This Sunday, September 12th, "We the World," a U.N.-based non-profit, will inaugurate the first Interdependence Day Festival. The event will take place at the Cuny Grad Center, located in Manhattan on 34th and 5th, and will include dazzling artistic presentations and performances rooted in the consciousness of peace and sustainability. It will also feature a public reading and signing of the Declaration of Interdependence - derived from the Earth Charter specifically for this occasion.
Interdependence, a concept that implies how human beings depend on one another in the web of life - is an idea whose time has come. But the radical right, whose ideology has infiltrated American business, society and politics, has a big problem with this. They continue to worship the every-man-for-himself, fiercely competitive dog-eat-dog, "what's-in-it-for-me?" mentality that is not only profoundly selfish and anti-human, but an ineffective and unintelligent way to structure a good society.
For those who think interdependence is a touchy-feeling concoction of the loony left, think again. Had the C.I.A. and F.B.I. been working interdependently, in close collaboration instead of with macho posturing and competitiveness, they might have prevented 9/11. One great example of interdependence at work is in the scientific community. The best scientists work collaboratively, building creatively on each other's work. The best schools are also characterized by this spirit of collegiality. I once worked in an alternative high school in Manhattan that was part of New Visions for Public schools - an organization that just received a 60 million dollar grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. Every Friday after school, the teachers and administrators gathered in a circle to share not just ideas - but to work through collegial tensions that, if left unresolved like in most schools, fester and poison the environment for everyone.
The real truth is that a selfish, wealthy elite (excluding the enlightened wealthy like Bill Gates) will hold onto their money and power better in a society divided rather than interconnected. So to take a stand for interdependence is to critique the status quo in favor of a more just, more fair and ultimately more loving world. In the film Love Liza, for example, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman brilliantly portrays how a man grieving over his wife (who recently committed suicide), reaches out to the community and even to strangers for healing; in one dramatic scene, he cranes his head out his car window and attempts a conversation with a truck driver while hurtling down the highway. In a more interconnected society, he wouldn't have to resort to such a dangerous and extreme act for a little human contact. Hillary was right - it does take a village.
A nice example of interdependence at work is the Symposia bookstore in Hoboken. In the immediate wake of 9/11 - when the need for people to be in community was so great - Symposia sponsored a weekly open-conversation that lasted for two years. Since then Symposia has evolved into a vital source of community repair and healing, providing a rare open space for dialogue, connection and even friendship.
If you would like to join me in creating more projects that foster interdependence in Hudson County, I can be reached at 201-792-0085. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. John Bredin
Teacher & Community builder