Existing Movements and the Great Turning Movement

This is a breakout section from the article “A Social Movement for the Great Turning.”

It can also be read on its own. The “Great Turning” refers to the whole-system transformation that is needed to move us from the Modern/Industrial Era to the Next Era in social evolution.

Let’s look at how existing social movements relate to the Great Turning Movement.

Cultural Movements

There were four cultural movements that, over time, moved humanity into the Modern Era—the Renaissance, the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment, and the industrial revolution. Romanticism was a cultural movement that attempted to undo some of the problems with the Modern worldview. These movements were not organized, in the sense that they didn’t have agendas, demands, or plans for society, and they were loosely coordinated.

Today we have cultural movements such as the holistic health movement, the spiritual/personal growth movement, and probably others. They form an important part of the movement for the Great Turning.

Single-Issue Political Movements Against Destructive Things

This includes movements such as Black Lives Matter, Me Too, the climate change movement, and the Trump resistance movement. In addition, there are millions of organizations and groups, many of them local, that have been organized to deal with the problems of the Industrial Era, as chronicled by Paul Hawken in his book Blessed Unrest. It would help if they come to identify as part of this larger Great Turning movement.

I am especially interested in Extinction Rebellion in the U.K. Right now, they are a single-issue organization dedicated to stopping climate change, but they say that they have the longer-term goal of transforming society. And they seem to embody many of the values of a transformed society. They have a spiritual foundation; they put an emphasis on having a regenerative culture within their movement; and they have structures in place to care about the emotional well-being of their activists.

The Women’s Movement

The women’s movement is an important aspect of the Great Turning movement. As women begin to fully take back their power, they are showing an amazing ability to win elective office. Since the Great Turning involves undoing patriarchy and the rise of the feminine, women may lead the way to transformation. And since women are half of the world’s population, they potentially have enormous power that can’t be marginalized.

The Environmental Movement

The environmental movement has attempted to hold the line against the excesses of the Industrial Era that are undermining our ability to live on a healthy planet. Lately it has become very focused on climate change, for good reasons, but it is much broader than that. Recently, it has embraced regenerative agriculture and restoration of local ecosystems, both for the health of earth and as a way of mitigating climate change. The environmental movement is crucial to the Great Turning because that involves a fundamental shift in the way we relate the the natural world.

Liberation Movements

Liberation movements aim to liberate certain groups that have been oppressed, exploited, and discriminated against. For African Americans, this included the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Movement, and more recently Black Lives Matter. Women’s Liberation has also been incredibly important, but I discussed that above. The Gay Liberation Movement has spawned the Gay Marriage movement and the somewhat-related Transgender Movement. Indigenous people’s are also fighting for their rights to their lands and their cultures. And now there is a beginning movement for the rights on immigrants in response to the hellacious policies of Trump and other right-wing demagogues.

The Modern Era has been characterized by widespread oppression and discrimination toward those who are different from the mainstream, with some more recent moves toward tolerating differences. These liberation movements are leading the way toward the Great Turning because the Next Era will involve social justice and equality of power. We can see this trend toward liberation today since young people are openly accepting of all people, not making a big deal about their race, religion, sexuality, or gender.

The Great Turning will also involve not just tolerance of diversity but an appreciation of diversity. Any system–a community, nation, or the world–is stronger and wiser the more it embraces diversity. This means not only diversity of race, religion, sexual-orientation, and gender, but also age, culture, individual viewpoint, education, and other qualities.  The greater the diversity that is embraced, the wiser a society is because it incorporates broader understandings in making its decisions.

Oppression and exploitation have, unfortunately, a long human history, starting 5000 years ago in the Empire Era. This started out with power being taken by those who had the greatest military might. Originally people gave them this power in return for being protected from invaders. But then the power became entrenched and then supported by religious doctrine, as in the divine right of kings. This resulted in massive class systems of oppression which continued through the Medieval era. Then in the Modern era, it looked, at first, like we would escape this power inequality because of democracy and markets and the move away from monarchy and nobility. However, the market and then democracy itself got co-opted by corporate power, and so power inequality continued in a different form. Oppression by the nobility got replaced by oppression based on wealth and economic exploitation. Colonialism got replaced by economic colonialism, supported by the World Bank and the IMF.

Oppression in all eras was based partly on differences—in race, religion, culture, etc.–leading to the discrimination we see today. In the Next Era, we will finally resolve this as power equality becomes a crucial element of the transformation.

The Progressive Movement

The progressive movement is important, too, especially since it seems to be gaining traction in Democratic Party politics. Progressives have focused primarily on economic and racial issues, which are central, but most of them haven’t recognized that we need whole-system transformation. Progressives have mainly been against destructive things. This is crucially important work–to fight against the many threats to our democracy, our health, and our environment, especially now that we are dealing with Trump and the possibility of fascism.

Though the movement for the Great Turning is about much more than electoral politics, the more political success we have, the more we can protect the earth, people, and democracy, which will buy us time to engage in the larger task of transforming society. And the more that progressives are in power, the less likely it will be that the establishment will attack the Great Turning movement.

However, we need to go further than racial and economic justice, as important as those issues are. Hopefully, progressives will recognize the need for complete social transformation, because they have an important role to play in the Great Turning.

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