Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Great Turning

I am skeptical of those who insist that a great change is upon us and that everything will be different soon. I've heard this too many times.

I heard it from Charles Reich in the seventies talking about The Greening of America and how 'Consciousness III' would be taking over soon. Somehow America doesn't look all that green nearly forty years later. I heard it from Marilyn Ferguson in the eighties talking about The Aquarian Conspiracy and how that was going to change everything. The Conspiracy seems to have disappeared without causing any major changes. Recently I have been hearing Paul Hawken claiming that the Blessed Unrest that he sees is "the largest movement in the world" and how it "has the potential to heal the planet". I'd love to believe it but I've been there before.

So it may seem strange that I am so excited about something called 'The Great Turning'. But the term does not refer to an event predicted to come; the Great Turning refers to choices that must be made. It begins with a similar idea to Reich, Ferguson, Hawken, etc--that there is an epic shift coming. The actual term was first used by activists against nuclear war working for 'conflict transformation'. It was taken up by Joanna Macy, who not only has been involved in antinuclear war activism, but in the deep ecology movement and engaged Buddhism. In an interview in Yes! magazine, she pointed out that "...we might not pull it off. There's no guarantee that this tremendous shift will kick in before our life support systems unravel irretrievably."

It has further been developed as a book by David Korten, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. I haven't read the book, but some of the ideas I've seen seem interesting, especially his notions of 'Empire' and 'Earth Community'. Still, it is the articles by Joanna Macy that impress me.

David Korten admits he got the term from Joanna Macy, and said that when he asked her to use it, she said that it "should be a public term that is used by everyone and owned by no one."

The thing that most fascinates me about Joanna Macy's ideas are what she refers to as the 'Three Dimensions' necessary to create the change. Briefly, according to Joanna Macy, they are: "1. Actions to slow the damage to Earth and its beings; 2. Analysis of structural causes and the creation of structural alternatives; and 3. A Shift in Consciousness." When I first heard this I thought immediately of the slogan I first heard in the early eighties when I was in Detroit: "Agitate, educate, organize." (For more of this see my post from 7/2/08.) I related the 'Actions to slow damage' to Agitating, the 'creation of structural alternatives' to Organizing, and the 'Shift in Consciousness' to Educating. As I said in my original post, there's been a lot of good agitating, I think we need more good organizing (that is, creating more alternatives and more resilient alternatives), and that we haven't done that well at educating. But it's useful to see what she sees as happening. It's also important to remember, as she points out, we need work in all three dimensions simutaneously. Not that every one of us needs to work in all three, but we need to support the work in each of these areas.

As I've said since the beginning of this blog, it isn't any one thing that creates change (see my post of 6/28/08). We need to connect it all, and I suppose that would include Charles Reich's 'Greening of America', Marilyn Ferguson's 'Aquarian Conspiracy', and Paul Hawken's 'Blessed Unrest'. There isn't any guarantee of success, but when we do connect it together, the agitating and 'actions', the organizing of 'structural alternatives', and the education for a 'Shift in Consciousness', we become more powerful. More powerful than they want us to be and possibly powerful enough to make a difference.

Quote of the Day: "Let us sing this song for the turning of the world, that we may turn as one.
With every voice, with every song,
we will move this world along,
and our lives will feel the echo of our turning." - Ruth Pelham


Austan said...

It's important that "The Turning" is a positive, growing change. So much attention is focused on destruction and ends. That old Shango song from 1969 rings around my head, as all the predictions of "End Times" nonsense pervades media and religious zealots' preaching. As a culture we seem addicted to drama. Not healthy. We need to grow up, calm down and deal with things as adults, not teenagers. Thanks, Moony.

MoonRaven said...

Thank you--that's a good reminder about the need to focus on the positive aspects of change.

I agree with you--we don't need apocalyptic drama. I don't see a great cataclysm ahead, but I'm not sure that we're going to see amazing changes either. I think it will be mostly the same old same old--but if we work hard enough, it might slowly slide to being better.

Thanks for all you're doing to push things in a good direction.