Roadmap: A Movement of Movements

We in the progressive movement have been aware for some time that we tend to be ‘siloed’ in our respective niches, whether saving the whales, protesting the 1%, militarism, or what have you. It had become so much a part of how and who we have been, however, that very few of us thought to do anything about it.

Then along came Blessed Unrest, the book and other presentations by Paul Hawken, that opened our eyes to the scale of the worldwide activities that he correctly called the largest social movement the world had ever seen—except that, in the proper sense of the word, it’s not a movement. Hawken counts tens of millions of people and groups doing progressive work, but “Movements have leaders and ideologies. You join movements, study tracts, and identify yourself with a group. You read the biography of the founder(s) or listen to them perorate on tape or in person. Movements have followers, but this movement doesn’t work that way. It is dispersed, inchoate, and fiercely independent. There is no manifesto or doctrine, no authority to check with.” And no name.

While there is an undeniable appeal to the diversity of all this, there is no question of the extreme urgency of the need to rebalance the planet’s climate (to name only the most urgent issue) and the near-total paralysis of governments or other large entities that might have taken action to address this need. Our collective action has to be much more effective, now. For this, we need two things: a sense of cohesion, such that our diverse efforts add up to a single, unstoppable thrust, and a strategy.

Metta’s Roadmap is an attempt to facilitate both cohesion and strategy. It uses the formation of a long-term strategy as the mechanism to pull together diverse strands of activity into what’s come to be called a ‘movement of movements.’ We offer this in the spirit of Arnold Toynbee: “Apathy can only be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an ideal which takes the imagination by storm [like the ‘Great Turning’], and second, a definite, intelligible plan for carrying that ideal into practice.”

Roadmap is, more importantly, conceived in the spirit of Gandhi, and informed throughout by some of his key principles. It took its present shape in response to the rise and apparent fall of the Occupy movement, namely to give more durable energy to that badly needed uprising, which had taken the form that nonviolence scholars call ‘effervescence of the crowd:’ a phenomenon that’s essential but not sufficient for lasting positive change.

Where Did Roadmap Come From?

It took several years to refine what is now the (we think) beautiful scheme on page 60, which we call Roadmap’s Mandala. Most of the discussions took place at Metta’s ‘Hope Tank’ meetings (“we don’t need a new think-tank,” a young friend had advised). This format, which we’re now offering around for other discussion groups, is simple: we gather at 8:30AM once a month for a half hour of silent meditation, followed by a potluck breakfast, followed by a conversation that goes on until it’s over, usually around 11:00AM. The ‘rules’ for the conversation are only that it must be ‘open but focused,’ meaning that we want it to be focused on a real problem, sometimes one that a friend brings in, e.g., immigration reform, or indeed the real problem—how do we bring about a ‘great turning’ to a world of peace and justice? The ‘open’ piece is that people can bring in absolutely anything they have reason to believe will help us gain clarity and move forward. So in Hope Tanks and in one important board meeting, the basic model was developed. Important refinements later arose in a series of conversations arranged by Ben Roberts of the Conversation Collaborative. Often in these conversations an extremely useful feature of Roadmap would come to light that we, the creators, had not even realized, which we took to be a sign that we were on to something.

Roadmap: Unity, Strategy and Nonviolent Power for an unstoppable movement.

Roadmap: The Project

As a project, Roadmap has three stages. First was the development of the model itself, as we’ve just described. Second came the creation of what we call the Compass: a web-based tool by which participants can: a) locate themselves on the map (meaning both the mandala’s scheme and an actual Google-based world map), b) share resources, some of which live on the Roadmap pages of our website, and most importantly, stage c) be in touch with likeminded people working on the same issue. Stages one and two are done. At time of this writing (International Day of Peace/Nonviolence, September 21, 2014), the community pulled together in c) is beginning to give birth to a special group that will create the third and probably climactic stage of the whole project: the longterm Strategy. How do we get from where we are now to the ‘Great Turning,’ to beloved community in a balanced world on a thriving planet? What are the steps by which we can proceed from success to ever-greater success until that goal is reached?

