Rather than offering its own analysis of causes and solutions for the crises of our time, the Work That Reconnects invites us to take a fresh look at what we see happening around us. The model of “Three Stories of Our Time” helps us do this. Each of these stories reveals a profoundly different lens through which people understand the world we all live in. Taken as a whole, they assist us in both making sense of what we see and experience, and also in choosing how we want to live our own lives and engage in the work of change.
These stories are Business as Usual, the Great Unraveling, and the Great Turning. While all three simplify vastly complex global realities, they can help us to See with New Eyes and clarify our commitment to collective human liberation and the living web of Earth.
1. Business As Usual is the story of the Industrial Growth Society, and the European-based colonial empires from which it emerged. It is the dominant enforcing mechanism of a predatory capitalist, imperialist economic system (in other words, the corporate financial military industrial complex) that perpetuates patriarchy and white supremacy for the profit and power of a few.
The defining premise, which we hear from politicians, corporations, corporate-controlled media, and the military, is that there is little need to change the way we in the industrialized world live. The central plot is about getting ahead and competing for profit and power by “growing the economy.” Economic recessions, extreme weather conditions, and social unrest are just temporary difficulties from which mainstream society will surely recover and from which corporations can benefit. This story functions to maintain the power and privilege of “the 1%” while legitimizing the impoverishment and disempowerment of everyone else.
From its beginnings in England three centuries ago, the Industrial Revolution was funded by the enslaving and trafficking of Africans across the Atlantic Ocean, and further enabled by the theft of land and life of indigenous peoples in the Americas, Africa, Australia, and Asia. Business as Usual discredits the essential labor that enslaved and colonized peoples have contributed to the apparent success of industrialized world, even as it has destroyed their lives, freedom, and cultures.
Many people caught up in the Industrial Growth Society assume this story to be the only reality.
2. The Great Unraveling is the story told by scientists, journalists, and activists who have not been bought off or intimidated by the forces of the Industrial Growth Society. Drawing attention to the disasters caused by Business As Usual, their accounts give evidence of the on-going derangement and collapse of biological, ecological, economic, and social systems.
The Great Unraveling may be more apparent today, because of the accelerating rate of change and technological advances in communication, but the living systems of Earth have been unraveling for generations. Under colonial expansion and rule, indigenous, brown, black, and impoverished communities have carried the weight of the unraveling for centuries. Refineries, mines, and toxic waste have been sited in and near their communities, with direct and lethal impacts on the health of the people.
Now the climate itself is unraveling world-wide and the sixth great extinction of species is underway. Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and wildfires, amplified by global warming, leave millions of people without shelter, food, or potable water. Bee colonies are collapsing. Whole ecosystems are being destroyed.
Military operations and conflicts, as well as famine and drought, drive staggering numbers of refugees to flee for their lives across borders, often to be turned away, incarcerated, enslaved, or consigned to refugee camps for years on end. Systemic racism and long-standing cultural and religious enmities flare up, taking an immeasurable toll in human suffering.
3. We hear the story of a Great Turning from some who see the Great Unraveling and don’t want it to have the last word. This is the story of the transition from the Industrial Growth Society to a Life Sustaining Society. . Attitudes shift from exploitation to respect, from extraction to regeneration, from competition to cooperation. More and more people come to see how interwoven we areas peoples, and recognize that solidarity with one another is a way through these crises. So we join together to act for the sake of life on Earth.
The story of the Great Turning involves the emergence of new and creative human responses, as well as a reawakening of sustainable indigenous traditions, We gratefully acknowledge the wisdom of indigenous traditions that came before us, and are re-emerging today, bearing strong witness to the interconnectedness of all life. Let us also borrow the perspective of future generations and, in that larger context of time, look at how this Great Turning is gaining momentum, accelerated by the choices of countless individuals as they band together in networks and campaigns all over the world.
We can see this Great Turning happening simultaneously in three areas or dimensions that are mutually reinforcing: 1) actions to resist and slow down the damage to Earth and all its beings; 2) analysis and transformation of the socio-economic foundations of our common life; and 3) a perceptual, cognitive, and moral shift to biocentric values and world views that affirm our human responsibility to life in all its richness and diversity and to future generations. Many people are engaged in all three dimensions of this Great Turning, all of which are necessary for the creation of a life-sustaining and just society.