Recognize then Practice
Pivoting away from the War Economy begins with the recognition of how it pulls and pushes us into isolation and away from interdependence, how it demands we act with urgency and without care, how it makes us choose convenience over the health of the planet. By expanding the tiles below, learn more on how we can begin to recognize that we are the seeds needed to transition to a local peace economy.
Alienation to Connection
The war economy thrives on isolation, the feeling of separation from others. Where in your life do you feel alienation from people, place, nature, and the vibrancy of life? Connection is how we thrive. Without connection to others and nature we then connect our life to the war economy which leaves us empty and without meaning.
To pivot from alienation we must practice connection. It is the first act we do in creating a peace economy: gather six to eight/ and begin to share, listen and learn together. Or find a place in your community where you can show up and start to learn, engage and share yourself while you practice new ways of being.
Self-Directed to Community-Engaged
It’s easy to see why we’re all alienated from each other, when we live in a society that emphasizes individual achievement over community care. Celebrity worship and “the self-made man” are just some of the themes interwoven into the war economy. We are forced to replaced our dependence on community with dependence on faceless institutions and distant strangers who grow, ship and process our food, make our clothing, build our houses, and fix our cars.
But we also know that without our relationships, none of us would be alive. We know that in our everyday lives, happiness and security come from strong connections and not from “independence”, whether psychological or financial.
Witness when you find yourself thinking you have to do things by yourself, when you feel alone and overwhelmed. Who supports you in your life? Who do you support?
Look beyond yourself and take this opportunity to see those who are caring for and creating your community - the teachers, healers, caretakers, nurses, gardeners, etc. who enrich our lives. Thank them. When are you drawn to those who hold celebrity status instead of those carrying the wood for the daily fires? How can you pivot from being the center of your own universe to being a contributing member of your community?
Competition to Interdependence
Prioritizing relationships is an effective, engaging method of revitalizing connection within others. As you get to know others, you also learn how to care for others, how to connect others with aspects of the local peace economy that can support them.
If your career success was not hinged upon your capabilities to excel, how would you spend your time? Think of what you could offer your local peace economy, from craft to lesson to healing to food. What joy could you bring to your community?
Diving deeper into individualism, we see that the practice of competition alienates us from each other. Our schools push students into competition for grades and college admission, our workplaces incentivize employees to compete for raises and promotions, even our Western theories of evolution make nature seem like life is all about the “survival of the fittest” instead of understanding that the fittest were those who could cooperate and understood the interdependence of all life.
In nature we see a great deal of interdependence between the plants and the animals. Think about hummingbirds and flowers. Consider how ants gather their food collectively instead of hoarding individually, and how geese take turns at the front of the V during migration.
To pivot to interdependence, think: where in your life have you been pitted against others? Driven to succeed or excel? Today watch that urge and move to let go and find others you can connect with in cooperation and collaboration for the greater good not individual gain. Try pivoting from knowing and certainty to asking a question, this pivot allows you to let go of self and open to engaging with others.
Transactional to Relational
Another way our war economy has isolated us from each other is by turning our relationships into transactions.
In the war economy many of our relationships have been converted to monetary transactions, all in the name of “efficiency”. We’ve become so accustomed to paying cashiers and servers for groceries and restaurant meals that we barely recall that we used to grow and cook food together as a community. We’ve turned knowledge exchange into a transaction by paying “experts” to write books that we drill into students’ minds, instead of learning from our lived experience and the wisdom of our ancestors.
This market-based way of relating carries over to our non-monetized relationships as well. We often think: I’ll do this for you if you’ll do that for me. And to our fast-paced society, getting things done is more important than cultivating a real relationship to ourselves and our community. We value efficiency over connection. This shows up in many ways: an organization that views their membership as a faceless list of people to use for mass mobilizations rather than individuals with their own desires and passions to connect to; a person who goes out on a date for a free dinner instead of an authentic connection; a politician who makes connections for votes and abandons them post-election.
But our relationships are what keep us alive and thriving.
This pivot is a hard one. We do not see ourselves as transactional, but this way of being has been engrained as it is what we have needed to survive and thrive in the war economy – Pay attention? Where are your unconscious habits of transaction. Where does speed of transaction come automatically instead of the slower pace of relating, listening, being with another? Practice taking a breath. When you catch yourself in transaction and feel the pivot to relating, what is different, what were you missing?
Apathy to Engagement
Radical imagination is what expands the limits of possibility, and that’s how change happens. Apathy, sadness and paralysis are all real emotions we feel.
