The Global Good – An Ethic for our Time
By Shelley Ostroff (PhD)
A new tribe is emerging on the planet – a tribe that transcends gender, race, religion and nations. It is a tribe of global citizens dedicated to the health and wellbeing of the planet and all its inhabitants - without privilege or prejudice. This tribal identity holds powerful revolutionary and evolutionary potential! It aligns people across cultures and continents. It cuts to the core of what separates people from each other and the planet.
The ethic of ‘the global good’ can be seen as drawing a defining membrane between those who care about and are invested in the wellness of all Life, and those who privilege self-interest at the expense of the whole. This distinction can be likened to the way in which a body differentiates between healthy and unhealthy cells in the system.
Old tribal identities based on characteristics such as race, gender, politics and religion emerged from a picture of the world as made up of separate parts with a relationship of hierarchy and privilege among them. The paradigm of separateness and privilege created a culture of competition, conflict and ruthlessness, where societies function like an auto- immune disease, with parts of the whole attacking other parts it does not recognize as self.
Now, awareness of our shared ecosystem is growing. Science has shown that the planet and all its species function as an interconnected living system. We are experiencing this in particular through the borderless devastating impact of climate change and global environmental degradation. The recognition of the world as a living system is replacing the mechanistic view of the world, and the tension between the two paradigms inevitably brings with it a clash of cultures.
Some believe “globalization” means the entire planet is now a playing field for the old system of domination, and that all human and planetary resources are up for grabs by the smartest and most conniving. This dynamic of self-interest acts as a splitting virus that fragments the integrity of people and planet.
For others the idea of being a “global citizen” comes with an ever-deepening sense of accountability and being a contributing part to the global good. It comes with a profound sense of connectedness to all of creation and a commitment to offering one’s unique gifts in service of the whole. “Global citizens for the global good” is a worldview that catalyses a healing dynamic and connects nourishing pathways among all parts of the interconnected whole.
The ethic of ‘the global good’ turns many of the values that we have learned to believe in, upside down. Paradoxically, values such as equality, freedom, justice and compromise have meaning only in hierarchical societies where there is privilege, inequality, oppression and injustice.
The growing grass-roots movement of ‘Citizens for a Healthy Earth’ - those citizens invested in the global good, aligning around Codes for a Healthy Earth - is rooted in the science of living systems and in the spirit of the sacredness of all Creation. Those involved in the movement promote self-organization according to what is healthy for all diverse parts of the ecosystem. A healthy body does not try to standardize its different functions or privilege one part over another. Instead, it seeks to ensure accurate mutual nourishment among the diverse parts, so that all receive the precise nourishment they need in order to take up their complementary role in the whole. A healthy body/ecosystem has a healthy immune system to defend against that which goes against Life.
Similarly, ‘Citizens for a Healthy Earth’ seek to create a no-compromise, oppression-free planet that is nourishing for all. They work together to ensure the safety and vitality of each other and all species. In an interconnected system there is no logic or justification for oppressing any one part for the benefit of others. The underlying principle is that in any living system, where there is oppression of one part, it will inevitably impact the entire system. When we privilege or oppress ANY healthy part of the living system, we are part of the problem and not the solution. Oppression of the 'other', (both human and non-human) is so deeply ingrained in our culture that we are often tragically unconscious of the way in which we are complicit with it in our everyday lifestyle choices.
Becoming conscious of the impact of our behaviour on the shared system is an essential part of the healing process. This whole-system health framework raises two key questions. The first question relates to our willingness to learn about the impact of our behavior on the health of the whole. The second is what we choose to do with the information once we become conscious of it. The answer to these questions can indicate something about which side of the membrane we choose to locate ourselves.
When the Earth is ravaged and the animals are dying, a new tribe of people shall come unto the Earth from many colors, classes and creeds and who by their actions and deeds shall make the Earth green again. They will be known as the Warriors of the Rainbow.
Ancient Hopi Prophecy
With gratitude to Yan Golding for his contribution to updating this article.