Building a New World

My participation in the World Prout Assembly’s (WPA) first Building a New World conference in Radford, VA really started the night before the conference started, on the evening of Wednesday, May 24, at the annual banquet of the Appalachian Peace Education Center (APEC) where I met Kathy Kelly, our keynote speaker and founder of Voices for Creative NonViolence. This Irish-American peace activist has been an income tax resister for over 25 years and has been found in some of the world’s most troubled places engaging in nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience for over 15 years. I thought I was volunteering as her chauffeur; we ended up as travel companions. We both took inspiration from Maura Ubinger’s acceptance speech for the APEC Peacebuilder of the Year award in which she stressed the importance of inner transformation for peace activists, especially in accepting our “shadow side” and finding the gift it brings.

The conference was both inspiring and troubling. On the one hand, I can see that it is time to dismiss that internal censor that doesn’t allow me to say certain things in certain company. Even ideas I thought were radical based on feedback I’ve received from friends and family are shared by many others. On the other hand, I encountered the same exclusivity within these forces for change that characterizes the forces opposed to change. And I can see that the same is true even of me; while my intent is to connect across differences, there are elements of this force for social change that I find myself unwilling to accept. For example, while I can have compassionate understanding and empathy for the extremes to which people under duress are driven, neither Kathy nor I are willing to condone the use of violence even in self-defense – a theme that came up repeatedly during the conference.

At some level, I realized from my research prior to the conference that the Prout model was grounded in economic theory. Based on the titles of the panels, papers, and workshops, I guess I hoped that economic theory had caught up with the socio-cultural cutting edge. Certainly, there has been enormous progress in the insistence that all productive work has equal value. However, I really don’t want to become a clock-watcher, I don’t see how guaranteed purchasing power addresses rampant consumerism, and the notion of limited resources as a standard for value is still firmly entrenched.

I prompted quite a bit of outrage when I used the expression “intrinsic value” and objected to the liberal notion that the industrialized world is robbing the developing world of its precious resources. I stated that I don’t accept gold and oil as standards for value because I can’t eat it, drink it, wear it, live in it, or make love to it. I require a standard for value that is unlimited because I believe in a gift economy where people “share what they have and take what they need” – a standard based on human resources. Now that I look more closely at the topics in the left sidebar of the World Prout Assembly website, I notice that, while there is a Barter topic, there is no listing for gift economy.

Food Not Bombs is one example of gift economy that had a significant presence at the conference – most notably when it turned out that nobody had coordinated the conference schedule with the food service operating hours, and Food Not Bombs served a breakfast of muffins and fruit at their Saturday morning presentation. Founder Keith McHenry loves the idea of a Kudzu Kitchen, and he reports that the Charleston, SC chapter has grown tenfold since I lived there! I want to try to start up a chapter somewhere in the Tri-Cities, but I’m not going to do it alone; I want some help in finding a willing church with a suitable kitchen, and a team of youngsters to do the foraging.

I’m delighted to report that Food Not Bombs has a global presence and has diversified to include such endeavors as Food Not Lawns to promote efficient land use and Homes Not Jails to give shelter to the homeless. They are partnering with Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, and others to host a World Peace Conference in Taos, NM at the end of next May. I plan to submit a proposal for an NVC/sociocracy workshop, but first I want to learn the distinguishing characteristics of their decision-making model. I also want to acquire their book On Conflict and Consensus: A Handbook for Formal Consensus.

Another proposal I’ll begin writing tomorrow is for a symposium at VA Tech on Enhancing Resilience to Catastrophic Events through Communicative Planning to be held November 16-18. I see this as a way to bring NVC/sociocracy to the Norris Hall Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention. They want a 300-word abstract by the end of this week.

I attended a panel on the Federation of Earth, an attempt to institute a Constitutional form of governance that follows the Declaration of Human Rights. I found out that Radford, VA is the North American Division office of the World Constitution and Parliament Association. The Constitution is 29 pages long and includes provisions for its ratification and amendment. I questioned both of these.

I don’t want to have to wait until the federal government is persuaded to ratify before I request the support of the world community when I am accused of treason! No problem, they say; I can sign on as an individual, and my town, my watershed, my state can ratify even if my nation-state refuses.

