Ch 5: We the People and social transformation

2004-12-06

Richard Moore

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Table Of Contents (revised)

Chapter 1   The matrix

Chapter 2   We the People and the transformational imperative

Chapter 3   The harmonization imperative

Chapter 4   Harmonization in groups

Chapter 5   We the People and social transformation

Chapter 6   Envisioning a democratic world

Chapter 7   The transition process

Chapter 8   Living outside the matrix

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Chapter 5

WE THE PEOPLE AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION


If only people could see each other as agents of each others'
                        happiness, they could occupy the earth, their common
habitation, in peace, and move forward confidently together to
their common goal. The prospect changes when they regard each
other as obstacles; soon they have no choice left but to flee
or be forever fighting. Humankind then seems nothing but a
                        gigantic error of nature.
                        -Abbe Sieyes. Prelude to the Constitution ,1789, France


Envisioning a transformational movement

We know that our current systems cannot be reformed:
civilization is facing a dire crisis and only a thorough and
global transformation of our societies can deal adequately
with this crisis. The source of this transformation can only
be We the People, in the form of an appropriate grassroots
social movement.

We have seen that harmonization processes provide the means by
which we can overcome factionalism, enter a space of
cooperative inquiry, and find our identity as We the People.
We have also seen that harmonization dynamics lead to the
emergence of collective wisdom - enabling synergistic
creativity, deep learning, and even personal transformation.

It seems that We the People, harmonization, and social
transformation are inextricably linked together. Spreading a
culture of harmonization seems to be the same thing as
enabling We the People to wake up. Where We the People have
been awakened, harmonization is the means by which we can make
progress together and build the momentum of our movement. As
our movement encounters obstacles, harmonization provides the
means by which we can creatively deal with those obstacles.
And finally, a culture of harmonization would seem to be a
sound foundation on which to build a democratic and equitable
global  society.

            Hope is a dimension of the soulŠ an orientation of the spirit,
            an orientation of the heart. It transcends the world that is
            immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its
            horizons. . . .It is not the conviction that something will
            turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense
            regardless of how it turns out.
            -Vaclav Havel

Based on these encouraging considerations, I suggest  that it
would be worth our while to step back and think strategically
about how a harmonization-based movement might be encouraged
and nourished, and how it could be expected to develop. This
path appears to be a very promising one, and well worth
exploring.

In terms of building a movement, we can take encouragement
from the fact that harmonization sessions tend to generate
enthusiasm among participants to spread the experience to
others. This was apparent when the Rogue Valley Wisdom Council
participants gave their presentations at the open community
meeting, and it was also expressed in the subsequent
development of the citizen's panels. The Wisdom Council was in
turn inspired by the enthusiasm of Jim Rough and Tom Atlee,
who were interviewed on radio in the Rogue Valley area. In the
case of the Michigan conference, the participants were
literally overflowing with enthusiasm to share their
breakthrough experiences, and signed a remarkable "We the
People" declaration. This kind of enthusiasm can serve very
effectively to help propagate a social movement. It helps give
the movement legs.

As regards the early stages of our exploration, I think we can
take our most useful lessons from the Populist Movement, which
we examined in some detail in Chapter 2. That movement focused
on self-help initiatives, employed a territorial strategy,
developed an empowering movement culture, and effectively
participated in electoral politics within movement territory.
These characteristics served the movement very well, and I
suggest we adopt them in our current exploration. The
Populists eventually floundered in the quicksand of
adversarial politics, and for the later stages of our
exploration we will look elsewhere for lessons.

Self-help initiatives help build a sense of empowerment in the
movement; they help develop the movement's ability to deal
with problems and projects, and by their success stories they
can help spread the movement. In terms of political
transformation, experience with self-help projects teaches
people that they are, working together, capable of running
their own affairs. As people learn this, through their own
experience, they will begin their liberation from the
disempowering myth that we need hierarchies to maintain
coherence and order in our societies. This is a myth we want
to be well free of by the time we start considering the nature
of our new society.

A territorial strategy makes sense on many levels. Recall this, 
from Chapter 2:

      Within a captured territory - a region in which people generally
      have become part of the movement - the vision and culture of the
      movement has an opportunity to flower and to find expression
      in ordinary conversation among people. The culture has a place
      to take root and grow, and people's sense of empowerment is
      reinforced by being in the daily company of those who share an
      evolving vision - and who are in effect collaborators in a
      shared project.

In the case of a harmonization movement, our natural unit of
territory would be the awakened community. We can imagine how
an awakened community might develop by looking at the Rogue
Valley scenario. The process there began with a Wisdom Council
experiment, which introduced the community to the principles
of harmonization and the possibility of We the People
empowerment. Out of the ensuing enthusiasm, a kind of We the
People movement got started in the community, based on
citizen's panels, operating without the benefit of adequate
facilitation, and is likely to fall back into collaborative
dynamics within the context of local adversarial politics.

