|A pessimist, they say sees a glass
of water as half empty; an optimist sees the same glass as half full. But a giving person
sees a glass of water and starts looking for someone who might be thirsty. If you
dont, who will?
G. Donald Gale (stone soup p.288)
Future of Love: A Transformative Vision of Global Prosperity
A Paper in Progress by C. River Smith, Ph.D.
If the personal is political, as a feminist author stated over a quarter century ago, then in every moment, with every act we take, we have the opportunity to change not just ourselves, but the world, too.
The title of this paper advertises global prosperity. In a world where 40,000 children die of hunger--related diseases every day, in a world where thousands of people die every year from local wars, where tens of thousands of children are killed every year by their own parents, In a world where over three billion people live under totalitarian or authoritarian regimes, with few rights of speech or of assembly; In a world where according to United Nations research, over half the population puts in eighty percent of the work, but possesses only two percent of the wealth and earns just ten percent of the income; in a world where in the richest nation on earth 2% of the population owns 40% of the wealth, and 2/10 of one percent controls close to forty percent of the wealth; what can possibly bring global prosperity? What is powerful enough to change all of that?
The answer is simple: love. Love can create a vision of ourselves and the world that can transform future possibilities. Love can give us the power to move mountains of fear, pain, and ignorance.
So, while all of this may sound really nice, what does it really mean? What is this love? The word is often thrown around, and actually seems to have many meanings. It is here first where one must focus before proceeding. What do we mean when we say love? People may say they love ice cream. Others state that they love god. Countless poems and stories have been written about romantic love. Men who murder their wives and children write suicide notes that proclaim their love.
Who really knows what love is?
For a number of decades, many researchers have attempted to explain what love means. Perhaps the most well known work of modern research is Eric Fromms 1956 book, The Art of Loving. In this critically received work Fromm discusses what he considers varieties of love, each with slightly different ingredients and components. Since that time many researchers
have weighed in, doing research on affection, intimacy, affiliation, and love itself.
For the purpose of this paper, love shall be defined as containing the following ingredients: acceptance, forgiveness, generosity, accountability, vulnerability, trust, and courage. These faculties cannot be legitimately extended towards others unless they are also extended towards the self.
This is no easy proposition. Over and over researchers demonstrate that a substantial portion of the world population surveyed shows negative self-evaluation and a sense of fear and suspicion of others. If one uses Abraham Maslows hierarchy of needs as a tool to determine whether one can operate with the above faculties, then this could be very complicated. Maslow postulates in his hierarchy that most people cannot reach self-actualization if they are not getting what might be considered lower order needs met. These needs include in ascending order, 1. Food and shelter, 2. A sense of safety, 3. A need for belongingness, 4. And then, finally a self actualization or awareness of self in ones place in the scheme of things. Without these, the receptivity to the kind of love presented here, will surely be limited.
One can argue that for most of the worlds population, food, shelter, and safety are not currently consistently accessible. While modern medicine and technological innovation have contributed greatly to the quality of life in many parts of the developing world, corporate globalization has unfortunately damaged eco-systems, converted successful subsistence farming areas into cash crops, and pushed millions of members of formerly self-sustaining agricultural populations into overcrowded urban ghettos. Acceptance, forgiveness, generosity, accountability, vulnerability, trust, and courage.
There are also issues within the developed world that inhibit the exercise of the above described love. Renowned psychologist, Carl Rogers, spoke of the organismic self and the self-concept. His argument postulated that all children are born with a unique, self-loving organismic self that is contorted into the self-concept based on the childs early experiences and the mirror that the immediate nurturers hold up to him or her. It is that self-concept that inhibits our ability to love ourselves because it inhibits our ability to accept and forgive ourselves. In family after family we teach negative perception of ourselves and of others different from ourselves. This is perhaps the greatest barrier to loving change in the world. Parochial and artificial notions of affiliation from sports fan clubs to nationalism exacerbate the perception of the other. Along with the ongoing sexism that relegates half the human race to secondary status in nations across the globe, and the continued racism that inhibits collective security in both the developed and the developing world, the artificial affiliations also inhibit the blossoming of love. Overwhelming evidence, however, demonstrates that inhibiting does not mean preventing.
