As we reach environmental and economic limits, the time is ripe and imminent for political change, but we need both inner and outer transformation if we are to create a better future, writes Paul Fletcher
It was interesting to see the recent Positive News editorial drawing attention to the new profile adopted by comedian Russell Brand, following his BBC Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman. The interview has now been viewed more than nine million times on YouTube. It seems that Brand has decided to step into history, and because only a few others are doing it in the mainstream, he is issuing a call, particularly to young people, to wake up and realise that the time for radical change has arrived.
In 1978, American political theorist Mark Satin published a book called New Age Politics that argued for the need to build a new political ideology because the old system was bankrupt. He called for a new, simpler way of living not based on consumerism; decentralisation of the political system; and to take global responsibility (think globally, act locally). Underlying his argument was that patriarchy, ego, the single scientific view, bureaucracy, strident nationalism and our divorce from nature has kept our consciousness trapped at a low level for hundreds of years. Although the book was greeted with praise and relief in some circles, it was harshly criticised by both conservative and left wing ideologues. However, Satin went on to found the New Options newsletter, bringing together and giving voice to pioneering thinkers such as Willis Harman, Hazel Henderson, Petra Kelly, Joanna Macy, Fritjof Capra, Carl Rogers and Theodore Roszak.
“During the last 18 months something spectacular has been unfolding.”
During the last 18 months something spectacular has been unfolding. Edward Snowden dared to whistleblow on the extent of global surveillance, following it up in Channel 4’s Alternative Christmas Message by calling for a complete end to mass surveillance. Malala Yousafzai, the young woman who was shot in the head and nearly killed for daring to speak out about the need for women’s education in Pakistan, addressed the United Nations on 12 July 2013 calling for worldwide access to education for all people. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon described her as “our hero.” Then, on 5 December 2013, the death of Nelson Mandela gave the whole world an opportunity to look back at the example he set in compassion and forgiveness while creating massive social change through non-violence and reconciliation.
Returning to Brand, we hear him articulating a message that the cultural foundations of our society may be changing. He is explaining the need for a new map. He is pointing out that super-rich elites have used governments to run things for too long and argues that spiritual principles have political ramifications, calling for those who are hearing this message to dedicate themselves to build a new world.
“This moment is ripe and immanent because we have reached the extreme limits of the Earth’s biosphere”
This has to be both an inner and outer transformation to be successful, and in Brand’s view, politics could become “the implementation of spiritual values.” He also, excitingly, argues that artists could be part of this by becoming the cultural engineers of a new way of living. This moment is ripe and immanent because we have reached the extreme limits of the Earth’s biosphere, the limits of materialism and the limits of growth.
In his 1999 book Imagine All The People, the Dalai Lama concluded that “rapid changes in our attitude toward the earth are also a source of hope… Now Mother Nature is telling us to co-operate… Unless we all work together, no solution will be found.” By working together we discover the human need for transcendence and connection, embracing the requirements of protest, non-ego, humour, spirituality and meditation. So this moment is defined not by political protest, but by an uprising of the soul.