Matrix & Transformation: Chapter 5

2004-11-16

Richard Moore

Copyright 2004 Richard K. Moore

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CHAPTER 5:    HARMONIZATION AS A CULTURAL MOVEMENT


* The prospects for a large-scale harmonization movement

One of the remarkable outcomes of harmonization experiences is
the enthusiasm that can be generated for sharing the
experience more widely. In my case, soon after the Berkeley
gathering, I was inspired to write and self-publish a
pamphlet, "The Zen of Global Transformation" -- in order to
share the principle of harmonization and to explore its
potential. The Michigan gathering arose out of the enthusiasm
generated by a previous harmonization event that occurred in
Ashland, Oregon. The Ashland event, in turn, was inspired by a
radio interview with Tom Atlee, whose enthusiasm for
harmonization lit a flame under a few Ashland activists. The
same kind of evangelistic enthusiasm arose again in the
Michigan gathering, as evidenced by the "We the People"
declaration and also by the plans the participants agreed to
(quoting again from Mark):

      It was decided that we'd all join the advisory boards of the
      two co-sponsoring organizations (Let's Talk America and
      Democracy in America). Immediately those boards became the
      most politically diverse boards in America.
      
      It was decided that the two organizations would convene a
      follow-up conference for hundreds of participants some time
      this fall (with funding to come from three left-wing groups,
      three right-wing groups, and a "bridging" grant from Fetzer).
      
      It was decided that many of us would initiate political
      conversations in our professional or geographic communities,
      and invite participants to the follow-up conference.

The fundamental reason why these sessions generate such
enthusiasm is the sense of empowerment that arises when the
space of We the People is entered. When you are in that space,
you realize that We really can make a difference -- it really
is possible for Us -- all of Us -- to get Our act together and
change things. This realization is a transformative, uplifting
experience. When you experience it in the microcosm, you know
intuitively that it could -- somehow -- happen on a larger
scale. It is an experience that awakens those who are
apathetic, and offers new hope and direction to those who are
already socially conscious. It is an experience that gives one
a new faith in humanity -- no one really needs to be my enemy,
we can all work together, and peace on all fronts is not
contrary to human nature. In order to see that faith realized,
one naturally would like to see others go through the same
kind of experience.

Whenever a certain experience inspires people to bring that
experience to others, then we have the seed of a potential
cultural movement. When people are inspired by an experience
to go out and actively bring it to MANY others, then we may be
looking at a cultural movement that has the potential to grow
rapidly and widely. One shares with ten, ten share with a
hundred, etc. Such a movement can spread throughout a whole
society in a relatively short period of time. The propagation
dynamics are like those of a funny story -- one day you
haven't heard it and the next day it's all around you. A funny
story propagates exponentially: the more it spreads the faster
it spreads -- because the more it has spread, then the more
people there are who are spreading it further.

Unfortunately, spreading the harmonization experience is more
difficult than spreading a story. It takes more than just one
person telling a few others. An event needs to be organized
and funded, people must be found who are motivated to
participate, and adequate facilitation support must be
available. These difficulties slow down the rate of
propagation, but they do not change the exponential dynamics.
Let's examine each of the difficulties in turn.

The activist energy available for organizing and promoting
harmonization events is likely to grow in proportion to the
number of activists who have gone through the experience. This
would help support an exponential rate of propagation. In
addition, the receptivity of people generally (activists or
otherwise) to respond to invitations can be expected to
increase as word spreads about the nature of the experience.
The Michigan gathering demonstrates that everyone -- across
the spectrum of beliefs -- is potentially receptive to the
experience. It is a movement for everyone, not just
progressives, and not just activists.

Funding is a different sort of difficulty. Funding sources,
such as those tapped for the Michigan event, cannot be
expected to multiply their contributions indefinitely. In
order for an exponential rate of propagation to continue, new
means of funding would need to be developed along the way. I
do not believe this would turn out to be a limiting obstacle.
I don't see any reason why such events would not become
self-funding -- particularly as interest begins to develop in
the mainstream culture. Besides, the costs of holding
harmonization sessions are not exorbitant. If such a movement
gains momentum, creative ways to deal with funding would be
very likely to emerge and be adopted by subsequent organizers.
In many cases, we might expect motivated activists to
volunteer their time and skills, reducing or eliminating the
need for funding.

