collapse and destruction, people in our society seem to really believe we are heading towards the end, or something like it. Alternatives and options are not contemplated much (see Zizek). Perhaps, the centuries of Christian faith have truly instilled in us the prophecy of apocalypse. But now, instead of praying we consume, we consume, we consume and advertisements persistently remind us that consuming the latest product might be just the right thing we need.

 

Systems theory provides the most appropriate perspective on the issue by looking at the big picture. Gregory Bateson, in his work Steps Into an Ecology of Mind, recognized that our systems are guided by ‘conscious purpose’. This consciousness can be both maladaptive, where individuals, communities and groups are taught to think through linear trajectories motivated by subjective interests, and adaptive, when integrating a holistic view of the whole system.

 

When maladaptive, conscious purpose can work against the natural circular flow of the world and generate negative feedback loops. These are adverse effects on the entire ecosystem that can result in society’s collapse. It’s now common knowledge that the maladaptive road our society has taken cannot go on forever. It’s also clear that if we don’t change something in our system, if we don’t incorporate some kind of corrective process, a collapse of some kind will be imminent.

 

We tend to forget future generations. We are expected to think ‘rationally’ and we are told that it’s ‘human nature’ and the ‘human condition’ that leads us to discount the lives of our descendents a few generations from now. Meanwhile, the Iroquois show us otherwise, having developed a corrective process to this negative feedback loop. Their chiefs used to make every decision in consideration of the welfare and wellbeing of the seventh generation to come, and it proved to be an effective system in their society. Although highly impracticable in our society today – you can try telling Obama to think 7 generations from now, I don’t think It’ll work – it shows us that its not ‘human nature’ that leads us to forget the future, it’s the maladaptive social consciousness that is guilty. And, although changes and adjustments in the system are hard to put in place they surely could make a difference in offsetting the negative feedback loop we are in now.

 

Rappaport, in his book on Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity argued that what is needed is a form of ritual practice that acts as a corrective. Rituals, not intended so much as religion – though some updates in that sphere won’t be bad – rather a new set of practices and social engagements that through our praxis they can make us forge commitments at the deeper levels of our psyche.

 

How close does this sound to the Occupy Movement? Like the movement in the sixties, the Occupy Movement is calling for demanding changes and carries with it a deep desire for a shift in social consciousness. The act of ‘occupying’ – with tents, food – functions as a ritual for those who take part in it – but also for those readers and spectators who eagerly follow up with them as we can consider that to be a ritual as well – by reinforcing their beliefs and desires for more equality, political responsibility and environmental sustainability.

Thus don’t give up on this newly created ritual practice! Though it may not be ‘perfect’ and may not be ‘the solution’ or the means to achieve, the ritual practice per se is essential for the development of a consciousness that goes beyond our individual roles in society and sees the things that our overly ‘rational’ society has forgotten: the lost future generations.