The New Paradigm of Democracy – Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

“As a species, we are on the cusp of an evolutionary choice. Standing at the dawn of this perfect storm, we find ourselves at the beginning of a process of civilizational transition. As the old paradigm dies, a new paradigm is born. And many people around the world are already making the evolutionary choice to step away from the old, and embrace the new.”

paradigm_shift_Gethsemane

The following are excerpts from Nafeez Ahmed‘s TED Talk From Endless Growth to a New Model of Democracy. His documentary The Crisis of Civilization “connects all the dots” to explain how the current problems of our species- such as war and terrorism, economic instability and environmental destruction- are all fundamentally interconnected…

“It’s time to wake up to the fact that the conventional economic model has run out of steam. Having outlasted its welcome, it’s now leading us along a path to self-destruction. The heart of the problem is the skewered structure of our current form of capitalism, which makes endless material growth at any cost a seemingly rational imperative.

What is this structure? It comes down to who owns the Earth. Today’s capitalism is based on a completely unnatural condition where approximately 1-5 per cent of the world’s population, owns the entirety of the planet’s productive resources, as well as the technologies of production and distribution. This is the outcome of centuries of colonisation, imperialism and globalisation, which has centralised control of the earth’s resources and raw materials into the hands of a few.

With the entire planet subjected to the unrestrained logic of endless growth, we’re witnessing the accelerated degradation of our natural environment, our resource base, our economic and financial system, as well as our material and psychological well-being. These are not separate crises. They are interconnected symptoms of a global Crisis of Civilization.

So how can we respond? We must first awaken to the reality that this is not the end, but the beginning. We are witnessing the collapse of the old paradigm, which hell-bent on planetary suicide, isn’t working. By the end of this century, whatever happens, civilization in its current form will not exist.

The question we must therefore ask ourselves is this. What will we choose to take its place?

As a species, we are on the cusp of an evolutionary choice. Standing at the dawn of this perfect storm, we find ourselves at the beginning of a process of civilizational transition. As the old paradigm dies, a new paradigm is born. And many people around the world are already making the evolutionary choice to step away from the old, and embrace the new…

The new paradigm is premised on a fundamentally different ethos, in which we see ourselves not as disconnected, competing units fixated on maximising consumerist conquest over one another; but as interdependent members of a single human family.

Our economies, rather than being assumed to exist in a vacuum of unlimited material expansion, are seen as embedded in wider society, such that economic activity for its own sake is recognised as the pathology that it is.

Instead, economic enterprise becomes aligned with the deeper values that make us human – values like meeting our basic needs, education and discovery, arts and culture, sharing and giving: the values which psychologists say contribute to well-being and happiness, far more than mere money and things.

And in turn, our societies are seen not as autonomous entities to which the whole of the planet must be ruthlessly subjugated, but rather as inherently embedded in the natural environment…

The new energy paradigm is not about corporate-dominated mega-projects, but about empowering small businesses and communities. Up to 70 per cent of energy is lost in transmission over large distances. So there’s potential for huge efficiency gains when power is produced and consumed closer to the source.

This model, where households, communities and towns become producers and consumers of clean energy, is being successfully scaled-up in Germany, where 20 per cent of the country’s electricity comes from renewables, and 51 per cent of distributed energy generation is owned by individuals, not utility companies.

This new paradigm also applies to food. On the one hand, we need to put an end to the wasteful practices of the industrial food system, by which one third of global food production is lost or wasted every year. On the other, we must shift away from resource-intensive forms of traditional corporate-dominated  agriculture.

In many cases, we will find that smaller-scale forms of organic farming which are more labour intensive, though less energy and water intensive, can be more sustainable than current industrial practices…

The new energy paradigm is not about corporate-dominated mega-projects, but about empowering small businesses and communities. Up to 70 per cent of energy is lost in transmission over large distances. So there’s potential for huge efficiency gains when power is produced and consumed closer to the source.

This model, where households, communities and towns become producers and consumers of clean energy, is being successfully scaled-up in Germany, where 20 per cent of the country’s electricity comes from renewables, and 51 per cent of distributed energy generation is owned by individuals, not utility companies.

This new paradigm also applies to food. On the one hand, we need to put an end to the wasteful practices of the industrial food system, by which one third of global food production is lost or wasted every year. On the other, we must shift away from resource-intensive forms of traditional corporate-dominated  agriculture.

In many cases, we will find that smaller-scale forms of organic farming which are more labour intensive, though less energy and water intensive, can be more sustainable than current industrial practices…

This new paradigm of distributed clean energy production, decentralised farming, and participatory economic cooperation, offers a model of development free from the imperative of endless growth for its own sake; and it leads us directly to a new model of democracy, based not on large-scale, hierarchical-control, but on the wholesale decentralisation of power, towards smaller, local ownership and decision-making.

In the new paradigm, households and communities become owners of capital, in their increasing appropriation of the means to produce energy, food and water at a local level. Economic democratisation drives political empowerment, by ensuring that critical decisions about production and distribution of wealth take place in communities, by communities.

We now know, thanks to research by the likes of psychologist Oliver James and epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson, that material prosperity in the West has not only failed to make us happy, it has proliferated mental illnesses, and widened social inequalities, which are scientifically linked to a prevalence of crime, violence, drug abuse, teenage births, obesity, and other symptoms of social malaise.

This doesn’t mean that material progress is irrelevant – but that when it becomes the overriding force of society, it is dysfunctional. So we must accept that the old paradigm of unlimited material acquisition is in its death throes – and that the new paradigm of community cooperation is far more in tune with both human nature, and the natural order.

This new paradigm may well still be nascent, like small seeds, planted in disparate places. But as the Crisis of Civilization accelerates over the next decades, communities everywhere will become increasingly angry and disillusioned with what went before. And in that disillusionment with the old paradigm, the seeds we’re planting today will blossom and offer a vision of hope that will be irresistible tomorrow.

There’s only one question that remains. Are you going to hold fast with the grip of death to the old paradigm, or will you embrace life to become an agent of the new paradigm of community cooperation? ”

~Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed~

crisis civ 2

Full TED Talk: 

The Crisis of Civilization (Documentary): 

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About Christopher Chase

Co-creator and Admin of the Facebook pages "Tao & Zen" "Art of Learning" & "Creative Systems Thinking." Majored in Studio Art at SUNY, Oneonta. Graduated in 1993 from the Child & Adolescent Development program at Stanford University's School of Education. Since 1994, have been teaching at Seinan Gakuin University, in Fukuoka, Japan.
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13 Responses to The New Paradigm of Democracy – Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

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  2. Paine says:

    “What will we choose to take its place?’ Before chosing what will take its place is the task of restoring democracy so that the choice is ours, rather than solely that of the current owners. Our forbears worked hard to bequeath us the institutions for placing legitimate choice solely in the consent of the governed. But those institutions have been so degraded that they are now hollow forms disguising the tyranny that inhabits them. So the only pertinent question today is “How will we restore the governed to their role of chosing how they are governed?” This requires an understanding a strategy for change, starting with establishing the priority of what must be changed, and then the means for how that priority can be realized.
    This is not a new paradigm of democracy. It is a new paradigm of a democratic economy. But there will be no democratic economy until we recover a democratic politics.

    Talking about economic change may be a fun, schoolboy exercise. But it is ultimately wishful thinking until there is a strategy for democracy, which is pretty much the same old paradigm of equality and liberty protected by a government having the legitimate consent of the governed. Where does one of those exist? http://moneyouttapolitics.org/

    Imagining a decentralized ownership of the means of production is not a political strategy for restoring democracy because it puts the cart before the horse.

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