The World We Want: The Power of Authentic Stories

By David Korten | Great Turning website

Read more posts in The World We Want series.

Profound social change takes place when an important cultural story changes—and the impetus to challenge imperial rule rarely comes from within the institutions of Empire. Democracy took hold when we replaced the story of the divine right of kings with the story that the powers of government derive from the will of the people. People of color and women won recognition of their full human rights only as the civil rights and women’s movements successfully exposed the fallacy of the story that people of color and women are less than fully human. Recognizing the full humanity of all peoples opens us to a deeper understanding of what it truly does mean to be human in all the rich potentials that our human nature embodies.

The environmental movement is replacing the story that Nature is a dark and evil threat to be subdued, vanquished, and used for whatever purposes please us with the story of Earth as a living being, the Mother of life, a living spaceship.

We are still working on many of these new stories, but those of my generation have experienced the enormous societal shifts that these changes in our cultural stories have wrought. In each instance, a new story has contributed to the yet larger process of the Great Turning of the human course from the dominator path of Empire to the partnership path of Earth Community.

The propagandists of Empire who propagate Empire stories work at an inherent disadvantage, because their success depends on suppressing our natural desires for community, justice, and liberty. That is why Empire has to pay them handsomely for their service. The results they seek do not come naturally.

The power of authentic stories is the source of civil society’s ultimate power advantage. The stories of Earth Community acknowledge and express our genuine desire to love and be loved and to live in creative caring communities with peace and justice for all beings.

Corporations command economic power. Governments command the coercive power of the police and military. The power of authentic stories, however, ultimately trumps all the other forms of power, because these other forms of power depend on the stories that lend them legitimacy. Unlike the fabricated stories of Empire, the authentic stories of Earth Community resonate with what we know deep in our being to be true. Once we are clear that there is an alternative to the violent domination of Empire and it is the world of our dreams, we can together reclaim the power we have yielded to Empire and redirect it to the work of growing Earth Community.

Without our acquiescence, the dominator structures of Empire collapse, as the Marcos Regime in the Philippines collapsed, as the Soviet Union and the apartheid regime in South Africa collapsed without a shot fired. Progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann calls this process “walking away from the king”.

More next Tuesday…

© 2008 David Korten. All rights reserved.