There are two great Chinese Curses. The first curse is: "May you live in interesting times." We are just beginning to live out this one, but most of us are getting a grasp on the power of this curse. These certainly are interesting times.
The second curse is considered even worse than the first: May you get everything you want!
On one level this concept represents a law of nature that the harder you push, the more you create your own opposition. In a world of war without limit, this opposition must take the form of clarity and consciousness.
The tremendous worldwide opposition to the war -- that swept the world even before the war started -- is an example. The New York Times stated that there are now two super powers in the world -- the U.S. and world public opinion.
We are only just beginning to grasp the significance of all this. We can feel the hope and power that new forces are bringing, but we struggle to define, understand and use it.
The fact that this unprecedented form of international cooperation is organized through the Internet, allowing networks to form and interact with incredible rapidity and power, using video cameras and computers to create their own news services is one of the more obvious features.
On another level this curse recognizes the concept of ebb and flow. Once you have everything it must inevitably begin to disintegrate and sift through your fingers. Capitalism is more unopposed than it has been in at least 100 years. From their point of view, this is the best of all possible worlds. The sky is the limit.
Behind the day-to-day events, however incredible they are, lies a much bigger and much more powerful phenomenon that is best understood by looking at the concept of emergence. A new world is emerging like a ship slowly emerges through the fog.
On a daily basis, this is already altering and transforming every institution of human society. Like the ship, we can't discern all the features yet. The laws of this new world are still developing. The results are not yet predictable in many of the details. But it is no longer even a radical idea to point out that humanity is being transformed in more and different ways than any time since the development of fire.
New things are definitely arising and developing. Something new is in the air. It's arriving just in time.
Most of the ideas that justified capitalism in the last century are decaying and losing their social power. Nationalism is undercut by the fact that globally linked, networked corporations are now more powerful than most countries. The social privileges that racism is supposed to defend and justify are vanishing. The whole social contract of capitalism is undermined. We are now on the verge of the second American generation that will grow up poorer than their parents.
The usual assumptions are becoming less tenable every day. Hence the battle for the future begins with a battle to formulate new ideas -- a new story of what's really going on.
So let's proceed in the spirit of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. Back in the day, these giants were known as "the assassins" for the delight they took in transforming the blandest music of Tin Pan Alley into jazz compositions that turned everything upside down. Let's focus on just one of the old chestnuts of capitalism and use it to evoke a different world. These are precisely the times to conjure up some different visions of how life could be!
Let's take: "There's not enough to go around." Sorry, it's just no longer true.
For example, since 1999 the UN has reported that the world now produces enough food to feed everyone in the world adequately. The problem is how it's distributed.
In fact worldwide abundance is a real and growing problem for capitalism these days and helps to explain their savage rampages. The only way they can make a profit is to use social and military power to artificially create scarcity. You simply can't make private profit if the necessities of life are available for everyone.
So you see there's a terrible irony with the second Chinese curse. Wishing abundance on somebody is a blessing to anyone who is not a capitalist. But to those who seek to extend the global MacWorld of exploitation and consumerism this is truly poison.
There is a better story, one that defines the tasks of the emerging world. Here's how Martin Luther King, Jr. once described it: "One day we must come to see that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring."
These are decisive times. It's no longer time for small thinking and narrow goals. If the ruling class can try to plunge the world into a long, dark night where injustice is the norm, we can work together to bring about a new dawn -- a world were abundance is a blessing and not a curse, a world that nurtures the peaceful, equal and full development of all people.
For the full text, go to http://www.lrna.org/columns/nanodog/emerge.html
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