Living Through An Age of Unraveling

Reflections as we enter 2017

“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.”
― R. Buckminster Fuller

For the past millennia, our civilization has been built on the idea of harsh power. Power of men over women, of rulers over people, of man over nature. It’s been the power to kill and destroy and not the power of life, which is to create and regenerative life. Man saw himself as subject to the overpowering authority of a punitive god and in turn, authorized himself to rule this Earth as its master and dominator. This notion of life has essentially characterized our world from the construction of the Egyptian pyramids to today’s globalized neoliberal capitalism, and now it is rapidly coming down. The idea of power has left us with a world-spanning system of society, politics and economics recklessly exploiting nature, powering its progress through cheap energy exploited from the Earth. This system currently runs like a severe drug addict: flashed by the effects of a quickly growing oil-based economy, it has bound its existence to infinite growth, continuous oil supply and endless global expansion. It has now entered a process of self-destruction not only because it has impoverished and waged war against large parts of humanity, and crossed planetary boundaries crucial for the health and sustainability of the biosphere, but also because its inner contradictions make it harder and harder for it to sustain itself.

Throughout this year we’ve seen the disintegration of this system – underway for a while already – reaching whole new dimensions. Two weeks ago one of America’s senior conservative leaders, John McCain, openly warned in unusually blatant words that our current world order is, in fact, “unraveling.”
While the unraveling McCain fears implies the loss of America’s global hegemony, there are billions of beings on this planet who experience this unraveling as something very real and existential. The times of unraveling are times of unprecedented global pain. When we face what people stuck in the war in Syria or Yemen, constantly surrendered to bombings while freezing and starving to death, need to suffer, just to give one out of thousands examples from around this planet, we are confronted with a pain that is simply too hard to bear or make sense of. Every day, the news agencies bombard us with these and similar images of a dying world – refugees washed ashore, species going extinct at record levels, explosions of hatred and revenge everywhere – and the question is, how do we respond? At an elementary level, it comes down to two options—either we suppress what we face and decide to simply continue living our lives as if nothing is going on, or we take a stand for those suffering, for an end of the atrocities, for a different world.

What kind of future we will have depends on which of the two we chose. The first response is one of fear; it seals off the pain, but it leads to a reality of apathy and totalitarianism. The second response is one of empathy and confronts us with the pain, but is the only way for a humane world to arise. This past year we’ve seen both sides – fear and compassion – emerge and struggle with each other. With scores of refugees pouring into Europe last winter, we’ve seen the beautiful, empathic potential of humanity revealing itself in thousands upon thousands of volunteers selflessly giving their all to support those fleeing. In addition to immediate aid relief, this kind of humane awakening requires a political strategy for system change to be effective in the long run.

In 2016, for the first time in history, the richest one percent of the global population owns more than the other 99% combined. For decades, people in the Western world have played along in the capitalist game, satisfied by the rewards the consumption industries offered them for taking up the roles assigned to them. Yet, latest since the recession in 2008, popular anger against the workings of banks and corporations has grown so massive, people no longer believe they will benefit from globalization.
Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in the United States showed just how strong the longing for another culture has become in the heartland of global capitalism, especially among young people. Addressing economic injustices of the neoliberal order, Sanders mobilized millions across the nation and became a serious threat to the candidate of the political establishment. To save Clinton’s campaign, the Democratic Party systematically sabotaged his campaign and thereby helped a proto-fascist billionaire to assume presidency. In 2016, we painfully saw what happens when outrage and indignation isn’t allowed to find a constructive channel—it turns destructive and ugly. As Frankfurt School philosopher Walter Benjamin put it, “Behind every fascism, there is a failed revolution.”

Both the Brexit vote in the UK and the election of Donald Trump in the US were articulations of people’s rage against the machine, votes fueled by popular outrage against the globalized “establishment.” Both events would have seemed unthinkable for most people even a year ago. A country with one of the world’s largest economies stepping out of such a union would have seemed ridiculous in this globalized world. Brexit marks a stop for capital’s expansiveness, for its compulsory drive towards ever-larger economic unions and trade zones. This is a real problem for the system. Brexit is likely to speed up the collapse of the European Union altogether, something that might happen as early as 2017.

