The World We Want: The Big Picture III

By David Korten | Great Turning website

Read more posts in The World We Want series.

This brings us to the third element of the big picture of the human confrontation with the limits of our Mother Earth: the governing institutions to which we give the power to set our priorities and our collective course. We might wonder how such injustice could happen in a world governed by democratically elected governments. The answer is simple and alarming.

Our world is not governed by democratically elected governments.

It is ruled by global financial institutions in the service of financial speculators who exchange trillions of dollars daily in search of instant unearned profits to increase the fortunes—and the power—of the richest people on the planet. They bring down governments that displease them, and buy and sell the largest corporations like commodities. By design and law, the defining priority and obligation of these governing institutions is to generate financial profits to make rich people richer, in short to increase inequality in a world in desperate need of greater equity. To this end, the corporations that rise or fall at the pleasure of the speculators, assault our eyes and ears with advertising messages intended to get those of us who are already have more stuff than we need to buy more stuff.

That is the big picture. So what does it tell us about what we need to do and about how much hardship we will be involved in giving up our American way of consumption?

We need to grow strong caring communities in which we get more of our human satisfaction from caring relationships and less from material goods. We will need to end war as a means of settling international disputes and dismantle our military establishment. We need to reclaim the American ideal of being a democratic middle-class nation without extremes of wealth and poverty. And we need to encourage and support the rest of the world in doing the same. To do all this, we will need to create democratically accountable governing institutions devoted to the well-being of people and Nature.

And there can be no trade-offs between justice, sustainability, happiness, and democracy. They are all inseparably linked.

We are told that a serious effort to save the environment would impose serious hardship, particularly on the poor. Does any of this agenda sound like unbearable hardship? And exactly how is a more just distribution of resources going to hurt the poor? The story that saving Earth and ourselves will impose unbearable hardship is one example of a great many fabricated cultural stories that obscure our ability to see the possibilities before us.

More next Tuesday…

© 2008 David Korten. All rights reserved.