One model we’ve drawn upon for inspiration is the ambitious 500-Year Plan for Peace developed by the Sarvodaya Movement in Sri Lanka under the direction of Gandhi Peace Prize winner Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne. Putting the goal that far out in the future (maybe for Americans it should be a 100-year plan) really unlocks the imagination, in the spirit of Toynbee’s formula. In 500 years, anything could happen, including the world of peace and justice we really want to live in. We have conducted some visioning exercises to describe, for example, the robust conflict-management systems of such a world. And for the concrete, intelligible half of Toynbee’s formula, we then proceed to step down from the envisioned goal to ask, where do we have to be in, say, 400 years to get there, and so on until we can pose the more realistic, more modest, but in the larger context more uplifting question, “OK, what do we need to do now? ”As an example of three ‘giant steps’ from here to there, we propose:

  • Restorative Justice (RJ) in the nation’s schools. This is actually happening, slowly. It constitutes a rather non-threatening step that nonetheless embodies an entirely ‘new story’ of human nature that could be derived from its success (more on that later). Because we care for children and young people, decriminalizing them should appeal to our sense of concern for life—exactly what we need to awaken to change the present paradigm.
  • Restorative Justice generally, i.e., replacing the retributive justice that is something of a disgrace to the US in particular. Building on the success of RJ in the school system, we can reassure the public that RJ is safe, much safer than the dehumanizing system we have now. From here, are you ready?
  • The end of war.

You get the idea: we build from what is possible now to what seems impossible now but is quite achievable by progressive steps. Who was it that said, “It seems impossible until it’s done, then it seems inevitable?”

Roadmap Itself: The Mandala

The Mandala presents the area of needed change in six sectors. The eighteen sub-sectors are only by way of example. (Gandhi had eighteen projects in his Constructive Programme, so we’ve invoked a bit of number magic here.) Climate has its own sector because of its extreme urgency. Significantly, top dead center of the scheme is ‘New Story Creation.’ Everything we want to change implies a shift from our present paradigm or worldview of separateness and materialism, of competition and violence, to one that recognizes the inherent unity of life. The time has come to articulate that new paradigm as we act it out in our diverse projects.

When we realize that we are body, mind, and spirit and can never be fulfilled by the accumulation of material goods, it will end the exploitation of the Earth. When we realize that we cannot hurt others without hurting ourselves, it will be the end of war.1 Given this shift in vision, the changes we want should follow almost automatically.

The cover of The Economist for August 16-22, 2014 pictured a fighter jet soaring over a map of the Middle East. The headline was ‘Back To Iraq’ and the subhead was ‘Getting It Right This Time.’ Why this delusion? Because although the alternatives to the war system are already in place—unarmed civilian peacekeeping, international law, etc., policymakers and the general public act as though they do not exist. They will be able to ‘see’ them when they begin to sense they are not material bodies doomed to compete for scarce resources but spiritual beings destined to realize our unity with one another and, as Einstein said, “the whole of nature in its beauty.”

The so-called ‘New Story’ was actually implicit in the most ancient stories of human civilization. Huxley called it the ‘Perennial Philosophy.’ The task of New Story creation is twofold: first, we must adapt the language of the perennial story to modern understanding and modern needs. For example, I have had friends who, to my surprise, do not believe us when we speak of the unity of life, but they accept what’s called in quantum physics ‘non-locality,’ which means exactly the same.

Second, we will have to adopt the resulting story and make it our own. As it happens (if you believe in chance), there are two remarkable developments that address each of these needs. For adaptation, we have the revolutionary changes in modern science that are happening with increasing rapidity now that the incredible discoveries of the quantum nature of reality made at the beginning of the last century are being assimilated into the wider scientific community. And for adopting the resulting inspiring vision of the human being we have an equally significant development: nonviolence. Nonviolence is where the New Story becomes real. We can talk about the unity of life all we want, but it won’t stop anyone from being violent. Humans have an incredible capacity for cognitive dissonance. But when they see nonviolence actually working, as now more than half the world has experienced it firsthand, above all when they experience some kind of nonviolent interaction and the experience stays with them because they can give it a name and locate it in the new worldview, minds and hearts will change.

