Social Transformation and Participatory Open Societies
From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wallstreet, we are witnessing unprecedented global outcries for a new social paradigm sweeping the planet; one that places humanity at the forefront.
Over its brief lifespan, human society has come to dominate the planet. In our generation, the ubiquity of human impact is so widespread that scientists have coined a term for it; the . Human civilizations self-organize into a pyramidal hierarchical structure with a small class having access to most of the resources and a very large class having very little access. Regardless of the political system, engrained self-cherishing behavior moves societies to organize this way.
Economic systems are a major tool for promoting the sustainability of such inequitable structures. Their design is dependent on continuous growth to generate personal wealth at the expense of human well being and the environment. With the exponential increase in resource consumption, population growth and pollution that is a consequence of continuous growth, we have reached a threshold where we are driving the planet into a perfect storm of economic, social, environmental and spiritual crisis.
The levels of inequality which we are all now experiencing are the logical outcome of such a system. An awakening global consciousness is heralding a global outcry for change which is being aided by modern communication technology such as the internet, mobile technology and social media. These tools are being used as democratizing ones for the first time, leveling the mass media playing field and allow dissenting voices to have a ready-made medium for a rapid dissemination of ideas.
The uncensored internet and social media is more than a thorn in the side of the existing power structures, which have traditionally controlled mass media to prevent widespread dissemination of ideas that it perceives as a threat. The mass protests occurring with ever greater frequency show that humanity has reached an inflection point. The meek have been given a voice and it is clear that that the masses are all singing the same chorus….we are tired of living under the tyranny of ignorance and inequality.
The social transformation that is required will not be sustainable unless there is genuine personal transformation accompanying it. Change which is based on anger, force and coercion will not last. Repressed voices will make themselves known sooner or later. The large number of human conflicts indicates that personal transformation has not yet taken effect. A society is as only as good as its citizens and ignorance which leads to self-righteousness, anger and violence at the personal level will manifest on the social level. Without the personal transformation which reveals the same sacred and divinity in each and every human being, we cannot develop the authentic compassion that will allow us to truly accept others.
We must support a shift from the old, outdated mechanistic worldview based on seeing ourselves as fundamentally separate from the environment and other living beings to a holistic one in which we are deeply interconnected. We must advocate a model of human and social development based on biological, organic and ecological principles with multiple layers of mutual cooperation to return humanity back to balance.
The interim International Organization for a Participatory Society (IOPS) was launched in 2012 with the aim of propelling activism for winning a new world. IOPS is structured as a bottom-up, international organization, based on self-managing interconnected national branches and local chapters. Currently, IOPS is in an interim stage, and by joining IOPS you become an interim member. A convention, or series of conventions, will be planned within the next year, for membership to determine the organization’s definition in more detail.
The IOPS Interim Organizational Description consists of the following key documents:
IOPS is open for anyone wishing to join who shares the goals, values and visionary commitments laid out in the organizational description.
We the signers of this open letter from Noam Chomsky, Vandana Shiva, Boaventura de sousa Santos, John Pilger, and 40 other members of the interim decision body of the new International Organization for a Participatory Society, hope that you will circulate, email, and/or republish our letter, and, even more, that you will engage in and publish commentary regarding the organization’s purpose, implications, prospects, etc.
An Open Letter to All Who Seek A New and Better World
We are members of what is called the the Interim Consultative Committee of the International Organization for a Participatory Society – or IOPS for short.
IOPS is actually an interim entity, pending a future founding convention. IOPS was convened just a few months ago and already has over 2,100 members from 85 countries and a ten language site, despite that it is barely known publicly. IOPS is currently building local chapters, which will unite to form national branches that in turn will compose an international organization.
We send this open letter to invite you to please visit the IOPS Site to examine its initial features – including especially and most importantly its Mission and Visionary and Programmatic Commitments.
The IOPS commitments emerged from a long process of discussion and debate. We believe they correspond closely to the most prevalent, advanced, and widely accessible political beliefs on which to build an organization for winning a better world.
We also hope and even believe that if you read and consider the IOPS commitments, you will likely find that they are congenial to your interests and desires and that they provide reason for great hope that IOPS can become a very important organization in the coming years.
If we had to summarize the IOPS commitments, we would note that they emphasize:
that IOPS focuses on cultural, kinship, political, economic, international, and ecological aims without a priori prioritizing any of these over the rest;
that IOPS advocates and elaborates key aspects of vision for a sustainable and peaceful world without sexism, heterosexism, racism, classism, and authoritarianism and with equity, justice, solidarity, diversity, and, in particular, self-management for all people
and that IOPS structurally and programmatically emphasizes planting the seeds of the future in the present, winning immediate gains on behalf of suffering constituencies in ways contributing to winning its long term aims as well, developing a caring and nurturing organization and movement, and welcoming and even fostering constructive dissent and diversity within that organization and movement and based on its commitments.