The war economy frames your choices in only two ways, either risk or reward. The Local Peace Economy reorients this perspective to engagement with the ambiguity without fear and anxiety, feelings that can arise when encountering new or unknown circumstances. Local Peace Economy is a living system, responding based on community connections and direct engagement with the planet and its many inhabitants. One that opens possibility and welcomes all voices within a community. As a natural antithesis to apathy, Local Peace Economy is based in community connections and direct engagement with the world around us.
As you practice this pivot, notice the feelings that come up in your body and heart. Notice what possibility feels like, and bring the energy it conjures for you into tomorrow and the next day.
When you feel the vortex of overwhelm sucking you into a place of sinking despair and apathy, recall a beautiful act you’ve felt connected to in your life. Let its power give you the strength to engage.
It all starts locally. It starts with you.
Quantity to Quality
How often do you find yourself thinking that “bigger is better”? This logic is used in many parts of our lives. The more friends you have, the more loved you are. The more projects and tasks you take on, the more effective you are. The more “likes” you get on your blog post, the more impact you’ll have.
It’s not a coincidence that we tend to think this way - the war economy operates on growth and continual consumption, and it rewards those with a big reach, a loud voice, and the money or power to affect thousands of people. That culture bleeds into our own beliefs and habits, even when it comes to our activism. And that can make us feel helpless: what can I, one person, possibly do to affect change?
The war economy devalues small, personal acts, but the strength of our movement, as adrienne maree brown so eloquently puts it, lies in the strength of our relationships, which could only be measured by their depth. It’s all about growing the love between us.
Reflect on where in your life you’ve thought that bigger was better, and see if you can view the situation differently.
Ask yourself today: what does depth require from you? What small, thoughtful action can you take today to grow the love?
Distraction to Attention
In the war economy culture, it seems like there are a million things competing for our attention. Facebook and Instagram notifications, breaking news hits, emails, texts - it all comes in a never-ending second by second stream that most of us indulge. That’s not by accident - our smartphones and accompanying apps are designed to keep us addicted to them in the name of profit.
Why does distraction feel better sometimes? Does it mask our anxiety and help us avoid our discomfort with the current conditions of life? Temporarily covering up our overwhelm with distraction won’t remove it.
Move from distraction to attention by noticing all the moments in your day where you become distracted. When this happens, ask yourself why.
How do you find yourself back in attention? What can bring you back to awareness of the present moment?
What do you want your attention to be creating? Is it?
Waste to Stewardship
There’s no denying it: we live in a culture of waste here in the U.S. The war economy extracts resources from the earth and dumps them into a giant hole in the ground, while bombarding us with messages to mindlessly buy more and more with little regard for whether we actually need the things we purchase or not.
We waste $1 trillion of food every year and consume 1 million plastic bags every minute, and you’re probably well aware of the consequences for our planet and the people exploited in the process. A finite planet simply cannot accommodate infinite growth, and we’re fast approaching the tipping point.
The war economy tricks us into believing our personal actions won’t make an impact on problems of such magnitude. That what we do won’t possibly matter in the grand scheme of things. But as we’ve seen throughout history, the action we make locally catalyzes change that spreads further and more deeply than we can imagine. Getting to zero-waste isn’t a dream, but a future we can work towards every day.
Practice stewardship by reflecting on how waste shows up in your life, and why that is.
Next, check out these 10 simple cost-free changes to make in your daily life for a less wasteful society.
Productivity to Rest
Do you feel like you have a million things to do, a never ending list running through your mind of what you need to accomplish? We live in a war economy culture that tells us we must be productive every moment of our day. In the U.S., being busy is seen as a status symbol, and simply doing nothing can make us feel uneasy - we often think, I should be doing something right now.
Reflect on your relationship to “being productive” and any feelings that come up when you picture yourself just chilling out and resting.
In the beautiful world you want to grow, will people be stressed out as much as they are now? How relaxed will they be? What can you do today to take a small step towards peace?
Rest is resistance to the system that begs us to use all of our being to produce to live. It is the antithesis of capitalism, as capitalism can only perpetuate itself when we ignore our need to rest. Resting reconnects us to our body and mind, allowing us to give our attention to our personal values and joys.
Either/Or to Both/And
How often do you see situations as “either/or”? They are good or bad, right or wrong and politically correct or not. This sort of thinking is extremely popular in our war economy culture, as it divides people and sets us up in competition with each other. It also keeps us from developing the kind of imaginative solutions that are needed to meet the moment we’re in.
