Friday, October 20, 2006

David Korten in Columbus, October 14, 2006

This is the beginning of my transcription of David Korten's remarks at the Earth Charter Summit that took place in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, October 14.

David Korten: It is such a joy to be here in Ohio with such a great group of people --I've just been meeting extraordinary activists everywhere I go. And, I hope you'll excuse me if I just take a moment here to go shake hands with Granny D (laughter and applause). Granny D is such an inspiration, when I was facing my 65th birthday and thinking, "Well, you know, this is kind of a transition. I guess the rest of my life I should be starting to think about winding down and passing on the responsibilities." (Laughter) And Granny D of course is an extraordinary example of what we should all be doing with our elder years. She's a great inspiration.

Now, I'm also fascinated by your politics here. Dennis Kucinich is one of my heroes--one of the most visionary politicians of our time. (Applause). And of course I note that you cover the range, to a candidate for governor who really should be in the penitentiary. Anyhow, hopefully he will find his way to the appropriate outcome.

This is a very special weekend here, I'm sure you know this is one of four sets of activities by different initiatives. And of course the Earth Charter and the Earth Charter Summit is what brings together the visionary framework for all of the rest of our work. And I'm so pleased that the Earth Charter folks here in Columbus are framing the issue in terms of creating earth community, because that, to me, is really the way to frame the Earth Charter. That it presents the principles for the earth community that we must bring forth. And that gives the substance and the lead-in to action.

And then of course the other initiatives, CIRCA, which is focussed on ending corporate colonization--that is one essential step on the path to earth community. Then Simply Living, which working on, "Okay, how do we implement it in the way we live, the way we organize our living space? The way we organize our economies."

The key to this is positive. As was mentioned in the introduction, one of the things I've come to is resistance alone is a losing strategy. Ultimately, to win we must come forward to create the positive.

And then of course the fourth, and absolutely foundational element of this quadrangle is the Voting Rights Revival Conference. And of course Ohio here reminded us all that, among all the democratic reforms we need, it starts with counting the votes. Absolutely foundational. So, I congratulate you all on your work, and thank you for the invitation. I hope my comments today will help put the work you're doing in a deeper historical, cultural, and to some extent spiritual context.

Now, the underlying message of the Great Turning is quite straightforward. We humans have come to the end of a long and deeply destructive era. It is time to turn this world around for our own sake, and for the sake of our children for generations to come.

There's good news and bad news, and it comes in the same package. The news is "business as usual is over". Peak oil, climate change, the collapsing U.S. dollar, and spreading social disinigration born of the marginalization of the majority of humanity are coming together in a constellation of forces desined to fundamentally change every aspect of modern life.

Now, whether this convergence of forces plays out as an epic human opportunity or the final human tragedy, will depend on the stories by which we understand what's happening, and undrestand the choices that it is ours to make. And I'm going to be talking about those choices.

On a crowded planet, peace, sustainability, justice, and equity, are inseparably linked. The time to choose a different path is now at hand, because empire has reached the limits of exploitation that people and planet will tolerate. If we continue with business as usual, future generations will likely look back and refer to our time as "The Great Unraveling". A time of environmental and social collapse. Fortunately, it is within our means to move beyond empire--to give birth to a new era of earth community, based on a more mature understanding of our responsibility to one another, and to earth.

Buddhist spiritual teacher Joanna Macy suggests that if we are successful in navigating this transition, future generations may speak of this as the time of The Great Turning. The time when humanity turned from the way of domination and embraced the way of partnership.

Now, over the millennia, the primary insitutional form of empire has morphed from the imperial city-states of ancient time, to the imperial nation-states of the modern era, and more recently to the imperial global coporations of our immediate time. What remains constant, however, is the underlying pattern of domination and exclusion.

Now, from time to time, someone will ask me, "Why are you so obsessed about coroporations? Aren't they just communities of people?" Well, I think most of you here have been studying this issue just a little deeper--you probably wouldn't ask that question. Because, what we know, is that there are many highly thoughful, ethical people who work at corporations, but they are all, including the CEO, employees of the institution. They are paid to serve the institution at its pleasure, required by law to leave their values at the door, and subject to instant dismissal at a moment's notice. These are not qualities we normally associate with community.

We're talking here about an institution of enormous power, governed by absentee owners and accountable managers, in the business of converting the life energy of people and nature into money for the short-term financial gain of already wealthy shareholders and managers, without regard to the human or natural consequences. In other words, the publicly traded Limited Liability Corporation is a gigantic pool of money with an artificial legal personality, required by law to behave like a sociopath. PR images aside, it is a destroyer of community, and a powerful engine of wealth concentration in a world in desperate need of community and equity.

(More to come)

David Korten is the author of The Great Turning: from Empire to Earth Community and When Corporations Rule the World.

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