Comments on Blessed Unrest

Just finished the book Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken. I will comment briefly here.

First, the book promoted me to think about what the social change would have been in the past for different cultures if it was carried out in peace.

To help you understand what I mean, let me elaborate a little. With technology breakthrough, the whole planet is becoming smaller and thus different cultures come closer to each other. A lot of collision happened when different cultures “discovered” each other. In reality, it had been a very bloody history. In the past, you won if you were better at killing people. The history of mankind was mostly driven by this force. Because this destructive force was so dominant, other peaceful forces (for example the force of knowledge or skills) cannot be fully functioning. That is why we don’t need any war, and we should live by peace.  Thus I try to imagine how the history would have been if people had dealt with each other peacefully when different cultures came closer to each other.

In peace time, history is driven by the real essential human needs. And it is from grassroots level, instead of being dictated by a few people (who get the power by being better at killing people). Imagine how different cultures (the Native Americans, the Africans, the east, the west) might have communicated and learned from each other if all the changes are happening during peace time. (The Native Americans’ agriculture society don’t have t be totally destroyed.)  It is too bad that we went through a very bloody period when different cultures encountered each other.  I believe it is possible for different cultures to learn from each other and adapt for its own interest if people are empowered (instead of letting the direction of the history being dictated by a few people who are just better at killing other people).

In this sense, Internet and web are helping making the peaceful force more powerful.

How this implies for China’s current social change? China is now going through a process of modernization. This process, for a large part, is also a process of westernization. Although you can say the process is mostly happening under peace (for example, there is no war), in reality non-peaceful force is still dominant in the society, thus preventing  real  peaceful forces from  functioning.  For example, let individuals decide what is best for themselves, what they want to learn. In this sense, it is not about eastern or western. It is about how to live better as a human being.

Other than these thoughts this book provoked,  here are some  good things I noted down about the book when I was reading along.

The book takes a more holistic view, treating the whole planet as an organism. This is very right. And I regard this as a self-reflection of the western culture.

The book uses biology as its major inspiration and draws a lot of analogies between human society and biology. This certainly should be appreciated. When I was studying biology, I was always fascinated by the wonder of nature and its implication for human being’s social life. For example, there are many kinds of cells in the body. What kind of cell a cell becomes is totally dependent on the environment it is in and all the stress and stretch that is applied to the cell.

The book pointed out the PLAYING is what this is about. (page 187). “Play is infinite game. Competition is finite game.” It is a weird way to put it, and really not very logical. But anyway.

It also points out LOVE too, saying this should be what human life is about.

I think he should add BEAUTY too. Playing, love, and beauty are the kind of forces that I referred above as the peaceful forces.

In general, I don’t feel this book is deep enough. It is kind of a mess in its logic. There are a lot of numbers, but not much making sense of the numbers. However, it would be useful to get to know some events that happened in each movement and some names of the people. The book is more like a summary of thoughts and ideas instead of  providing something new, a coherent view or framework. I had expected more.

For people who work in the same field, this book should provide a lot of info that you can look into to help build a complete picture. There are a lot of useful information in this book, and this book shouldnot be overlooked.


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