We are going to witness a generation of young people showing a desire for human betterment that will emerge through intensified action for social, political, and ecological change. More and more young people are growing up experiencing social relations that transcend space and time, as well as cultures, national boundaries, and local ideologies. This may account for the increasing numbers of young people in developed nations becoming involved in community and social projects and NGOs; such as taking a year out to help in another culture abroad, to learn, experience, and to offer assistance. Volunteering among the young, despite what appears to be the contrary, is on the increase. Young people are even putting themselves into dangerous situations – in conflict zones – to stand up for values of peace, justice, equality, and human rights. Across the world young minds are demanding fair and equal access for all peoples to engage in open communication and free speech. And it appears that many more creative minds will be joining the global conversation as our current generation(s) increasingly ‘wake up’.
In 2012 the planetary population was around 7 billion and the number of registered internet users was 33%, a rise of over 500% from the previous decade. By 2020 world population is set to be 7.8 billion and internet users worldwide is estimated to be 66% – that’s a little under 3 billion new people plugging into the global conversation. In other words, nearly 3 billion new minds will be tapping in to the information flows; and that’s many millions of new creative problem solvers, innovators, and visionaries. What is more, the majority of these new minds will be coming online from Asia, the Middle East, and what we refer to as the developing countries. These will be mostly young minds; and minds with necessities, with the urge for social betterment. Can we imagine the collective potential of these creative new minds; many of them thinking outside of the box, and outside of the old patterns?
It is significant that in times of relative social stability, human consciousness plays a lesser role in the behavior of society. However, when a society reaches the limits of its stability then social-cultural systems are sensitive and responsive to even the smallest fluctuations in the consciousness of its citizens. In such times, changes in values, belief sets, perceptions, etc, hold great sway over the future direction of the social situation. Human consciousness becomes a significant stimulus and catalyst for change during these times of social instability. That is why it is imperative humanity be collectively focused upon positive development and betterment rather than to be coerced, or conditioned, into a fear-based security that resists change. We should not underestimate the capacity for the human mind to adapt and evolve according to social and environmental impacts and influences.
Our modern sense of self-awareness has clearly evolved to root us in our social world: a world of extended relations and social networks. Humanity, it can be said, has been biologically hard-wired to tap into extended social connections and human communication networks. We are also hard-wired to adapt physically in response to experience – new neural processes in our brains can come into being with intentional effort, awareness, and different patterns of concentration. This capacity to create new neural connections, and thus new mental skill sets through experience, has been termed neuroplasticity. The human brain of today has to respond to the incredible amount of energy and information that is flowing through our environments and embedded in our cultural experiences. By being aware of our experiences and environmental impacts and influences we can gain a better understanding of how our brain and thinking becomes re-patterned.
Thus, how we focus our attention and awareness greatly shapes the structure of our brains. Further, the ability to grow new neural connections is available throughout our lives and not only in our young formative years. This knowledge encourages us to nurture our mindfulness, our self-awareness, and our empathic relations with others. Neuroplasticity also encourages us to be more reflective over our human networks, and to develop those social skills that underlie empathy and compassion. These new ‘wired connections’ are exactly what are becoming activated as individuals increasingly ‘wake up’ to what is happening within our communities, our societies, and upon the planet. Such distributed connections breach cultural and national borders and force us to self-reflect on our identity, values and ethics.
The opportunity is here for change and betterment like never before in our recent history. This means that the responsibility is also here; and these two factors may never be present again at exactly the right moment when they are so badly needed. What the human species may now be witnessing during these years is the rise of intuition, empathy, greater connectivity to the world and to people, and a sense of ‘knowing’ what changes need to be made. Furthermore, within each person is a growing sense of the greater cosmic whole: the realization that humanity exists and evolves within a universe of great intelligence and meaning. This serves to impart within humanity a more profound spiritual impulse. As a new global empathic mind emerges, people worldwide will grow up with new expressions of mindfulness that are more caring, relational, and compassionate. The 21st century is likely to be the era that births and nurtures such an evolving consciousness.
Many of the younger people across the world do not accept the social conditioning of anger, fear, and insecurity of their past generations. They want to reach out for change and betterment. Around the world there are examples of young people rejecting the conflict mentality of their elder generations. In conflict zones especially, where young minds are conditioned into unconditional hatred of fixed enemies, there is a backlash against this old programming. Younger people are reaching out across artificial borders to engage with the so-called ‘enemy’ and to start a new dialogue of peace and reconciliation. Such minds realize that the conflict mentality has no future, and will be left behind if it cannot accept change. Whereas many of the old programmed minds thought that a future meant putting up borders, and viewing the ‘others’ with suspicious eyes; many of the young minds see differently. We can see this in youth movements worldwide as there is change emerging in the mindset of young people everywhere. This is especially so in Middle Eastern territories where restrictive regimes are now encountering rising youthful demographics who are not accepting the old mentalities and old ways. All young people want what everybody wants – peace, justice, equality, freedom, etc. There is a new spring in the step of young, tech-savvy, energetic minds that are by-passing the old models. In these years ahead – at least for the next two decades – we will increasingly see the signs of the changing of the old guard (the dinosaurs!). And this time they will not be replaced by those with the same consciousness. With generational change we will see the gradual transition to an era of individuals who think differently, feel differently, connect differently, and who will want to work toward a different world.
A new narrative is emerging, one where each person is integral to the larger picture; the journey of each one of us being a part of the journey as a whole. This new story informs us that the possibilities are open for humanity to engage in consciously creating its way forward – with harmony, balance and respect to all. This new narrative is part of humanity’s evolving empathic mind and which compels us to seek greater connectivity and meaning in our lives. This most recent human story is one where we create the story of the future.