This post is gonna be a little bit meta. It may be a bit hard to follow, but I really do believe it contains some ideas that are important to share.
The concept of a human creation that goes awry and wreaks havoc on humanity is not new. It is postmodern and shows up in cinema notably in the film Blade Runner(1982) in the form of a Cyborg. Keith Haring is credited with performance art that presaged reality TV as the overtaking, steering, and destroying our cultural heritage (Acts of Live Art, Club 57, 1980). Now nearly everyone feels the pressure of how social media forms have changed the way that we socialize.
A less obvious form of a human creation is civilization itself. Within civilization, the structures we have created to help the world run smoothly and benefit humanity include governments, organizations, corporations, and social expectations. Part of what makes it difficult to analyze aspects of civilization is that we take for granted that the way that things are is a given and a constant. In reality, humanity has created and theoretically has the ability to change any of these cultural institutions.
I have observed over the past several years that my peers are now increasingly in positions of authority. Our generation, sometimes called Generation X, is increasingly occupying the realm of leadership that is responsible for steering our organizations, corporations, and governments. I find this an incredibly welcome scenario.
We grew up in the 1980s. Our rebellion was not without a cause, it was not against a war, it was against conformity. From the late 70’s to the early 80’s we lived and breathed a culture of being different and questioning conformity. Many of us that are considered part of Generation X inherently understand and do not shy away from the need to question why and what for when demands are made of us.
If we can harness that ability amongst our leadership generation and use it to confront the tension between what an organization or corporation desires and what humanity requires we will be improving the world dramatically.
It is strange to consider that people can create an organization or system whose inertia and needs are so strong that the very same people that created it become overtaken by its demands. I’ll let you think about that for a while. If you have trouble thinking of what this could look like, share this article with some friends and see where your conversation goes. Ask the question, “What does it look like when the needs of an organization or system conflict with the humanity that it is meant to serve?”
I am advocating that we question our assumptions about the demands of our cultural systems. Harness the abilities of those in our generation who have a yearning to not conform, and implement changes against system pressures to steer our organizations so that they serve people better. We can all play a part in this change by carrying an awareness that our humanity matters. It matters most. It matters more than money and more than the success of a business. We must create the world based in the values that we hold dear. Money is not a value, it is a tool. We can use this tool to support our values. This idea is partly what drives social entrepreneurship, but this type of leadership need not be isolated to new businesses and endeavors. This very same thinking can help shape organizations and systems that have been around for decades or more. It may require difficult decisions of leadership, but our generation that grew up in the shadow of punk rock just might be able to save the world.
Now talk amongst yourselves!
– Samuel Hanson Willis, MD