The Great Transitions Network, which is open to the general public, includes several hundred members from more than twenty countries, mostly academics and well-experienced activists. The Network hosts a moderated Forum where members discuss one topic at a time. Those topics average about 150 views and 35 comments, which I find to be very astute. Some recent topics are: “How Do We Get There? The Problem of Action”; “Vivir Bien: Old Cosmologies and New Paradigm”; “Human Rights: Advancing the Frontier of Emancipation”; “Feminism and Revolution: Looking Back, Looking Ahead.” The current topic is “Nuclear Abolition: The Road from Armageddon to Transformation.”
I found the following statements in the lead essay to be particularly compelling:
- Nuclear weapons, unique in their power and capacity for destruction, pose an existential threat to humanity.
- ...celebrating technological achievement, serves to keep the nuclear arms race alive.
- The nuclear abolition movement must join with other movements seeking systemic global change…,
- Change ultimately begins with individuals.
- The only way to change direction is to build a strong popular movement,...
Seeking a movement focused on nurturing the Beloved Community and believing "transformation of the self and the society are inseparable," as Asoka Bandarage put it (see “A Holistic Masterpiece”), I submitted the following comment to the Great Transitions forum. (The names of the contributors are deleted here):
This discussion has raised many pertinent issues about how we can move toward nuclear disarmament. The question raised by many is how to link up with others and on what conceptual foundation. One strategy that is proposed is to link up with a few single-issue movements. I find that inadequate.
One contributor calls for a “deep analysis that goes to the root of the issue and imagines solutions from within that depth of understanding.” I concur and offer some thoughts along that line. There seems to be general agreement in this discussion that our movement needs to be couched within the framework of systemic transformation. I think we should clarify that framework and link up with all who share a commitment to a systemic transformation that includes personal transformation.
Another contributor, Anna Harris, asks, “Do you realise that your enjoyment of football supports this system?” My answer is Yes. My second question is: How else do I support the global social system? The list is endless. My third question is: Is it possible to avoid supporting that system? My answer is No. Purity is impossible.
But I can steadily reduce the ways that I reinforce the system and support ways to advance transformation of that system -- with personal as well as social transformation, as those changes reinforce each other. With that approach, we could better build the broad-based unity that will be needed to have a major impact with regard to nuclear weapons.
That effort, as she says, requires us to “talk about feelings...being in touch with ourselves and being able to express those feelings without guilt or shame.” This approach differs from the old definition of leadership which defines a leader as one who is able to mobilize followers to do what the leader wants. A strategy that affirms personal as well as social transformation -- holistic, systemic transformation -- does not rely heavily on top-down methods such as “motivate the great majority of Americans,” “convince the people at large,” “raising the consciousness of the people,” and trying to find the right mix of policy changes, which has been the main thrust of this thread. George Lakoff and others have argued persuasively that an excessive focus on policy proposals is relatively ineffective. I’ve seen too much of that kind of intellectual focus in this thread. One alternative is to address underlying values and core principles, and explore how to nurture change in that arena. In that regard, I believe peer education and learning from one another is most potent.
As she said, merely “getting rid of nuclear weapons will do nothing [or little] to improve the prospects of a human global family managing to live together on this planet.”
Rather, as another recommended, we should “be focusing how individuals and communities should respond at the manageable local level to enhance individual well-being and chances of community survival.” To my mind, one way to do that is for like-minded people to gather regularly to support one another with their self-development. Then those support circles could link up in a network that could grow into a large community whose members would regularly engage in political action on a timely, top priority issue -- eventually leading to evolutionary revolution.
Another contributor rightly says, “This What (we want) conversation should occur before the How (to achieve it) conversation begins.” I agree. That question relates to “what is the system” we want to transform. As I discuss in “Great Transition Initiative: A Beacon of Positivity, Paul Raskin, in Journey to Earthland, touches beautifully on some of the “subjective experiences” that several contributors address. But it seems to me that Paul’s definition of the system -- “The crystallizing global system comprises differentiated, interacting subsystems: economic, environmental, technological, cultural, and political” -- as well as definitions presented here are too narrow. They do not incorporate subjective experience and the role of individuals.
So I offer: “The System” consists of our culture, our major institutions, our ecology, and ourselves as individuals. The System’s primary mission is to enable everyone to climb one social ladder or another and look down on and dominate those below -- to “win” while others “lose.” Systemic, holistic transformation will be facilitated by the people of each country establishing a new mission for their society: to transform our country into a compassionate community dedicated to the common good of all humanity, our own people, the environment, and life itself. Then each nation can learn to cooperate with one another to eventually establish the same mission for whole world.
I believe that a fundamental, systemic worldview such as that could provide a better foundation for coalitions that could stay together over time, within the context of a strong feeling of comm-unity, which would better enable us to prevent war, deal with nuclear weapons, and address our many other ills.
That’s my reaction to this thought-provoking thread, which illuminated me about numerous resources that I look forward to exploring.