(A day’s worth of food in the palm of the hand – Emily Akai (34) and her family. Photograph: Rankin – Oxfam in Kenya)
What if many of the things we take as unshakeable realities aren’t fixed in some unalterable way but rather exist not only with our assent but with our whole co-operation? What does it mean if much of reality is within our control not outside it?
Social reality is an expression of human agreement, someone is the president of a country and has the powers of that office because a system of government is created and acknowledged by the inhabitants of that country. When the fundamental agreements which frame belief and behaviour change, social reality will change. (1)
Mount Everest and the Atlantic Ocean belong to a type of reality that the philosopher John Searle calls ‘brute’ reality.(2) We obviously don’t create brute reality – though we do seem able to destroy it. Social reality is something different.
What everybody needs to know about reality is that while we don’t make mountains and trees, we do make social reality – or at least we all help to make it and so, we can all help to change it.
(1) Paul Lample, Revelation and Social Reality, p. 9
(2) John Searle, The Construction of Social Reality.