3 reasons for blessed unrest

October 3, 2007 § Leave a comment

I’ve been sideways referencing Paul Hawken‘s Blessed Unrest in every blog posting, presentation and conversation I’ve had for the last month. However, I haven’t really said anything specific on this page about ‘why this is such a great book’. Here are three reasons:

1. Humanity’s immune system. The subtitle of Blessed Unrest is: How the Largest Movement In the World Came Into Being, and Why No One Saw it Coming. Hawken points out that, despite the waning of the left (a silly obsession of mine), we’ve never had more active progressive political voices on this planet than we do right now. He goes on to argue that the hundreds of thousands of loosely connected environmental and social justice groups (very broadly cast) around the world are actaally a much more powerful and compelling force than the rigid ideology, leader based social movements of the past. In Hawken’s words, this meta movement is emerging as humanity’s immune system, and is one of our only hopes for survival.

2. Connectedness. In the book, Hawken says that this movement “…does not depend on its firepower but rather on the quality of its connectedness.” For me, this is at the core of why we don’t yet *see* the face of these new social movements in political partnership. They are not about winning, they about connecting, growing, enveloping … taking over gently and deeply. If this is right, we need start thinking about about transformative ecosystems, not about political parties. We aren’t good at thinking this way yet.

3. Small (and unknown) is beautiful. Amidst a backdrop of Western social movement history (mostly the environmental and civil right movements), Hawken tells a number of stories about how small acts triggered big changes in social movement leaders. He talks of the unknown Canadian publisher who renamed Thoreau‘s writing to have the title Civil Disobedience. About the Durban lawyer who shared Civil Disobedience with Ghandi in a moment of despair. And about the community organizer who shared Ghandi’s autobiography with Martin Luther King at a time that he was subtley leaning towards violence. Hawken’s point: we have never heard of any of the people behind these acts. Most real change in the world flow from people we have never heard of. We are these people. And we are more connected than ever before in human history.

I don’t know if it just me, but these are messages that I needed right now. Or, maybe more correctly, they are things that I am already feeling, and it is enlivening to read them in print.

The best news for me in this moment: Hawken has given me another hook in my current musings on the broader meaning of ‘open’. More on this in the next post.

PS. If you don’t have time to read Blessed Unrest, you should listen to this podcast lecture from Hawken’s recent book tour.

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