It’s a topsy-turvy world when billionaire bankers are supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially considering their primary target is billionaire bankers.

As manager of one of the largest bond investment companies in the world, Mohamed El-Erian has frequently been known to say things like:

“A peaceful drive for greater social justice can unify people from diverse cultural backgrounds, political affiliations, religions, and social classes.”


“It is important to understand OWS better and engage it appropriately.”

I’m sure this guy isn’t making many friends with his elitist colleagues whose rather posh livelihoods are inextricably wrapped-up in the status quo of global economics and finance, the very status quo groups like OWS would like to deconstruct. What could possibly be going on? Why does this seem so counter-intuitive?

My theory is that El-Erian is among a group of people participating in a new way of thinking, a way of interacting for benefit. Here at the THEE online project, we’re calling this 21st Century Enlightenment thinking. Here’s why:

• El-Erian and other 21C Enlightenment thinkers realize that the world is quickly shrinking, bringing the endlessly diverse cultures, societies, and peoples of the world ever closer together. For any one individual or any society to succeed, an understanding of the perspectives of the other will be crucial.

• To understand a particular viewpoint and engage it appropriately is a hallmark of 21C Enlightenment thinking. This link shows how THEE describes it in terms of individual interactions. Obviously, we’re all different, even within common cultures. And if we want anything, we have to interact with each other. Remember the previous blog “Other People.”

The root of all prejudice is ignorance. And it is all too often that prejudiced parties have no desire to learn about anything that isn’t already familiar to them. As individuals and societies, choosing to know will be the first step.

El-Erian once recounted a lesson his father taught him, saying: “When my father was an Egyptian diplomat posted to France in the early 1970s, he insisted that we be exposed every day to a range of national and international newspapers that spanned the entire political spectrum. When I asked him why we needed such a proliferation of papers, his answer was a simple one: It is a constant reminder that there are many ways to think about the same issue; and no one should assume that they always have the right approach.”

THEE would call this a perspective centered mentality and it’s going to come in very handy in the coming generations. However, this mentality has its own limitations, as do the variety of others. Understanding how these people think is a key to unlock how to interact with them, for your and everyone’s benefit.

With 21C Enlightenment thinkers, many things will seem counter-intuitive (like the banking elite supporting grassroots democratic movements). Much of this revolution of thought will require a shedding of previously-held conventions and ways of thinking that have cemented themselves well into the fabric of society.

You too can participate! It’s as easy as choosing to know. Learn about people, both within and outside of your own society. Be open-minded and well-rounded. Be a force for change in a world desperately searching for one.

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