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Korten, David C. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Spiritual leaders throughout the world knew that this time was coming—a time when all things feminine would be exploited, smashed, and destroyed, including all Mother Earth–based cultures, feminine-based spirituality, and women.… It is said that only when humans are open enough in the heart will there be the deep reconnection that allows a true sharing of the sacred and secret teachings.1

Ilarion Merculief

The widely accepted myth that imperial hegemony brings peace, stability, and well-run public services is pretty much just that—a myth. It has happened: Rome had a succession of five relatively wise and benevolent emperors over a period of eighty-four years, but examples in history are so rare as to be considered mainly curious aberrations. Wise benevolence is rarely a quality of those who achieve and hold positions of absolute power. Empire creates its own violence in the suppression of dissent, its internal intrigues for power, and its incessant wars to extend its dominion.

Even as Empire invented the technologies to construct great works, it also invented the technologies to destroy them more quickly and completely. Even more troublesome is Empire’s propensity to impose a cultural context that suppresses the development to maturity of the human consciousness.

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7 Enslaved by Corporate Robots

Korten, David C. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The consolidation of the independent power of corporate robots beyond the control of their CEOs and governing boards is so recent that we are barely beginning to notice its true nature. It is an unintended outcome of a long historical process of increasing human separation from nature and the organization of human societies as hierarchies of imperial domination in which the few control and exploit the many. The nature and implications of the takeover are best understood in historical context.

Early humans lived in intimate relationship with one another and nature. Our numbers were few, and we fulfilled our essential needs directly from local lands and waters using simple, minimally intrusive technologies. We self-organized as communities to manage our living from local lands and waters, sharing as needed with members of our family and tribe. The earliest trade involved the barter of things that had immediate value, like furs, grain, and cattle.

Somewhere around 3000 BCE there began a turning to imperial rule by kings and priests, who controlled and expropriated the labor and resources of the common people to secure their own power and support extravagant lifestyles. Through the institutions of state and religion, the rulers established a monopoly on the use of armed force to control the means of living (land and water), the instruments of exchange (money and debt), and the cultural stories that legitimated their power.1

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Korten, David C. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Britain was forced not to give, grant, concede, or release our independence, but to acknowledge it, in terms as clear as our language afforded, and under seal and under oath.1

John Adams

The American colonies were products of imperial expansion, and they replicated the imperial social structures of plutocracy and theocracy of the European nations that created them. From the beginning, however, there were also important counterforces at work that fostered a rebellious spirit, favored religious pluralism, and prepared the way for a people to walk away from their king, discover their common identity, and form a new nation bathed in the rhetoric of liberty and justice for all.

There were early exceptions to the narrow and brutal Calvinist and Episcopalian sectarianism. Some settlers, particularly the Quakers, came to North America with a truly democratic consciousness tolerant of religious diversity, at least within the boundaries of the Protestant faith, and a concern for the rights of all.

William Penn, who founded Pennsylvania, was a Quaker who had spent time in prison in England for his religious beliefs. Penn populated the lands granted to him by royal charter by appealing to religious dissenters from across Europe with the promise of land and religious liberty. He attracted Quakers and Baptists from England, Huguenots from France, and Pietist and Reformed groups out of favor with Lutheran or Catholic princes in Germany. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which were both predominantly Quaker, welcomed all persons of Protestant faith, but excluded atheists and non-Christians—a category that by their reckoning included Catholics.

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Korten, David C. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

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.

The Earth Charter

Imperial societies maintain their dominator structures by consolidating control over all three spheres of public life — economic, political, and cultural—thus limiting people, families, and communities to whatever options the institutions of Empire find it in their interest to offer. Having little control over their lives and struggling to make ends meet, people withdraw from active engagement in civic life, causing the creative problem-solving capacity intrinsic to a vital community life to atrophy from neglect.

The basic framework for the work of birthing Earth Community is simple: make the life-affirming values of Earth Community the values of the prevailing culture; renew the democratic experiment to restore to people, families, and communities the power to give expression to those values; and do it all on a global scale. An immodest agenda, this requires, in the words of Frances Moore Lappé, that we take democracy where it has never been before.

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Medium 9781626562875

Conclusion: A Living Economy for Living Earth

Korten, David C. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.

—ALANIS OBOMSAWIN of the Abenaki tribe

Once an emergent phenomenon has appeared, it can’t be changed by working backwards, by changing the local parts that gave birth to it. You can only change an emergent phenomenon by creating a countervailing force of greater strength


Between impossibility and possibility, there is a door, the door of hope. And the possibility of history’s transformation lies through that door.

—JIM WALLIS, The Soul of Politics

Twenty years ago, the title When Corporations Rule the World evoked for many people a question: Do corporations rule the world? Events of the past twenty years have erased all trace of doubt. Indeed, they do. And the consequences are dire.

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