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Messages from Advisors

Alan AtKisson

President, the AtKisson Group

Alan AtKisson

To my friends and colleagues with ISHES in Japan:

Looking backward in time from the moment of ISHES' founding, Japan had already experienced a decade of stagnant economic growth, as growth is traditionally defined. The nation needed a new vision for success in the 21st century, one that included a shift away from single-minded fixation with increasing production, consumption, and GDP, toward a more balanced view of work, qualify of life, and social and environmental stewardship.

Then came the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident.

As we look forward from this dramatic and tragic moment, we must acknowledge that the strategic challenge for ISHES has changed dramatically. Probably Japan will experience significant economic growth in the coming years, as resources are mobilized for recovery and rebuilding. Japan may once again look like a strong, dynamic economy, at least in GDP terms. (This is part of the absurd, perverse logic of the GDP: it rises in response to disasters, accidents, and wars.)

This is a crucial moment. History and science tell us that moments of disruptive collapse are very pregnant in the history of any system, including a whole nation. Patterns can become established that can swing countries onto wildly different paths, depending on which voices, which ideas, and which emotions become amplified and predominant. One important role for ISHES could be to help amplify those voices and those questions that can help the Japanese people find the most positive path forward, a path of optimism, hope, and global engagement.

This leads to my second point. When we look outward from Japan to the world, ISHES may again have a special role to play.

At this time of partial collapse and rebuilding, who better than Japan to catalyze some very serious, global-level questioning about the scale of our global industrial activity, and our perceived dependence on its unending growth? Who better than ISHES to play this role?

ISHES was created to tackle large questions, not small ones. For the most tragic of causes, ISHES' "reason for existence" has been strengthened greatly. ISHES' need to be actively engaging Japanese society has been heightened, its timelines accelerated. The questions that it must help the Japanese people tackle have become of even greater importance and scale.

Happiness, well-being, social solidarity, and environmental care are, in themselves, deeply traditional values in Japan: they are "deeply Japanese." They can provide a steady compass through turbulent economic times to come. ISHES can play a small-but-important stabilizing, catalyzing, and orienting role during these times -- first and foremost in support of the Japanese people, but also in service to the world.

- Alan AtKisson
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