That's how far events have gone so far in the Rogue Valley.
The spirit of We the People has been kindled, and is
sputtering along, lacking the depth provided by harmonization
dynamics. The spirit is willing but the process is weak. Let's
now imagine how the scenario might be further developed, so as
to enable an awakened community to evolve. It seems to me that
the remedy for the local malady would be a second external
intervention, another Wisdom Council experiment, but one
focused around the local movement and its relationship to the
community generally.

Participants would presumably be selected so as to provide a
representative microcosm of the relevant stakeholder groups in
the community. A cross section of folks involved in the
citizen's panels would certainly be included, along with some
randomly chosen citizens, including some opposed to the
panels. It might also be helpful to include participants from
local government and the business community.

With the full benefit of harmonization dynamics, presumably
using again Dynamic Facilitation, such an event could be
expected to revitalize the local movement in several very
important ways. It would remind the community, and
particularly the participants themselves, of the importance of
appropriate process. It would be likely to resolve any
divisions that have arisen in the local movement, and point
the way to a harmonized strategic framework for their
subsequent initiatives. By the end of the session, all of the
participants can be expected to 'get it', that the people
involved with the citizen's panels are not a 'special interest
group', but are an expression of We the People striving to
take responsibility for our own affairs. One could expect
sympathy for the movement to grow in the community, and more
people to feel inclined to participate.

As part of this second intervention, in addition to the Wisdom
Council experiment, we would also want to arrange a local
facilitator training, so that local residents would be able to
provide facilitation in support of the local movement, and
hopefully be able to train still more facilitators in turn. In
this way the community would become 'process self-sufficient'
and the local movement would be able to take responsibility
for its own further development.

              Four hundred years ago the village of Maliwada, India, was a
              thriving agricultural center, producing fruits, vegetables,
              and wines. In 1975, it had little water, no sanitation, few
              crops. Over 2,000 villagers barely eked out a subsistence
              living. Muslims and Hindus of many different castes lived with
              centuries of mutual distrust. The villagers knew about their
              prosperous past, but it seemed long gone and hopeless to
              recreate.
              
              The discussions began based on two questions: "What would it
              take to have prosperity exist again in this village? What can
              you do to make that happen?" Gradually, as ideas began to pour
              fourth, perspectives changed. Hindus and Muslims talked
              together excitedly about how to clean out the ancient well.
              Brahmins and Untouchables discovered in a joint meeting that
              all despaired at the lack of medical care for their sick
              children. They all wanted to create a health clinic in the
              village. Hope began to creep into their voices and eyes. What
              had seemed totally impossible suddenly became doable. People
              organized and tapped resources they had forgotten they had.
              
              They acquired loans from a bank and received government
              grants. They built a dam, a brick factory, and the clinic. The
              shared vision of what they wanted for themselves and their
              community allowed them to go beyond their personal and
              cultural differences and continued to motivate them. Each
              success made them stronger, more confident, more self-assured.
              Today, Maliwada is a prospering village.
              
              When transformation like this takes place, the news travels.
              Nearby villagers wanted to know how they could do this....
              
              Quoted from Patricia R. Tuecke, Rural     International
              Development, in Discovering Common Ground, by Marvin R.
              Weisbord, et. al. (Berrett-Koehler, 1992), p. 307.

Empowered by the full dynamics of harmonization, one cold
expect the local movement to eventually reach its full local
potential. In many cases, this could lead to a community where
essentially everyone in the community is involved in the
movement. Presumably every neighborhood would  have its own
panel, and would then send delegations on to community-wide
harmonization councils. In this way a coherent We the People
consciousness would emerge on a community-wide scale, and
everyone's voice would be included in that consciousness. This
would be an awakened community; a unit of movement territory.
It would be a beacon to other communities and as such would be
a primary means of movement propagation.

Let's now consider the next characteristic we want to borrow
from the Populist's: an empowering movement culture. We're
already way ahead on this item, as harmonization itself is a
remarkably empowering part of the culture of any awakened
community. The growth of he movement would be in fact the
spreading of a cultural transformation. Within movement
territory, our dominant adversarial and dominance-oriented
culture would be gradually supplanted by a culture of
cooperation and harmony. This would be one of the most
transformational aspects of the movement, and would prepare We
the People for our role in creating a new kind of society.

As part of their cultural activities, the Populists developed
materials on history, economics, and politics - all from the
perspective of grassroots democracy and the interests of
ordinary people. This was their version of escaping the
matrix. Our movement too would benefit from pursuing
mutual-education activities of a similar nature. Although the
movement is well advised to begin with a focus on local
self-help, it will eventually need to develop a consciousness
of its transformational imperative - and of its potential
capacity to respond to that imperative.

