I wanted to reflect a little bit further on that Ark-Head post from yesterday. The author - Venkatesh Rao - makes an interesting suggestion that part of what is feeding this mentality is that people who try to offer world-saving solutions now come across as naive:

“One way this growing apathy at universal/global scales (as opposed to ark scales) is manifesting is that the insight economy is dying. The thriving world of discourse that went from Aha! insights about how the world works all the way to TED talks and “ideas worth spreading” is all but dead now. Those who pursue global insight-peddling ambitions seem oddly anachronistic and tone deaf to the zeitgeist today, and wonder why the world is paying less attention to them than they’d hoped. The more tuned-in insight peddlers have gone domestic cozy. They’ve gone ark-scale in their ambitions, even if they don’t admit it.”

This made me think about the somewhat recent rise of systems thinking in response to problems. As the interconnectedness (or, intersectionality) of things has become the more dominant way to understand the world, it has forced us to grapple with the question of whether or not good intentions are good enough?

There was a time, not too long ago, when big, world-saving ideas were celebrated for their simplicity: “buy a pair of shoes, a child in Africa gets a pair of shoes!” Today, those sorts of ideas are scrutinized under a more complex way of understanding the world and the rippling consequences of our (often) careless good intentions. And, let me be clear, they deserve to be! Those of us who have benefitted from the privilege and power of this system have too often naively believed that the tools of this system could be used to somehow fix its failures (to borrow from Audre Lorde).

That being said, I think what is worth considering is the relationship between the wide-spread criticism of good, yet misplaced (or destructive) intentions and the rise of this ark-head mentality. I see this a lot in older, mostly upper class people who seem to be feeling that society has turned against all the good that they thought they had done in their lives. (An example of this is the current conversations around missionary work in the evangelical church) It seems to be, at times, breeding a sort of bitter ‘Fine, I’m taking my ball and going home’ sort of sentiment. That is - turning their resources, energy, and concern towards causes and solutions that still fit within their values.

I’m not really sure what to make of all of this, but it seems pertinent as we stare down a global crisis that will require massive changes from those who are doubling down into ark-head mentalities.