by Emma Fenton
It’s a peculiar dilemma in a world which is becoming increasingly globalized by the minute, revolutionizing our mass media and transforming connectivity into a virtual network where another individual on the other side of the planet appears at the click of a button. Our internet empowers us to share critical resources, express new ideas, and discover some of the most beguiling mysteries of the human race through social media, freely distributed education and other multi-dimensional hubs, liberal in its range of both fact and propaganda. We’ve seen petitions, campaigns and entire movements orchestrated with social networks at their helm and noble projects come into fruition via crowdfunding. People from other sides of the globe have connected and shared ideas and interests, forging life-long friendships. Yet surrounded by millions of friends, we feel lonelier than ever. We experience a huge disconnect which drives us apart and for those of us who are conscientious about our surroundings and feel an ongoing disillusionment with the world, we are compelled to question: where are they?
The Ubi Sunt Motif
What we mean by they is ultimately the people who we know exist, or are capable of existing, but whose presence is missing from our lives. The Ubi Sunt motif springs to mind here; its origins in literature date back from pre-medieval poetry with the Latin text translating into “where are they?” in reference to bygone days of honor and glory, lamenting and contemplating “the transience of life.” Today, this motif may bear little resonance to the woes of warriors from epic poems, but the cry for the elders, those who guide the community and share a common ethos, is louder than ever and we can apply this motif in a modern context.
Our jaded, younger generation, subjected to the challenges of austerity measures and oppressed by the reign of patrimonial capitalism which continues to cast is shadow over our most promising minds and most fragile environments, comes under considerable criticism. The misguided generation, the jobless generation, the lost generation – yet it is this same generation which has ventured forth and poured heart and soul into the uprisings in Hong Kong, Egypt, India, and the many Occupy movements across the globe. And it is the same generation who are searching for “the others” – the elders, the “true leaders”, those who would guide their peers towards a hopeful and sustainable future. We have some of those figures in the presence of activists like geneticist and environmentalist David Suzuki, the words of thinker Joseph Campbell (may he rest in peace), writer Margaret Atwood, and the Dalai Lama – just to name a few.
The Dalai Lama tells us that “The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.” Expressing an ethos which diverts the focus away from the corporate ideals of personhood and restoring it to the fullness of what it means to be human, these are the very dreams which our generation seeks, searching for those of a like mind. Our biggest feat is to learn love – to help, to heal, to value others, and most importantly, value ourselves. Measuring ourselves up against virtually impossible goals and crumbling under pressure has led to a judgmental society where we fail to show compassion to ourselves, and subsequently, we fail to show it to others. Learning – or relearning – this very basic human instinct is where we begin to reconnect with our true selves and our values, as well as lead the way towards a more in-touch society which is based on sharing and accepting different perspectives. Compassion is a progressive approach for businesses and organizations who endeavor to take a sustainable and ethical stand in their practices which genuinely benefits others. And here is where the answer lies for the cry of “where are they?”
Our Future Hope
The “Cultural Creative”, a term established by sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson, is an individual who is concerned with the challenges facing the contemporary world such as the environment and the treatment of women and children and who actively engages – or contemplates doing so – in productive and proactive causes such as volunteering and creating. And in reality, cultural creatives are said to make up as much as one fourth of the adult population in the States alone. Sharing values of community, diversity, inclusion, and innovation, several places around the world have created their own self-sustaining communities comprised of artists, poets, scientists, doctors, engineers, farmers, and a myriad of other occupations who vigilantly work towards a better future.
It is these communities – empowered, creative, and passionate – who are the promise of our future. It can be as simple as setting up farmers’ markets and arts festivals, or developing a new tool for off the grid living. It can simply be creating or campaigning. The fact is that there are people out there who can make a difference in the world, and once we all connect, we can truly make a difference. Within what seems a lonely radius of people, there are more like us among the crowds than we think – and it’s time to find one another and take care of the planet which “We do no inherit from our ancestors, but borrow from our children.”
In this day and age, we need a message of hope, but not a delusional one. Finding those to guide us and inspire us and work alongside equally is something which is very much within our power, and our obligation as conscientious human beings to fulfill. It is through these vital connections that perhaps we can give our next generation something to hold on to.
McPherson was interviewed yesterday morning by Mort White for The Magic Garden. You can listen here.