The real American Dream—indeed, the real human dream—is not about accumulating more and more stuff, like in today’s mass-marketed overconsumption. It's about creating a way of life that brings us “Life, Liberty, and Happiness,” as the U.S. Declaration of Independence succinctly states.
So how do we change the false perceptions that are so effectively brainwashing generation after generation? How do we change this pathological belief system, as well as the economics, education, media, and other ways that it's perpetuated? How do we help our young people break free and move forward, as so many today realize they must?
I recently did a podcast interview with a young woman who is helping girls and boys think critically about the messaging that teaches them to source their value in the mass-marketed body images, hyper-sexualization, objectification, and false rewards of overconsumption that they're being bombarded with from all sides, through both mass media and social media.
Her name is Brie Mathers, and she tours the world at high school assemblies where she teaches thousands of girls to resist these messages, especially the looks-based competition flooding their Instagram feeds. Brie is also starting to do these assemblies with boys, helping to free them to express their full humanity and to no longer see girls as commodities for their consumption.
Our podcast, A Conversation with Riane Eisler, is directly relevant to New Dream's Community in Action Challenge, which aims to provide real world, real-time, opportunities for individuals to meet and connect with others in their neighborhoods and towns to reduce consumption while building resilience, community, and connection. I invite you to listen to it and to use its proposals in implementing this important new initiative.
Young people especially are becoming aware that we can no longer sustain our present course. They're searching for alternatives to a system of top-down rankings, be it man over man, man over woman, race over race, religion over religion, or humans over nature. This is a system that relies on substitutes for the caring connections that humans need, a system that relies on fear—whether of scarcity or violence, or in families, gender relations, communities, economics, and politics—as fear is the glue that maintains its hold.
"Young people especially are ... searching for alternatives to a system of top-down rankings, be it man over man, man over woman, race over race, religion over religion, or humans over nature."
This is a system that we must now leave behind, at a time when advanced technologies in service of domination, whether of other people or of our Mother Earth, threaten our very existence.
There is an alternative: a partnership system where relations are based on mutuality and caring, where our human need for caring connection is not thwarted and distorted.
Partnership systems and domination systems are new categories that transcend conventional ones such as right vs. left, religious vs. secular, Eastern vs. Western, and so forth—none of which are solutions to our current challenges. If you really think about it, societies in all of our conventional categories have been repressive and violent.
This is why, as my multidisciplinary research over several decades demonstrates, the real struggle for our future is not between societies in any of our old categories, but within all kinds of societies between orientation to the cultural and social configurations of partnership or domination systems.
I've had the pleasure of knowing and mentoring Brie for several years, so she is very familiar with the new systemic frame provided by the partnership/domination social scale. She helps young people understand that to make their lives better—and to have a safer and more fulfilling future—requires a cultural transformation from domination systems to partnership systems.
As important as protests and resistance are, deconstructing the old system is not enough. To build a healthy society, we must have a clear vision of what its core components are, so we can build them, starting with its foundations.
As you'll hear in A Conversation with Riane Eisler, I have proposed four core interventions that are needed to dismantle the foundations on which domination systems keep rebuilding themselves—whether rightist, as is happening now in the United States or leftist, as in North Korea; whether secular as in Nicaragua or religious as in the Taliban. And we must not only dismantle these foundations for domination, but also replace them with the foundations needed for partnership systems.
In the podcast, Brie and I talk about all this. Much of our focus is on how a society constructs the roles and relations of the female and male halves of humanity, and how this relates to our values and institutions—from the family and education to politics and economics. We discuss how the current construction of femininity and masculinity, and the socialization of girls and boys for it, leads to a gendered system of values that devalues caring, caregiving, and nonviolence—deeming them “soft” or “feminine” and inappropriate for “real men." This view still drives current economic systems, and changing it is foundational to realizing many diverse goals, including those of New Dream's Community in Action Challenge.
"The current construction of femininity and masculinity, and the socialization of girls and boys for it, leads to a gendered system of values that devalues caring, caregiving, and nonviolence."
I'm delighted that New Dream has launched the Community in Action Challenge, because connection is the antidote to overconsumption. Overconsumption is a symptom of the impediments to real community and connection that are built into domination systems.
As New Dream recognizes, caring connection is key to realizing the real American and human dreams—and it’s up to each one of us to put care into action.
Riane Eisler is internationally known for her books, including her bestseller The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future, now in 26 foreign editions and 56 U.S. printings, and The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, hailed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as “a template for the better world we have been so urgently seeking.” Dr. Eisler is president of the Center for Partnership Studies (CPS) and editor-in-chief of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies. She keynotes conferences worldwide, speaks at universities, and consults to business and government on applications of the partnership model introduced in her work. See www.rianeeisler.com and www.centerforpartnership.org for more information.