I suggest  that we can expect these kinds of educational
activities to emerge spontaneously as the movement develops
(the Populists didn't have the Internet). Particularly after a
community has become fully harmonized, people would naturally
want to explore questions such as, why can't we just run
society this way? We can expect that there would be movement
and community websites, with links and resource material, and
online discussion forums. We can expect movement conferences,
and regional councils where whole regions have become
awakened.

The final characteristic from the Populists is the
incorporation of electoral politics into movement tactics
within movement territory. We've already seen this begin in
the Rogue Valley movement. Clearly, in any harmonized
territory, the people would tend to select slates of delegates
and elect them to all the local offices. The local government
apparatus would evolve toward being fully aligned with the
movement and the office holders would continue to be equal 
participants in the harmonizing process of their communities.
Important issues would, at some stage in the evolution, be
decided by the community process, not unilaterally by an
official City Council or Mayor. Their job would evolve toward
administering policies that have been decided by We the
People. That, I suggest, is what democracy looks like - and how
it would naturally express itself.

It seems that a local harmonization movement would quite
naturally exhibit the beneficial characteristics we observed
in the Populist Movement. The only interventions called for - by
those who would be movement initiators - would be to give the
community an opportunity to experience harmonization, and make
additional support available at the right time to assure  that
the process does not degenerate before it can become self
sustaining. Other than that, such a local movement might be
very likely to evolve toward being an awakened community on
its own local initiative - and the movement could be expected to
spread, in many cases, to neighboring communities.

I find this very encouraging. The more locally-sustaining a
movement can be, and the more self-propagating, then the more
likely it is to achieve viable critical mass and go on to
become a mass movement. So far, this exploration seems to be a
fruitful one.

With just what we've discussed so far, such a movement, once
it gets off the ground, could spread to a whole society. When
that happens, the potential for pursuing societal
transformation would be apparent to all.


The role of movement initiators

The kind of grassroots harmonization movement we have been
exploring here does not need movement leaders or movement
organizers in the traditional sense. Indeed, the existence of
such leadership and guidance would contradict the principles
of the movement itself, which center around local democratic
autonomy and the development of local agendas and initiatives.

At the same time we must acknowledge that our movement does
not yet exist, not in any viable form as a movement, and some
form of initiator intervention will be required, in addition
to what is already being done in places like the Rogue Valley.
What I want to do here is explore what kinds of initiation
strategies might be most productive in terms of seeding and
nourishing a mass movement. I speak to you here as a potential
co-initiator. I consider myself to be a co-initiator, and this
book is my own seed-pod contribution.

First and foremost, I will re-emphasize that we would be
well-advised to focus our primary seeding efforts on
communities, within the context of community empowerment and
revitalizing democracy. Not only do we get the movement
benefits mentioned in the previous section, but a community is
fertile soil for a harmonization seed. Unlike the Michigan
Conference or the Maclean's event, which met as microcosm's of
an at-large constituency, a community environment provides a
social context in which the experience is likely to be
discussed, and  the enthusiasm to be shared. It is possible to
hold a public meeting after a harmonization event, get an item
in the local paper or radio station, etc. I would go so far as
to suggest that community might be perceived as the primary
characteristic of the movement, likely to be part of the name
when a name emerges. Most of these considerations, by the way,
could also apply to workplaces and campuses.

Permit me also to re-emphasize that seeds need a bit of
follow-up care, to assure their viability as fully-developed
specimens. If this critical detail is not attended to the
movement would be likely to degenerate along
non-transformational lines, probably becoming an advocacy
movement of some traditional variety, or a MoveOn kind of
thing. We already have enough of those.

In terms of initiation strategy, it seems that Johnny
Appleseed would be our ideal model - spreading seeds in
communities, as widely possible and as many as possible. In
addition to this, and I assume someone would naturally do
this, we would benefit from an appropriate website that has
introductory material, success stories, links to community
contacts and facilitation services, etc. Such a website would
want to avoid exhibiting any political attitude, apart from
what might be posted by citizens in a public forum area.

I imagine that national assemblies (conversations among people
involved in the movement) and regional councils (harmonization
events involving community delegations) would be initiated
naturally from within the movement itself. And once the
movement achieves a viable critical momentum, there will no
longer be any category of initiator. Whatever any of us do
then will be done from within an existing movement, as equal
participants.

Given that the movement is currently a long ways from critical
mass, I'd like to suggest  one more important area where
initiator action could be very productive, as regards
accelerating initial movement growth. I'm thinking in
particular of all those thousands of people who have shown up
all over the world to participate in anti-globalization
protests.

