View & Print PDF

GTI Forum

Beyond Us vs Them
Contribution to GTI Forum What’s Next for the Global Movement?

John Bunzl

What’s missing from the movement landscape?

1. There is no 99% vs a 1%. There is only the 100%. What is missing, firstly I suggest, is to recognize that, by and large, our predicament is not a struggle between groups of humans, but a struggle between all humanity and a destructive system which has a life of its own. Since it was unleashed, this system now operates globally, beyond the control of any group while powerfully limiting and guiding the actions of all groups toward destructive outcomes. Akin to the dynamic of the “tragedy of the commons,” this system is a vicious cycle: no government can move first or act alone to solve global problems because doing so would make its national economy uncompetitive, risking unemployment, capital flight, and economic decline. Whether we are talking about climate, nuclear weapons, AI, tax avoidance, wealth inequality, or other global problems, this destructive system remains in control. I refer to it as Destructive Global Competition (DGC).1 It is not that governments don’t want to solve global problems, but that they can’t.

Far from being anyone’s fault, DGC is the result of evolution’s tendency towards ever-larger geographical scales combined with the tendency for economic activity to run ahead of government regulation. Today, we have a global market but only national governance. Given this "governance gap," it is not surprising that DGC is running out of any control and continues to drive us all to destroy the planet on which we depend. So, in remaining identified with an “us vs. them” mindset (i.e., believing that the enemy is some other group of humans or some sub-system like capitalism or patriarchy), we only distract from what we should be focused on and thereby exacerbate the problems we profess to be solving.

2. Hierarchies are natural and necessary. The second thing we are missing is our need to grow beyond our predominantly postmodern worldview that rejects all hierarchies and all meta-narratives. This worldview champions decentralization, diversity, leaderless coalitions, horizontal networks, etc., etc. Meanwhile, set against this fragmented, horizontal, uncoordinated mass of global justice initiatives, we have the single, over-arching dynamic of DGC: a global, unified, all-pervading, top-down, destructive, out-of-control dynamic. Nothing that has a decentralized, non-hierarchical structure can possibly succeed against this. Without acknowledging the need for unity and some hierarchy, our movement, such as it is, stands absolutely no chance.

We need therefore to understand that hierarchies are natural and indispensable. The trick, however, is to distinguish between actualizing hierarchies (i.e., healthy ones) and dominator hierarchies (i.e., unhealthy ones). Being a global dominator hierarchy, DGC can only be overcome by a unified, global actualizing hierarchy—that is, by some form of globally coordinated, cooperative, citizen-driven global governance process that transcends and includes nation-states: an actualizing hierarchy that puts us, citizens, in the driving seat, rendering us capable of driving nations to cooperatively implement the necessary policies to solve global problems.2

3. Subsidiarity builds movement unity. Another thing we are missing is that actualizing hierarchies promote unity where it is needed and diversity where it is not. Every coherent entity in the world is held together by some form of governance, whether it be an atom, a cell, your body, or a nation. Governance structures are also multi-level because, as societies expand, existing governance structures eventually can’t cope, thus necessitating the creation of new, higher-level governance structures. The operating principle between these levels is subsidiarity: what cannot be solved at the lowest possible level is taken up to the next-higher level. This promotes unity where it is needed, while leaving space for independence and diversity where it is not.

4. Understanding our unique evolutionary moment. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we are missing the evolutionary meta-narrative in which all are involved but of which few are yet aware.3

How to Catalyze a GCM?

A “big tent” approach (i.e., get as many NGOs and global justice initiatives into the room as we can), which prioritizes quantity, is destined to fail. This is because it will be the postmodern, anti-hierarchical worldview of the vast majority that will hold sway. The net result will be exactly what we see in the movement today: fragmented chaos.

Thus, an approach based on quality will be needed: first seeking out those very few NGOs and initiatives already holding a higher, world-centric worldview. This will provide a powerful core group that can disseminate messaging designed to point out the shortcomings of the wider movement, so destabilizing their postmodern worldview and causing them to think deeper, nudging them gently but firmly towards a higher world-centric consciousness and mode of action.

As more NGOs start cooperating, an in-group/out-group dynamic will evolve whereby those NGOs still refusing to cooperate will start to feel themselves increasingly irrelevant.

1. As explained in The Simpol Solution, co-authored with Nick Duffell:
2. For more on this, see
3. See the GTI forum on Big History ( as well as the work of John Stewart (e.g.,

John Bunzl
John Bunzl is a global political activist, businessman, and the founder of the Simultaneous Policy (Simpol) campaign. He is the author of People-Centred Global Governance.

Cite as John Bunzl, "Beyond Us vs Them," contribution to GTI Forum "What's Next for the Global Movement?," Great Transition Initiative (January 2024),

As an initiative for collectively understanding and shaping the global future, GTI welcomes diverse ideas. Thus, the opinions expressed in our publications do not necessarily reflect the views of GTI or the Tellus Institute.

Core GT Texts
The emergence of an organic planetary civilization has become both possible and necessary. What would it look like? How do we get there?

The classic essay on our planetary moment, global scenarios, and pathways to a just, fulfilling, and sustainable future.