Our Future Is Not Being Televised

By Peter Bergel

On Tuesday night a reported 100,000 Americans joined Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz for a national conversation about breaking the partisan gridlock in Washington DC. It was another great example of the growing willingness of ordinary people to reclaim their power from those to whom they have delegated it, only to see it abused.


Schultz was a suitable leader for this conversation because he had recently organized CEOs from more than a hundred companies to halt contributions to U.S. political campaigns until DC office holders stop their political wrangling and behave in a financially responsible manner. He also encouraged those who joined him to spend their money to stimulate growth in their own industries.

Widespread Mobilization Below the Mainstream Radar

The national conversation was organized by a group called No Labels, one of a growing number of organizations calling for large-scale changes in a global social-political-financial system that is no longer serving most of those who live under it. Most of these efforts are being ignored by mainstream media, but are nonetheless doing powerful organizing that is transforming the practical definition of “peace.” Some other examples:

  • The Earth Charter Initiative – an extraordinarily diverse, global network of people, organizations, and institutions that participate in promoting and implementing the values and principles of the Earth Charter. This document presents a comprehensive vision of a world that works for everyone.
  • The Great Transition Initiative – another group offering visions and pathways for a hopeful future. In March, they issued a manifesto called “Beyond the Growth Paradigm: Creating a Unified Progressive Politics.”
  • Push4Peace – an international media, marketing and fundraising campaign whose mission is to help aggregate and accelerate the work of multiple existing peace initiatives into a coordinated movement to inspire people everywhere to take action towards creating a culture of peace.
  • The Shift Network – aims to empower a global movement of people who are creating an evolutionary shift of consciousness that in turn leads to a more enlightened society, one built on principles of sustainability, peace, health, and prosperity. They say that now is the time for an “upgrade to our planetary operating system.” Push4Peace and The Shift hope to reach out to over a billion people by the end of 2012.
  • The Foundation for Global Collaboration and Peace – a New York State non-profit that aims to inform, engage and connect the global community by serving as a resource center for participatory peace, in order to promote equality, inter-community communication, cross-cultural collaboration, peaceful conflict resolution and global peace building.
  • Rebuild the Dream – organizers of a “Contract for the American Dream” which has been endorsed by more than 130,000 Americans. This effort is closely allied to MoveOn.org.
  • Ethical Markets – the brainchild of radical economist Hazel Henderson, this group offers the “Green Transition Scoreboard,” a set of social investment indexes,  and a wealth of other sustainability tools.
  • A Future Without War believes that “we can, within twenty-five to thirty-five years from the time we officially resolve to do it, create a future in which war is not only unacceptable, it is abhorrent and obsolete.” Their plan is called “Shaping the Future – A Proposal to Hasten a Global Paradigm Shift for the Security and Well-being of All Children Everywhere.”
  • Repeace and Beyond War are other similar organizations.
  • Common Good Bank – a part of Common Good Finance – offers an exciting, innovative way to keep our money in our home communities and use it to work for the local common good.
  • Move to Amend – is working to repeal corporate personhood and protect us from domination by corporate financial interests.

Evolve to Survive

These are just a few of the components of the vast network of people and organizations currently working to create a world that works for everyone. Entrepreneur Paul Hawken wrote about this diverse network in his excellent and celebrated book Blessed Unrest, but it has become more sophisticated and self-aware since he wrote. Environmentalist Bill McKibben, in calling Hawken’s book “the first full account of the real news of our time,” recognized that this network represents an evolutionary step forward which is absolutely critical to the survival of our species.

This evolutionary step is comprised of two paradigm shifts:

  1. Moving from a growth paradigm to a sustainability paradigm,
  2. Moving from a domination paradigm to a cooperation paradigm.

Using growth as the measure of success has been described as “the ethic of the cancer cell.” We now understand that unrestrained growth is no more sustainable for an economy than it is for a cell. There are natural limits imposed by resource availability and space which cannot, in the real world, be ignored forever. Attempting to do so in the quest for short-term profits threatens our species – as well as most of the others on the planet – with extinction. The meaning of “sustainable,” on the other hand, is that decisions we make today do not foreclose the ability of future generations to make similar decisions.

The historical arrow of human progress has pointed in the direction of wider sharing of power in human societies since the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 AD moved us away from the divine right of kings. Corporate-led successes in reversing that arrow over the past 30-40 years are now asserting the divine right of capital, but the future of freedom, compassion, justice and strength lies in the direction of greater cooperation and sharing.

We must learn to measure every policy decision against these two crucial paradigm shifts. We must ask, “Will this decision make our community/region/nation/world more sustainable?” and “Does this decision allow those affected by it to have input into it?”

When we have learned to apply these measures instinctively, as some indigenous peoples have, we will be on our way to social maturity.  Φ

Peter Bergel is the Executive Director of Oregon PeaceWorks and founding editor of The PeaceWorker online news magazine.

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