I want a Constitution that self-corrects periodically rather than accumulating amendments ad nauseum until another traitor manages to convene a constitutional convention. This problem is pre-empted with a provision that calls for a revision every ten years in addition to a means for amendment. So I might actually see my dream come true of a charter that’s simple enough to teach to a middle school civics class in one six-week unit!

The Earth Federation would consist of a tri-cameral Parliament with a House of Peoples that is directly elected, a House of Nations that is elected (or appointed) by national governments, and a House of Counselors that is nominated by Universities and elected by the other two houses. The Houses of Peoples and Nations are like our legislature with the House of Counselors having the authority to vote in cases of deadlock.

At the next level of organization, the House of Counselors nominates the several benches of the Judiciary, the five-member Executive Presidium, the 20 regional attorneys in charge of the (non-military) prosecution or Enforcement branch, and the five attorneys in charge of the 20 people’s advocates of the World Ombudsen. These positions are elected by the other two Houses of the Parliament. Finally, the Presidium nominates members of the Executive Cabinet and various Ministries and Commissions which are elected by all three Houses of Parliament.

There is even a Pledge of Allegiance – not to a flag, but to the Federation of Earth itself:

I pledge allegiance to the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, and to the Republic of free world citizens for which it stands,
One Earth Federation, protecting by law the rich diversity of the Earth’s citizens,
One Earth Federation, protecting the precious ecology of our planet.
I pledge allegiance to the World Parliament representing all nations and peoples, and to the democratic processes by which it proceeds,
One law for the earth, with freedom and equality for all,
One standard of justice, with a bill of rights protecting each.
I pledge allegiance to the future generations protected by the Earth Constitution, and to the unity, integrity, and beauty of humankind, living in harmony on the Earth,
One Earth Federation, conceived in love, truth, and hope, with peace and prosperity for all.

It’s still pretty awkward, and if I were to edit it, I would take out some of the redundancy, but I can live with it. The pledge requires my loyalty to a Constitution that protects people and the environment, to a Parliament that guarantees democratic process, and to humanity’s future. I especially like the last line about a “Federation conceived in love, truth, and hope, with peace and prosperity for all.” Compare that to “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Overall, I thought my contributions were well received at the conference. Even though I had only three people at my workshop, several people were familiar with Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication and mentioned it in other contexts, especially whenever the conversation turned to consciousness shift. When I saw that there were easily 15 different offerings in every time slot of which four were “featured” panel discussions with big-name people on them, I wasn’t expecting much attendance.

I was surprised to have at least a dozen at the Climate Change and the Water Crisis panel since it was in the same time slot as the Victims of Oppression panel on which Cindy Sheehan made her first appearance. Unfortunately, the keynote for that panel spoke for a solid hour, so the rest of us didn’t get much airtime. I didn’t even get around to presenting my watershed research and the 17 “states” of the North American continent. However, in informal conversations, I learned that even this is not a new idea. I was criticized for calling the difference between water regions and bioregions a semantic concern – “It’s not semantics; it’s science!” – so I’ve got some research to do on that. I was even more surprised to have such good attendance at the Sustainable Communities panel that followed because Cindy Sheehan was giving her keynote on Revolution in that same time slot.

The final brainstorm was conducted like an open mike with each of us limited to one or two minutes. My call for attention to our language as a determinant of our thinking was received with enthusiasm, especially the piece about the ethnocentrism of calling ourselves Americans when we are only one part of the continent(s). I brought in the business about “the United States is…” versus “the United States are...” and asked that people use the latter in order to remind ourselves that our government has authority only by the consent of the governed, and we are therefore entitled to withdraw our consent.

Then, after putting secession on the table, the enthusiastic applause changed to voices of outrage when I mentioned that the secession movement is a coalition of groups with very different ideologies. Are these people not serious enough about dismantling the federal government to cooperate on a common project with those they consider racist, sexist, or isolationist? Or is it that they are so insecure about their grounding in their own values that they are afraid to be corrupted by those whose values are not in harmony with their own?

