Creating a New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave
a book by Alvin Toffler and Heidi Toffler
(our site's book review)
This is the book Newt Gingrich, as Speaker of the House, urged everyone to read. He put it alongside the works of Jefferson, Madison, and Alexis de Tocqueville as must reading. Two of the chapters were not previously published. The rest came from the Toffler classics, Powershift, The Third Wave, and War and Anti-War. The context is the transformation to the Third Wave information society, and how there are two types of politicians: rear-guard politicians who wish to preserve or restore an unworkable past, and those who are ready to make the transition to the Third Wave. In this transition, not just attitudes must change.
Gingrich, in the forward, says that he wants citizens to take the leap and actually begin inventing the Third Wave, wandering around our community looking for kindred spirits, and begin with a few small projects and work our way up from there.
Toffler calls the clash between Second Wave and Third Wave forces the “super-struggle” for tomorrow—it’s happening in every nation. He says that: “The Third Wave forces in America have yet to find their voice. The political party that gives it to them will dominate the American future. When that happens, a new and dramatically different America will rise from the ruins of the late-twentieth century.”
He says that: “The decline of the family as a powerful institution . . . began when the industrial revolution stripped most of these functions out of the family. Work shifted to the factory or office. The sick went off to hospitals, kids to schools, couples to movie theaters. The elderly went into nursing homes. What remained when all these tasks were exteriorized was the ‘nuclear family,’ held together less by the functions its members performed as a unit than by fragile psychological bonds that are all too easily snapped.”
What remained when most social tasks were exteriorized in the 1950s was the isolated ‘nuclear family,’ held together less by the functions its members performed as a unit than by fragile psychological bonds that are all too easily snapped
He says that: “The Third Wave re-empowers the family and the home. It restores many of the lost functions that once made the home so central to society. . . . [he discusses the expanded electronic cottage] . . . The irony is that many ‘family values’ advocates, without knowing it, are not pushing toward a stronger family when they urge a return to the nuclear household: they are trying to restore the standardized model of the Second Wave. If we really want to strengthen family and make the home a central institution again, we must forget peripheral issues, accept diversity, and return important tasks to the household . . .”
Of course, all this diversity tending away from the nuclear family isn’t exactly a planned event. Women usually plan to marry and raise kids as a couple—but the man either loses interest when the romantic scenario turns into a sleepless diaper-changing scenario and he splits and she becomes a single-parent family. Or one of the couple turns out to be hopelessly bad at relating and nurturing (one spouse may abuse substances or people, solve problems with violence or threats, have interfering relatives that try to run the show, or turn out to be an irresponsible jerk who can’t hold a job and is hell to live with) so they divorce and she becomes a single-parent family.
Putting all of one's eggs in one single basket is the main cause of relationship dysfunction
A couple that relates well enough to cope and has kids whom they raise well enough to cope—this is fairly common, although often something throws an unexpected monkey wrench into the picture—most kids today won’t reach adulthood without spending some time in a broken home, a single-parent home, or a step-family home. But a couple that relates excellently and has kids whom they raise excellently—this is extremely rare.
A couple that relates excellently and has kids whom they raise excellently
We’ve all seen TV programs that idealize such possibilities, but few of us have met anyone who has come from such an upbringing. Every once in a while we meet someone who we feel just might be that type, but we generally don’t get to know them well enough to find out if it’s true. For example, employees getting to know each other or employers getting to know employees both have the potential to discover such people. But the depth of such relationships is not sufficient to uncover whether or not what seems like a nice happy couple really is what it seems to be.
Divorce rate in the US from 1935 to 2010
Several of the stars in the idealized 50s sitcoms have since regretted publicly their “participation in such a fraud,” because their own real lives were about oppressive authoritarianism, alcohol, drugs, abuse, divorce, anger and disappointment. They saw no evidence that such ideal families existed. Personal experience for most of us includes several episodes of running into seemingly ideal families that later turn out to be messes that just happen to be good at showing the world a happy face. They don’t “air their dirty laundry.”
Stars in the idealized 50s sitcoms have since regretted participating in such a fraud—here a 50s family watches these unrealistic sitcoms
Anyway, the bottom line here is that step-families and broken homes and single-parent families are rarely planned. Aside from all the divorces stemming from steep-gradient, all-eggs-in-one-basket relationships, young males often get girls pregnant these days with no one having any marriage ambitions. It is often fortunate that they avoid hopelessly young and naïve marriages, since the immature kids doing this could no more responsibly support families and relate well and parent well than pigs could learn to fly.
Immature teens marrying could no more responsibly support families and relate well and parent well than pigs could learn to fly
However, birth control is positively warranted in such cases—the world doesn’t need anymore unwanted babies, crack babies, welfare babies, or babies that irresponsible teenagers try to raise and unintentionally mess up—these kids end up in our jails because of the destructive trauma of being raised by irresponsible, ignorant, incapable, inexperienced, naïve kids.
