Spiritual Crisis

There has been another long hiatus in my blogging, I am sorry.  Two readers have recently and separately told me how much they have appreciated these blogs and have helped me analyse why I stopped writing.

It is always easy to use the excuse of being too busy, and while there is some truth in that, it is not the reason.

The reason I have not been writing is that my view of my blog was always that it was not meant to be political.  Occasionally I would stray into politics and that was OK, but mostly they would be based on the leadership lessons that I had learned or observed in working with teams or individuals.

The political turmoil since June ’16 meant that the only lessons I had  in my head on a Monday morning were political.  Since my view of the blog was that it was not meant to be political, I would usually skip a week if the only thoughts I had were political.  Then weeks turned to months and months to over a year.

Today I would like to explore the experience since June ’16 and maybe it will resonate with a few of you and maybe it will offer some lessons in leadership and life.

Like many, the day after the EU referendum I was devastated and furiously angry, which is not an emotion I am familiar with.  I took out my anger on millions of innocent blades of grass while listening to punk.  I didn’t know how else to deal with it.

More recently I saw a video of Russell Brand describe the state we collectively are in as a “Spiritual Crisis” and that resonates with me.  My whole world view has been shaken by these events and I am still struggling to come to terms with it.

I observe myself wanting outside forces (like Russia) to be behind it, because that means it is not how people really think.

I observe myself turning to sports news to avoid dealing with the realities.

I observe myself turning to satire to be reassured by their skewering the “villains”

And in amongst these displacement and denial activities I try to make sense of it all and I think there are some insights.

1 – New Media – There is an interesting parallel with the Third Reich (I am always careful about invoking that one, so please bear with me).   One of the things that enabled the Nazis was their clever use of new media, particularly radio and cinema.  Joseph Goebbels the propaganda minister was one of the first to really utilise these technologies powerfully to program a population.

Is it possible that humans can be more vulnerable to messages that come through a new media channel?

Radio and cinema reached huge new audiences in the 1930s, people who had never been avid newspaper readers became radio listeners and cinema news reel watchers.  It is likely that newspaper readers had the antibodies to protect them from the propaganda, but those who were consuming news for the first time were vulnerable should someone choose to manipulate them, which is exactly what happened.

Scroll forward to 2016/17 and the new medium is smart phone based social media. People who had previously contented themselves with gossip and sports news, could suddenly be reached by propagandists as they scrolled through Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.  These news newbies had not built up their propaganda antibodies and were easily manipulated.

It now seems plausible that the Vladimir Putin was one of the first to see this opportunity when he was able to create convenient political turmoil in the Ukraine.  He then expanded the process to devastating effect in both the UK and the US.  He was not the only one.  Aaron Banks and Robert Mercer also seem to have funded substantial propaganda campaigns.

Although it is undoubtedly contentious (and potentially smug), there is some evidence that Brexit and Trump voters were somewhat less well educated than those who voted for the alternatives.  This might support the argument that those who were less well read were also more susceptible to the sophisticated propaganda that was reaching them repeatedly for the first time through these new channels.

2 – The First Maturity War

Inter country wars tend to be about conquest, whereas civil wars tend to be about the system of governance.   Partly as as result of the above propaganda, but the roots may be traceable back to 9/11 and the causes of that tragedy, we are now in a very different kind of conflict.

The conflict we are in can be interpreted as a conflict between maturity levels.

Slightly more than half of the adult population are at an “Independent” level of maturity.  At this level of maturity we tend to see life as competitive and every individual has to fight every other individual for success, recognition or status.  These individuals may band together into “tribes” or nations of people “like them” against people not like them.  Trust and vulnerability are rare experiences at this level of maturity.

Slightly less than half of the adult population mature from Independent to Interdependent.  This occurs through experiences of trust and vulnerability such as a high functioning relationship or team or traumatic experiences such as injury or accident. At this level of maturity trust and vulnerability are commonplace and deep collaboration is possible in relationships, teams and between organisations and countries.

Before the twin electoral shocks of 2016 it was easy to believe that we had reached a point where developed countries were largely run by people at an Interdependent level of maturity.  They proved that this was not inevitable.

The tension exposed by these elections, however they may have been rigged, is the conflict between those who believe in a deep and complete way in diversity, collaboration, interdependence and complex systems thinking and those who believe with the same intensity in mono culture, conflict, independence and linear cause and effect.

No one cannot see or understand the levels of maturity they have not yet reached.  As a consequence our working assumption is that they are like us.   An “Independent” individual would believe that others as are just as competitive as they are regardless of their maturity and, since they disagree, they must be on the opposing side.

For the most part this is not true.  We are not on the opposing side to those who want a fulfilling life with a sensible income, with security and safety and a responsible government – we are on the same side.  If we have different views about how we get there, we need a dialogue not a conflict.