The love your author writes of here is one that involves joining/ connecting/ trusting/ being vulnerable to anothers physical power. Its interesting that much of our scientific research on animal behavior, betraying our biases, assumes that any act of willing vulnerability is an act of submission, rather than a gesture of trust--just as non-violent activism has often been an act of trust in the capacity for human compassion, not an act of submission, as any sit-in activist will attest. A graphic example of the power of this trust took place during the response to the Prague Spring of 1968. The reformist government of Czechoslovakia had gone further than the Soviet Union wanted them to go, so Eastern Bloc troops were sent in to overthrow the government. The Czech army was not mobilized in response because it was obvious they would be overwhelmed. Instead, thousands of Czech civilians met the tanks with flowers, broke into the infantry formations, climbed on the armored troop carriers and reached out with love, engaging the soldiers in conversation. Within a week the troops were ready to mutiny. Their officers were afraid to order them to take action for fear of how they might react. The troops had to be withdrawn. Special units had to be sent in to enforce the oppressors will. In Myramar, the former Burma, Nobel Peace Prize winner Au San Sui Chi has stayed alive through the last fifteen years not because of military power against the repressive army dictatorship, but by the power of non-violent action that she and her party have practiced. The power of love is loose in the world. There are literally thousands of these kinds of stories in the history of the international labor movement and in the many citizen struggles around the world. It is that same vulnerability and trust in the human capacity that is critical to any love. Acceptance, forgiveness, generosity, accountability, vulnerability, trust, and courage.
The love your author speaks of here is a love that requires a rigorous ongoing examination of ones actions and ones place in the world. It requires the willingness to hold oneself accountable for the effects of ones actions. Not long ago in conversation a young film maker friend spoke of his conflict. As an alternative filmmaker who challenged the corporate way of life in his creative work, he had a dilemma. Because the American consumer community does not support alternative artists very well, he was making most of his living developing commercials for big corporations. He searched for a way to rationalize his actions. At first he alibied that consumers ought to know that the pitch for MacDonalds fries was a scam. If they didnt realize that, he couldnt hold himself accountable for their ignorance. Fortunately for the world, he and many people like him, cant live with this rationalization. Your author drives a Chevrolet metro, the standard car that leaves the smallest footprint on the environment. Yet, the author is physically fit enough to ride a bicycle to most places he needs to go, but doesnt. Should he punish himself for that? No, but the key is to not rationalize it away. It is critical that citizens recognize that every action taken has consequences. That each of us effects the other. When citizens of this country consume ten times the water necessary for sustenance, when we choose gas guzzling tanks for transportation, we owe it to the world to remain accountable for our behavior, instead of rationalizing it away. What does it mean to be accountable in this situation? It first means not lying to oneself. Secondly it means being available to negotiate while accepting responsibility for our actions if others want to hold us accountable. This would be true in all our interactions. Acceptance, forgiveness, generosity, accountability, vulnerability, trust, and courage.
The love written here is a love that must include a rambunctious curiosity about all laid before it. The desire to know and appreciate the other in all of us. It requires a fearless commitment to accept oneself as a wonderful, unique, lovable part of a larger whole. The question then becomes, what is this larger whole? Family? Tribe? Nation? Humanity? Or All things and all beings, as The Sioux people promoted?
Due to technical advancement, never in the recorded history of the world has there been as much of an opportunity for us to relate to so many who are different from us. Because of translation software, citizens can now communicate with complete strangers from radically different cultures. Non-government organizations can unite across borders and oceans in ways never before envisioned. Our scientists are coming closer than ever to genuinely communicating with other species. There has never been a larger movement for animal rights or for protection for the environment.
