Thoughts on The Mankind Project, co-founder Bill Kauth’s Time to Tribe and the climate crisis

In addition to having an amazing capacity for individual rational thought and awareness we humans are tribal creatures. We’re very strongly influenced by loyalty to what others in our group tells us to be true. We unconsciously conform to the group’s consensus reality as a way to protect it. And we also fear losing part of all of our group belonging if we go against it. The desire to maintain our good belonging is a deep human trait. It’s so deep and normal as it’s hardly ever noticed or thought about. I believe it to be the foundation of conscience: Good conscience as the good feeling we get when our belonging is strengthened, and the bad feeling we get when it’s weakened.  

My paper The Singular Place of Dual Blessing explores unconscious loyalty so I won’t go into it now. My book Evolutionary YOU, with a forward from Mankind Project co-founder Bill Kauth, goes into the ramifications much more deeply.

Every human is loyal. We all feel pressure to conform to the people and groups that are important to us and we all succumb to one degree or another. Yet the spiritual challenge is to raise above group think and tell our own personal truth for the good of the whole. This is hard though, because unconscious loyalty to the past and those we depend on is very hard to see. It’s unconscious after all. We don’t see what we don’t see and never think of thinking there’s something there.

Here’s why I think MKP is caught in a larger area of group think.

Cultural agreements tell us what can be talked about and what can’t. Think of these as permissions as to what can be said and what can be thought. We

These permissions are so fundamental that they’re almost always below consciousness and invisible to us. Nonetheless most of us follow them faithfully because violating risking disapproval is extremely painful to us, being the highly social beings we are.

Individuals pay a price for stepping outside of the cultural agreements about what is real when they speak about things that the culture deems shouldn’t be talked about. For example, once upon a time being gay was in the cultural shadow and you were punished for being gay and, to a lesser extent, punished for approving of those who were gay. Now you’re much more likely to be punished socially for not being gay-positive.

Now the thing that can’t be talked about or acted upon, at least not at anything coming close to the level of the threat, is climate change and our ecological crisis. Individual or very limited group action can be done but only if it happens within a firm commitment to business as usual. (I’m thinking of the developed countries of the west when I say “our,” but the issue isn’t unique to them – or rather to us.)

The 25 global COP conferences since Rio 1992 have failed and failed entirely. The non-binding Paris agreements loudly touted as success in 2018 have failed already. They will not be implemented. Even if all emissions ceased today, lags in the system guarantee our moving into the extreme danger zone of three to four degrees Centigrade. But the CO2 entering the atmosphere continues to increase.

It’s a widely held opinion of our best scientists that we’re in danger of a collapse of the global food system in the near future and mass starvation, including in western nations we’ve thought were immune. The planet is entering a profound crisis due to a cascade of related problems for which climate change is the poster child, but it’s much more than climate change. Paraphrasing sustainability professor Jem Bendell, one of the first academics to “come out,” though we’re told many or most academics privately agree, collapse is inevitable, catastrophe probably, and extinction possible. Science, informed laymen and increasingly, common people assume that a system collapse is coming toward us and quickly. Bendell’s seminal paper on Deep Adaptation has been downloaded almost a half million times and is an excellent overview of what we know and don’t know.

Even if collapse were only a possibility, the precautionary principle would demand we take it seriously. But collapse is more than a possibility. It’s a collective, social problem facing us all.

But almost all governments and almost all sub-groups below those governments strive to maintain business-as-usual.

So does the Mankind Project. It’s an innocent sleep but a sleep nonetheless. MKP rests in the shade of the world’s collective shadow around climate change. It ignores the extreme danger the men, their families and communities are in.  

MKP carries a lot of moral weight among its members. Most men, following our culture have been isolated from deep connection with each other and from community roots.  We have little that they trust. MKP has been a lifeline for tens of thousands of men. (Some 65 thousand, myself included, have taken the initiatory weekend, the New Warrior Training Adventure.)

MKP has helped redefine what is important for each one of us. But by leaving out ecological collapse it washes its hands of the central task now. It’s language and actions tell us at each step that MKP expects its growth and future will unfold in a the world very much like today’s.

Unfortunately, that’s not so.

MKP is an initiatory organization and it’s demonstrated its brilliance, its care and wisdom in supporting men and their communities. Yet the context for every part of that, the umbrella under which all that good work has taken place has been that of a stable climate and a steady future. These are no longer viable working assumptions.

The world, and MKP inside it, are in the throes of a rite of passage. We’re an initiatory organization and we know how to do this. Many of you know that co-founder Bill Kauth, together with his wife Zoe Alowan, have been working on creating local new tribe communities that can survive what’s coming.

Bill and Zoe are not the only ones doing this work. They’re just the ones we know and trust and love who are doing it. They’re tied right into MKP’s history and are also in touch with the emerging future.

And we, collectively know how to do initiation.

So an obvious question starts to form: Is it time for a Second Initiation?

And who’s in for exploring this?