Every day we are faced by choices, both trivial and important. However, in our present times it seems increasingly true that we must be aware that nearly every choice we make is an important one. The world is encountering multiple crises every day such as extreme weather events and the spread of violence and war. Many problems, such as climate change and inequality, are worsening and even the smallest lifestyle choices can have an impact. There is a growing awareness that if we as a society wish to avoid the destruction these crises seem to be leading us towards we need to choose a new path. David Korten’s book The Great Turning is an examination of this choice. It is up to us, he says, to determine whether future generations will look back on this time as either a time of the ‘Great Turning’ or the ‘Great Unravelling.’ While the prospect of such a choice and the responsibility that goes with it can be intimidating, he casts it as a gift, a chance to enhance our contribution to human development and the future.
Korten paints the picture of an Earth Community of peoples based upon material sufficiency for everyone, honouring the generative power of life and love, balancing feminine and masculine principles and nurturing a realization of the mature potential of our human nature. He contrasts this with a historical look at the development of Empire, the “hierarchical ordering of human relationships based on the principle of domination.” He shows how the marginalization of indigenous peoples and women, as well as the prioritization of wealth and power over community has led to our current culture of domination, ecological destruction and unshared material wealth.
Korten argues that contrary to common belief, the natural organization of societies is not necessarily based on competition and survival of the fittest. Rather he uses examples of natural life-systems, such as the rainforest, to show how life is actually sustained through cooperation and balance. Inherent in this image of interconnectedness is a call for humanity to choose a different course. He points to local community organizations around the world as those who can, and already are working, to effect this shift. Acknowledging that this global turning is a potentially overwhelming project, Korten advises us not to become too preoccupied with achieving immediate success. Rather, he urges us to “rejoice in the privilege of being alive at a moment of creative opportunity unprecedented in the human experience.”
Public justice — the political dimension of loving one’s neighbour, caring for creation and achieving the common good — is an inherent part of Earth Community. It supports his vision of political turning, a “turn from a democracy of money to a democracy of people, from passive to active citizenship, from competition for individual advantage to cooperation for mutual advantage, from retributive justice to restorative justice, and from social order by coercion to social order by mutual responsibility and accountability.”
CPJ has been working towards this vision of a better world for nearly half a century. For us Korten’s inspiring depiction of Earth Community, of what our world could be, provides a powerful reminder of our call to persevere in our faithfulness to God’s vision. “[S]ocieties based on the organizing principles of community, democracy, and love of life,” he says, “are created only by living them into being through the practice of community, democracy, and love of life.” It is this practice of trying to live and be the change we wish to see in the world that motivates CPJ’s work to promote justice in response to God’s call.
This leads us right back to the idea of choice. If we are to bring these realities about by living them then we are called every day to choose this path. We must not let the enormity of the task overwhelm us, but rather continue to do the right thing because it is the right thing. Both as an organization committed to this vision, and as individuals in the wider community we must strive every day to choose those things which work towards public justice and Earth Community. It helps to be reminded every now and then exactly what it is we are working for. And it is reminders such as these which can help us to hold on to our vision of a better world, a brighter future for all of our Earth Community, with determination, faithfulness and hope.
For further discussion of the possibilities of the Great Turning join us in Ottawa on Friday, October 29 for The Great Turning Evening Presentation with David Korten and other special guests including Bruce Campbell, Tony Clarke and CPJ’s own Kathy Vandergrift. There is also a follow-up workshop on Saturday, October 30, which everyone is welcome to attend.
For those in the London area, David Korten will be speaking on Thursday, October 28 at King’s University College at 7:30 pm. Admission is free.