The world-historical importance of #15M and #OccupyWallstreet: Using Lateral Power to Transform the Political/Economic Landscape

1.

The great economic revolutions in history occur when new communication technologies converge with new energy systems. … When internet communications manage green energy, every human being on earth becomes his or her own source of power, both literally and figuratively. Billions of human beings sharing their energy in vast social networks, like they now share information online, creates the foundation for the democratization of the global economy and a new beginning for the human race.

2.

The internet generation is driven by a new political agenda. Their politics has little in common with the right/ left dichotomy that characterized the ideological politics of the First and Second Industrial Revolutions. The young activists of the October 15th movement judge institutional behavior from a new lens. They ask whether the institutions of society — be they political, economic, educational or social — behave in a centralized manner and exercise power from the top down in a closed and proprietary fashion, or whether they function in a distributed and collaborative way, and are open and transparent in their dealings. The new political thinking is a game changer that has the potential to re-make the political process and re-shape political institutions in every country.

Excerpted from Jeremy Rifkin:

“It’s happened before, in 1848 and in 1968. The youth of the world took to the streets to protest the injustices of autocratic political regimes and rapacious business interests and to demand the most basic human right to participate as equal citizens in the affairs of society.

On October 15th, millions of young people — and their parents and grandparents — swarmed onto the streets in large cities and small towns around the world, decrying an economic system that favors the rich 1% at the expense of 99% of the people. The protesters are frustrated by a lack of jobs. They are angry over governments giving bailouts to global banks and subsidizing corporate giants while cutting vital public services to the middle class and poor. And they are worried over the steady rise in the earth’s climate from industrial-induced carbon dioxide emissions that now threatens to disrupt the world’s ecosystems and trigger a mass extinction of life on the planet.

I recently spent time with many of the October 15th organizers in Spain and Italy — the countries that hosted the largest street protests. I came away with the clear impression that the young people in these countries, and on Wall Street and around the world, are interested in more than just reforms of existing political and economic policies and practices. They sense there is something fundamentally wrong with the very way the political and economic system is set up and are beginning to search for a new economic vision that can put people back to work, establish a more responsive governing framework and protect the biosphere of the earth. Finding that new vision requires an understanding of the technological forces that precipitate the profound transformations in society.

The democratization of the economy goes hand and hand with the democratization of governance. The internet generation is driven by a new political agenda. Their politics has little in common with the right/ left dichotomy that characterized the ideological politics of the First and Second Industrial Revolutions. The young activists of the October 15th movement judge institutional behavior from a new lens. They ask whether the institutions of society — be they political, economic, educational or social — behave in a centralized manner and exercise power from the top down in a closed and proprietary fashion, or whether they function in a distributed and collaborative way, and are open and transparent in their dealings. The new political thinking is a game changer that has the potential to re-make the political process and re-shape political institutions in every country.

Lateral power is a new force in the world. Steve Jobs and the other innovators of his generation took us from expensive centralized main-frame computers, owned and controlled by a handful of global companies, to cheap desktop computers and cell phones, allowing billions of people to connect up with one another in peer-to-peer networks in the social spaces of the internet. The democratization of communications has enabled nearly one third of the human population on earth to share music, knowledge, news and social life on an open playing field, marking one of the great evolutionary advances in the history of our species.

But as impressive as this accomplishment is, it is only half of the story. When internet communications manage green energy, every human being on earth becomes his or her own source of power, both literally and figuratively. Billions of human beings sharing their energy in vast social networks, like they now share information online, creates the foundation for the democratization of the global economy and a new beginning for the human race.

The youth protest, that began in the Middle East, Spain and Italy and spread to Wall Street and then the world, is a harbinger of a new era. “Lateral power” has become the battle cry of a new generation, determined to create a more just, equitable, and liveable society.

The youth have shown that they know how to use lateral power via Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other social networks to bring millions of people to the streets to protest the inequities and abuses of the current economic and political system. Now, the looming question is whether they can harness the same lateral power to create a sustainable economy, generate millions of new jobs, transform the political process and restore the earth for future generations.”

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