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CHAPTER 22: CHANGE THE STORY, CHANGE THE FUTURE

David C. Korten Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

History is governed by those overarching movements that give shape and meaning to life by relating the human venture to the larger destinies of the universe. Creating such a movement might be called the Great Work of a people.… The historical mission of our times is to reinvent the human —at the species level, with critical reflection, within the community of life-systems.1

Thomas Berry

To embrace a turning point is to see someone or something differently and then to take action on what you have seen.… These moments, where insight and action intersect, are the training ground for living a life of personal courage.2

Puanani Burgess

If you feel out of step with the way things are going in your community, nation, and the world, take heart. Your distress indicates that you are among the sane in an insane world and in very good company. Recall the observation of Elisabet Sahtouris in chapter 17 that life has characteristically learned to cooperate through experiencing the negative consequences of unbridled competition. This is the present situation of our species. For some five thousand years, we have experienced the consequences of unbridled competition. Those consequences have now become so severe, and the overhead costs of maintaining Empire’s dominator hierarchy so high, that either we learn to cooperate or we suffer the fate of other unviable species that failed to learn life’s most essential lesson.

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14 WHAT ABOUT MY. . .?

David C. Korten Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

A confidence trick or confidence game…is an attempt to defraud a person or group by gaining their confidence. The victim is known as the mark, the trickster is called a confidence man, con man, confidence trickster, or con artist, and any accomplices are known as shills. Confidence men exploit human characteristics such as greed and dishonesty, and have victimized individuals from all walks of life.

wikipedia, “confidence trick”

In my experience, the first reaction of most people to the call to shut down Wall Street is one of jubilant enthusiasm — a measure of the public outrage at Wall Street excesses. The second reaction is, “But what about my 401(k) retirement account?” The same question might be raised about our credit cards, mortgages, and medical, homeowners, and auto insurance.

In fact, the Wall Street way of dealing with each of these is a scam. Wall Street doesn’t develop its business plans to meet our needs; it develops its plans to place us in a position of dependence on Wall Street products that afford it the greatest opportunity to profit at our expense.

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CHAPTER 2: THE POSSIBILITY

David C. Korten Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

A human being is a part of the whole called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Albert Einstein

According to conventional wisdom, hierarchies of dominance are required to bring order to human societies because we humans are by nature an inherently unruly and self-centered species prone to violence and lawlessness. We therefore require the discipline of a ruling class and the competition of an unregulated market to impose order. By telling only part of the story, this conventional wisdom becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, defining our beliefs about human possibility, the preferred architecture of our institutions, and the appropriate parameters of our political conversation.

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6 Making a Living

David C. Korten Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Scientists debate whether Earth conforms to all the elements of the scientific definition of a living organism. I honor their intellectual rigor and their invaluable contribution to our ever deepening understanding of how life organizes. I am not inclined, however, to wait for science to come to terms with the need to update its definitions.

To participate as productive members of Earth’s community of life, we must understand and honor that community’s organizing principles and organize our economies accordingly. The principles are universal; the specifics are everywhere unique.

The biosphere self-organizes as a global system. The locus of intelligent agency, however, is everywhere local and involves trillions of individual choice makers—none of whom is in a position to dominate the rest. This makes possible life’s finely tuned micro adaptation to constantly changing local conditions through unimaginably complex processes.

The consequences of local choice making ripple outward and upward to create global dynamics that ripple back to shape local conditions to which the local community in turn adapts. Yet all the while, Earth as a living superorganism continuously seeks dynamic stability through self-regulating processes we have barely begun to identify, let alone understand—all without evidence of a central decision maker or control mechanism. The dynamics of climate are the most obvious example of this interaction.

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CHAPTER 7: MODERN EMPIRE

David C. Korten Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Matthew 6:24

As we look deeper for the soul of capitalism, we find that, in the terms of ordinary human existence, American capitalism doesn’t appear to have one. In the economic sphere, efficiency trumps community. Maximizing returns comes before family or personal loyalty. What seems priceless in one realm may be wasted freely or even destroyed by the other.1

William Greider

By the reckoning of Western historians, the modern era began in 1500. The turmoil of endless and pointless wars in which rival noble factions fought one another to exhaustion for largely personal ends had created a readiness to welcome a restoration of rule by monarchs with the power to impose order.

Prior to 1500, empires had been based primarily on the expansion of borders through military conquest to incorporate new territory under the central military and administrative control of a city-state ruled by a king or emperor. Center and periphery were territorially contiguous, and the boundaries between them often lacked significant definition. Land and trade were the foundations of wealth, and the institutions of monarchy generally controlled and profited from the power to tax and allocate the rights to both. Independent commercial enterprises were individually far too small to challenge the power of the sovereign king.

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