The recovery movement, which preaches personal responsibility and good will towards others, has spread to almost every nation in the world.
Love=Acceptance, forgiveness, generosity, accountability, vulnerability, trust, and courage.
So why should one believe that this love, which certainly has been around for at least all the time humans have, can become so powerful at this time that it can change the world. Erwin Lazslo in The official Report from the Club of Budapest, an internationally recognized think tank, provides one answer. Laszlo argues that the world is ripe for what he calls a macroshift. Utilizing systems and chaos theory, and the research of the past thirty years regarding global sustainability and growth, he argues that our current systems of approach to growth and development in the world are reaching their natural limits. (pg. 9)
As we move closer to these limits, according to chaos theory, we approach a period of instability. Old trends will shift or disappear; new ones will appear. Under this analysis the evolution of complex systems always involve alternating periods of stability and instability, continuity and discontinuity, order and chaos. Laszlo argues that we are at that threshold of instability now. As we move further into this instability, rapid and fundamental changes occur in our systems. These are known as bifurcations. Continuous evolution produces a path that forks off from the expected direction. These critical bifurcations are what allow for new and unexpected paths.
The path of love is one of those paths.
As one explores the economic future of the world, it has become clear to most thinkers that, for all its limitations, the marketplace is a natural and necessary part of life, that entrepreneurship is a valuable part of development towards a global prosperity. It has become just as clear, however, that entities designed for the primary purpose of making a profit for a limited number of stakeholders cannot be allowed to dictate policy for the well being of individual or global cultures. While it must be emphasized that big governments are dangerous to individual freedom, the equal reality that it is the existence of big corporations that directly cause the development of big governments must enter into any considerations of how to restrict government power. Presently the top 500 industrial corporations employ 0.05% of the worlds population but control 70% of world trade, 80% of direct foreign investment, and 25% of world economic output. General Motors sales for 1998 was more than the gross domestic products of Norway, Denmark, Hong Kong, and Poland. The sales of Ford and Mitsui equaled the GDP of South Africa. (Laszlo, p.91)
It will indeed be a crucial struggle for the future of global prosperity that citizens find the methods to reign in the power of corporations to dictate or disproportionately influence government policy. In almost every nation on earth, government helps to shape the nature of economic development. The question is not whether government should do this, but rather whose voices, which citizens will have the most influence over government decisions. For the most part, a small elite of corporate managers and large shareholders currently hold the lions share of that influence.
Economist Hazel Henderson, in her book, The Politics of The Solar Age (pg. 364) suggests the following principles to be considered by policy makers while making economic decisions:
1. The value of all human beings;
2. The right to satisfaction of basic needs (physical, psychological, and metaphysical) of all human beings;
3. Equality of opportunity for self-development for all human beings;
4. Recognition that these principles and goals must be achieved within ecological tolerances of lands, seas, air, forests, and the total capacity of the biosphere; and
5. Recognition that all these principles apply with equal emphasis to future generations of humans and their biopheric life support systems, and thus include the respect for all other life forms and the Earth itself.
Evidence of this evolving community spirit operating in the world is profound and ubiquitous. Throughout the developed world, with a few exceptions, the vast majority of people are guaranteed some reasonable livelihood, and guaranteed medical care--something only dreamed about a century ago. Progressive taxation and progressive approaches to incarceration, rehabilitation, and drug treatment abound throughout most of the developed world. With the exception of The United States and Japan, quality of life, by most measurements, has consistently risen throughout the developed world during the last twenty years.
As one gazes on the conflict in Palestine, at first one may only see death and destruction, and gridlock. However, in spite of the current precarious situation, things have been changing for the better over the past twenty years. For instance, in recent Israeli surveys, over a majority of Israeli citizens support an independent Palestinian homeland, and an abandonment of the Israeli settlements. Less than twenty-five percent accepted such a solution just ten years ago. The same statistics are reflected among Palestinians with certain stipulations. Contrary to popular impressions in The United States, the peace movements of both peoples are vibrant and growing. Over fifty thousand people in a nation of six million recently marched in Tel Aviv. That would be comparable to over two million marchers here. Love is alive.
