When anyone is confronted with a new situation, it’s only natural to want to treat it just like something that they have experienced before. There may be a few tweaks necessary, of course, but can’t this just be handled like everything we’ve ever done before?
Anxiety in today’s world generally comes from a realization that this isn’t a good idea. The feeling is likely to come from the guts than the head, being an intuitive feeling more than a thought. But it’s there. This can easily be preyed on by hucksters looking for loyalty of various kinds as they shop solutions in search of problems. “This isn’t anything new,” the arguments always go, “It’s that THEY don’t want to do the right thing.”
There has to be a better way. And there is.
Politics in the developed world often breaks into two camps. Everyone knows the world has changed. Some respond with confusion as to why existing systems and “best practices” are failing. Others see a conspiracy causing them to fail.
These two thoughts, really instincts which have bubbled into rhetoric, describe far too much. The first one, the confused one, is today’s left. The conspiracy laden need to blame is today’s right. Both are shadows of their former selves, looking very much backward at a time when it should be obvious that the world of tomorrow will be more different yet.
Each are defined by a desperate need for “best practices.” These are the simple plans that can be followed step by step by either an individual or an institution to go forth and solve problems. They are the clockwork of a developed and integrated society where everyone relies on each other to simply do their job. Don’t you have this down to a routine yet?
When everything is changing, far too many find themselves outside of a known world easily defined by best practices. That means that there is no immediate course of action to be implemented almost habitually. The response to this situation is the only difference.
We call them “left” and “right” out of habit as well.
The tools necessary to master change are not the same as the tools needed to be a part of a large socio-industrial machine which spits out a “good life.” It takes a new set of skills, but generally speaking it primarily takes a step back to examine just what the situation is and then a system for making sense of what you see.
That is what the Cynefin Framework, as discussed before, is really all about. It is a habitat, a series of rooms which we easily move between in and out of immediate competence on a continuous basis. Within any ask or situation there are indeed “best practices” which can be applied. Sometimes there are choices to be made among “good practices.” Sometimes more information is needed through careful experiments and more observation to determine what options are reasonable And sometimes there is a need for action to create whatever order can be made.
The rhetoric from this kind of discussion is completely different from anxiety created by trying to force best practices. It starts with an acknowledgement that change is very real and must be dealt with. It assigns no values nor blame to the change, but only sees it as something which might be dealt with.
It’s not even particularly optimistic about the change, outside of how it can or should be used.
This is what has to come first before we can develop a politics which is meaningful. Once we have some kind of language to talk about our situations we can begin to deal with them in constructive ways. We may not agree on the nature of the situation immediately, but we will all at least know how to challenge each other. For example, if there is a best practice, what is it? What are the downsides of each potential practice? What makes you think the situation is emergent and in need of study?
Such a dialogue would be far more useful than blame, at the very least.
We all need tools for dealing with change. Given that the change we are experiencing is primarily about greater interdependence, these tools have to provide us with language for discussing change and agreeing on how to handle it. Without this, there is only anxiety which gradually becomes something much nastier.
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