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If we are to have peace on Earth it will require nothing less than a global youth revolution unprecedented in the history of humanity: an evolution-revolution, not a violent one. While it cannot be violent, it will need to passionately and effectively disrupt the current planetary crisis which spirals downward in dead-end, business as-usual strategies. Let’s face it: we are in a collective nosedive whose epi-center is the old imperial order of outmoded hit and run capitalism. Putting capital as the central evolutionary driver of our species has conclusively demonstrated that it cannot lift us upwards to a peaceful, thriving or sustainable planetary civilization.
Old school capitalism is at the center of the entropy which is pulling economies down and which seems blind to the destructive consequences of putting money matters first. Only a true value economic system will drive us towards a destiny in which Peace is at the center of human becoming. We do not need to rehearse here the story of system-wide collapse facing us as a species; if you are unaware of it at this point you might as well stay in bed and keep the blankets over your head.
The evolution-revolution which our youth must seize upon, with all the audacity and brilliance which young people have in them to reject the old order, is one that confesses and proclaims our deep and heart-felt need to have love and respect be the gold standard of our collective enterprise. Gold is up in the global money game. But it is not our true gold. It is the Midas gold which turns everything it touches into monetary value, not human value. It is the gold which has no life giving power. It is the gold which freezes over families and their farms, communities, ecologies and nations. It is the gold which drives them to war over resources and the gold that lies about true freedom and democracy.
But here is the real kicker for our evolutionary-revolutionaries, as much as they are called upon to reject the enslavement of humanity to the money gods, they can only effectively dispose of the old order not simply by proposing something new but by ending the entire game of ideological abstractions and by embodying something new. There is a Native American saying that it is the young who will lead humanity from a very long winter to a new springtime. And the only way for that to happen is for them to take a new path.
Today’s youth must reject Midas by creating a culture of peace. They know this is not their mother’s or their father’s peace movement. They know that simply opposing the military industrial complex is a con. They will get sucked into anger and ‘rage against the machine.’ And if not they may get sucked into New Age platitudes which tell them to take their attention away from the big bad world and just affirm that everything is perfect and divinely ordained. But they know better than to be caught between toxic rage and false bliss. They must ignite a passion which heals and reveals itself in communities of practice centered around joyful valuing of all life. That joy comes from enjoying the technologies which support conviviality and collaboration and releasing those which lead to our demise.
So I say to you, young people: no generation has ever had a responsibility to change the story as you have. No generation has had the challenge to enact heroic action on a scale like this or to summon an evolutionary conjunction of individual freedom and collective well-being.
It is you who must proclaim, “The War is over!” The war against the sacred values of being human, with needs for love and cherishing which supersede the needs for stuff, is over. It is yours to prove that the whole human enterprise cannot be seduced by what some indigenous people refer to as ‘the glitter world.’ You are the ones to proclaim that the great rebellion against Nature is over. And the only way you can do that is to restore right relationship with all of its laws. The first of which, obeyed by all species except humans, “Take only as much as you need.” And the second, especially designed to counter human greed, “Give more than you take.”
I know that it may seem that I am asking the impossible and that you may believe that we are doomed to crash like Icarus and his melting wings falling out of the sky. But we are not doomed—for you can wake up from the illusion. You can dispel the trance. Not because you’re the righteous coming at the end of Time, but because we have longed for you. We have dreamed of your coming. We have suffered through to this moment to offer you a world both teetering on the edge of collapse and one primed for a great evolutionary leap. You will have to live a great dilemma if you choose to wake because you will have to cut ties with the falling order, and it will do everything in its power to make you a consumer of its many dimensions of glitter. If you are tempted, just be guided to see the rotting underbelly of a world that cannot heal itself from its addiction to crude profit and loss over and above real human gain. Then turn your eyes to the world you will create.