Another recent global example of love at large in the world was evident at the international conference on racism in South Africa last year. There for the first time in history, under no coercive threat, governments held themselves accountable to foreign nationals for acts of aggression perpetrated on their ancestors. European governments took responsibility for the slave trade and colonial conquest that decimated portions of Africa and Asia, and issued an official apology. Just a generation ago, only the most radical of activists would have conceived that such an act was possible. Love=Acceptance, forgiveness, generosity, accountability, vulnerability, trust, and courage.
Of course there are still reckless actors on the scene that can slow down this global movement of love. Fundamentalist wings of most major religious groups; reckless, immature, deliberately obtuse governments such as that of Iraq, The United States, and China; unrestrained multi-national corporate interests all have potentially obstructionist input. The expected nationalist orientation of some emerging groups and nations also complicate the movement towards authentic, comprehensive community. But love is a mighty river, and while obstructions may temporarily alter its course, it will continue to find a way to flow.
As this paper is written, non-government organizations (known as NGOs) designed to enhance quality of life for average citizens in almost every country in the world are proliferating at astounding rates. New and creative methods to solve age old problems of water and food, illness, and economic stagnation are being implemented in every area of the globe.
Descriptions of 487 projects around the world, collected by Hanover 2000, here is a short sample:
In Haiti, Radyo Timoun gives a voice to homeless street children. Israels Givat Haviva Peace Education Center runs two year courses for Jewish and Arab children to get to know each other and sort out their fears and prejudices In turn, the Palestinian authoritys Talitha Kumi School organizes intensive encounters with Israeli school children. Nairobi, Kenyas street children join Streetwise, where children learn skills and work while attending school. In Sudan the Displaced Women Population and Development Project provides vocational training for women refugees of the civil war, while their children are watched and cared for. The Samamu troupe, an innovative theatre group, confronts corruptions in its drama w In Mali, Center Djobija, sues dance, dramatic sketches and puppet theatre to educate people about family planning, drug abuse deforestation and water shortages. The Barefoot College in Rajasthan, India runs 150 evening schools to help villagers create sustainable environments. Also in India, in Madras women launched the Working Womens Co-operative Society that successfully advances credit to women to create their own businesses throughout the country. In The Philippines the 4,000 families of the Payatas Waste Pickers, have created a recycling co-operative that provides them with a livelihood. (Laszlo, pg. 127) There are thousands more of these groups around the world.
All of these projects and programs represent hopeful signs of the social macro shift to Laszlo. He lists six shifts he sees presently at work.
1. The shift from competition to reconciliation and partnership.
2. The shift from greed and scarcity to sufficiency and caring.
3. The shift from outer to inner authority.
4. The shift from separation to wholeness.
5. The shift from mechanistic to living systems.
6. The shift from organizational fragmentation to coherent integration.
Even more impressive, in the last fifty years the rights of children and women have finally become the topic of social change. Again in almost every country on earth womens rights and childrens rights are part of the political agenda. While there is so much to be done throughout most of the world in these areas, these are finally considered legitimate concerns.
In the final analysis, as this paper began, so must it end. All acts are individual. It is up to each who reads or hears these words to make a commitment to love, to find the strength of heart to be generous with oneself first, and then with all others who come into your path.To live with and not against each other, to live in a way that does not
rob the chances of others to live as well, to care what is happening to the
poor and the powerless as well as to nature calls for feeling and intuition; for
sensing the situation in which we find ourselves, apprehending its manifold
aspects and creatively responding to it. (Laszlo, p.139)
When one earnestly works at challenging the negative thoughts towards the other within the self, then one has the opportunity to challenge our fear and apprehension of all the others in our world. We start experiencing what philosopher, Josiah Royce called The Larger Self, the sense of oneness with all. The closer we move to this, the more we will take part in creating prosperity in the world.
