THE GRAND IMPERATIVE
ABOLISH EMPIRE & ESTABLISH EARTH COMMUNITY
Zevin x. cruz
(A Participant of Occupy Cortland & Occupy Ithaca, NY)
A PERSONAL PROPOSAL FOR THE ONE GLOBAL DEMAND
THE GRAND IMPERATIVE
A SPECTRE is spooking the global economy—the Specter of a Second Great Depression. Or is it a “Greater Depression?” Perhaps hyperinflation is on the horizon or worse yet, a combination of both—the return of stagflation from the stifling seventies? Could this be the crumbling of capitalism as foretold by Karl Marx? Or is this much more monumental in scope—the collapse of complex industrial societies in Western Civilization due to transgressing earth’s dynamic equilibrium as a result of our ecological exploitation? Has Mother Nature reached a tipping point due to our unsustainable cultural, economic, political and social system predicated on the maladaptive paradigm of infinite growth through corporate globalization? And if so, is this the final fate of our over-reliance on fossil fuels as peak oil crashes the economy? Or has this financial fiasco been allowed to occur to clandestinely curb our consumption of energy? After all, people who are out of work don’t go on vacations, don’t fly, don’t commute long distances to a job they no longer have. Worst yet, was it an orchestrated crash in a controlled demolition manner in order to mitigate the perilous consequences of climate change and the dramatic declines of global oil production through “demand destruction?” All the while the global financial elites profit from the aftermath in what has become known as “disaster capitalism,” as described by Naomi Klein’s landmark book—The Shock Doctrine. Is this predatory capitalism’s last gasp for survival? If so, this global cadre of corporatists will not go down without a fight because those in power will do anything to remain in power.
We, as Human Beings, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual preferences or orientation—all comprise this one living organism we call planet Earth. As such, our single overriding purpose, for the sake of all life on this planet, now and in the future, is best expressed as a Grand Imperative—“ABOLISH EMPIRE AND ESTABLISH EARTH COMMUNITY!” This is our ultimate goal—THE ONE GLOBAL DEMAND. It succinctly synthesizes what we are against and what we are for in one short, uncomplicated yet all-encompassing sentence. “Look still further upstream beyond Wall Street—even beyond the money-is-wealth illusion—and we find the yet bigger picture—a five-thousand-year history of rule and expropriation by rulers intent on securing their privilege and pampering their egos by any means,” this according to David C. Korten in his book AGENDA FOR A NEW ECONOMY: From Phantom Wealth To Real Wealth. He elaborates: “In an earlier time, rulers were kings and emperors. Now they are corporate CEOs and hedge fund managers. Wall Street is Empire’s most recent stage, and hopefully the last in this tragic drama. Five thousand years is enough. This is an epic moment. We now have the imperative and the means as a nation and a species to end the era of Empire and liberate ourselves from a needless tragedy.”1
In the grand narrative of human history, October 15, 2011, will mark the millennial moment of epic convergence as the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that began on September 17, by 2,000 people and 150 youths camped out at “Liberty Plaza,” officially went global as 1,500 cities in over 82 countries from around the world continued to expand a cultural and spiritual awakening indicative of the outrage approaching a tipping point. According to the United For #Global Change, “people from all over the world will take to the streets and squares. From America to Asia, from Africa to Europe, people are rising up to claim their rights and demand a true democracy. Now it is time for all of us to join in a global nonviolent protest. The ruling powers work for the benefit of just a few, ignoring the will of the vast majority and the human and environmental price we all have to pay. This intolerable situation must end. United in one voice, we will let politicians, and the financial elites they serve, know it is up to us, the people, to decide our future. We are not goods in the hands of politicians and bankers who do not represent us. On October 15th, we will meet on the streets to initiate the global change we want. We will peacefully demonstrate, talk and organize until we make it happen. It’s time for us to unite. It’s time for them to listen. People of the world, rise up….” 2
THE FIRST ORDER
On October 15, 2011 the global power elites took notice. However, to date, the Occupy Movement has retreated from Adbusters’ initial rallying call to come up with one simple demand. A lot of legitimate reasons for this were given but basically it comes down to one: it has become increasingly clear that every aspect of the system is problematic and that all the problems are interrelated; therefore, no single demand, (it is mistakenly thought) could encapsulate the enormity of the crisis at hand. But as I have suggested on behalf of the 99% within S3K, it is possible. We understood that the first order of business was to identify the true source of our social problems so that our future demands, plans, goals, objectives and tactics are to be strategically directed at the appropriate targets that yield the maximum impact with the greatest number of people. This was how The Grand Imperative—ABOLISH EMPIRE & ESTABLISH EARTH COMMUNITY—was developed as the suggested one global demand for the October 15 worldwide occupations. It accurately aims at the root cause of our current condition, rather than proposing symptoms-oriented-solutions. “The source of most of the economic, social, and environmental pathologies of our time—including sexism, racism, economic injustice, violence, and environmental destruction—originate upstream in institutions that grant unaccountable power and privilege to the few and assign the majority to lives of hardship and desperation,” this according to David C. Korten’s book, The Great Turning: From Empire To Earth Community. The origins of such pathological pursuits of money and power is the CULTURE of Empire, in other words, the dominant society’s mode of thought and way of life, which consist of the worldview, values and lifestyle of western industrial civilization predicated on infinite economic growth, monopoly capitalism, extreme competition, excessive individualism, survival of the fittest, materialism, exploitation, hierarchy, violence, and the imperial pursuits of domination by the power elite and wealthy ruling class through global financial institutions like the WTO, IMF and World Bank led by the Bilderberg Group, Trilateral Commission, Council On Foreign Relations and the Federal Reserve. They accomplish this through financial weapons of mass destruction, enslaving nations and individuals with debt by utilizing central banking, fiat currency, fractional reserve financing and compound interest within the monetary-market system. Although elite factions might engage in ruthless competition with one another, they generally aligned in common cause to secure the continuity of the institutions of their collective privilege, often using intermarriage as a mechanism of alliance building. If many of the patterns associated with ancient kings, pharaohs, and emperors seem strangely familiar to our own time of the democratic ideal, it is because…the dominator cultures and institutions of Empire simply morphed into new forms in the face of the democratic challenge—[today in the form of] a “constitutional plutocracy with an agenda of imperial expansion.” 3
According to John Perkins, The Secret History of American Empire, the United States exhibits all the characteristics of Empire, which he defines as a “nation-state that dominates other nation-states and exhibits one or more the following seven traits:
- Consumes large quantities of resources; amounts that are disproportionate for the size of its population relative to those of other nations. (The United States represents less than 5% of the global population yet it consumes more than 25% of the world’s resources.)
- Exploits resources from the lands it dominates. (The United States is able to consume disproportionally more resources to a large degree through the exploitation of the developing world by way of “Free-Trade” agreements, outsourcing jobs to third world countries for cheap labor and global financial institutions like the WTO, IMF and the World Bank.)
- Maintains a large military that enforces its policies when more subtle measures fail. (The United States maintains the largest and the most sophisticated military in the world. Although this empire has primarily been built through financial means (like the use of Economic Hit Men), world leaders understand that whenever other measures fail the military will step in as it did in Iraq.)
- Spreads its language, literature, art and various aspects of its culture throughout its sphere of influence. (The English language and American culture dominate the world.)
- Taxes not just its own citizens but also people in other countries. (Although the United States does not tax countries directly, the Corporatocracy does impose a subtle indirect global tax due to inflation and the dollar as the standard currency for global commerce.)
- Imposes its own currency on the lands under its control. (Although the US dollar has not replaced other monies in local markets it is the world reserve currency. Initially through the gold standard after World War II then as the petro-dollar on August 15, 1971, when the Nixon Administration dropped the gold standard altogether due the French demand to redeem their dollars for gold. Washington scrambled to convince the world to continue accepting the dollar as standard currency. Under the Saudi Arabian Money Laundering Affair (SAMA), which John Perkins help engineered in the early 1970s, the royal House of Saud committed to selling oil for U.S. dollars. Because the Saudis controlled the petroleum market the rest of the Organization of Petroleum Export Countries (OPEC) was forced to comply. As long as oil reigned as the supreme resource the dollar’s domination as the world reserve currency was assured and the indirect tax would ensue.)
