Transform the System Dialog


Transcript of the Interview with Bernhard Possert

What is “the system”?

Let’s say you’ve been baking a cake and you have it on the surface and you have a form, like a heart, and you’re pressing this heart on the dough and you put it in the oven and then you bake it. You’re making a border around it. I have the impression that our language uses these forms and presses them on the dough, on reality, and we’re saying this is the system and this is not the system. We’re making distinctions and more and more we only have economics and politics or whatever as part of the system. 

But the other thing is how we make relationships, how we use language, what we eat, how we buy, how we use public transport or not — all this is so much part of the system. It’s like the air around us. There’s a joke about a teacher of religion asking the class, “Can you show me where God is?” and I’ll give you a dollar if you can tell me. There was this clever lady who said, “I’ll give you ten dollars if you tell me where God is not.” That is my perspective at the moment. I’ll give you ten dollars when you tell me where the system is not because it’s so much around us that it’s part of the glasses that we’re looking through. I thought until [?] years ago that I didn’t really understand all this talk about feminism and gender equality and being sensitive about language, like “he” and “she.” And I was thinking that’s not very helpful and not very relevant. Only later I realized that language is one thing but the patriarchal system is so much a part of our everyday culture that we don’t even see it. The first thing is to really see what is there and how we prolong it. By not being attentive, we prolong the system. 

How should we transform it?

What I find interesting is that it’s like a basin of attraction so it’s [?] like probability is unevenly distributed. Not every state of the system would be possible. There are [phases?] of the system that are more likely that others. It’s like different potentialities that are there. My assumption at the moment is that if there is a purpose then the purpose is to keep some kind of balance and equilibrium but of course I hope, it may be a naive hope, that we can read history and be progressing along thermodynamic lines, like from Red to Blue to Yellow to Integral. Of course I hope we can read history like this, but I’m also skeptical that this is something we read into history. But that’s my hope of course. There is this quote from Ken Wilber when he says that when there is 10% of the next stage then the whole system moves with them. Of course that’s my hope. I’m trying to be naive and not naive at the same time.

Why should we transform it?

I think what we have in the so-called Western states is about a third of the population is progressive in the sense of integrating higher values like diversity, gender equality, LGBT, etc. I think the next turn is not going beyond that but is rather like integrating the other two thirds that have not come along. So I think that’s the next movement, not that we’re going even further and making [??]. It’s rather like bringing people along and learning to find a language that is not and some kind of community that is not us being better and they should behave and become like us. That’s my question, how can we do that? That will be the next transformation, but that’s not a good word for it. I mean we have been talking about the [??] countries establishing something of a middle class. And I think the term middle class was used as having a bourgeois frame of the world and having at least one car and having kids going to school regularly and having a garden and a dog.  There is this picture of bringing society to this middle class level. And my question is how can we bring this middle class to a state where they feel not threatened and they hopefully are not threatened and at the same time integrating them into some kind of high-competition society that is in transformation due to inter-penetration. That’s my big question. I have no clear answer.

Why do you think we should transform the system?
I have this strong sense of urgency. My wife always tells me that I'm thinking in scenarios and I'm always stressing the negative scenarios. So I'm always afraid what could happen. So one of my fears, at least for Austria, but I'm pretty sure it's the same for all Western countries, is that I'm afraid that we are losing at least a third of the population that fell out of the first job market — the first job market being where people are working and making money without subsidies by the state. So I'm afraid we're losing a lot of people because their education is not good enough for the challenges that we are having. So at least in Austria we are deleting many jobs that are simple that are taken away by some kind of automation, robots etc., which on the one hand is a good development. But on the other hand it would be better if these people had a better education. We are desperately needing well-developed, well-educated, high-cognitive, complex workers, but we don't have enough of them. And on the other hand we have people some of whom are still employed but they couldn't find a job if they lost it. And I'm afraid that even if we paid them some kind of basic income by the state, even then these people would feel alienated and not part of us. And that's my fear that these groups will fall back into some kind of resentment against minorities, Jews, LGBT, whatever. I'm afraid of like a tearing apart. 

And what are you doing to help transform the system?

Well one thing is, I hope you tolerate my metaphor, I use the metaphor of a noble [?], which I am. Being active on different sides simultaneously. On the one hand I'm doing my small contribution here. At the same time I'm coaching members of parliament of the People's Party how to talk, how to give speeches, how to argue their political case. By not only helping them learn how to play the system but also how to stay on course you have [??]. At the same time I'm working with a lot of nonprofit organizations here and helping them to adapt to the changes that are happening in the system and on the other hand helping them to articulate a societal political position that has validity for the next 10 years. At the same time as I told you before I'm developing a [?]. Maybe it's a futile endeavor but there is a minimal chance that this board game is really a way to make cognitive development [?], fun, effective, getting people reflecting more, seeing their own biases as well. On the other hand there is this development of this adults’ game and at the same time we're developing a similar game for kids. That's a little of what I see could be my contribution and what I'm trying to do.