Love=Acceptance, forgiveness, generosity, accountability, vulnerability, trust, and courage.
Here is one list of what each of us can do for love and community:
HOW TO BUILD GLOBAL COMMUNITY: Think of no one as them, Dont confuse your comfort with your safety, talk to strangers, Imagine other cultures through their poetry and novels, Listen to music you dont understand--Dance to it, Act locally, Notice the workings of power & privilege in your culture, Question consumption, Know how your lettuce and coffee are grown: wake up and smell the exploitation, Look for fair trade and union labels, Help build economies from the bottom up, Acquire few needs, Learn a second (or third) language, Visit people, places, and cultures--not tourist attractions, Learn peoples history, Re-define progress, Know physical and political geography, Play games from other cultures, Watch films with subtitles, Know your heritage, Honor everyones holidays, Look at the moon and imagine someone else, somewhere else, looking at it too, Read the UNs Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Understand the global economy in terms of people, land, and water, Know where your bank banks, Never believe you have the right to anyone elses resources, Refuse to wear corporate logos: defy corporate domination, Question military/corporate connections, Dont confuse money with wealth, or time with money, Have a pen/email pal, Honor indigenous cultures, Judge governance by how well it meets all peoples needs, Be skeptical about what you read, Eat adventurously, Enjoy vegetables, beans, and grains in your diet, Choose curiosity over certainty, Know where your water comes from and where your wastes go, Pledge allegiance to the earth: question nationalism, Think South, Central, and North--there are many Americans, assume that many others share your dreams, Know that no one is silent though many are not heard, Work to change this. (Syracuse Cultural Workers brochure, 2002)
The paper closes with a story by Ken Keyes, author of The Handbook to Higher Consciousness. The following is adapted from The Hundredth Monkey.
The Japanese monkey, Macaca Fuscata, has been observed in the wild for over 40 years. In 1952, on the island of Koshima, scientists started feeding the monkeys by dropping sweet potatoes in the sand. While the monkeys liked the taste of the potatoes, they didnt like the sand.
An 18 month old female named Imo found she could solve the problem by washing the potatoes in a nearby stream. She taught this to her mother and to her playmates, who also taught their mothers. Over a period of several years, all the young monkeys on the island learned to wash the sandy sweet potatoes to make them more palatable. But only the adults who imitated the children learned this trick. Other adults kept eating the sandy sweet potatoes.
Then something startling took place. In the autumn of 1958, a certain number of Koshima monkeys were washing their sweet potatoes--nobody knows how many. For the sake of the story, lets suppose that when the sun rose one morning there were 99 monkeys on Koshima Island who had learned to wash their sweet potatoes. Lets further suppose that later that morning, a hundredth monkey learned to wash the potatoes.
Thats when it happened. The additional energy of this hundredth monkey seemed to create an ideological breakthrough for the entire species. By that evening, nearly every monkey in the tribe was washing their sweet potatoes before eating them.
But thats not all. The most surprising thing observed by the scientists was that the habit of washing sweet potatoes somehow jumped overseas. Soon colonies of monkeys on other islands, and the mainland troop of monkeys at Tahasakiyama were also washing their sweet potatoes!
Although the exact number may vary, the hundredth monkey phenomenon means that when a limited group has a certain realization, it remains the conscious property of that few. But, at a certain point of critical mass, when just one more mind tunes in to the new idea, the field is exponentially strengthened, and the awareness is picked up by almost everyone!
Just think what this bit of science can mean for (hu)mankind. Every time we adopt a new habit or belief that helps our community, we increase the collective wisdom of humanity and get one person closer to changing the world! (Stone Soup for The World, pg. 395).
Love=Acceptance, forgiveness, generosity, accountability, vulnerability, trust, and courage.