The basic values of a consumer society addicted to materialism have to do primarily with immediate self-gratification. There are few, if any, viable values related to strengthening the spirit of community and cooperatively enhancing the social economy, because both have been virtually eliminated in the overdeveloped industrial world by the influences and growth of corporations.

Their dismembering of communities and their obliteration of the family farming nexus of rural America have been aided by state and federal governments and by land grant colleges under the State University system - all in the name of progress and efficiency. But in actuality the destruction has meant economic growth and industrial expansion for monopolistic corporations that have grown to be multinational at great public expense and cost to the environment. Their hegemony is such that they have no allegiance with any particular country, or responsibility for the costs of environmental cleanups and restoration, or for helping deal with the disruptive wake of corporate progress resulting in fragmented communities, unemployment, alienation, depression, violence, crime, dysfunctional families and homelessness.

The costs of corporate progress are paid for by the public, while the benefits accrue to an elite few. John B. Judis notes: The rise of large corporations in the late 19th century led to the creation of a distant managerial elite, on the one hand, and the permanent group of wage-laborers, on the other hand. In the last three decades, the globalization of capital has removed the most basic economic questions not only from the purview of ordinary citizens, but from national governments and created (particularly in the United States) a new internationalist elite that owes its primary allegiance to global capitalism. (The new sensibility was wonderfully captured in a 1989 statement from Gilbert Williamson, president of the NCR Corporation: 'I was asked the other day about United States competitiveness, and I replied that I don't think about it at all. We at NCR think of ourselves as a globally competitive company that happens to be headquartered in the United States.')

The multinational or supranational corporate world and its global market economy are not viable in the long-term because they are so destructive of cultural diversity, communities, and the social economy on one hand, and of biological diversity, natural resources, ecosystems, and nature's economy on the other. Global capitalism has established a rigid, unstable hierarchical structure which must be inverted in order to restore communities and their social economy, to prevent and alleviate present and future human suffering, to stem the irretrievable loss of indigenous and cultural diversity, and to ensure no further environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity.

More laws and regulations, fines, and taxes (like "polluter pays") won't work. What is needed to accomplish these just ends is a complete inversion of the dysfunctional hierarchy of global capitalism. The necessary ideological and structural changes that society needs to make in order to re-establish a sustainable, socially just, and equitable economy, and a viable future are as fundamental as they are profound.

They are relational and ethical, and they are based on what I would call the ecopolitics of bioethics. It is from this theoretical framework that a cooperative global biocracy of interdependent communities will come to replace the dysfunctional world of global capitalism in the regions where there are adequate human and natural resources to do so: a globe of villages, rather than global village, wherein we think locally and act globally.

The steps toward establishing an alternative, post-industrial, new world holarchy are neither impossible nor unrealistic. They have been clearly identified on the basis of the criteria necessary for ensuring sustainable livelihoods.

The pundits of global economism are still touting the false hope of economic development leading to participation in the world market as the way out of poverty and the way toward security that all people deserve. Yet this hope is false because the very economic system that helped push people into unemployment and poverty is now offering to same them, and all to what end? Economist David Korten has documented with great lucidity why the public should not trust these powers and should instead reclaim their political power and re-establish localized economies. He summarizes his position as follows:

The global economy has become like a malignant cancer, advancing the colonization of the planet's living spaces for the benefit of powerful corporations and financial institutions. It has turned these once useful institutions into instruments of a market tyranny that are destroying livelihoods, displacing people, and feeding on life in an insatiable quest for money. It forces us all to act in ways destructive of ourselves, our families, our communities, and nature. Human survival depends on a community-based, people-centered alternative beyond the failed extremist ideologies of communism and capitalism. This alternative is already being created through the initiatives of millions of people around the world who are taking back control of their lives and communities to create places where people can live and grow in balance with the living earth.

I would prefer the term Creation- or Earth-centered rather than people-centered alternative, so that we do not forget our responsibilities toward Nature and other sentient beings. A Creation- or Earth-centered alternative to global economism is essential, I believe, because it helps reconnect us in a covenanting and hallowing way with the life community. Our ultimate security most surely lies in protecting Nature for Nature's sake, and in respecting the intrinsic value of all living beings. "Only that which is sacred," to quote Thomas Berry, "is secure." Reverence for life, rather than for money, must be the organizing principle of society. Economic growth must be based on ecopolitical justice, corporate autonomy must become on local autonomy, and community must include all life.

Our place in creation is surely not to vanquish the Earth but to dress and to keep it. The ethical sensibility that arises from the spiritual insight of our kinship with all life guides us to make enlightened choices that cause the least harm to other living beings and to the functional integrity of the biosphere. And in the process of facilitating our own self-determination, we find that the path of nonviolence includes social justice and eco-justice, as well as a democratic respect for fellow earthlings, human and nonhuman alike.

The most spiritual of all human industry is the life of service, individually, and collectively, as we endeavor to realize the full potentialities of being human by living closer to the ideal of respect and reverence for all life.

(Reprint, Acres USA, Spring 1996. Article by Michael W. Fox, Vice-President of Farm Animals and Bioethics, The Humane Society of the United States, 2100 L Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20037.)

Copyright © 1996. The Light Party.

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