- Ruled by an emperor or king, who has control over the government, the media and is not elected by the people, is not subject to their will and whose term is not limited by law. (The appearance that we live in a democracy is illusionary. The U.S. is ruled by a group of people who collectively act very much like a king. They run our very large corporations and through them our government. They cycle through the revolving door, back and forth between business and government. Because they fund political campaigns and the media, they control elected officials and the information we receive. These men and women, the Corporatocracy [corporate consolidation of power and wealth], are in charge regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats control the White House or Congress. They are not subject to the people’s will and their terms are not limited by law.)
This modern empire has been built surreptitiously, most of its own citizens are not aware of its own existence, however, those exploited by it are and many suffer from extreme poverty. On average twenty-four thousand people die of hunger and hunger-related diseases every day. More than half the planet’s population lives on less than two dollars a day—often not enough to provide the basic amenities, and about the same in real terms as they received thirty years ago. For us to live comfortable lives, millions must pay a very high price. While we have become aware of the environmental damage engendered by our consumptive lifestyles, the majority of us are either oblivious to or in denial of the costs in human suffering. Our children, however, will have no choice but to take responsibility for the imbalances we have created.
In the process of building this empire, we in the United States have managed to discard our most fundamental beliefs, those that in the past defined the very essence of what it is to be an American. We have denied ourselves and those we colonize the rights so eloquently expressed by our Declaration of Independence. We have forfeited the principles of universal equality, justice, and prosperity.
History teaches that empires do not endure; they collapse or are overthrown. Wars ensue and another empire fills the vacuum. The past sends a compelling message. We must change. We cannot afford to allow history to repeat itself. The power base of the corporatocracy is its corporations. They define our world. When we look at a globe we see the outlines of slightly less than two hundred countries. Many of the boundaries were established by colonial powers and most of these countries have minimal impact on their neighbors. From a geopolitical viewpoint this model is archaic; the reality of our modern world might better be represented by huge clouds that encircle the planet, each symbolizing a multinational corporation. These powerful entities impact every single country. Their tentacles reach into the deepest rainforests and to the most remote deserts.
The corporatocracy makes a show of promoting democracy and transparency among the nations of the world, yet its corporations are imperialistic dictatorships where a very few make all the decisions and reap most of the profits. In our electoral process—the very heart of our democracy—most of us get to vote only for candidates whose campaign chests are full; therefore, we must select from among those who are beholden to the corporations and the men who own them. Contrary to our ideals, this empire is built on foundations of greed, secrecy, and excessive materialism.
All of this comprise the stratified social system of oppression that we live under as wage slaves indentured to debt but disguised as the free-market, while falsely believing we live in a democracy when our politicians are bought and sold to the highest bidder in the legalize system of bribery, otherwise known as lobbying.
Where does that leave us?
THE EARTH CHARTER
The predominant purpose for all the people throughout the planet is to abolish Empire and establish Earth Community. Once again, Korten describes Empire as “the destructive and oppressive nature of the global corporate economy,” which is “merely one manifestation of […] ‘Empire’: the organization of society through hierarchy and violence that has largely held sway for the past 5,000.” Korten elaborates on this concept of Empire and offers an alternative option of Earth Community:
Empire organizes by domination at all levels, from relations among nations to relations among family members. Empire brings fortune to the few, condemns the majority to misery and servitude, suppresses the creative potential of all, and appropriates much of the wealth of human societies to maintain the institutions of domination.
Earth Community, by contrast, organizes by partnership, unleashes the human potential for creative cooperation, and shares resources and surpluses for the good of all. Supporting evidence for the possibilities of Earth Community comes from the findings of quantum physics, evolutionary biology, developmental psychology, anthropology, archaeology, and religious mysticism. It was the human way before Empire; we must make a choice to re-learn how to live by its principles.
Developments distinctive to our time are telling us that Empire has reached the limits of the exploitation that people and Earth will sustain. A mounting perfect economic storm born of a convergence of peak oil, climate change, and an imbalanced U.S.economy dependent on debts it can never repay is poised to bring a dramatic restructuring of every aspect of modern life. We have the power to choose, however, whether the consequences play out as a terminal crisis or an epic opportunity. The Great Turning is not a prophecy. It is a possibility.4
Over the past 50 years, since the start of the sixties, there has been a cultural and spiritual awakening occurring that is now beginning to approach a critical mass, which is needed before any profound economic and political redesign of our global system could occur. This happens when a change of consciousness—a profound paradigm shift—occurs that leads to comprehensive cultural change that prepares to institute Earth Community which is: “a life-centered, egalitarian, sustainable way of ordering society based on democratic principles of partnership” through the equitable distribution of economic power—a democratic economy—that is an essential foundation of political democracy. This simple phrase: “Abolish Empire and Establish Earth Community” should be clearly understood and ingrained in each and every one us as our absolute endgame. And no other document epitomizes the values of Earth Community than the Earth Charter. “Often referred to as a people’s Declaration of Interdependence, The Earth Charter elaborates four overarching principles of Earth Community: 1) respect and care for the community of life; 2) ecological integrity; 3) social and economic justice; and 4) democracy, nonviolence, and peace,” this according to Korten. “It is also a declaration of universal responsibility to and for one another and the living Earth.” 5
On Sunday, May 8, 2011, during the “May 1st” week of International Workers Day, The Neo-Transcendentalists for The Society of the Third Millennium (S3K) signifying both the name of the art collective and the cohesive vision, presented the unveiling of an outdoor, site-specific, guerrilla art project called “THE MONOLITHIC MILESTONES, 2010-2011: A Declaration Of Interdependence Through The Integral Vision, Grand Unified Strategy & Philosophical Pillars Of Neo-Transcendentalism At The Georgia Guidestones.” It was unfurled as the peoples’ response to any purported agenda put forth by the Neo-Fascists Corporatism of the global power elites. These “Transformative Tenets of Integral Activism” that was written in white paint on the black fabrics of each individual side of the granite pillars of America’s most mysterious monument in northeast rural Georgia, represents a succinct synthesis of some of the most important Cultural Creatives’ ideas to date. From the works of Ken Wilber’s “Theory of Everything” encompassed by his “Integral Operating System (IOS)/AQAL model” (represented on the granite covered center cap as “I,” “WE,” “IT,” “ITS,”) to going as far back to the 1830’s with the start of the American Renaissance by the original Transcendentalists. The following is just one of the philosophical pillars of Neo-Transcendentalism that serves as our common and unifying grand imperative of what we are fighting for as expressed by the Earth Charter.
THE DECLARATION OF
THE EARTH CHARTER AS ONE OF THE TEN PHILOSOPHICAL PILLARS OF NEO-TRANSCENDENTALISM
Guerrilla Art Installation By Zoren X. Cross And The Society Of The Third Millennium (S3K) (Photo Courtesy Of Asym Brahms)
THE MONOLITHIC MILESTONES PROJECT, 2010-11
(Site-Specific Guerrilla Art Installation, Integral Art of Neo-Transcendentalism, Elberton, Georgia)
ELBERTON, GA—“An organization known as ‘The Neo-Transcendentalists For the Society of the Third Millennium (S3K)’ sent an email to The Elberton Star [news], claiming credit for this ‘artwork,’ at the Georgia Guidestones. Elbert County Sheriff Barry Haston said there is a complete video of the group that performed the ‘renovation’ at the site in the pre-dawn hours on May 8. The Elberton Star received the email claiming credit for the project. To see the organization’s web-site, go to www.S3K.org […].” 6
We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.
Earth, Our Home
Humanity is part of a vast evolving universe. Earth, our home, is alive with a unique community of life. The forces of nature make existence a demanding and uncertain adventure, but Earth has provided the conditions essential to life’s evolution. The resilience of the community of life and the well-being of humanity depend upon preserving a healthy biosphere with all its ecological systems, a rich variety of plants and animals, fertile soils, pure waters, and clean air. The global environment with its finite resources is a common concern of all peoples. The protection of Earth’s vitality, diversity, and beauty is a sacred trust.
The Global Situation
The dominant patterns of production and consumption are causing environmental devastation, the depletion of resources, and a massive extinction of species. Communities are being undermined. The benefits of development are not shared equitably and the gap between rich and poor is widening. Injustice, poverty, ignorance, and violent conflict are widespread and the cause of great suffering. An unprecedented rise in human population has overburdened ecological and social systems. The foundations of global security are threatened. These trends are perilous—but not inevitable.