Guy comforts pregnant teen
Living alone is another lifestyle that is not really that much of a plan for most people—it just happens because they haven’t found anyone they care deeply about. (It also happens because a lot of people were raised in such a way that they cannot really care deeply about others, and intimacy is a threat and causes fear, rather than a blessing that elicits love. This is because of steep-gradient nurturance upbringing patterns and dysfunctional communication and relationship habits learned when young and adopted in spite of their ineffectiveness.)
Shaking in fear: a lot of people were raised in such a way that they cannot really care deeply about others, and intimacy is a threat and causes fear, rather than a blessing that elicits love
Aside from loners that are retarded, sick, or otherwise incapacitated, a good many loners would jump at the chance of sharing a life with “just the right person,” and yet they do little proactively to effect such a meeting. Others use dating sites like match.com. (MCs will use computer software programs and technology which is tailor-made to solve such matching and meeting problems—the problem is trivially simple to deal with. See Why Register for an MC?.)
Registering for MC search and match
Overpopulation causes many of Earth's other problems—it's a major contributor to war and environmental destruction
One type of nonnuclear family that is often planned is the voluntarily childless couple. Some choose to never have kids because of the overpopulation problem which they address in this way, while others simply postpone the children issue to the indefinite future while they pursue exciting career paths that they don’t wish to have distracted or slowed with parenting responsibilities. Some never have kids and never relate to kids at all. Others get all the relationships with children they need through interactions with their friends’ kids or through their work. Others have kids later in life, even if biological time clocks require adoption. The Tofflers look at parenting as a retirement activity (since people are living so long and retired people aren’t often all that busy) in a couple of their books.
The Tofflers look at parenting as a retirement activity, since people are living so long and retired people aren’t often all that busy
But the point we’d like to make here is to differentiate between voluntary and involuntary “diversity.” Most people look at nuclear families as a good way to go, and the statistics on single-parent families, broken homes, separated families, widowhood families and step-families don’t represent diversity of choice, but, instead, the diversity of ways in which the preferred nuclear family reality can come unglued and fly apart. That being the case, perhaps it would be useful to get statistics not on current diverse family forms but on current idealistic preferences of all nonnuclear family inhabitants. What would they select if they could have whatever they wanted by waving a magic wand? In other words, WHAT DO PEOPLE REALLY WANT?
The answer would be revealing, as it would show that most people actually want nuclear families even though the majority of people don’t have this form. But here’s the zinger: People would not want to get saddled with the normal dysfunctional nuclear families like they were brought up in, the dysfunctional ones they see depicted on TV, the messed up ones they see their friends trapped in, or the ones they may have already gotten involved in and somehow managed to squirm out of. In truth, people would prefer to have good, happy, excellently communicating/relating nuclear families that parent excellently, effectively and in win-win ways where both parents and children are happy with the relationships—if they could find a way to get them. Millions of people are realistic enough to know that such a thing isn’t going to happen for them—it’s a pipe dream. So they’d rather live alone or just with friends than get stuck in a trap with a family that cripples the rest of their life rather than empowering and inspiring it.
Millions of people are realistic enough to know that a happy family isn’t going to happen for them—it’s a pipe dream, so they live alone
There’s one other factor to consider here: If people had all of the above—this ideal family, would it work well “in a vacuum” just because the people in such a family would do their parts? NO. In order to have it work as well as people wanted it to, they’d have to address serious issues about who will care for kids, who will work and follow careers, and how will these seemingly mutually exclusive goals be reconciled. They’d also have to find out the best communication and relationship and parenting knowledge in existence and follow its advice, because any “simple reliance on mothering and parenting ‘instincts’” would result, as it so often does, in disaster, with young parents making the same types of errors with their kids that their parents made with them.
Knowledge, in the Third Wave information age, is not an afterthought or an interesting topic to shoot the breeze about. It’s the core thing that empowers success, understanding and personal satisfaction—it’s what makes life work. It’s the power multiplier—therefore the ultimate empowering agent. It’s the difference between success and failure, between doing it right and doing it wrong. When we call it the Information Age, there’s an assumption that the information is appropriately and effectively utilized. If we’d meant that knowledge was merely time-filling content for shooting the breeze, we’d have called it the Escapism Age.
Information Age info was not meant to be content for shooting the breeze—talking each other's ears off; that's the Escapism Age
Besides, in an era when the anti-intellectual, regressive, extremist forces are trying to take us all back to the Dark Ages—denying science, knowledge, wisdom and the Renaissance and Enlightenment as well—we must all take a stand with respect to knowledge and wisdom: Is the sum total of what we’ve learned as a species and the totality of the technological developments which we have evolved as a species simply temptations from Satan that we should renounce as we regress back to a simpler, more “holy” time? Or is it human progress of which we should be very proud?
