Part 1 of this essay can be read here. I looked at the meaning of Trumpism, Partnerism, Strongmen and Goodmen and the choices we must make in the coming years. Here I’ll explore more about how we can heal the divide in our country and the world.
What does it take to be a good man in today’s world? That’s what I asked myself when I began the research for my latest book, 12 Rules for Good Men, which was published in 2020. I see the process of becoming a good man to be a healing journey. In the book I offered 12 practices, which I call rules, that I have found helpful in my own life and in the lives of men I have worked with:
- Rule #1: Join a Men’s Group.
- Rule #2: Break Free from the Man Box.
- Rule #3: Accept the Gift of Maleness.
- Rule #4: Embrace Your Billion Year History of Maleness.
- Rule #5: Recognize Your Anger and Fear Towards Women.
- Rule #6: Learn the Secrets of Real Lasting Love.
- Rule #7: Undergo Meaningful Rites of Passage from Youth to Adulthood and from Adulthood to Super Adulthood.
- Rule #8: Celebrate Your True Warrior Spirit and Learn Why Males Duel and Females Duet.
- Rule #9: Understand and Heal Your Adverse Childhood Experiences and Male Attachment Disorders.
- Rule #10: Heal Your Father Wound and Become the Father You Were Meant to Be.
- Rule #11: Treat Irritable Male Syndrome and Male-Type Depression.
- Rule #12: Find Your Mission in Life and Do Your Part to Save Humanity.
When I began doing “men’s work” more than fifty years ago, there weren’t many people and organizations focused on helping find, develop, and support good men. Now there are many. Here are a few I have worked with over the years.
The Mankind Project and their signature New Warrior Training adventure, an initiatory retreat for men, began in Wisconsin in January 1985. Since then, more than 22,000 men in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and South Africa have been involved.
The Good Men Project was founded in 2009 to offer a glimpse of what enlightened masculinity might look like in the 21st century. The hope was to spark a “national conversation” around the question of what it means to be a good man. I’ve been writing articles for them since they first launched.
GoodGuys2GreatMen helps men transform their relationships by discovering the man they were meant to be. The organization offers 1-on-1 coaching, retreats, and a great course on “How to Defuse the Divorce Bomb.” Founder Steve Horsmon says, “I turn on the light for good guys who are struggling in their relationships with women.”
Healing the Divide in Our Country and the World: Creating the More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible
My colleague Charles Eisenstein wrote a book that captures the hope for our future, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. Philosopher Paul Tillich describes the challenge we face with these words:
“Every serious thinker must ask and answer three fundamental questions:
What is wrong with us? With men? Women? Society? What is the nature of our alienation? Our dis-ease?
What would we be like if we were whole? Healed? Actualized? If our potentiality was fulfilled?
How do we move from our condition of brokenness to wholeness? What are the means of healing?”
For me, the beginning of an answer to this question was provided by Alvin Toffler in his book, Future Shock, published in 1970. He captures a simple, yet little understood, problem we are facing in society. In the book’s introduction he says, “This is a book about what happens to people when they are overwhelmed by change.” He goes to describe “the roaring current of change, a current so powerful today that it overturns institutions, shifts our values and shrivels our roots. Change is the process by which the future invades our lives, and it is important to look at it closely, not merely from the grand perspectives of history, but also from the vantage point of the living breathing individuals who experience it.”
Toffler’s words, written more than fifty years ago, are even more powerfully prophetic now, with the evermore rapid acceleration of change in our world. Even then, he recognized that “future shock is no longer a distantly potential danger, but a real sickness from which increasingly large numbers of already suffer. This psycho-biological condition can be described in medical and psychiatric terms. It is the disease of change.”
Toffler contrasts the challenges of future shock with cultural shock. “The culture shock phenomenon accounts for much of the bewilderment, frustration, and disorientation that plagues Americans in their dealings with other societies. It causes a breakdown in communication, a misreading of reality, an inability to cope. Yet, culture shock is relatively mild in comparison with the much more serious malady, future shock. Future shock is the dizzying disorientation brought on by the premature arrival of the future. It may well be the most important disease of tomorrow.”
