re11: Returning to the Garden, etc.


Richard Moore

Bcc: contributors.

From: "Lisa Rutherford" <•••@••.•••>
To: <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Question
Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2001 18:39:05 -0400

Dear Richard,

I'm new to all of this and happened to get on your mailing
list by chance. Could you please explain to me what this
"movement" is about, how you became involved, what your
academic credentials are, etc.

I myself am concerned about the state of the environment,
politics, etc., which doesn't really set me apart from the
other people on your mailing list.  Nonetheless, I would
appreciate it if you could fill me in as to what your cause
is, where you are from for that matter, what kind of
exemplary life you lead, and how writers such as myself can
take inspiration from what you have sparked in others.




Dear Lisa,

Thanks for joining in.  The 'movement' I refer to is the
emerging global movement, whose first baby steps we have
seen from Seattle to Quebec City, and from Porto Alegre to
Prague.   Since this is a decentralized, leaderless
movement, there is not yet a clearly articulated agenda, or
platform - but it is clear that 'the state of the
environment & politics' are very much to the point. 
Sustainability and Genuine Democracy seem to be at the core
of the still-emerging consensus.  I have several good 
postings around Quebec City that I'll be posting shortly,
including a very good one from Naomi Klein.

I got involved well before there was an identifiable
movement, when I started publishing articles arguing that we
~needed~ a movement.  For example, in 1995, the article
"Common Sense and the New World Order" included this

   "In order to launch an effective counter-offensive, we need
    several ingredients: an analysis of the situation and the
    'enemy', a different and better vision of the future, and a
    coalition strategy..."

I don't believe that academic credentials are particularly
relevant to the kinds of problems that face us.  Certainly
in specific areas, such as the details of sustainable
planning, academic specialists will have a unique
contribution to make.  But when it comes to the ~big~
questions, like "What kind of world do we want?", and "What
is a viable movement strategy for victory?", then there is
no specialized field that can offer answers.  We need to
bring together what is known about history, social
movements, economics, political science, anthropology, and
much else.  We need to bring people together who normally
talk only among their colleagues, and we need to think at
the level of overall systems. My 'preparation' in that
regard was not in academia, but in the software industry
working with complex systems, and many other life experiences.

My 'cause' is the transformation of society, the same cause
as the movement.  My self-appointed 'role' is to help think
through in advance the problems the movement will encounter,
and to communicate whatever is learned to movement
organizers and people generally.  (You can't build a
parachute after the plane has started going down.) My
current 'state of understanding', such as it is, can be
found on the website ( in the
"Guidebook" or "Returning to our Roots".  I'm living in
Ireland now, but most of my life was spent in Palo Alto.

'Exemplary life', what is that about?  Why should I lead an
exemplary life?   On a day to day basis, we have to live in
whatever system exists; I have no pretensions of being
'sustainable' as an individual, nor of living 'outside' the
money economy, nor of being any kind of saint.  Society will
become sustainable only when it is sustainable for everyone,
everywhere.  Meanwhile, I believe having fun, dancing, and
playing music are what makes life worth living.

'how writers such as myself can take inspiration from what
you have sparked in others'.... I'm not quite sure what
you're getting at.  Are you talking about the dialog you've
been seeing on the list?   I suppose the lesson there is
that ordinary people (presuming the label offends no one)
are interested in thinking about our root problems and have
contributions to make to the solutions.  My suggestion to
writers in all fields, fiction and non-fiction, is that they
stop conforming to the conventions of matrix reality and
popular mythology, and begin trusting their readers with the

Thanks for the questions and stay in touch,

Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2001 11:31:15 -0600
From: Paul Riesz <•••@••.•••>
To: •••@••.•••, WSN <•••@••.•••>,
        Fair Trade <•••@••.•••>, •••@••.•••
Subject: Chances doe reforming globalization

Dear Richard:

Could you explain why:
On one hand you feel that I am very naive in believing that
there is a chance for adopting my rather modest proposals
for introducing more flexible rules for globalization and
for partially harmonizing the interests of TNCs and poor
people everywhere, while. On the other hand you feel
confident, that your much more radical proposals for
completely eliminating the hierarchical structures of our
society and for resolving ALL controversial problems through
harmonizing at different levels could be implemented ?

Regards          Paul


Dear Paul,

A very good question, and it gets to the heart of our
differing perspectives.  

