Saturday, November 18, 2006



David C. Korten, former Professor of Business at Harvard, is a brilliant, enlightened, sensitive human being with years of experience in the underdeveloped world. He has observed and experienced the dark side of imperialism and of the free market economy. He is free of the limiting and largely false vision of our conventional wisdom, of our civic myths and of our Chamber of Commerce optimism. His new book, The Great Turning From Empire to Earth Community is a very wise analysis of our present human condition, how we got here and what we humans must do together if we are to avoid the Hobson’s choice of fight or flight and lives governed by the law of the jungle. He has done no less than to give us an extraordinary conceptual framework within which we humans can understand our plight and transcend it. He integrates the wisdom from every discipline and tradition. He presents both a sense of urgency, and surprising reasons why we can succeed.

We who live "at the top of the food chain" with material abundance in the "developed" world try to deny our alienation, the lack of meaning in our frantic, busy lives and the worrisome sense of risk and fragility of our existence. We think we have too much to lose. We do not wish to look at the uncontradicted evidence that our "civilized" lives are in very serious jeopardy and that we may lose everything if we do not make some changes. We are in a trance.

Korten is free of this trance. Korten forthrightly presents the evidence that the dynamics of a 5000 year old Empire system based on domination, patriarchy, force and greed have reached the point of implosion such that civilization as we now know it will fall. We humans in our earliest times evolved and survived in more egalitarian human families, tribes and clans by cooperating, sharing, and caring attention for each other. These qualities, now prevailing as dimly perceived ethical ideals, ironically, provide us humans with our only chance of civilized survival.

Korten’s focus on domination as the root evil provides a fresh and accurate method of analysis of history, nationality, culture, gender, race, economics, class, religion and politics while avoiding the stale buzzwords of those who rely on Charles Darwin, Adam Smith, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. Korten also rigorously examines our human and institutional dark sides. He believes that we must know every facet if we are to be able to overcome and control these dark sides within and without ourselves. He gives special emphasis to the evil of gender domination, namely patriarchy, that under girds the negative elements of our religion, politics, views of God, family structure, and crime and punishment.

At the core of The Great Turning analysis and prescription, there is a ranking of the levels of maturity of human consciousness from infancy to the truly adult. Beginning with the Magical Consciousness of the infant who believes in Santa Claus, and proceeding in maturity to Imperial Consciousness of the current Empire, then to Socialized Consciousness, then to Cultural Consciousness to the most mature that Korten calls Spiritual Consciousness. By this most mature level, Korten means the consciousness of the elder statesperson, teacher, tribal leader, or religious sage with a morality grounded in the universal principles of justice love and compassion; a consciousness capable of accepting individual and collective responsibility for the shadow side of our human nature; a consciousness that strives to liberate one’s own creative potential and the creative potential and fulfillment of all humans; a consciousness that honors wisdom, truth and morality. It is a consciousness that is aware of the limitations of using violence in the liberation of humans from domination.

. Korten lists the three coinciding and interconnecting threats to our civilization: peak oil, global warming, and global economic collapse. Carolyn Baker calls these three "Terminal Triage." Most of us know of the fragility of our market economy from our own experience of job insecurity, of excessive debt, job loss, and job outsourcing. This triple threat has been created by the leadership by those humans at the Imperial level of consciousness, advocates and beneficiaries of domination, greed, and selfishness.

The opportunity for civilized survival and the obligation to lead rests on those at the top two ranks of maturity that Korten and others call "Cultural Creatives." It is these classes of evolved mature persons that can lead and persuade humans at the third rank of maturity, who can be led either up or down, to strive toward and to honor and appreciate the higher levels of consciousness. By leading these humans of mid level consciousness, we have the possibility of avoiding disaster.

We who are in the trance of conventional wisdom may at first blush see all of this as idealistic, and therefore hopeless. Korten says that this is our only chance. It is up to us. There are surprising reasons and much evidence that we humans have a chance of liberating the creative potential of all humans and avoiding collapse. Here are some of the reasons:

· We humans have the capacity to choose; our most powerful instinct is to survive, "to be." We do not voluntarily choose to self destruct.

· We each have had the experience of caring, sharing and cooperation in our nuclear families. Such conduct is not totally strange to us.

· There is a yearning among most humans for truth, justice, equality, security, cooperation, caring and sharing. We simply need to communicate and to connect.

· There has been a surge toward freedom in recent history in the civil rights movement, and then in the women’s movement involving the entry of huge numbers of women out of the home into public life and influence. They bring with them their proclivity toward nurturing rather than domination.

· Millions of humans around the planet have demonstrated their emergence from the world wide human trance of conventional wisdom by questioning "free trade," multi-national corporate domination, imperialistic wars, and even the utility of armed violence itself.

· Recent studies by Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson show that a surprising percentage of humans in the US and Western Europe have achieved a consciousness that values social inclusion, environmental stewardship and a spiritual practice. They show that 50 million people in the US and 90Million in Europe have reached this level. They have much influence.

· We now have the capacity for instant communication around the planet by the Internet, televised downlinks, teleconferencing, and video-conferencing. Everyone has access to information and wisdom via Google.

· The accelerating liberation of women has placed women with their nurturing values into positions of leadership and influence so as to be able to challenge the entire system of domination.

This book is itself a valuable tool and guide that enables us to break free of Empire’s trance, and to value, strive for, and achieve a higher level of maturity. It can help each of us to reach the level of Cultural Consciousness where we can see the possibility of creating a sustainable Earth Community, an inclusive, life-affirming group of societies that work for all humans and unleash the vast potential of human creativity.

Dated: November 17, 2006

Douglas R. Page

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