And this perhaps, is the spiritual crisis.  Having spent our lives feeling that we have been working and contributing towards the greater good,  a chunk of the world’s population just threw it right back at us and said “NO – we have no interest in collaborating with you, we disagree with you on a fundamental level.”

So – what now?

We remind ourselves that every crisis gets precisely as deep as it needs to get for a critical mass of people to learn the lesson it is teaching us.

We remind ourselves that every country gets the leadership they deserve and that if we don’t like it, it is up to us to do something about it.

We act.

If any of my patient readers has access to a forum where I can speak to politicians about leadership, I would be very interested to explore it.

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Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

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Neil Crofts

+447803 774239



About Neil Crofts

Writer, coach and consultant on authentic business and authentic leadership. Neil has inspired and motivated hundreds organisations and thousands of individuals to their highest potential. Neil has written three published books and numerous e-books. Neil is a coach, facilitator and consultant helping people and businesses find their authentic purpose and use it to inspire and motivate them to be everything that they can be. Neil has raced cars, been self-employed, run a company and sold it, been employed by large companies, experienced growth and contraction at the heart of the dotcom boom, tried changing companies from the inside and from the outside as European Head of Strategy at internet consultancy/rock band Razorfish. Neil has been independent for over 10 years and delivered his Authentic Leadership message to a diverse range of business audiences including people at BP, Shell, Microsoft, Kraft Foods, MSN, Jamie Oliver, South Gloucestershire Council, National Blood Transfusion Service, KaosPilots Business School, Fashion company By Malene Birger, German technology company Eleven.
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5 Responses to Spiritual Crisis

  1. Michael says:

    Having read you blog, and subscribe to your Monday email for several years I have to tell you this latest post “Spiritual Crisis” underscores the problem extremely well but not in the way you intended. It is very obvious you are clueless to what is going on an why because you are twisting facts and fake news to make it support your narrative.

    To give you a bit of background on where I am coming from, I am a fairly well educated American who voted for Trump for reasons that are still valid today. I recommended to many of my British friends to vote against Brexit, and I want a universal healthcare system. I strongly oppose socialism, in almost all of its forms. This qualification is that I do believe in altruism, just not mandated social responsibility.

    So given that brief background let me address the points you make in your note. The news media is a propaganda tool, and is used by many different groups to manipulate the truth. This of course is what Donald Trump calls fake news. Even you in your blog make the bold statement Donal Trump voters are less educated implying that their view is invalid, and that your view is correct. Kind of like what Goebbels did for Hitler, “trust me I know what best”. This, by the way, is one of the reasons Hillary is not president because she says the same thing. Until you acknowledge that the press, on both sides of the political spectrum, and you are creating false narratives to fit the view they (you) want, your proposed solution will always meet great resistance. Why do you not try to listen to why people voted for Brexit, or Trump instead of trying to manipulate them to your myopic view of the world.

    Your second point on maturity is fundamentally correct in that people look to form tribes with like minded people. Some only want to win at whatever the cost, others just do not want to lose. This is not a human condition, this is throughout nature. What ultimately happens remains to be seen, however forced interdependence will never work. This is why both Brexit and Trump won in spite of the massive propaganda campaigns that have been and are being waged against them. You need to stop waging a war against people with real concerns and figure out how to help them instead of force them to do it your way.

    I will leave you with the following blog post I make last month talking about many of the same things you mention. My post is specifically slanted towards Americans, because as you mention, people want to belong to a tribe they need to understand the core values of the tribe.