The Challenges Ahead
The choice is ours: form a global partnership to care for Earth and one another or risk the destruction of ourselves and the diversity of life. Fundamental changes are needed in our values, institutions, and ways of living. We must realize that when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more. We have the knowledge and technology to provide for all and to reduce our impacts on the environment. The emergence of a global civil society is creating new opportunities to build a democratic and humane world. Our environmental, economic, political, social, and spiritual challenges are interconnected, and together we can forge inclusive solutions.
To realize these aspirations, we must decide to live with a sense of universal responsibility, identifying ourselves with the whole Earth community as well as our local communities. We are at once citizens of different nations and of one world in which the local and global are linked. Everyone shares responsibility for the present and future well-being of the human family and the larger living world. The spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life is strengthened when we live with reverence for the mystery of being, gratitude for the gift of life, and humility regarding the human place in nature.
We urgently need a shared vision of basic values to provide an ethical foundation for the emerging world community. Therefore, together in hope we affirm the following interdependent principles for a sustainable way of life as a common standard by which the conduct of all individuals, organizations, businesses, governments, and transnational institutions is to be guided and assessed.
RESPECT AND CARE FOR THE COMMUNITY OF LIFE
1. Respect Earth and life in all its diversity.
a. Recognize that all beings are interdependent and every form of life has value regardless of its worth to human beings.
b. Affirm faith in the inherent dignity of all human beings and in the intellectual, artistic, ethical, and spiritual potential of humanity.
2. Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion, and love.
a. Accept that with the right to own, manage, and use natural resources comes the duty to prevent environmental harm and to protect the rights of people.
b. Affirm that with increased freedom, knowledge, and power comes increased responsibility to promote the common good.
3. Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable, and
a. Ensure that communities at all levels guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms and provide everyone an opportunity to realize his or her full potential.
b. Promote social and economic justice, enabling all to achieve a secure and meaningful livelihood that is ecologically responsible.
4. Secure Earth’s bounty and beauty for present and future generations.
a. Recognize that the freedom of action of each generation is qualified by the needs of future generations.
b. Transmit to future generations’ values, traditions, and institutions that support the long-term flourishing of Earth’s human and ecological communities. In order to fulfill these four broad commitments, it is necessary to:
5. Protect and restore the integrity of Earth’s ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life.
a. Adopt at all levels sustainable development plans and regulations that make environmental conservation and rehabilitation integral to all development initiatives.
b. Establish and safeguard viable nature and biosphere reserves, including wild lands and marine areas, to protect Earth’s life support systems, maintain biodiversity, and preserve our natural heritage.
c. Promote the recovery of endangered species and ecosystems.
d. Control and eradicate non-native or genetically modified organisms harmful to native species and the environment, and prevent introduction of such harmful organisms.
e. Manage the use of renewable resources such as water, soil, forest products, and marine life in ways that do not exceed rates of regeneration and that protect the health of ecosystems.
f. Manage the extraction and use of non-renewable resources such as minerals and fossil fuels in ways that minimize depletion and cause no serious environmental damage.
6. Prevent harm as the best method of environmental protection and, when knowledge is limited, apply a precautionary approach.
a. Take action to avoid the possibility of serious or irreversible environmental harm even when scientific knowledge is incomplete or inconclusive.
b. Place the burden of proof on those who argue that a proposed activity will not cause significant harm, and make the responsible parties liable for environmental harm.
c. Ensure that decision making addresses the cumulative, long-term, indirect, long distance, and global consequences of human activities.
d. Prevent pollution of any part of the environment and allow no build-up of radioactive, toxic, or other hazardous substances.
e. Avoid military activities damaging to the environment.
7. Adopt patterns of production, consumption, & reproduction that safeguards Earth’s regenerative capacities, human rights, and community well-being.
a. Reduce, reuse, and recycle the materials used in production and consumption systems, and ensure that residual waste can be assimilated by ecological systems.
b. Act with restraint and efficiency when using energy, and rely increasingly on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.
c. Promote the development, adoption, and equitable transfer of environmentally sound technologies.
d. Internalize the full environmental and social costs of goods and services in the selling price, and enable consumers to identify products that meet the highest social and environmental standards.
e. Ensure universal access to health care that fosters reproductive health and responsible reproduction.
f. Adopt lifestyles that emphasize the quality of life and material sufficiency in a finite world.
8. Advance the study of ecological sustainability and promote the open exchange and wide application of the knowledge acquired.
a. Support international scientific and technical cooperation on sustainability, with special attention to the needs of developing nations.
b. Recognize and preserve the traditional knowledge and spiritual wisdom in all cul- tures that contribute to environmental protection and human well-being.
c. Ensure that information of vital importance to human health and environmental pro- tection, including genetic information, remains available in the public domain.
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE
9. Eradicate poverty as an ethical, social, and environmental imperative.
a. Guarantee the right to potable water, clean air, food security, uncontaminated soil,
shelter, and safe sanitation, allocating the national and international resources required.
b. Empower every human being with the education and resources to secure a sustainable
livelihood, and provide social security and safety nets for those who are unable to support themselves.
c. Recognize the ignored, protect the vulnerable, serve those who suffer, and enable them to develop their capacities and to pursue their aspirations.
10. Ensure that economic activities and institutions at all levels promote human development in an equitable and sustainable manner.
a. Promote the equitable distribution of wealth within nations and among nations.
b. Enhance the intellectual, financial, technical, and social resources of developing na- tions, and relieve them of onerous international debt.
c. Ensure that all trade supports sustainable resource use, environmental protection, and progressive labor standards.
d. Require multinational corporations and international financial organizations to act transparently in the public good, and hold them accountable for the consequences of their activities.
11. Affirm gender equality & equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health care, & economic opportunity.
a. Secure the human rights of women and girls and end all violence against them.
b. Promote the active participation of women in all aspects of economic, political, civil, social, and cultural life as full and equal partners, decision makers, leaders, and bene-
c. Strengthen families and ensure the safety and loving nurture of all family members.
12. Uphold the right of all, without discrimination, to a natural and social environment supportive of human dignity, bodily health, and spiritual well-being, with special attention to the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities.
a. Eliminate discrimination in all its forms, such as that based on race, color, sex, sexual
orientation, religion, language, and national, ethnic or social origin.
b. Affirm the right of indigenous peoples to their spirituality, knowledge, lands and re-
sources and to their related practice of sustainable livelihoods.
c. Honor and support the young people of our communities, enabling them to fulfill
their essential role in creating sustainable societies.
d. Protect and restore outstanding places of cultural and spiritual significance.
DEMOCRACY, NONVIOLENCE, AND PEACE
13. Strengthen democratic institutions at all levels, and provide transparency and accountability in governance, inclusive participation in decision making, and access to justice.
a. Uphold the right of everyone to receive clear and timely information on environmental matters and all development plans and activities which are likely to affect them or in which they have an interest.
b. Support local, regional and global civil society, and promote the meaningful participation of all interested individuals and organizations in decision making.
c. Protect the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, association, and dissent.
d. Institute effective and efficient access to administrative and independent judicial procedures, including remedies and redress for environmental harm and the threat of such harm.
e. Eliminate corruption in all public and private institutions.
f. Strengthen local communities, enabling them to care for their environments, and assign environmental responsibilities to the levels of government where they can be carried out most effectively.
14. Integrate into formal education and life-long learning the knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way of life.
a. Provide all, especially children and youth, with educational opportunities that em-
power them to contribute actively to sustainable development.
b. Promote the contribution of the arts and humanities as well as the sciences in sustainability education.
c. Enhance the role of the mass media in raising awareness of ecological and social challenges.
d. Recognize the importance of moral and spiritual education for sustainable living.
15. Treat all living beings with respect and consideration.
a. Prevent cruelty to animals kept in human societies and protect them from suffering.
b. Protect wild animals from methods of hunting, trapping, and fishing that cause ex- treme, prolonged, or avoidable suffering.
c. Avoid or eliminate to the full extent possible the taking or destruction of non-target- ed species.
16. Promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence, and peace.
a. Encourage and support mutual understanding, solidarity, and cooperation among all
peoples and within all nations.
b. Implement comprehensive strategies to prevent violent conflict and use collaborative
problem solving to manage and resolve environmental conflicts and other disputes.
c. Demilitarize national security systems to the level of a non-provocative defense pos-
ture, and convert military resources to peaceful purposes, including ecological restora-
d. Eliminate nuclear, biological, and toxic weapons and other weapons of mass destruc-
e. Ensure that the use of orbital and outer space supports environmental protection and
f. Recognize that peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, oth-
er persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which all are a
THE WAY FORWARD
As never before in history, common destiny beckons us to seek a new beginning. Such renewal is the promise of these Earth Charter principles. To fulfill this promise, we must commit ourselves to adopt and promote the values and objectives of the Charter.
