Only new ways of acting can solve the old problems.
When did you first hear the phrase "the impossible becomes the inevitable"? Maybe you've never heard it, but try it now.
When I first watched Barack Obama's original campaign unfold I had doubts. I felt that of the two breakthrough offers on the table -- first woman or first black POTUS -- President Hillary Clinton was easier to imagine -- she had the networks, the Clinton attraction, the history. I was wrong on every count.
But even that event was not the kind of impossible the phrase asks you to entertain. We would need to go back to the days of Abraham Lincoln to sense what impossible felt like, for young black community organizers daring to dream of the White House. Or the beginning of the last century to conjure up the impossibility of women getting the vote, or Africa overcoming apartheid.
What counts as impossible now is depressingly familiar to long-term activists for equality, fairness, justice: how can we get wealth distribution in the face of the one percent who own more than 50 percent of the world's wealth; equality in the face of continuing gender, color and class hierarchy; global justice in the face of a climate settlement that rarely moves beyond punishing the poorest nations.
But if the Occupy movement had a singular success in the early days of the 21C it was to capture the absurdity of the imbalance of global economic powers within a slogan that made it inevitable that we would overcome it: what is We Are the 99%, if not a simple wake up call to the numerical inevitability of change? And indeed, as Neal Lawson and I described in New Times now that we are beginning to unleash the effects of global peer-to-peer interconnectivity through the Internet, facilitating collaboration and co-creation on a scale never permitted by the elites, new solutions to old problems are appearing. Towns and communities are bypassing major energy monopolies to create alternative greener options.
Even so, in the mainstream media, those who talk up the coming changes are dismissed as idealists: maybe because, as Einstein warned against, those journalists are using the same thinking to judge the new initiatives and cannot find what they are looking for as measurable gain. The recent hammering given to the Green Party's foray into Basic Income for example, failed to recognize that full employment is no longer the golden grail for those who have suffered for generations in low-paid menial jobs: having time to explore life without the threat of homelessness may be preferable.
Going back to Obama, I first unknowingly joined the trail for that victory in 2000 when sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson published their findings on a new constituency they named the "cultural creatives". According to their years of research, measuring values across the U.S., there were 50 million people not being adequately represented by either of the political parties, did not fit easily into the U.S. Left/Right divide yet shared a lot of the goals and characteristics of the European left. When this constituency began to share their political aspirations with the young and African Americans, Obama's path to the White House began to clear.
Similarly, what we have been witnessing across the world in the form of uprisings, starting possibly with the new constituency that arose to elect Obama, followed by the Arab Springs, the success of Occupy and more recently the birth of new political movements in Europe such as Syriza, Podemos, Yes in Scotland and Alternativet in Denmark are not simply a loud shout for single issues -- which is why UKIP is not amongst them. These are people who bring with them new practices, new social values, new forms of organizing and a plethora of new ideas about how in reality their new world can be manifested.
They are not strictly speaking the cultural creatives, but their successors, drawing on an even broader community of people who share those values but have now had 10 years of exploring and adapting them in a post-9/11, post-global economic crash, massively connected transnational world. These people speak not only with the confidence of those who know the world is watching, but also with the clarity of those who can see the bankruptcy of the old systems that cannot deliver for the majority. Yes the new local and global entrepreneurs, but also the dispossessed of Egypt, Greece, Spain and the disillusioned of countries who have yet to hit the barriers -- Russell Brand's disaffected UK majority -- now beginning to turn imaginative, collaborative and expectant. It's as if urgency has met creativity and a new future is being born.
There's a chance to meet an extraordinary cross-section of this crowd at Compass' second Change-How event on Sunday 8th Feb. Not only have they managed to pull off the first global gathering of peoples' parties -- Denmark's Alternativet, Sweden's Pirate Party, Poland's Urban movement, Spain's Podemos, Greece's Syriza -- but huge swathes of new-world builders, 100 speakers in conversation with 500 of the engaged. From Bob and Roberta Smith of the Art Party to Simon Anholt of the Good Country Party. Malcolm Tarry on the Citizens Income to Charlotte Millar from the Finance Innovation Lab. Sam Joseph of the Real Food Junk Project to Vinay Gupta designer of the life saving Hexayurt. I can't do the list justice in a blog -- check out the site yourself.
What each of the speakers have been asked to do is not sell you an idea in that old transactional relationship between salesman and customer: but to share the story of the idea with you, how it entered into their lives and transformed them. Maybe then the listener can hear what drives that person, their values, their hopes and dreams, their way of being in the world and connect with them, whether they completely buy the idea or not. If Change-How is a question, then the answer has to be through people inspiring each other to take responsibility for the problems we face and committing to acting creatively, each in our own field, yet together.
It's a long way from the current political culture that doorsteps potential voters, hoping they will become supplicants to Westminster for change. Where the best promises still only offer more of the same low-wage enslaved, relationship deprived, mentally challenged society we have come to accept as the norm.
Spend some time with the purveyors of the impossible, and maybe you too will feel their vision of change -- based as it is on human and social potential -- is, after all, inevitable.