Podium: Pioneers, prospectors and settlers

Podium: From a speech by a co-ordinator of the New Economics Foundation given to the Seeds of Change discussion group in London
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
HOW DO we approach the new millennium? Many organisations and activities try to predict it. Not only has chaos theory shown how difficult prediction is, the attempt ignores our capacity to create the future. As Walt Disney said, "If you can dream it, you can do it."

In the past, we might have relied on the dreams of others - Martin Luther King for example. Now we must dream for ourselves. As Charles Handy put it in The Empty Raincoat: "We cannot wait for great visions from great people, for they are in short supply at the end of history. It is up to us to light our own small fires in the darkness."

But how do our "own small fires" make a beacon to light us into the next millennium? One starting point is to fit our individual values, visions and desires into one of three overall visions, based on "social value groups". The groups relate to the hierarchy of needs developed by humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow. His theory is validated by a database that has been developed over a quarter of a century.

We all have elements of each of these three visions, but one is likely to predominate. The first vision is that of the settler. The settler's fundamental needs are security and stability. This is achieved by high walls that keep out anything or anyone who is different, or threatening. Their paradise is full of "people like us'"and feels rather like Disneyland. They all follow the same set of rules. This includes being civil and respectful. Following rules gives them a sense of worth. They look to a higher authority to make the rules. They have a strong sense of nostalgia.

Second is the prospector. The prospector's fundamental needs are to feel the buzz of achievement and to receive recognition as a winner. Normality is banality. In the prospector's paradise, winners are heroes who pursue the quest, slay the dragon and conquer the odds.

Finally, there are pioneers. The pioneer's fundamental needs are to stay on the move, enjoying the inner and outer journey. They continuously explore the new in the search for learning, enlightenment and personal development. The journey involves many choices, made on the basis of their awareness and their sense of purpose and responsibility. Learners seek out teachers: both combine to support and affect each other.

If the titles we have used are too much of the Wild West for your taste, ask yourself what sort of fish you are. Are you a carp, which swims in schools and goes along with the group? Or a shark, which likes to take over? Or a dolphin, which prefers to flow with the current and play in the waves?

What happens when these three groups meet? Start with settlers. Their stability is upset by the thrusting, rootless prospectors. They respond by trying to turn the heroic quest into a theme park ride. Their compensation is that they would value the prospectors taking over the responsibilities of decision-making.

Settlers find pioneers even worse. The apparent chaos and the range of choices look like hell to settlers. It seems that the two groups can only get along if they are in different places, like the white pioneers pushing west across America, with the settlers filling in behind them.

Prospectors would despise settler values but see an opportunity to take over. On the other hand, they won't be around for long, as they will be moving onwards and upwards.

They would be frustrated by pioneers' failure to give them recognition and by the lack of ladders to climb in the world of pioneers. As with the settlers, they would see an opportunity to take over. As they come to understand the pioneer world and to recognise a shared liking for change, however, they may see that it provides a new type of buzz.

Lastly, pioneers would feel very constrained by the boundaries, rules and changelessness that settlers prefer. However, the space outside the walls, which the settlers regard as hell, they'd be happy to occupy and explore.

They would initially find the prospector paradise rather empty and feel sorry for them. Later, they would try to make their values fashionable, so that prospectors learned to get the buzz from personal development rather than external achievement.

We want a millennium that gives each group what it wants. We also want a millennium that gives the elements of the three visions inside each of us what we want. The song says, "Search for the hero within". Perhaps we should start by searching for the settler, the prosector and the pioneer within. Then we can search for them in other people, and start talking.

Comments