Empty Talk and Slow Transformational Change: On New Age Rhetoric

Marien explores why so little transformational change occurred when the New Age movement exploded and how empty talk halted the progress.

| Summer 1984

At the outset, I want to emphasize three beliefs that I share with many others: 

• Peace, freedom, equali­ty, justice, community, love, truth, health, beauty, frugality, self-reliance and self-fulfillment—despite frequent conflicts with each other—are all worthy goals, and should be pursued for all people worldwide.

• The old paradigms or ways of thought are obsolete; new and broader paradigms offer more promise for the intelligent conduct of human affairs.

• Hyper-industrialized societies are in deep trouble, as are "developing" countries seeking to follow their example; major changes will be necessary if we are to survive in any dignified fashion.

Although a transformation in values, per­ceptions and institutions is desirable, it is far from inevitable. Despite an urgent need, change in a humanly desirable direction may not be taking place at all, or may be taking place at such a miniscule rate so as to be irrele­vant. Indeed, I strongly suspect that the wide- spread belief in a transformation that is happening in fact keeps it from happening. We need reasonable hopes, of course. But making a religion out of social change—developing a body of unquestioned belief, derived from concern for the human condition and hope for a better world—only serves to deflect energies away from the hard work that must be done.

To illustrate, imagine that you are an agent of the FBI or CIA. You are called into the office of the Big Chief and informed that there may be a subversive movement afoot— some call it the Aquarian Conspiracy. It threatens the American way of life by seeking to disarm the U.S. and make peace with the Soviet Union, by redefining national security, by weakening the nation-state in favor of glo­bal peacekeeping, by weakening the global economy in favor of national and local self-reliance, by slackening U.S. participation in world competition for high-technology leader­ship, by encouraging individuals to be more self-reliant and not to consume as much, by promoting environmentalism at the expense of commerce, and by decentralizing economic and political power through wider participa­tion in corporate and community decision making. This is clearly subversive. Your mis­sion is to stop it. What should an effective agent do?