by Lee Van Ham
“It’s possible” is how I answer the question raised by the title. Let’s look at how.
Acts of caring, sharing, and justice alone will not change economic systems. They will take care of humanitarian needs neglected by the system in charge without changing the system. What, then, is necessary for such acts to leverage system change?
To begin with, we need to be able to imagine and understand the system by which we want to live our own lives. If we cannot imagine and understand a better, life-giving system than the one currently running our lives, then we cannot choose acts of caring and justice for a better way.
The dual purpose of living a new model—Once we picture a better, life-generating economic paradigm, then every action we take to live that paradigm serves a dual purpose. Let’s call it the OneEarth model. First, it resists the MultiEarth paradigm with which we’re dissatisfied by showing a more life-giving alternative is possible.
Then, by living that better paradigm, the dominant system loses credibility. It is no longer the only way. R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), architect and systems theorist, urged us to understand something invaluable about system change: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change things build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
When we put caring, sharing, and justice into action, they do not on their own change the system. But when we see how our acts of caring, sharing, and justice are part of the new model, then we can also show that we are moving beyond the existing model and making it obsolete.
That new model is key. We need it in our hearts and also be able to express it in words, stories, and diagrams. Furthermore, we need to show that our actions of caring, sharing, and justice express that model, all the while contrasting how it exposes and improves on the existing model which has captured the lives of so many. We can show that the new model is human, interconnected with all life, and regenerative of our spirits and our one planet home.
Two dynamics follow our actions in and communication of the new model. One, the model is solidified in our own being. The value of acts and communications that galvanize within our souls and being what we believe is not to be minimized in any way. Voices that say we’re just speaking to the choir or not making a significant difference completely miss the value of solidifying our beliefs through actions. Furthermore, once we own publicly our beliefs and actions it is highly likely that others will resonate. As that happens, the dynamic of networking happens.
When our individual actions for a new economic model form networks, that cooperation is a synergy to see limitless possibilities for living the new model together. Or we may not need to form a network, but instead, be drawn to groups already behaving in the ways of a new model. We can form partnerships in this transforming work, transforming our lives, our relationships, and society.
How long the obsolete model continues cannot be known. Those with power in that model, or who have come into wealth in that model, will not give it up readily. Maybe never. As Mahatma Gandhi is widely misquoted as saying, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” That sentiment may, in fact, have come out of the labor union movement. Nicholas Klein, a trade union activist, said in a 1918 speech, “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you,” This quote comes from a transcript from the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America convention.
Confirming the spirituality of the OneEarth Model—As I understand Jesus, he modeled the above paragraphs. His acts of caring, sharing, and justice always happened with the understanding that he was resisting the model of Rome and Temple, while he connected his acts and words to the alternative system of the “kingdom of God.”