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In the documentary, Samdhong Rinpoché gives us a picture of the dominant models in our societies, essentially based on economic growth. Before going any further, let's try to determine the way in which a group of individuals creates their business model. In order to establish yourself and survive, all types of groups or organisations need a solid common culture to allow its participants to integrate into it (or conform to it), but also to maintain this group and make it prosper. Here the notion of culture within a group encompasses everything that is socially transmitted and that comes from acquisition. It therefore revolves around all of the acquired knowledge transmitted either through experimentation, belief or reflection. We therefore need to exclude species-specific innate and genetic heritage to which the individual belongs. On the other hand, it is not stuck in time because it evolves with the group which nourishes it through exchange and discovery. But if we look at it on a short-term timescale, it represents a kind of common mental programming that binds individuals in a group together. Currently, as Samdhong Rinpoché highlights, a large portion of our culture relies on competition. This competitive culture is fiercely “cultivated” across every area of our society such as sport, scientific research, the technology race, weapons, entertainment, art, competitiveness in our business world and educational systems. The challenge isn’t to allow ourselves to advance our talents but to push some people to be better than others.


Satish Kumar points out the irony by saying that “most of our problems are created by people who have graduated from the top universities.” He denounces how we brainwash our children during their formative years, during their 15 years of education, to become key players in our system. Satish Kumar implies that our thoughts are not freely constructed but that they are actually created, without our knowledge, by the collective psyche. In the 1950s, socio-psychological experiments were already being carried out by Solomon Asch. He observed the power of conformism on the decisions of an individual within a group. These experiments demonstrated that, faced with a situation with no grey areas, over a third of participants under observation preferred to give an answer which they knew full well was wrong and contradicted reality rather than be the only dissident or opposing voice in the group. To refi ne his observations, Asch introduced an accomplice in the group who gave the right answers, unlike the rest of the group. In those cases, when there was no unanimity within the group, the results showed that there was a very significant decrease in conformity (only 5%). The individual reasserted his free will and expressed different points of view. On the other hand, if this accomplice was removed, the participant would once again find himself alone to face the group and conformity would come back in a similar way. Since then, these experiments have been repeated several times around the world and have confirmed the findings.


Stanley Milgram carried out another experiment in the 1960s to try to measure the level of obedience to an authority figure who completely went against their personal conscience. The results were frightening, with two thirds of participants opting to torture someone rather than disobey an authority figure asking them to do it. Another interesting observation was that the participants didn't take responsibility for their actions and claimed they were following orders from their superiors (in other words, “I’m just doing my job”). Over the years, these experiments were also repeated many times around the world and they showed a growing submission to authority (80%) in spite of our moral conscience and the impact of our actions. In the same vein, in 2010, a (fake) reality show “The Game of Death” carried out a similar experiment, but replaced a scientific authority figure with a TV presenter. The results were staggering, with 81% following orders to carry out torture. While these experiences demonstrate both the conformism and submissiveness of an individual, they also show how peer pressure can reaffirm those beliefs. The concepts of disobedience and peer pressure are further explored in Topic 10.

So, how do we change ?

One question comes up: With the existential challenges humanity is facing, how can we freely call our founding cultures, collective imagination and business models into question? To help us prepare for this massive task, the Dalai Lama uses short-sightedness as a metaphor in the documentary. He uses it to explain that our perception of reality is crippled by our egocentric emotions. These types of emotions reduce our vision to the very short term and distance us from what truly matters. When we have to deal with an issue, he asks that, every time, we take several steps back and observe it from various angles in order to systematically get a full overview of the situation. To follow on this same thought process, Satish Kumar suggests trying to read reality by changing a single letter and going from ego to eco. What would we observe in the operating systems of the living if, rather than starting from “I” which separates us from the rest of Nature, we looked at it through an eco lens, “oikos” meaning “nature” and “home” in Greek? What if, rather than being anthropocentric, our perspective on reality became ecocentric (also known as biocentric)?


The collective imagination based on the “survival of the fittest” adage has been largely responsible for competition culture. However, it was a distorted, and therefore reductive view of what’s going on in the living world. In their book, Mutual Aid: The Other Law of the Jungle, Gauthier Chapelle and Pablo Servigne extensively document what scientists agree on today: A careful look at the spectrum of living beings from bacteria in human societies to plants and animals reveals that mutual aid is not only everywhere, but it has been present since the dawn of time. It’s simple: all living beings are involved in mutual aid relationships. All of them. Mutual aid isn’t a simple news item, it is a principle of life. It is even an evolutionary mechanism for living beings: organisms that have the best survival rate in harsh conditions aren’t the strongest, they are those that can cooperate. They explain that it is not about denying that competition exists in nature but that most animals and organisms minimise it because they have far too much to lose since it is exhausting and dangerous. All of these socio-psychological experiments show that “competition in its extreme form doesn’t encourage bonding, instead, it often pushes others to cheat and turn away from the common good. It often creates several losers for the sake of a few winners.„ On this topic, Matthieu Ricard and Olivier de Schutter show that inequality is becoming increasingly blatant and exacerbated, in spite of the abundance of goods produced and consumed in our materialistic societies. It is “poverty in the midst of abundance”.


