Operating as Change Agents

by Justine Huxley -

It seems that many of the serious global challenges we face are worsening. Religious extremism, growing economic disparity and irreversible climate change will undoubtedly have a real impact on conflicts around the world. 

Resource-based conflict is likely to increase, food security and water may become significant issues, and wealth inequality may be a ticking time bomb generating dangerous levels of discontent and division, as well as the potential for further financial crashes. 

Our ever increasing focus on economic growth has brought us to a place where we are consuming the resources of 1.5 planets, whilst having only one planet available to us. It would seem that materialism has supplanted all other values to the extent that it now jeopardises our long term survival.
“We aren’t going to have peace on Earth until we recognize the basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.” --Martin Luther King
Tacking root causes instead of symptoms

It has become not unusual to all the challenges we face as fundamentally interrelated and requiring interconnected solutions. It understands the underlying cause to be related to the values by which we live. 

In recent years, science, technology and ecology have radically changed our ability to perceive this interconnectedness. 

This requires us to re-engineer the way we function globally around a new set of values and principles. 

It is “change that pervades all parts of a system, taking into account the interrelationships and interdependencies among those parts.” It constitutes the emergence of a radically different worldview, a transformation in the way humanity thinks and the collective narrative upon which we base our sense of meaning, which has the potential to change the way we act in all walks of life.

Conflict and deeper change

In the past, conflict and peace were conceived in dualistic terms. Conflict was a battle between opposing forces and peace the cessation of violence or the resolution of disagreement. 

Conflict was seen as a problem to be solved in order to restore a state of harmony. Before multi-culturalism became seen as a positive ideology, right and wrong were also viewed as fixed and intrinsic and for every ‘self’ there was an ‘other’. 

The emerging understanding of interdependence that has begun to take root in human consciousness calls into question that dualistic framework. 

Advocates of conflict transformation (as opposed to 'resolution'), such as Jean-Paul Lederach, regard conflict as embedded in a complex and interrelated field. They also stress the opportunity it presents for deeper individual, community and societal change.

Johan Galtung’s redefinition of ‘active peace’ similarly integrates peace into a triad which includes justice and wholeness or well-being.

Peace-building which encourages active cooperation between people may be more effective in the long run than seeking to apply a dualistic toolkit to ‘resolve’ existing conflicts. 

In the words of Albert Einstein, the latter might be akin to “trying to solve a problem with the same thinking that created it”. 

Peacemakers like Thich Nhat Hanh, Martin Luther King, and Mahatma Ghandi all based their game-changing activism on an awareness of ‘interbeing’ which takes us beyond that thinking into new ways of relating and acting in harmony with the whole. 

Many issues that create conflict at this time reflect much bigger stories of collective paradigm shift. With this new perspective, conflict can be seen not as a problem to be solved but rather a collective doorway offering the potential to create a new, more harmonious social order.

New definitions of peace and reconciliation

Rather than the old definition of peace as the absence of conflict, and reconciliation as the restoration of harmony, we can consider peace to be an active, dynamic way of life. 

Diversity can be seen as a source of collective intelligence, where every individual, culture and belief is recognised as an essential part of an interrelated whole, where we understand our communities as interdependent eco-systems and most importantly, where people come together in new ways, cooperating and collaborating across differences of all kinds for the benefit of all. 

Reconciliation becomes not just reconciliation with the ‘Other’ but reconciliation with ourselves, our deepest values, with the Divine and with the whole web of life and the Earth itself.

This is a reconciliation when we come to recognise that, at a deep level, there is no ‘Other’.

A cross-disciplinary grassroots global network of change agents?

In asking how we operate from that deeper level, we need to recognise what peacemaking is and can be.

A small local charity that engages the community with litter picking building pride in the local environment and inspiring a willingness to be socially active - this can accurately be described as peace-making.

A consultancy that encourages the finance industry to operate according to the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit, is also building the conditions for peace.

A social enterprise that supports young leaders to act from shared values, a school that teaches children to understand ecologically sustainable food production, a local initiative sharing resources operating a mini gift economy - all of these are building future peace.

We are all involved!

As the year unfolds before us, we will no doubt be confronted daily with news of social disintegration. But in every direction there is also new life springing up between the rubble.

We are all needed to nurture those new shoots - to share our hope with each other, to be in community and to support each other in growing courage and inner resilience.

Everyone must make a contribution if we are to co-create a future that is actively peaceful, sustainable and spiritually meaningful. It is my belief that in these times of transition, every single one of us is called to step up to a new level of responsibility and engagement.

We are all called to see each other and our Earth through the eyes of interbeing and to live from that new place.

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