One of the saddest things about getting old is seeing the departure of one’s friends and family. Most recently for me, it was the passing, at age 98, of long-time friend and colleague John Papworth. John, an ordained Anglican priest, was a staunch advocate for peace and indefatigable proponent of community empowerment and human scale.
As I recall, I first became aware of John and his work in the early 1980s through my association with the School of Living, then a bit later we met face to face on one of his tours of the United States when he came to Rochester to meet with a group of us who worked with the Peace and Justice Education Center. John, at the time was publishing The Fourth World Review, a periodical that promoted decentralism and the idea that the gigantic size of nation states, mass media, and allied institutions makes democratic government and world peace unattainable. John argued that, “The way forward is not through mass party machines, but through the development of local community governing powers to a maximum level to ensure we have government not from the top down but as much as possible from the base up, A Fourth World of peoples’ power.”
“Villages and small communities are the bloodcells of civilisation, if they are free and fully empowered they can yet halt the current Gadarene rush to collapse and enable civilisation to flourish in peace and plenty and a splendour to match the achievements of the human-scale world of the Renaissance.”
Searching the Web today, you’ll not find much about it, but I consider John’s Fourth World Review and Fourth World Assemblies to have been extremely important elements in the ongoing efforts toward community empowerment and a new, more peaceful society. In 1986 I travelled to Zurich, Switzerland to participate in the 5th Assembly of the Fourth World, and then took it upon myself to organize the 6th Assembly of the Fourth World in San Francisco the following year. Under the aegis of the School of Living of which I then served as President, together with affiliated groups, the next three annual Assemblies were held in Raleigh, Toronto, and Dallas, respectively.
I did find a post about the Fourth World Review on the website of the UK National Liberal Party at http://nationalliberal.org/liberty-wall-3/fourth-world-review, from which the above quotes were taken. That post also contains links to two issues of The Fourth World Review (#153, winter 2011: click here, and #154, spring 2012: click here) that were published under the new editorship of Wayne John Sturgeon and Graham Williamson after John stepped aside. I’ve found no evidence of its continued publication after that.
In this photo below, taken in September 2001 at Papworth’s home in Purton, England, I am with John P. (center) and self-sufficiency advocate and prolific writer, John Seymour (right). At that time, Donna, my then partner and I, were there to participate in the Radical Consultation, a Fourth World event that was held in nearby Swindon. As it turned out, we were staying with John at his home on the very day that the World Trade Center in New York was attacked and destroyed. After John’s son Pierre phoned to alert us to what was happening, we watched on the tele, as did millions of others, the unfolding horrors of that day.
You can find John’s obituaries in The Times of London, the Telegraph, and the Church Times.
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