I first read about the large but invisible group of culture changers known as cultural creatives in 2000 when Paul Ray’s and Sherry Ruth Anderson’s book, The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World, hit book stores. I believe I heard about the book on a CBC radio show, but I can’t be sure. What I can be sure of is the electric shock of recognition I felt when I heard the authors describe their research into a sizable but largely invisible segment of Americans whose values set them apart from mainstream culture.
Paul Ray is a sociologist who has been studying human values through surveys for most of his career. His writing and life partner, Sherry Anderson, is a psychologist who specializes in in-depth interviews. In their own words they tell us:
We had a good time writing this book together. This surprised everyone we know. They asked: Are you divorced yet? Are you still talking to each other? In fact we were worried too. We wondered how in the world we were going to reconcile our two voices and different professional backgrounds to tell the story of a very big new baby on the cultural scene.
That big baby is the diverse group of people Anderson and Ray call cultural creatives. The values of cultural creatives set them apart from the materialistic values promoted by our dominant culture. For an in-depth exploration of these values, see pages 8 to 15 of the 2000 paperback edition of The Cultural Creatives. I hope the following brief discussion of their findings inspires you pick up the book and read it thoroughly.
Ray and Anderson found that topping the list of cultural creatives’ values is authenticity, that is, the alignment of our beliefs with our actions. The pursuit of authenticity leads many of us to leave lucrative jobs in order to pursue those activities that are in line with our social, spiritual, and environmental values. We want congruence in our lives, that feeling at the end of the day that we have been who we mean to be in large things and small and that we have contributed to the well being of the world by doing what we do and being who we are.
Next they discovered the engaged action and whole process learning evidenced by small-groups who fueled and fuel the transforming energies we see in all the closely interwoven movements of our time: the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement, the Environmental Movement, the Peace/Nuclear Disarmament Movement, and, most recently in Occupy Wall Street activities, the Economic Justice Movement. The individualism of dominant culture – think any self promoting entertainer or politician whose value of celebrity over positive social action and daily reciprocity creates a blinding glamour distorting the hollowness of taking without giving back – is replaced by the loving, fair, and life affirming interchanges of people committed to the goals of social justice and human betterment within a sacred non-human environment that is valued for its own sake.
Tied into these two primary values are idealism and activism, what in the sixties and seventies we called walking our talk. Listening, reflecting, speaking, and doing – seeing those transformations that benefit all humankind and working toward a vision of harmony and peace – is at the heart of every culturally creative life. Slowly, we wean ourselves from the notion that change is something someone else makes, we find our working partners, and we summon the courage to toss our hats and our hearts into the omnipresent ring of life.
Anderson and Ray found that cultural creatives value globalism and ecology, not the corporate globalism that is currently imposing its extractive economy on every part of the earth’s surface, but the global view that makes us ask important questions about the origins of the “goods” we purchase: Where did this come from? What impact on people and the earth has it had in its creation? Who profits from its existence? When I am finished with this, where will it go? How can I find an alternative way of meeting this need? Cultural creatives love the Earth – not sentimentally, but with our thoughts, actions, habits, and reflections. We want our lives to express our mindful reverence for the interconnected web of life of which we are a small but significant part.
One of the distinctive markers of this group, one that sets it apart from the groups the authors call the Traditionalists and the Moderns, is its overwhelming respect for feminism. Sixty percent (at least in 2000 when the book was first published – this number may be larger now) of all cultural creatives are women, perhaps because women’s relational way of being in the world is high on the list of cultural creatives’ values. This is a ‘power with’ movement’ rather than a ‘power over’ one, and the men who self identify as cultural creatives also espouse feminist values, understanding that economic, political, and social equality for women is good for our families, our communities, and our planet.
Finally, spirituality is of vital importance to cultural creatives. Saying yes to altruistic acts that strengthen the interconnectedness of all life is an expression of the cultural creatives’ desire to be of service to others. Cultural creatives have replaced the dominant culture values of individualism and ruthless competition with the spirit of cooperation, compassion, and grass roots empowerment. Love motivates cultural creatives’ actions and being, love for our fellow humans, love for our other-than-human relatives, and love for our planet Earth.