This requires a change of mind and heart. It requires a new sense of global interdependence and universal responsibility. We must imaginatively develop and apply the vision of a sustainable way of life locally, nationally, regionally, and globally. Our cultural diversity is a precious heritage and different cultures will find their own distinctive ways to realize the vision. We must deepen and expand the global dialogue that generated the Earth Charter, for we have much to learn from the ongoing collaborative search for truth and wisdom.
Life often involves tensions between important values. This can mean difficult choices. However, we must find ways to harmonize diversity with unity, the exercise of freedom with the common good, short-term objectives with long-term goals. Every individual, family, organization, and community has a vital role to play. The arts, sciences, religions, educational institutions, media, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and governments are all called to offer creative leadership. The partnership of government, civil society, and business is essential for effective governance.
In order to build a sustainable global community, the nations of the world must renew their commitment to the United Nations, fulfill their obligations under existing international agreements, and support the implementation of Earth Charter principles with an international legally binding instrument on environment and development.
Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.7
THE GRAND NARRATIVE
For some, the Great Depression of the 1930s marked the start of this long and gradual demise of the monetary-market system. Its downward spiral then can be perceived today as an inevitable collapse of “capitalism” that has been occurring over a period of several decades while going through its cycles of booms and busts. Others go centuries back, espousing that the fatal fate of “phantom wealth creation” began with the early years of our country’s founding when Thomas Jefferson admonished “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country […]. I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Already they have raised up a moneyed aristocracy that has set the government at defiance. The issuing power (of money) should be taken away from the banks and restored to the people to whom it properly belongs.” 8 Today, as a collective people, we are witnessing our failure to heed Jefferson’s words of warning. However, as discussed before, this struggle spans 5,000 years, this according to David Kortens’ book AGENDA FOR A NEW ECONOMY: From Phantom Wealth To Real Wealth. “Here is the larger story of what is at stake.”
By the accounts of imperial historians, civilization, history, and human progress began with the consolidation of dominator power in the first great empires. Much is made of their glorious accomplishments and heroic battles as imperial civilizations rose and fell.
Rather less is said about the brutalization of the slaves who built the great monuments, the racism, the suppression of women, the conversion of free farmers into serfs or landless laborers, the carnage of the battles, the hopes and lives destroyed by wave after wave of invasion, the pillage and gratuitous devastation of the vanquished, and the lost creative potential.
In The Beginning
According to the cultural historian Riane Eisler, “One of the best-kept historical secrets is that practically all the material and social technologies fundamental to civilization were developed before the imposition of a dominator society.”(2) By her account, early humans evolved within a cultural and institutional frame that nurtured a deep sense of connection to one another and to Earth. They chose to cooperate with life rather than to dominate it.
The domestication of plants and animals, food production and storage, building construction, and clothing production were all discoveries and inventions of what Eisler characterizes as the great partnership societies. These societies also developed the institutions of law, government, and religion that were the foundations of complex social organizations. They cultivated the arts of dance, pottery, basket making, textile weaving, leather crafting, metallurgy, ritual drama, architecture, town planning, boat building, highway construction, and oral literature.(3) Indeed, without these accomplishments, the projection and consolidation of imperial power would not have been possible.
The Dynamics of Power
Then, some five thousand years ago, our ancestors in Mesopotamia, the land we now call Iraq, made a tragic turn from partnership to the dominator relationships of Empire. They turned away from a reverence for the generative power of life, represented by female gods or nature spirits, to a reverence for hierarchy and the power of the sword, represented by distant, usually male, gods. The wisdom of the elder and the priestess gave way to the arbitrary rule of powerful, often ruthless, kings. Societies became divided between rulers and ruled, exploiters and exploited.
Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Rome were three of history’s most celebrated empires. Each had its moments of greatness, but an enormous cost in lives, natural wealth, and human possibility, as vain and violent rulers played out the drama of Empire’s inexorable play-or-die, rule-or-be-ruled, kill-or-be-killed competition for power. The underlying dynamic favored the ascendance to power of the most ruthless, brutal, and mentally deranged.
Rule by Psychopaths
Social pathology became the norm as the god of death displaced the goddess of life and as the power of the sword triumphed over the power of the chalice. The creative energy of the species was redirected from building the generative power of the whole to advancing the technological instruments of war and the social instrument of domination. Resources were expropriated on a vast scale to maintain the military forces, prisons, palaces, temples, and patronage for retainers and propagandists on which imperial rule demands.
Great civilizations were built and then swept away in successive waves of violence and destruction. Once-great powers, weakened by corruption and an excess of hubris, fell to rival rulers, and the jealous winners sought to erase even the memory of those they vanquished. The sacred became the servant of the profane. Fertile lands were converted to desert by intention or rapacious neglect. Rule by terror fueled resentments that assured repeating cycles of violent retribution. War, trade, and debt served as weapons of the few to expropriate the means of livelihood of the many and reduce them to slavery or serfdom.
The resulting power imbalances fueled the delusional hubris and debaucheries of psychopathic rulers who fancied themselves possessed of divine privilege and otherworldly power. Attention turned from realizing the possibilities of life in this world to securing a privilege place in the afterlife.
Ruling elites maintained cultural control through the institutions of religion, economic control through the institutional of trade and credit, and political control through the institutions of rule making and organized military force […].
A NEW NATION IS BORN
More than two millennia passed between the end of the early democratic experiment of ancient Athens in 338 BCE and the beginning of the West’s next democratic experiment, marked by the signing of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776.
An Inauspicious Beginning
The realities of life in the English colonies on the Atlantic coast of what was to become the United States of America were not auspicious for democracy. The earliest settlements were operated as privately owned company estates ruled by overseers accountable to British investors. Many of the subsequent settlements were organized as parishes ruled as theocracies by preachers who believed democracy to be contrary to will of God. The colonial economies depended on slaves and bonded labor, and the family structure placed women in a condition of indentured servitude. The lands the colonies occupied were acquired by the genocidal elimination of Native Americans, and the social structures embodied deep racial and class divisions.
The diversity of circumstances, interests, races, values, religious beliefs, and national origins of the people who made up the new nation speaks to the ambitious nature of the attempt to unite the original thirteen colonies into a great experiment in democracy. Precious little beyond a shared antipathy to British taxes and corporate monopolies bound the people together. They were accustomed to arbitrary rulers at liberty to abuse, or even kill, others with impunity. Most had no particular reason to consider the law as anything other than a means by which the few exploited the many.
When the People Lead, the Leaders Follow
It is axiomatic that democracy cannot be imposed from above or abroad. True democracy is born only through its practice.
It is a remarkable fact that the American Revolution did not start as an armed rebellion. It originated in a process that looked rather more like a raucous social movement. For all their diversity and lack of experience with organized self-rule, the grassroots rebels who initiated and led the revolution in its earliest manifestations demonstrated a capacity to express the popular will through self-organizing groups and networks—one of democracy’s most meaningful and effective forms of expression.
When the British changed the rules of engagement from nonviolence to violence, the rebels felt compelled to respond in kind.
As the violence escalated, it created a situation that both allowed and compelled the elites of the Continental Congress to assert their authority by raising an army that assumed control of the rebellion and restored imperial order under a new command.
Once independence was won, the colonial elites who had inserted themselves to take control of what was a self-organized rebellion turned their attention to securing their hold on the institutions of government. The human rights that had been carefully delineated in an earlier Declaration of Colonial Rights, and the principle so elegantly articulated in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal and enjoy a natural right to life, liberty, and the pursuit, happiness, fell by the wayside.
The focus shifted to securing the interests of industrialists, bankers, and slave-owning plantation owners and to assuring that the powers of government would remain in the hands of white men of means. Empire morphed once again into a new form, but it remained true to the essential organizing principle of domination. Genocide against Native Americans continued, as did the enslavement of blacks, the denial of the basic rights and humanity of women, and the denial of a just share of profits to those who toiled to make capital productive.
What the founders brought forth is best described as a constitutional plutocracy with an agenda of imperial expansion. The British lost to the rebels in the American Revolution, but Empire remained robust in a new nation that ultimately became the greatest imperial power the world has ever known.