In summarizing the impact of this new disease of civilization, Toffler says,
“Future shock will not be found in Index Medicus or in any listing of psychological abnormalities. Yet, unless intelligent steps are taken to combat it, millions of human beings will find themselves increasingly disoriented, progressively incompetent to deal rationally with their environments. The malaise, mass neurosis, irrationality, and free-floating violence already apparent in contemporary life are merely a foretaste of what may lie ahead unless we come to understand and treat this disease.”
Although Toffler was widely read and wrote many other books, not enough people took action in response to his predictions of the future. We saw the effect of “the malaise, mass neurosis, irrationality, and free-floating violence” on display in the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Someone who did take the message of Future Shock seriously, is sociobiologist Rebecca D. Costa, author of The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse. She is also a futurist in the tradition of Malcolm Gladwell, Margaret Mead, Thomas Friedman, and Alvin Toffler. She is, by training and experience, part sociologist, economist, psychologist and successful entrepreneur.
She is one of the only experts to recognize that the human brain evolved to conditions that were much simpler than those we live in today and that complexity itself is at the root of our problems. “Every institution and civilization,” says Costa, “reaches a point where the complexity it must manage outstrips our ability to cope.” This recurring condition produces three symptoms that, if not adequately addressed and remedied, will lead to collapse:
“We become unable to solve our most threatening problems,” says Costa. “We know what they are, and we have a lot of ideas on how to solve them, but we can’t seem to act on what we know.”
2. Confusion between facts and unproven beliefs.
“Beliefs are easy,” says Costa. “You either accept them or you don’t. But the acquisition of knowledge is pricey. You have to prove a fact is true then replicate, test, assess, interpret, process, learn, and apply. Put simply, when complexity makes it difficult, or impossible, to acquire facts, we revert to unproven beliefs.”
3. Irrational policy.
In the final stage, we create irrational policies that have no chance of success yet give people a false sense of comfort. With global climate change, for instance, we are not able to implement policies which would actually reduce emissions of gases that are warming the planet, but we tell people we can all do our part by recycling.
Costa shows how great empires have followed this pattern – witness the Roman Empire, the Khmer Empire in Asia, the great Mayan civilization. And global corporations as well – witness Lehman Brothers, Enron, World Bank. What happens when complexity races ahead of the brain’s ability to understand it?
According to Costa, we come face to-face with a “High Failure-Rate Environment,” a condition where the number of wrong choices outnumber the number of correct ones.
One man who has dedicated his life to bringing people together to make good choices to solve big problems is Otto Scharmer. He is a senior lecturer at MIT, cofounder of the Presencing Institute, and author of Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges. He says,
“We live in an era of intensifying conflicts and massive institutional failures, a time of painful endings and of hopeful beginnings. It is a time that feels as if something profound is shifting and dying while something else, as the playwright and Czech president Václav Havel once put it, wants to be born. Havel said, “I think there are good reasons for suggesting that the modern age has ended. Today, many things indicate that we are going through a transitional period when it seems that something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying, and exhausting itself—while something else, still indistinct, were rising from the rubble.’”
“The crisis of our time isn’t just a crisis of a single leader, organization, country, or conflict. The crisis manifests across all countries in the form of three major divides: the ecological divide—that is, the disconnect between self and nature; the social divide—that is, the disconnect between self and other; and the spiritual divide—that is, the disconnect self and self.”
For more than twenty-five years, Scharmer and his team have partnered with some of the most creative change-agents in the world to heal the great divides that separate us and to help shift the world towards Partnerism and away from domination. We are clearly at a turning point in our history. We must all decide whether we will turn towards Partnerism or domination and good men, along with good women, have a vital role to play.
In one of his campaign speeches, President John F. Kennedy said, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” Kennedy may have been off in his translation of the Chinese, but he captured the essence of the times in which we live. We truly are facing dangers as well as opportunities. Our understanding, feelings, thoughts, and actions may well determine the fate of humanity.
I look forward to your comments. Please visit me at my blog.