Common Welfare Comes First

n a recent interview for The Great Growing Up I was asked what kind of tipping point might be reached when this new paradigm, this vision for the created future I write about in the book, might begin to emerge. In yet another experience of hearing myself say something without ever having had the thought, I answered, “When the well-being of everyone becomes more important than the agenda of any one person or group.”

As I am prone to do after saying something publicly that I was never conscious of thinking, I mulled it over after the interview to see if I could “own” what I had said and concluded it had been a wisdom from some place inside me that had been lying outside of my conscious awareness. And I was willing to stand by what I said.

As I write this I am reading a book titled Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, about the early days of A.A. and how the fellowship arrived at the “Twelve Traditions.” For those unfamiliar with A.A., the “Twelve Steps” are a proven strategy for managing one’s own life responsibly and the Twelve Traditions are a hard-learned method of running the fellowship. The very first Tradition states, “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on A.A. unity.”

I cannot think of any other organization or society that places a higher value on the personal welfare of its individual members. But these pioneers learned early on that “common welfare had to come first; without it there could be mighty little personal welfare,” to quote from the book.

“Wow!” I thought. “This sounds much like my tipping point.”

I have long been a supporter of Twelve Step programs and a firm believer that A.A. was God-inspired for all the wisdom the programs teach us. I try to live my own life according to these same principles as I think they are an excellent design for living whether or not one has an addiction to overcome.

Along that line, we as a society can be seen as addicts, at least as far as my definition goes. I define an addiction as “a habit one cannot break that does harm.” As a society we seem unwilling to break our old habits, habits that are ruining our habitat, our source of life-giving nourishment, and widening the gap between those who have almost everythingand those who have almost nothing. Anyone can see this is unsustainable. Continuing on this path will not end well. Yet like the addict who denies his or her problem, we continue our unsustainable lifestyles.

This is nuts!

How do we as human beings arrive at consensus that the common welfare comes first? How can we learn from the early members of A.A. who saw that the community’s welfare must come first and that personal welfare or security depends upon the welfare of the whole? How can we muster the wisdom that A.A. recognized almost seventy years ago?


Those early years of A.A remind me of the Spaceship Earth metaphor, popularized by inventor/futurist Buckminster Fuller, where everyone onboard is crew. No passengers. Just crew. Each person responsible for the success or survival of the “ship.”

Our present reality is where we have steered ourselves; it is up to each of us to reinvent our course, our destination and, as necessary, our spaceship.