Adapted from Cultural Maturity: A Guidebook for the Future
Advocates of We’ve Gone Astray conclusions believe almost the opposite—that in some significant way humanity has failed. Often the implication is not just that we have made mistakes in judgment or policy, but that we have erred fundamentally.
We’ve Gone Astray scenarios take their most radical form in the predictions of impending Armageddon put forward by certain extreme religious views. But other less extreme We’ve Gone Astray interpretations—such as those we see with the more pessimistic of environmentalist positions, with philosophically romantic and idealist beliefs, and even with everyday liberal/humanistic views—can translate into an “its all going to hell in a handbasket” cynicism that while not as terminal in its predictions, can be as severe in its criticism (and often just as limiting when it comes to useful action).
We’ve Gone Astray scenarios produce different advice depending on who is offering it. For some, the task is simply to fix what we’ve broken. For many, the answer lies in going back to the values and assumptions of some earlier time. For others, as with We’ve Arrived adherents, it means there is really nothing to do—in this case because the damage has already been done. We have gone so far astray that we are beyond redemption.
Culturally mature understanding views We’ve Gone Astray scenarios as inappropriately condemning, and, in the end, diversions from the true magnitude of what the future asks of us. The concept of Cultural Maturity affirms that modern times often find us in denial about much that desperately needs attention. And it agrees that we have made plenty of mistakes. But it also suggests that most of the dilemmas we confront are the result, not of our failings, but of our successes.
Culturally mature perspective also cautions that earlier cultural realities have been no more pure or ideal than those of present times, and makes clear that going back is not an answer, this even if we wish to retrieve things we appropriately perceive to be lost. The concept of Cultural Maturity affirms the claim that important truths—for example, about nature, about the sacred, about community, and more—have been “forgotten.” But at the same time, it supports that conclusion that the natural trajectory of cultural systems, like that of individuals, is growth—and that that is what we have seen.
Mature perspective also warns that We’ve Gone Astray conclusions easily become self-fulfilling prophesies. We see this most readily with extreme views that make endgame scenarios inevitable expressions of God’s will. But we can encounter something just as debilitating and self-fulfilling with liberal cynicism. The cynic gets to feel right and superior while taking no real action that might make things different.