How might telling a "new story" have the power to help shift our collective trajectory?

Our cafe call is now complete (podcast available here) and so we are moving into the next phase of our conversation, which we invite you to continue here in the forum and out in the world.

Our great thanks to New Stories Executive Director Jeff Vander Clute and Great Transition Stories Executive Director Duane Elgin for being our main conversation starters for this juicy dialogue, and also to our special last minute guests David DeGraw and Joel Levey.  It was a pleasure having all of you with us and we look forward to further collaboration.

We will revisit our "Occupy a New Story" theme on the Vital Conversation for Monday September 10th, when we will explore the story "A Global Brain Awakens."  Please join us again for that call (time and registration details in the box on the right hand side of this page).

Meanwhile, this conversation continues...  In this next phase, we again invite you to engage one-one with people around you.  You can use the three questions that framed our conversation on the phone:

  1. When you look at the overall behavior of the human community -- the 'social average' of human behavior -- what life-stage do you think we are in?  Toddler?  Teenager? Adult? Elder?  Ask why that their answer, and perhaps offer your own as well.
  2. Next, tell them that most people on the call chose teenager and that there might be something valuable about digging into that metaphor further.  Then ask: "what was it in your life that moved you most powerfully from adolescence to adulthood?"
  3. Finally, you can invite them to play with the story a bit further around the question: "what does your personal experience suggest about ways to catalyze a shift to adulthood and about where we might see adulthood already emerging?"

Consider having this conversation not only with people you feel are generally aligned with your own beliefs but also with someone whose opinions you find challenging!  Share your own perspective too, but try replacing certainty and advice with curiosity.  Try asking: "tell me more about that," especially when you hear something that challenges you!

Please post your own thoughts below, as well as anything that emerges from conversations you engage in with others (note: you must be registered and logged in to post).  

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[D]id the myth to which you refer result in Capitalism? E.g. does "progress" mean happier life or more things to occupy us, or what? 

As one of my former b-school professors, Bruce Greenwald, recently put it at an interfaith gathering on Re-Envisioning Prosperity, between 95% and 99% of humanity basically lived like cattle for two thousand years, until things began to shift in the early 19th century as a result of, yes, capitalism and the industrial revolution.  He left out the distinction between hunter-gatherer societies, where people appear to have lived quite well in many cases, and the suffering of the masses during the great hydraulic/agrarian civilizations that for the most part replaced them (the true Fall, many have suggested).  Nevertheless, his point is striking and important from my perspective.

We may now be at a stage where capitalism and consumerism and materialism have run amok, and to be sure the industrial revolution was never a pretty thing.  But it does look like "progress" for huge swaths of humanity, even as it has brought forth new forms of evil and exploitation.  We now have the means to provide for the basic material well-being of every single person on this planet, instead of an elite few.  And to do so in a way that is environmentally sustainable, if we choose. 

Surely this is "progress,"  however flawed and incomplete in its execution?  Indeed, Greenwald has been working with Joseph Stiglitz on a reevaluation of our overall economic "malaise" and has concluded that the core issue we face is not the corruption of our financial sector but the fact that, due to the "efficiency" of the capitalist economy, we no longer need to employ more than a fraction of the global "workforce" in order to meet the material needs of all (especially in manufacturing).  Viewed this way, our "problems" start to look more like opportunities.

I take inspiration from the idea of a positive evolutionary trajectory.  And that feels precious to me in this age of cynicism and resignation.

More on "thinking our way into the future" and "involution" later, if I have time!

“Over the course of 14 Billion years Hydrogen gas transformed itself into mountains, butterflies, the music of Bach - and you and me.”

Who are we?


From Ben's reply 2 Dyck Dewid re “[D]id the myth to which you refer result in Capitalism? E.g. does "progress" mean happier life or more things to occupy us, or what? “

and I quote . .

Greenwald has been working with Joseph Stiglitz on a re-evaluation of our overall economic "malaise" and has concluded that the core issue we face is not the corruption of our financial sector but the fact that, due to the "efficiency" of the capitalist economy, we no longer need to employ more than a fraction of the global "workforce" in order to meet the material needs of all (especially in manufacturing). Viewed this way, our "problems" start to look more like opportunities. “

To write off the corruption of the entire financial sector as being not the core issue is absurd – together with its twin and partner 'big business' it is the nexus around which our ailing planet and all of its societies revolve, caught in a meaningless dance into a story we have begun to know well – a story which is the root wherein dissident movements for change, such as Occupy, were birthed – and that continues to be a (possibly still 'the main') focal point of our on street presence


Its true that we do have, “due to the 'efficiency' of the capitalist economy” the means to produce without employing great work forces. And yes that does (or more accurately should) afford some very interesting possibilities. That much has been recognised by others, but such opportunities are not afforded within our present societal models and until we have replaced those models, they never will be. Nevertheless such opportunities must be a part of our new story –


and to quote from one of those 'others' who had the temerity to identify these 'possibilities' some twenty years ago – (the hyperlink is mine - *bows* to C.A. Bradfield ;-)

If it is correct, as I believe it is, that a fundamental element of human nature is the need for creative work, for creative inquiry, for free creation without the arbitrary limiting effects of coercive institutions, then of course it will follow that a decent society should maximise the possibilities for this fundamental human characteristic to be realised. Now a federated, decentralised system of free associations, incorporating economic as well as social institutions would be what I refer to as anarcho-syndicalism, and it seems to me that it is the appropriate form of social organisation for an advanced technological society in which human beings do not have to be forced into the position of tools, of cogs in a machine.”