This is deeply troubling to me. While ideological compatibility offers affirmation, I do not depend on the agreement of others for the validation of my beliefs. In addition to the loss of creativity and the hypocrisy that comes with a failure to embrace not only ethnic diversity but also diversity in ideology, refusal to accept ideological differences validates the Orwellian notion of thought crime. "Judge me not by my beliefs but by my actions." On a deeper level, if I try hard enough, I can always find something about another individual that is not in harmony with my values; therefore, since I believe in the uniqueness of the individual, I’m quite sure I would end up working in isolation if I allow ideological compatibility to be a criterion for alliance.

Perhaps you can tell that I’m still working on digesting all that I took in – and this blog entry doesn’t even address personal connections! If you find a particular item that inspires or provokes you, please take it to a new thread and let’s hash it out!


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Meet in Boston

Hello Susan,

Yes, it would be wonderful to meet with you in August! We have much to share. I would love to compare our spiritual paths, its interaction with reality, and how diversity makes the world special.

I look forward to your call.

Peace and Love,

With full-body chills...

...and a lump in my throat, I promise that I will investigate the movement you describe and respond to you in more detail. For now, I have a point I'd like you to ponder and a request for you to consider.

I'm not calling for a unified movement. On the contrary, I am calling on my inner resources to stretch and encompass diversity and beyond - conflict, chaos. I am asking myself to put my head together with racists, junk food junkies, libertarians - all kinds of people that violate my most cherished values.

When I saw your MA address and checked the google map, I was moved to ask for a meeting later this summer to explore our potential for collaboration. I'll be spending a week in metro Boston in mid-August, and I'm hoping to connect with a couple of other major contributors to this movement. Interested? I'll contact you directly within the week.


Women and Nonviolence

Dear Susan,

I enjoyed your blog entry “Building a New World.” The positions you discussed are very progressive and intriguing. You wrote at the end that you wanted feedback to hash out some ideas.

The overall picture I received from your entry was a desire for unity. The second element was a need for a new political system. The third was the inclusion of spirituality and nonviolence. You finalized by stating you are still contemplating all these elements. For me, all the good work that is being done is not changing the core of the problems and if a major altercation happens in the world, people are not prepared to react nonviolently. Perhaps, a catalyst is required – something outside of the box, that will illustrate a new course of action and captures the world’s attention.

I would like to propose an initiative that gives meets the above criteria and gives credibility to the women’s agenda. The initiative itself would be the empowerment of women, specifically focused on peace and nonviolence. The initiative addresses unity, politics, spirituality and nonviolence.

Unity and Politics

On May 19th, in an AlterNet article Kathambi Kinoti, of AWID, wrote the following about a Srilatha Batliwala paper, “The challenge is in creating an overarching and shared political agenda so that on at least some set of issues feminist movements are speaking with a unified voice.”

The world is not focusing on the women’s agenda. What the world doesn’t realize is that the women’s agenda is not for themselves, but for others. Throughout time, it has been “for the children.” Herein lies the answer – a shared political agenda. The hypothesis is that if the world, women and men, mandates work for the children, a commonality, it would solve other problems. Are women able to direct the focus of society to prioritize working for the children? The end result, the goal, is elusive and subjective, but the road is what is important. The effort would be led by women, but not exclusive to women. Does the effort by women exemplify equality?

A mobilization of women around the world, for the children, would create unity. The unity would enable new political entities, such as the Earth Federation, you alerted me to. It sounds like a wonderful comprehensive plan. There are many supportive, visionary initiatives. Ex: Citizens Without Borders, Sophia Circles, Tikun, and the Open Society

What they don’t have is political clout! Part of the theory is that a people movement is required. Howard Zinn, author and activist, stated he would only follow a people movement. The director of the Boston Research Center, Virginia Benson, told me a study confirmed that for the U.N. to be more effective, it needs to be empowered by a people movement.

What will stimulate a people’s movement? Will women take on the role of peacemakers and change the world? On the Earth Federation website, I read the Manifesto, By Dr. Glen T. Martin. Part Eight, where do we go from here?, stated, “If many citizens of the Earth were to stand up on behalf of a decent world order at this crossroads of history, a world of sanity, peace, and prosperity would be just around the corner.” A catalyst is required to have the people stand up together.

Martin Luther King stated, in the Riverside Church speech, “Beyond Vietnam”, April 4th, 1967, “Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.”

