From Huffington Post
“Trump is America’s wake-up call” I heard a visitor to the United States say the other day. True. Trump’s first year has been a wake-up call heard around the world. But are we really waking up? And who is “we”? And what, if anything, is the new awareness that we are supposed to wake up to?
This column inquires into these questions, and announces a major initiative that blends the news and social media power of HuffPost with the online-to-offline movement-building capacities of MITx u.lab.
Over the past few months, having attended events and grassroots gatherings in various parts of the world, I’m encouraged that such a waking-up and movement building process is well underway. I’ve seen firsthand a new landscape of initiatives focused on transforming the foundations of our economies and our social structures that is emerging. At the same time, social media movements such as #MeToo have shown how quickly latent and necessary changes can be catalyzed in our current moment. While there is still much more structural and systemic work to be done, it’s increasingly clear that as our old economic structures and civilizational forms hit the wall of our planetary limits, a new world is taking shape that focuses on bridging the three major divides of our time: the ecological divide, the social-economic divide, and the spiritual divide.
This awakening process is not only happening in grassroots movements. It’s equally observable among many, particularly younger, leaders working inside our traditional institutions. Everyone knows that we live in a moment of profound disruption. An old order is about to end. And something new is about to be born.
Last week, I was running a session at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. During the discussion, one of the senior management attendees said: “The problem you describe is not totally new. The destructive dynamics of prejudice, ignorance, hate, and fear have been around for a long time.” And then he asked, “But why is it so much worse today? What is actually different now?”
What a great question. It prompted me to deepen my own sense making.
The Three Responses to Disruption
In earlier columns, I have framed the global politics of our present moment in terms of three different responses to disruption that are playing out in all sectors and systems:
- Muddling through: downloading (maintaining the status quo),
- Moving backward: “making X great again”,
- Moving forward: leaning into the unknown to co-sense and co-create the future.
Response 1: Muddling through—what the 2017 elections really tell us
The first response just extends the status quo: business as usual. As Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016 and the recent elections across Europe have demonstrated, the mainstream option is increasingly unattractive and unacceptable to the majority of voters. The mainstream parties in the Dutch, French, German, and Austrian elections this year have lost by greater margins than the right right-wing parties have gained. In the United States we see this outcome mirrored in the 2016 presidential primaries: the anti-mainstream candidates, Trump and Sanders, gained much more support than the candidates endorsed by the party establishment (Bush and Clinton). The reason Sanders did not make it onto the ticket was because of the manipulative influence of the Clintons and their foundation on the operations of the Democratic National Committee. In other words, the main story of the past year is not just the rise of the far right but the decline of the mainstream status quo parties combined with a failure of the entire political system to generate any viable alternative to the mainstream option other than the outdated ideologies of yesterday (nationalism) or the day before yesterday (white supremacy).
Read the full piece at Huffington Post.
Otto Scharmer is a Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan, a Thousand Talents Program Professor at Tsinghua University, and co-founder of the Presencing Institute.