Those words formed one of the many answers Noam Chomsky outlined in a hostile interview in the Netherlands, which was included in the documentary film Manufacturing Consent:Noam Chomsky and The Media (1992) and they present a vision of a world with radically different values, quite probably a world that might be shaped by our New Story


And 'the Fall' was just about inevitable given the roots from which our species evolved, and if, as I do, we accept that premise, then our histories to date have also, and again inevitably, been dominated by that simple 'ethic' from our long ago and which governs us still - and against which we dissidents - “we happy few - have drawn to each other to object


Might – is – Right!


Submit I

Don: your remarks remind me that Greenwald got a similarly unsympathetic response from the interfaith group where I heard him. I think this results from the fact that he only told part of the "story" and thus left room for all sorts of assumptions about what value judgments he might be making re capitalism as well as what kind of a future he would like to see.  

If you look at the work of Greenwald's partner in this work, Joseph Stiglitz, who is both an avid critic of our financial system and leading advocate for replacing GDP with a new measure that presents something far closer to the whole truth about our human activities, you might find that there is more alignment here that you suggest.

They also suggest that there is an instructive corollary, by the way, with the Great Depression, when it was agriculture, not manufacturing, that had become so efficient that the economic system could not cope.  There too, a financial crisis got all the attention.  But it wasn't until WWII inadvertently provided the means to move people en masse from farms to cities (where there were plenty of jobs) that a new equilibrium was obtained.  What might be our version of that driver for economic transformation?  Global warming seems like it fits the bill, although Copenhagen and Rio+20 hardly provide grounds for optimism on that score.  Then again, the US didn't enter the war until 1941...

You say:

To write off the corruption of the entire financial sector as being not the core issue is absurd – together with its twin and partner 'big business' it is the nexus around which our ailing planet and all of its societies revolve, caught in a meaningless dance into a story we have begun to know well – a story which is the root wherein dissident movements for change, such as Occupy, were birthed – and that continues to be a (possibly still 'the main') focal point of our on street presence

Yes, it is the focus, so what are the implications if indeed we have actually confused a symptom for the disease?   My understanding of the Greenwald/Stiglitz perspective is that the financial corruption and support for mindless consumerism are the logical consequences of an economic system that doesn't know how to direct capital into truly productive means, doesn't put a price on many of the true costs of our activities and fails to measure the nature of our activity in a way that tells the true story of what we are up to.  Breaking up and regulating the banks won't change any of that, although it still seems like a good idea!--nothing wrong with treating symptoms, as long as you're clear that's what you're doing.

What a "new economy" might look like is another question altogether.  Many people suggest that a good metaphor for our work now is to "hospice the old system(s) and midwife the new ones."  Yesterday I was talking with Dyck Dewid, who  is a hospice worker, about this idea.  He said he finds that the most important thing he can do with someone who is dying is to find out what they have of value to teach us, and everyone has something.  

Most (all?) of these "new stories" have aspects of progress, a journey, evolution or metamorphosis, as opposed to rebellion or a simple return to something we once had.  We grow and we integrate all that has come before, building upon rather than discarding the wisdom and the skills and the power we have amassed. Greenwald's perspective aligns with this nicely.  

What if we didn't have to operate based on rebellion against "might?"  At Davos this year, Ban Ki Moon called the world's economic system "obsolete" and "a global suicide pact."  What if enough representatives of "the powers that be" are  waking up to the folly of our current ways that a transition to something new is a matter of hospicing and midwifing rather than violent insurrection?

Thanks C.A.  You write:

Given today's geopolitical power situation, compared to the geopolitical power balance during the Renaissance, [Barbara Marx Hubbard's] position may be more in tune with what I mean, because today the United States has unqualified capital and power over the rest of the world, which is what she and we use to spin our new story. Thus our consolidated imperialist position today as baby boomers, gives us the power to make this new myth in fact, for everyone (whether they want it or not). Of course after what its replacing they may indeed thank us. If we do it, and I don't doubt we will write a better story. So our story today will actually be for everyone, it will truly be for all the inhabitants of the Earth because we can imperially apply it to them.

This reminds me of our panel with Middle East activists during the National Gathering.  One of them said that they were grateful to "us" (i.e. the Occupy movement and similarly aligned radical energies in the West) for showing the way towards something other the imperialist system.  In Syria, Egypt, etc., they reported that the struggle was simply for survival and a search for anyone to trust other than the old governments (hence the rise of religious groups).  They did not, in this chaotic space, have room to develop the kind of vision for a better world that they see coming from the US, Europe, etc. and so they felt we were indeed leading the way and they welcomed it.