The most critical difficulty in achieving exponential growth
would seem to be the availability of qualified facilitators.
If the number of facilitators remains relatively fixed, then
that places an upper bound on the rate of propagation. This
would threaten to reduce the propagation to a linear rate,
rather than exponential. But even this obstacle would probably
be overcome. It only takes a few days to train a new group of
facilitators, and just a bit more training enables a
facilitator to train others. If the movement gains momentum,
the dynamics of supply and demand should encourage more
training sessions to be offered and more potential
facilitators to attend those sessions. Every motivated
activist is a potential facilitator, and there are hundreds of
thousands of activists in each of our Western societies.

Besides, as people become familiar with the dynamics of
harmonization there would presumably be less need for special
facilitation skills. After all, harmonization is simply about
a group of people taking a 'time out' to listen to one another
-- and it turns out that this is a very natural thing for
people to do. Native Americans, with their their pow wows and
peace pipes, were creating a space of listening and
harmonization. When we lived in small bands, which is most of
our time as humans, it was natural for us to learn how to
maintain basic harmony in the group, and this was important
for group survival. Under the domination of hierarchies, and
divided either by class or factionalism, we have forgotten
what was once natural. Remembering is a liberating experience.

These considerations do not prove that a large-scale cultural
movement will develop. But they do show that the potential is
there. The We the People enthusiasm generated by harmonization
provides the energy for propagation, and there is no inherent
obstacle that would be likely to prevent exponential growth.
Whether or not such a large-scale movement actually develops
depends on whether actual individuals and groups follow up on
their enthusiasm and do something to bring the experience to
others. When we look at the chain of events from the Ashland
session, to the diverse Michigan session with its "We the
People" declaration, to the planned "follow-up conference for
hundreds" -- we can see a momentum developing, and we are
seeing the kind of initiatives that might be able to get a
real flame going under this potentially wildfire movement.

Although the scenario I've been developing here has been
highly speculative, I nonetheless believe -- because of our
current historical situation -- that this movement is very
likely to grow and break into the mainstream. Everyone knows
down deep that our societies are in trouble. Some blame the
liberal elite and the liberal media, while others blame the
right-wing elite and the corporate media. Some are concerned
about moral decline, others are concerned about environmental
degradation, and others are mainly concerned about feeding
their families in a deteriorating economy. Everyone is
concerned by the increasing levels of conflict and suffering
on the world stage. Some think we need to return to
traditional values, and some think we need to advance into a
more progressive age. We all know down deep that something
needs to be done, and most of us don't see anything very
promising on the horizon. Many of us, perhaps most, have given
up hope that things might get better or that there is anything
we can do to make a difference. The most we hope for is that
things don't get too bad too quickly, and that our own family
and friends will be OK. If we still have enough hope to be
activists, we mostly spend our energy trying to minimize
suffering and slow down the process of decline.

The reason that the We the People experience generates such
deep and general enthusiasm -- at this particular time in
history -- is because it offers real, deeply-felt hope that
'something can be done' about our situation. Most of us have
had to submerge any such hope in order to get on with our
lives. When that hope is allowed to awaken, and when it finds
nourishment in community with others, that is transformative
at a very deep psychological level -- the level of personal
survival and species survival. If this were the relatively
prosperous 1960s, the We the People experience might be just
one more 'tribal trip', another 'group high' for that segment
of society which was entranced by the vision new-age
flower-power. But today, when the seemingly unstoppable
deterioration of our societies can be perceived by everyone of
all stripes, the We the People experience hits home for all of
us, and at a more profound level.

For those who have a strong social conscience, in this time of
social crisis and hopelessness, the discovery of a 'path that
offers real hope' creates an action imperative. If you care
deeply about humanity and its future, and if you know there is
a promising way forward, then you don't simply want to do
something about it -- you MUST do something about it.
Different people will experience this imperative more strongly
than others, and people may have a variety of notions about
where harmonization might lead us as a society -- but taken
all together I believe this deep imperative will provide a
formidable driving force that will push the movement forward
with determination and persistence. Real hope, in an era that
desperately needs hope, will turn out to be highly contagious.


