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Change Our Story

Composer, author and philanthropist Peter Buffett on finding your own path to life fulfillment.


We Can Do Better Than This

Peter Buffett, son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, is an Emmy Award-winning composer, NY Times best-selling author and noted philanthropist. Currently, he is releasing socially-conscious music and touring his "Concert & Conversation" series in support of his book Life Is What You Make It.
 
evolution of man 

As I will probably say in many blogs, I’m all too aware that there are people that know way more than I do regarding just about everything I write. Generally, I’m just making observations as a casual but curious (and concerned) bystander. Often I find that my thoughts about a lot of things haven’t changed that much from when I was, say, 4 years old.

So with all that being said. This is what my 4-year-old self thought this week:

I’m surprised that we’re not further along in our development as humans.

We’ve all heard the old, “If they can put a man on the moon, why can’t we have ...” (Something like – “shorter lines at the DMV?”)

But seriously, we’ve gone through some ice ages, fought a gazillion wars, built pyramids, and come up with a bunch of math and science and amazing art. We can put a man on the moon.

We can fly thousands of planes around the world safely everyday and build a network of satellites that move ridiculous amounts of data.

So why are we still calling each other names, trying to hoard all the stuff, and shooting each other?

Is this it? Can you really call the last few thousand years progress? If you’ve been reading earlier blogs, you know I’m a fan of indoor plumbing. And refrigeration is handy. There are plenty of things about our march towards the future that are nice to have around. But we’re still treating each other the same way that we have for a really long time.

Now I use “we” pretty generally. There’s no question that there are pockets of cultures and communities that were not constantly beating each other up in some way. But, on balance, I’m not seeing a great improvement in compassion and respect over time. 

What’s the story? I don’t want to believe that this is it—human nature, etc. I want to believe that we have some evolution left in us.

At this moment, we are the custodians of our future. This is a relatively new concept in its totality. Sure, we know most indigenous communities have a deep understanding of how their actions will effect future generations. But let’s face it: it’s easy to have that worldview when you aren’t facing problems on a global scale. Things are different now. So we have to behave differently. And we’re not.

And because we’re not, we’re going to quite possibly kill our children’s children. Does that get the point across? Do you care about your children’s children? Or will it be enough that you’re off the planet and you got yours?

I think that’s pretty much the world we’re living in. And, again, I use “we” generally. There are billions of people that have no real say in the matter. But we’ll probably kill their children’s children, too.

We’ve got some serious story changing to do.

I think some radical shifts in thinking have to occur. The good news is that we probably behaved pretty well in our deeper past. I actually think human nature is a pretty loving and kind nature. It’s culture that gets in the way. A culture is dead when a set of beliefs kills. And we have a lot of killing going on. And sometimes in very subtle ways.

I think placing blame just feeds the beast. That’s pretty obvious. So what do we do? All say “truce,” lay down our arms, cash in our stocks, shake hands, and have a party? Oh right— my 4-year-old voice can only take me so far.

And John Lennon and Yoko Ono thought of that in the '70:

War Is Over
If You Want It.

I hope we get some folks talking back here. Or over at Change Our Story. I’m not the “end of the world” type. But there are all sorts of graphs that show really terrible things happening if we don’t change our behavior quickly. There’s been a long search for unifying theories—it’s a classic quest. Can we find one that works for mankind?

What do you think? Share your story at changeourstory.com. Visit www.peterbuffett.com to learn more and Change Our Story to join the conversation on how we all can become active participants in shaping our future.  

Image courtesy of DaMenace through Uncyclomedia Commons.

 

 

 

ken melville
12/14/2012 10:17:15 AM

I like that you're asking the right questions! I'll add some: How can we break the classic cultural manipulations that keep us desperate and at each others' throats? The Catholic Church learned that by regulating and controlling peoples' sex lives through fear of hell and stake burnings, they gained awesome power over their lives and could turn that into a global mega-business. The Republican Party learned that by feeding voters hate spew over hot-button cultural issues, they could get voters to vote against their own economic interests. Advertising works on the same principles, and wars are sold to entire populations using the same principles. Humans are easily manipulated en masse by tapping their most base emotions. So how can we break these puppet strings forever? How can we self-evolve right now and become free, loving individuals without war and fear and hatred? Probably from each other. Stop judging and start accepting the other guy for who he is. Because I'm the way to get to you, and you're the way I get to me. We need each other to evolve and become happy. Problem is right now, most of us believe we only need Jesus or granite countertops or a Lexus or a bullet in that terrorist to be happy. Good luck with that.


pity add
12/10/2012 8:42:24 PM

I actually think we are doing BETTER in regard to how we treat each other than our ancestors did. If you actually look at the realities of our ancient past, and how "primitive" still tribal folk still live today, you see a LOT of violence, vengeance, vendettas, oppression of women. Some few nationalities escaped this fate, but they really are few and far-between. If you look at how primate tribes co-relate you will pretty much see the way our natures are structured. Yet we fight the brutality in our natures constantly. We deserve a lot of credit for that. It's not easy, and it ain't pretty but we do not give up the fight to always be better. I think we are pretty cool. (The wonderful book 'Generosity & Jealousy,' by Christopher Lindholm, is a marvelous exploration of our natural desire for altruism in the harshest of circumstances.)