The first part of my answer is that you don't seem to
understand the dynamics of capitalism.  If capitalism were
simply an ~unfair~ system, where some people got a bigger
share than others, then the have-nots could negotiate with
the haves, as you suggest, and improve their lot.  But
capitalism is not simply unfair in its wealth distribution. 
Capitalism must - in order to operate at all - continually
~increase~ the disparity in wealth distribution. If wealthy
investors only ~stay even~, then there are no growth
opportunities and capitalism collapses.  We've seen mini-
collapses many times, and we call them depressions.  Only 
when new growth opportunities were created, for example by 
starting a war, did the system start kicking over again.  If
we intend to constrain growth on an ongoing basis, then 
the collapse would be permanent - as long as we depend on 
capital investors to to be the engines of our economy.  When
we escape from that dependence, then we are no longer in 
a capitalist system.  Market economy, yes, capitalist 
economy, no.

We've lived through the era when capitalism could afford to
share the wealth with the Northern middle classes and
workers, while still growing.  That was the good old days
before neoliberalism. What neoliberalism / globalization is
about is a recognition by the capitalist elite that their
own continued growth now requires that the rest of us get by
on less and less.  The overall pie isn't growing any more in
real terms, and our pieces must shrink so that the
elite's pieces can continue to grow - and the capitalist
system can continue to operate.

This is not theory - Marxist or otherwise - it is a truth
that we all know in our hearts.  That is why nations today
put their hands out to corporations and say...

    "Please build a factory here. We'll subsidize the
    construction, give you tax relief, and help keep wage
    demands down.  We know you must maximize your profit, and
    we'll sell our souls and our futures in order to help you do

The reforms you are asking for amount to a monkey wrench in
the works of capitalism.  You are not explicitly saying you
want an end to capitalism, but you are in effect saying, "Do
you mind if I put this little old harmless wrench in the
middle of your gears?"  You have convinced yourself that the
goose could still lay golden eggs, but it couldn't, not with
a wrench in its gizzard.  You might want to look at Chapter
2, "Why Capitalism Needs Growth", of Richard Douthwaite's
"The Growth Illusion".


The second part of my answer is that the elite ~do~
understand all of these things, even if many of us don't.
There's no way they're going to yield voluntarily to
pressure that would bring the whole system to a halt.  They
will resist that with all means at their disposal - no
matter how subtle or sneaky or well-meaning our initiatives
might be. They shake their heads at our demands, not because
of our boldness or our impudence, but at what they call -
with considerable justice - our 'emotionalism'.  They
sympathize in the media, probably sincerely, with our desire
for things to be fairer, and then they dutifully point out
that first the goose must be nurtured, and then we can talk
about divvying up the golden eggs.  Where they deceive is
when they encourage us to believe that ~later~ will bring
opportunities for a fairer distribution.  They know that can
never happen, even if their ivory tower 'experts' actually
believe the mythology.


The third part of my answer is about why the movement can
succeed with a comprehensive program of radical

To begin with, it is a comprehensive transformation of
society that is objectively needed at this ominous and
unique moment in history.  A few patches on the growth
paradigm or the hierarchical control system - even if that
were possible - would postpone only slightly our encounter 
with disaster. We need to move to full sustainability, and
that requires a total re-orientation of our political
agendas and our economic systems.  This is our objective

If the movement does not develop a comprehensive radical
agenda, then it is wasting its time and ours.  Without that,
it could at best succeed in monkeying around with the
current system and thus bring about an economic collapse,
and perhaps a totalitarian reaction. People know that
intuitively.  Some of us may think of 'the masses' as being
ignorant, but I don't - I think most people have
considerable common-sense wisdom. They see the
anti-globalization protestors on TV, and they say to
themselves "OK, you want to tear down the system - so what
are you going to replace it with?".  That's a very wise
question.  Interviewers ask a protestor why she's there, and
get the answer "It's about turtles, I think."  Presumably
this was selected for broadcast over many more sensible
answers, but the viewer is encouraged to believe it was a
'typical' response.

The fact is that in history there have been many successful
mass movements.  At least, they succeeded in replacing old
systems.  They usually blew it after victory, but that's a
different issue.  For now, the issue is how they achieved
victory.  In every case, it has been around a very radical
agenda.  Things like getting rid of capitalism (Russian
Revolution), getting rid of imperialism (Irish and Indian
Revolutions), or getting rid of monarchs (French and
American Revolutions).  Even failed mass movements have been
around radical agendas, such as ending imperialism.  You
just can't get a strong, energetic movement off the ground
without radical fuel.  And without a strong, energetic 
movement there's no way to shift the system at all.

There must be an understanding that fundamental change is
necessary and a credible vision of what is to replace the
current regime. Mass movements happen when an avante garde
comes to such an understanding, and finds a way to
successfully propagate that understanding and gather others
to the cause.  In past movements, that 'way of propagation'
has usually come in the form of an appealing ideology, and
an effective centralized movement organization.  The central
cadre would then handle platform refinement, movement
strategy, etc.  In the end, the cadre would become the new
elite.  Out with the old boss, and in with the new boss.  No
wonder revolution gets such bad press.

