avatar
David Korten’s The Great Turning


Anyone who isn’t trying at this point to rethink what the US is about and why it seems its core values and political systems have come to a major crisis, a crisis of proportion that may echo the The Great Depression, or even worse, might be inclined to follow the Obama promise of hope and feel disinclined to critique the path he has begun, one step at a time.

I have openly critiqued the notion of hope that Obama has come to represent even before it became apparent he was going to keep to the same policies that most of his predecessors have followed, but I want to go beyond criticism of the Obama presidency.  While my concerns are somewhat personal, they also, I feel, are part of a inclination I’m finding being voiced by a still very small group of us who are conscious of the planet as a whole, our place within it as responsible member species, and of the effect that human beings are having — an effect that is beginning to resemble that of a deadly disease, like a cancer, on the living whole that is our biosphere.

Hope to me is something one abandons, not in despair, but because one faces the binary twin of hope — fear — at the same moment one focuses on hope, and then realizes the behavioristic forces those twins represent together.  Forces which also beckon an inner urge to run away from the truth of what’s really an experiential fact of our daily existence, and that’s the basic awareness that ultimately uncertainty is for us, depite all our dogmatic efforts to convince ourselves otherwise, a truth about our ability to know all that is involved in what will eventually be the future.  Much of our effort as a cumulation of multitudes of societies of human beings, nearly all of us systemically connected now, involves an understandable and very human urge to manipulate that uncertainty into various fabricated beliefs of illusory security. 

As children our parents help to fulfill that basic urge to establish security in our lives, and by taking the responsibility for us, they thereby delayed our own eventual requirement to face it full on with all the courage we can muster.  Of course delay is somewhat necessary because there is much to learn before we can be responsible adults.  Hopefully they nurture us enough so we can learn how to become responsible adults in a complicated world.  In doing so, in the best of circumstances, they take on the adult role of providing us with a secure environment while we learn.  As adults, in a human constructed world, sometimes we fail to recognize that as cultures that secure envionment continues through institutional systems we take for granted.

Meanwhile, as adult human beings in a biologically based world that appears to be approaching a dire crisis, we may all be challenged to become yet another level of adult — adults who can step outside the security of our cultural systems, our institutional fabric that functions in many ways beyond our grasp and individual influence and become aware of our systemic effect.  If we don’t, the devastation we are en masse creating to defile our very home may lead to our own demise as a viable species.  Viable species don’t exist outside a system, and should we destroy the system, we will no longer have that which makes viability possible.  This is fairly logical for an individual to imagine but extremely difficult for us to grasp collectively. This is perhaps the greatest conundrum the human species as a whole has yet to face.  We must somehow come to a vision — a collective vision where actions can somehow be envisioned and put into place that will do what no cancer or disease is capable of doing when it gets into the body of a host and destroys it.

As adults, we have to face the uncertainty ourselves and deal with it.  This is what I see as the basis for a self actuated and personally responsible society.  This is not the same order of personal responsibility formulated into the competitive market based society that has formed the economic basis of our modern global neoliberal states, though the words might sound similar.  As I see it, this is a different order of thought, therefore a different paradigm for us to work from.  This is the true stuff of revolutionary thinking.  In this case the revolution is revolving to a time envisioned as some five thousand years ago.  And so we get to the term David Korten has chose for this: "Turning."

David Korten in his work is talking about a society that I find reflects that particular form of self actuation and personal responsibility.  A self actuation that recognizes our connectedness to each other and the world.  With such recognition goes an embracing of an egalitarian, partnership way of being with others, spurning the thousands of years of habituation to the dominator styles of societal organization we’ve endured, societies based on a parental dominator figure, often metaphorically represented in our theological myths as a god image, and which we can also trace to the many institutions in the world and much of the violence that comes with them as this metaphorical, paradigmatic figure takes on the role of protector.

I’d like to offer this link to a David Korten presentation about his latest book, The Great Turning and I’ve included the video below. 

David Korten — The Great Turning

Leave a comment