Book Review: Uncivil Liberties by Georgia Kelly

Jay OwenArticles by Hazel Henderson

51r+GR21A-L._SY380_Foreword to UNCIVIL LIBERTIES
By Hazel Henderson, October 2012

UNCIVIL LIBERTIES, edited by Georgia Kelly, Praxis Institute, 2013

I welcome UNCIVIL LIBERTIES as a sobering wake-up call to my beloved adopted country,
the USA and its people. We are, I believe, in the midst of a whole-system global transition from
the past 300 years of fossil-fueled industrialism and expansion to the biological and ecological
realities of our finite planet. These realities include accepting that we humans are one among
30 million other species inhabiting our biosphere and all exist and thrive on the daily flow of
free photons from our Mother Star: the Sun. Indeed, we at Ethical Markets Media, which I
founded in 2004 to reform markets and metrics while growing cleaner, greener, knowledge-rich
economies, address these biological realities in our Transforming Finance Based on Ethics and
Life’s Principles – co-developed with our partners at the Biomimicry Institute.

This great global transition now underway signals the end of GDP-measured industrial
expansion and illustrates the errors at the core of economics that permitted this single-minded
focus on maximizing private profit by “externalizing” social and environmental costs to others,
the environment and future generations. All these false ideologies were de-frocked in the
financial crises of 2008 and the bailouts of their perpetrators.

The authors of UNCIVIL LIBERTIES de-mystify the social and cultural myths and religious
beliefs that underpin the still prevailing economic fundamentalism which drove corporate
executives, Wall Street traders, central bankers and compliant politicians into denial. Their
efforts led them to inflate further the un-repayable levels of debt by giving printed money to
insolvent too-big-to-fail corporations. They were abetted by the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision
that these legal abstractions, originally chartered by governments for the public good, were
freed from such obligations as “persons” with full rights of citizens but enjoying fewer obligations
and limited liability.

This book and the deeply insightful perspectives of its co-authors helps us understand how
all these travesties could have happened and are still occurring. In examining the premises
of libertarianism and its deep roots in the history and culture of the polarized but still United
States of America, they plumb the deepest conflicts in all human societies: the individual
versus the group, society and the common good. We learn how the myths of the frontier, the
rugged individuals celebrated by the Horatio Alger and Ayn Rand stories came to dominate
our politics and economy – reinforced by commercial advertising and “keeping up with the
Jones.” Corporate money capturing of politicians channeled aspirations away from service to
the common good toward heroic feats of consumption. I explored the psychology and resulting
personal anxieties of all this in my “The End of Jonesism” (The Futurist, 1975).

I became a US citizen in 1961 and at first was entranced by this cult of individualism – so
different from my upbringing in Britain where group and community bonds still predominate. I
read Ayn Rand’s novels and identified with her hero John Galt, sympathizing with her obvious
over-reaction to life under the Soviet Union’s totalitarianism. I also understand her appeal
to adolescents and mostly males of all ages from hedge fund and private-equity players to
former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan who both are
devotees. I also explored gender politics and the relative roles of the hormones: testosterone
and oxytocin.

For me, reality overtook my adolescent escapism, first as a mother, then seeing how the
pollution of New York City’s air was harming my baby as she played with others in soot-covered
sandboxes in an urban play park shadowed by a vast Con Edison power plant. As I learned
the ropes of becoming a US citizen, I co-founded Citizens for Clean Air in 1964 with the other
mothers in that play park. I learned that mass media was a key, and I campaigned on Madison
Avenue and found some public-spirited media support which led to a public service campaign
on New York’s air pollution and ABC-TV agreeing to broadcast the city’s primitive air-pollution
index on their daily weather shows. Radio and other TV stations adopted this, and I was
catapulted onto NBC’s Today Show and became an unexpected investigative journalist along
with my civic activism. I soon realized the problem of pollution was encouraged by economic
textbooks citing that air and water were “free” and rational human behavior was self-interested
competition against all others, that money was equated with wealth and that this money-
denominated view of success was encoded into GNP as national “progress”! I was horrified and
determined to find out what else was wrong with economics – which led to a lifelong crusade
and is a theme in all my books. We at Citizens for Clean Air contacted our Senator, Robert F.
Kennedy, took him on a helicopter ride to show him all the sources of New York’s pollution and
why our group was calling for a correction of GDP – to subtract the pollution “bads” from the
“goods.” By 1968, Senator Kennedy gave his famous speech on the idiocies of GDP, and I still
have his framed letter thanking me!

Georgia Kelly is the kind of inspired community activist I admire – with deep scholarship
grounding her mature wisdom and passion for the common good. We connect deeply in our
vision for humanity’s evolution toward wisdom, maturity and responsibility now at the planetary
level – to create just, peaceful societies based on deep respect for all life. Georgia works on
the deepest levels in fostering peace – including editing and authoring UNCIVIL LIBERTIES
and with her co-authors, unraveling the depths of our US culture and politics. This deep level is
now essential in leading us out of our cultural confusion, over-riding the denial, the commercial
censorship of all the viable alternatives and the cleaner, greener technologies based on those
free daily photons that plants capture and which are the real basis of our survival. The issue is
not about growth v. no-growth, but as in all life, about what is growing, what is dying and what
should be maintained. The good news is that this green transition is happening!

All the co-authors of this book explore the myths that now must be unraveled if we are to have
the coherent public debate necessary to grasp the new planetary realities. We humans now
have the power to change the planet’s climate, create deserts and floods while our unchecked
financial casino has become the flywheel of social and ecological destruction – turning Nature’s
wealth and human values into worthless pieces of colored paper and computerized bits traded
senselessly on global electronic markets. We are waking up, as we see money printed on TV
screens, to the reality that money is not wealth – but simply a useful accounting unit – another
myth now exploding as we wake up to the real wealth of our relationships, community and our
living ecosystems. As we see the breakdowns of our old models, we see them driving needed

I hope UNCIVIL LIBERTIES reaches the widest possible audience in the USA and worldwide
since the world’s people await our culture’s maturation from adolescence to more responsible
global citizenship – beyond individual human rights to our universal human responsibilities as in
the Earth Charter – matching our new challenges in this Solar Age of the Anthropocene.

Hazel Henderson, D. Sc.Hon., FRSA
President, Ethical Markets Media (USA and Brazil)
Saint Augustine, Florida
October 2012