The idea of a world view has two inherent meanings. First it is a personal view of how the world is or should be, and secondly it is a view that is shared or consented to by others not just ourselves. So a world view is both how we personally see the world but at the same time it is something that is based on consensual reality – there is a social dimension to it. In fact, most of what we call world views are not created by any one person but rather a person chooses to adopt a world view that was already supported by others in society. Perhaps this is because he or she feels emotionally inclined to do so or since it fits comfortably with his/her own existing set of beliefs. Allegiance and support for one political party or ideology is a clear example of this since the individual chooses a political view that fits in with his own ‘moral’ beliefs and values.
Adopting a world view has nothing intrinsically wrong in itself. In fact there are world views that are healthy and arise out of authentic, loving and conscious effort to improve humanity. World views can be healthy especially when they are not rooted in irrational choice and when they are open to be revised and changed, hence accepting the fact that nothing is absolute and some of our knowledge is provisional at best – therefore stands to be corrected. The last point is in fact one of the major tenets that makes Science, well, Science.
There are other ‘self-destructive’ world views on the other hand which have been widely accepted in our consensual reality and have been rooted in our psyche for a long, long time. These world views are so deeply ingrained in our framework of reality that they are unconscious and even if we can still call them world views, they are more implicit rather than explicit. This makes them even harder to detect, even more so because they are sometimes heavily guarded by our collective ego. In fact, these are world views that arise out of ego-based fear, judgment and its obsession to cling on to or identify with something. Luckily, global consciousness is moving towards greater awareness and hence away from such views.
At the same time it is good to get a quick reminder of what these world views are and why it is high time to leave behind:
1. ‘Us and Them’
More than a world view, this is a general attitude that gives rise to other misguided world views, yet I will call it a general world view here. It is related to the idea of separation – one of the biggest sources of suffering in Man. The separation of our social tribe, our people, our nation, our political group, our ideology, our gene pool, our culture – from yours. The ‘us and them’ world view is not only divisive but self-destructive since it always seeks to cut off something, whether individuals or groups, from something else.
This ‘cutting off’ is a powerful tool of the ego to keep us from remembering a liberating truth – that we are all connected and plugged in the same cosmic wheel of life. We are all One as the spiritual adage goes and the deeper we sink into this truth, the more we realise that this is the basis of creative and constructive change as we move forward in the global evolution of consciousness. Yet the ego doesn’t want this, doesn’t it? It will fight tooth and nail to prevent it and hence has found ways of implanting the misperception of separateness which in turn fuels irrational beliefs and even political agendas. I find it crazy, in fact, how so many of us don’t see past the veneer of certain ideologies and how we try to ‘rationally’ justify an ideology that is ultimately rooted in a misperception and irrational belief.
The ‘Us and them’ world view is such a creeping malaise in us humans that it also extend beyond social, cultural and political thinking. It is also the thing that has been detaching us from our natural world. Humanity passed through a point where it stopped feeling an integral part of the earth and the cosmos and started seeing the natural world as a resource pool and playground to satisfy our growing greed. So we also became separate from nature. Both Science and religion are at fault with this but would not like to go in the detail here.
There is however hope – a shining hope I would add. There is now more and more people who are stepping out of this illusion and spreading the awareness that there is no ‘us and them’ but rather only ‘Us’ (which coincidentally might be the acronym for ‘Universal Solidarity!)
2. Materialism and the Disenchantment with the World
Modern Science is relatively young – spanning some 200 years or at least somewhere in the region. As they say, Science has brought progress and unbound us from the shackles of the dark ages, yet modern Science has also generated another world view as a side effect which is still strongly prevalent nowadays – materialism. Materialism doesn’t mean zeal for material things but rather it is the world view that the material world is the basis of the Universe. In the classical Science era, it meant that all the natural phenomena can be explained in terms of underlying physical and chemical processes. The rest is just mumbo jumbo.
This has created a ‘flattened’ view of the world which caused us to become disenchanted with the magical universe around us. Indirectly it has caused us to become colder and more cynical. We started shrugging off mystery and beauty as just fiction or something that can be later explained by some physical process. In older, more ‘primitive’ societies people were still connected to the natural wonder of the earth and the universe. We were still in awe, enchanted by the mystery. We sat around fires hearing the elders tell stories that instructed the heart and not the mind. We understood the story nature was telling us beyond the logic of words. We were fascinated by it all.
