Interview with Daniel Pinchbeck
Which do you think could be the most effective way to reach people and to create collective awareness on the issues you address through your work? How can we come up with more creative methods to transmit this message?
I think, on a global scale, we need to repurpose the media, including social media and mass media, to bring about a rapid evolution of planetary consciousness, to face the multidimensional ecological crisis that threatens us, to address social injustice and economic inequity, and also to raise the level of people’s thoughts. At the moment, the media acts as a consciousness control system that keeps the collective mind at a low frequency, normalizes violence, and amplifies fear. I recently started a talk show, Mind Shift ( www.mindshift.net ), using a familiar format to explore cutting-edge ideas and issues. I would like to see a new global network emerge that defines and mass distributes a new paradigm along the lines of what I have discussed in past works, including my book 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl and my film, directed by Joao Amorim and produced by Mangusta Films, 2012: Time for Change.
What role do you think art and creativity have on the future of change?
I really love the late Jose Arguelles’ idea that, as part of a shift of cultural paradigm, we will realize the central, sacred function of art. We may come to see our new planetary culture as a collective work of art. Every aspect of our social infrastructure is an artifact of human thought, creativity, and design. What if designing a new currency that supports biodiversity, local cultures, and cooperation was seen as an art project rather than a function of government or central banks? When we look at indigenous cultures, we see aesthetics woven into every facet of their lives – art is not a separate area for them, as everything is, equally, an expression of the Sacred. I think our post postmodern culture will reintegrate this understanding, at a higher level of scientific and technical knowledge.
As you mention Joseph Beuys theories on social sculpture, do you think society is actually “sculptable”?
I think society is always being sculpted but this has either happened unconsciously or it has been designed to work for the benefit of a small elite, whose interests are not the same as those of the people or the multitude. For instance, making drugs illegal has tremendous negative repercussions across society, but also strengthens the power of the military industrial and prison industrial complexes. Delinking money from any tangible resource in the 1970s also had tremendous reverberations.. We can look at something like Bitcoin as a social sculpture, which had the effect of making value exchange no longer dependent on the banking and financial services industries. The global Occupy movement was also a social sculpture, that distributed itself globally, like a fractal. In the near future, we are going to see more new attempts, more innovation and improvisation, as our inherited social and political structures prove incapable of handling the rate of accelerating change and continue to disintegrate.
Why do you think psychedelic drugs have been banned and socially exiled? What kind of threat do you think it represents for the government?
Originally, psychedelic substances were associated with the broader movements for social liberation that crested in the late 1960s. The opening of consciousness was recognized as a threat to the establishment – after experiences with LSD and mushrooms, many of the young children of the upper middle class lost their desire to work in the corporate world and sought to construct alternative communities. As I discussed in Breaking Open the Head, psychedelics were legally repressed and culturally demonized. Now, a half-century later, the tide is turning, and society is beginning to realize that we need the psychedelic inspiration again. We see this in the US in the rapid growth of interest in psychedelics as medicines and the revival of research, including study of MDMA as a treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Also the legalization of ayahuasca when used in traditional religious contexts. Psychedelics have also been crucial for inspiring many technological, scientific, and creative breakthroughs. For instance, the developers of the Internet and the personal computer were exploring psychedelics – Steve Jobs famously said that LSD trips were his most important experiences. The biologist Kary Mullis credited LSD with helping him discover polymer chain reactions, for which he won the Nobel Prize. The list is long. When we look at the ecological decimation that is now underway, we are going to need a rapid development in our creative problem-solving to address it. Psychedelics may provide a powerful spur for new thinking that is required for our future survival as a species. In a short span of time, relatively speaking, psychedelics may go from being seen as pariahs to being recognized as important to our future evolution as a species.
Being realistic and looking at it from a wider perspective, how long or how many generations do you think we’ll have to wait to expect real change to happen? I’m talking about sustainable cities with roof farms, new forms of energy taking over and the rest of the non-destructive systems that are described in the movie “Time for Change”.
