Critical Mass and the Blessed Unrest That Never Found Its Power…Until Now
Nobody saw the World’s largest movement for social and environmental change coming, because it never actualized its power…until now. A decade ago the environmentalist Paul Hawken wrote a book about the Blessed Unrest he saw in people all around the world who cared more for the planet and other people than they did profits. They joined social and environmental groups and causes. They purchased green products and gave unselfishly to charities around the world. Hawken described this emergence, “From billion-dollar nonprofits to single-person dot.causes, these groups collectively comprise the largest movement on earth, a movement that has no name, leader, or location, and that has gone largely ignored by politicians and the media.” Hawken described the organic nature of it, “Like nature itself, it is organizing from the bottom up, in every city, town, and culture, and is emerging to be an extraordinary and creative expression of people’s needs worldwide.”
But ten years later we need to ask ourselves some hard questions. What really became of this “world’s largest” movement? Have we met the needs of people around the world? Have we solved any of our urgent problems, or have they gotten worse? Are our politicians and media still ignoring us? Is the so-called “conscious capitalism” model working? Do we have any sane reason to believe that our political and economic systems can solve our problems? Or are they themselves the problem?
Like the Human Immune System
Along time ago a friend of mine shared with me an analogy that describes how protesters around the world who are fighting for different causes are like the immune system of the human body. We have different kinds of white blood cells in our bodies that are fighting off infections in very different ways. They each rush around our blood system to different parts of our body to serve different functions to help destroy harmful invaders such as viruses and bacteria. So together they collectively form a powerful immune system working as one to prevent illness and keep us healthy.
What’s Missing in Social and Environmental Movements?
But this analogy is problematic as it applies to the social and environmental justice movements. The problem is that it doesn’t apply at all in real life to the movements. Biologically, the white blood cells in our body are all connected to every other part of our body, working in unison as one holistic, unified system. However, the groups, movements, NGO’s and charities around the world are all working separately on their own causes. The collective “blessed unrest” of all the different groups and NGO’s is in numbers only, and not unified in the spirit of working together as one holistic immune system trying to keep the global organism of Gaia healthy. In many cases the groups and NGO’s have merely become ingrained institutions that are only concerned with the perpetuation of their own existence, for the sake of their own jobs, not with permanently solving the problems once and for all.
We can even go so far as to say that NGO’s and charities are not only NOT cooperating with each other, they’re actually competing against each other. They are competing for the same charity dollars that are increasingly in scarce supply as socio-economic conditions get worse. But in a somewhat cruel positive feedback loop, as we have more crises around the world, more NGO’s pop up to serve people in need with funds solicited by poor donors in the west, because the NGO’s are also keenly aware of this: “One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income.” And as the documentary Poverty, Inc. painfully illustrates, the charities and NGO’s and well intentioned celebraties are often making things much worse for the people in need.
The bottom line is this: individually and collectively we are still stuck in “I” and “Me” and “Mine” thinking within our different groups, movements and causes around the world, instead of the global “WE” consciousness and responsiveness that’s called for now on a planetary scale.
Seeing the Roots Through the Symptoms
Right now, I would like to ask you to scroll up to the top of this page. Take another look at the Blessed Unrest book cover. Do you see the roots? With full respect to the author Paul Hawken who has done amazing environmentalism work throughout the years, this is a major problem, the significance of which I am just now fully appreciating. In his picture of roots, I’m pretty sure that he is referring to the “grass roots” nature of the social and environmental justice movements that have sprouted up around the world. And that’s cool. But it misses this critical point — almost ALL charities and NGO’s and protest groups around the world are addressing symptoms of the illness, rather than the root cause itself.
Imagine if there were something in your environment (your house for example) that was continually bombarding your body and your cells with a cancerous, toxic chemical. Your white blood cells could fight until the cows came home but unless and until you addressed the root cause of the toxic chemical itself, your white blood cells would be overwhelmed and ineffective at preventing illness.
While there are many well-intentioned and important groups and NGO’s doing amazing and needed work (holding actions — the subject of a forthcoming essay), we must acknowledge that they are addressing symptoms, not the root cause. Standing Rock protestors were fighting a symptom. Save the Children is fighting symptoms. World Wildlife Fund is fighting symptoms. Occupy Wall Street was fighting symptoms (yes, even evil bankers are symptoms of a larger inherently corrupt monetary system). Arab Spring revolutionaries fought the symptoms of a corrupt global win/lose geo-political system. Those fighting to help address the immigrant and refugee problems are fighting a symptom of an outdated nation-state system that doesn’t see the root cause of the refugee crisis. Climate Change activists are fighting the symptoms of a global degenerative economic system that requires infinite, exponential growth on a planet of finite resources. Social Justice activists are fighting symptoms of an unfair, unequal, patriarchal system that’s divided us into races and classes and genders since the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago. And lastly, Donald Trump is a symptom. (Read the short ebook, The Great Divide: Trump, Populism and the Rise of a Post-Scarcity World to see the systemic socio-economic reasons Trump got elected.)