Those people represent a constituency of energetic activists
who are motivated by a relatively deep lack of faith in our
dominant political and economic systems. They seek a system,
although only vaguely conceived, that is organized around
transformational values and objectives -  such as
sustainability, peace, justice, and genuine democracy.

It seems to me that our harmonization movement would make a
great deal of sense to this constituency. They are generally
familiar with consensus processes, so the facilitation aspect
wouldn't be viewed negatively. Our emphasis on direct
democracy would be appealing, along with the transformative
potential of the movement. I suspect that many of them, if
they understand what this movement is about, would see it as a
more promising vehicle for their activist efforts and ideals
than protests have turned out to be.

If the amount of energy, work, expense, and travel that goes
into a single major anti-globalization event were to go
instead into seeding a
community-empowerment-through-harmonization movement, we might
reach critical mass in short order.

It seems to me that somehow reaching out to this constituency
would be an important component of initiation strategy.
Organizing facilitator trainings for activists might be a
particularly useful activity, as that would equip them to be
self-sufficient Johnny Appleseeds.


The new society within the old 

As  I mentioned above, the
growth of our movement would bring a cultural
transformation - away from adversarial ways of getting things
done, and toward more cooperative approaches. This would be a
natural result of using harmonization as a routine way of
deciding community policy. To this extent then, the new
society would be growing up within the womb  of the old.

Beyond that, as the movement began to bring in larger areas
and regions, people would begin to develop ways of resolving
wide scale issues, and carrying out wide-scale collaborative
endeavors, without a central authority. And again this would
be a natural result of using harmonizing processes when
community delegations gather together to deal with wider scale
issues or consider wider movement strategy. Here again, we
would  be seeing an element of the new society growing up
within the old.

These two cultural shifts - toward harmonization and
decentralization - are critical if the movement is going to have
the experience and capacity necessary to create a democratic
new society. If the new society is plagued by factionalism or
hierarchy, it will not for long remain democratic or
harmonious.

Decentralization is an important principle for our new society
not only from the perspective of democracy, but also from the
perspectives of diversity, innovation, and cultural evolution.
A centralized society is like a mainframe computer with a
single processor. The government acts as a bottleneck, slowing
down innovation and progress. And then when a piece of
legislation is finally trundled out, we get a
one-size-fits-all solution for the whole society. These things
would be true even in that rarely-seen ideal situation, where
officials are sincerely trying to represent the interests of
ordinary people.

A decentralized society is like the Internet, with millions of
PCs all working away in parallel, and all able to share their
results with the others. Innovation occurs holographically,
and breakthroughs in one place can be adapted immediately for
use elsewhere. The pace and variety of innovation is much
greater, as we see when comparing what's available on the net
with what's available on the news stands or on the TV - both
being centralized channels of communication. And in a
decentralized societies there would be more local variation
and cultural diversity, as communities either rely on their
own home-grown ideas, or modify imported ideas to suit local
conditions and preferences.

As the movement becomes widespread, I daresay it would not be
too long before people would begin to ask, Why can't we just
run society this way? What are those jerks in Washington (or
Dublin, or Paris, or wherever) doing for us anyway? What do we
need them for? This is when We the People begin to realize our
transformational potential. In terms of revolutionary dynamics
this situation would be very similar to that of the American
colonies under British rule, in the years leading up to  the
Revolution.

The American colonies were not really governed by Britain;
rather they were compelled to pay tribute to Britain in
monetary terms, in the form of levies to the Crown or profits
sent home to British-owned enterprises operating in the
colonies. In terms of governance, the colonies had their own
elected assemblies that managed their own local affairs. The
British Governor had official authority, but he was relatively
isolated from the day-to-day affairs of the colonists. The
American Revolution was not a social revolution - as were the
French and Russian - it was simply the severing of ties with the
Mother country. Whereas the French and Russian revolutions
were followed by considerable chaos and strife, the aftermath
of the American 'Revolution' was relatively orderly and civil.
The new society had already been in place - it only needed to be
freed from outside domination. The Constitution was not
intended to transform the colonies, but rather to legitimize
the way they already were - and to preserve the privilege of
those who had come out on top under Crown rule. There was
comparatively little breakdown of society, and little chaos,
when the British were defeated. The transition to the new
regime was at least orderly, even if it didn't lead to a
democratic society.

Similarly, as the new decentralized, harmonizing culture
begins to establish itself throughout society, people will
begin to realize that their relationship to the hierarchy is a
matter of paying tribute - in taxes to government, in profits to
corporations, in interest to banks, and in young people
sacrificed to the military machine. As we gain experience in
running our own affairs, we will understand that it is
possible for us to sever our ties with oppression and
exploitation. At this point, We the People will be beginning
to make the decision to claim our rightful heritage.


