What happens when the larger-scheme-of-things is ignored and denied out of existence?
People tend to develop a narrow laser like focus; a concern that is quite concentrated toward one part or aspect of reality, as if it is all that there is. When that reality is limited to the material the concern tends to be for the very near in both space and time; that is people tend to direct their decisions and actions based upon the answer to the question what’s in it for me within a very proximate spatiotemporal context.
Mechanistically Oriented and Morally Deficient
In such a constrained context or worldview, care and concern doesn’t extend beyond one’s very own skin in the moment. Thinking about this in relation to Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development, adherents of this worldview more than likely fall in either the pre-conventional (what’s in it for me) or conventional morality (what’s in it for me and my group) stages of development. This is quite unfortunate not just for them but for everyone they touch in their life.
Absent of thinking critically about the way they make sense of and order their world there is virtually no chance of such people developing their humanness toward realizing the stage of moral development that affords universal care and concern for all living beings. There is little to no chance that adherents of this worldview who manage and lead our organizations will understand employees as human beings—as persons—and not merely units of labor (i.e. skills and abilities) in service to their (material) self-interest.
This is likely why the decisions among our elected government officials advance the interests of their major donors and don’t reflect and represent the wider concern of the citizenry. It is likely why industries and their corporate CEOs seek to control government policies—investing millions to bribe and buy policy makers—for the purpose of advancing their immediate material interest, all at the expense of the sustainability of the environment and the viability of all living beings. It is likely why captains of industry disperse their business activity across the globe in pursuit of the lowest labor costs and the least environmental regulation. It is likely why management practice in the vast majority of organizations does not align with and support the (very human) development of people. That is, management practice rests largely on the carrot-and-stick (stimulus-response) method of acting upon others to cause them to act/move as one desires. It is likely why the intent of educating the public is to supply the economic machine with parts—with skills and abilities—rather than to facilitate in each person a love of and the ability to learn at a higher level of learning (Gregory Bateson’s Level III ).
However, in the current worldview there are no subjects, just objects—everything is objectified, even one’s self. Correspondingly, although there is systems’ thinking, it is mechanistic systems thinking not livings systems thinking. Mechanistic thinking is thinking wherein the world is a deterministic world—by way of physical laws—comprised of an assortment of objects/parts having physical material qualities to serve another’s material interest.
More to the point, “in materialist mechanistic economic thought, societal wealth is synonymous with the material gains of business, which is dependent upon the material productivity of labor. Accordingly, the sole purpose of people in the economy and society is to provide labor to serve the productivity needs of the business enterprise and, in turn, increase societal wealth. In effect, people are factors in the production equation—we work for the economic system” (The Intent of Business, p 120).
A morally developed person would understand that people must not be enslaved or exploited. Unfortunately in a mechanistic world there is materiality not morality—the machine’s parts have no moral expectation or rights! Accordingly, thanks to neoliberal economists such as Milton Friedman, many now (actually) believe that a business enterprise is only responsible to its shareholders and this responsibility is to maximize their material gain (that is, shareholder value). In short there is no unifying larger-scheme-of-things only a multitude of objects or things to be exploited for one’s own material gain. According to this worldview there is no ‘We’ just independent individual ‘Me’s’ moving about in pursuit of their very own gain with no responsibility for the hardship or harm they cause others—collateral damage is for someone else or another generation to fix.
Because of the deep interconnectedness, the associated dynamic complexity and reinforcing feedback loops the effects of a narrow focus of attention will increase exponentially and be experienced or manifest in different ways throughout the world. This dynamically complex world is one “where actions that disregard the environment and the beings that live within it are not only self-destructive they would be suicidal” (The Intent of Business, p 126).
Yes this is our reality, but this reality need not be the only reality. We are not destined for this reality. It is however the reality those in authority led us to create, and thus we’ve been complicit in it becoming our reality. Furthermore, as long as we continue to comply with its precepts—put into operation through the capitalist system—we will ensure its continuance until of course we destroy ourselves.
Level III learning can open the mind to the possibilities—developing critical thinking—affording freedom of choice and a transformation of consciousness. No longer constrained by habits of thought, a transformed consciousness enables us “to investigate and understand how we perceive and interpret reality, it also provides us the capability to create new ideas of reality—to break with previous categories of thought”(The Intent of Business, p 97). So by breaking our habits of thought, by freeing ourselves from the constraints of (egoistic) capitalism and its associated social context, our mind will be able to explore the possibilities and thus creativity becomes likely.
A critical mass of critically thinking people must come to understand that the future need not be a continuation of the past. After all reality is forever running beyond the realm of what has been experienced challenging us to think and create anew. Contrary to what those in authority claim there are alternative realities that we can participate in creating. Hence we can choose to create and thus experience and live a quite different reality. Yes it is up to us!
All we need to do is perceive and gain understanding of a different worldview. In so doing we will see that ours’ is a deeply interconnected and highly interdependent living systems world. One in which there are subjects and not mere objects, where ‘We’ exists, where everything is connected to everything else. What we do matters!
In this world we are stewards and therefore our decision and actions must be considered and taken within the larger-scheme-of-things. It is our responsibility to act in a way that ensures our collective viability—our concern must go well beyond our own skin. We must truly care about all people and the environment and act accordingly. After all what is more important than: a) our development as human beings and b) our continued existence as a species?
More to the point, because those in authority within our institutions/organizations have the ability to impact a great number of people a more globalized economy “requires those in authority to develop a wider and deeper connectedness to the environment and humankind along with a corresponding broader and greater sense of concern and care for Nature and all people throughout the world (The Intent of Business, p 128).
Just imagine, if the intent of business was different, then so too would be our decisions, actions and the reality we experience.