The Nature of True Freedom III: Creating A Shared Image of the Future

The Nature of True Freedom III: Creating A Shared Image of the Future

To what extent does Arendt’s description of 1920s Europe ring true today in Europe and elsewhere? Perhaps the world that was created after World War I continues to exist:  a world without a grand narrative to connect the past and the present or a clear image of a sustainable future (a connection between the present and the future), Certainly, the heirs of those dis­placed people continue to roam the world. If some were finally given a home, it has usually only been at the cost of displacing other people (for example, the Palestinians). Furthermore, the rise of nationalism and racial hatred throughout Europe and many other countries in the world is evident. Is the second decade of the 21st Century a repeat of the 1920s, and are new forms of terrorism fueled by hatred to be prevalent in our near future?

Dystopic Visions of the Future

While we can look to the past for evidence of the impact that the loss of a common purpose and sense of the future can have on our society and for clues as to our own future, we can also look to more contemporary times. The astute social observer, Christopher Lasch described a culture of narcissism which he came to believe typified the 1970s in the United States and other Western countries. His observations still seem to be appropriate and related to the challenge of forging a viable vision of the future (Lasch, 1979, p. 193):

The culture of narcissism is not necessarily a culture in which moral constraints on selfishness have collapsed or in which people released from the bonds of social obligation have lost themselves in a riot of hedonistic self-indulgence. What has weakened is not so much the structure of moral obligations and commandments as the belief in a world that survives its inhabitants. In our time, the survival and therefore the reality of the external world, the world of human associations and collective memories, appears increasingly problematic.

Lasch identifies the absence of both durable social structures and ample psychological resources in a world saturated with narcissistic individualism (Lasch, 1979, p. 193):

The fading of a durable, common, public world, we may conjecture, intensifies the fear of separation at the same time that it weakens the psychological resources that make it possible to confront this fear realistically. It has freed the imagination from ex­ternal constraints but exposed it more directly than before to the tyranny of inner compulsions and anxieties.


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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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