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Societal Appreciative Inquiry: re-thinking human dignity and sustainability for re-inventing society

24 May 2012 by

In the dark plenary hall of the Ghent Convention Centre the album cover of Hotel California appeared, along with the beautiful tones of the Eagle’s evergreen. The audience sang along in a harmonious karaoke:

Mirrors on the ceiling,
the pink champagne on ice
And she said
we are all just prisoners here, of our own device’

Klaas van Egmond appeared on stage, obviously a professor, an environmental scientist, telling us that the Eagles meant that our devices – our greed – have caused the emergence of materialistic patterns in our (Western) civilizations. Unfortunately, as the song tells us:

… gathered for the feast.
They stab it with their steely knives,
but they just can’t kill the beast.

Klaas van Egmond argues that we must re-think and reflect upon human dignity and sustainability in order to re-­invent society. He has learned that the solution for the sustainability problem has to be found in social and cultural dynamics, rather than in technological development only. We must study our values first, as these determine the economic, financial and societal systems.

Van Egmond sketched a brief history of the Western Civilization. We have failed to stay between the lines. Our lack of consensus in the understanding of human nature has allowed society to degenerate into its own caricature and associated catastrophe. Instead of a focus on balance, reconciling the controversies, we generated a one-sided version of specific human values.

But there is always hope. Only last night, the Dutch parliament succeeded to draft a new approach including all political parties! For once, the adversaries chose to collaborate in designing a common future. Working with partners from opposite ends automatically results in a virtuous centre….

Klaas van Egmond sees an important role for appreciative inquiry. The ultimate truth is knowing by compassion. This implies that people must engage in connection, emphatically inquiring for the matters that worry, the dreams that inspire. It gives recognition and inclusion, establishing new societies at a higher level of complexity, able to face the challenges at hand. The collective outcomes of AI-findings will bring humanity at a higher level, aligning technologies with the dignity of mankind.

Sustainability implies skills to stay out from the periphery. We can check out anytime we like, but we can never leave!

Written by: Marcel van Marrewijk (author of the Cubrix). This article was originally published on the 2012WAIC website on April 28, 2012.

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