Discovering folks like Asoka Bandarage who affirm holistic, systemic transformation is heartening (see “A Holistic Masterpiece”). It’s even more rewarding to find the Great Transition Initiative (GTI), a large network whose members engage in thoughtful online dialog. These efforts counter the divisiveness that’s spreading like a plague throughout society.
In “The Power of Yes,” I discussed how negative messages automatically release into the brain chemicals that create stress and interfere with logical thinking, which leads to more stress and irrationality and sucks people into counterproductive, downward spirals. The System uses that dynamic to divide and conquer.
That’s why “if it bleeds, it leads,” activists inflame fear to recruit foot soldiers, most posts on Facebook are negative, politicians use personal attacks to get votes, and TV panels are bloodsport crossfires.
One way out of that quicksand is to bring people together with positivity. When we think about positive messages consistently over time, we can overcome the brain’s negativity bias. Numerous methods can help with that re-conditioning, such as: Remind yourself that for every loss there is a gain; Recall moments of pride and joy from your past; Practice random acts of kindness; Minimize time spent with poisonous playmates; Count your blessings; Couch criticisms within the framework of proposals for how to correct problems; Remember Dr. King’s Philosophy and the Charter for Compassion; Don’t go to sleep angry.
And connect with projects like GTI that promote “a transformative vision and praxis.”
The GTI website declares:
Multiple threads of interdependence…are binding people, places, and the wider community of life into a single social-ecological system…, [while] counter-tendencies…may portend a rising social force for addressing the systemic challenge…. This possibility rests on the ascent of a constellation of values—human solidarity, quality of life, and ecological sensibility—to moderate the conventional triad of individualism, consumerism, and domination of nature.
A beautifully written 114-page book written by GTI Director Paul Raskin, Journey to Earthland: The Great Transition to Planetary Civilization (free download), presents a compelling analysis and vision. I disagree with some points, but consider the book a wonderful, informative contribution. I look forward to learning more by participating in the GT Network.
The crystallizing global system comprises differentiated, interacting subsystems: economic, environmental, technological, cultural, and political. … Its components shape one another in a complex and reciprocal dance that changes both the whole and its parts.
That list of subsystems seems incomplete. It seems more accurate to say the system consists all of our major institutions, such as education, media, entertainment, and religious.
Moreover, that definition of the system does not explicitly include personal emotions and the role of individuals, who reinforce the system with our daily actions. Culture -- including beliefs, values, and behavior -- is one important element of the system, but emotions are also central.
Raskin’s book acknowledges this reality at certain points. He writes:
Alternate paths to fulfillment and spiritual peace are essential for countering the hegemony of materialism…. A global movement, were it to develop, would speak especially to this growing band of the disempowered: to their minds, with a unifying perspective; to their hearts, with a vision of a better world; and to their feet, with an organizational context for action….
As livelihoods become reliable and sufficient..., people grow more concerned with the quality of life....
The alarms of danger and bells of promise [may] rouse the global citizen from slumber…. [As] connectivity globalizes in the external world, so might empathy globalize in the human heart.... An enduring movement offers an inviting alternative to the dominant culture. It forms a like-minded community where participants can reshape identities…,
[Given] the disquieted modern psyche.... the challenge is no less than creating the basis for collective action… [and] nurture a culture of nonviolence, tolerance, respect, and democracy,... Prejudice and domination, the old nemeses of justice, are finally on the run.... Social capital is the best inoculation against resurgence of the merchants of greed, demagogues of hate, and all who would summon the dark hobgoblins from the recesses of the human psyche. [emphases added].
Those excerpts indicate the need for mutual support for personal transformation as well as social transformation. It seems more precise to say that our global social system “consists of our culture, ourselves as individuals, and our major institutions.” This formulation acknowledges personal responsibility, which can nurture united action by reducing divisive scapegoating and counterproductive anger.
As Bandarage has written, “The dominant system is founded on fear and antipathy. The solution is compassion towards the self and other. Transformation of the self and the society are inseparable.”