As there’s growing uncertainty over the future, far-right movements are triumphing around the world by turning people’s fears into political capital. Trump, to cite the most startling example, was elected because he understood how to channel people’s fears and anger—just to make them vote for the most extreme version of the very system that has generated much of their fear and anger in the first place. At times of crisis and public rebellion, Trump comes in as a savior of capitalist interests, of Wall Street, the military-industrial complex and above all, the oil and gas industry. One of Trump’s ardent supporters, the Silicon Valley billionaire, Peter Thiel, has long argued that capitalism needs to be “saved” from democracy. The system has become so shaken that it can no longer afford its marriage with democracy. It needs the state to function as a guard, making sure its economic conditions are maintained. According to Thiel’s vision, the state shouldn’t interfere in business, and restrict people’s abilities to interfere in business; it should increase authoritarian rule and boost surveillance to crush resistance and wage conflict between different ethnic, cultural and religious groups to distract people from the actual injustices. Trump seems committed to turn this dystopian vision into reality.

Let’s not be deceived: Trump is neither an anomaly nor an outsider to the system. His rise to power came from within the American society, not Russia. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump represent the exact same system and work for the same banks and corporations. The 2016 Presidential Election wasn’t about fundamental systemic questions; it was a test as to whether “business as usual” could continue in the United States (and therefore the Western world at large) in the framework of a liberal democracy or whether a totalitarian type of regime would become necessary to maintain that system. It proved to be the latter. (Yet, the shift from democracy to authoritarian rule is only possible because there wasn’t a genuine democracy in the first place. The current fuss about the alleged “fake news” spread by Russia just shows that people in the West apparently hadn’t any clue as to what extent public opinion in so called “free democratic societies” has been engineered and manipulated all along to make sure “the people” behave according to the elite’s interests.)

What is most particularly threatened is America’s oil-based “petrodollar” economy. Oil isn’t just an important part of the Western economy, “it is the economy,” says the environmentalist Bill McKibben. In fact, the strength of the US Dollar directly relies on oil ever since President Nixon suspended the convertibility of the Dollar into gold in the 1970s. We all know about the brutal “oil wars” of George W. Bush and the kind of devastation and terrorism they unleashed over entire countries, but they started far longer than a decade ago. Today the situation around petroleum is much more severe. We’re past “peak oil,” meaning oil exploitation is declining worldwide. Simultaneously solar has surpassed oil and gas in terms of efficiency in 2016. Trump’s cabinet picks show his administration’s number one priority will be trying to keep up the petrodollar system, making sure that black gold will continue to flow abundantly and be traded in US Dollars.

At this stage, the price for maintaining this system has become incredibly high, demanding nature be destroyed at whole new dimensions and global currency wars waged that might as well escalate into military confrontation, i.e. between America and China.

In the end, however, all these efforts will be as effective as those of Don Quixote to defeat the windmills. The more and the longer the dominant system will try to resist the necessary system change from happening, the more crushing will be its eventual collapse. Its response to the crisis is nothing but pathological because, even though the ruling elites want us to think otherwise, there no longer is any vision for the future within the system. Its only prospect now is one of short-term profit and survival. Large parts of humanity are denying what is happening. And instead of changing, the systems intensifies its (self-)destructive behavior – and will probably try to continue all the way to the end.

What’s the way forward?

2017 will likely see the unraveling speed up even more. We must not think this is the end of the world, but a transition from a system that is no longer coherent to a new one that is yet to be born. Alongside all the pain, we face a historic possibility for an evolutionary leap forward, for building a global culture in alignment with all fellow beings and the Earth. To see this potential, we must learn to shift the focus from what breaks down to what wants to break through.

A powerful, recent example of this transformative impulse has been the struggle at Standing Rock in North Dakota, where Indigenous water protectors have resisted an oil pipeline since April. At the resistance camp, Indigenous people came together with veterans, hard-core political activists, environmentalists, Burning Man folks, rainbow people and spiritual seekers. People from across all camps banded together beyond their usual ideological divisions, because they were united by a common spiritual calling – life’s inherent sacredness and the imperative to defend and preserve it. Standing Rock drew thousands of veterans – men and women who fought for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and Iraq – to join them in defending water, land and Native people’s rights. Engaging in nonviolent action, many of them said that this was the first time they really served the American people. The struggle at Standing Rock fused political activism with spiritual consciousness – and thereby revealed the power of nonviolent resistance we will need in the coming months and years. It is no longer the old power to destroy and kill, but a gentle power to create and safeguard life, anchored into the awareness of our interconnectedness with all beings. This consciousness is key to the emergence a humane future. In its essence, the upcoming global transformation will consist of a system change from separation and fear to reconnection and service to the sacred. The power we need to heal the world from the wounds of history is the power of unreserved trust. “Trust,” the psychoanalyst Dieter Duhm says, “is not just a psychological, but a revolutionary term – the most revolutionary of all – because we need to turn our entire society upside down to develop structural sustainable trust.”