                    I feel the suffering of millions, and yet when I look up at
                    the sky I somehow feel that this cruelty shall end and that
                    peace and tranquility will return.
                    -Anne Frank
              
                    In the late 1930s, David Ben-Gurion wrote: "What is
                    inconceivable in normal times is possible in revolutionary
times; and if at this time the opportunity is missed and what
                    is possible in such great hours is not carried out - a whole
      world is lost."

Engagement with the regime

In this section, I will seek to anticipate the various kinds
of opposition the movement could expect to encounter, and
explore how we might effectively respond to them. To begin
with, I believe it is very important that we look to the game
of Go for our models of engagement rather than the game of
chess. Chess is about battle, and on the battle ground it is
those who command tanks and attack helicopters who have the
advantage, not the people. Besides, transformation is not
about destroying anyone, but about taking everyone's concerns
into account. When eventually they have no useful alternative,
our elite brothers and sisters will be willing to talk to us,
and their concerns will be listened to with the same respect
afforded everyone else. Indeed, it will be much easier for us
to transform our economies and infrastructures when we have
the enthusiastic cooperation of those who currently run our
governments, corporations, and banks.

The game of Go is about gradually consolidating territory
while artfully constraining the alternatives of your
opponent - so that eventually he has no available move that can
improve his position. Among master players, it is seldom
necessary to actually remove stones from the board - both
players know from the position what would be the outcome from
that mundane exercise in mechanical capture, and so they don't
bother with it. As I pointed out earlier, this kind of
strategy characterized Gandhi's resistance movement against
British occupation. Certainly his non-violent ethic provides a
model we want to emulate, and I suggest his Go-like strategic
approach also provides us with useful lessons.

In our case, assuming that the movement develops along lines
similar to those I have outlined, the first strategic
objective should be to capture as much territory as
possible - while keeping a low a profile on elite radar. The
initial task of the movement is not to confront any regime,
but rather to carry forward a cultural transformation. The
more widely such a culture can spread and the more firmly
established it can become, prior to encountering strong elite
opposition, the better off we will be. We would be well
advised to focus our initial We the People empowerment on
local problems and issues, and on developing our We the People
consciousness. We need to learn to walk before we can run, and
during that learning process we should not tread too near to
sleeping dogs.

Despite our best efforts to keep a low profile on elite radar,
it is unlikely that we could postpone an elite response for
very long. Public opinion and shifts in alignments are of
great interest to the establishment, and they keep close tabs
on trends. It's not that they want to be responsive to public
sentiment, but rather that they want to maintain control with
their system of divide-and-rule propaganda. If they begin to
see a trend toward people listening to their own drummers, and
dialoging across factional lines in their communities, the
opinion managers will have the good sense to perceive that as
a potentially serious threat to their system of control. They
might initiate appropriate counter-measures earlier than would
seem to be warranted by the actual progress of the movement on
the ground. We must keep in mind that the current regime is
characterized by preventive, preemptory action against those
deemed to be a potential threat. Indeed, the Patriot Act
amounts to a preemptory strike against popular movements in
general.

Let's consider some of the early counter-measures that they
might deploy. Surveillance and infiltration by spies and
provocateurs are very common tactics used against movements of
all kinds throughout the world. But a harmonization movement
is relatively secure against those tactics. The moment has
nothing to hide as regards its activities, and harmonizing
processes are characterized by too much good sense to allow
themselves to be sabotaged by a provocateur pushing some
counter-productive agenda. There may be infiltrators who
intentionally try to thwart the process of sessions, and we
may need to develop some sensible counter-measures to that
line of attack. More drastic measures, such as arresting
organizers or banning meetings among citizens, are unlikely to
be undertaken at any early stage. That would be a strategic
error on the establishment's part, as it would only bring
attention to the movement and generate support for it.

There are other counter-measures that might be deployed, but
the one I believe is most likely would be a demonization
campaign launched over various media and propaganda channels - a
counter-attack in the matrix. Religious conservatives would be
warned, from pulpits and from radio pundits, that
harmonization is a cult movement, and that it seeks its wisdom
not exclusively from the Word of God - good Christians should
stay away. To the libertarian-minded would come the warning,
from radio chat jocks and online bulletin boards, that
harmonization is communistic and that it submerges the
individual in the collective - stay away and don't risk being
brainwashed. Liberals would read in the Op-Ed pages that
harmonization is undemocratic and that it would lead to
one-party tyranny. They would learn that it's hip to dismiss
harmonization, in the same way that it's hip to scoff at
"conspiracy theories".

