Competitive violence and exploitation will not get us to cooperative peace and sharing. The more we focus on competing for money and jobs, the less we cooperate to reclaim that which makes us human, democratize power, and advance the wellbeing of all. Unless we consciously and intentionally choose an alternative path, the processes of separation and exploitation will continue until the living Earth community can bear no more and its essential systems collapse...Nor does a solution lie in putting the previously excluded into positions of power over others in a system that rewards the corruption of power. The only likely consequence is a reshuffling of caste membership.
The current scientific consensus gives us less than 10 years to achieve significant progress in a transition from Earth exploiters to Earth healers, if we are to avoid harms to Earth from which it could take millions of years for Earth to recover. The changes required may seem impossibly difficult. Yet, we know from current experience that previously unimaginable change can come with extraordinary unanticipated speed. And we can be encouraged by the fact that the changes we must navigate are based on a readily observable self-affirming insight of our early ancestors who recognized the essential inherent interdependence of life. It is an insight now affirmed by the leading edge of the physical, biological, and social sciences.
The Most Precious Gift
The most precious gift of our human experience is the opportunity to feel the joyful exhilaration that comes from fulfilling our responsibility to share in the care of life. Too many of us are denied this opportunity because of a system that isolates us from one another and nature as it reduces us to a constant struggle for survival. None of us will be secure in our opportunities to experience the special joy of being human until we act together to secure such opportunities for all....To be born human is to be gifted with an extraordinary potential to experience wonder, beauty, love, and the satisfaction of contributing to the learning and wellbeing of life. No human should be denied the opportunity to actualize that potential...Humanity’s positive potential and our current destructive path define a choice: embrace the possibility of transforming our relationships with one another and Earth; or perish. That choice constitutes an epic opportunity to accept the responsibility that comes with our nature as beings with distinctive abilities.
While institutional power has shifted, the social structures that define the imperial era continue to feature four primary social castes determined largely by birth and engaged in a life and death competition for power within and between:
1. The Excluded Caste. The caste system rests on the foundation of the excluded caste. Reduced to a daily competition for survival on whatever scraps are discarded by members of the three superior castes, the plight of the excluded secures the loyalty of more favored castes to the dominator system by keeping us all fearful of the fate that awaits us if we fail to conform. Domestic and stateless refugees, the homeless, and the imprisoned are among the most visible members of this caste.
2. The Worker Caste. Members of this caste are health and childcare workers, teachers, cleaners, agricultural workers, store clerks and countless others who do the essential work on which the entire system depends. The surplus from their labor is extracted and controlled by the ruling and retainer castes.
3. The Retainer Caste. These are persons whose loyalty secures the power of the ruling caste. They traditionally included military officers, tax 8 collectors, judges, religious leaders, and influential artists and philosophers, all well compensated for their loyal service in securing and legitimating elite rule while keeping the worker caste in line and the excluded caste in its place. Now it includes influential academics and persons with advanced technical, media, and marketing skills required to control the crafting, legitimation, and presentation of society’s defining maps to assure that they affirm elite rule.
4. The Ruling Caste. Originally, this caste featured imperial families headed by a king, queen, or emperor. Now the ruling families are headed by the world’s richest billionaires, most of whom hold a controlling individual or family interest in one or more major transnational corporations. The power of the ruling families depends on gaining control through their corporations of the means of human living, whether it be land, water sources, housing, money, or paid employment. They then charge rent for access by the rest of us. The rent on money is interest. On employment it is the difference between what the employer pays, and the value the worker’s labor produces. Current technologies make possible the greatest global scale concentration of unaccountable private control of resources in the human experience.
Specifics have changed over time. Some members of the worker and excluded castes are now arguably better off and there is growing unease among thoughtful members of each of the four castes, including some billionaire families. But the basic self-destructive pattern of competitive relationships remains stunningly familiar to this day. And the number of people experiencing extreme deprivation grows as the human population grows.
In the earlier imperial era, the competition centered on access to the land on which the wellbeing of all ultimately depends. The ruling caste used the institutions of government to concentrate control of that access. The competition now centers on access to money and jobs. While the ruling caste continues to monopolize ownership of existing land, it cannot create more land. By controlling government, however, it can create more money with a computer key stroke. With more money, the ruling caste can create more jobs structured to assure that it controls whatever value the related labor produces. While appearing to provide a public benefit, the reality is a further consolidation of elite power.