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The role of ideology in inspiring change


The space between the TV screen and the child is nothing less than sacred ground – Mr Rogers


Crossroads: Labor Pains of a New World View

Joseph Ohayon 2012

Film Review

Crossroads is an exciting and surprisingly uplifting new documentary about the role of ideology in finding solutions to the urgent global crises humankind faces in the 21st century.

In bringing an evolutionary perspective to these urgent economic and ecological crises, the film offers a uniquely optimistic view of political and social change. Featuring a broad range of scientific experts, it focuses primarily on the role of ideology in preventing or facilitating change. For the last few centuries a competitive/individualistic view of ourselves was helpful in driving the engines of development and technological progress. However increasing evidence suggests that this widely embraced ideology is no longer sustainable.

This competitive/individualist worldview is also totally at odds with the collectivist/interdependent way of life our genes have programmed us for. Scientists have discovered that people share much of the same genetic code that enables schools of fish and flocks of birds to perform complex maneuvers as if they were a single organism. Primitive peoples have preserved the ability to see themselves this way, but it has been lost to most of industrialized society.

Crossroads stresses the role of television advertising, which pressures people to consume by making them feel insecure, in perpetuating this flawed individualistic view of ourselves. Constant bombardment with psychologically sophisticated messaging is far more powerful than actual experience. Studies consistently show that people derive the most happiness from activities that connect them with other people.

The dilemma facing 21st century political and environmental activists is how to get large numbers of people to make major changes quickly. Crossroads frames this and the multiple crises humankind faces as questions to be answered, rather than problems. High levels of global unrest suggest a substantial proportion of the world’s population already knows the old answers don’t work any more. The secret to finding new answers, according to one social scientist interviewed, is to get people to answer the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

The film ends by asking whether enough of humankind can change quickly enough to save the human species. Obeyon clearly believes we can. He cites studies showing that only a critical mass of 10% of a population is necessary to bring about cataclysmic social change. The same studies reveal that below this number it appears as if no visible progress is being made.

He stresses that global political and business leaders won’t be leading the change: they have too much to gain from maintaining the status quo.

photo credit: vauvau via photopin cc

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