We have not only tinkered with nature at great risk to our survival. We have exacerbated this potential risk by interfering with or eliminating feedback loops in our human systems as well.
Economic Feedback: Externalizing Costs
Similarly, if someone had to pay for the loss of oxygen and the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, for the erosion of topsoil, for the effect on communities of having pollution in their midst, and for the many other negative consequences which right now do not register on the profit and loss sheets of most companies, the recorded cost of production would increase. This is what internalizing costs would mean.
Because the costs are externalized, we can, collectively, continue to delude ourselves into believing that we can continue with business as usual, without anything that would compel us to look at the true cost, beyond the price tag on the product we purchase.
Social Feedback: Depression
|Face In The Crowd, by Evelyn Williams|
In a strikingly similar manner we now have pills for stomach upset, for pain related to degenerative diseases, and for other ailments that have come to be seen as inevitable “side effects” of reaching a certain age instead of being seen as the diseases of the modern diet.
Human Feedback: Holding back from Each Other
Unlike the other areas I named, learning to give and receive feedback is a human endeavor we can learn and master. This is change any of us can create. We can learn to receive feedback, even solicit it, and encourage others to give it to us. This is far from easy. It requires working with whatever sensitivities we carry, so that we can hear what may sound like a criticism and still see it as a vital gift. I have written about transforming our defensive habits, and I imagine I will return to this topic at some future time. Opening up to our own humanity strengthens us to the degree that would allow us to remain pliable and flexible in the face of even strong criticism from others.
We can also learn to offer others the gift of what we see about them that we believe can help them become the person they want to be, bring their fullest potential to themselves and others, and know, with as much gentleness as is possible, what effect they have on others so they can choose their actions with clarity. We have this power, this capacity to offer this precious gift to others, and to do with care and awareness of their sensitivities, which are no different from ours. I have written before about the challenge of offering feedback, which everyone needs in order to learn, without criticism, which none of us like.
Perhaps if we start with introducing feedback loops in those areas where we have full say, in our own lives, within our families and organizations, we can begin to turn the tide and restore the central role for feedback in all its forms. Then we can acquire, again, the taste and the desire for knowing our place in the larger web of life. We lost it for far too long.