    What Binds Us
    Following on from a request I made in an earlier post, I have been giving considerable thought to the question of what binds us together.
    I thought about how the United States was formed, what brought us together. I thought about how the military does it to build a cohesive force and I thought about how great leaders do it to build a company or country.
    In the case of the United States, there was a natural ground swell across the colonies against a totalitarian regime. I call it a natural ground swell, because at the time the free flow of information and ideas was not instantaneously ubiquitous as in today’s society. Military’s are interesting in that they are by nature totalitarian but they unite soldiers through providing a common goal. Whether the focus is on teamwork, and reliance on each other under the axiom that “the sum is greater that the parts”, or that “XX” is a common threat/enemy. Great leaders create a vision, and build a ground swell of support. Steve Jobs brought Apple back from near insolvency to the largest company in the world by inspiring people to be different and change the world.
    We are witness to a combination of all of these methods today when we look at the European Union. There was a natural ground swell of thought in the 1800’s about a United States of Europe. Pre WW2 the ground swell reached a point where European leaders where actively discussing the idea. After WW2 the Marshall Plan was used as a catalyst to speed up the growing view of a United Europe. The idea was to unify Western Europe with a common economy to put an end to the cycle of wars that had plagued the continent for over a thousand years and also use communism as the common threat or need for a unified defense. So the ties that bind the EU are centered on a common economy, and a common defense.
    Back to my original question, what binds us as Americans. I initially approached this as a quest for common core values, but after discussions about this and being told I was trying to control the narrative, or at least that I have a preconceived view of the answer I have concluded we have lost sight of our common values and are trapped between opposing ideologies that are trying to control the narrative by telling us what to think, and what something means.
    With the proliferation of the internet, the better understanding and manipulation of populations/society through propaganda, the transmogrification of our education system, and passive reaction to all of the above we have lost sight of what bound us together 240 years ago. The United States Declaration of Independence captured the specific reasons and I strongly suggest everyone read the full text but here I will only quote the second paragraph:
    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
    Now what this says to me maybe different from what it says to you, and is likely different from what the authors meant in 1776, but I do believe the principle behind the quote resonates with each of us in a similar way.
    We need to have constructive conversations about our differences. We need to work together for the common good of our society. I look at the current issues that are dominating the American landscape, from racial inequality, to sexual harassment, to universal healthcare and believe we are letting vocal components of society control the narrative and that no one is listening to one another. I am reminded of the quote:
    “All that is required for evil to succeed in the world is good people do nothing”
    I realize that use of the terms evil, and good can be a bit inflammatory so I edit it to this:
    All that is required for one view to prevail, is for people of the opposing view do nothing.
    This loses some of the impact of the original but it is based on something I learned in diversity training – Assume a good intent. I do not believe the opposing views are rooted in trying to actively, purposefully hurt others but to address a concern based on their perspective.
    So I ask again everyone to start a conversation. I do not care where, at church, at a ballgame, at lunch, at a party. Talk about your views and why you have them. Seek out someone who has an opposing view, seek to understand why they have the view they have. Do not try to convince them that they are wrong or that their view has this flaw or that flaw. Have the conversation to figure out what are your common values, what would bind you together.
    Help start our ground swell to understand and/or determine our common values that bind us together.

    • Neil Crofts says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful post Michael. As I wrote at the end we are all largely on the same side. We all want to find fulfillment, happiness, love etc. I accept that there is no such thing as objective reality and that even what passes for fact is usually opinion. However studying multiple sources for over a year does leave me with the conclusion that the manipulation of the elections in question was significantly and substantially different to the normal level of manipulation and that new media channels enabled this. Accepting this is not the same as saying that one side is better. What I am saying is that we were all manipulated and division was intentionally sown. I agree with you that we need to let go of the false distinctions that were deliberately created and focus on what is really important, like dealing with climate change.

      • Michael says:

        Neil, I too have thought about the manipulation of the elections a great deal since early in the US election cycle. I maybe too jaded, however I do not think it is any different than in previous (US) elections. Much like the sexual harassment issues, and questions of police control these issues have been very prevalent in our society, just not talked about. In a weird twist of logic this is one of the reasons I voted for Trump because I knew if he did maintain the blatant egomaniac persona it would force these discussions to the surface.

        The issue that we need to deal with is what are our common values, and as much as you and I can individually agree the real task is how to get our “tribes” to agree. This is a process that takes time, decades if not centuries as the EU is proving. This is game theory at its core, we need a win win solution and until all parties/tribes can figure that out for themselves it will be very difficult for the tribes to collectively agree.

      • Neil Crofts says:

        My reflection is that maturity, consciousness or perspective levels as described by theories like spiral dynamics or vertical development are far more significant in this conflict than ethnicity, gender, nation or any other type of diversity. For whatever reason, whether it is the aging population or manipulation or social media, the two key levels of independent and interdependent or red/blue and orange/green which represent roughly 45 and 30 % of the adult population respectively are quite suddenly in conflict. Before 2016 the independent level was largely letting the interdependent level that has run the western world since 2
        WW2 get on with it. In 2016 they took control back in a way which has poleaxed the interdependents.

  2. Michael says:

    Neil, I do not know what you are referring to in terms of spiral dynamics or vertical development but I agree with your last two points in that the majority of people do not worry about world politics or even local politics. Most people just want to have a simple life, a job, a family, and security. What we are seeing on a worldwide basis is a reaction to the perceived threat on ALL of those items. People in developed nations are finding it harder to find jobs that maintain their standard of living, family values are being transmogrified in the education system, and security to go to church, or ride a bike, or eat at a sidewalk cafe is no longer a given. One quote that I like underscores this “Order without liberty and liberty without order are equally destructive”. What I believe we are seeing especially in the US and Europe is the independent group tell the interdependent group there is to much liberty and too little order.

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