I, WE, WORLD: our three realms of inquiry
We are complex, radical animals – capable of base emotion and sophisticated creativity. Our societies are diverse – age, gender, body type, sexual orientation, heritage, intelligence: there is no end of variation.
Within this diversity, each one of us has different ‘realms’ of experience:
1) the way we feel about ourselves (what we call the "I" realm)
2) the way we interact with others and (what we call the "We" realm)
3) the way we think about ourselves in relationship to the much bigger picture – the world at large (what we call the "World" realm)
While each of us contains the three realms, we are also – due to circumstances, environment, life trajectory – each more inclined towards one of these realms than the others.
Some see life predominantly from a person perspective – what are the desires, behaviours, aspirations of human beings? What is my agency?
Some, from a community perspective – how do we live, breathe and work together? Where is our power?
Others are world-centric: everything appears to them as a global issue and they think mostly about international dynamics or transnational problems. How can we get countries to work together, knowing that the health of the whole planet is vital to the health of individual nations?
Of course, even when you are pre-occupied with one realm, you are mostly capable of the others – but not always. Our politics is rarely attuned to all three, despite the three being deeply interconnected.
- Policies emerge that might work at the governmental level – for business or the Budget – but have not taken into account the impact on human beings or their capacity to deliver them. We have a social contract that sees people as physical entities – needing only money and shelter to survive. Ignoring our emotional needs exacerbates all the problems of society – crime, mental illness, violence, poverty.
- Services often focus on the individual’s needs, without recognizing their social needs – for interaction, challenge, friendship. Civic responsibility is often devolved from governments to local authorities, without understanding the concept of citizenship and peoples’ desires to make their own decisions, build their own communities.
- Politicians are too often parochial, looking out towards the world as if it were a threat, or constant competition. Decisions are made for the defense of a country, without any ability to foresee the impact on groups of countries beyond its borders. Voters tend to choose politicians who make promises for their own people, but may not demand that those politicians take care of the globe on which our prosperity depends.
How can the demands arising from each of the three realms be integrated? Can we, with the help of art, humour, play learn to stand in each others shoes and see the world in 3D?
The Political Challenges Revealed By The "I - We - World" Framework
2016 showed us at least four fronts on which change could happen. In every initiative we embark on, these will be our starting points for inquiry and exploration:
1) The individual (“I”). The conventional political paradigm largely treats us as “femina et homo economicus” - driven primarily by financial concerns, and the limited emotions of self-interest. Much more Homer Simpson than Lisa Simpson.
Yet in this age of increased self-knowledge – and the last few decades of mind/human sciences - we know that we are complex entities, with complex emotional needs that stretch way beyond the simple economic model.
Our ignorance of this at the level of policy and politics - despite huge amounts of research to the contrary - is the cause of mental illness, crime and poverty in our modern societies.
In the cramped and distorting conditions of our unbalanced work lives, the most vulnerable among us can be harnessed by emotional opportunists like Farage and Gove, Trump and Bannon. Their ultimate intent is reshaping the world in the interests of the wealthiest nations.
We need a politics of time and well-being that can give people a chance to re-possess their own thoughts, and master their own reactions.
2) Communities (“We”): Our dominant modern understanding of community is as collections of private spaces more than public spheres: where neighbours commune rather than exercise their agency.
But we yearn for more control over our own lives, to take decisions about how our community develops, how money is spent.
This is not simply an issue of power, but one of belonging too. The development of more agency at district, town and city levels should be the focus of any politics for the future – not simply on the terms handed down from the centre, but from the bottom up, with genuinely local agendas.
As individuals begin to step up to citizenship, we need a relational politics that champions new ways of working effectively together.
3) The global (“World”). The world is habitually pictured as outside of our country: other nations are either allies or competitors, with us or against us in a zero-sum game of scarce resources.
In the interest of our nation, politics instrumentalises the globe as a marketplace, despite the evidence that only the elites benefit from this competitive stance. And worse, to maintain a sense of status, our current UK government cultivates weapons of mass destruction that could potentially wipe out the whole system of nations itself.
Meantime, 21C global citizens are capable of roaming the world physically and virtually with curiosity and appreciation, sharing music, humour, cultural traditions and much more.
We worry about the health of the planet and wish our politicians would act less selfishly. Current UK (and US) politicians talk of the world re-aligning, with oppositional political blocs and major nations facing off against each other. But it must come together to solve poverty, climate change, and endemic conflict.
We need a “worldist” politics, with politicians who understand global interdependency, and can articulate that in everyday terms.