It would a mistake to underestimate the potential
effectiveness of such a campaign, particularly in the American
context. If the general population adopts a variety of strong
negative attitudes toward harmonization, that might stifle or
even destroy the early movement. But if the movement can build
sufficient momentum in the meantime, and establish sufficient
roots, it should be able to hold its ground and respond
effectively to such an attack. We can take some comfort from
the fact that a demonization campaign would make no sense
until after the movement has made noticeable progress.

The movement would have no incentive to cause any kind of
trouble for the regime - until the time came when such
initiatives could be effective. Before that time the threat to
the regime would exist only in potential, and conflict would
be most likely to arise due to preemptive attacks from the
establishment, not all of which can be anticipated in advance.
We can only trust in our collective wisdom to deal with such
challenges as they arise.

Eventually, if we overcome the intermediate obstacles, most of
our society will be part of the new culture, and we will have
developed a coherent vision of a transformed society. Only
then does it make sense to initiate decisive dialog with the
regime. One form of dialog could be general strikes - everyone,
apart from emergency services, stays away from work for a week
or so; the systems stops operating. Perhaps military units
overseas refuse to engage in offensive actions as part of the
strike, and police join in as well. This is similar to how
Soviet-era regimes were brought down in Eastern Europe
generally, and we've seen it recently in the Ukraine.
Eventually elites realize they no longer have control, and
they either run away or express a willingness to 'negotiate'.
At that point we can invite them to sit down and resolve
together our mutual concerns.


                  If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your timeŠ
                  but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with
                  mine, then let us work together.
                  -Aboriginal Woman


Global transformation and the third world

The third world persists in poverty for precisely one reason:
because it has been systematically dominated, robbed, and
looted by centuries of still-ongoing imperialism on the part
of the industrialized nations. This has been a horrible fate,
accompanied by much genocide, bloodshed, and suffering, and no
right-thinking person would wish such an experience on those
peoples. And yet, there is a benefit that accrues from that
suffering: social transformation will be much easier for the
third world than it will be for the West.

The problem for the West is that we believe we already live in
democracies. That particular matrix construct is very
persuasive. When a bad official gets elected, we blame
ourselves for not getting out the vote. We get caught up in
adversarial games, pursuing reform, and don't realize that all
the paths of the maze leave us inside the same box. We are
kept from liberation by what the Sufis call a veil of light,
which is more dangerous than a veil of darkness. A veil of
darkness is a recognized obstacle, against which we know we
should muster our resources. A veil of light is a seductive
siren that seems to be what we want, but which imprisons us.
Moving past our pseudo-democracy veil of light requires, if my
investigation has been relevant, a wholesale cultural
transformation. Only when we experience genuine democracy will
we realize that what we had wasn't the real thing.

The third world, on the other hand, sees the mainstream
capitalist imperialist system as a veil of darkness. People in
the third world know that most of their rulers are corrupt
puppets, and their societies are being raped by globalization
and corporations - modern descendents of the conquistadors.
People in the third world don't need to awaken to the
possibility of transformation; they need only the freedom to
liberate themselves. If the West is able to transform itself
to a culture based on networking and harmonization, if it ends
imperialism, and extends the hand of friendship and support to
the people of the third world, I suspect that social
transformation would be global in a matter of weeks.

But in fact the third world is not waiting for us in the West
to lead the way. All over the third world people are
struggling for local control, and they are building networks
and learning to find their empowerment as We the People. They
have been forced into bottom-up solidarity by the array of
forces exploiting and dominating them. They have not been
encumbered by illusions of living in democracies. Under the
hyper-exploitation brought on by globalization, rejection of
the imperialist system is spreading to all strata of many
third world societies, not just the poorer segments. One
example is Porto Alegre, a medium-sized city in Brazil, where
the budget is determined by a bottom-up consensus process.
This model has been replicated elsewhere in Brazil, and there
are many other democratic initiatives and innovations being
pursued in Brazil, under the progressive stewardship of a
strong labor party at the national level.

There are other, more radical examples of third-world
leadership on the path to social transformation, but before I
mention them I'd like to review a few points. Consider for a
moment the possibility of a whole society operating on the
basis of harmonization and decentralization. Each community
basically runs its own affairs, and wider scale issues are
dealt with by harmonizing the concerns of all affected
communities. There's a lot more to be said about how that
could work in practice on a global scale, and we'll get into
that in the next chapter. For the moment and for the sake of
the argument, imagine that such a society would be viable.