Humans are regressing toward pre-Enlightenment thinking that depends upon "authorities" to guide them, rather than reason, logic, and knowledge. So life will be about two things: tyrants and religion. It's almost as though civilization is stuck in reverse and along with that it would seem that human evolution is stuck in reverse. Think about it: brains that cease thinking for themselves and instead let authorities do it for them are unused organs that will degenerate. Thinking takes lots of effort and energy, but replaying tired old religious dogma in one's head takes hardly any energy. Sort of like watching a movie compared to writing a movie or using an app compared to programming an app. Humans are more evolved than apes because they think. Nonthinking humans are like apes without body hair—not much else is different. There are sayings that point out that if something isn't growing it's dying, and a flowing river stays healthy, while a stagnant pool generates diseases and smells bad. A mind replaying tired old religious dogma in place of thinking and being closed to new experiences and ideas does not flow, grow, or create. It stagnates, degenerates, and is unproductive.
So the 21st century Dark Ages (a.k.a. Dark Ages 2.0) will be ripe for exploitation by tyrants, demagogues, and psychotics. Narcissistic political performers will fill leadership positions—they will be people out to gain power and wealth not for the people but for themselves—to stroke their egos and improve their lot in life. Sometimes their goal will be to try to make up for the fact they dislike themselves by getting others to admire them.
And isn’t it time that we progressives demonstrated to the regressive nostalgics who want to live in the past that the knowledge and technology of present day reality can support—if we choose to do this and act on it in a timely manner—a wonderfully dynamic world full of loving, peaceful, compassionate, helpful, benevolent humans who respect each other and their planet, let go of all the hate and fear and killing, as well as the threatening and the spear-shaking, and finally all work together as one planet and one species for the good of mankind? If history gives the regressives reason to fear and hate and regress, then current day actions by wise and compassionate, new-paradigm, Third Wave humans should give them reason not to fear and hate and regress. (This is part of the MC plan. See Why Register for an MC?.) This dovetails nicely with the Tofflers’ peace corporations outlined in War and Anti-War.
Anyway, back to the issue of why well-functioning nuclear families wouldn’t do well in a vacuum: Science has proven recently that the reductionistic Newtonian idea that the world is composed of lots of independent, separate objects, whose interactions keep life interesting, is not really correct. Objects are so dependent upon other objects in their locality that they are partially defined by them. At the atomic level, particles are defined by the set of relationships they have with other particles, and merely the act of observing particles changes them. Objects are so system bound that truth is in patterns of relationships, not in intrinsic characteristics—what does intrinsic even mean if any interaction with a thing (even just looking at it) makes it different? Similarly, an individual in a vacuum has no meaning, definition or value, but once he becomes part of a system/community/society/biosphere, he reflects not only the quality of his internal, biological/neurological/psychological systems but also his external sociological/political/familial system.
Neither nuclear families nor people alone would do well in a vacuum
Most criminals were abused, most people in jail were abused, and most abusers were abused. GIGO. (Garbage in, garbage out.) Does knowledge factor into abuse cycles? The worst abuse statistics relate to young, isolated, ignorant, inexperienced single mothers who weren’t ready to parent and be responsible for a child and had no knowledge about this area and who tried to utilize steep-gradient nurturance simply because it required no thinking or coordination with others, and the best successful upbringing statistics with the least symptomatology come from great environments with mature, knowledgeable, nurturing adults, flatter nurturance gradients, needs well filled, exploration/adventuring encouraged, plenty of talking with and reading with the young by trusted adults, lots of love and understanding, authoritative or harmonious parenting and NOT authoritarian or permissive parenting, and good communication and relationship practices, like P.E.T. offers.
IN OTHER WORDS, KNOWLEDGE IS THE MAIN DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUCCESS AND FAILURE (in parenting, communication and relationship practices)—THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CREATING FUTURE CITIZENS THAT ARE PART OF THE SOLUTION AND CREATING CITIZENS THAT ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.
It has also been shown that if the ignorant single mother above is part of a close-knit social network/system, and the mother actually gets respite, caregiving help, good advice, active listening from others, and opportunities to work as well as mother, the negative effects of her ignorance, inexperience, age and naïveté can be mitigated and her kid(s) may not end up as flops and ne’er-do-wells. As can easily be seen, as the quality of the system goes up, so do the potentials of the entities encompassed by said system.
The ramifications of all this are that the nuclear family in a vacuum would do badly, even if all else about relationships, communication and parenting was perfect, but the higher the quality of the system in which one inserts this family, the more likely we are to expect great success from this family. This is why the Second Wave, reductionistic approaches with psychological patients (utilizing lots of intuition and analysis) are giving way to Third Wave, ecological systems approaches that factor in family as system but also factor in the system the family is in.