If, as you read this brief description of cultural creatives’ values, you find yourself resonating with these ways of being in the world, you can find a copy of The Cultural Creatives at your local library, order a copy through your local bookstore, or search the website at www.culturalcreatives.org. Anderson and Ray have updated the statistics on this largely invisible group of culture changes and have predicted their participation in an emerging wisdom culture that will help us to address what Ray has called the “Cascade of Crises” plaguing our time.
Because cultural creatives are creating a life affirming culture in countless diverse ways, its is inevitable that many of its members are exploring and implementing alternatives to the dominant culture’s view of aging and old age as a disease requiring medical-model interventions. When I first discovered their book, I was seventeen years older than when I wrote Under the Moon, a novel about the frustrations of being commodified and pathologized as we age. Discovering that I was a member of a group 50 million strong – even though I couldn’t see this group because of the dominant culture’s ownership of media and its dismissal of cultural creatives’ values – gave me and continues to give me great hope regarding our ability to transform our current isolating and exploiting long-term-care system into a global implosion of small communities where people are not segregated by race, age, or economic status but form naturally diverse ways of living together sustainably.
Now, as I stand on the brink of bringing out a second edition of Under the Moon, I am confident that I am not alone in my vision of a community approach to inter-generational living that will bless young, middle aged, and old alike. If you are involved in an innovative, inter-generational community that is pioneering new ways of living together sustainably, joyfully, and imaginatively, please share your story with us. We are always empowered by stories of alternatives to our business-as-usual way of living and dying. And, when we become discouraged and feel that transforming the way our culture views aging is too challenging a project, we have EFT to restore our optimism and buoyancy.
We know that compassion fatigue, what some call burn out, hits us when our energies are depleted by long working hours in workplaces that fulfill their profit and production mandates but ignore the essential fact of human creativity and individual resourcefulness. Problems seem insurmountable and solutions non-existent in institutions that place a high priority on efficiency and measurement. We want to participate in our chosen fields, and yet our professional commitments often come at the high price of surrendering our best selves to the professions’ unspoken policy to resist change and diversity. Happily, a daily practice of EFT helps to restore our optimism in a very short time, even as we enter the fray daily.
People frequently wonder what to say when tapping. Telling the emotional truth is at the heart of good EFT practice. If we are tackling something as deeply entrenched as the current long-term-care approach to aging – whether we are residents, family members, staff, or administrators – we might say phrases such as, “I am so discouraged; I feel I’m never going to find others who share my vision of a different way to live at every age; I wish the world were different; I don’t want to end up in a place whose staff assume I’m sick because I’m old; I’m afraid of becoming vulnerable to the current system; I don’t want my loved ones drugged out of their minds; I don’t want to be drugged or tied down; I don’t want to eat institutional food; I don’t want to be locked up; I’m just so angry about the lack of humanity here.” These or similar thoughts inevitably cross our minds when we think about the dominant culture habit of warehousing older adults in the name of safety and over-medicating residents in the name of convenience. Tapping on whatever fears we feel, whatever rage, whatever hope, whatever visions will free up the energy we need to keep on keeping on.
We can and are changing the medical/disease approach to aging. We begin changing this approach when we reflect on how we’d like life to be for those we love and for ourselves. Finding partners and acting on our visions adds the power of authenticity to our work. This is why so many cultural creatives are already visiting nursing homes regularly, introducing ourselves to staff, advocating for residents, and meeting with friends to discuss alternatives to such homes. Knowing that 90 million people, according to Ray’s and Anderson’s most recent research, are involved in the process of transforming our culture makes the work we have to do so much more exciting.
It is important to add a positive round of tapping once we’ve addressed our rage and negativity. Tapping for the positive consequences of transformation is a wonderful practice. This positivity can be expressed in any number of ways: “I can see so many improvements since I’ve begun visiting (or working in) this residence.” “I trust that the focused energies of so many creative people will help us to manifest small communities in which we all – young and old – can thrive.” “Life is meant to be joyful, and I feel more joy as I participate in changing this situation for the better.” These and other positive statements that accurately reflect the slow but steady transformation of our monocultural, institutional mindsets help us to settle into the cautious and persistent optimism so many cultural creatives feel as we live our daily lives.
Sherry Anderson and Paul Ray confirm we are indeed the people we’ve been waiting for. Reading their collection of stories and statistics we know with absolute certainty: the wait is over, the work is before us, and we are, at 90 million strong, equal to the task.
Until next week