Moving From a You-or-Me to a You-and-Me Paradigm

By Lynne Twist

As a person who's been an activist for my entire adult life, for five decades, first on the transformational work that needs to be done to end world hunger, I discovered through that window that the key intervention is the empowerment of women and girls. This became a throughline throughout the decades of work that followed, and continues to this day in my work to raise human consciousness through both the State of the World Forum and the Institute of Noetic Sciences, and more recently working with Indigenous peoples of the Amazon to bring forth what we call the Pachamama Alliance. In this, my most recent 25 years, I have partnered globally with others to create an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, socially just human presence on this planet. 

Through all of those years and those different chapters of what I call my pro activism, I realize that I stand in possibility. I stand in a vision. I stand in what I am for — not what I'm against. At the same time, I don't deny what's in the way. I see the obstacles between where we are now and the vision I have and that many of us have for the world — what Charles Eisenstein calls “the more beautiful world we all know as possible.” 

I see what's in the way, but rather than attacking what's in the way, I have learned over the years that what's more skillful for me is to allow that which is no longer sustainable and no longer working to empower its own dismantling. In other words, to hospice the natural death of the structures and systems that no longer serve us, and to midwife the birth of the new structures and systems that are consistent with an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, socially just human presence on this planet.

As a pro activist, the way I have addressed the obstacles, the systemic challenges, is to recognize them and see how to un-rig them by having them die their natural death. I also know that in my case — not in everyone's case, but in my case — if I transform my anger and my upset, my inner rage at the injustice and the barriers to being who we really are... if I transform that into conviction, commitment, determination, perseverance, and inner and outer strength, then that anger, that rage, can be enormously powerful and useful. That's how I have forged a kind of unyielding commitment to the possibility, to the vision, and to the world that I am committed to.

In my third act, or my more recent decade, I've realized the intergenerational power of our time. The great futurist and humanist R. Buckminster Fuller, my friend and mentor at the end of the 20th century, famously said that our children are our elders in universe time. They have come into a more complete, more evolved universe than you or I can know, and we can only see that universe through their eyes.

This understanding of younger people as our elders in universe time has given me a profound relationship with younger people, a profound relationship with my own children and grandchildren, and a profound relationship with intergenerational pro activism. I have been able to mentor and guide a young pro activist to stay rooted, to envision possibility and their own strength and conviction, and have them transform their anger and rage into productive change and transformation. I've also been able to draw on the fact that their skin is in the game in a way that mine is not so much. As we get older and our horizon, the end of our life, starts to loom, to be nearer rather than far, we can dip into the wisdom that comes from our experience; the urgency that one feels as a young person about your particular future subsides. Wisdom becomes more accessible because the urgency is somewhat less in-your-face.

I see this very close to home, in my own family. My granddaughter, who is mixed-race and identifies as African American, plays a leading role on her campus, working on racial injustice and social injustice. I can identify with her — the urgency for her. She wants a different future now. She's not willing to wait. She and her colleagues want a different set of opportunities opened up for people of color on campus, people of color in the profession that she hopes to join. She wants to be a human rights environmental attorney, and she will be that. Her determination, her strength, her conviction, and her commitment are clearly going to lead her there. She doesn't want that just for herself. She wants it for all people of color. I have enormous respect for that urgency and I draw on it. I use her impatience to motivate me. It floods and nourishes my pro activism and my wisdom and deep reflection, just as it floods and nourishes her activism with what's important for her. 

This is true in all my intergenerational relationships, particularly with young women. Young women who are working with all their might to transform the patriarchy, to have their voices heard, women working with all their minds to use their clarity and effectiveness, to have us come through these crucible times with a female archetype, rather than a continued patriarchy, characterized by hierarchy, colonization, and what Buckminster Fuller called a you-or-me paradigm: In a you-or-me paradigm, I make it at your expense, or you make it at my expense.

The pandemic that forced us to shelter in place, shutting down our economy, loosened the grip of the consumer culture and has given us a time to go, not only inside of our shelters, but inside of who we are and rethink the way we live. We have had the opportunity to reimagine life without the intensity of the marketing and advertising that drives us to take more than we need on this planet which has limited resources. 

Taking more than we need — what I call the scarcity mentality and the more-is-better mentality — has produced such desperate and tragic and overwhelming inequality that now we have a nation in tatters, not only environmentally and ecologically, but also with our economy, also with our democracy, and now with our race relations. It is my conviction and commitment that this is the dissolving, hopefully, of the patriarchy of the economic system that’s based on the you-or-me paradigm, to a system, a world, a society, a civil society, a government, an economic system, an education system that is founded and rooted in a new paradigm. A paradigm of you-and-me, that there is enough for everyone everywhere to have a healthy and productive life. As Gandhi said, "Enough for our need, but not for our greed." 

As shared in my book, The Soul of Money, written almost 20 years ago, the principles in that message seem now to have been written for this time, for today’s uncertain times, for rethinking our relationship with the world, our relationship with one another, our relationship with the material world and the spiritual world and the world at large, and particularly our relationship with the future.

These are painful times. I am heartbroken by the tragic events of oppression and the suffering of people who are left out of our economy, who are left out of our healthcare system, who are suffering because they've lost loved ones or are suffering because they're ill. I deeply feel that pain and am at work to do everything I can to turn that around. 

At the same time, as a pro activist, I celebrate the interruption, the disruption that's forcing us to rethink, to reimagine, to reset, to reformulate and regenerate, to re-form a world that comes from you-and-me rather than you-or-me. A world that creates the radical, surprising revelation that there is enough for everyone everywhere to have a healthy and productive life, and living in that reality, in the sufficient resources on this planet for all of us to thrive, is a future I know we all want and is now within reach if we stand in what we are for with our vision and our commitment.

Lynne Twist, a global visionary, consultant, speaker, and award-winning author of The Soul of Money, has dedicated her life to global initiatives that create a sustainable future for all. As co-founder of the Pachamama Alliance, she works with Indigenous people of the Amazon and uses the insights gained from that work to educate and inspire individuals everywhere to bring forth a thriving, just, and sustainable world. From working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta to the refugee camps in Ethiopia and the threatened rainforests of the Amazon, Lynne’s on-the-ground work has brought her a deep understanding of the social tapestry of the world and the historical landscape of the times we're living in.

Lynne is the founder and president of the Soul of Money Institute, whose mission is to educate, inspire, and empower people and organizations to align their financial resources with what they value most. Lynne, the primary consultant to the Nobel Women’s Initiative, is the winner of numerous prestigious awards, including the "Woman of Distinction" award from the United Nations. Over the past 40 years Lynne has worked with over 100,000 people in 50 countries in the arenas of fundraising with integrity, conscious philanthropy, strategic visioning, and having a healthy relationship with money. A sought-after speaker, she has presented for the United Nations Beijing Women’s Conference, State of the World Forum, Synthesis Dialogues with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and the Governor’s Conference on California Women, among others. She has been an advisor to the Desmond Tutu Foundation and The Nobel Women’s Initiative. 

Click here to visit Lynne’s website.

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This article appears in: 2020 Catalyst, Issue 14: Resilience & Renewal in Your Third Act Summit