Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Beyond Fuels 9: The Turning Path

David Korten's The Great Turning is probably the most ambitious of the four paths to the future. This isn't exactly the same as Joanna Macy's version of 'The Great Turning', but in my post about it (see The Great Turning, 11/15/09), I wrote: "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.'"

Korten subtitles his book, 'From Empire to Earth Community', and this is the choice he puts before us. He gives his take on history and the growth of Empire, as well as laying out how the United States fits into all this. He begins with discussing the 'imperatives' of peak oil, climate change, terrorism and a world we can't conquer, and increasing inequality and economic instability.

While he sees this as a crisis, and is well aware that we need to go beyond fuels, Korten also sees this as an opportunity to create what he calls 'Earth Community'. He's not talking utopia here. He lays out a framework that includes vibrant community life (mutual trust, shared values, connection, and secure civil liberties), vocations that contribute to the well-being of the community and insure basic needs are met, strong and stable families, civic engagement, and a healthy natural world. He says "...this list may read like a radical utopian fantasy but only because it contrasts so starkly with our present experience. ... each condition aligns with core values shared by both conservatives and liberals. If any of them seem alien, it's only because they all depend absolutely on cooperation and sharing." Yet he believes that cooperation and sharing is possible. It's only our brainwashing by the values of 'Empire' that keep us from seeing this.

David Korten goes on to say that what we need to do is to challenge the stories of Empire and begin telling stories of what could be, putting our visions clearly out to people. In fact, he titles the last chapter "Change the Story, Change the Future". Simply challenging the stories isn't enough, of course, but people (and thus society) are not going to change until they have at least some idea of what's possible.

It's a broad and far-reaching vision and sometimes he goes a bit far. He begins with a psychological view of human development that, while I think it's mostly accurate, can give the impression of a favored few being superior to the rest of us. One person who, unfortunately, got that impression is John Michael Greer (I'll look at his path forward next) who writes "... David Korten's The Great Turning, insists that certain people have reached a higher 'developmental stage' than the rest of us and are thus naturally fitted to run the world." However, Korten doesn't say this at all. What he says is "Although persons of a mature consciousness are generally averse to the competitive struggle for dominator power, they are strongly attracted to leadership roles in social movements engaged in challenging Empire's dominion." While I still have some qualms about seeing some as more developed than others, there's a big difference between being 'fitted to run the world' and being 'attracted to leadership roles in social movements'. The model David Korten puts out is based clearly on 'partnership' rather than 'domination'.

Still, for whatever faults there may be, I'm glad to have this vision out there. In some ways I don't think he goes far enough, and I'd like a more radical outline for how we could be living. However, I really think this book gives a good overview of some of the possibilities of how we could be living in a world beyond fuels, and lays out clearly some of the next steps we need to take to create the path. As Korten himself says, "...we humans are path-breaking pioneers in uncharted territory."

Quote of the Day: "In the days now at hand, we must each be clear that every individual and collective choice that we make is a vote for the future we of this time will bequeath to the generations that follow. The Great Turning is not a prophecy; it is a possibility." - David Korten

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