There’s an alternative to either/or thinking: “both/and”. In the world of both/and, we start to open up the possibility that we don’t have to choose. This mindset asks questions like: how can we take care of our personal needs AND the needs of our whole community? How can we acknowledge differences AND still get along?
Notice when words of separation show up in your vocabulary. Practice substituting “yes, but” with “yes, and”. “I am right, and you are wrong” with listening to what they are saying and finding points of connection and difference and finding a way to include it all.
For example, instead of saying “What you’re saying makes sense, but there are some pieces I would add for consideration,” try, “What you’re saying makes sense, and there are some pieces I would add for consideration.
Does your connection with others open up when you try this? How does it make you feel?
Reactionary to Investigative
The war economy thrives as mainstream media fails to 1) tell the truth, and 2) talk about what really matters. When corporate elites control the media, which depends on clicks for revenue, certain stories won’t be told and those that are are designed to elicit strong immediate reactions with little care for thoroughness.
In other words, mainstream media relies on us being reactive, mindless consumers. Instead of swallowing what the media feeds us, practice investigating what’s presented by asking thoughtful questions like whose interests are represented. Invest in quality programming.
With the rise of social media and livestreaming, any of us can do on the ground reporting as well. You can follow local community leaders and organizations on Instagram and Twitter that give a heads up when ICE raids, police shootings, etc go down. Where are the resources in your community?
How do you pivot to what nourishes your intelligence instead of owning it?
Us v. Them to All of Us
From an early age, we are fed the good guy vs bad guy narrative. Have you noticed that in most movies, the solution to the problem is to kill the villain?
The trouble with hating the villains is this: when we dehumanize the other, we create the conditions for war. When we see our opponents as subhuman in their morals, conscience, or intelligence, we believe we have to defeat them by force - and force is the weapon of the war economy. And as Audre Lorde says, the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.
The same hate that “the other side” acts out is the same hate we sometimes exercise in response: it is hate that covers up a deeper pain. In different ways, we’re all suffering because we’re all victims of the same war economy.
Use this pivot to picture a person or group of people you struggle to relate to, and ask with genuine curiosity: what is it like to be you? See if you can imagine the combination of circumstances that brought them to where they are. Can you see the world from their eyes?
Limitation to Imagination
What is the world you envision?
For many of us, this question can be difficult to answer. When we are immersed in the war economy, we put our attention on resisting oppression from the powers that be, surviving in dehumanizing workplaces, and avoiding the corporate vortex of consumerism. The system’s ultimate goal is to eradicate our creativity.
We have to imagine beyond those fears, into new ideas and values - into a beautiful world beyond borders and bars, where all of us are visible, valued, and free. Imagination is where the revolution begins, because people will not go somewhere they have not traveled to first in their minds and hearts.
To practice moving from limitation to imagination, take 5-10 minutes to write down a description of the world you envision. Paint a vivid picture in your mind: what are the common values and cultural norms? How are needs met? What do work and play look like? How do people solve conflicts? How does it feel?
If you want to invite others into this exercise, after you’ve written your descriptions you can share them out loud, highlight commonalities, and create a communal vision board.
Afterwards, reflect on how this exercise felt. How can you embody and practice these ideals in the here and now?
Restraint to Pleasure
Sometimes we forget that our major drive as human beings is pleasure - it’s what guides us towards the fulfillment of our needs and desires. But the war economy has trained us to deny pleasure, and instilled a strict code of self-discipline and moderation in us instead. This training numbs us enough to keep performing the unpleasant tasks that turn the gears of the machine.
Meanwhile, we’re made to believe that our deep needs for belonging, connection and service can be filled by material goods and status symbols - ultimately pale substitutes for the real thing.
The war economy shakes in its boots because the things that bring us joy and pleasure are free and abundant: a secret they don’t want you to realize.
Reflect on what your relationship to pleasure and restraint are like.
What would you be doing with your time and energy if you made decisions based on a feeling of deep, erotic yes?
Control to Empowerment
Empowering those who have not yet been blinded by the war economy is our best hope for the future, but unfortunately, our society pushes a comprehensive program of control at an early age. Parenting often turns from care to overprotectiveness, and schools force students to submit to authority figures who determine success through arbitrary standardized tests and send “rebellious” youth down the prison pipeline.
