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We need to get together and canonize a set of values (that are aligned with goodness) we believe are the universal way forward. There should be a process to ratify them around the world and have them be the holy foundation upon which each culture can create their own stories. In other words, a peace pack of good intent.

What would that look like? Let’s use our imaginations and fast forward to a possible future. Obviously timing of the creation and ratification would be centrally managed, and there would be central guidance on how to do it. We want to avoid creating another hierarchical organization, of course. Execution is naturally de-centralized, starting probably with house groups all around the country (and the world). Outcomes would need to be clearly defined, and there would be a certification process because the values selected would become binding in some way, and normative. A federated set of web sites can help communicate these values to other groups around the world so we all can learn from each other.

The stories that flow from these value sets can and will vary tremendously in content and quality. Regional clusters of cultural traditions will spring up, depending on the local talent, written and visual traditions, etc. Cultural exchanges will happen across communities on a new set of Holidays established for this purpose. There will be a cadence to the year, and even an alignment of sub-set of values and/or themes for the cultural productions depending on the calendar. Thanksgiving, the various solstices, etc. Real heroes will be praised based upon the values they espouse and consciously be made into archetypes for countless stories. As a normal unfolding of mythology, the actual and the fictional will blend into each other. This will not be seen as ‘lying’, i.e. distorting the truth, by others who have different stories. At the same time we want to influence the creation of each other’s value sets in a comparative dialog, so that we can still cohere as a country. Otherwise, some groups would devolve into a hedonistic, sadistic and/or cultic negative spiral of hate. On the contrary, to guarantee a positive spiral of the imagination, those who participate must adhere to the First Principle, i.e. an aspiration toward the good god.

It all starts with value awareness. The only way to want to change is if we see the need for each of us to change individually. And especially those on Wall Street who are driven by cynicism, indifference and greed. They, like the rest of us, need to understand and acknowledge what they believe in. Then they need to see the logical consequences of their decisions. Is top thinking always corrupt? Does absolute power always have to result in absolute corruption? It can’t, or we’re doomed as a civilization and a race. Why did George Washington and the founding fathers accept slavery and South America’s liberator, Simon Bolivar, did not?

Ultimately the self-regulated values-based approach espoused here only makes sense if there is enough to go around for all, and enough room for everyone. Our American Constitution gave protects our right to self-regulation but gives us tools for choosing the direction of our decisions. If planet earth becomes like a lifeboat, i.e. some have to get left behind, then survival does become an exercise in values all right – in favor of those values that ‘preserve the race’ (even if some number of individuals are lost); more likely it will boil down to influence and blood lines rather than skills, abilities or a pristine genetic pool as the criteria for selection. The whole dynamics of myth will be invoked for evil, as it was by Hitler’s propaganda machine. The masses will be programmed to accept their fate for ‘the good of all’, to sacrifice ‘for the homeland’ (or some such story).

Luckily we’re not there yet; at the same time, it’s too easy to imagine that scenario, as is evidenced by recent movies like 2012. It might be another 40-70 years before The Preservation of the Few becomes the primal imperative to sustain civilization, probably after we’ve severely depleted the natural resources of the planet. By the way, don’t get your hopes up about manned missions to space colonies on earth-like planets. We’re not anywhere near being able to colonize any rock in the sun to the scale that it would make an ultimate difference. Earth might end up being just another scorched rock in the sun at the rate we’re going. Anyway, the planet is big enough to sustain us well into the future, if and only if we make the right choices.

How do we make this shift to truly sustainable living? How do we shift the thinking of the rich if not the masses? Can you have a propaganda machine that brain washes the powerful? Isn’t that an oxymoron? It is contradictory if the rich necessarily are on the side of exploitation and selfish preservation. Would it take an act of coercion to change them? Isn’t that how the French aristocracy finally turned (or lost) their heads in favor of democracy? Isn’t revolution and blood-letting the hard earned wisdom of history if you want to change who’s in charge? Maybe. But doesn’t history also teach us that one of the next generations will end up being as bad or worse? How do you permanently change the thinking at the top?

Perhaps a little water-boarding torture will help. Doesn’t that change the decisions of torture victims? Maybe. But does it really change their world view? How do you change someone’s world view without destroying their person as torture does? It took a civil war in America to eventually change the South’s thinking about slavery. That was a lot of blood-letting. What happened in the losers’ mind set in the conversion-by-torture scenario? A voluntary change of will is always better than coercion. We have to understand the psychology of defeat. We have to splice out the violence and replace it with a positive realization. We need a more positive analogy for a change of mind. What happens when a person is willingly ‘sold out’? How does one give up old values and at the same time manage the destruction of former behavior associated with their core sense of being?

How about religious conversion? I was converted to Evangelical Christianity in the distant past. Then I shifted my worldview again, the second time by myself, towards a belief in the power of community mythology. It may be that my first worldview shift at conversion, which was an assisted one, enabled me to shift it again on my own.

My first conversion was leveraged with no small amount of passive threat. The ‘Four Spiritual Laws’ preached to me indicated that: 1) God created all things and created them good; 2) Sin corrupted all things; 3) Christ died to redeem all things, and; 4) therefore I’d better accept Christ (or be corrupt and suitable for Hell). It was a loving humiliation, which unlike torture, co-opted my will without physical pain. The mental logic at conversion, once you accept the premises, is to accept the need for change. This proves, to me at least, that we are capable of willful change that goes against our programming. If I can convert, why can’t a Wall Street baron?

Even though my worldview was destroyed, unlike torture or gunpoint, my personhood and sense of self-worth was not. This is partly because I was not humiliated by a fellow human. At least I thought it I was humbling myself before God. Of course, His proxy the church was standing right there between us facilitating the whole transaction, making me feel good about the decision. Which would explain why I was subsequently inducted into the rank of church missionaries. In any case, religious conversion is an example of a person changing deeply held convictions and behavior patterns over time voluntarily. Immediate change of all behaviors was not required, which helped soften the blow. Thus with hindsight, humility and grace take on new meaning.

In any event, my second conversion was voluntary and self-directed. It required no small amount of separation from the old. The dynamics of self-directed conversion are absolutely critical for us to understand if we are to succeed in non-violent change. Stay tuned. . .

— Roy Zuniga
Kirkland, WA
April 2013

Copyright 2013 Roy Zuniga