What an election! The narrow vote margin has given us both a potential crisis and an unforeseen opportunity. The crisis I'm thinking about has to do with signs that we may be in for another round of the divisive name calling and factionalism that has characterized progressive movements in the past. Ralph Nader and the Greens are being blamed by some for Al Gore's failure to win a clear majority in the election, and the language isn't pretty. Some Greens have indulged in name calling, too.
But I think there's an opportunity in this as well. Although unions and African-American organizations got impressive numbers of voters to the polls, overall, just 51 percent of eligible voters bothered to vote. This troubling statistic coupled with the excitement generated by the Greens suggests a great many people see their hopes and concerns in neither mainstream party.
So here's the opportunity: What if instead of pointing fingers, we did some soul searching about how to include in our democratic debates issues that are central to so many people but left out by both parties? Issues like the pending ecological disaster of climate change; the degradation of water, soil, forests, and our nation's cities, suburbs, and rural communities; the growing power of corporations; and the increasing disparity of wealth and power. Just imagine an honest and respectful dialogue about these issues. When I hear instead the name calling, the mom in me kicks in. Just stop! We've got too much to lose and time is short.
There. That's all you'll find about the elections in this issue of YES! Our interest here is to go deeper, to understand shifts in worldviews that underlie the politics.
In this issue, you'll read about the young activists, steelworkers, forestry activists, civil rights organizers, and others who are changing the foundations of our society.
Here's the punch line — these people have already won. A great many of the values we all hold as givens today came out of the civil rights, women's, human potential, and environmental movements (article by Heinberg ).
It's true that the institutions of our society have some catching up to do. But the disconnect between our values and the values embodied in big business and big government is providing a creative tension between what we're learning is appropriate and life-affirming, and what we've got.
This shift goes right to the heart of how we live our lives; as Duane Elgin says (page 40), millions of Americans are searching for simpler ways to live.
The connection among issues, and hence among people, is becoming clearer as steelworkers and tree-huggers make common cause (page 29), citizens around the globe come together around the Earth Charter (page 41); and youth work for economic justice (page 25).
We seem to be gradually, sometimes painfully, creating a culture grounded in an awareness of our interconnectedness — in the realization that there are no places to throw things “away,” nor are there people whose rights and dignity can be trampled. The southern Freedom Movement (page 21) and the Swadhyaya movement in India (page 33 ) are powerful examples.
And we are learning that wisdom comes from integrating our inner experience of beauty, ethics, and love with the “outer” knowledge of science; as Thomas Berry (page 44) tells us, the implications for the living Earth have never been greater.
My children (ages 11 and 15) sometimes ask if I really think all these movements will make any difference. Look at how much has already been done, I tell them. Consider the human capacity for love and creativity. Think about what is at stake. What would you say?
Sarah Ruth van Gelde