Spirituality and Nonviolence

The next major element is nonviolence. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.”

What if women and nonviolence are promoted as the catalyst? There are exceptions to every rule, but women are socialized to be less violent than men, therefore must have an advantage as promoters of peace.

Nonviolence works! The sages told us it works. How do we use it in the modern era?

What if a plan states it is time for “Nonviolence” to be the doctrine of all societies and countries. It is time for women to rise up, proactively, around the world, in every village, town and city to stop war, as a symbol of nonviolence, to “illustrate” unity, and to set in motion the development of a new political system of gender equality.

My theory is we, the people, have to DISPLAY nonviolence overtly. We, the people, must CREATE A MANDATE (political).

First peace within: By illustrating nonviolence, people will exhibit inner peace. It will be empowering. I agree with Maura Ubinger, people must find inner peace. Mother Theresa stated, “Peace begins with a smile.” There are thousands of spiritual and religious organizations that already support nonviolence. Would they support a women’s movement?

Proclaim nonviolence and NO violence for defense. (As you and Kathy Kelly agree) (I met Kathy and Cindy Sheehan two weeks before Cindy became famous. They were speaking at a Cape Cod Peace organization rally. I receive VCNV emails)

This all leads to STOPPING WAR and or preventing war. Therefore, we start by stating we will not allow war anymore. Women will be taking a proactive stance, based on kindness, compassion, forgiveness, with no violence associated! The plan is to create an achievement to set in motion equality and understanding in the future. The political elements will follow.

There are risks. Millions die in war. Nonviolence is the resolve. Both are dangerous, but what will affect opinions and societies in the future more?

All groups are attempting to enlist followers and be as large as possible. The plan is to be the largest, spiritual, nonviolent movement the world has ever seen.

Over the past six years, I have developed a plan called for a Global Strategy of Nonviolence, For the Children (GS of NV) and an initiative called a “Call to Women, a World-Wide Unity Campaign.” It is a people movement – an Action Plan and an Awareness Campaign. A Call to Women will be the catalyst. It is designed to create change, not wait for it. Conferences are imperative but there also is a need for action. Many state they are action plans, but do not create political clout. Please see my website, (Still in development)

I’m writing to request your collaboration. I have the research, theories, and plans. The plans are designed as guidelines and include administration, funding, marketing, implementation, and follow-up. Plans include the enlistment of leaders and advisors.

I’m a Johnny Appleseed, a facilitator. The plan is designed as steps to change the political focus of the world (priorities “for the children”), address the obstacles of the male ensconced corporate, economic, military mind set – a Behemoth, via nonviolent conflict resolution, and empower women around the world to mobilize for change.

In conclusion, according to Riane Eisler, in the Chalice and the Blade, people have the intellect to change from a male dominated society to a partnership society (cultural transformation theory). I am dedicated to this premise.

James Carroll, columnist at the Boston Globe, June 9, 2008 wrote there is an “atmosphere of a civilization rooted in male supremacy.” The “…structure of oppression will not easily be dismantled.” Men “should want help in leaving it behind.”

Recently, at the United Nations conference, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) there was prolific evidence that women are not listened to. Despite incredible programs by NGO’s, women’s situations are getting worse instead of getting better. Reports of violence against women throughout the world abound. Each day our world is becoming more violent and going in the wrong direction. The world needs a counter balance, a movement for world-wide unity and nonviolence, giving credence to the moderate voice and showing mutual respect.

Socialization is the basic answer but obstacles and problems exist. The plan is idealistic, but the world needs action and idealism. Let’s create an ideal! Create curiosity. Create an appeal. Create an opportunity.

In preparation for after the election year, please work with me on this people movement to influence the new government and every government.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Andre Sheldon
Newton, MA

Sister Joan Chittister stated, from a speech at the Omega/VDay Conference in New York City, September 11, 2004:

“there must be a universal call to women and an organized international voice for peace.”

“The lives of our children, the protection of millions, the hopes of all humankind, wait again now for women, from opposite cultures, opposite tradition, to step over the line of political hatred to save them.”

“…must take a voice until they are given a voice.”

To paraphrase Sister Chittister: Women must be in the forefront because being first brings “courage and hope to others”.

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