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Stories, Deception and Discomfort: why is it so hard to listen to each other?

Still Point (London) Talk March 2018

 

Scientists have been trying to warn us about climate change for over 25 years but we do not seem able to hear the message. Whatever the reason - complexity, distance, fear, disconnection, filter bubbles, deceptive news to name a few – the message may be received but it is not digested. Does our cultural malaise stem from this failure to digest the challenges that these messages bring? Is it a psychic defence or psychological immune response against what are felt to be dangerous messages if we were to really let them in.

In this experiential evening, we will explore the stories we tell about each other and ourselves through working in pairs to see what can be heard and what is missed. Expanding from this simple exercise we will explore what we can tolerate in terms of challenges to what is normally mirrored by those in our peer system?
Might receiving others difference lead to disconfirmation and deconstruction of our own stories?
Can we tolerate outside our filter bubbles?
What is at stake?

In a culture focused on safety, escape and comfort, might the discomfort itself be a necessary spur to the emergence of new stories?

We seem to be systematically destroying the benign atmospheric conditions which facilitated the appearance of modern civilisation approximately 10,000 years ago. This presents a challenge to the dogma of progress represented by the archetype of the heroic explorer, entrepreneur or saviour, one that has seemed so invincible in the short history of modern society. The fact that critical climate phases may already be past tipping points combined with the complexity of interlocking factors such as population growth make climate change a super wicked problem (Lazarus, 2009). The ‘wicked’ here refers to the multi-causality of many, often conflicting, solutions that are unstable and lead to unforeseen consequences. But it also refers to the hidden shadow of our technological triumph in which modernity and progress have often assumed the guise of an alien, parasitic and colonising force.

Climate change is not a problem waiting to be solved. It is a paradigmatic challenge to an economic system driven by fossil fuels and consuming life styles. At the deepest level the psychological/cultural problem lies in the belief that as a species we are different and special to other species, that nature is a resource for us to use. Like many addicts we seem blind to the destructive consequences of our behaviour, stressed at work we seek relief in the comfort consumption brings.

Our escapist culture and entertainment industries have bound us into an endless need for that ‘fix’ that rescues us from the alienated futility of an estranged civilisation. That climate change is a natural force outside of human control represents a challenge to human exceptionalism and superiority. From his small, God given world, western man imagined himself to be at the centre of all creation only to be faced with paradigmatic challenges to this narcissism such as those presented by Copernicus (we are not the centre of the universe), Darwin (we do not have divine ancestry) and Freud (we are not in conscious control of our own minds). The challenge of anthropogenic climate change to decentre us from our position is of a comparable order.

What is at stake includes:  

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