We live a New Age of Enlightenment
(Part. 2)

The first part of this article briefly outlined the historical framework for the ensuing discussion. Now we would like to draw a few guidelines to sustain the reflection in order to support the emergence of the current humanist mindful movement.

Bear in mind that this exercise is neither a moral judgment nor an omen for the future but carries an alternative perspective that does not exclude an optimistic vision. It is within this framework that we have entered the next chapter.

  1. France’s position of influence in the World has evolved

France is not holding the same position as she was. At the beginning of the 18th century, France was the first World power, close to England, and therefore was extremely influential. French language was spoken throughout the European royal courts and the art of living “à la Française” was unavoidable as a model. All these factors contributed greatly to the widespread of the Enlightenment movement born in France to England, Prussia and the rest of Europe. Popular rally was strong and fast and led to what would be called today a critical mass.

The current geopolitics are very different. France no longer holds a similar influence. Globalization has totally reshaped the balance of power, the positioning of nations and has designated new bearers of power.

Moreover we cannot think in terms of ‘Countries” anymore; an essential pivot in the power dynamics has led to seeing “Enterprise” being more powerful than “Countries”.

2. Habits are More Powerful than Laws

States no longer hold power and by extension neither politicians (nor laws) do. Though this statement may sound radical, borderline overbearing, it is not that far from reality. We have been witnessing the almost desperate — though seemingly legitimate — attempts by politicians to regain control over Corporations including when the Congress auditions Facebook on Cambridge Analytica or when the European Commission endeavors to have Google pay billions of dollars in fines for tax noncompliance…We have been witnessing a power struggle.

Now, It is evident that this struggle is in favor of global corporations. A few examples include Amazon auditioning the main US cities to settle their 2nd Headquarters, Europe releasing 1.5 billion Euros Fund for AI research programs against 15 billion Euros pledged by Alibaba to fund 8 AI research centers. It is proven that corporations have become more powerful than States.

Because of their means but also and above all their ability to create new habits, and so impact our way of life, corporations do politics (from ‘polis’: the city). They create new habits that have a real impact on our daily behaviors, at times much more than political decisions. But corporations have — in exchange — no obligation to invest for the common good, no assignment to a social mission, no duty to social responsibility.

Would not it be so much easier if Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos had been the Mindful faces of the world? The world then would have been changed.

So, Game is over? GAFAM have the power? End of story…

…Not quite.

3. Changing habits is not a matter of will … nor investment

In the same way that none of these structures existed 20 years ago, the world could be shifting again — within a generation. It remains to be seen in what direction and how.

Very schematically, influence can be exerted in two ways:

1. Being able to “hold the pen” to write the future in which we want to evolve.

2. Become large enough to weigh in the public space and thus influence those who “hold the pen”.In other words: create a new request to modify the offer itself.

The first point deserves a specific development — which we will do in part 3. For now, let us develop the second point. The question is “How to become large enough?”.

To do this, let’s have a look at Silicon Valley, which has been theorizing for almost 20 years on this issue. Companies in Silicon Valley no longer have to prove their ability and excellence to create new uses and habits in our lives. The methodologies they have developed are based on two main concepts:

  • Find the “Early Adopters”
  • Reach Critical Mass

The biggest investment funds and Incubators will all tell you that you have to create a product that meets a very small minority of people and then grow. This is essentially the concept of early adopters, the first users of a solution.

Often they are a small minority. We have in mind the origins of Facebook which mere ambition was to be a digital photo-book for Yvy League Universities or Amazon that was only delivering books, Netflix — cds and Uber operating only in San Francisco on Saturdays between midnight and 3am.

If we parallel these with citizens movements, conscious consumerism has already found their early adopters for years! So why these movements remain minorities, and did not scale?

4.Coming out the early adopters phase to widen your audience

This is where the stakes are: growing from the early adopters phase to the critical mass phase, the latter will then lead to the creation of new standards thanks to the development of its network. For instance, it’s because the majority of your network is using WhatsApp that it seems only convenient to use WhatsApp too which then becomes the new standard for instant messaging.

There are a number of ways to reach this critical mass. Social networks such as WhatsApp are one.

The solution is not simplistic but the question has to be raised in those terms as it remains stigmatized within the mindful communities.

Let’s not forget that the French Revolution was not made by the philosophers themselves but by the people who — inspired by this thought — began to believe in the notion of Freedom and fought for it — unfortunately with a lot of violence and excess.

This should help us think about the current movement in a very inclusive way. It is vital to step out of one’s self and venture into unearned circles.

Let’s divide the population in 3 concentric circles:

  • At the Center: Circle 1 being the ‘convinced or sympathizers’,
  • At the edge, Circle 3: the ‘reluctant ones or opponents’;
  • And in between, Circle 2: the ‘compatibles’.

According to studies, this circle 2 represents approximately 30% to 50% of the population.

These 30% or 50% of the population are all people in search of meaning, who want to contribute positively to the world, who want to have a

positive impact including a more responsible consumption. These people are everywhere amongst the population, and we have to find ways to empower them.

5. Language sets the Imagination

Words have a power often neglected; they set the imagination. One of the main reasons for the failure of the environmental movement is its inability to create a common/ universal narrative — which by definition starts with the good use of words.

Climate Change, Global Warming, Sustainable Development, or even today the term “Mindfulness” are obscure and technical, words. The challenge is not to reach out to insiders only (early adopters) but indeed to speak to a larger group, to be inclusive, to create a positive narrative in which people can and are willing to meet.

This way there is no need to compromise between being mindful and having a large scale impact.

In order to do so, it is crucial to use the leveraging tools of our time and to not be afraid to ‘market’ our mindful values, take ownership of our ambitions, and celebrate new models of success.

Let’s not be exclusive of each other and spread unashamedly our vision. These are the secrets of the success of the Enlightenment thought and too often a taboo in the world of Mindfulness.

Obviously, the path to full consciousness is an internal process and a very personal journey, that is not — by definition — there to convince the other. Having said that, Voltaire wrote more than 20,000 letters to spread his thoughts — that is spam for our times! The Enlightenment movement used the tools of communication of its times, and we feel we must do the same.

250 years ago liberalism emerged as the new economical paradigm, and spread successfully due to its alignment with a new belief system called the Enlightenment. These philosophical and economical paradigms were based on the same principles :

Individuality : each individual is independent and free to think or create, and

Technology : progress is the source of wealth and happiness.

250 years later, facing major social and environmental challenges, we are in need of a new economical paradigm called “Sustainable Development”. However, we need to change the underlying belief system, so this new economical model can succeed. Unlike Liberalism, this paradigm is based on two new principles :

Collaboration: we are inter-beings and belong an eco-system, and

Emotion : progress alone is not the answer. We need to connect emotionally to ourselves, so we can interact positively with our eco-system.

To do so, I see 4 divers of change :

  • Education, specifically toward kids
  • Content, and Storytelling to spread new narratives
  • Behaviors, and positive habits to sustain change
  • Experiences to foster emotional shifts

Indigo is a Venture Lab dedicated to Mental Health and Inner Transformation. www.labindigo/com

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