An ESG Economy: What’s in it for me?


As I observed more and more of my dialogues of engagement in 2018, and in anticipation of massive geopolitical shocks in the region of South East Asia, and peering into the horizon of 2030, I am now beginning to ask myself a question that perhaps I had truthfully shied away from confronting.


In a dialogue with myself, perhaps, this is the real starting point of any engagement, regarding Sustainability, ESG (Environmental Social Governance) Economy, Global Goals 2030.


It isn’t about coherence. What’s coherent is obvious yet rejected: peace, harmony, flourishing, prosperity.


What is obvious is uncertainty and ambiguity and the holding on to stability. But there is no longer such a thing – due to the unprecedented change in technological possibilities and the challenges in environmental responses that are required by earth-scale coordination, cooperation and collaboration.


Sometimes we like to believe that we can depart from being a part of the forces of change. I know I do. Being swept by change is uncomfortable. It makes one feel powerless. And so we hunker down; we hide, we play small, we stay in places of small denials.



Places of Small Denials


Places of small denials aren’t going to protect nor help anyone. Places of small denials are intoxicatingly alluring, because it is a state of mind. So, one can say, “Oh, I am who I think am,” but the painful truthful reality is astonishingly stark: “I am simply who is.” What is the difference between these two statements? The former is the allure of mind over matter, in that notion that a belief system can protect one from suffering. The latter makes one confront the notion that one’s life is interdependent, actually, entirely dependent on reality. Reality of nature, reality of social: personal-relational as well as personal-communal, and when it comes to roof-over-head matters – entirely about property rights, which is rooted entirely in sovereignty of states and citizenry, meaning – politics. Which actually is a matter of the commons, or governance. That is why the 3BL paradigm had evolved to include the G consideration (Governance).


Belief systems can come in many cultural codes and traditions. It can get entrenched in written forms over barefoot forms. It just gets entrenched as “truths” and then becomes a fort of stability of one’s mental state. But it is a fort that has been built on sand with a very high wall where nothing can penetrate. When a place does not have entry or exit, it means that space no longer allows change. It no longer is capable of growth.


A place such as this may be comfortable but terribly lonely and essentially, one is constantly under siege. There is always an enemy. No matter what one does, or believe in, (in the setting up of one’s belief system and sub-governance structure), one has an enemy.


Literalism does that. It does not allow interpretations. It does not allow multiple perspectives. It entrenches golden rules of following blindly unquestionable “truths”.



Personal-relational is about psychology at the end of the day.


Positive psychology has indicated amazing breakthroughs for one’s personal-relational improvements, but foundationally, what happens is insight regarding the relational of the drama triangle: parent-adult-child or persecutor-rescuer-victim. This is the source of much of toxic relationships, and the confusion, a deep source of emotional pain as the emotional growth of a person cannot breakthrough the ideation, actualisation and ideology of cultural oppression. It feels much more comfortable to feel powerful (over another), as power-play of relational, can only actualise if there is an “other”, to oppress and control.


What has happened is that the personal-relational dynamics is still at transactional. There is no intimacy. When there is no true intimacy, there will be divides, as already been set by the a priori power-play of one-upping, in whatever derivative playoffs in the relationship. There is no possibility of policing this space, because the choice is already – I am ok, you are not ok or I am not ok, you are ok, or I am not ok, you are not ok. Everything is rooted on “not ok”. The outcome is already on a predefined-predetermined path to “not ok” set by the most tenacious and dominant one-upper-er.


The insight of transcendence (from relational power-play) or true transformation requires the insight that change is what life is. Change is life. Sometimes we lose, sometimes we gain, and sometimes, it isn’t about winning or losing at all. And actually, it isn’t a drama game at all. The play is an inner state of mind. Of being under siege, and wondering how to interact with the “other”. With newness. With unexpectedness. With another person. With life, which has to present something new everyday. Every moment.


So hanging on to stability as “OK” and change as “Not OK” makes one fearful and inadequate, very deeply afraid – of the loss, of change, of sense-making.



The other is simply the alterity of existence.


And a true state of alterity is scary. Precisely because the “I” would and can never control the “other”. It doesn’t even know what this “other” is. And if the growth mindset were to subsist, then the other will always remain a possibility. There will always be a place for mystery. This means, to have a healthy, ongoing psychological, emotional, cognitive growth, one will always need to have the capacity to confront this mysterious – other. Otherwise, by root definition, growth is already truncated. The fixed mindset has already kicked in. Fear of the unknown has already put the wall down between one’s existing inner paradigm and the emerging inner paradigm of the self, which can only be necessitated by the encountering with the true other. What this means is that personal growth or transformation is a process that requires a really true learning and incorporation or inclusion of the non-projected other.


However, if one is refusing to even alter in the slightest bit one’s inner paradigm, there isn’t actually any real mutual growth or emergence, because one is still asserting one’s view and trying to define the other as an object in one’s own inner sense-making of one’s own inner paradigm or belief system.


Nothing that one does can change this inner paradigm unless one starts to remove the high wall, a choice that only the self can do, unfortunately, because, true and lasting change can only happen, by choice. Through a coherently worked through or examined self-determination process and re-interpretation and re-articulation.



Influence isn’t the way.


Influence doesn’t teach anyone how to think nor how to make choices nor how to build one’s inner universe, one’s own inner coherence. Paradigmic changes have to have some kind of “conversion” or “transformation” because something new is replacing the old. If something is new, it is like losing your entire a priori sense-making, or frame, and until a new emerges, one is actually in the state of complete anguish and vulnerability. One eithers forges forward or retreats to the “safe” old waters, which one would also realise is a state of complete agony anyway, because quite clearly something – the presence of the true “other” – had already triggered or prompted or sparked one to seek the new.


