Freeing Ourselves From Systems that Weaken & Divide Us
Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this…We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality …whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
Delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. over 45 years ago as an impassioned call for “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution”, these words seem more relevant than ever to the linked economic, environmental and social calamities we face today. Our global economy and its effects on nearly every facet of our lives is increasingly seen as a root of these problems. With a warming climate and epic failures like the BP oil disaster and financial crisis, this system and its structures are looking catastrophically flawed and outdated. The “economic genius” of Frankensteinian creations like derivatives has turned our world economy into a shell game, with perhaps the worse yet to come.
Communities have become ground zero for a resource extraction model seeking to maximize short-term profits for distant stock holders while externalizing as many costs as possible. Those “externalities” include many of our own who are left behind as the divide between the haves and multiplying have-nots grows. Making matters worse, the reach and influence of the too-big-to-fail juggernauts responsible for these crises extends deep into our systems of governance, playing no small part in the recent government shut-down.
At the same time, a growing number of communities like our own are grappling with how to sustain basic civic infrastructure, including water, transportation, health, social services and educational systems. Put into place decades or centuries ago, many are now crumbling and we find ourselves without adequate means to maintain or replace them. Extreme events like Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, expected to increase in frequency, are also revealing a lack of resilience in our support systems and compromised landscapes.
We seem to be caught in a destructive feedback loop, unable to break free from a system that is continually reinforcing itself (with the help of bailouts and subsidies) while weakening our communities and endangering the planet. Some are wondering what alternatives might exist – how can we reinvent a new economy that serves, not consumes us?
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. -Buckminster Fuller
Unseen by some, another great revolution, or “reimagining” is already occurring. It is rising from communities like our own, leveraging the power of We to solve intractable problems collectively. Here are some signs of and guideposts for this emergent and hopeful movement. Continue reading