As we honor the courage and vision of those leading us into the streets to fight for justice, reflect on what your own relationship to empowerment is like. How are you supporting your community's vision for a more beautiful, peaceful, and beloved economy?
Scarcity to Abundance
Do you ever find yourself thinking I don’t have time or I can’t afford to? Scarcity defines much of modern life; however, much of this scarcity is made up. This is largely because the war economy takes what has always been free - food, water, land, entertainment, etc - and monetizes it, making resources available to only those who can ‘pay’ for it. We have more than enough food for everyone in the world, but economic poverty makes people go hungry.
But since we know scarcity is largely imagined, we can shift into a new story - that of abundance. When we act from abundance, we believe there is always enough, we freely share with others, and we are optimistic, visionary, and trusting. That kind of mindset can transform our lives and the world around us, and it starts with each of us.
Practice moving from scarcity to abundance by cultivating an abundance mindset, by looking around at what you have, and seeing what you can give away or share with others. Do you really need all the clothes in your closet? What about your books, games, kitchen stuff, etc?
If you don’t have material things to give away, how can you share your time, skills, and passion to help your community?
Plastics to the Planet
The war economy relies on our apathy and disconnection from nature - that’s the reason we consume its plastic goods that destroy the planet, which could have supplied whatever need that drove us to purchase them.
Our planet creates and sustains all of life all on its own - the sun’s energy grows the plants that feed us; the trees give us oxygen and shelter. Monsanto, factory farming, and fossil fuels are sold as indispensable, when really, they create death instead of life.
Observe where plastics or other disposable items exist in your life. How often does an alternative that is contributing to climate change seem like the only choice?
How often are you connected to nature in your day? When was the last time your toes were on the soil? How can you change that and change it for those in your community?
Urgency to Wisdom
We live in a society that propels us to think everything is urgent, all the time. Why? Because we’ve been raised and trained in an economy that values humans for their labor and production capacity, and not much else. It’s easy to get tricked. It’s easy to be fooled into thinking all we are worth is our productivity —to measure our days by how many widgets we created, or emails we sent, or to-do list items we checked off. In fact, structures in our consumerist society are set up to make you feel as though this productivity is wrapped up with your self worth!
It’s an easy jump to think: well if I produce more, and faster, I’m worth more! When we are surrounded daily by colleagues, and sometimes even family members, who are bought into this way of thinking, we create entire cultures in our organizations and home lives where there’s a sense of constant urgency…urgency to prove something…but to whom?
When we act with a sense of urgency, we often make decisions from a place of fear rather than a place of intuitive, grounded wisdom. When we act from a place of time abundance versus urgency, we often act with greater calm, awareness and wisdom. There is something about turning one’s attention to the impacts possible across long spans of time that creates this grounded decision-making effect. To act with mindfulness towards the long run means that many decisions no longer make sense: like war or oil, for instance.
What would it look like for individuals and even whole societies to only make decisions from a place of intuitive, grounded wisdom?
Notice when you feel a sense of urgency. Ask yourself: where is it coming from? Whom might I be trying to perform for or prove something to?
Sometimes things are actually urgent. If your self-reflection provides a satisfying answer as to why this must get done now —then by all means proceed! If not, then stop what you are doing for some time. Take a few deep breaths. Remind yourself of the big picture, and imagine how the actions you are doing today will extend to create ripple effects for the week ahead, the month ahead, the year ahead, and even (if you can go there) 100 years ahead. Now, assess what is most important to do.
Notice the difference of what it feels like to act from a place of time abundance, calm and therefore with greater clarity.
Consumption to Creation
When you consider that the purpose of the war economy is the accumulation and enclosure of wealth and power, and consumerism justifies this purpose by getting us to buy into the idea that the measure of our own worth is our mini-accumulations, the only way to be happy is to buy happy.
Indulging in mindless consumerism is easy and comfortable, and it makes us feel like we're being productive. But in fact, our mindless consumption is not actually doing anything for the world, and it gives us a sense of dissatisfaction - kind of like how we might feel after eating food we know isn't good for our bodies. It’s a lot better if the information we consume is high-quality, but we also need to do something with it in order for it to be effective. And that means we must balance our consumption with creation.
We all have an inherent desire to create, to contribute. It’s what makes us feel most alive and fulfilled. I wonder: what would happen to the war economy if all of us stopped feeding its addictive cycle, and grew our powers of imagination instead?
Pivot from consumption to creation by reflecting on 1) how often you find yourself in the role of consumer versus creator, and 2) the quality of the content you consume and create.
