The other day I blurted out a spontaneous Rorschach of an idea about America and its place in the world. It goes like this: We (meaning the USA, and its partners in the uber-consuming west) are an intrinsic part of an amorphous self-perpetuating amalgam called the “cumulative monster.” But, because all of us are so caught up in the the evolved DNA of this beast it is very hard for us see ourselves as co-conspirators in the monster's smothering murder of the world. In essence, our collective shadow is so big we can't see it ---- we can't own it. Predictably, as the stench of the beast has spread, more and more of us are looking for a "noxious other" to pin it on. The fly in the ointment, of course, is that Its becoming increasingly clear, that this "us" vs "them" default is not only not working, it is part of the problem. In very short order we have traveled from the twentieth century --- where personified demons like Hitler, Stalin, the KKK, etc. were so easy to perceive as a separate species--- to the Twenty First Century ---where our collective, interconnected, interdependent responsibility for everything from the environment, to human rights to peace is as unavoidable as breathing. This is a massively difficult perceptual leap that calls into question the prevailing worldview that has defined "progress" and driven human events for the last 5000 years.
think a lot of the conflict rising up around the world is a visceral reaction
to one of the most obvious symptoms of this worldview upheaval---the breathtakingly rapid disintegration of what President Obama called in his inaugural
address “the lines of tribes.” This
is a scary thing for a lot of people. On one hand we are regularly being
confronted by the collective karma of global inter-connection. On the other, the thing that defines us “my place”, “my family”,
“my community’” ---each tribe's unique sense of itself as
compared other tribes---is perceived by many as under direct attack by this same tsunami of
interconnectedness. It is not surprising that that many in the world, ---from Afghan
hills to the Tea Party convention to the BP boardroom ---feel they are in a
fight for their very survival.
The cultural principles of Earth Community affirm the spiritual unity and interconnectedness of Creation. They favor respect for all beings, nonviolence, service to community, and the stewardship of common resources for the benefit of generations to come. The economic principles of Earth Community affirm the basic right of every person to a means of livelihood and the responsibility of each person to live in a balanced relationship with their place on Earth without expropriating the resources of others. The political principles of Earth Community affirm the inherent worth and potential of all individuals and their right to a voice in the decisions that shape their lives, thereby favoring inclusive citizen engagement, cooperative problem solving, and restorative justice.
realize a society based on these principles, Korten argues that we need to
recognize that our relationships to each other and to nature are matters of
choice, not inevitability. But it often seems that these choices are not
possible. Why? Our sense of powerlessness stems from the fact that we have been
taught to believe a series of stories about how prosperity, security, and
meaning are created. These stories, the imperial stories, favor concentration
of power and wealth over more equitable forms of living. New stories are needed
to provide the foundation for new beliefs about prosperity, security and
meaning—stories based on the principles of Earth Community. For example, the
belief that prosperity results from an ever-enlarging pie, part of which will
trickle down, needs to be replaced by the recognition that “true prosperity
depends on life-serving economies that satisfy our basic material needs,
maintain a sustainable balance with Earth’s natural systems, strengthen the
bonds of caring communities, and support all persons in the full realization of
How these new stories are created, shared and turned into action is a big part of what Pat Shifferd and I address in a new book coming out in a couple of months. The book is called Between Grace and Fear: The Role of the Arts in a Time of Change. I know this is my perpetual soapbox topic, but I can’t help thinking that our sense of hopelessness in the face of what appears to be insurmountable problems precipitated by enormous forces beyond our control is in fact one of the most powerful of the Empire stories. The antidote to this way of thinking is of course is as simple as it is audacious --- each day, each moment that we encounter our fellow workers, our neighbors, our family members, and most of all our kids, is an opportunity to insinuate a small part of a different story into the narrative of the world. The altered worldview we need to change course will be created in much the same manner as the current version was--- from person to person, from heart to heart, one dance, one song, one painting, one story at a time.