Mapping Effective Covid-19 Engagement: Four Responses to the Challenge
Appreciation: Creating a Compelling Image of the Future
The core question can now be reframed: How do we preserve our societies (around the world)? A second version of the core question can be posed: What is a compelling image of the future for each of our societies that should emerge from the COVID-19 crisis? This version of the key question arises from the work of Fred Polak (1973) who proposed many years ago that a viable society must always have in mind (and heart) a compelling image of its own future –a future to which members of the society are willing, in a sustained manner, to commit their energy and talent. Polak pointed to a critical factor in the ongoing existence of any social system (or any living system for that matter). It must have something toward which it is moving or toward which it is growing. Organisms are inherently “auto-telic”—meaning that they are self-purposed. They don’t need anything outside themselves to engage their world actively and in an inquisitive manner. This is the fundamental nature of play, curiosity and inventiveness that is to be found among all mammals. `
Without a sense of direction and future possibilities we dry up and find no reason to face the continuing challenge of survival. There is no longer the need to produce and prepare a new generation of children given that a viable future would not be awaiting them. In the series of Australian movies regarding Mad Max a post-nuclear holocaust world is portrayed that is coming to an end. When no viable future is in sight, then (as we see in these movies) there is no attending to children. They must fend for themselves, for we know they have no personal futures.
A contrasting theme is conveyed in a powerful story about post-nuclear holocaust that Cormac McCarthy (2006) offers in his novel, called The Road. The father continues to protect and sacrifice for his son, even though the world is coming to an end. This extraordinary protagonist somehow finds meaning and purpose – and vision—regarding his son midst despair and death. Perhaps this is the type of leadership that we need in the challenging world of 21st Century terrorism, nihilism, despair—and virus-based anxiety. McCarthy offers us a portrait of leadership that blends courage (Ruby Red) with vision (Azure Blue)—and perhaps in some very deep manner even the qualities of wisdom (Golden Yellow).
For an image of the future to be compelling, it must emulate the integration portrayed by McCarthy’s caring father. The image must be clearly articulated (Azure Blue), based on reality (Golden Yellow) and actionable (Ruby Red). I write elsewhere (Bergquist, 2003) of an appreciative perspective being critical to navigating the complex, unpredictable and turbulent world in which we now live. This perspective is one in which (among other things) we are leaning into the future.