Fortunately, with our emerging movement, there is no such
ideology or organization.  But unfortunately, the movement
has not yet found its own means of propagation or of
platform convergence.  Or more accurately, it does not yet
~realized~ that it already has those means in its tool kit.  It
hasn't yet had the 'Ah Ha' realization that its own
decentralized consensus process - that it uses successfully
to organize protests - can be used as its means of
propagation and platform development.  What I call the
'harmonization initiative' is the conscious attempt to
propagate this particular 'Ah Ha', so that the movement can
then get on with what needs to be done.


Am I 'confident' that the movement will be successful?  No,
confident would be far too strong a word. There are many
things that can go wrong, at every step of the way.  But the
culture being developed by the emerging movement - and that
movement's tenacity - are extremely promising signs.  I
would claim 'informed hope', but not quite 'confidence' -
not yet.  I am fully confident, however, that reform does 
~not~ offer a viable path to a sustainable world.

    "The first step is to penetrate the clouds of deceit and
    distortion and learn the truth about the world, then to
    organise and act to change it. That's never been impossible
    and never been easy."
    - Noam Chomsky

best regards,

Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 11:21:23 +0200
From: Richard Richardson <•••@••.•••>
To: •••@••.•••
CC: •••@••.•••,
    •••@••.•••, Jay Fenello <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: re9: Returning to the Garden, mythologies, the movement, etc.

    rkm>  I don't think we need any new mythologies. One of the
    functions served by mythologies has been to tell people what
    the universe is, and how we came to be in it. With what we
    now know about cosmology and evolution, we don't need myths
    to answer those questions. And for those who want to believe
    in a creator being, there are already more than enough myths

I think it would be useful to distinguish among mythologies,
cosmologies, broad scientific theories (like evolution),
ideologies and religions, yet to realise that behind all of
them is some kind of attempted understanding of human
existence and the world around us.

I suggest that we may know very little about cosmology and
evolution, despite the current, imposed views of the
scientific establishment. However, a rational, intuitive and
benevolent approach to life can serve us well despite our
lack of deep knowledge in these and other areas.

How can a rational, intuitive and benevolent approach
proceed? Diversity is characteristic of nature, so it's not
necessary for everyone to agree on a common set of ideas or
beliefs. Yet "Diversity is characteristic of nature", for
example, is an idea that many people, I think, would share.
Similarly there may be other ideas that many would share,
and if the set of such (continually increasing and revised)
ideas was rational, intuitively appealing and internally
consistent and had an underlying benevolence for all
("benevolence for all" --another widely shared idea), then
perhaps these commonly shared rational/intuitive/benevolent
ideas could form the basis for a common ideology for
humanity that supports the socio-economic as well as mental
and spiritual liberation of human beings and the creation of
a balanced, diverse, benevolent and liberatory society.
Without such a shared ideological foundation for society,
particularly considering the state of the world today, I see
little chance for genuine social progress.

    Richard R.


Dear Richard R,

Your notion of 'commonly shared rational/intuitive/
benevolent ideas' seems to be along the lines of what might
be called a 'humanist' approach.  It turns out that there
are millions of people (fundamentalists of various stripes)
actively hostile to such thinking (if it is offered as a
primary life ideology), and they would never adopt it
themselves.  To base our movement on such an ideology would
therefore be fatally divisive.

Besides, you haven't made your case for an ideology being
necessary or even desirable. You spent time developing the
idea of what kind of ideology might be widely marketable,
and that made considerable sense.  But then you simply state
without argument...

    > Without such a shared ideological foundation for society,
    particularly considering the state of the world today, I see
    little chance for genuine social progress."

~Why~ is such an ideological basis for society
needed?  And why would New Guinea need the same ideology as
Manhattan Island?

Perhaps you have observed that nations in recent history
have relied on ideologies to tie them together, and you
assume we need to emulate that formula.  If so, I would like
to suggest that ideologies are well-suited to centralized
control, and that is why they've been so popular with
governments and religious leaders.  They've certainly been
helpful in stirring up people's hatreds, and in justifying
wars and interventions.  In some sense, what ideologies are
is a replacement for religions, as a means of social control.

I agree with you when you say:

    > Diversity is characteristic of nature, so it's not
    necessary for everyone to agree on a common set of ideas or
    beliefs. Yet "Diversity is characteristic of nature", for
    example, is an idea that many people, I think, would share.
    Similarly there may be other ideas that many would share...

As I see it, we need to welcome and cherish a diversity of
beliefs in various societies, and parts of societies - and
that we need to develop wide-scale agreement on how we're
going to get along together, and how we're going to build
sustainable societes.


btw> Evolution is ~not~ a theory; it is simply the
~observation~ that species have changed over time, as shown
in the fossil records.  ~Natural selection~ is a theory, and
~survival of the fittest~ is a theory, and these theories
have changed considerably over the years.