It’s time to reclaim the Golden Rule!

When we began this series of ‘Future Vision’ columns for Scotregen, the ‘credit crunch’ had yet to evolve in the period of austerity as we know it today. Although we all knew it would have eventual implications for those working in the voluntary and public sectors, at that time it was seen as a private sector recession, in cause and impact. A few years and a change of government later, the problem has been re-imagined as being about a ‘bloated’ and ‘wasteful’ public sector. The opportunity the challenge presented to re-imagine and re-engineer an enlightened public sector and society is becoming fractious and oppositional.

The consensus of shared concern between those operating along the crude lines of ‘public’ and ‘private’ is beginning to look fragile, if not discarded. Then we all shared concern around moving the workless into sustained, meaningful employment, now the debates are around exactly where future job losses should be. Projects once praised in these pages for their ability to tackle deep-rooted social problems are now, by some, seen as part of the wastefulness.

Power and Love

How timely then the visit to Glasgow of Adam Kahane, a member of the IFF and an international problem-solver and negotiator based at REOS Partners in South Africa. Adam talked to us about his experience of the Copenhagen summit on climate change. His insightful and practical analysis of the failure to translate shared concern into lasting change when harsh realities hit was more optimistic than perhaps our perceptions of the summit itself. At Copenhagen he observed two camps.

On the one hand, a Power camp, – nations who argued in terms of their need to be competitive in order to achieve their goals, alongside private sector companies concerned principally about profit.

On the other, what he called the Love camp, made up largely of third sector organisations and less economically developed nations, whose principal emphasis was on interconnectedness, wholeness, the health of the planet and its peoples. He defined Power as, ‘the drive to self realisation’ and Love, ‘the drive to unity of the separated’.

So often, these fundamental features of human systems are viewed as opposite, leading to impasses when trying to address our more difficult challenges.

The Love camp views the Power camp as irresponsible and oppressive, while the Power camp sees the Love camp as impractical and unrealistic. So far, so familiar to our current predicament.

Choosing only Power or Love means we tend to get stuck. To usefully address our most complex challenges, such as how to re-imagine our public services, we need to find ways to choose both. How?

He suggests three actions: If you prefer Power, seek the drive to unity, if you prefer Love, seek the drive towards self realisation. Work on strengthening our weaker drive, not diminishing our strong one. The aspiration is to use all of both. Practice both until they become aspects of the same thing.

To this we add a fourth. Remember that the golden rule is not, “he who has the gold makes the rules” but rather, “treat others as you wish to be treated yourself.” The rest is just detail.