Wednesday, January 24, 2007

catagenesis... and "financial folk songs"

"Conventional economics is the dominant rationalization of today's world order."

"So... you're writing... financial folk songs...?!"

The first quote is from a new book I just finished reading, called The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization by Thomas Homer-Dixon.

The second quote is from the toboggan hill yesterday, as we stood together watching our children hurtle down the slope, and as a group of parents tried, yet again, to understand just what it is that I do...

It's true - I'm in the midst of writing a cycle of songs around "economic stewardship" themes. I've been reading and reflecting and conversing around these issues for quite some time, and now the challenge is to write songs for the church that can help us to sing (and hopefully internalize) an "alternative vision" of the "economics of God's Kingdom"... songs that may even help us to sing our way into new ways of living that are more in tune with God's intentions for the world...

Oh, and they should be fun and engaging and compelling and catchy and meaningful for young and old alike... and readily usable for congregational worship...

How's that for a challenge?

Homer-Dixon's book talks about the possibility of what he calls "catagenesis" - "the creative renewal of our technologies, institutions, and societies in the aftermath of breakdown." Breakdown that is coming due to the convergence of 5 major "tectonic stresses" that are building up beneath our societies (environmental degradation and climate change, energy dependence on increasingly scarce conventional oil, growing disparities between rich and poor, etc.).

I've been struck by how much Homer-Dixon's notion of "catagenesis" mirrors the processes that I was describing in my last post ("exploding eggshells...") - processes of "tearing down and building up" that we were working with, based on the book of Ephesians, during Prayer Week (and that are also reflected in this week's lectionary text from Jeremiah 1)...

In fact, read this paragraph from Homer-Dixon's book and tell me if this doesn't sound like a remarkably accurate - even prophetic - description of the vocation of the church in our world today:

"Conventional economics is the dominant rationalization of today's world order. As we've overextended the growth phase of our global adaptive cycle, this rationalization has become relentlessly more complex and rigid and progressively less tenable. Breakdown will, all at once, discredit this rationalization and create intellectual space for new ideas to flourish. But this space will be brutally competitive. We can boost the chances that humane alternatives will thrive by working them out in detail and disseminating them as widely as possible beforehand." (p. 293)

In other words, among other things, it seems to me that we need songs to sing that articulate and help to disseminate an "alternative economic vision"... and we need to be communities that live that way... already, "in detail"...

Better get back to work...

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At 5:46 AM, Anonymous H said...

Would you share what the other two(of five) tectonic stresses are, according to Homer-Dixon? Or, perhaps you would like to share the book and make me work for it (I'd rather not pay for it too) ... Is it worth reading if I'm pretty much fed up with conventional economic analysis and the dominant rationalizations of today's world order?

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Bryan Moyer Suderman said...

The five "tectonic stresses" as described by Homer-Dixon on p.11 of the book are:

"- population stress arising from differences in population growth rates between rich and poor societies, and from the spiraling growth of megacities in poor countries;
- energy stress - above all from the increasing scarcity of conventional oil;
- environmental stress from worsening damage to our land, water, forests, and fisheries;
- climate stress from changes in the makeup of our atmosphere;
- and, finally, economic stress resulting from instabilities in the global economic system and ever-widening income gaps between rich and poor people."

Definitely worth reading if you're "pretty much fed up with conventional economic analysis and the dominant rationalizations"... and perhaps especially important to read if you're not...!


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