What I'd like you to notice is that voting and political
parties do not play a role in such a society. Parties are the
embodiment of factionalism, and they make no sense in a
culture of harmonization. If people have concerns that need to
be addressed, harmonization is a more effective way of
addressing those concerns than would be the formation of a
faction dedicated to those concerns. As regards voting, there
are two kinds to consider: voting on issues, and electing
representatives. As regards issues, voting is a vastly
inferior decision-making system in comparison with
harmonization. If there are competing proposals on the table,
it makes much more sense to creatively harmonize the
underlying concerns than it does to simply choose among the
proposals. Indeed, this is the core principle underlying the
virtues of harmonization.

As regards electing representatives, the issue is really one
of hierarchy. In our current system, candidates compete to be
given the power to rule over us. We choose among masters, live
under hierarchy, and call it democracy. While we live under
this illusion, it is natural that we value open and fair
elections. That serves to maximize the meaning of our votes,
for whatever that's worth - or at least it helps us be
comfortable in our illusion. But open and fair elections are
only of value within the context of hierarchy. In a society
based on harmonization there are no rulers and no need to
elect any. Instead we might select people, or solicit
volunteers, to manage certain projects or to represent the
community's concerns in some gathering or conference - what the
Native Americans called a powwow. Such representatives or
managers are not given power, but are rather given the
responsibility to carry forward the agenda that has been
articulated by the community as a whole. If people compete for
such roles, it is not on the basis that they will make better
decisions, but rather on the basis that they are good managers
or good communicators. And in many cases, it would probably be
a team or slate that would be selected for such a role rather
than an individual. Competitive elections of rulers, whether
open and fair or not, makes no sense in a society based on
harmonization and localism.

It is in the context of these observations that I dare to
bring up the examples of Cuba and Venezuela. I'm not claiming
that these are ideal societies, nor that they embody
harmonization, but I do suggest that we can understand these
societies better if we are able to see that competitive
parties and elections are not the same thing as democracy.
According to mainstream mythology, there are basically two
kinds of governments: democratic and dictatorial. In this
mythology, democracy equals fair & competitive elections, and
everything else is dictatorship. And indeed, most of the
governments in the world that don't have fair & competitive
elections are indeed dictatorships. I suggest, however, that
Cuba and Venezuela are examples that need to be examined on
their own merits.

In the case of Venezuela, we do have fair & competitive
elections, as recently verified by international observers
including ex-President Jimmy Carter. Based on eyewitness
reports I've seen, by Venezuelan and foreign observers alike,
Chavez is facilitating a cultural transformation in Venezuela.
He is not launching massive state programs, but is instead
encouraging local empowerment, and providing services and
support for those programs which seem to be achieving results.
Katherine Lahey, a community studies major at the University
of California Santa Cruz, offers these comments in an article
she wrote based on her observations in Venezuela:

      The stitching of the fabric of the revolution is unmatched in
      its strength and breadth of anything I have ever seen.
      Throughout the country, not just in the urban barrios, social
      programs called misione - a social development strategy borrowed
      from the Cuban revolution - are being implemented by the people
      with the support of government resources.
      
      What takes place behind the scenes of each misione is simply
      incredible and inspiring beyond words. These campaigns include
      education - from literacy to university level, health,
      employment, citizenship, support for indigenous groups and
      their reincorporation into society, economic justice and
      resistance to neoliberalism through development of grassroots
      and community cooperatives and businesses, to name a few.
      - Full article at:
      http://www.cyberjournal.org/cj/show_archives/?id=846&lists=cj

Chavez is genuinely trying to help the people of Venezuela
mobilize their own creativity to solve their problems and
develop their communities and society generally. He is not
representing a privileged elite. If his efforts lead to a We
the People kind of democracy in Venezuela, then competitive
elections will not be relevant to the situation. It is likely
that the people would choose to continue on that path - there
would be no rascals to vote out of office. Venezuela under
their Bolivarian revolution needs to be judged on its own
merits, not compared to a set of political standards that
themselves do not deliver democracy. If Chavez starts
suppressing or exploiting people then he would be a dictator
after all. If he continues to shepherd a cultural
transformation toward local empowerment, then we should
acknowledge him and the people of Venezuela as being bold
pioneers on the path to global social transformation. So far,
at least, that seems to be what is going on there. In the
third-world context, Venezuela is apparently evolving a
credible response to our transformational imperative. And that
is precisely why our elite rulers in Washington and Wall
Street don't like Chavez and don't like the broad-based
support of the Venezuelan people for the Bolivarian
revolution. One can only hope that the Venezuelan military is
loyal to the government, unlike the Chilean military in the
time of Allende, which was covertly linked with the CIA.

I've saved Cuba to the last because it is the most
controversial case. We never hear Castro's name mentioned in
the media without it being accompanied by the label dictator.
And in mainstream entertainment propaganda, we see stories of
daring refugees from tyranny, who never have anything good to
say about the Cuban Revolution or Castro. And in the case of
Americans, we are told by our government that Cuba is a
communist dictatorship, and that loyal Americans shouldn't go
there. And it goes deeper than that. With the history of the
Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs, and the derision of
Cuba in right-wing circles, Castro turn out to be rather
deeply embedded in the general American psyche as a bad-guy
commie dictator. I risk alienating my readers if I dare
challenge that myth.