* We the People: the process of waking up

We the People are like a sleeping giant, a giant that has been
asleep for millennia. When a group of us find community in a
harmonization session, that is a twitch -- a part of the
giant's body beginning to wake up. When a harmonization
movement leads to many of us finding community in that way,
the giant begins to toss and turn. When the movement begins to
be consciousness of itself as a potential actor in the affairs
of society, then the giant sits up, rubs its eyes, and begins
to wonder, "Where am I?". The giant's brain is muddled as
dreams fade and confusing images begin to come in from the
outside world. The dreams are all the hopes and fears that we
as individuals have experienced under the oppression of
hierarchies -- while the giant slept. The confusion of new
images represents Our first fumbling attempts -- as We the
People -- to achieve a coherent sense of the world around Us,
and Our place in it.

Before the giant can make plans or begin to act, it must first
clear its head, stretch its body, take a look around, and gain
an understanding of the unfamiliar situation it finds itself
in. That is to say: before We the People can usefully think in
terms of social goals and strategies, We must first finish
waking up. We must learn how to achieve coherence as a
movement, We must develop a realistic shared understanding of
the political and economic challenges that face us, and --
unaccustomed as we are to giant-hood -- We must learn to
appreciate our own strength and potential as an actor in
society. Only then can our plans and actions -- as We the
People -- reach their full potential.

Unfortunately, as our giant begins to awake, it will not know
that it is a giant. My apologies for mixing metaphors, but the
waking giant will be like the ugly duckling who didn't know it
was really a swan. The giant will not realize how much it has
to learn, and it will have little understanding of its full
potential. That is to say: most of the people who come to the
harmonization experience will be mainstream citizens who do
not yet think in radical terms. Most participants, when they
encounter the We the People experience, will not be thinking
in terms of a total transformation of society. They will see a
'path that offers real hope', but for most of them 'hope' will
be defined in terms of democratic reforms to the current
system. They will feel empowerment in community with others,
but their vision of how far empowerment can go will be bounded
by the current structures of society. They will be very likely
to think in terms of plans and actions before the giant is
fully awake. Consider for example these words from Mark Satin,
referring to plans for the follow-up conference:

      It was strongly suggested that a "consensus statement of
      American goals and priorities" be prepared during or after the
      conference, by functional area -- "governance and law,"
      "learning and education," etc. (None dared call it a political
      platform.)

I think it is clear that any such consensus statement, at such
an early stage of the movement, will be very timid. We might
see calls for increased funding for education, a bigger role
for public input to policy, curbs on corporate power, etc. We
are unlikely to see any deep thinking about how a capitalist
economy functions -- and why meaningful reforms cannot be
delivered simply by waving the magic wand of policy
priorities. We may see a call for environmental safeguards,
but we are unlikely to see a fundamental commitment to
sustainability, nor an understanding of what sustainability
really implies in terms of social transformation. We are
unlikely to see the emergence of a systems perspective, nor an
understanding of how deep the problems go in our current
societies. Our giant is still in the early stages of waking up
and its mind is still muddled by dreams. The giant doesn't
realize that it is not yet fully awake and that its attempts
to begin taking action are premature and futile.

This kind of premature attempt at action is both necessary and
dangerous. It is necessary because We the People need to learn
how to think and act coherently. It is dangerous because the
all-important evolution of the cultural movement might be
aborted by the premature development of a political movement.
Suppose for example, at the follow-up conference, that the
group of "hundreds" succeeds in adopting a seemingly strong
consensus agenda of "American goals and priorities". Suppose
then that the energy of the organizers and participants is
shunted into an effort to build a political movement around
that agenda. The harmonization process might then become only
a means of advancing that limited agenda, and We the People
might be prevented from fully awakening. Such a political
movement might succeed in achieving some temporary reforms --
if it is lucky -- but the real potential of the cultural
movement would not be realized.