The catalyst of change – such is what it does. It creates a necessary inner suffering, and unless one recognizes it, and then realise, “Oh, it is time to examine, re-examine, re-interpret,” one would resist. Or be in apathy, or be in defense, or be in offense.



Personal language emergence


What needs to enable personal growth then, is there needs to be language, a robust inner space that can host the emergence of the new language, a new grammar, that truly incorporates the “other” – the language and the world of the “other”. The incorporation of the “other”, which is true full inclusion, cannot happen, if there is no true dialogue. There is no true dialogue if there is no true communication. There is no true communication if there is no common ground where new words can re-begin, that both personhoods have defined together. A language where the two have formated together as a common language, as a new language, between the two, where new understanding of both inner universes, can begin to have a bridge: a communication channel between the two islands, so to speak.


For the longest time, I had wondered how do we communicate with someone who is non-verbal. I watched a video of a child trying harder than anyone to communicate with another child who is non-verbal. And she taught me how to do this, to speak to a stranger who does not (yet) speak my language: “He and I just have to know what this (symbol) means together.”


Language and culture cannot be separated.


It is one and the same. New culture cannot emerge if there is no time spent together to emerge new meanings and sense-making and symbols together. Such is what is required in true friendships where true care and intimacy reigns.



The elusive and alluring ESG Economy


Property rights will change.


They will change in accordance to very whimsical notions of the ruling tribes and factional warring of sub-tribes. Tribes can be warring or friendly. Whatever we do, we clump together as a tribe.


For me, perhaps, this morning, I understand, the ESG Economy which I seek, is perhaps more elusive and alluring than what I dare to admit to. It requires personal and tribal change. It is an exacting and yet vital call. For the reasons which everyone has stated (in one form or manner – terrifyingly or calmly): the Anthropocene, technological possibilities, unprecedented scale of micro-macro coordination, and that we have actually been very successful in extending longevity and quality of life as human persons for 12,000 years of the Holocene.



Finally, I answer the inquiry: What’s in it for me?


Continuity. Beauty. Possibility.


I suppose, I had doggedly pursued this ESG Economy paradigm, in order to sense-make for myself, how to respond to not a crisis, but a big change. The disruption that I know is emerging that will change significantly everything.


It isn’t one event. It is a shift in consciousness, because it requires each of us to confront our true “other”, over and over again.


The true “other” is each of our own inner walls, our own components of belief systems, which have been isolated, those components which have no real communication or meaning-making with another, that which are actually our own true hidden inner “others”.


Some call it the shadows, some call it prejudices, some call it psychological archetypes, some say we tuck our oppressed values in split personalities.


Regardless, they will emerge and be prompted by our own projections of our fears upon the stranger who most reflects or catalyses these qualities. Regardless, we would have to meet, confront, engage, befriend, emerge-new the very qualities that we have rejected or taught to reject about ourselves, of or our own innate or inner human nature.



And so, I can’t even begin to explain what ESG Economy is –


This is because, unless one truly has made a choice to unpack oneself, one cannot build a new possibility – not for oneself and certainly, not for humanity.


This is my honest to goodness analysis of what is required for the integrated transformative ESG Economy to happen together. It is a transformation in mutuality.


Sanity is a guarantee, I suppose. To process the impending rapid and scale changes.


Power. If one feels powerful about sanity, I suppose that works too. But actually, the power is in the capacity to process and hold one’s own and the other’s vulnerability and ambiguities, and silences. Silences are necessary in the space of new language emergences, because the two have not yet found a common language to begin to be create together, though clearly, the fascination of the other already exists for the engagement of distances to have begun.


Property rights. One can use a fair, transparent and caring mechanism or one can resort to gangsterism. I am too idealistic. So perhaps this commons is the most difficult of all commons.



What is the attachment underlying the the fight over property rights?


One’s safety and basic necessities are at stake. One’s belonging. One’s place in the world. One’s possibility of even beginning to be – to live as one’s own, and then be able to contribute to society, to make a choice, to be able to formate one’s language, cognition, culture, personhood, friendship, relationship, family, communities – essentially “the bare necessities of life” – to grow and subsist in the growth mindset.


My contribution is simply this unpacking. I am simply the unpacker.


The choice to fight isn’t mine.


Because fight is the rootedness of division, and it is already a toxic stance – a powering up, a drama triangle trapping, that already has a path towards destruction. And for this reason, I won’t fight. I won’t sell (out). I won’t advocate. I won’t influence. I shall endeavour to simply live my own inner coherence, which I have simply coded down as an inner paradigm that helps me sense-making of the world, people and economics.



Is the ESG Economy for sale?


Trading doesn’t mean something is for sale. It simply means there is a mechanism for redistribution. The redistribution can be destructive or regenerative.


In my processing and analysis, for myself, I choose regeneration and beauty of life, and hence, have in my own self-determination chosen to commit to this.


And I have chosen to share my inner coherence. That is all.


My legal friends have persuaded me to stitch the ESG Economy paradigm, the skeletal form as it is now, into the property rights of the fabric of the existing economy.


If I write it down as a license, it begins whirring, but actually, even if I don’t, it is already still whirring.


So, I suppose, if it is licensed, it is about my own discovery of property rights, and the engagement of this “other” that I would have to get to know, be intimate about, make choices about, and continue to build the possibilities of the applications of this ESG Economy paradigm for greater good.


There is a semi-shrug in this open letter.


And I am truly happy and excited for your taking the time to read this open letter, and begin our dialogue of uncomfortable momentary silences while we truly learn to meet, sense-make, become friends, in a common new field of mutual discoveries, creativities and possibilities.


Property rights, and sans property rights.



Peng-Ean Khoo
Co-Founder and Director
Bilberries Blue Pte Ltd
April 18, 2018