The new nation joined together the peoples of thirteen colonies settled on a narrow bit of land along the east coast of North America. This land had been taken by force and deceit from its indigenous inhabitants, and much of it continued to be worked by slaves.
When its leaders decided the lands they occupied were insufficient to their needs, they supported an imperial westward expansion, using military force to expropriate all of the Native and Mexican lands between themselves and the far distant Pacific Ocean.
Global expansion beyond territorial borders followed. The United States converted cooperative dictatorships into client states by giving their ruling classes a choice of aligning themselves with U.S. economic and political interests and sharing in the booty or being eliminated by assassination, foreign-financed internal rebellion, or military invasion. Following World War II, when the classic forms of colonial rule became unacceptable, international debt became a favored instrument for gaining leverage over local economies. Subsequently, economies were forced open to foreign corporate ownership and control through debt restructuring and trade agreements.
THE LONG STRUGGLE
The ideals set forth in the stirring rhetoric of the Declaration of Independence, a revolution, and the U.S. Constitution all failed to bring democracy to North America. They did, however, inspire and lend legitimacy to a long popular struggle of more than two centuries, a global movement that gradually narrowed the yawning gap between reality and ideal in the face of determined and often bloody elite opposition. Within the larger historical context, the accomplishments of the American Revolution, though incomplete, were monumental.
Power of the People
Monarchy became little more than a historical curiosity. In the United States, a clear separation of church and state secures freedom of religious conscience and worship. A system of checks and balances has for over two centuries successfully barred one elite faction from establishing permanent control of the institutions of government. Active genocide against Native Americans ended, and genocide against any group is universally condemned. Slavery is no longer a legally protected institution and is culturally unacceptable.
Native Americans, people of color, people without property, and women have the legal right to vote and to participate fully in the political process. Pervasive though it remains in practice, open discrimination to deny the political rights of any group is culturally unacceptable.
Our taking these accomplishments for granted underscores how far we have come.
A Taste of the Possible
Many of us who grew up in the United States in the post-World War II years came to accept democracy and economic justice as something of a birthright secured by the acts of the founding fathers. We were raised to believe that we were blessed to live in a classless society of opportunity for all who were willing to apply themselves and play by the rules.
The experience of the middle class in those years seemed to confirm this story. Those of us who were a part of it, and I explicitly include myself here, were inclined to dismiss people who spoke of issues of class as malcontents who would rather promote class warfare than accept responsibility for putting in an honest day’s work.
Sure, there had been problems in the past, but thanks to America’s intellectual genius and high ideals, we had resolved them and rendered them irrelevant to our present. In our arrogance we even believed it our responsibility to make the rest of the world more like us. During my own years of work in Africa, Asia, and Latin America in service to this agenda, I came to realize how wrong we were.
The middle-class ascendance in post-World War II America was an extraordinary demonstration of the possibilities of a democracy grounded in the belief that everyone should share in the benefits of a well-functioning society. Unfortunately, it turned out to be only a temporary victory in the war of the owning class against the rest.
All the disparate popular struggles of our history to achieve justice for workers, women, and people of color, as well as the struggles for peace and the environment, are subtexts of a larger meta-struggle against the cultural mindset and institutions of Empire [emphasis added].
Divided We Fall, United We Stand
The owning classes have long recognized that any political unification of the oppressed places their imperial class privilege at risk. The separate claims of identity politics based on race, gender, and occupational specialization are tolerable to Empire, because they emphasize and perpetuate division. Discussion of class, however, is forbidden, because it exposes common interests and unifying structural issues around which a powerful resistance movement might be built [emphasis added].
To raise healthy children we must have healthy, family-supportive economies, and that can be achieved only by stripping imperial institutions of their unaccountable power and bringing about an equitable redistribution of real wealth. The struggle for the health and well-being of our children is potentially the unifying political issue of our time and an obvious rallying point for mobilizing a political majority behind a New Economy agenda.
It is fortuitous that at the precise moment we face the imperative to do so, we humans have achieved the means to make a collective choice as a species to free ourselves from Empire’s seemingly inexorable compete-or-die logic. Three events have created possibilities.
- The United Nations was established in 1945. For the first time in human history it was possible for representatives of the world’s nations and people to meet in a neutral space to resolve differences through dialogue rather than force of arms.
- The first human ventured into space in 1961, allowing us to look back and see ourselves as one people sharing a common destiny on a living spaceship.
- In the early 1990s, our communications technologies gave us for the first time the capacity to link every human on the planet into a seamless web of nearly costless communication and cooperation.
Geographical isolation once served well Empire’s need to keep us divided. No more.
The world’s estimated 1.5 billion Internet users, 22 percent of all the people in the world, are learning to function as a dynamic, self-directing social organism that transcends boundaries of race, class, religion, and nationality to serve as a collective political conscience of the species.(4) On February 15, 2003, more than 10 million people demonstrated the power and potential of this technology when they took to the streets of the world’s cities, towns, and villages in a unified call for peace in the face of the buildup to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
A unified demonstration of political sentiment on this scale and geographic scope would have been inconceivable prior to the Internet. This monumental collective action was accomplished without a central organization, budget, or charismatic leader, through social processes never before possible. It was not only a demonstration of the transformative power of our newly acquired technologies, but also an expression of the awakening of a new human consciousness of our shared interests and common destiny—and a foretaste of the possibilities for new ways of organizing human affairs
[…Our social problems originate upstream from the cultural mindset and institutions of Empire] that grant unaccountable power and privilege to the few and assign the majority to lives of hardship and desperation. The history of the United States demonstrates a simple but profound truth: economic democracy—the equitable distribution of economic power—is an essential foundation of political democracy.
Among the founding fathers of the United States, Thomas Jefferson sought to close the divide between owners and workers by making every worker an owner. Alexander Hamilton sought to secure the position of an elite ruling class by assuring that ownership was firmly concentrated in its hands. Hamilton served as the first secretary of the treasury and laid the foundation of the financial system we now know as Wall Street.
Jefferson had it right, but the Hamiltonians have been winning. Fortunately, the struggle is not over and the financial crash creates a rear opening to rally around the Jefferson ideal of a middle-class economic democracy.
The façade of political democracy has cloaked the extent to which Wall Street financial interests rule our lives and our government. Economic transformation is an essential foundation of the larger political and cultural turning we must now navigate.
It is within our means to create economies that serve rather than exploit. We can have economies that support strong families and communities, afford parents time to give their children loving care, provide high-quality health care and education for all, keep schools and homes commercial free, keep the natural environment healthy and toxin free, and support cooperation and sharing among nations to secure the common good. It is about renewing the democratic experiment, liberating the creative potential of the species, and rediscovering what it means to be fully human.9
Once again, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, Korten elaborates on our present epic opportunity and the Cultural Creatives as the vanguard for the cultural evolution of humanity.
[…] Culture is the system of customary beliefs, values, perceptions, and social relations that encodes the shared learning of a particular human group essential to its orderly social function. The greater the individual and cultural learning components of the brain’s interpretive mechanism, as contrasted to the genetic component, the greater the capacity of the species to adapt rapidly to new circumstances.
In the case of humans, the individual and cultural learning components are substantial, which gives us an unequaled capacity to adapt and innovate through individual and shared learning. The greater our conscious awareness of culture as a social construct subject to critical examination and intentional choice and the greater our capacity to communicate with one another, the greater our capacity to choose our future.
Culture shapes our perceptions mostly at the unconscious level. It rarely occurs to us to ask whether the reality we perceive through the lens of the culture within which we grow up is the “true” reality. As evolution biologist Elisabet Sahtouris observes,
Until the last half century before the new millennium, it did not occur to people that they could have anything to do with creating their worldview. All through history, people thought the way they saw the world was the way the world really was—in other words, they saw their worldview as the true worldview and all others as mistaken and therefore false.(4)
In our first encounters with people from different cultures, we are likely to experience them as weird, difficult to understand, and possibly dangerous. Through extended intercultural experience, however, we come to see the deeper truth of culture as an organizing construct that defines a shared worldview essential to social coherence. Coming to understand the nature of culture is the essence of the critical transition from Socialized Consciousness to Cultural Consciousness is of particular importance to us in this time of rapid change in the human circumstance. It is essential to our ability to live on a small planet in peaceful and mutually beneficial relationship with peoples of cultures different from our own; to identify and change those aspects of human culture that are actively self-destructive; and to consciously bring forth a new culture of Earth Community.
