Love, Fear and the Destiny of Nations by Richard Barrett
Reviewed by David Lorimer
Richard is Founder and Chairman of the Barrett Values Centre and former Values Coordinator at the World Bank. Here he provides a historical overview and prospect on the impact of the evolution of human consciousness on world affairs and governance structures; it is based on his very extensive research over a 15-year period involving 3,500 organisations in more than 40 countries. Instead of equating development as economic growth or even sustainability, he redefines it in terms of the evolution of human consciousness by way of previous definitions involving survival, security, power and righteousness. His new definition is closely related to human well-being, democracy, freedom from fear, and happiness; it is aligned with new indicators while going beyond them. His thesis – similar to Elisabet Sahtouris – is that ‘we need to learn how to cooperate with each other for the good of the whole, and to do this we need an integral approach’ – based on the work of Ken Wilber’s four quadrants (mind, body, culture and society).
His succinct diagnosis of our current challenge is that ‘the problems of human existence have become global, whereas the societal structures we have dealing with them are national.’ It has been evident for several decades that our international institutions are inadequate to the task and that we need to expand our sense of identity and shared values. Behind the unwillingness to cede sovereignty, Richard sees a larger issue of lack of trust, which applies particularly to politicians. Overall, he sees a need for a shift from world run by independent nations to one run through collaborative regional and global governance. One problem with this, as we see in the current EU debate, is that these supranational organisations are bureaucratic rather than democratic and are not sufficiently accountable. However, I think he is right in his analysis of the overall direction of human social evolution and its underlying biology. As the title suggests, there is a gradual shift from fear towards trust and then love, although the way that world events are reported often goes in the opposite direction.
His scheme involves three stages and seven levels of consciousness with their corresponding motivations and developmental tasks: surviving, conforming, differentiating, individuating, self-actualising, integrating, and finally serving. He explains in some detail the corresponding stages of societal development: band, tribe, city-state, nation, cohesive nation, regional grouping and global. One can understand that these constitute different levels of identity and belonging representing an overall move from competition and self-promotion towards cooperation and service. I found his analysis of cultural fears extremely helpful, addressing it does power relationships and inequality, masculine and feminine, and dealing with uncertainty. On this basis, he is able to categorise nations at one of three stages in the move from fear to trust to love. He finds that Nordic countries come out top, especially in relation to inequality. He then moves on to a more detailed assessment of cultural values.
The second part takes the ultimate measure of the quality of democracy as the level of trust, which is by definition inversely proportional to the level of what he calls cultural DNA fear. He sees democracy as essentially a means of regulating the power and influence of governing elites and increasing the number of people involved in societal decision-making. He identifies seven value drivers, devoting a chapter to each: freedom, equality, accountability, fairness, openness, transparency and trust (in terms of both character and competence). Again one can see how these issues are reflected in the EU debate. From the point of view Richard’s analysis, a Brexit would represent a backwards step away from integration towards nationalism, but on the other hand one can also understand the arguments of the other side in terms of values and subsidiarity. His vision is a larger one and based on the fact that the Earth is a unified territory and humanity’s collective life support system; and the corresponding view that the only way to manage the Earth and its resources is ‘through a global system of governance that works for the good of humanity as a whole, not just for the most powerful nations, and supranational corporations.’ So his essential point is an emphasis on one Earth and the interconnectedness of humanity and therefore on the need for higher-order cooperation that represents a more advanced consciousness based on service rather than exploitation.
If one agrees with his underlying argument, then the most important question becomes how we move from here to there, bearing in mind the thrust and support of the evolutionary process. This requires an understanding of the two principles of delegated sovereignty and endowed legitimacy. The diplomat Lord Mark Malloch-Brown writes that we now live in an unregulated hell where environmental impacts are shared globally (and unequally), ‘but the solutions remain blocked at the national level.’ Changing these institutions may involve a fundamental crisis that demands new forms, but also the further development of empathy and compassion. Richard lists nine obstacles that we need to overcome in order to build a sustainable future for everyone on the planet, but the key issue is that we do not yet have the necessary leadership paradigm based on a new mindset. These leaders will have to embody trust, empathy and compassion and they will need to be developed – we do not yet have them to hand. This is the work of the Barrett Values Centre promoting development as democracy and equality rather than elitism and power. Luckily, the necessary resources are already in our hearts and in our deepest human values. This visionary book helps readers understand our global position and how we can all contribute towards moving beyond existing limitations to a world that works for everyone. www.valuescentre.com, www.newleadershipparadigm.com