Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

More than 200,000 people demonstrated together in Washington, DC in 2017 for the People's Climate March. (Photo: Eman Mohammed/Survival Media Agency)

From Me to We. My New Year’s Resolution

In 2019, we must move beyond the myth of the lone individual to recognize our deep interdependence and responsibilities for one another and nature.

David Korten

 by YES! Magazine

It’s not likely that many of us will mourn the passing of 2018. It’s been a deeply troubled year defined by wildfires, floods, earthquakes, water shortages, financial chaos, political gridlock, flows of displaced persons, growth in the gap between rich and poor, the rise of dictatorial leaders, and a dire consensus warning from scientists on the impact of climate change.

I’ve been pondering my New Year’s resolution for 2019. Deep change is clearly needed. But what can I do that might measure up to the magnitude of the problem? A promise to turn down my thermostat? Buy an electric car? Give to a charity? Take in a refugee? The possibilities that come to mind—even those that might involve serious commitment—seem trivial, given the scale of the problem.

The problem isn’t me. It isn’t you. Nor is it those folks over there. The problem is we. The big we, humanity: What we believe, how we live, how we relate to one another and Earth. We have gotten something terribly wrong that we must now get right. But what? Do we even agree on the problem?

"The problem is we. The big we, humanity: What we believe, how we live, how we relate to one another and Earth. We have gotten something terribly wrong that we must now get right. But what? Do we even agree on the problem?"

Perhaps moving forward begins with honoring our African roots—the birthplace of our species that produced the wisdom of “Ubuntu,” often translated as “I am because we are.” Ubuntu is a profound truth long ignored by so-called Western civilization, but now confirmed by the leading edge of contemporary science: Complex life exists—can exist—only in living communities in which organisms together create and maintain the conditions essential to their individual and collective existence.

Not only do we depend on one another, but our ability to live rests on the services contributed by the many members of Earth’s community of life—the bees that pollinate the flowers, the trees essential to the water cycle, the beetles that aid the decomposition of plants after their death, the microbes that digest my food so my body can use its energy and nutrients. Without these many, wondrously diverse beings, Earth would be just another dead rock floating in space.

I sense that humanity is awakening to a profound truth: We—the big we—thrive together, or we expire together. This comes with a recognition that many of the myths by which we live are falsehoods so divorced from reality that they threaten our mutual existence.

It is deeply deflating to realize just how much of what we call Western civilization is built on deceptions: The myth of the lone individual; the myth of freedom without responsibility for our neighbor; the myth that societies built on the exploitation of people and nature are advanced civilizations morally superior to the peoples they devastate; the myth that rule by the richest among us is a form of democracy.

"It is deeply deflating to realize just how much of what we call Western civilization is built on deceptions."

And also, our society is built on the myth that our well-being is enhanced by institutions, technologies, and infrastructure that substitutes financial transactions for caring relationships, isolates us from one another to the point that too many of us live alone, moving us in single-person cars, and encouraging us to buy whatever we need from Amazon.com with no need for contact with another living being. As we celebrate our “freedom,” we wonder why mental health declines and suicides grow.

As we approach 2019, I see hopeful signs of widespread awakening to the truth that either we embrace the responsibilities of community life and thereby thrive, or we will perish together in the faux freedom of our isolation.

Everywhere I turn—from the spontaneous conversation a few nights ago with neighbors gathered for Christmas, to recent meetings in South Korea that included the mayor of Seoul, and to global strategy conversations with fellow members of the Club of Rome in Europe and Africa—I am finding an eager readiness for discussions about our global crisis and the path beyond it. These discussions cross the lines of race, religion, and class beyond anything I’ve previously experienced.

Conditioned to think and act as an isolated “me,” we may find it difficult to hold to the “we” space. Yet the “we” conversation is essential to the task of creating a truly civilized and democratic civilization that works for the whole of life.

So, my resolution for the New Year? To devote my time and energy at every opportunity to encouraging and engaging these conversations about getting from me to we. I hope you may consider making this a resolution for yourself as well.


This article was written for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
David Korten

David Korten

Dr. David Korten is the author of "Agenda for a New Economy,"  "The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community," "Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth," and the international bestseller "When Corporations Rule the World." He is board chair of YES! Magazine, co-chair of the New Economy Working Group, a founding board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, president of the Living Economies Forum, and a member of the Club of Rome. He holds MBA and Ph.D. degrees from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and served on the faculty of the Harvard Business School.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'An Atrocity': Poor Go Without as Rich Nations Set to Let 100 Million Covid Vaccines Rot

"Poorer countries shouldn't have to wait until our doses are about to expire to vaccinate their populations."

Andrea Germanos ·


'Climate Clock' Shows Rich Nations Still Owe $90 Billion a Year to Global Green Fund

"Wealthy nations must live up to their promise made twelve years ago and put their money where their mouths are," said an Oxfam climate expert. "We need to see real funding increases now."

Jake Johnson ·


Democrats Urged to 'Ignore' Parliamentarian's Advice Against Path to Citizenship

"Ignore this ruling or get a new one. The GOP didn't hesitate when they pushed their corporate agenda."

Jake Johnson ·


Sanders, Top Dems Optimistic Party Will 'Come Together' for Reconciliation Package

However, House leaders warn they may miss a September 27 deadline to consider Senate-approved infrastructure legislation that progressives will only support alongside a $3.5 trillion bill.

Jessica Corbett ·


Report on Revolving Door and Tax Policy Sparks Calls for Federal Probe and Reforms

"This is an example of terrible management in the Treasury Department across multiple administrations."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo