11 February 2019
Have you ever heard of unlearning
? Our world
views, our mental models, are shaped by our education, but also by our personal
experiences, opportunities, communities, cultures, societies and psyches. These
are increasingly in the control of the financial system. In our financial
system where financiers move to new frontiers of ownership, financial value is
being created through the production of scarcity via commons privatised, and as
a result, production of poverty. And one can see the same happening in
education and the intellectual space that we all hold. Mental environmentalism,
if you will. I will go back a few steps to make my point.
An excellent example is the manicured garden (like the one in the image above).
This is a great metaphor used by Alex Dunedin in his article "Education, Utopia, Necessity, and Existential Poverty
He used this as a backdrop to his main argument about education - "one of
seeping abundance which is actually a creeping desertification".
The commonly manicured garden is dominated by a lawn usually sterilised by a
single (usually genetically-modified) species of grass, neatly lined up bulbs
and plants of alien species that flower but produce no fruit, purely
ornamental. Nearly all presence of 'unathorised' plant and animal species are
sterilised and eradicated from the habitat. If we observe this over time, we
can notice that the insect life, the soil biome, the indigenous animals and
plants are imposed upon, uprooted, excluded and destroyed. The garden is closed
up, keeping everything outside out, it is sprayed with herbicides, fungicides
and insecticides. The perennial colonial country garden, as Dunedin puts it, is
not a scene of abundance but instead the displaying colours of an environmental
and existential holocaust.
This serves as a metaphor of what is happening in our "socio-intellectual
and cultural context as hegemonic monocultures act to homogenise the diverse landscape"
according to one world view/mental model.
The founder of General Semantics, Alfred Korzibski, said that "all human
knowledge is conditioned and limited, at present, by the properties of light
and human symbolism" and that the "solution of all human problems
depends upon inquiries into these two conditions and limitations".
Right now, as we stand, the same knowledge between two people might not be seen
with the same merit. This undervaluing of knowledge exists in many forms. For
instance, look at the issue of women with the same skills and knowledge as men
being paid less or not considered for positions on the basis of their gender.
The skills and capabilities they have are the same as men and have not been
deconstructed; they have also not overtly been told that women are not as
valuable. What has taken place has occurred in an esoteric way. We can argue
the same for individuals who have come from different universities, or if
someone has not gone to university at all versus someone who does (but has the
same knowledge). Of course, we do not want to give special positions to people
in society who do not hold the necessary skills. However, if unattainable
finance, for instance, has precluded an individual from taking part in an
opportunity to attain some form of bureaucratic qualification (but not
necessarily the knowledge or skills) then the "process unvalues them by
shifting the axis of education from a meritocratic base to one of arbitrary
advantage and good fortune".
This is important to consider in our current economic system. We live in a
world which has concentrated financial wealth in the hands of a few.
Economically, we are recreating a feudal hierarchy which defines opportunity
for everyone else. As wealth increases and concentrates, particularly through
financial instruments, investment concentrates power and shifts value systems
towards profit. A good example of this is the power that banks such as
Barclays, JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank had over food futures in the 1990s
and the result of artificial inflation of the price of staple foods and
the resultant creation of famines
. This is highly relevant because
education, and knowledge (and who is valued as having knowledge) has now become
an investment target. This has been spoken about for decades
There is push back around this, with alternative Universities propping up that
are student-focused, holistic, critical and embedded in systems thinking. But
we need to think about these things - what are we currently teaching, and
learning? And what do we need to unlearn to move forward?
[Image Source: http://houstonhospitalityla.com/manicured-gardens-woking/