For five thousand years, successful imperial rulers have intuitively recognized that their power rests on their ability to fabricate a falsified culture that evokes fear, alienation, learned helplessness, and the dependence of the individual on the imperial power of a great ruler. The falsified culture induces a kind of cultural trance in which we are conditioned to deny the inherent human capacity for responsible self-direction, sharing, and cooperation that is an essential foundation of democratic self-rule. The trance creates an emotional bond with the leader, alienates us from one another and the living Earth, erodes relations of mutual self-help, and reduces us to a state of resigned dependence.
In the United States, an important step in the awakening to the role of culture as a social construct came with the civil rights movement in the 1950’s and ‘60s. Participation in that movement awakened many people to the truth that relations between races are defined by cultural codes that have little to do with reality. Once people learned to recognize the difference between reality and an unexamined belief system in reference to race relations, it became easier to see similar distortions in the cultural codes that define the relations between men and women, people and the environment, heterosexuals and homosexuals, and people and corporations.(5) The civil rights movement thus prepared the way for the social movements that followed.
Globally, a rapid increase in international travel, exchange, and communication has exposed millions of people to sometimes unsettling but usually enriching has exposed millions of people to sometime unsettling but usually enriching encounters with cultures not their own. That experience has opened many to viewing their own culture and the larger world in a new light. The experience of cultural awakening has become a contagious, liberating process of global scale that involves hundreds of millions of people and transcends the barriers of race, class, and religion.
Each of the world’s many cultures captures some elements of a deeper truth, yet represents only one of many possible ways of interpreting the data generated by the human senses. Sustained cross-cultural experience can break the cultural trance and awaken a new consciousness of and appreciation for the varieties of the human experience and potential of the species […]. The communications of revolution of the last half of the twentieth century created conditions conducive to an accelerated liberation of the human consciousness.
An awakened Cultural Consciousness is relatively immune to the distorted cultural conditioning promoted by the corporate media, advertising, and political demagogues. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and consumerism are more easily seen for what they are—a justification for domination, exploitation, and violence against life—and a barrier to realizing the possibilities of Earth Community. An implicit underlying cultural premise of all the great progressive movements of our time is that a partnership world is possible.
The same shrinking of geographic space that is accelerating the awakening of Cultural Consciousness is also accelerating the step to Spiritual Consciousness. Those who travel the world to engage in the life of the peoples and places they visit experience both the vitality of the world’s cultural diversity and the beauty of the planetary web of life. The iconic image of planet Earth taken from space gives visual expression to the profound reality that the world’s people are one people sharing a common destiny on a solitary living spaceship alone in the vast darkness of space.
From a recognition of the interconnectedness of life it is only a short step to an encounter with the yet deeper truth that all life flows forth from the same spiritual source and that Empire’s war against life is a war against ourselves. This awakening of a spiritual consciousness has profound practical implications, as it is the foundation of the cultural turning:
- From a belief that Earth belongs to humans and is ours to consume as suits our fancy to an understanding that Earth is our sacred home and that it is our responsibility to be respectful partners.
- From a belief that we humans are by nature incapable of responsible self-governance to an understanding that our nature embodies many possibilities, including the potential for responsible self-governance and democratic citizenship.
- From a belief that those who differ from us pose a threat to our security and way of life to an understanding that all persons are born of the same sacred spirit with an equal right to respect and the pursuit of happiness and that cultural and racial diversity is a source of learning and creative potential.
- From a self-justifying belief that those who align with us are the champions of good and those who oppose us are evil enemies to an understanding that we are all both victims and perpetrators of the violence inherent in the structures of Empire.
A Global Phenomenon
Evidence of a spreading awakening of Cultural and Spiritual Consciousness comes from a variety of sources, including the work of values researcher Paul Ray and feminist author Sherry Anderson. They report data from U.S. values surveys showing that a growing segment for the U.S. adult population is embracing a new culture that values social inclusion, environmental stewardship, and spiritual practice. They call the holders of the new culture Cultural Creatives and estimate that in the late 1990s there were 50 million Cultural Creatives in the United States, roughly 26 percent of adult Americans—compared with less than 5 percent in the early 1960s. They further estimate there are another 80 to 90 million Cultural Creatives in the European Union.(6) Essentially those whom Ray and Anderson are calling Cultural Creatives are people who from their survey responses appear to have attained a Cultural Consciousness; many have achieved a Spiritual Consciousness.
International polling data suggest that hundreds of millions more Cultural Creatives are spread throughout the world. A 1993 Gallup International “Health of the Planet Survey” covering twenty-four nations found a substantial concern for the environment among people of both industrial and developing nations, with majorities agreeing that protecting the environment is more important than economic growth.(7)
The World Values Survey, which gathered longitudinal data from forty-three countries from 1970 to 1994, found that residents of countries that achieve significant economic security show a strong inclination to challenge traditional sources of authority, including government, science, and organized religion, in favor of greater freedom of self-interest in the quality of life relative to pursuit of material gain, and an increasing sense of the importance of family life to individual and community well-being. Although the survey reports that church attendance is generally falling, it found an increase in the percentage of people who report that they often think about the purpose and meaning of life.(8) These findings are all consistent with a spreading awakening of Cultural and Spiritual Consciousness.
Ray and Anderson estimate that roughly half of all Cultural Creatives combine a deep commitment to social and environmental values with some form of spiritual practice—embracing an integral spirituality that connects them with the whole of Creation in both its inner and outer manifestations[…]. The Spiritual Creatives, who have achieved a Spiritual Consciousness. Ray and Anderson call them Core Cultural Creatives. Affirming the importance of a spiritual awakening to the Great Turning, they conclude from their research that virtually all the leaders of progressive social movements in the United States are Core Cultural Creatives. My own experience with many hundreds of movement leaders suggests that this assessment in largely valid both domestically and internationally.
According to Ray and Anderson, Cultural Creatives come from all races, religions, classes, and political parties. The only clear demographic predictor is gender. Sixty percent of all Cultural Creatives are women. Sixty-seven percent of Spiritual Creatives are women.
Spiritual Creatives are not only leading the growing resistance against the global violence and economic injustice of Empire. They are also leading the proactive work of growing the imaginal buds of Earth Community. Leadership in the pro-democracy, peace, environmental, human and civil rights, economic justice, gender equality, holistic health, gay rights, organic agriculture and voluntary simplicity movements come from within the Spiritual Creative ranks. Together they are creating a new politics of partnership centered on a spiritually grounded affirmation of peace, justice, democracy, and life. Although many of these leaders have no formal religious affiliation and few speak openly of their spiritual orientation, a substantial proportion are deeply spiritual and approach their work as a form of spiritual practice.10
The Ascendency Of The Cultural Creatives
As The Pioneers Of The New Integral Culture
We are a country within a country. And as Cultural Creatives, we may sometimes feel like strangers in a strange land but this is not the first time inhabitants of a continent have felt such a cultural divide from the prevailing paradigm of an old world order. Parallels can be drawn from our current predicament to the origins of our country. “Never was such a valuable possession so stupidly and recklessly managed than this entire continent,” wrote Benjamin Franklin in 1776. “Our industries discouraged, our resources pillaged and worst of all, our very character stifled,” contemporary American politics make this eerily familiar. Franklin went on to conclude: “We’ve spawn a new race here […] rougher, simpler […] more enterprising, less refined. We are a new nationality—we require a new nation.” 11 Such characterizations of the early colonists by one of our most prominent founding fathers rings as true today as it did back then when the “liberty bell,” so-to-speak, rang in the American Revolution. And so it is today, with the Cultural Creatives of America that the bell tolls again….
Once again, PhD Sociologist Paul H. Ray and PhD psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson identified this “invisible subculture” in their landmark book, The Cultural Creatives.
There is a new country the size of France that has emerged within the United States. It is vastly rich in culture, with new ways of life, values, and worldviews. It has its own heroes and its own vision for the future […] but no one sees it. It takes shape silently and almost invisibly, as if flown in under the dark of night. But it’s not from somewhere else. This new country is decidedly American. It is emerging not only in the cornfields of Iowa but on the streets of the Bronx, all across the country from Seattle to St. Augustine. It is showing up wherever you’d least expect it: in your brother’s living room and your sister’s backyard, in women’s circles and demonstrations to protect the redwoods, in offices and churches and online communities, coffee shops and bookstores, hiking trails and corporate boardrooms.
