The audience at Seattle's Green Festival cheered David Korten as he explained that it's possible to live in a cooperative, supportive society where the armies of empires are disbanded.
Korten is author of the book, “The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community.”
Tinkering at the margins of society’s dilemmas isn’t going to get us where we want to go, Korten said. We need to undertake a great, grassroots social movement to create the world we really want.
When attending a conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, which was chaotic and contentious at times, Korten realized everyone wanted the same things: healthy children, healthy communities, and living in peace and cooperation.
“We have a shared dream,” he said, “of living in a cooperative and balanced society."
Korten said he has lived in many places. Although people tend to focus on their differences, people are more alike than they generally realize.
The current “red” and “blue” state split that the media dwells on doesn’t present an accurate state of the nation, he said. America is more “purple” than a red-blue divide.
Korten described a recent poll in which 83 percent of those surveyed said the country’s leaders are focused on the wrong priorities. Big companies have too much power, he said. People should be ahead of profits.
The biggest problem is corporations are selecting ethically challenged leaders, Korten said. It’s not that the people or the institutions are bad. They’ve been working from a bad "story."
In an endless loop, we’ve been taught to be fearful and violent in a competitive, capitalist society, he said. We’ve been told it’s in our nature. If we obey those who rule, we’re told we'll have peace in eternal bliss. Pain is all for the good, it builds character.
“We’ve been told the world we long for isn’t possible,” Korten said, adding we've also been told our dreams are a naive fantasy.
He calls this the empire story, a story that’s been dominate for 5,000 years. It’s nature is hierarchical, violent, and abusive. Economists, scientists, preachers, and the media promote adherence to the empire model.
“In the empire model, one empire vanquishes another,” he said.
The United States is collapsing economically, Korten said. We should work for a society that is caring and giving, adding Jesus Christ preached for this. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi also worked for a nonviolent, cooperative society.
Throughout history, the story has been challenged and exposed. Women and colored people fought for and won the right to vote. The environmental movement has changed how we think about the earth.
Korten said we are undertaking an enormous societal shift, a great turning. He calls it earth community, where partnerships, community, and justice prevail.
“In earth communities, our authentic stories trump the empire story,” he said. “It resonates with what’s deep in our hearts, our world of dreams.”
People are gathering in living rooms and sharing their personal stories, ending their isolation. They’re changing their story and embracing voluntary simplicity.
“People are increasing the quality of their lives,” Korten said. They’re reducing consumption, working for environmental quality, and participating in community.
“Our stories are trumping those of empire,” he said.
Korten is cofounder and board chair of the Positive Futures Network, which publishes “Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures.” He is founder and president of the People-Centered Development Forum. Korten has also written “When Corporations Rule the World.”
Tommorrow's Survive and Thrive Boomer guide will discuss Frances Moore Lappe's talk at the Seattle Green Festival, "Living Democracy: Feeding Hope."
Copyright 2008, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist