A Movement Moment
At the 2014 Bioneers Conference, I suggested the coming years were going to make the ’60s look like the ’50s. I think we’re just about there. Now, buckle up for the Year of Shocking Transformation and Really Big Surprises.
We’re in a movement moment, a riptide that signals the rise of what promises to be the biggest movement in modern American history. Paradoxically Trump’s toxic divisiveness is causing a unifying national resistance, as well as global progressive uprisings such as we’ve not seen since the ‘60s.
What may be the biggest scandal in American history is unfolding before our eyes. Really it’s a Russian act of electoral cyberwar in apparent collusion with Team Trump. It could well bring the house down. At the least, it’s going to cripple the administration from here on and heads will roll. Like a Chinese finger puzzle, the more they resist, the tighter it gets. They’re blowing up the Democracy Theme Park. Any shred of legitimacy is gone, and they certainly don’t have the consent of the governed of the large majority of Americans.
If this were sports and one team cheated to win the game, they’d be disqualified and the game would automatically go to the other team. Otherwise, we need an election do-over. How about a six-week, publicly funded campaign and a new election?
Forget Mercury — Uncle Sam has gone retrograde. After 9/11 has come 11/9. Commandante Trump is now certifiably a severe national and global security threat. Since Day One, we’ve catapulted into a political and Constitutional crisis. His make-dictatorship-great-again administration is showing signs of a coup d’etat — power grabs, Stalinesque purges and lawless aggression.
We’re dealing not only with ideological extremists looped on belief systems; they’re also jacked up on greed. They’re trying to polarize us with one hand and pick our pockets with the other. A more faithful characterization would be, “Let us prey.”
The administration is one giant conflict of interest — the Predators Ball revisited. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is right: There is a crime wave — a corporate crime wave. Many of the Cabinet appointees ought to be prosecuted by the agencies they’re supposed to head. A tsunami of lawsuits is going to swamp the swamp.
The system is the crime. To achieve real democracy, we need to enforce the separation of corporations and the state.
This remake of “Jackass” seems far too dangerous for the military-intelligence establishment and transnational big business to tolerate. The Republicans are trying to hang on long enough to push through their core plutocratic agenda before the chief executive’s head explodes or the Russian connection takes him out. I’m astonished to find myself rooting for the US shadow oligarchy to prevail. It’s a lousy calculation, but a reasonably rational, well-run empire is far safer than a rogue kleptocracy piloted by Yosemite Sam.
As Trump doubles down on his warped vision of American carnage, popular revulsion is going to keep churning like national food poisoning. Uprisings against this illegitimate regime are erupting everywhere. I don’t have to tell you how epic the Women’s March was. With women of color at the forefront, it’s a shining expression of the Inclusivity Revolution. As co-organizer Linda Sarsour observed, if you want to know where to go, ask the women of color. This marks a historic evolution from the feminism of the ’60s as a deeply multicultural, multiracial movement that now includes girls. Our diversity is our strength.
Many cops remarked they’d never seen so peaceful a protest. (In the ’60s, we considered those advocating violence as fools or police provocateurs.) This “Revolution of Love” also happens to be the biggest demonstration in American history. It came together spontaneously over nine weeks. Digital communications and social media are facilitating ongoing eruptions that the political class never saw coming and continues to underestimate.
The convergence of movements the Women’s March exemplified is unprecedented. It’s making visible the spreading collective understanding that it’s all connected and we’re all connected.
The vitality and power of civil society is one of the greatest unsung stories of our time. Civil society has emerged as the central fire of transformational change.
I’ve come to believe this whole improbable, head-spinning crackup is a big mistake. It was not supposed to happen. The cosmic trickster is on the loose. Even Trump never intended or expected to win, and he’s completely unprepared and unqualified to govern. The Apprentice has turned into the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. By trashing everyone all at once, he’s mobilizing everyone all at once.
Perhaps it took a breakdown this breathtakingly extreme to reveal the system and mobilize enough people to actually change it. The administration is so radically out of step with the ground truth of American culture and the arc of today’s diverse, interdependent world as to be surreal. In fact, the Merriam-Webster dictionary chose “surreal” as its 2016 word of the year.
The Oxford English dictionary selected “post-truth.” Yes, we’re in the Matrix. When Kellyanne Conway tries to keep a straight face pitching the LOL of “alternative facts,” she gives new meaning to “pro-choice.”
It’s called propaganda. It’s the reality distortion field that enables authoritarian regimes. Back in the U.S.S.R.
If you’ve read the redacted CIA report and the former British spy’s dossier of iterative memos (highly recommended), you know that Team Trump appears to be in very deep with Russia and Putin. But that’s just the nose of the camel. Trump’s unwavering allegiance to Putin smells as if the Kremlin has him by the short hairs. According to the dossiers, he has a lot of ’em. At the least, the Potemkin Village of his regime’s legitimacy is going to keep eroding. Impeachment is already in the air, and it’s conceivable he and others could ultimately face jail time.
There are compelling parallels with 1968–69 in the US. The most disturbing analogue is the very recent proof that Richard Nixon hacked the 1968 election. As a win-at-any-cost presidential candidate, he ordered his liaison to the South Vietnam government to persuade it to decline the cease-fire being brokered by President Lyndon Johnson, which it did. Facing massive anti-war protests, LBJ had to drop out of the race, handing it to Nixon. Until this year, this black op was dismissed as just another conspiracy theory.
