Thursday, October 16, 2008

A New Kind of Question

A dazzling and disbelieving display of “dumb and dumber” is how I’d describe the anxious “crisis-management” and “problem-solving” of the international community faced with its current financial meltdown. Every economist, market guru, head of state or politician I’ve heard seems to be hurrying and scurrying to fix something that is inherently flawed, panicking to preserve a history of consumerist entitlement, a legacy of exploitative grasping and hoarding that is never going to be sustainable. Is there no alternative? Isn’t this hurrying and scurrying simply changing the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic? No one I’ve heard seems to be asking the hard questions, the real questions. We seem to be simply reactionary, stuck.

The crisis we face is a crisis of a “solution deadlock” (Brian McLaren). We’re trying to madly force/squeeze something different from the same old same questions, something new from the same old same stinky-thinking. A new kind of question is needed:

“... one of our first and most important activities will be to ask a new kind of question, because the right questions cause people to think rather than react. Perhaps questions like these can dislodge us from our conceptual ruts and ideological reactions - and inspire some creative imagination: what benefits will come to the rich if the poor are better off? what dangers and negative consequences will follow for the rich if the poor are not better off?... what kind of world will we who are comparatively rich and powerful bequeath to our children and grandchildren if we do not redirect our energies from accumulation, and self-protection toward compassion, service and equity? And what kind of world will we bequeath to future generations if equity becomes our sacred passion and personal ambition?" Brian McLaren, 2007, Everything Must Change.

Something fairer, something new is possible with these alternative questions: what could our global economies look like if these were the questions that drove our financial markets? what could our international community look like if these were the questions the politicians debated? what could our local churches and neighborhoods look like if these were the questions that framed how/where we lived in community? what could these questions mean for how we see others/ourselves/the planet we share?

Try them on for size today.

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