2022-10-05 Ken Homer - a new manifest destiny

A Call for a New Manifest Destiny

by Ken Homer

’Manifest Destiny’, a phrase coined in 1845, is the idea that the United States is destined—by God, its advocates believed—to expand its dominion and spread democracy and capitalism across the entire North American continent. The philosophy drove 19th-century U.S. territorial expansion and was used to justify the forced removal of Native Americans and other groups from their homes. The rapid expansion of the United States intensified the issue of slavery as new states were added to the Union, leading to the outbreak of the Civil War.

~ Source: https://www.history.com/topics/westward-expansion/manifest-destiny

Underlying the doctrine of Manifest Destiny was the ideology of capitalism and its view that the Earth is inert, that land is only productive if it is being worked, that those who own the means of production are granted the rights to exploit the means of production in any way they wish regardless of whether their actions might destroy those means of production and wreak havoc on ecosystems that took thousands of years to evolve.

I’ve heard it said that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism. Perhaps that’s a contributing factor to the growing body of doom and gloom forecasts that seem to have captured so much of our collective attention that the term “doomscrolling” has entered the vernacular.

So, how do we get out of the capitalism box? A box that has so constrained our thinking that we apply the language of commerce to virtually every aspect of our lives. A box that is also inhibiting our ability to secure a thriving post-capitalist future. What fundamental changes in our worldviews are needed? Is it possible to rework the frameworks that capitalism imposes on us and to design a future where the promises of ecological health, social justice, and meaningful lives are possible without the need to exploit both nature and people in ways that lead to minority rule and ecological destruction?

For a long time now, I have been convinced that applying problem-solving approaches to wicked problems is useless at best but more often they simply make things worse. It’s clear that Albert Einstein was onto something of extreme importance when he claimed that, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”[^1]

I assert that to move to a post-capital world, we need imagination first and foremost. Later, once we have imagined what a world that has moved beyond capitalism looks like, we can apply our knowledge in service to designing systems that will bring our collective imagination into a new kind of manifest destiny.

So, I invite you to join me in imagining a new form of Manifest Destiny. One that starts with a foundational belief that human beings are a keystone species, our presence in Earth is not to exploit and extract, but to steward and grow the ability of Earth’s ecosystems in ways that secure the flourishing of all life for as long as we can imagine. How long is that? Well, consider that the dinosaurs roamed for over 150 million years before a meteor caused their extinction. And they had brains the size of walnuts! Surely, with our big brains and our thinking machines we can manage to live at least as long as the dinosaurs did!

Below is my first draft of questions we might pose to kickstart our imaginations. It’s a modest start to be sure. You are invited to add your questions. If enough people are interested, we can move the question list to Mattermost and then hold calls to explore what is emerging.

  • What would a world that provides for the wellbeing of the children or all species for all time look like?
  • What would the role of humans in such a world be?
  • Who needs to be invited into the conversation?
  • What processes will we use for including the voices of those who can’t speak for themselves?
  • What kinds of timelines will be helpful for determining what kinds of processes to support?
  • What does capitalism do well and what elements of it we would want to conserve?
  • What role does petroleum play in this new world?
  • What kind of property rights – including intellectual property – will support the long-term health and thriving of people, animals, and plants?
  • What kinds of rights would be ascribed to non-human actors?
  • Where does agency reside in this new world?
  • What kinds of agreements need to be struck among members of diverse nations?
  • What kinds of collaboration and decision-making structures need to play a role?
  • What timescales need to guide which actions?
  • What kinds of knowledge need to be applied?
  • What kinds of healing can be applied to open the minds of those who are closed off from the world?
  • What does a justice system that actually repairs the rifts in the social fabric created by criminals look like?
  • What current systems already support the emergence and realization of this new world?
  • What current dysfunctional systems can be easily shifted to be more wholesome?
  • What current systems of harm will need to be replaced and what will replace them?
  • What kinds of scaffolding will be required to help us through the transition, particularly in the areas of energy, transportation, housing, etc.?
  • Where do we turn for models and inspiration, examples of self-organizing and self-healing systems that can help us in our quest?

Please add your questions if you are interested in this kind of conversation.

source: https://plex.collectivesensecommons.org/2022-10-05/

Note 1: https://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2010/03/imagination-important-knowledge/