I think it will happen within the current generations, and I don’t think we have any choice, if we take our situation seriously. Although it is a chaotic and nonlinear process, climate change is clearly accelerating, along with global warming. Scientists have discovered the delicate interconnectivity of the biosphere. There is a legitimate danger of runaway warming – for instance, there are vast reserves of methane gas under the Siberian permafrost, that is now melting rapidly. If this methane is released in an uncontrolled fashion, it could cause a rapid warming, according to some scientists, turning the earth into a “biological desert” within a half-century. Many other indicators are similarly dire – including species extinction, loss of fresh water, atmospheric pollution, etc. This cannot be addressed through current social mechanisms but requires a coordinated movement of civil society across the planet. We saw a first attempt at this in the last few years, and we will see another one at some point in the near future. Through the Internet, new social technologies could facilitate the transition to a truly democratic planetary culture, and a retraining to inculcate new values and behavior patterns.
Would you say the real hope resides on educating children properly in order to secure the future? How can we introduce these ideas of collectivity, sustainability and social awareness in the education system?
As I just noted, I think that the accelerating pace of the situation means we won’t be able to pass off the problems to future generations, but must awaken ourselves and the current generations of adults to confront them. I find that most younger people have an intuitive awareness of the urgency of the situation, but they are also programmed by the destructive mass media to ignore their intuition. This is tragic. I think the whole paradigm of learning needs to change – we should realize that as humans we are perpetual learning machines. We see this happening now anyway as people – particularly if you are in a creative field – are constantly adapting to the speed of technological change and mastering new social technologies that are increasingly necessary for survival in today’s information economy. This same kind of development could be extended to adapting sustainable technologies, with a mass training taking place in areas like permaculture, rainwater harvesting, alternative energy through the Internet.
Between the existing alternative currencies, which one do you think could actually spread out and work?
I think we need to try a number of them and then experiment and iterate. As I mentioned, Bitcoin is fascinating – although it wasn’t designed to transform the underlying value system of capitalism. I like Bernard Lietaer’s idea of the Terra – a global trading currency that has a negative interest rate so it quickly loses value if you try to hoard it. I also like the ideas put forth in Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics, which I edited, proposing a currency that has its value backed by the health of the commons, thus promoting healthy forests, etcetera. That has yet to be tried in practice, however. We also see systems based on trust and transparency beginning to replace or supersede commercial exchanges. One example of this is Couchsurfing, a web platform for travelers who can stay at people’s houses rather than in hostels. People have profiles which include ratings on all past interactions. Trust may become the most important currency in the future – it is something that has evaporated from our current social institutions.
Which country do you believe is closest to achieving all this goals and why?
I don’t really believe in “countries” honestly. I would like to see borders dissolved as humanity realizes itself to be one family, one community, or what author Robert Wright called a “planetary super organism,” and reconstitutes itself as such. Here and there we find some examples of things that are working now – or have worked in history. I think it is cool that Sweden has developed recycling to the point it is now important garbage from other countries. It seems there are successful social experiments in Brazil and other countries in South America. I think it would also be good to build relationships between the postmodern world and indigenous cultures that have mastered long-term sustainability like the Kogi and Aruak in Colombia. Hopefully the ecological crisis will function as an initiatory catalyst to awaken humanity to its true potential, and to make a jump from competition and domination to cooperation and love as our basic social paradigm. My hope is that this happens soon, in my lifetime, so I get the chance to experience it – and in fact I think the likelihood is very high that this will be the case.
My friends Johnny Maroney and Brent Paul Pearson of Future Eyes recently interviewed me for this whimsical short film. They asked me several thought-provoking questions concerning humanity’s evolution of consciousness.
From the film: “William Blake talks about how the imagination is not just a state, but it’s the human existence in itself … . maybe whatever we can imagine or what is imagined through us is a possible condition we can create, so maybe our future is to unleash the imagination to its full potential.”
Speaking about Oscar Wilde’s “The Soul of Man Under Socialism”: “The future of humanity lies in everybody having that opportunity to develop that individuality to the fullest, and the way to do that is to liberate people from unnecessary economic insecurity by giving everyone a similar stable foundation to live.”
Dec 5th, 2013