We think hundreds of thousands of people, in fact, millions of people, will, on reading the commitments, overwhelmingly agree with them. We hope that if you look at the commitments and feel that way, you will join and advocate that others join as well. If you instead have problems with the IOPS commitments, we hope you will make your concerns known so a productive discussion can ensue.
On the other hand, we also understand that agreeing with the IOPS commitments will not alone cause those same hundreds of thousands and even millions of people to join IOPS. There are numerous reasons why a person might support the IOPS commitments and even hope that IOPS grows and becomes strong and effective at the grassroots, in every neighborhood, workplace, and social movement, and yet, at the moment, not join. Our best effort to summarize obstacles people may feel to joining even while they like the IOPS commitments, and to address those obstacles also appears on the IOPS site, in a Why Join IOPS Question and Answer format. Essentially we argue: If not now, when? If not us, who?
Asked to provide a succinct summary paragraph for the IOPS site about his involvement, Noam Chomsky wrote: “Hardly a day goes by when we do not hear appeals – often laments – from people deeply concerned about the travails of human existence and the fate of the world, desperately eager to do something about what they rightly perceive to be intolerable and ominous, feeling helpless because each individual effort, however dedicated, seems to merely chip away at a mountain, placing band-aids on a cancer, never reaching to the sources of needless suffering and the threats of much worse. It’s an understandable reaction that all too often leads to despair and resignation. We all know the only answer, driven home by experience and history, and by simple reflection on the realities of the world: join together to construct and clarify long-term visions and goals, along with direct engagement and activism shaped by these guidelines and contributing to a deepening of our understanding of what we hope to achieve… IOPS strikes the right chords, and if the opportunities it opens are pursued with sufficient energy and participation, diligence, modesty, and desire, it could carry us a long way towards unifying the many initiatives here and around the world and combining them into a powerful and effective force.”
And as Cynthia Peters wrote: “You hear it all the time. There is always another urgent crisis. They don’t just come in a steady stream, they seem to multiply geometrically. More draconian policies with life-threatening consequences, more corporate control, more prisons, more bombs, more funerals. With so many immediate fires to put out in our day-to-day organizing work, how can we make time to attend to larger issues, such as long-term strategy, vision, and movement building? IOPS creates the space for us to do the essential work of movement building and envisioning and then seeking a better world. Without these elements, we’ll continue to work in isolation. By enlivening and enriching IOPS with your presence, you will both give solidarity to and receive solidarity from so many others — across the world — in the same situation — up to their necks in the daily fight, and at the same time turning their creativity and energy towards revolutionary social change. That is not just good company. It’s the solid beginnings of another world being possible.”
We hope you will join us as we try to make it so.
M Adams – U.S.
Michael Albert – U.S.
Jessica Azulay – U.S.
Elaine Bernard – U.S.
Patrick Bond – South Africa
Noam Chomsky – U.S.
Jason Chrysostomou – UK
John Cronan – U.S.
Ben Dangl – U.S.
Denitsa Dimitrova – UK/Bulgaria
Ann Ferguson – U.S.
Eva Golinger – Venezuela
Andrej Grubacic – Balkans/U.S.
Pervez Hoodbhoy – Pakistan
Antti Jauhiainen – Finland
Ria Julien – U.S./Trinidad
Dimitris Konstanstinou – Greece
Pat Korte – U.S.
Yohan Le Guin – Wales
Mandisi Majavu – South Africa
David Marty – Spain
Preeti Paul – UK/India
Cynthia Peters – U.S.
John Pilger – UK/Aus
Justin Podur – Canada
Nikos Raptis – Greece
Paulo Rodriguez – Belgium
Charlotte Sáenz – Mexico/U.S.
Anders Sandstrom – Sweden
Boaventura de sousa Santos – Portugal
Stephen Shalom – U.S.
Vandana Shiva – India
Chris Spannos – U.S.
Verena Stresing – France/Germany
Elliot Tarver – U.S.
Fernando Ramn Vegas Torrealba – Venezuela
Taylon Tosun – Turkey
Marie Trigona – U.S.
Greg Wilpert – Germany/Venezuela/U.S.
Florian Zollman – Germany
From Dictatorship to Democracy – A Conceptual Framework for Revolution
Dictatorships are never as strong as they think they are, and people are never as weak as they think they are.
- Gene Sharp
Gene Sharp at his home office, the Albert Einstein Institute