Some call that world the new Earth tribe. It convenes Peace by restoring the deepest bonds of tribes with a consciousness of global interdependence and multicultural diversity. It masters the complexity of individual freedom and responsibility to the whole at a new level by recovering reverence for all life and embodying a sacred I-Thou relationship with all human beings. It makes Peace by integrating the best of the past, avoiding the transfer of old wounds, not selling out to the highest bidder and living its values at every level of social organization
This is what we mean by creating a global culture of peace from the inside out. How do we get there? Well, for starters, it is not a plan. It is an ascension to a higher order of being out of which new systems and structures emerge. It is your responsibility to make Peace the juiciest, most creative and decidedly most adventurous option for humanity. Don’t worry, Peace can only be danced, it cannot be marched. And some of us elders would be more than happy to share a few steps. But remember as much as we have to share we, too, are just learning how to dance the revolution.
I think the notes of the new dance were decisively sounded after World War II in the framing of the principle of universality in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We are one humanity and each of us must be accorded equal rights and protections. Our challenge is not only to enforce this concept as law, it is to embody it as truth. Any form of national, cultural, racial or religious dominance is a defiant rejection of the principle of universality. Any concept that it is a fight or contest for the survival of the fittest races or classes with prerogatives to health and wellness, while others are jeopardized by scarcity, is a rejection of universality. This is not socialism or communism; it is humanism.
Yet we live at a time when cadres of political and religious leaders express notions of cultural and religious superiority. Legitimate differences of belief, of taste and disposition can flourish when the ground of being which holds them is unified by universal respect. Yes, we are called upon to vigorously challenge cultural frameworks which oppress women or minorities, but for there to be Peace we must separate the believer and the belief. Believers are not inferior because they hold beliefs that reason would suggest are unenlightened. By affording them respect, even as we challenge their beliefs, we create a path for dialogue and non-violent change. Come on folks! We can manage this level of complexity. Some think that dialogue should be quiet and serene. But having done international dialogue work for over fifteen years I can affirm that it can and must be the forum for speaking our most passionately felt truths. Where we need help is in the art of deep, compassionate and heart-centered listening. Because once we really hear the other person’s story, we bond with them. We resonate with them even as we argue with them over facts or conclusions. Listening is anything but passive! Get active, start listening!
I listen to them when they are boiling mad. I listen to them when they are in pain. I listen to them when they feel invisible. I listen to them when they have no words. And I listen long enough to hear their laughter.
Common ground is the place where it is safe enough to be ourselves; where it is safe enough to defend our right to be there. Finding that place is the work of peace-builders everywhere. We have a primal need to tell our story and be heard. Scientists remind us that our genetic code is overwhelmingly the same but with minor distinctions and we have close to the same number of genes as a mouse or a banana. Laughter is a signal that it is safe to tear down the walls. It is primal and is associated with the reptilian brain, not the frontal lobes. Most of our problems come from fanatically serious people.
Our bodies are our allies in the journey towards our highest humanity. The ability to feel other’s pain as if it were our own, our capacities for love, acceptance, gratitude, forgiveness, empathy, compassion and deep altruism…they all can be developed for sure, but they are coded into our hardware, not the software of cultural fashion. I love the fact that science is falling to its spiritual knees in discovering how deeply the body is organized to express these qualities and capacities.
The heart is more like a brain than a mechanical pump and when it is happy and loving it conducts a symphony of biochemical, hormonal and electromagnetic resonances. Our gut also acts like a brain and the enteric nervous system is where we also listen deeply. We have a circuitry of resonance, but these bodies of ours are not blunt instruments. We are engineered for our own evolution— for an evolving story in which we are becoming more subtle. We are subtle energy beings at all levels, from deep in the gut to the surface of our skin and we emit subtle signals from the softest movements of our eyes. The quality of our subtle energy can be healing to others, and we have antennae that can pick up signals from other people— sometimes even before they think they have sent them. Our antennae can reach into the heart of another and tune into their emotional body. Our antennae are truth sniffers: develop them and you will always know when someone is manipulating or telling the truth. This is a species wide capacity and that is the good news, because Peace is subtle. Peace creates breathing spaces for your truth and my truth to dialogue.
