Don’t Change Your “Self” – Change the World

Here’s a podcast of the talk I did for the Institute of General Semantics last Friday night. The talk was about the biggest honor I’ve had as a public speaker: The 56th Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture at the Princeton Club in NYC. The event was just written up by Brian Heater for the NYPress.

This put me at the end of a long line of thinkers I’ve long admired: Buckminster Fuller, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Gregory Bateson, Robert Anton Wilson, Abraham Maslow, Ellen Langer, Albert Ellis…you get the idea. It’s hard to accept the fact that I’ve grown up, and that most of the generation of thinkers before me have already moved on. But someone has to carry the torch, and that may as well be all of us.

The lecture has a lot to do with the subject of my upcoming book, Life Incorporated: How a business plan took over the world and how to take it back, which I just finished rewriting last night to include the current financial crisis. It’s the same book, except instead of warning that our corporatist behaviors will soon lead us into a financial crisis, I get to show how it all happened and how to get out. It makes the job of explaining the book or convincing people to read it a lot easier. I’m much less a Cassandra, now, warning of imminent meltdown – and I don’t have to spend as much time doing what might appear to some as naysaying or scolding. We’re all aware that we’re in a fine mess, now, and already interested in understanding what happened and how to fix it.

I tried to make this lecture provocative to the General Semantics people, in particular. General Semantics has over the years limited itself, I argue, to self-help technologies from NLP and psychotherapy to EST and self-hypnosis. All this focus on the self really started back during the renaissance, and coincided with some really dark presuppositions about human nature such as self-interest. And – as I show in the book – these are really just artifacts of corporatism.

The object of the game, I think, is not to change the self (which doesn’t even really exist) but to change the world.