A New Story: How to Build a Better World

It’s been a while since I watched a TED Talk, but this one caught my attention today because of the headline: ‘A new political story that could change everything.’

So I listened to what George Monbiot, British author and journalist, had to say. (Watch his TED Talk here.) In brief, we have organized our world around particular stories that explain our situation and give us hope for the future. Monbiot’s message is similar to Charles Eisenstein‘s. I have appreciated Charles Eisenstein’s books and talks for many years. While Charles talks more about values, Monbiot talks about our recurring political stories, the ones that change periodically and give us a new direction. 

The recurring theme of these political stories, Monbiot says, goes like this, and I quote from the TED Talk: “Disorder afflicts the land caused by the powerful and nefarious forces of the very mighty State (for example) whose collective tendencies crush freedom, individualism and opportunity. But the hero of the story, the entrepreneur (as in the story of neo liberalism) will fight those powerful forces, roll back the State and, through creating wealth and opportunity, restore the harmony in the world.”

The Buddha infecting the world with a New Story.

The story we are stuck in recycles endlessly — out with the current evil and in with the promise of something good. It has been going on as long as humanity has existed. Once a prevailing system begins to collapse, a hero pops up with a new theme but the same plot repeats itself: the ‘forces of evil’ must be thrown out so a ‘new’ system can restore harmony. This is how kingdoms and empires have functioned and how political parties operate today. 

The endless cycle conditions us as a society for competitive wealth generation. The current, neo-liberal story started in the 1970s and held sway until 2008. Unfortunately, it continues to limp along propped up by people rich enough to control governments and the media.

As a result of our conditioning we no longer trust each other and we feel alone. Greed and self-centeredness is what’s tearing our world apart at every level — from the community level to our planetary environmental crisis. Unfortunately, as long as the old story lives on we will continue to spiral into crisis and chaos. 

There is a New Story but it is being suppressed. In the media we never hear about the imaginative, positive New Story that can take us into the future. The voices of people like Eisenstein and Monbiot are drowned out – are trumped! – by the loud voices of those who cling to the old story. Both Eisenstein and Monbiot, as well as many others, point to the fact that human beings are innately altruistic and crave community. The Story of Separation, as Eisenstein points out, strives to deny us these human values. And Monbiot says, ‘We are a society of altruists but we are governed by psychopaths!’

I’ve given this a lot of thought and struggle to find the way forward. I agree with Monbiot that we need ‘engaged, inclusive and generous communities’ and a return to the idea of the commons. Like Native Americans, Tibetan nomads, and other indigenous peoples who regard the land as a common resource never to be owned or divided, we need to honor the earth’s resources in this way. We need to organize communities to manage common resources by establishing rules of use and care. This can apply to everything from forests and fields to factories. We need to organize our communities so that decisions directly effecting us are made locally. We need to recover democracy from the ‘psychopaths’ who have captured it…and create new rules and methods of elections to make sure financial power never ‘trumps’ democracy again.    

Will a New Story ‘…light the path to a better world?’ I believe so. Enlightened ones like Buddha and Jesus have, long ago, described a New Story that can put an end to the endless round of the ‘new political stories’ we keep coming up. So far we have refused to hear it.

Now we have reached a point of no return. If we don’t change we are going to destroy life on this planet. We have to start telling a story of spiritually enlightened human beings living together in enlightened societies in which we can all thrive. We are, after all and by design, loving and cooperative creatures who yearn to live in a better world! 

If the change is to happen, we need people willing to live this New Story so that it ‘will infect minds across the political spectrum.’

(All direct quotes are from Geogre Monbiot’s TED Talk.)

Originally posted July 31, 2019

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