As the present order crumbles, a new culture could now start to emerge – given there’s a coherent vision available for it. Evolution doesn’t move gradually, but in leaps. Once a new evolutionary pattern starts to become visible and manifests in the first places, our overall situation can radically transform – and quickly so. How the future will look depends on the visions we see and activate. Our way forward as humanity will begin by radically reimagining our civilization. If we are able to see the basic pattern for a nonviolent civilization, a culture of solidarity and trust in all areas, we can midwife the global transition and make the apparently impossible possible – building a world without wars and cruelties.

Even though lots of attention is absorbed by the catastrophes, there has never been as much knowledge for creating a regenerative, collaborative and nonviolent world as today. People across the globe – inventors, ecologists, futuristic communities, artists, living experiments – have long been working for another possible direction of global development in different areas. A planetary community is slowly emerging beyond the old limitations of religions, cultures and ideologies; people in all different pockets of this world working in service for the greater good of all – on restoring nature, on building decentralized autonomous settlements, regenerative economies, and energy technologies for a post-carbon era, but also on establishing a new relation to animals based on respect and conscious communication, forming communities of trust, healing our consciousness and freeing love from fear. These are signals for the birth of a new era.

Still, these impulses are single patches spread across the world. To transform this beautiful and inspiring, but still rather amorphous and disorganized fringe movement into a serious alternative for this world, it needs a global vision and realistic strategy for change. To transcend and replace the current system, it is crucial for these single puzzle pieces to be combined into a coherent system. Only a new system can overcome the old; no invention alone – however genius or revolutionary it might be – is able to do that. For this to happen we need pilot projects – we may call them “World Future Sites” or “Healing Biotopes” – in which all the essential components for a nonviolent and regenerative future are researched and combined into replicable societal blueprints. The more such centers progress, the more they can radiate and broaden the horizon of collective imagination. Additionally, we need media channels and educational pathways for people to get to know and participate in the emerging new culture and an international platform for this movement to encounter and establish itself. The Bernie Sanders campaign, Occupy Wall Street and other recent progressive movements have shown that potentially millions of people would be ready to take part in the creation of a different society were they offered credible orientation. This is the task at hand.

2016 saw an accelerating unraveling of the old system. In 2017, the basic features of a new system could start to crystalize globally. The architect and futurist Buckminster Fuller believed that finding out how to manage spaceship Earth would be humanity’s final exam. This is the process we’re finding ourselves in right now.

5 thoughts on “Living Through An Age of Unraveling

  1. [ It would be of inestimable value if a Depth Psychologist could one day gird up their loins and write an essay on the “Shadow” of the Democratic Party and the reason[s] why millions of Americans rejected their party and/or candidate.]

    President Trump far from being representative of the “Collective Unconscious” is at the very forefront of American “Collective Consciousness.”

    It might also be noted that the “Shadow” includes very positive qualities.[

    “If it has been believed hitherto that the human shadow was the source of all evil, it can now be ascertained on closer investigation that the unconscious man, that is, his shadow, does not consist only of morally reprehensible tendencies, but also displays a number of good qualities, such as normal instincts, appropriate reactions, realistic insights, creative impulses, etc” ~Carl Jung, CW 9ii, Para 423.

    “I have learned that in addition to the spirit of this time there is still another spirit at work, namely that which rules the depths of everything contemporary.” ~Carl Jung, The Red Book, Page 229.

    Dear Democrats:

    President Trump won the last Presidential Election a fact acknowledged by President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and all members of the Supreme Court.

    Having voted for President Obama twice and Hillary Clinton once and leaving the Republican Party in protest of the nomination of then Candidate Trump I share your disappointment.

    Since his election, it may be noted that President Trump has done nothing that he did not make explicitly clear that he would do during the Presidential campaign which makes one wonder why so many Democrats simply failed to vote in the recent election.