Now back to involuntary “diversity”—the unchosen path of single-parent families, broken homes, step-families, separateds, and various combinations of non-nuclear families, that people end up with in spite of their desires for a nice nuclear family lifestyle. People would rather have a well-functioning nuclear family—whether or not kids happened pre- or post-retirement—than most any other kind, as we’ve defined it. Most of the non-nuclear family styles just kind of happen to people. So one thing that needs to be ascertained is the most likely method of avoiding ending up in lifestyles that just involuntarily happen to one.
Of course, such thinking will be short-lived, because its conclusion is obvious: Have the family work so well no one wants to leave it. [That is precisely the design of MC lifestyles, which utilize the best knowledge in existence to insure success.] This takes care of the inner high quality relationships of a family. But what about the outer ones, the neighborhood ones, the community ones, and ultimately their relationship to the world? [This, again, is precisely what MCs were designed to optimize. Each individual is in an optimized family system relating in optimized relationship/communication/parenting patterns and all of this is complemented by an optimized social system/network that is local, convenient (for childcare as well as friendships), and communicates in the most inspiring and potentially rewarding—as well as the least intrusive—ways.]
Now, back to the Tofflers’ statement that we—especially those pushing “family values” agendas—need to accept diversity and quit pushing for a return to the nuclear family. They are right, of course, that the conservative nostalgics (most of whom subscribe to orthodox authorities and authoritarianism) are on the wrong path with their attempt to bring back the past because of fear and misunderstanding of the present and probable future. And it’s important for everyone, like the Tofflers say, to accept the diversity around them, especially after the way we’ve pointed out, above, that most of those in nonnuclear families aren’t there voluntarily.
It’s important for everyone, like the Tofflers say, to accept the diversity around them
(Nostalgics would also do well to note that there are millions of nuclear families that are operating so poorly and unhappily that their members would be better off doing just about anything else than staying the course and enduring the suffering and frustration anymore.) And people shouldn’t push anyone towards lifestyles they cannot expect to make work (recall that we looked at how people would like viable nuclear families but don’t want to wallow in the type of messes they’ve seen and experienced earlier in their lives). We don’t need, as the Tofflers say, for well-meaning nostalgics to push us to “return to the nuclear household: they are trying to restore the standardized model of the Second Wave,” which is hopeless, didn’t work that well in the Second Wave experiments, and is even less likely to work well now.
Instead, what is needed is not just tolerance for lifestyle diversity, but a new movement that is dedicated to lifestyle success. What is needed is not for us to show why nuclear families aren’t such a good idea after all, but realize it’s the isolated nuclear families with little meaningful connectedness to the social system/network outside themselves and with little knowledge about how to succeed in their chosen lifestyle that are doing so poorly.
(What is needed is to see that nuclear families in the context of electronic cottages can solve many of society’s problems and families’ problems simultaneously as long as they either use the Tofflers’ expanded or extended family context (add friends, relatives, or both) or the MC context in which not just a subsystem (family) in a system (neighborhood) is empowered to work better, but the system and its subsystems are all empowered to work separately and together better than any systems ever conceived, using not only cottage industry technological innovations, but all the best relational/communications/parenting information available to all Third Wave pioneers.
What is needed is to put all this together and then sensitively and carefully present it to the nostalgics (who, after all, deep in their hearts, believe that the nuclear household is the only viable and healthy lifestyle that exists) with the words: “You were right, fellas, the nuclear household cannot be beat.” And then show them MC and non-MC neighborhoods with nuclear family households working wonderfully (if they’re expanded or extended or MC-connected), electronic cottages working wonderfully, neighborhoods working wonderfully, and communities working wonderfully. There’s no contradiction here, because Webster’s Dictionary clearly states that EXTENDED FAMILES OFTEN INCLUDE NUCLEAR FAMILIES. Not only that, but nostalgics are at least as misty-eyed about extended families of the past as they are about nuclear families. So it’s a win-win gesture; we hope it happens sooner rather than later.)
The book advocates careful revamping of the Constitution
The book advocates revamping the Constitution, reinventing democracy, and to change our governments so that they are no longer Second Wave but Third Wave. Happily, it advocates great care and consideration in updating these things. The Tofflers encourage us to open the political system to more minority power, allow more direct governance roles for citizens, and divide up decisions and reallocate them, sharing them more widely, and switching the site of decision-making as the problems themselves require it. They also advocate wider democratic participation as decision loads increase.
The Tofflers call for us to be like our Founders and invent and create as necessary to accommodate the realities of the Third Wave, and not just in the political areas that empower successful democracy: “Today in every sphere of social life, in our families, our schools, our businesses and churches, in our energy systems and communications [e.g., PSBs], we face the need to create new Third Wave forms, and millions of people in many countries are already beginning to do so.”
We hear you. Thank you for the encouragement!