The all-important New Story sector connects in a special way with the mandala’s innermost circle: personal growth and empowerment. (Take those two together and turn them 180°, as we sometimes do, and you get the shape of a keyhole.) The direction of change envisioned by Roadmap is ‘peace from within.’ Generally speaking, though no one should think of stopping urgent work they may be engaged in: the energy and wisdom of the Great Turning should flow from personal growth through constructive action along with others of like mind to nonviolent resistance— when and if that is necessary, as it will be. The concept is what Gandhi called svadeshi, or ‘localism,’ the opposite and antidote to hierarchy and globalization. It means that we work on the circle closest to us first, moving outward on the basis of strength gained within. So in Roadmap you work on yourself, work with others, and finally work against opposition (though not, because we are being deeply nonviolent, against opponents). In a moment we’ll describe five suggestions we’ve worked out over many years for developing peace from within, in the spirit of Martin Luther King’s call that, “We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thingoriented’ civilization to a ‘person-oriented’ civilization.” Once again, nonviolence is a key to the paradigm shift as we see it.

There are many advantages to the constructive program (CP) discussed in various writings of Metta—for example, the new Handbook of Nonviolence and our website. In a way, we have basically turned Occupy inside out, taking a different approach than starting with protest and obstruction. It is interesting that after being thwarted at that approach Occupy itself has discovered CP, notably in Occupy Sandy, which brought hurricane relief to the New York area (more effectively than the Red Cross and other official aid entities) and Rolling Jubilee (buying up the debts of poor families and liberating them). You don’t stop calling out the banks and financial systems for creating debt, but you also don’t accept the myth of your helplessness and dependency on these institutions; you show that you can do something about it yourselves. However you look at it, constructive work puts us in a much stronger position to demand change, if necessary not by words only but through satyagraha, or nonviolent resistance.

Let’s end where it all begins. The inner circle of Roadmap offers five suggestions that anyone at all can take up, whether or not they are (yet) active or part of an organization. The first one can seem a bit challenging, but it’s essential:

  • Boycott the commercial mass media. It is primarily through them that the culture of materialism and violence possesses the minds of millions. Do not be one of them. Nor do we have to be left in a cultural vacuum, as there’s an easy and far healthier substitute.
  • Learn everything you can about nonviolence. Nonviolence is the bridge between spiritual development and social change; it is the activism of the new world. In the present world, it is not easy to know where to go to learn about it. Here’s where Metta, among other non-mainstream organizations, can help.
  • Take up a spiritual practice, if you haven’t already. Metta’s ‘house pick’ would be passage meditation, á là
  • Drawing on the empowerment from these three steps, make it a habit to relate personally to everyone.
  • Take action and tell the story! Find where your talents meet the world’s needs. Then every chance you get, to anyone who’ll listen, explain why you’re doing what you’re doing, because as spiritual beings:
    • we are deeply interconnected, so that I cannot hurt anyone without hurting myself.
    • we have inner needs and inner resources, so that we do not have to extract non-renewable resources from the earth. Our real fulfillment comes from building relationships of love and service.
    • among these inner resources is the ability to offer and to respond to nonviolence, so we do not need to try to solve problems with competition and violence.

Many individuals and organizations have become excited about the potential of Roadmap, and we continue to receive requests for presentations, trainings, and more resources. In addition to the Mandala pictured here, we have now developed a web-based community where people can connect with one another and benefit from many resources they have to offer. We invite you to join us at and become part of the movement of movements!2

1 Cf. Mario Iacoboni, Mirroring People: The New Science of How We Connect With Others, (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2008) p. 124. “Although we commonly think of pain as a fundamentally private experience, our brain actually treats pain as an experience shared with others.” See also Rachel MacNair, Perpetration Induced Traumatic Stress (Lincoln, NE: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005).
2 More Roadmap information at