Hopefully you see by now that it’s a system problem. One big global system problem. And a very old one.
Division or Unity? What do we choose?
One of the biggest problems in our world today is that we are so divided. This division is what prevents us from coming together to create the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible, a world that works for everyone. Our division is what prevents us from acting as one collective immune system to heal our mother earth. This division keeps us fighting amongst ourselves over the symptoms. This division keeps us distracted from the recognition that there IS a root cause that we should all be uniting around. This division is used by the few who don’t want us to discover that which will unify the many to dissolve their power. This division has a root cause.
The Root Cause of Our Division — Outdated Systems
This root cause is our outdated political and economic systems that divide us. We are products of our environment. If our environment (our house) has a toxic chemical (maybe Asbestos for example) that is polluting our bodies, we must change the environment, and get rid of the chemical. If cockroaches are coming out from beneath the refrigerator, they will keep coming out until we remove the rotting food that attracts them. This is basic household maintenance. You may know that the word “economics” is derived from a Greek word “okionomia”, which means “household management” or “management of house affairs”. It’s time to manage our household by radically changing our political system (who makes the decisions?) and our economic system (who gets what?).
As we begin to connect the dots and recognize the root cause, as well as to connect the dots of our activism, we are simultaneously beginning our transition to the new paradigm that wants to be born. When we, like cells in our body, connect and unify around this one focus, this one root cause, and find our oneness as one global species, one tribe, we will discover our power and then, only then, become the “largest movement in history”. And that is what just kicked off in Mexico.
Connecting the Dots — Global Delegates Convene
Delegates from eleven groups around the world met last weekend at the first mini-summit which was held in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We had an amazing few days as we began working together as groups on what will eventually culminate in a global World Summit event, perhaps as soon as the summer of 2019, or sooner as world conditions warrant. In focusing solely on unifying to create the event itself, we are laying the groundwork for what will eventually become new non-hierarchical structures of self-organizing and self-governance that will flip us into a new paradigm that works for everyone around the planet. Inherent trust and full transparancy will be built in. How refreshing, huh?
Unity in Diversity
The diversity was incredible. We had all the colors of the human rainbow represented. We had representation from far away parts of the world: Turtle Island (U.S.), Navajo Nation, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Mayan Mexico, U.K., Spain, Holland (The Netherlands), Hungary, Mali West Africa, China.
The Eagle and the Condor Came together
We literally had a coming together of the eagle and the condor, as foresaw in the ancient Amazon prophecy. This expressed itself as a coming together of the masculine and feminine, the head and the heart, the logical with the intuitive, the scientific with the spiritual. If we can connect and unify and amplify our collective intelligence with a diverse group like this in Mexico, we can do it any where in the world, all around the world.
Somehow, someway, we were able to come together and leave our egos checked at the door. We created a safe container that allowed for each group to maintain their own identity while at the same time collaborating with the World Summit to achieve unity. It is time to evolve beyond the “go it alone” mentality, as groups and individuals. The typical hollywood narrative of a solo, white, good-looking male saving the day is now outdated and counter-productive. The “New Avengers” in this story are a collective “WE”. Women and men are coming together in balance to non-violently kick some figurative ass and flip the paradigm, recognizing that this shit’s gotta go.
The Gift Economy — The Oldest and Most Successful Economy in Human History was Put into Practice in Playa del Carmen
We experienced first-hand the gift economy that wants to be (re)born. We were gifted conference room space by NEST Coworking. Their tagline, “the place where ideas grow”, was perfectly applicable to what was achieved, and still is being achieved. NEST and World Summit are now collaborating for them to host our Playa del Carmen WS Free Café and develop a new experiential “collaboritive commons” role-playing game to share with the community. Also, some artists have since come forward to gift their talents to NEST in the form of painting a beautifying mural on the wall in the their courtyard.
During our Sunday evening celebration, which was open to the community, we were gifted the enchanting music by Vanessa Hylande and her band StageGarden — Renaissance Tribe. Their music and message are perfectly aligned with the World Summit.
And perhaps most importantly, during the mini-summit we co-created the space where each of us could contribute our own unique gifts to the world. Some of us are gifted at group facilitation, some are gifted at keeping us grounded, some at keeping us focused, some at lightening the mood with music or humour. Some are gifted at holding us each accountable to the use of nonviolent communication. Some are gifted at technology, some with numbers, or organizational skills, or communication, or with their sheer courage in overcoming challenges. Some are gifted bridge builders. Some gave their gift of insight, helping us reframe the entire conversation. Some gifted us with a powerful new awareness, a recognition that by working on bringing about the World Summit event, we are already “being the change we want to see in the world”, creating the new systems of self-governance that make the old ones obsolete.
Perhaps the single most important gift that was bestowed upon our collective consciousness by one delegate was the notion that we have already achieved critical mass.
