Catalysing Change

‘May you live in interesting times’, the ancient Chinese proverb and curse states. Well it seems we are at a pivotal moment in history, this is a period of extraordinary change and things are getting very interesting. Now, with the institutions that we have depended on for so long failing us, and the housing and job situation rapidly deteriorating, anxiety levels are going through the roof.  As well as all of this there is a convergence of challenges on the horizon such as the impacts of climate change and resource depletion. But don’t lose heart there is a new world emerging and you can be part of it.

No one can predict the future but what is certain is that it will be characterised by uncertainty and will quite likely get very turbulent. No one is coming to save us, which means we are all going to have to step up, demand change and play our part in the future that is emerging.

As I write there is revolution in the air, the protests inspired by the massive public uprisings in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and the Campanadas in Spain are popping up everywhere, from Wall Street to Dame Street. People are deeply unhappy with the state of the world and are now taking a stance against the dominant systems that are destroying livelihoods, communities and the environment.

Although these protests are leaderless and are often crticised for having a lack of clearly defined goals, they are intensely democratic and are doing a lot more than simply demanding change. By utilising direct democracy methods such as the general assembly and using consensus decision-making processes the activists are embracing real change. They are, as Gandhi would say, being the change they want to see. They are not just demanding a fair and just society they are participating in its creation.

The mainstream media response to these protests was at first to completely deny they were happening. Then as the more liberal press picked up on them there was an attempt by most of the corporate media commentators to label the protestors as naive and unrealistic. Mass arrests and police brutality have been reported from many of the public squares occupied by the activists. This is what you would expect, as Gandhi observed, “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” So will these protesters succeed?

What these recent protests do is bring a number of very dispirit ideas and people together. They are hosting conversations that are helping to develop the new thinking, values and skills we will need to face the challenges upon us.  Ordinary people with a conviction that things are not quite right are discussing brilliant ideas and innovative strategies for change in these occupied public places. They share an understanding that the difficulties that people are facing are due to an underlying structural systematic problem. They aren’t claiming to know all the answers, what they do know is that by discussing the problem and sharing perspectives, responses to our challenges will emerge.

Today’s catalysts for change are not just the incredible number of people participating in the ‘occupied’ autonomous zones across the planet but everyone who is resisting, reconnecting, rethinking and revitalising the world in which they live. They know that we need to come together, to build community and to stand up to the small percent that through greed and a lust for wealth are undermining the future for everyone.

Those active in the protests and the hundreds of thousands around the world working for ecological sustainability, equality and justice are catalysts for change from the old to the new. The old system that is centralised, individualistic and highly dependent on hierarchy and control, and the new that is decentralised and is characterised by values of openness and fairness. As these dispirit actions and campaigns become connected a powerful movement with influence on a larger scale is emerging.


Davie Philip runs the Community Resilience programme at  and is a resident of the Cloughjordan Ecovillage.

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