I get all sorts of things in the email. Recently I got the following email from Bernie Sanders, founder of 350.org, which seeks to halt the warming of our planet and renew justice for all on a global basis. I have summarized the lengthy message below; three dots mean I have left something out and italics mean I have changed or added something, in the interests of at least some brevity without changing the meaning. Please take the time to read it, as a commentary follows. The email address from which it was sent is email@example.com ; Bernie@350.org might also be tried, although the result of both might be a list of different emails from which to access the organization.
For the past 40 years in this country, our great middle class — once the envy of the world — has been disappearing. All over America, and the world, people are working two or three jobs, scared to death about the futures of their children, while almost all new income goes to a small number of people at the top. … In the global economy, … a handful of billionaires own more than the bottom half of people around the world — that’s 3.7 billion people….
And one of the results of that reality is that in Europe, in Russia, in the Middle East, in Asia and elsewhere we are seeing movements led by demagogues who exploit people’s fears, prejudices and grievances to achieve and hold on to power.
And while these regimes may differ in some respects, they share key attributes: hostility toward democratic norms, antagonism toward a free press, intolerance toward ethnic and religious minorities, and a belief that government should benefit their own selfish financial interests.
These leaders are also deeply connected to a network of multi-billionaire oligarchs… who see the world as their economic plaything. …
Some authoritarian states are much farther along this kleptocratic process than others. In Russia, it is impossible to tell where the decisions of government end and the interests of Vladimir Putin and his circle of oligarchs begin. They operate as one unit. Similarly, in Saudi Arabia, there is no debate about separation because the natural resources of the state, valued at trillions of dollars, belong to the Saudi royal family. In Hungary, far-right authoritarian leader Viktor Orbán is openly allied with Putin in Russia. In China, an inner circle led by Xi Jinping has steadily consolidated power, clamping down on domestic political freedom while it aggressively promotes a version of authoritarian capitalism abroad. …
To effectively oppose systemic and entrenched authoritarianism, we cannot simply go back to the failed status quo of the last several decades. In order to fight this trend, we need to strengthen the global coalition of forward-looking activists who seek to return power to the people and the planet.
Instead of division and hatred, we will promote unity, inclusion, and an agenda based on economic, social, racial, and environmental justice.
Governments of the world must come together to reverse the economic inequity that favors the few super-wealthy at the expense of working families; austerity for the working majority so that corporations and the wealthy can receive tax loopholes is not acceptable.
It is not acceptable that the fossil fuel industry continues to make huge profits while their carbon emissions destroy the planet for our children and grandchildren.
It is not acceptable that a handful of multinational media giants, owned by a small number of billionaires, largely control the flow of information on the planet.
It is not acceptable that trade policies that benefit large multinational corporations and encourage a race to the bottom hurt working people throughout the world as they are written out of public view.
It is not acceptable that, with the Cold War long behind us, countries around the world spend over $1 trillion a year on weapons of destruction, while millions of children die of easily treatable diseases.
In order to effectively combat the rise of the international authoritarian axis, we need an international, deeply forward-looking movement that mobilizes behind a vision of shared prosperity, security and dignity for all people and that addresses the massive global inequality that exists, not only in wealth but in political power as well. …
We must take the opportunity to reconceptualize a …global order based on human solidarity, an order that recognizes that every person on this planet shares a common humanity, that we all want our children to grow up healthy, to have a good education, have decent jobs, drink clean water, breathe clean air and live in peace. …
In a time of exploding wealth and technology, we have the potential to create a decent life for all people, especially as we reach out to others of like mind. Our job is to build on our common humanity and do everything that we can to oppose all of the forces, whether unaccountable government power or unaccountable corporate power, who try to divide us up and set us against each other.
We know that those forces work together across borders. We must do the same….
Mr. Sanders’ observations are accurate and in accord with other such respected leaders as Robert Reich and Naomi Klein, such publications as YES Magazine, and such movements as Occupy and the Water Protectors of Standing Rock fame. We need the speakers, writers and organizers to coordinate massive protests and marches against the status quo, to raise the awareness of people as to the nature of the status quo and its effect on people and the planet, and to inspire, hopefully even among those currently in power, the vision of change. However, all these, needed though they might be, are not enough. Marches and protests come and go as they momentarily capture the attention of the population. Writers, philosophers and speakers present wisdom and promote just action, as they have for centuries, many times without having certain and lasting effect, outside of academia, on the institutions of daily authority. The lasting changes which have happened historically – not that they have completely resulted in a just and peaceful world – have happened over time as a result of persistent involvement of everyone, not just a powerful elite alone.
In addition to protesting, agitating, and raising awareness, we need a model of what it is with which we wish to replace the existing system. Without such a model, the likelihood is that we will agitate certain people or movements out of power, after which they will be replaced by something which turns out to be much the same, perhaps with a different flavor. We need a specific, sustainable, grounded and extant vision to which we want to progress before, or certainly concurrent with, the protests and activism. It is not enough to be against what we know or are becoming aware of. We need to be for something, and we need to clarify and ground just what it is we are for. Granted, some of those visions might differ, but to be effective, they will all have common principles which they exhibit, and they will all be able to cooperate with each other.
One such movement, not often in the media, is the movement towards sustainable and intentional community. Many of these communities are well-established, and newer ones are often mentored by the more established groups. They are widely varied in their memberships and flavors, but they tend to embrace some common goals, such as eco-sustainability, simplicity, sharing, economic justice and a means of livelihood for all, human growth, both individual and group, cooperation, careful listening, group decision making, community outreach, and the like. Some have a smaller governing group, but in most, the decision-making process is widely inclusive. They are a radical change from the current competitive, everyone for him or herself mode in which we operate. (Charities and economic initiatives and programs do not change the basic assumption of some having and being powerful and some not having and, less powerful, needing help to be self-sustaining.) The downsides of this I hear to be two; people must give up their notion of being units unto themselves and learn how to cooperate with each other to become parts of a unit that serves them, but also serves others in the units. They must be less independent, and more interdependent. Second, this may take a lot of time in meetings to work things out. However, if one is well sustained by less time spent working to survive, then it follows that time is made available to attend meetings to work things out.
Details on communities and how they are different and similar and how they work things out and live sustainably and cooperatively can be found by contacting the Fellowship for Intentional Community, probably the most comprehensive current resource. Their mailing address is 23 Dancing Rabbit Lane, Rutledge, MO 63563. Their website is www.ic.org firstname.lastname@example.org might be tried as well. They publish a monthly magazine entitled Communities. They also publish a Communities Directory, which lists and summarizes descriptions of intentional communities worldwide. Numerous books on the subject also exist, some available in libraries.
As we are swept up (if we are) in the calls for change, activism, protests and quiet efforts to help, let us all remember that we need a well-thought-out vision to guide our efforts. Time to ponder and create that vision is a prerequisite if we want our other efforts to be effective. It is not enough to take down; we must also build up, and that effort can be more difficult than the taking down. I wish us all the patience and commitment to create our visions, separately and communally, and the courage and persistence to pursue them.