Nonetheless, I must take that risk and offer the challenge. As
an example, Cuba is too valuable to ignore, despite the shadow
cast by decades of demonizing propaganda. As it turns out, the
extent of Cuba's success in achieving a culture of
community-based democratic harmonization can be estimated by
measuring the hostility of Washington towards Cuba. Hostility
from Washington is not a guarantee that democracy exists
somewhere, but wherever a people stand up effectively for
their rights against the imperialist system, you can be sure
Washington's ire will soon follow. For Washington, Cuba is too
important an example to allow it to be seen for what it
is - proof that there are viable models for development outside
the capitalist paradigm. The success of Cuba stands as a
contradiction to the dominant mainstream economic mythology.
It is not at all surprising that Washington and the corporate
media make every effort to demonize, destabilize, and harass
Cuba in every way they can - and every effort to make other
third-world nations understand that Washington would look with
strong disfavor on any nation that might seek to emulate Cuba,
as we have seen in the case of Venezuela.

                  Who can save our species? The blind, uncontrollable law of the
                  market? Neoliberal globalization, alone and for its own sake,
                  like a cancer which devours human beings and destroys nature? 
                  That cannot be the way forward or at least it can only last
                  for a brief period in history. 
                  -President Castro, U.N. conference, Geneva, May 14th 1998

Charles McKelvey, an American Professor of Sociology, has
spent considerable time in Cuba as an observer. In 1998, he
wrote a report on his studies for an Internet forum, and here
are two excerpts:

      The Cuban political system is based on a foundation of local
      elections. Each urban neighborhood and rural village and area
      is organized into a "circumscription," consisting generally of
      1000 to 1500 voters. The circumscription meets regularly to
      discuss neighborhood or village problems. Each three years,
      the circumscription conducts elections, in which from two to
      eight candidates compete. The nominees are not nominated by
      the Communist Party or any other organizations. The
      nominations are made by anyone in attendance at the meetings,
      which generally have a participation rate of 85% to 95%. Those
      nominated are candidates for office without party affiliation.
      They do not conduct campaigns as such. A one-page biography of
      all the candidates is widely distributed. The nominees are
      generally known by the voters, since the circumscription is
      generally not larger than 1500 voters. If no candidate
      receives 50% of the votes, a run-off election is held. Those
      elected serve as delegates to the Popular Councils, which are
      intermediary structures between the circumscription and the
      Municipal Assembly. Those elected also serve simultaneously as
      delegates to the Municipal Assembly. The delegates serve in
      the Popular Councils and the Municipal Assemblies on a
      voluntary basis without pay, above and beyond their regular
      employment. ...
      
      So the Cuban revolutionary project has many gains, not only in
      the area of social and economic rights, but also in the area
      of political and civil rights. Because of these achievements,
      the system enjoys wide popular support, in spite of the
      hardships caused by U.S. opposition and by the collapse of the
      Soviet Union. Drawing upon the institutions that they have
      developed over the last forty years, they are responding to
      the present challenges and are surviving in a post-Cold War
      world. The strength and vitality of these institutions is
      worthy of our investigation, for Cuba may represent an
      important case as we seek to understand how peripheral and
      semi-peripheral states can overcome the legacy of
      underdevelopment.
      
      -Full article at:
      http://www.cyberjournal.org/cj/show_archives/?id=0009&lists=cj


I am not trying here to give a full, balanced report on Cuba
or Venezuela. I imagine there are failures as well as
successes in both places, as regards democracy and justice. My
main point here is that the absence of competitive elections
is not necessarily a sign of dictatorship, and may in some
cases be a sign of a democratic process characterized by the
principles of harmonization. Each case deserves to be
evaluated on its own merits by looking at the results on the
ground and at the reports of people who live there. And the
fact that Castro is still around after all these years is not
necessarily evidence that he is a tyrant. It could equally be
an indicator that the people of Cuba continue to support their
revolution, and that Castro continues to support the people in
their project. If that is the case, as it seems to be, then
one can only hope that the Cuban scenario does not depend too
heavily on Castro's personal moral leadership, as he will not
live forever.

As regards the third world in general, I repeat my observation
that social transformation will be easier to accomplish there
than in the West - once the West abandons its imperialist ways.
In the meantime it seems that the third world is leading the
way in transformational innovation and may provide models that
we can learn from in our own pursuit of transformation.


-- 

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"Escaping The Matrix - 
Global Transformation: 
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