Identicide. The reason behind the madness in our society and how climate crisis could help create something better. A briefing from Futurist Chet W. Sisk
Some of you are going to take issue with what I'm about to say. My early apologies, but I hope you'll take the time to think this one through. I'm riffing off the work of Professor Monica Duffy Toft at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. I'm leveraging her work because it matches my own. She asks the premier question of our time: The white male Christian identity the US has of itself is running into the reality of a diverse, feminine, multi-cultural population. Many Futurists like myself saw this coming years ago, but became worried that we, as a country, have not developed tools to navigate this level of change.
What happens to a country when its core national identity — its preferred image of itself in terms of race or religion — doesn’t match its demographic reality?
This life threatening moment to an established identity is called "identicide". Deep and abiding racism, misogyny, income inequality and racial violence can all be traced back to the idea of some people holding on to a certain cultural and racial identity (even if they are not part of that racial identity) in the face of a different rising reality. The reason it is bubbling up now is pure demographics. In the US, the widest range of cultural groups from around the world are not coming.....they are already here. Combine income inequality with our penchant to "other" ethnic groups that aren't like us and you have a toxic brew. We are not unique in this challenge. History is littered with destructive, messy cautionary tales when a country doesn't respond well to demographic change.
This may look like we're staring down the barrel of a loaded gun, but let me provide another vision from a Futurist's perspective. The only emotion that is stronger than fear is hope. In a society that encourages taking sides, I'd like to encourage us to take a stand. When there is a common challenge or "foe", people tend to lose their "us and them" baggage, roll up their sleeves and go to work. This shared or common work has the tendency to build alliances, common goals and often, a new national identity.
I see climate crisis as that opportunity.
Yes, climate crisis threatens our very existence. Yes, it has and will devastate our planet. But history has also shown that humans can rally under real and immediate pressure. Let me clarify myself even further. I would never wish the challenges of climate crisis on anyone. However, if we look at it for what it is, an opportunity, it can become more than our worst nightmare. This is not just about going to another workshop or conference. There is a mistaken belief that simply feeling better about a crisis through dialogue alone resolves it (ie: seminars, conferences, protests, rallies, etc). The technosphere that keeps the root problems on automatic pilot is never considered. However, working together on a common challenge increases the odds of identifying those root causes and dramatically increases the odds of finding solutions to them. This is what I call, re-imagining the future.
For several years, I taught a leadership summer course at the University of Kwazulu-Natal in Durban and Pietermariztburg, South Africa. It was there I learned about the ancient African concept of Ubuntu -- the idea that sharing success as well as challenges was a much more efficient and effective way to navigate crises of scale. This tool of Ubuntu suggests that establishing a shared identity has the power to galvanize resources, people and vision at a time when you need all shoulders at the wheel. We have untapped abundance, prosperity and possibilities in this potential.
As with all great teams, it takes amazing coaches, trainers and support personnel to build this new way forward in the face of a stunning number of existential threats. We may not survive as a nation. We may not survive as a planet. But climate crisis is the rallying point that gives us a fighting chance to re-imagine a new way to live and jettison some of the baggage that got us to this moment of crisis in the first place. That also may mean letting go of a national identity myth. Make no mistake....people are deeply married to their victimhood and are quick to make enemies of the "other".....real or perceived. But to not give ourselves that shot at pushing the reset button and....perhaps....saving the day through a more powerful collective identity, would truly be a crime against humanity. It's hard, complicated, sometimes nasty work. But for once in our human existence, let's go above and beyond all that we know, and, as Psychologist Dr. Peggy Mitchell Clark would say "let's do something different for a change".
Chet W. Sisk is an author and one of the world's leading Social Futurists. He is also expert on the current world paradigm shift. Find out more about him and the LEAD Global Team at www.leadtheshift.com or you can write him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org