Since the 1960s, this subculture has made a comprehensive shift in their worldview, values, and way of life—their culture, in short. These creative, optimistic millions are at the leading edge of several kinds of cultural change, deeply affecting not only their own lives but our larger society as well. We call them the Cultural Creatives because, innovation by innovation, they are shaping a new kind of American culture for the twenty-first century […].
What makes the appearance of the Cultural Creatives especially timely is that our civilization is in the midst of an epochal change, caught between globalization, accelerating technologies, and a deteriorating planetary ecology. A creative minority can have enormous leverage to carry us into a new renaissance instead of a disastrous fall.12
As mentioned before, Ray and Anderson drew upon thirteen years of survey research studies on more than 100,000 Americans, plus more than 100 focus groups and dozens of in-depth interviews to identify this “undiscovered country.” Since then, ten years later, this new sub-culture has grown to 35%—80 million Americans in 2010—but still lack a collective self-awareness of themselves and continues to goes unnoticed by mainstream America and the rest of the world. This is not surprising considering there was a lack of individual identity and conscious alignment to such a large subculture that is growing globally every year since the 1960s.13
We, the millions of millions of Cultural Creatives in the United States and around the world, adhere to an alternative worldview, culture and values to create a new resilient, sustainable and integral culture that can bring together “the traditional and the modern, the planetary and the local, inner and outer change, the secular and the spiritual, the material and the metaphysical, the arts and the sciences.” However, we do not want to achieve this through conventional means that have proven to be grossly ineffective by applying doomed-to-fail, symptom-oriented-solutions to our social problems. Instead, we seek to create new social institutions and build intricate networks in the United States and around the world. We want, “a cultural ‘New Deal,’ a chance to remake our lives and our social structure around deeper values. In short, we wish to redesign every aspect of our culture to be more than environmentally conscious but instead be ecologically sound. That means: how our cities and towns can be laid out; how our transportation system could work; how new technology can be used in products, business, and industrial processes; how business can be organized; how we measure the value of a company or the cost of a government project; how we live in our homes; how we can get our clubs, associations and organizations involved in a new way of life; how we live in community, or fail to; and how we participate in civic culture. Without making these technological and cultural changes, we believe, even being in charge of the political machine would be pointless.”14
It an effort to mend any fragmentation of citizen activists, I recommend that Cultural Creatives, New Progressives, Millennials, Libertarians and green, socially concerned Conservatives who are part of the 99% and subscribe to such a comprehensive approach as to abolish Empire and establish Earth Community assume a more unifying designation that represents common values that omit poor and middle-class racists who are also part of the 99% like anti-Semites, Nazis, xenophobes. As much as we may aspire for full inclusiveness these elements in our society will only prove to be counterproductive, therefore, I suggest we begin to formulate a collective identity that espouses a common vision, values, worldview, culture and principles. One such new designation that has gain acceptance among a small group of guerrilla artists like S3K is the Neo-Transcendentalists. Neo-Transcendentalism, as I am defining it but still open for continual development, refers to a lot of things, among them, an adherence to a new cosmology of “Conscious Evolution” as described by author Barbara Marx Hubbard and what Cultural Creative philosopher Ken Wilber calls an “Integral Worldview.” He also describes the process of the Kosmos in his landmark book, A Brief History Of Everything, “[…] evolution is in part a self-transcending process—it always goes beyond what went before. And in that novelty, in that emergence, in that creativity, new entities come into being, new patterns unfold, new holons issue forth. This extraordinary process builds unions out of fragments and wholes out of heaps [all of which will be explained later]. The Kosmos, it seems, unfolds in quantum leaps of creative emergence […]”15
THE FIRST WAVE: The American Transcendentalists
As The Original Counter-Culture In The United States
The Neo-Transcendentalists align themselves with the rich heritage of the original American Transcendentalists. The following is a summary of its origins and their lasting legacy.
Transcendentalism is a term derived from the “transcendental” philosophy of Immanuel Kant that characterizes a broadly related cluster of ideas that emerged as a part of the American Renaissance. Proponents of this way of thinking emphasized the divine in nature, the value of the individual and of human intuition, and an ideal spiritual reality the “transcends” sensory experience and provides a better guide for life than narrowly empirical or logical reasoning. The term refers to a cluster of concepts set forth by a number of individuals, rather than a fixed or formal philosophy.
Few movements in American social and intellectual history have been as influential as the cluster of ideas we have come to call Transcendentalism. From Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “self-reliant soul” and Henry David Thoreau’s “different drummer” to modern ideas about individualism and democracy, Transcendentalism has had a powerful impact on central aspects of American life. In addition to familiar names, such as Emily Dickinson and Frederick Douglass [there were] a number of less well-known American originals: Margaret Fuller, William Ellery Channing, A. Bronson Alcott, and Jones Very[—all participated in this] wide-ranging movement, [and made valuable] contributions to American politics and society […and] world culture.16
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the single most important figure behind American Transcendentalism and Henry David Thoreau, Emerson’s most influential disciple, became the crux of this powerful intellectual movement that they both helped to found and foster. They were the first of many that would follow turning the United States during the early to mid-19th century into an American Renaissance.
[…] Indeed, the decades from 1830s through the 1860s saw a flowering of ideas that shaped new ways of thinking. Like such categories as Romanticism or the Enlightenment, however, a single term such as Transcendentalism resists easy definition. Suffice it to say that the search for a truth that might be true at all places, the belief that evidence for such a spiritual truth might be found in and through the physical world, and the idea that each individual has the capacity to experience this truth in a personal way produced a series of writings and beliefs whose powerful currents can still be felt today.
[Such] major texts, include[ed] Emerson’s Nature and “Self-Reliance,” Thoreau’s Walden, Fuller’s Women in the Nineteenth Century, and Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. [There were also] crucial historical events [that shaped the movement]: John Brown’s raid, the Civil War, the rise of industrial New England, and the decline of the agricultural South […]. Transcendentalism as a movement not only shaped the 19th century but also continues to have a powerful influence on our own era. From passive resistance of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., to increased gender equality, from the role of liberal denominations in American religion to emphasis on global understanding and cooperation, Transcendentalism continues to shape a uniquely American way of viewing ourselves and our place in the wider world.17
THE SECOND WAVE
The Sixties’ Counter-Culture
In the 1973 book Comparative Studies In Society And History Martin Schiff echoes such sentiments in a section entitled, “Neo-Transcendentalism in the New Counter-Culture: A Vision of the Future Looking Back.”
The student movement of the 1960s has been characterized as the dawn of a new national consciousness and a new counter-culture, ‘the passionate revolution of creative in-telligence’, and ‘the saving vision our endangered civilization required’. The New Left spokesmen for the movement have proclaimed themselves the vanguard of a unique cultural and political rebellion against what they consider the evils of capitalist-pluralist America. They present their arguments in Hegelian terms as a new and profound synthesis of the progressive elements embodied in America’s political and intellectual history. Yet a more pro-bing analysis of American history indicates that the values inherent in the New Left counter-culture are not very new at all. In fact, apart from their rhetoric, the New Left cultural and political attitudes bear a striking similarity to certain nineteenth-century Utopian outlooks. The most direct antecedent of the modern counter-culture appears to be the New England transcendentalist movement which emerged in the 1840s. This relationship between a New Left counter-culture, credited by its supporters with messianic characteristics for national sal-vation, and a nineteenth-century utopianism that made no significant impact on the unfold-ing of history raises many questions about the credibility and future of the counter-culture.18
Of course, I take issue with such a conclusive assessment of the counter-culture because it’s an ongoing process in a long continuum of social change endeavors.
THE THIRD WAVE: The Neo-Transcendentalists As The
New Converging Constituency For Comprehensive Change
The Cultural Creatives of Neo-Transcendentalism, adhere to a lot of the same values, principles and central ideas of those who went before us but at the same time transcended their limitations to evolve into a new form of Transcendentalism outlined on “The Monolithic Milestones Project, 2010-2011,” the guerrilla art installation that unfurled “the Integral Vision, Grand Unified Strategy & Philosophical Pillars & Transformative Tenets of Integral Activism,” (described in detail in THE GRAND SYNTHESIS book to be released on November 5, 2011). Once again, Korten elaborates:
Call those of us on the side of Earth Community [Neo-Transcendentalists]—[Neo-Transcendental] conservatives and [Neo-Transcendental] progressives liberals. Although we have our differences, we share a commitment to creating a society governed by ordinary people and dedicated to the ideals of liberty, justice, and opportunity for all. We are driven by principle rather than ideology, and we deal in reality rather than delusion. We have no more in common with the ideological extremists of the Far Left who seek violent revolution and state control of every aspect of life than we do with the ideological extremists of the Far Right who pursue imperial wars abroad, a theocratic state at home, and freedom for themselves to oppress the rest.
