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Calling "the better angels of our nature": An Open Letter to President Barack Obama

Mr. President: I am moved to write to you because I believe you have the capacity to understand and assimilate many different points of view, and synthesize them into the building blocks of consensus. This capacity is a very valuable asset at this time of great challenges, and could provide many people with an example of how consensus on important issues can be created at the local community level.

With this much hope in your good qualities, and in the many, many other people in your administration with excellent capacities for understanding complex issues, I find it most difficult to comprehend how your plan for economic recovery can have a central focus associated with “stimulating demand”. There is growing consensus on the subjects of peak oil, global warming, and widespread resource depletion. These challenges, and the very real challenge of an ever-increasing world population, suggest an appreciation of energy constraints and resource limitations should permeate any and all long term strategic planning. It is also obvious to many people that cultures of violence, greed, corruption, and overindulgence have become so common that they are accepted as “inevitable” (see also this writers “Ten Point Assessment of the Most Difficult Challenges of Our Times” ). In such circumstances, how can it be possible that “stimulating demand” is chosen as a “centerpiece” for building consensus? We must somehow find a way to bring some of the “better angels of our nature” to the center of our restructuring plans, and thus signal that the cultural ideals we hope to attain to are more akin to spiritual ideals, and less akin to “engines of growth”… more akin to the virtues of compassion and sacrifices made for greater good of the whole, and less akin to the weaknesses in moral judgment represented by self-centered overconsumption and overindulgence.

I do realize that it may be very difficult, in these complex and “pluralistic times”, for a leader to find an acceptable approach for appealing to the “better angels of our nature”. That is why I—and many others like myself—have tried to “break new ground” in the areas of peacebuilding and community revitalization. My efforts have resulted in The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative (at The IPCR resource I would recommend as most relevant to our current challenges is a 161 page peacebuilding and community revitalization proposal titled “1000Communities2”
“1000CommunitiesSquared”). “1000Communities2” (“1000CommunitiesSquared”) advocates for Community Visioning Initiatives, “Community Teaching and Learning Centers” with ongoing workshops, and “sister community” relationships, as a way of generating an exponential increase in our collective capacity to overcome the challenges of our times.

The kind of Community Visioning Initiatives described in the “1000Communities2” proposal mentioned above are structured brainstorming and prioritizing meetings supported by ongoing workshops—all of which are carried out in a number of central locations in a particular community. There would be a series of meetings which focus on five particular areas: identifying challenges, prioritizing challenges, identifying solutions, prioritizing solutions, and creating action plans. Combined with ongoing workshops and much formal and informal educational activity, these meetings—though only a part of the visioning initiative—may last more than 4-6 months.

One of the main goals of these kind of Community Visioning Initiatives is to maximize citizen participation in identifying challenges, and in solution-oriented activity.

This writer very sincerely hopes that more and more people are coming to the realization that the difficult challenges ahead are not something that the experts will resolve while the rest of us are doing something else…. Everyone is involved when it comes to determining the markets that supply the “ways of earning a living”; and given the unprecedented nature of the challenges ahead, all of us have important responsibilities in the coming months and years ahead.

Somehow or other, we need to sort through all this, and we need to do so in a way that helps us to realize how much we need to be learning so that we can be part of the solutions… and how much we really need to be on the same side, helping each other.

Could you please have someone on your staff assess the potential of this participation-friendly, solution-oriented approach, by accessing some of the files below? [The files below are introductions to the “1000Communities2” proposal. The 161 page proposal titled “1000Communities2” is located at All files mentioned in this post are also included as attachments to this post.]

1. The IPCR Journal/Newsletter Fall, 2008
2. “A Greater Force than the Challenges We Are Now Facing”
3. “Transitioning from Less Solution-Oriented Employment to More Solution-Oriented Employment”
4. “Community Visioning Initiatives for the Duration of the Emergency”

With Hope for a Peaceful and Sustainable Future,

Stefan Pasti, Founder and Outreach Coordinator
The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative


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