What do I mean by that? Protest too much? Surely, one could say, there is not enough protestation in the world. Just look at the world: rampant injustice, rising temperatures leading to climate change, war and terrorism continuing unabated, famine in a world of plenty …. This list goes on.
Protesting is a form of resisting, and in that resistance may be our undoing. Carl Gustav Jung is said to have formulated the statement, “what you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.” Now often abbreviated to just “what you resist, persists,” Jung recognised that what we think about is played out in our reality, even if we are thinking that we don’t want something. We all know this apparent conundrum. Try to not think of an orange. Can we do it? Can we not think of an orange? Difficult isn’t it?
In our abbreviation of the Jungian phrase we have forgotten the second part of the phrase – but will grow in size. Maybe, just maybe, all the issues and concerns of the world, are growing in intensity and danger, because of our collective resistance to them, just as Jung suggests.
Since Jung there has been a mushrooming of research into the brain and mind. Modern neuroscience arose in the second half of the 20th century and has contributed immensely to our understanding of the brain, mind, and consciousness over the past 50 or 60 years. We now know, for example, that there is a strong correlation between what the mind tells us and what or where our body follows. A tightrope walker was once asked what made him so good. He replied that he kept his eyes fixed on where he was going and not looking down. “Where your head goes, that is where your body is going too,” he answered.
This psychology, whereby what we resist, persists, and what we don’t want tends only to focus our attention upon it, thus creating it, raises some serious questions for social activists. Here are just a few:
- By resisting politicians and governments are we only prolonging the myth of democracy?
- By resisting big business are we only entrenching consumerism and exploitation further?
- By protesting against war are we only ensuring that we will continue to attempt to resolve international conflicts by violent means?
- By putting up barriers against refugees are we only ensuring that their plight will deepen and intensify?
- By proclaiming that we don’t want what we have had in the past, are we only more likely to create the same past in our present and future?
One alternative to re-focus and re-frame our thinking is that of Buckminster Fuller who said1
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.Fuller is one of the most influential futurologists, systems thinkers, and inventors the world has ever seen. Ever dismissive of politicians and entrenched authority, he sought a more expansive understanding of who we are and where we are going. He is known as the inventor of the geodesic dome and also devised a game he called The World Game which would:
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
"Make the world work,Imagine what could happen if we stopped putting our energies into what we don’t want, and directed our energies towards what we do want. Instead of railing against the system and out-dated authorities; what if we began to construct new paradigms, new belief systems, new ways of being together.
for 100% of humanity,
in the shortest possible time,
through spontaneous cooperation,
without ecological offense
or the disadvantage of anyone."
Perhaps it is to our benefit to withdraw from protesting and resisting, and to put our energies into building a new model, through spontaneous cooperation. A model that could work for 100% of humanity.
1. Quoted in Daniel Quinn, Beyond Civilization : Humanity's Next Great Adventure, Harmony Books, New York (1999).