The Revolution of One

May
20
2011
by
Lynne McTaggart
/
0
Comments

What a lot of sentiment last week’s blog caused – perhaps an indication of how unfair all we believe life is at the moment - so I thought it worthy of more comment from me.

First off, I need to clear up a few misconceptions. I’ve not been body snatched (at least last time I looked) and if I look glassy-eyed in one video, as one correspondent complained, it probably has to do with 1) chronic sleep deprivation after writing The Bond, my most ambitious book to date, and whizzing back and forth across America spreading this message 2) being filmed by handheld video equipment without benefit of all the things – lighting, special makeup, acting ability, youth – that make people look good on camera.

Let’s start with what I’m NOT saying. My message is not a call to arms.

 

What a lot of sentiment last week’s blog caused – perhaps an indication of how unfair all we believe life is at the moment - so I thought it worthy of more comment from me.

First off, I need to clear up a few misconceptions. I’ve not been body snatched (at least last time I looked) and if I look glassy-eyed in one video, as one correspondent complained, it probably has to do with 1) chronic sleep deprivation after writing The Bond, my most ambitious book to date, and whizzing back and forth across America spreading this message 2) being filmed by handheld video equipment without benefit of all the things – lighting, special makeup, acting ability, youth – that make people look good on camera.

Let’s start with what I’m NOT saying. My message is not a call to arms.

In last week’s blog, I simply quoted economist Joseph Stiglitz, who says that the conditions in the US now are RIPE for revolution. He is warning that things in America have become so unfair, opportunity so scarce, laws and the economy so manipulated, so like the conditions that were present in places like Tunisia and Egypt during the Arab spring, that they are ready to blow.

 

Connection, not socialism

I am emphatically not an advocate for socialism – and I can speak of that with a certain amount of authority. I’ve lived in the UK for many years, so unlike many Americans, I have experienced true socialism firsthand and witnessed firsthand the shortcomings of certain of its older, more socialist policies. If I could vote in my adopted country, I would vote against most kinds of redistribution efforts, particularly those that unduly penalize the hardworking middle classes.

Fairness actually has nothing to do with equality nor does it require public expenditure that aims to redistribute wealth and equalize society. For instance, the state in the United States that reports the lowest level of social problems is New Hampshire, but it also has one of the lowest public expenditures of any state.

New Hampshire has a lot of opportunity for its inhabitants and simply does not have a huge disparity between the income of its richest and poorest inhabitants. In New Hampshire, the people have managed to create a caring society where they are all in it together.

When enterprising turns unfair

Our sense of unfairness does not spring from a need for sameness— for across-the-board equality. Most of us have no problem with others who make more money than we do for legitimate reasons, like creativity, contribution or hard work. Thankfully, in America, we applaud an enterprising spirit. Throughout history the fact that there is a wealthy group of individuals at the top of a society has not automatically made for revolution.

Poorer levels of society are usually prompted to rise up in rebellion only when conditions are manifestly unfair, such as when food is deliberately made scarce, when opportunity is destroyed, when the rules are bent to benefit one portion of society at the other’s expense.

In the wake of the worldwide financial crisis of 2008 the fury that most ordinary citizens felt toward bankers and traders had nothing to do with income resentment but a deep and compelling sense of unfairness that investment houses like Goldman Sachs still paid record bonuses after the recession they had helped to create caused so many others to lose their jobs.

The public goods

Human beings have an inherent sense of turn-taking; our sense of fairness rests on the assumption that a sense of fairness also exists in the person who is the object of our generosity, and that he or she will automatically return the favor. Most of us possess an in-built scorecard that abhors a freeloader.

This has been proved in game theory, with a game in experimental economics called the ‘Public Goods.’ This game is designed to test how people behave when asked to contribute to something that could benefit the entire community, but at a price to themselves. It’s a bit like asking people to voluntarily pay a sum of their own choosing in taxation toward maintaining the parks in California.

In this scenario, a number of participants are given tokens, which are redeemable at the end for money. They’re allowed to decide secretly how much of it to keep and how much to put into a common pot. The experimenters then award some percentage of the total in the pot — 40 per cent, say — to everyone playing. Everyone benefits most by individually giving the most.

Initially, the urge to give is enormous — on average, people begin playing by giving up to 40 to 60 per cent of their tokens — but this generous impulse quickly abates so that, by the final rounds, nearly three-quarters of all people contribute nothing and the rest, close to nothing.

When interviewed later, those participants who had initially been generous grew increasingly furious at freeloaders, who were either contributing nothing or less than the others.

When there is no possibility to punish freeloaders, cooperation quickly deteriorates, and the game, in effect, falls apart.

Nobody is playing

Many of us feel that we have freeloaders both at the top end of our society – those receiving bonuses they don’t deserve, say – and at the bottom – those refusing to work because it’s more financially beneficial not to.

Consequently, in our current society, we are now all participants in a Public Goods game in which everyone is refusing to play. In most developed communities today it is every man, woman, and child for himself.

I’m certainly not advocating political or economic revolution – quite the reverse.

In my view, the problem goes much deeper. My message in The Bond is that the winner-take-all mindset is dangerous to everyone because it goes against nature. We humans were designed to belong together, to fuse in body and mind, to give generously of ourselves, to take our turn—, but this Bond and all the promises we make to each other to wait our turn, to take our fair share, has now been broken.

A revolution of the heart

My message is about a revolution of one – a revolution in the way each of us we looks at the world, relates to those around us, the way that we connect with our communities, the very way that we live our lives.

I advocate revolution in every reader’s heart. In The Bond, I have set out a way of being that I believe will create a contagion of generosity, change the very currency of our relationships, bring our neighborhoods back together, but from the bottom up.

At the heart of this revolution is fairness – and it starts with just a few game changers like you and me. The science now shows that all it takes are a few people with a strong sense of fairness to completely change the game – to turn around our culture of selfishness to a culture of fair play.

My central quote in The Bond is f
rom Arthur Miller’s play All My Sons. It was about World War II but it’s even more true now:

‘Everything was being destroyed, but it seemed to me that one new thing was made. A kind of . . . responsibility. Man for man. To bring that on to the earth again like some kind of monument and everyone would feel it standing there, behind him, and it would make a difference to him.’

A set of Fairness Principles each of us can follow – which I will be setting out with the Campaign for Fairness on The Bond website – www.thebond.net – will help to build that monument again.

Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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