Building a cooperation system


Old solutions won’t fix multiple crises

Paul Ray, in his on-line booklet, The New Political Compass, says “It is easily arguable that our inept and corrupt politics is about to harm us. The West is about to face a cascade of crises that political business as usual cannot handle, whether it is led from the right or the left.”

The cascading crises of global warming, peak oil and suicidal terrorism are making it obvious that we are all on one lifeboat together. In the midst of this crisis, we cast about for pieces of flotation. There are many options within reach when we look beneath the surface chaos.

The media is focused on the drama and fear of the most obvious power struggles. However, beneath the surface, the evolution of humanity does not look like a power struggle. It has no single leader, and it’s occurring in small group conversations. The ship of fear and control is slowly being abandoned. We are about to witness a cultural leap into fearlessness, and the old media will soon lose their influence. The cultures who can survive the current cascade of crises will be the ones who develop the skills of cooperation, trust, and absolute fearlessness.

How we think about and frame what we are doing is so much more important than what we are doing. The issue before us is not personal survival, it is how we think about our survival, our strategies of survival, and the real meaning of our survival. Global warming is not just inconvenient weather patterns, it’s a mass extinction event, and our interdependence with all life forms on earth has marked Homo sapiens as an endangered species.

When the bees go extinct, they take an entire food chain with them. When the algae in the ocean die off, so does the food chain that depends on it. If we cut down a forest, runoff creates floods. The air and water become toxic. We are also highly interdependent with all cultures, all races, and all nations. For example, if we close the border to immigrants, fruit and vegetables rot in the fields or go up in price or disappear altogether. We can no longer use the strategy of killing each other to grab energy resources, because the outcome of warfare is a net loss of resources.

We open a vision of new possibilities when we reframe global warming or peak oil as our opportunity to cooperate in expanding our access to sustainable energy resources that have been until now unavailable to us at a price we can pay. And so it is with building the peace. Terrorism is reminding us to access communication skills that have been previously unused. Real strength, real self- esteem, comes from relating to people instead of dominating them. This is the core idea behind the thousands of citizen activists that are hammering away at building a new lifeboat of peace for all people. This boat is one of those possibilities, and my personal favorite, that arise from looking beneath the chaos on the surface and reframing what we are doing on this planet.

Sarah van Gelder, in her YES! magazine article “Why the Next 10 Years Will Be Nothing Like the Last 10 Years” lists some of the major crises that are creating the pressure to find new solutions and new ways of finding solutions. They include climate change, antibiotic-resistant infections, declining supplies of oil, nuclear proliferation, unilateral foreign policies and the widening gulf between rich and poor. Traditional problem-solving methods have failed to have an impact on these issues. On the other hand, Gelder says “ecologists tell us that the fringes are the most productive parts of ecosystems, and innovations from the fringes of society are today seeding a future that can sustain us all.”

As an example, Van Gelder points to the city of Los Angeles which, with its first Latino mayor, has responded to air, water, and soil pollution with new initiatives to plant trees, create habitat and wetlands, and to reuse storm water for irrigation.

When we define ourselves as independent agents competing for mastery over a finite set of circumstances, we imply that we are surrounded by enemies in a hopeless situation. This can lead to homicide and, more often than that, to suicide. When we humbly see our place in the context of the larger system of humanity, we are much more likely to participate in solving complex problems which may have otherwise seemed overwhelming. The willingness to cooperate is the new touchstone of sanity. It leads to not just survival, but an abundantly joyous survival.

When we act as if we are in unity and solidarity we learn how to make unity and solidarity real. The greatest monuments and wonders of the world were built by people who were organized in large teams by a domination system. Think what wonders might be built by a cooperation system. The foundations of a new and collaborative wonder are being drawn now, teams are multiplying exponentially, the celebration of new vision and camaraderie are reverberating like whale songs under the storm-driven waves, and everyone is welcome, including you.

Adapted from Essays of encouragement (p. 110-111, Love Always Wins, ©2011 David M. Hazen). Available at Amazon as an e-book or paperback.

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