Truth and Peace are lovers…they meet on that bridge I was talking about at night and in broad daylight! They escape the Matrix of violent and pornographic illusions, the Matrix of casino economics, the Matrix of fundamentalist and tortured religiosity. They find a garden where there is Time to tell their stories and sense each other’s deepest longing and generosity of spirit that spell great possibilities for our collective capacity to heal. But as long as we elect politicians who stir fear and appeal to our basest instincts we will prolong the current crisis.
Life is a community of interdependence, from the bacteria that swarm our bodies and the great community of cells which ceaselessly collaborate to orchestrate our health to international economies, global communications and planetary ecology. We are at the dawning of an Age when we understand this interdependence. We are learning to appreciate that we are connected in a web of Life and slowly, but inexorably, we are connecting the dots to whole systems transition. We see that hierarchies are the most vulnerable systems: cut off the head and the system collapses or is forced to encounter chaos in order to reorganize.
Holarchy is a term that reflects the idea of nested interdependent systems, which are whole in themselves but a part of a greater whole. Systems operate on the flow of energy, on some aspect of reciprocity or reciprocal flow. Understanding how this give and take operates allows us
As great an advocate as I am for international law… law is generally a place where only partial truths get told. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission is where more than half truths were told. The Rwandan Gacaca Courts, which encouraged full participation of the citizenry in truth recovery, was another step towards an inclusive truth process. The whole truth is a story of wounding and healing. It is a story of profound levels of victim-perpetrator entanglement.
The truth is that some put their wounds on altars of remembrance; they build shrines to their wounds and they transmit their wounding like a holy relic from generation to generation. We need to understand that the perpetrator is also wounded. Sometimes in the form of abuse or subjection to injustice, but also in the form of exclusive ideology and inherited extremist belief. The root of most perpetration is Fear. Fear of loss of privileges, of status, of advantage, as well as fear of scarcity, being excluded, or fear of not being with the in-group.
The peacemaker is a societal healer whose practice must be to unite Justice and Healing…and not to refuse to consider the possibility of healing. It is my hope that the great rise of the feminine in this time will bring Sophia to the bench. Restorative justice is an evolutionary imperative. The prison industrial complex is based on a punitive worldview where people are treated like bad stuff and dumped into holding tanks where the dying order manifests social entropy, not social evolution.
Again and again, I have seen that the so-called average person is capable of levels of compassion, forgiveness, understanding marry economy and ecology. This is a couple who will kill each other, and everyone else, if kept apart. The emerging Peace Movement is able to put systems in larger contexts of connection and this is what is needed to save our Earth home.
To achieve planetary peace swarming hives of collaboration must change the flow of energy. We see this swarming in the Arab awakening, in social media, in the great transfer of knowledge to and by the masses. The people of the Earth are on the move like a great collective organism awaking, arising and finding their voice. I have participated in one example of the swarming which was in the form of a collaboratory — a collaboration laboratory between the island people of Ireland and Iceland, determined to learn how best to heal their societies from the devastating moneygreed virus. It is very exciting to learn the new technologies of social collaboration!
One of the ideas that came out of Iceland was The Ministry of Ideas, which essentially goes like this: if you have great ideas for other people, go away! If you have ideas that you are passionate about and you are looking for people to collaborate with you in creating change, come on in! You won’t be able to change systems by living in your head; time to embody and enact your ideas. Time to be the change! Get your energy circulating in the system and you will discover that energy is socially contagious.
Social networks are clearly a huge engine for change. The challenge for peacemakers is how to master both the virtual and the
actual. The virtual world is great for setting the stage for social transformation and exchanging new memes. New peace memes are going viral. They are helping to create a landscape of meaning which transcends us and them and a new experience of the power of we. But they need to be met by actual encounters and the exchange of social intimacy which nourishes our deepest needs for bonding and inspiration. Our strength for the road ahead comes from the awakened sensorial reality of being with those who are embodying the change. The Facebook generation helped create the momentum for Tahrir but a much broader coalition of forces showed up. Interestingly, it was when the Egyptian government cut off internet users that they piled into the streets. When youth responsibly and non-violently express their passion for change, it signals change is really possible.
