In a recent post I quoted Bucky Fuller as saying

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

I argued that the best way to improve our terrible world — by reforming it socially and economically — was by walking away from the old culture and economic system that enslaves us all and diminishes the existence of all life on our planet, and creating a new relater-sharer culture and a new collaborative-well-being economy.

Now, from Jonathan Schell’s new book The Unconquerable World comes, tentatively, almost identical advice for solving the world’s political ills. Citing the success of Ghandi’s and King’s non-violent activism, and the peaceful disintegration of the Soviet bloc, Schell argues that popular refusal to obey an oppressive government, irrational law or unwarranted call to arms, a manifestation of mass popular non-cooperation, the withholding of consent for violence and war, can undermine the mightiest of governments or tyrants bloodlessly. Schell suggests that

“Lovers of freedom, of social justice, disarmers, peacekeepers, civil disobeyers, democrats, civil rights activists and defenders of the environment, legions in a single multiform cause…[wage] a revolution against violence — loosely coordinated, flexible, based on common principles and a common goal rather than a common blueprint — [that] would encompass a multitude of specific plans, including ones for disarmament, conventional as well as nuclear; democratization and human rights; advancement of international law; reform of the UN; local and regional peacekeeping and peacemaking; and social and ecological programs that form the indispensable content of a program of non-violent change. To neglect the last of these would be to neglact the lesson that campaigns of non-cooperation are empty without constructive programs. Justice for the poor (victims of “structural violence”) and rescue of the abused environment of the earth (victims of human violence done to other living creatures) are indispensable goals.

So now we have three elements of a completely new society: a relater-sharer culture (to replace our 30,000 year old dysfunctional acquirer-settler culture), a collaborative-well-being economy (to replace our structurally obsolete and morally bankrupt consumer-capitalist economy), and a non-violent global consensual politic (to replace what Schell calls the “war system” that depends on military might to ensure at least occasional peace).

That does not mean one global government. On the contrary, Schell argues we need greater accommodation of the rights of people and ‘nations’ within existing geographical borders, not homogenization. The enforcement of this new ‘order’, a purely democratic, feminist-inspired order, would come from simple non-cooperation with, withholding of consent from, regimes that call for arms and confrontation, until these regimes learn that people will not tolerate violence any more as a political solution, and in time will stop trying to resort to it.

Perhaps naive, perhaps counter to our basic nature (if your view of that nature is pessimistic and catholic, which mine is not). But perhaps also the only hope for our battered and sick world.

I feel some things starting to come together here. Maybe it isn’t too late. Time to stop fighting the old ways and start building something completely new. And when Mr. Bush, or his successors turn their frightened wrath on us, because we threaten everything they believe in, when they feel their windows shaking and their walls rattling, not because we’re tearing them down, but because we’re building underneath their rotting foundations, we can just peacefully sing them the song at right, urge them out of the way, and tell them:

Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is,
do you, Mr. Jones?


Come gather round people
wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
around you have grown
And accept it that soon
you’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a’changin’

Come writers and critics
who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
the chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
for the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a’changin’

Come senators, congressmen
please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
and rattle your walls
For the times they are a’changin’

Come mothers and fathers
throughout the land
And don’t criticize
what you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a’changin’

The line it is drawn,
the curse it is cast

The slow one now will later be fast
As the present now will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a’changin’

– Bob Dylan (a long, long time ago)
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  1. M. L. Foster says:

    Evolution should take us there. I doubt that I will be alive to see it. I hope the child that the Baby is devoted to will have a crack at creating it.

  2. Bill Seitz says:

    Vaclav Havel provides some inspiration regarding protest/change.

  3. mrG says:

    While the new-usurps-the-old model is undeniably present, I don’t think this is a this-or-that situation.For example, please explain in Schell’s terms how the landmark Republican ideals of Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin became the GWB administration — where was the new that usurped the old?Or was it an incremental change opportuned by those with any intelligence who have receded from politics leaving a vacuum ripe for exploitation in their wake.

  4. doug powell says:

    I agree with the basic premise of obsolescence as a greater force for change than revolutionary disruption. Obsolescence as a major change agent is reflected in non-activist aspects of society nearly everyday. If you want to replace the current hot cell phone, mp3 player, computer and so on, you do it by creating the next best model.In this case we are talking about replacing people’s value systems. Without real world examples and the traditional features and benefits of the new way, this won’t happen. No more than you will change an incumbent software application based on promised vaporware. So the question becomes, who will cover the R&D expenses for this new system? My hope is that the costs can be distributed in a peer-to-peer manner. (I almost hope this is the true purpose of P2P networks)Getting those costs addressed will be the greatest obstacle. The ideals, theories, and specifications are coming together as you mention. But, without a means to cover the cost of the time and resources required to build the working demos of these concepts, they will remain vaporware. From my experience, it’s almost a catch-22. It would work if everyone would do it. But, no one can afford to do it until it’s working in a manner that will support those involved.I won’t give up, but it’s going to be a long haul that will probably require completion by future generations dedicated to the change. The current capitalist leaders may find themselves supplanted by cultures that have fallen behind in regards to capitalist development. It may be a second or third world culture that knocks on the door of Mr. Bush’s future successor.

  5. Dave Pollard says:

    Bill: Don’t know if you’ve read Unconquerable World or not, but Havel’s story features prominently in it. It is an interesting and inspiring story. I confess, though, I don’t know what inspired him to support Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Did he really think it was about liberation?

  6. Dave Pollard says:

    Gary: Zakaria makes the point that today’s (US) political parties are merely organs available for purchase by the highest bidder, and I think he’s right in that. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats of today have any loyalty to the principles upon which their parties were founded. The fact that the Democrats can forward some of the racist Southerners and at the same time Robert Byrd, demonstrates how meaningless and expedient the parties have become. Until Byrd leaves the stage, fortunately, there won’t be a complete vacuum.

  7. Dave Pollard says:

    Doug: You’re probably right, though I’m not sure we have enough time for that slow an evolution. My hope is that we can do a cultural equivalent of ‘rapid prototyping’, and the resultant model will be so compelling that people will jump on board quickly. It will all depend on the perception of urgency, on getting past the slowly-boiling-frog problem we currently face. Even global warming has been too easy for ecological holocaust-denyers to shrug off. But if we wait until India and Pakistan nuke each other (almost an inevitability) it may be too late.

  8. O RLY YA RLY says:

    I wonder how the EU fits into this.

  9. Jon Husband says:

    Britt Blaser on the blog Escapable Logic has a wonderful piece of writing on how thousands and thousands of people at $100 a head can buy back their government – rather than corporations and lobbyists in the hundreds buying the Bush administration encore at tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop, delivered at sanctioned expensive fund-raising events.

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