by Hélène Montpetit

This series on choice and change was born out of a personal need for clarity and direction at a time when there seemed to me to be little room in the world for my values and approach to life. It was only when I began to research people and organizations working for positive change that I realized I actually was in good company. For decades now, all around the world, thousands of people have been actively adopting different lifestyles and creating more collaborative and humane systems in the process. Many are featured here in the Sweet Songs collection. I am happy to also have found several groups of like minded people in my own home town, some of which have been the subject of posts in the local initiatives section of the site.

I recently had the pleasure of moderating a Transition NDG film and discussion event. The evening’s featured film was Cultural Creatives—The (R)Evolution, by Frigyes Fogel. Produced in 2011, it presents information about emerging groups who contribute creative solutions to the crises of our times. Julia Itel, a young woman currently working on her Master’s thesis on Cultural Creatives and spirituality, was there to share her knowledge with the group. She gave the phenomenon context by drawing a timeline and telling us about changes that have been taking place in our metanarratives in the context of postmodernism. I hope to include some of her work here at a later date when its publication is allowed, but for now, here is a quick summary of what I took away from the evening. I would be curious to know whether you recognize your style of response to global issues in the descriptions that follow.

Three distinct responses to current global issues
A few years ago, sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson conducted a study involving 100,000 Americans.  Among the various interesting elements the study brought to light was the identification of three distinct ways in which people respond to global problems.

Modernists live in the mainstream and take part in the workaday world. They earn their living according to their skills and preferences without dwelling overmuch on the larger implications of their activity. Accordingly, they may work for fossil fuel companies, high finance and banking establishments, the military-industrial complex, pharmaceutical manufacturers, fast food establishments and consumer product manufacturing. They trust scientific and technological advances will deal with climate change, wars and population displacement, environmental pollution and anything else we may encounter, whether man-made or brought about by natural forces. They work and play hard, are at ease in several countries and cultures, regularly update their technological gadgets, follow fashion trends, get their news from the mainstream media and generally lead what in the Western world is considered to be a normal lifestyle.

Traditionalists find security in the old ways and tend to idealize the past. They prefer the established order to emerging trends and may blame the state of the world on ideologies that threaten their way of life. They believe in a strong national defense, consider soldiering the ultimate act of patriotism and support wars they believe to be in the national interest. Longing for simpler days in which communities were smaller and more uniform, they favour patriarchal, traditional family units. They believe in authority and staunchly support religious and political leaders who they feel speak on their behalf. They may question the motives and goals of science and while they believe in education, consider morals and values to be more important. They lead simpler, less cosmopolitan lifestyles than their modernist counterparts, have a strong work ethic, and contribute a great deal to the communities around which their lives are centered.

Cultural Creatives take world problems very seriously and believe change is urgently required. Inspired by civil rights movements, they have little faith in governments and question the established order, which they feel serves commercial and corporate interests. They believe in putting everything to work for the greater good, including science and technology. Actively engaged according to their experience and leanings, they are occupiers of land and marchers for peace. They pioneer intentional communities, establish cooperatives and social banks, and devise egalitarian approaches to work. They learn as much as they can about the problems of the world and about solutions others have devised. They share their thoughts and feelings to raise consciousness and to educate themselves and others. They try out different approaches, modifying their lifestyles to match their values. They may choose right livelihood over status and money, minimalism over accumulating things, local businesses over big box stores, active or shared transportation over personal ownership, and so on. They may focus on resilience, preparing themselves and their communities to weather what they see as the inevitable storms ahead. Although said to be growing in numbers over the past decade or so, this is still a fringe group. They are multicultural and may reside in urban centers, rural communities and/or remote areas, some of them combining nomadic and sedentary lifestyles. Like their traditionalist counterparts, they are community-minded, though their approach tends to take a much larger view of what constitutes community.

Where do you stand?
Few of us belong entirely to one group, most of us falling somewhere along a continuum in each category. Increasingly, there is a cross-pollination of ideologies, as members from different groups are brought together to cooperate on various initiatives. Engineers, who tend to be modernists, may now find themselves working on a project with social workers, who usually lean more toward the cultural creative end of the spectrum. Similarly, cultural creatives wanting to grow pesticide-free food in an urban setting, for instance, may lack information on organic methods and thus work alongside traditionalists who still remember how their elders farmed.

And so the (R)evolution continues as we collectively find our way through these interesting times. How do you respond to austerity measures, climate change, social unrest? Have you changed your lifestyle? Do you intend to? What do you believe is the way forward for humanity?

Please feel free to share your comments in the space below. Thank you for reading.