The speakers in the documentary are well aware that a simple wave of the wand won’t solve our current challenges. They're encouraging us to make further changes and, to shed some light, they suggest what they consider to be key markers. The Dalai Lama advocates for an educational system that centres around what the human soul is looking for, peace and happiness. Further explored in Topic 9, these new educational principles are based on compassion and emotional hygiene, in other words, the ability to identify, understand, use, express and live peacefully with your own emotions as well as those of others. Samdhong Rinpoché talks about a system based on a culture of cooperation, which also takes into account different types of intelligence in a group and favours mutual aid. Monica Gagliano and Sofi a Stril-Rever have added the need for free will in our education in order to become conscious, responsible citizens... There are several alternative approaches and processes that can revolutionise our current governance models. Several of them, like sociocracy, are based on practices like sitting in circles and horizontality, as used by many indigenous peoples. All of the individuals present are involved in the discussions and decision-making. In the same way, rather than seeing what divides us, we can see what brings us closer together. Thus, sociocracy offers a system where objections can be overcome (therefore, getting everyone’s input) by collaboratively building something rather than imposing a restrictive view of for or against.


In the documentary, several speakers express that changing our economic models has become an urgent matter! In the same vein, we can start from a basic principle: the new types of economics should not simply settle on decreasing pollution and destruction but should aim to stop all aggression against the biosphere and, more importantly, to start repairing the damage. This principle is found, for example, in the regenerative economy model, further discussed by Guibert Del Marmol. He suggests that we hold back on mining and quarrying activities and turn towards regeneration, that we abandon competition for cooperation, that we think about the collective well-being rather than the individual one, all inspired by the operating systems of other species. Because it is clear that nowadays, (which has not always been the case), we are the only living species producing waste that is not a source of raw material or energy for another species.


To conclude this train of thought, we can note that all of the speakers in the documentary agree with this warning. “The top environmental problems are no longer biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation”. This transformation is the biggest, most immediate crisis... but also the most incredible opportunity.

• Culture
• Conformity and submission
• Competition
• Educational system
• Collaboration and mutual aid
• Ecocentric views
• Regenerative economy
• Paradigm shift



Le jeu de la ficelle / Quinoa and Rencontre des continents 

Group game which gives us the opportunity to take a more systemic approach to our consumption choices. Paradigm shifts are seen through the fi lter of our interdependence... Feel free to give it a go and don’t hold back! 


Ogrenco / CPCP (Permanent Citizenship and Participation Centre)

A cooperation game about food waste and our natural resources. Informative, useful and fun! 

Coopérons ! / Symbiose 115, Réseau IDée 

Magazine for teachers and educators, special issue containing a wealth of knowledge and tools to have a better understanding of the notion of cooperation.
Download on 


Le jeu de la mort

France 2 documentary - 2010, 1h30

Emotions and questions revolving around submission to authority fi gures. Be warned, after viewing, a lively debate is likely to ensue


Obedience to Authority

Stanley Milgram - 1960, 7’


Asch Conformity Experiment

Solomon Asch - 1951, 4’ 


Conformity Waiting Room

Brain Games, National Geographic - 2017, 5’

This short clip gives an updated version of Asch's experiment. It's easy to watch and it raises some brilliant questions...


La fabrique des imposteurs

Roland Gori - 2014, 1h40’

A very accessible conference detailing how our society’s norms create imposters. A wonderful critique which gives you food for thought... 


Enseignant trappeur, pourquoi pas ! / Philippe Nicolas 

The author invites us to rekindle an enthusiasm for school through multisensory learning


Think Like a Commoner. A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons / David Bollier 

This essay shines a light on the diff erent barriers that surround us and presents alternatives.


Mutual Aid: The Other Law of the Jungle / Gauthier Chapelle and Pablo Servigne 

The authors show how rich collaborative relationships can be and demonstrate how mutual aid is an integral pillar of evolution


Advocacy for Altruism / Mathieu Ricard 

A gripping essay at the intersection of psychology, neuroscience, the economy and ecology.



What if you put a sociocratic, participatory style of governance in place in your class or any other body?

Develop a small business in your school or your educational institution. 

In most countries, local associations facilitate the implementation process and train you according to your needs... Go search online for local addresses!

Depending on your interests and level of commitment, many organisations are looking for volunteers, campaigners and activists. Here are some of them : 

‣ Le mouvement Colibri (The Colibri Movement) 

‣ Quinoa 

‣ Rencontres des continents (Meeting of

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