I doubt that this adverse scenario will actually develop. Such
an unwise narrowing of perspective to short-term objectives is
not typical of the outcomes of previous harmonization events.
There seems to be an inherent wisdom in such gatherings (Tom
Atlee's "co-intelligence") that tends to avoid such cul de
sacs. Although the Michigan participants suggested that a
future gathering might focus on a policy agenda, it is notable
that they did not narrow their focus in that way themselves in
their own gathering. They realized, even without articulating
it explicitly, that any policy agenda of their own would have
been premature. They knew that they were only a small group,
and that more people would need to be brought in before policy
discussions have any democratic legitimacy. The focus of their
work, wisely, was to figure out how they could most
effectively spread the harmonization experience to others.

If the "conference for hundreds" works within the dynamics of
harmonization, then I believe those dynamics will enable the
group to come to the same implicit understanding. Even
"hundreds" are not enough to speak for We the People
generally. In the space of harmonization people come to
respect one another -- and they also feel respect and
responsibility toward those who are not present. The
experience of We the People does not lead to an exclusive
feeling that "We are a special, talented group who should
point the way for others", but rather to a universal feeling
that "Any group of people can experience this, and everyone
should get the chance to do so". I suspect, and hope, that
even while its brain is still beclouded by dreams, our We the
People giant will have enough inherent good sense to avoid
stumbling into premature pitfalls. From a strategic
perspective, the primary mission of a harmonization movement
-- in its early stages -- is to spread the We the People
experience into the mainstream culture. I believe that the
nature of the harmonization experience will prevent the early
movement from straying too far from this all-important
mission.

If our giant can avoid early pitfalls -- while it is still
rubbing the sleep out of its eyes -- then it will soon be able
to develop a sense of itself and a basic understanding of its
surroundings. In movement terms, this means that the movement
is likely to soon achieve an essential critical mass -- as
regards constituency, coherence, and awareness. In terms of
constituency, critical mass will be achieved when the
harmonization experience is spread widely enough so that the
movement develops several independent 'centers', and several
autonomous threads of initiatives. In terms of coherence,
critical mass will be achieved when these parallel threads
begin learning how to harmonize their thinking and activities
without creating a hierarchical organization or a centralized
leadership circle. In terms of awareness, critical mass will
be achieved when people in the movement begin to get a sense
for the immense potential of the movement -- and of the
equally immense challenges that We the People must learn how
to deal with.

The giant will be nearly awake when people in the movement
begin to realize that the problems of our society can only be
addressed by a deep reexamination of the systems that govern
our lives -- and that our political systems are a major part
of the problem. The giant will be fully awake when people
begin to understand the true nature of the crisis that
humanity currently faces -- an understanding that I have tried
to articulate in the form of a Transformational Imperative:

      There is no one out there, no actor on the stage of society,
      who can or will bring about the radical social transformation
      required to save humanity and the world -- no one that is
      except We the People. Not we the electorate, nor we the
      public, but We who are members of the intelligent and aware
      human species -- We who are capable of thinking for ourselves,
      envisioning a better world, and working together with others
      in pursuit of our common visions. There is no one else who
      will do it for Us, and it is a job that must be done.

When the movement is fully awake, and a critical mass has been
achieved, then it will be possible for the movement to begin
thinking effectively in terms of plans and strategies. It will
then make sense for Us to think in terms of a transformational
movement -- a movement which is not primarily political, but
which can transform the very meaning of politics.

The movement is beginning as a cultural movement, and its main
activity so far has been, and wisely so, to spread the
experience of harmonization. In today's context, we might say
that the movement is 'less than' a political movement -- in
the sense that the movement is not explicitly challenging or
engaging the existing regime. But as the movement evolves,
more and more of us will realize that this kind of cultural
movement is in fact 'much more than' a political movement. The
promise -- and the inherent mission -- of this movement is to
transform not only our political priorities, but to transform
our entire global culture and the cultures of each of our
societies and communities.

The metaphor of the waking giant is about We the People
awakening to our full heritage as an intelligent, self-aware
species. Harmonization is merely the catalyst that enables us
to listen to one another, find our common identity, and work
together with synergy and coherence. We are capable of
governing ourselves wisely, we have the power to bring that
about, and we have both the right and the responsibility to do
so.
   
   
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