    There are less than two years remaining until the next Congressional Elections wherein opponents to President Trump may once again hope to regain control of the Senate and seats in the House of Representatives.

    So now is the time for an introspective look at the Democratic Party itself and determine wherein its message and/or candidate failed to not only to win the Presidency but also managed to lose the Senate and by extension the Supreme Court.

    This self-examination will be painful but such is the nature of political Chemotherapy.


    • Why Democrats have lost 12 governors, 69 House seats, 13 Senate seats and 910 State Legislature seats since President Obama took office in 2008.

    • Why in spite of Mr. Trump’s offensive and egregious comments about and actions toward women did 42% of women reject the message and the candidate of the Democratic party and opt to vote for the Trump-Pence ticket. [Another 4% of women voted for a third party candidate]

    • Why when facing a potential rolling back of progress in Civil Rights did so many African Americans simply choose not to vote in numbers equal to the previous Presidential elections costing the Clinton-Kane ticket victories in Michigan, Pennsylvania, etc.

    • Why when faced with the prospect of mass deportations was Latino voter turnout down from the previous Presidential election.

    • It might be noted in this regard that President Obama deported more undocumented aliens during his Presidency than all of the Presidents of the 20th century …..combined.

    • Why did 93% of African Americans vote for President Obama and only 88% for Hillary Clinton?

    • Does it not beggar the imagination that more African-Americans and Latinos voted for President Trump and Mitt Romney?

    • Why did millions of blue collar workers and rural American’s turn their backs on the Democratic Party which they have traditionally supported for generations?

    o Why did 52% of Voters without a College Education vote for President Obama in 2012 but only 44% vote for Hillary Clinton.

    • Why did 43% of voters with a College Degree vote for President Trump?

    • An overwhelming majority of counties between New York and California voted for President Elect Trump. Overall Trump won approximately 2,600 counties to Clinton’s 500, or about 84% of the geographic United States.

    • President Obama ran for President on a Platform of opposition to the War in Iraq. The United States remains embedded in Iraq.

    • It might also be noted that prior to a Trump-Pence candidacy that a wave of “Populist Nationalism” had begun to sweep over Europe as sure sign that greater powers are at work.

    Somewhere the Democratic Party cast a “Shadow” which motivated millions not to accept their message and/or candidate and either vote for the opposing candidate or not vote at all.

    These are the questions opponents of President Elect Trump need to answer and provide pragmatic messages of hope and inspiration to those who chose not to vote for their candidate.

    President Obama once famously said: “Yes, we can.”

    It is now the responsibility of each Democrat to fulfill this promise.

    This will only happen with the formulation and presentation of a pragmatic message of inspiration and hope to the American public including the millions who have rejected the Democratic message and or candidate in the last election.

    Surprisingly, there is some commonality of belief between Republicans and Democrats which could serve as the basis of agreement and cooperation and be the basis of a “Transcendent Function” uniting the two points of view and forming a third unifying element.

    Both President Trump and Bernie Sanders while on the far right and left of the political spectrum profess a belief in “change.”

    Happily, while the term “change” is mercurial and possesses many meaning there are two aspect of “change” which President Trump and Senator Sanders agree upon:

    1. Both are opposed to U.S. involvement in Iraq.

    2. Each supports the Blue Collar Worker and Rural America.

    3. They agree upon the need to rebuild America’s infrastructure.

    One can only hope that members of each Party can move beyond the political hyperbole and relentless demonization of one another and seek out the seeds of agreement wherein a fruitful future might blossom.

    When you don’t acknowledge that you have such qualities [The Shadow], you are simply feeding the devils. ~Carl Jung, Dream Analysis, Page 53.

  2. I am not ready to judge Donald Trump, and especially what he may do in the future.

    As a multi billionaire he can “buy” anything that he would want to have —- EXCEPT a place in history that people in his own time and especially future generations, his children and his grandchildren, might be very proud of …………

    We shall see.

    Cheers from down under,


  3. I never could read a long article on my computer. But this profound and very much understandable article from Martin Winiecki is so brilliant and gives me a lot of power and strength to work together with my fellow sisters and brothers to built one of these oasis of trust, power and wisdom. I hope that the world can read it and that it will be published in big newspapers. Let’s work for our future living. Thank you. Irene

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