Also, I imagine you're aware that part of Hubbard's story is that it will be Western women in particular who will lead the way forward and take the creative reigns in the newly emerging paradigm.  And on The Great Transition Story wiki, one of the main story themes is about gender as well:

The past few decades have witnessed a resurgence of the Feminine and a re-valuing of the qualities of caring and cooperation, receptivity and relationship-building. The feminine archetype itself has been expanding to a cosmic scale, where we recognize that the Universe is not an impersonal machine devoid of consciousness and purpose, but a living entity infused with, and animated by, a subtle life-energy capable of nurturing countless living organisms within it.

Lastly, I would say that it doesn't make sense to me to think of this as being about our "imposing" these stories on anyone.  Rather, they can only work if they tap into some deep intuitive knowing that we have within us.

I'm grateful to be engaging with you, Richard, and the other thoughtful participants in this forum.

One of the themes that I sense is common to "new stories" - whether they're narratives, linked collections of principles and proposals, metaphors, or otherwise more-or-less coherent clusters of thoughts and beliefs (I have a fairly general view of what constitutes "story") - is that these "new" stories tend to be unifying. In working with the thirteen Great Transition Stories developed so far on the wiki (and more are in development), one "story behind the story" that has emerged is truth, reconciliation, and integration...

I find Journey of the Universe (and btw Brian Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker had long debates about whether the title should be "the journey" or "a journey") to be a unifying story. The film has general appeal (as you say) and doesn't seek to oppose other stories of the universe. It's brilliant that Brian, a scientist, and Mary Evelyn, a religious scholar, collaborated in making the film. And at the risk of projecting, I'm inclined to say they embodied truth, reconciliation, and integration in their process, resulting in a deeply empowered work.

While narratives such as Humanity Is Growing Up, and metaphors such as the Metamorphosis of the Butterfly, may spark electrifying conversations here (and I anticipate that they will!), it is my hope and intention that our shared insights will find expression in inspired collective action "on life." To me, occupying a new story means living a new story that, through our collective embodiment, shifts our collective trajectory.

Thanks to all!

What moved me most powerfully from adolescence to adulthood?

Raising teenagers (making a lot of mistakes), reading about the adolescent stage and why it exists. Realizing I had to take the role of the Elder, and not just be a teenager playing with teenagers.

This is an interesting paradigm, but very Western-centric. I know teenagers in other cultures are not narcissistic, etc. but are brought into their societies very differently. We might look to other cultures for direction.

Another thought: teenagers aren't all bad!! Underneath it all is a true wish to belong, to find the right way to be in relation to others, and empathy (even if masked). We have to find a way to make a connection, even though we're so short of time in the big sense. How can we reach the folks who don't yet understand the stakes?

I see adulthood emerging in the movement: we no longer trust the authority figures or even give them any credence at all. We are finding that we have to inform ourselves. We are looking reality right in the face. We are deciding we have to take charge, NOW. We are looking to our history for successful ways to do it, no longer satisfied with unsuccessful ways. We are acting as community, reaching out for support. We realize that giving, not taking, is the most important thing. 

We are scared. We are brave. We are going to have to be brilliant.

Woot woot!!!  Thank you for these inspiring words, Ruthie!  These thoughts are also echoed in some of the excerpts I quoted above from the section on "Humanity Is Growing Up" in the Great Transition Stories wiki.

Hi everyone,

Am I wrong in perceiving so many of us want more to deal with the outer world like the rest of Occupy rather than the inner one? (mission of OccupyCafe?)  I see avoidance of the pronoun 'I' and using 'we' or 'they' which may at times be useful or necessary, as we also sometimes speak for others and take surveys.  Very much of this makes it too comfortable & safe...  & way too distant to be useful to make real PERSONAL change.  Yet, isn't this the primary goal (or is it about changing others)?

My excitement is NOT in the theoretical, nor in the 'them', nor in what science has done, nor what statistics tell, nor in any 'answers'.  My excitement is with us... here and now.

I don't care about ways to manipulate others, teach others, lead others.  I don't feel qualified and won't underwrite any person or group who claims they 'know'.  And I don't like it when people feign interest, are insincere in their listening and affirmations all for the purpose of selling me something.

My intention is to inquire together, to share, to learn, to challenge, to be the change, to test... for this alone, I'm all in.  So, let the feathers fly.

Like a great starving beast

My body is quivering.......

Fixed on the scent of Light.


Dyck: I LOVE your energy!  Thank you for showing up with such passion.  I get that something is not working for you in this conversation and I'm looking forward to a direct conversation to understand that better.

This IS what I call 'working'... stirring up, challenge, perhaps some wrestling.  Seem uncivilized? 

I don't view love as all sweet, smooth, soft and gentle agreement.  I see in its achievement a hard-driven work, rough, dangerous, loud, feared, hurtful, thrashed by typhoon, wishing for death... in addition to some calm, warm, gentle seas.

Um... yeah!  This is OCCUPY, after all, not the DAR!

C.A., There's more to it than what your question implies. 

And, I absolutely do not question your sincerity about those topics!


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