We Have Already Achieved Critical Mass
You may have heard that scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. Some believe that with the evolution of social networks as a vehicle to spread ideas critical mass could be achieved with even a smaller percentage, maybe as low as 5%. And maybe we reached it at least a decade ago, but just didn’t know it.
Aside from proving out all the data that we have indeed met critical mass, I think we somehow already know intuitively that most people think something is deeply wrong with the way things are. We know in our hearts that things are not supposed to be like this, that a more beautiful world is possible. A critical mass of people around the world have known for decades.
But just for the heck of it, let’s take a look at some numbers:
- Groups In Blessed Unrest Research — Paul Hawken estimated that there were about 250,000 social and environmental groups as of 2006
- Social Media groups — With the rise of social media, that number is no doubt much higher today, but nobody knows for sure. In Mark Zuckerberg’s open letter last year on building global community on Facebook, he cited numbers which suggest much higher participation in groups. Facebook found that more than 100 million people on Facebook are members of what they call “very meaningful” groups, while more than one billion people are “active” members of Facebook groups that their friends invited or added them to. He said, “Building a global community that works for everyone starts with the millions of smaller communities and intimate social structures we turn to for our personal, emotional and spiritual needs.”
- Today’s Global Group Estimate — A World Summit delegate group United Earth, with it’s knowledge of networks, estimates that there are between 500,000 and 1 million groups. Even with a margin of error of (+/-20%) that should put the number solidly around 750,000 groups worldwide
- Global Political Unrest — Publics around the globe (46–52% ) are generally unhappy with the functioning of their nations’ political systems. Pew Research Center
- Disengaged Workers — The bulk of employees worldwide (63%) are “not engaged” at work, meaning they lack motivation. Gallup
- The Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs (David Graeber)— Jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people in the Western world spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed
- The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World — This is a book written in 2000 by authors Ray and Anderson who claim they found 50 million adult Americans, slightly over 25% of the adult population, developed beyond the standard paradigm of Modernists versus Conservatives. Cultural creatives love nature and are deeply concerned about its destruction and are strongly aware of the problems of the whole planet. They estimated an additional 80–90 million “Cultural Creatives” exist in Europe as of 2000. Seventeen years later this demographic is no doubt much larger. Are you a Cultural Creative? If you are reading this, you most likely are.
- Trump and Brexit — even the Trump supporters and xenophobic nationalists around the world who are screaming about immigration and refugees are coming from a place of fear and anger at our socio-economic systems, although in my opinion the blame is misplaced and misguided by the neoliberal elites. (See The Great Divide reference above)
- Davos 2018 — Even our global economic and political elites at Davos are worried and see a need to unite, as implied by this years theme: “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”. However, in my opinion they are incapable of solving our problems since they are coming from the same level of consciousness that created the problems (Einstein quote).
- Millennials Now Reject Capitalism — A recent Harvard University survey, which polled young adults between ages 18 and 29, found that 51 percent of respondents do not support capitalism. But I don’t think they know what comes next…until perhaps they become aware of the World Summit
- World Summit Global Network — We are in the early days but as of now, with our connection and support from all our delegate groups including Standing Rock supporters and native indigenous communities around the world, we estimate that we have the support of around 400,000 activists. We think this will rise exponentially.
Time to Connect the Global Dots and Unify
While it is vitally important to see that we already have achieved critical mass, it’s equally important to see what’s needed to activate our power. The unification of individuals, groups and organizations around the world is the critical piece of the puzzle that will really manifest our blessed unrest. Even Paul Hawken himself, when asked in an interview back in 2007 about how the movement could better coordinate, synergize, cross pollinate, and make the parts more aware of the whole, responsed by saying, “it is time to link and connect up in more powerful ways. The movement is atomized because that is how it came into being. It now has the communication and technological tools to work far more closely and effectively.” Unity among the groups was needed over a decade ago, but it never happened. Unity is needed now more urgently, but this time it is happening…
People have long felt that unity was necessary, but didn’t see a way to achieve it. It was too big. How do we possibly go about it? Now, the World Summit group (an intentionally generic name) is audacious enough to think we can really achieve global unity and flip the paradigm. We are building structures to reach global unity that are not actually physical structures at all. There are no walls or doors. We are not writing a litany of laws which serve only to plaster over societal design problems. We are not asking permission. We don’t register with any governmental agencies. We have no bank accounts. We connect with groups around the world while leaving their own unique identities in tact. We don’t recognize artificial boundaries like nation-states. We are doing all the things that some may say are impossible, to be the change we want to see. While there are no physical beams or struts to our structure, nonetheless we are creating a powerful foundation that supports structural changes in our minds about what’s possible, about the kind of world that our hearts already know is possible. We have the tools to unify all mankind, so let’s start connecting the dots. You can start by putting yourself on the World Summit Borderless Member Map (built on the Coeō platform, the “GeoSocial Network for Conscious Changemakers”).
We can do this, together as one!