“One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin.”
So begins Kafka’s Metamorphosis. The transformation facing us is as strange as Kafka’s, but ours could be either beautiful or horrid. We’re heading toward paradise if we find wisdom, or extinction if we don’t. Up to now, we’ve just muddled along between those two extremes, but this compromise is disappearing as the extremes grow.
For now, all we can see are disastrous consequences of “business as usual.” Our present way of life doesn’t live up to its promises, and in fact it can’t. The market concentrates wealth into ever fewer hands; it creates poverty and plutocracy. Competition destroys empathy, thus producing wars and other cruelties. Externalized costs are killing the ecosystem, and so killing us all. The only thing that might still save us is rapid transition to a drastically different culture: We must replace property and hierarchy with caring, sharing, and horizontalism. But most people aren’t eager to adopt something so unfamiliar.
Imagine that you’ve been growing into a place for many years, putting work and love into it. Then one day you receive an entirely unexpected message: A spaceship named “Rapture” has arrived, and everyone must board it for a new world immediately, because our world is about to end. You must abandon your home and community, and bring only the clothes you’re wearing.
The new world is habitable but alien, entirely different from anything you’ve ever imagined. Rapture is not just dying and being reborn to the same kind of life again. No, it’s more like the change from caterpillar to butterfly. It’s a total transformation in how we feel about ourselves and each other, how we see the world, how we behave. We will be a family of seven billion people.
Most people are reluctant to board the spaceship. They may even deny that it has arrived. They might have welcomed a more gradual change, a leisurely stroll down a well-lit path — but we don’t have time for that, now that our economic and ecosystems are collapsing. Either you’re on the spaceship or you’re not; there’s nothing gradual about it.
My spaceship metaphor falls short: If we were merely traveling to another planet, our relations with other travelers would be much like relations we’ve had on Earth; we wouldn’t all suddenly be a family. And a spaceship can take just a few passengers, but changing our culture requires nearly all of us.
We have to find the ingredients for a better world inside ourselves and each other. The first step is to get more people talking about it.
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2018 Dec 1, version 3.12. Leaflet fits on two sides of 1/2 page. (Original 2015 May 29.)