Everything flows from how we view the world around us: our beliefs and core social perceptions are formed from culture, religion, science, political ideology and our own direct experience of what is real and true. We live at a time when nothing seems solid, as information circulates around the globe at ever accelerating speeds and technologies bring us closer to an open field of global contact between billions of people. People and ideas are on the move stirring the entire field of human consciousness. Old templates of meaning are crashing and disintegrating, opening the possibility for exponential change. Changes, in social change theory like Spiral Dynamics, tend to evolve in successive developmental phases which are driven by social narrative and context. Context affects consciousness and consciousness transforms context.
No government can stem the rising tide of awakening consciousness. The heads of dictators are rolling as the so-called average person demonstrates the power of non-violent collective action. The peace movement is now a great network stretching across continents, mostly hidden, like a vast mycelial network. New belief brings new behavior. For the peace movement is now the face of new parenting skills raising kids without authoritarian values; it is the face of social activists dropping finger-pointing rage and integrating their spiritual practice in the search for justice; it is the face of ecologically sustainable business which rebuilds community rather than abandoning it; it is the face of the great arising of feminine power; it is the face of a new science and a new cosmology which affirms the power of healing, of positive psychology and consciousness; it is the face of men, women and children who stare down oppression, who demonstrate a fundamental generosity and forgiveness in the face of the most intensive testing; it is the face of collaborative law, human rights activism, restorative justice, eco-justice, mediation, dialogic practice, nonviolent communication, community building, youth empowerment and interfaith work. It is the work to end racism, sexism, and homophobia. It is the creative social artistry of groups like Transition Towns, the Time Dollar movement, Kiva and other microfinance initiatives, and the hundreds of thousands of creative initiatives building Peace from the ground up. Paul Hawken reminds us that this is an expression of ‘blessed unrest.’
When the old order seeks to learn who the leaders of this peace movement are, we will tell them we are legion. We know in our hearts that a new phase of global mobilization is calling us to organize the evolution-revolution to scale. We, the new Earth tribe, are not going to find ourselves dancing in the meadows of Peaceland as long as the weapons industry manufactures death and destruction for record profits; as long as our addiction to fossil fuels endangers our shared climate; as long as we churn out the production of endless stuff while people starve or die of malnutrition and disease.
But we have learned one thing, that as fiercely dangerous and threatening as the problems are that beset us, we must face them and look at them through the eyes of the solution. For too long our problems have conditioned us and immobilized us. They can suck us into a vortex of entropy where we have to fight harder and harder to get traction and to fuel more outrage. But when we place our consciousness inside the solution then the problem provides us information and feedback about the effectiveness of our change strategies. The visionary solution is not compromised by having to change tactics but it can be dismantled by always defining itself in relation to the problem. As the beloved Martin Luther King taught us, we must manifest the dream, not write more treatises on the nightmare.
The dream of Peace calls us beyond the ego mind’s fascination with winning and losing. If you want to get fancy about it, Peace is non-dual. It offers us a ground of being which manifests a joy in serving others without carrot and stick incentives. Peace offers us a path where we stop serving puny lesser gods.
This is the spiritual invitation of peace work: to smash the idols that have colonized our minds and throw the money grubbers out of the temple of our sacred life’s work. I ask you to feel the pulse of this time and set your intention to scale up your own peacework. It is a time of quickening. It is the time of a great birth for humanity. But if you remember your biblical stories when a great being, a more evolved being, is to be born the knives come out.
For the dying order must kill the new one or begin to face its own extinction. But evolution will protect the Peace Child because its family is a new Earth tribe finally emerging with allegiance to the whole. Truth is, we were conceived a very long time ago in the imagination of our ancestors and we will fulfill their dream from the inside out and from the bottom up.
*Note. This article is an edited version of a keynote presentation at the World Peace Festival, Berlin, August 2011.
James is currently Co- Director of The Social Healing Project funded by the Kalliopeia Foundation. He is a member of the extended faculty of The Institute of Noetic Sciences and its immediate past President. He was Executive Director of The Seva Foundation, an international health and development organization and, for ten years, was the Washington Office Director of Amnesty International.
Fall | Winter 2016