Identify one or two places where you mindlessly over-consume, and replace that time with creating something meaningful for you and your community.
Accumulation to Sharing Resources
We live in a culture that individualizes ownership and consumption, which means we are constantly exerting energy to preserve what we “own” and to make purchases to accumulate more for ourselves and those we share resources with… but what could life be like if our ownership and consumption models were coordinated collectively with those in our community?
Living in a student cooperative in Berkeley with 124 inhabitants showed me that shared resources created a culture of mindful, intentional consumption. Sharing resources and purchasing food together, for example, taught us to exercise moderation and practice communal accountability so that everyone could enjoy a slice of the pie! Can you imagine how collective-cooperative models could transform our local water or gas consumption?! How about local transportation?!
Let’s visualize what we have, what we need, and what we desire (material and non material). What is it? Can your objects of desire be enjoyed collectively or individually? Visualizing what we desire is important for what comes next!
Next, let’s contemplate our capacity to give up something we have to expand access to collective enjoyment. What can you trade in or share with others? How does this play out in your learning or work environments? What does it look like in your family or friendship structures, especially when we replace the material with the behavioral? What powers do we have that we are willing to give up to equalize the spaces we co-inhabit? How does sharing material resources teach us to move away from power-over to power-with?
Repression to Revolution
The war economy mutes our uniqueness and differences, encouraging us to be cookie cutter copies of one another operating on a set of laws, values, and ideals to create like behaviors and responses to stimuli. It numbs us to our disconnection from nature and the ability to really feel, assess, or understand the harm this disconnection causes by distracting us with the conveniences it creates, controls, and distributes. It feeds us endless streams of media and other stimuli. It distances us from ourselves by replacing the joy to be found in our own self discovery and organic interactions with the world around us with product placements and processed experiences. The War Economy has the same power as the most addictive drug; it diminishes our value in ourselves, which separates us further from connection with our community, and creates a "high," a false sense of security and safety in its convenience. We fear being without it and would do anything to be able to continue to get that fix, resulting in us feeling an urgent need to be productive for the war economy.
Let's pivot from repression to revolution. Revolution is a result of the culmination of all things local peace economy. It is in conflict with distracted consumption and the fear of scarcity. It is in harmony with compassion and empowerment for those who are here with us and for those who have yet to enjoy the wonderful bounty that is our planet.
Problem Solving to Managing Complexities
Very easily we can be overwhelmed with the many systemic issues we witness taking place in contemporary times. We live in what economists call a time of poly-crisis. There is an environmental crisis that can be linked directly to a falsely abundant food system, the global reach and occupancy of violence and military force, and consumerism, capitalism and greed. Pollution created from industries like Big Agriculture in the U.S. adversely affects communities of indigenous and other pigmented people who are the global source of low wage and slave labor. These communities then subsequently do not have the resources available to them for healthcare. We each feel the strain and the grief from witnessing these perils, and this discomfort leaves some of us with hopelessness as we each feel too small to be the makers of change and peace we'd rather see in our communities.
This smallness can be empowering once we connect with our own values and our communities locally. We can manage this interweb of complexities by bringing our unique, peculiar values, skills and talents to our community, we are supportive, empowering and resilient together.
Individualism to Self-Responsibility
Self-responsibility is the true culmination of the local peace economy. Social hierarchies of class that privilege the affluent often inspire the less wealthy classes to aspire towards a private, individualistic life that many of us will never experience. This, as we have explored above as aspects of individualism, circumvents the necessary support we each need as we navigate our human experiences.
We can learn from the people of the global south, from the indigenous people who are fighting daily to stop the clearing of their ancestral lands, and from those who are living through the immediate effects of the climate crisis. Each of these communities are poor in the Western aspect of not having material wealth, though they are rich through sharing resources, interdependence and stewardship, hence their resiliency. The Iroquois philosophy of the Seventh Generation (the Great Binding Law) is the concept of considering the impact of your words and decisions on the next seven generations. This generational protection centers an individuals' "yearning for the welfare of the people within their community," creating a desire to respect and empower each person and their intrinsic values.
By recognizing where we experience the attitudes of the war economy and pivoting towards the practices of a local peace economy, we can each align ourselves with the peaceful aspects of life that we wish for others. We wish warmth and food and shelter and love for all, and we ensure that by valuing each other intrinsically. By moving towards self-responsibility, we can live beautifully and not destructively.