valerie taylor
11/30/2012 9:09:50 PM

I Have some cathartic ranting to do and this seems like the right forum for it- brace yourselves :) There certainly is a lot wrong with the human sphere of today as well as the stagnation of our cultural evolution as a whole that has been an issue for quite some time now. People do need to shift their thinking into a more generous direction; to become more mindful that their lives are bigger than themselves and the relatively small social sphere in which they live day to day. People need to stop disregarding the potential impact that an individual can have- both for the positive and the negative. I personally am tired of hearing about the 99% versus the 1%, not because I disagree with the premise, but because I think there's a certain amount of displaced blame going on. I do believe that there is something morally wrong with amassing (and hoarding) the amount of wealth that would put one in the 1% economic sphere of individuals; that it is unconscionable to have so much when so many people suffer for a lack of a basic means for survival. I also believe that it is by the greed-driven decisions of many in the 1% that our economic, ecological, and social present and futures have gone into such a tailspin. However, I don't think that all these things must stand because the majority of FINANCIAL resources are held by 1% of the population. The only way that so few can have such power over so many is if the many are persuaded to feel impotent, when in reality they hold all the cards. That's the cause the 99% should rally around. People need to be made to understand how much power they really have as individuals. That their voices don't fall on deaf ears. That every impact, however seemingly small, is immeasurably meaningful to those who benefit from it. Big change starts small, with you, with me, with all of us. Creating change is a personal responsibility. An individual responsibility. Not one to be set aside until it's more personally convenient or until a bigger group has amassed to do the legwork. Now, I'm not discounting the importance of working with large, well-established non-profit groups and organizations that work toward positive social/economic/ecological change; but one needn't feel that their only chance to make a difference is to join in on large groups such as those. People can forge their own paths. We have innumerable options to make a difference. I think what my rant has come down to is that if anything is to positively change in the world as a whole, blame needs to stop being redistributed up and down the economic ladder. That blame, in and of itself, needs to stop being focused on. It's too unproductive and too deeply intertwined into too many different facets of life to be a useful tool in guiding change. Emboldening the individual to be an impetus of positive change is the only way to see any broad, positive impacts on our present and our "children's children's" futures. That was a good rant. I feel a little better now- VT


stewart brennan
11/28/2012 11:56:47 PM

“We can do better than this” of course we can, but to make the real changes, one has to be serious about looking at alternative roads in life, and then making it happen. The solutions to all the global problems lay in stepping back and changing the picture as it were for one that is sustainable. To do that requires agreement from a majority of the wealthy 1%. If there can be an agreement where empathy, common sense, and working together to better mankind trumps profit, wealth and power then we will be well on our way to building a World free of war, poverty, starvation, and crime. The trick then becomes convincing a population that has been entirely programmed to function in routines to keep a monetary cycle going in exchange for a set of routines that are based on their advancement and the advancement of society…fear of change then becomes the hurdle to tackle. Change has always been the hardest thing for human beings to embrace. I know this first hand through my implementation of change through programs such as CPIM, ISO, and Kaisan in the manufacturing arena. Changing routines for the majority can be difficult but not impossible when planned right. I’m presenting this in a very simplistic way because I don’t have time to write a book about it here in this thread. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear…and that goes for willing students in the privileged class as well. Let us hope that time comes soon. Stewart


kevin schmidt
11/28/2012 10:36:22 PM

Peter! Great, thoughtful post. I am especially struck by the way in which we are not addressing Climate Change in any serious way, and you say "because we’re not, we’re going to quite possibly kill our children’s children. Does that get the point across? Do you care about your children’s children? Or will it be enough that you’re off the planet and you got yours?" And that is exactly I think the attitude of many in the top 1% and in the preponderance of members of the U.S. House of Representatives, (who would happily slash Medicare and Social Security to pay for further tax breaks for those who *don't need them*) and who, with their every action, beg the question, "Do you care about your children’s children?". Because your actions say you do not. And How much longer do we as a society allow this sort of inconsideration to impact what we do? How long do we tolerate these "leaders" who by their actions say "I've got mine, you are on your own".


dale napier
11/28/2012 9:13:45 PM

I agree that there is room for progress, but I am unwilling to concede the lack of progress over the millennia. Certainly we continue to evolve genetically. As a result I suspect we are far more different from our distant forebears that most people think. War exists on a greater scale due to technology, sure, but is it as pervasive? I doubt it. Hunger may be great in some places due to political dominance, but is it as pervasive, worldwide, as it used to be? Again, I doubt it. Do we all play well together? Certainly not, but in milennia past the only form of extratribal communication involved thrown spears; today the world, certainly our world, is more cosmopolitan and tolerant than anything conceivable in the past. Do we have a ways to go? Certainly. But to deny we have come a long way means ... needing new glasses.


walter paul bebirian
11/28/2012 8:54:01 PM

I don't know Peter - I wrote this blog post just yesterday that may or may not give you a different perspective and perhaps one answer to what you are asking: http://bebirianartthoughts.blogspot.com/2012/11/directions.html