A politics of mature citizenship properly honors both the [Neo-Transcendental] conservative values of freedom and individual responsibility and the [Neo-Transcendental] liberal values of equity and justice for all. It brings together a [Neo-Transcendental] conservative concern for community and heritage with a [Neo-Transcendental] liberal concern for inclusiveness and the creation of a world that works for the whole of life and children yet to come. It recognizes the importance of local roots combined with a global consciousness. In the mature human mind, these are complementary values that call us to a path of spiritual health and maturity.
[Neo-Transcendental] Progressives of all stripes act from deeply shared values that resonate with the most basic of Christian values—do not kill, do not steal, love thy neighbor as thyself, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Yet just as these are not exclusively liberal or conservative values, neither are they exclusively Christian values. They are universal human values shared by believers in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Native spirituality, among others. From this foundation, we can pull back from the extremes to find common ground even on those issues that presently are the focus of intense political acrimony, including abortion, gay rights, gun control, and the teaching of evolution. For too long we have allowed extremists on both sides to define these debates in all-or-nothing terms that drive out the search for common ground based on shared moral principles.
Beneath the political stresses in United States that at times threaten to tear our nation apart, we can see the emergent outlines of a largely unrecognized consensus that the world most of us want to bequeath to our children is very different from the world in which we live. [Neo-Transcendental] Conservatives and liberals share a sense that the dominant culture and institutions of the contemporary world are morally and spiritually bankrupt, unresponsive to human needs and values, and destructive of the strong families and communities we crave and our children desperately need. Deceived by the divide-and-conquer tactics of imperial politics, each places the blame on the other rather than forming a united front to reject Empire’s lies and unite in a stand against the [Business Conservatives’] war against children, families, and communities.
Most people are stretched far too thin to spend the time it takes to sort out the competing arguments on whether global warming is taking place, why gas prices are so high, or why the Iraq war turned out to be such a terrible mess. What they know very well, however, is that their lives are stretched to the breaking point; their children suffer from asthma, obesity, and a continuous bombardment of sex and violence on TV and of ads promoting junk food; and they are unable both to keep bread on the table and to supervise their children. To raise healthy children we must have healthy, family-supportive economies we must have healthy, democratically account-able political systems responsive to the needs and values of people, families, and communities. The struggle for the health and well-being of our children is potentially the unifying political issue of our time and an obvious rallying point for building an Earth Community political majority.
It is within our human means to create a world in which families and communities are strong, parents have the time to love and care for their children, high-quality health care and education are available to all, schools and homes are commercial free, the natural environment is healthy and toxin free, and nations cooperate for the common good. It is about renewing the democratic experiment, liberating the creative potential of the species, and coming home to life. It is an idea whose time has come and the foundation of a true political majority.19
Such unifying aspirations make a Neo-Transcendental alliance among progressives and conservatives not only possible but inevitable based on our common opposition towards following six solidarity issues of unity: 1) the gradual dissolution to the Contract of Adhesion (which means losing our access to the courts), 2) an overblown military budget, 3) the criminal undeclaration of wars, 4) the freedom restricting Patriot Act, 5) the debt enslaving Federal Reserve, and 6) the sovereign-shredding jobs from transnational institutions of corporate globalization like NAFTA and WTO.
It is for these reasons I suggest, once again, jettisoning the old left and right labels that the power elite use to divide us and assume a new and more positive and accurate designation—The Neo-Transcendentalists. However, mainstream activism from both the conventional Right and Left will feel their old identities threaten and rail against it. We should nevertheless, proceed forward because they have failed to resolve the root causes of our societal ills through its short-sighted, short-term “incremental” steps, “realistic” approaches and “practical” measures all equated to working within the social system and preserving its status-quo approach of symptoms-oriented-solutions. This form of “pragmatism” has failed, time and time again and now plainly self-evident in the current collapse of western industrial civilization. Today’s band aid approach by main-stream activism only serves to perpetuate the system by trying to keep the dysfunction in check through charity groups, non-profit organizations and social agencies that are controlled or confined through the financial mandates made by foundations, grant awards and government funding—all of which, ultimately goes against solving the profound problems plaguing our society.
As Neo-Transcendentalists we seek to end this co-dependent cycle of activism through a profound paradigm shift by disengaging from the dysfunctional economic system through the relocalization of all of our basic needs: food, water, clothing, shelter, energy and the means of exchange—all leading to the creation of a new sub-economy of self-sufficiency and community resiliency in preparation for a post-carbon society. We desire to go beyond the antiquated “left-right” paradigm—transcend—“politics as usual” and transform, not reform, all levels of our society, particularly the political system to reflect the values of the “integral worldview” and “evolutionary wisdom culture.” Our “most important issues are all ‘outside the box’ to Washington politics.” We want profound participation in the transformation of our societal structure. We desire to develop political campaigns at various levels through a new way of connecting the networks for social change and use the fast spreading movement of “self-organization and integration which is neither Left nor Right but Forward, Upward and Whole.” “We transcend the ‘mushy-middle” and represent an untapped voter population that will bring back people power to create a new political world. We transcend any identification with the Left or its language and will seek to galvanize Spiritual Progressives, Millenials, Libertarians, religious, socially conscious, green Conservatives. We transcend description by the corporate-controlled news media, conventional pollsters and soulless advertisers. We transcend nationalist interests with planetary issues and concerns. We transcend sentimental environmentalism with community resilience. We transcend patriarchal hierarchies with egalitarian feminism. We transcend personal ambition with personal growth and progressive spiritualism. We transcend the futility felt in participating in the sham political process by changing the culture. We transcend inauthentic, psychologically primitive and spiritually empty conventional politics of violent imagery, hatred, conflict-driven, blaming, shaming and posturing—all bereft of innovation or win-win ideas. We transcend old Left or Right political rhetoric that no one believes any more with interest in rebuilding community. We transcend the Moderns’ political positions among Business Conservatives and the conventional liberal Left with being “in-front” or “moving forward.” We transcend “the old boxes, to create new kinds of political culture and new institutions, beyond playing with policy alternatives.” And ultimately, We will transcend the globalizing mega-corporations by getting big business money out of politics.20
And with 80 million Cultural Creatives in the United States, approximately 100 million in Europe and about 20 million in Canada, a global core constituency of at least 200 million and counting are awaiting the ultimate millennial moment of epic convergence. And the new rallying call for these “Neo-Transcendentalists” will not be Marx’s “working men of all countries, unite,” but instead, I proclaim:
Cultural Creatives of the earth—CONVERGE! If we are to survive the Great Unraveling and transition into the Great Turning, then the next global revolution must be the cultural evolution of humanity by abolishing Empire and establishing EARTH COMMUNITY.
- David C. Korten, Agenda For A New Economy: From Phantom Wealth To Real Wealth
(San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2009), 82.
- United For Global Change, www.october15.org, 2011
- David C. Korten, Agenda For A New Economy: From Phantom Wealth To Real Wealth
(San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2009), 95-101.
- David C. Korten, The Great Turning: From Empire To Earth Community
(San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2006), 32-33.
- Elberton Star News (Georgia: May 10, 2011)
- The Earth Charter, 2001
- Thomas Jefferson
- David C. Korten, Agenda For A New Economy: From Phantom Wealth To Real Wealth
(San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2009), 79-91.
- David C. Korten, The Great Turning: From Empire To Earth Community
(San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2006), 32-33.
- Benjamin Franklin
- Paul Ray & Sherry Anderson, The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing The World (California, 2000) 62-65.
- Ken Wilber, A Brief History Of Everything (California: Shalala Publishers, 1999) 34-42.
- Professor Ashton Nichols, The Teaching Company’s Great Courses Series entitled “Emerson, Thoreau and the Transcendentalists Movement.”
- David C. Korten, The Great Turning: From Empire To Earth Community
(San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2006), 13-33.
- Paul Ray, “The New Political Compass, 2003
- Zevin X. Cruz, The Grand Synthesis: A Cohesive Vision & Grand Unified Strategy of Social Change
(Ohio: 48hrs Publishing, 2011), 12-13.