Yet materialism became the epitome of the 19th and 20th century. Our mass consciousness turned from being beautiful, organic and fractal to being mechanical just like the assembly lines of the industrial revolution. According to Carl Jung, this is the ailment of modern Man – the basis of his neurosis. Of course things have gone a long way, even in Science. The classical view of Science made way to more open paradigms brought about by Quantum physics and the integration of cross-disciplinary paths. At the same time there is an emerging undercurrent which is becoming more aware of our ancestral wisdom – a revival of some sort through teachers and people who are trying their best to keep the wisdom alive.
3. Misguided Individualism
Another by-product of the 20th century, particularly in the more ‘liberal’ west, has been individualism or the idea that the rights of the individuals stand supreme and should be safeguarded by just laws and meritocracy. Of course this is a beautiful ideal and something everyone would stand up for. The problem is that this ideal got somehow abused, distorted and devolved into a more egocentric form. As modern society is now spiraling out of control with over-consumerism and greed for material possessions and power, individualism has been given a different overtone. We have overstretched the idea to now mean that the so called perceived needs of the individual (which in reality are nothing more than ‘wants’ sold to us by the media) come before the welfare of the communities and the planet.
This distorted acceptance of individual greed over the community at large can be seen projected on the current state of the planet. We have become indifferent and lost in our small distorted worlds. We don’t feel part of the community anymore – we are disengaged with the affairs of the world. The media has desensitized us to the point that barrages of negative impressions – wars, atrocities, mass murders, violence – feel like some movie of some sort. We have been disempowered by the belief that there is nothing we can do to help the world…it’s already hard enough keeping ourselves afloat. So the world view of individualism has been distorted up to a point of making a 180 degree turn – from empowering to disempowering the individual.
4. Institutionalized Control
Another form of disempowerment of the individual comes through institutionalized control. These are the top-down hierarchical control structures of society such as schooling, media and its censorship, mass propaganda, etc. We feel the institutional pressures weighing down on us and what’s more we are becoming more aware that some of these control structures were put in place to accommodate the agenda of the few at the expense of the many. The self-defeating world view that accompanies this is a fatalist one. We have given up our control and freedom completely, feeling that this is the way things are and that there is nothing much we can do about it. This is how the world works. This is also referred to as the problem of diffused responsibility, where individuals feel that the current state of affairs in the world is not their responsibility but that of a higher power such as the governments, politicians, leaders and the institutions.
The good news is that with the advancement of technology together with the growing will and awareness of people, all this is changing. We are seeing a shift away from tight hierarchical structures to more decentralization and democratization. The media is a good example. Before we could only know what is happening around us through the news broadcasted by the same news networks. Now everyone can be a journalist and information is shared by the many to the many through the web which became more social and mobile. Education is going through its own makeover too. We are now seeing more people looking for alternative forms of schooling which move away from the traditional mainstream forms. Home schooling, online courses and community based schooling is becoming more diffused.
Technology is also helping us become more self-sustainable and independent with respect to our energy needs and waste management. The general direction of all these changes are gradually helping us get out of this fatalistic world view and empowering us to take control of our own destiny through mass collaboration and the healthy use of technology.
Absolutism is a world view that is also inherent in some other world views. It is the idea that our beliefs, laws, cultural norms and way of life are absolute in the sense that they can be applied universally in all contexts to every human on this planet. So when we see others applying their own system of beliefs and cultural way of life we see it as a threat to our own. This gives rise the ‘us and them’ world view through misogynistic reactions such as intolerance, racism, wars and conflicts. This world view has been the basis of many wars and atrocities throughout human history, particularly religious ones.
Unfortunately this world view is still very much dispersed today. We still haven’t learned to be more tolerant to diversity and the fact that cultural norms and beliefs are relative, not absolute. The idea that our reality is the only one or the dominant one is so short-sighted and egocentric that it falls into complete blindness and madness at times. If there is one world view that we need to get rid of before others, it is this one, especially now in such a fast changing world.
The more we evolve as a species, the more we have to realize that our knowledge and beliefs are always changing. It is at best provisional. Nothing is absolute and nothing is cast in stone. Hence, it is imperative for our own survival and flourishing to understand how counter-productive it is to get stuck in an absolutist world view. We need to embrace change, as the world is transforming fast, but more importantly we need to be at peace with the idea that even our world views can and will change… as so it should be.