The world order is shaking and baking, and the chaos President is just what Putin wanted. The long-term Russian geopolitical agenda is to delegitimize American democracy, damage the liberal democratic brand, and monkey-wrench US elites and Western alliances. It’s a goal shared by China and Julian Assange. It’s working brilliantly.
Both China and Russia are gaining ground on the world stage and on the ground. Putin continues to stoke right-wing, white nationalist populist movements and hack elections to destabilize liberal democracies in Ukraine and the EU.
As Chris Buckley reported in the New York Times, “China’s ruling elite seems to be consoling itself with the idea that the American president-elect will take charge of a country staggering into decline and disunion… dysfunctional and dissolute, and blighted by corruption, social and political polarization, reckless debt, and an enfeebled news media.” China is running circles around the US in Latin America and Africa, and just seized the high ground at Davos as the new global champion of climate protection and free markets.
As Alexandra Stevenson reported recently from the 2017 World Economic Forum, “The world order has been upended… The religion of the global elite — free trade and open markets — is under attack… The biggest concern? Finding a way to make the people who are driving populist movements feel like they are part of the global economic pie that Davos participants have created and largely own.”
Good luck with that. Eight billionaires now have as much wealth as half the world’s population. What could possibly go wrong?
This progressive movement of movements is far bigger than it has appeared or is politically represented. The mycelial connections among movements are multiplying into a step change. Solutions and infrastructures abound that are far more mature than has been visible before.
The worm is turning sooner than almost anyone expected. The big question is how much damage the killer clowns will exact before they’re stopped.
The climate risk is dire: The viability of the biosphere for human existence is at stake. With the former Exxon Mobil CEO and Putin “Order of Friendship” recipient now Secretary of State, the “oiligarchy” has cut to the geopolitical chase.
Hanging in the balance is the biggest deal in history — between Exxon Mobil and Russia for the largest oil reserves ever developed. It will be reactivated if Trump lifts sanctions. As the Russian collusion scandal unravels, it may now be politically impossible. Don’t forget Putin also hacked the RNC. Lord knows what chaos and nastiness lie in store if Trump cannot deliver on the sanctions and the Kremlin hits “send.”
Climate chaos will keep escalating while market momentum for renewables will keep rising. It’s a matter of when, not if, the oil stays in the ground. Progressive movements succeed most when there’s a split in the corporate class. The division could not be starker than between big business interests favoring a clean energy versus a fossil fuel future.
Time is not on our side regarding the climate. It’s the last reel. What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? We’re about to find out.
A similar clash is rising around immigration and racism. For business, immigration is an economic necessity. Racism is also a brand issue for companies — witness the business die-off in North Carolina after the “bathroom bill,” including the NCAA’s dramatic move out of state. The administration’s racist, Islamaphobic and xenophobic state terrorism reflects a futile “whitelash” in a society inexorably on its way to becoming a majority minority population. It’s a seismic shift, a cultural revolution of pluralism that cannot be turned back.
What the state can and will do is amp up voter suppression. A large majority did not vote for Trump. The election has already shattered the legitimacy of the electoral system.
In the US, we’re seeing the geopolitical boundaries taking shape, defined principally by the urban-rural divide. Cities are the cultural drivers and economic engines of the country, and entire regions of the nation are becoming Refuseniks. Something’s gotta give.
Will people stand for it? Are we seeing the beginning of a mass insurrection?
This is the moment of post-truth. Reality is bearing down from every direction. As Paul Hawken once observed at the Bioneers conference, it’s hard to resist and create at the same time, and that’s exactly what we have to do.
The best case of what could yet emerge in the coming years at the federal level is a Green New Deal. It will solve many problems at once by employing large numbers of people to build green infrastructures to meet the overriding twin crises of climate disruption and extreme inequality.
It’s no accident that the right-wing plutocratic agenda for the past nearly 80 years has been to do away with New Deal reforms. The strategy since Reagan has been to demonize government because it’s the only force big and rich enough to stand up against corporate power.
Government policy has long been the source of all great wealth creation. The plutocrats don’t have a problem with government — only with whom it serves. I urge you to listen to the late Tom Hayden’s remarkable parting perspective at Bioneers on this perilous political moment and its close parallel with the 1930s and the battle against the 1% to create the New Deal.
I believe we’re witnessing the stirrings of a next American Revolution. Now the game turns to building political power, but it’s about a lot more than that. It’s about a transformation of what power means. We’re moving away from “power over” to “power to” and “power with” — power to create an ecologically vital and socially just world — power with each other to create beloved community.
A friend once counseled me that any truly transformative experience is preceded by dread. We’re in dreadful times indeed. We’re taking a collective hero’s journey, a descent through the crucible of the underworld to transform human civilization and ourselves. As Richard Tarnas has commented, “There’s no such thing as a pretend near-death experience.”
The big wheels are turning. This moment of radical breakdown opens the space for transformational breakthrough.
Terry Tempest Williams sees it this way:
“When one hungers for light, it is only because one’s knowledge of the dark is so deep. Democracy is an insecure landscape. It invites us to take risks. It asks that we vacate the comfortable seat of certitude, remain pliable and act, ultimately on behalf of the common good.”
“The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions: Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up, ever, trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy.
“The heart is the path to wisdom because it dares to be vulnerable in the presence of power. Our power lies in our love of our homelands.”
This is the Revolution from the Heart of Nature and the Human Heart. Take heart, keep the faith, and as Joe Hill said, “Don’t mourn, organize.”