Re: Gaian transformation & system dynamics

2003-09-01

Richard Moore

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From: P
To: <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Your latest messages.
Date: Tue, 26 Aug 2003 20:21:48 -0400

Dear Richard:

In our discussion of a few years ago, I always applauded
your pertinent and effective critique of the present World
Order, but found your proposals for positive actions less
convincing. This also applies to your latest messages, which
I shall try to comment in an attached Word file.

Greetings

P

[the attachment]...
__________________________________________
HOW TO ACHIEVE A SUSTAINBALE WORLD ORDER

In you message you first refer to the "Gaian Paradigm" 
whose proponents hope that " When the numbers get big
enough, the political apparatus will be forced to respond.
That will only encourage the emerging civil society all the
more. As it grows stronger and its vision begins to take
form, it will become the de facto policy setting mechanism.
Government would become what it was always supposed to be --
an agency that implements the popular will".

To your doubts on the effectiveness of such believes, I
should like to add the following:

This is by no means assured or automatic; quite on the
contrary, corporations and wealthy individuals would
certainly try to defend their privileges and influence on
decision-making vigorously- by whatever means at their
disposal.

Your then make alternative proposals, saying that "Many of
those who have been studying these kinds of problems from
the perspective of sustainability have come to the
conclusion that sustainable economics needs to be based on
the local --beginning with the community, then extending to
the bioregion and so on." And later: "In locally-based
politics, the dynamics begin with the achievement of local
consensus about how to manage the community's affairs.
Different constituencies in the community will naturally
argue for their own interests, and the job of consensus is
to resolve those differences and come up with an agenda for
the community that all residents support."

Again I need to remind you that unfair privileges can (and
often are) also be present in local communities and that a
consensus acceptable to all might be just as difficult to
achieve locally as regionally or nationally.

You then refer to Porto Allegre, Brazil as a city-sized
real-world example.

The fact that municipal policies in Porto Allegre were
guided by public-spirited and environmentally conscious
individuals, who were able to obtain the support of their
fellow-citizens does NOT mean that such policies are easy to
implement elsewhere.

Nevertheless the example of Porto Allegre might be the
starting point for my own vision on how to achieve a
sustainable NEW WORLD ORDER.

The ANTI-GLOBALIZATION MOVEMENT that scuttled the WTO
meeting in Seattle showed us, that there are a great many
people in favour of such a new order, who are quite willing
to make personal sacrifices in order to defend their
viewpoints.

Their energies could and should be directed into more
positive channels, concentrating their efforts towards
placing individuals with the capacities of becoming
effective leaders in selected local communities, in order to
win over majorities and then implementing whatever
sustainable policies are most suitable for each locality.

Later they could organize NETWORKS of such like-minded
communities, but this would have to be a slow process of
organic growth, taking advantage of modern publicity for
calling attention on local success stories, but also showing
the willingness to admit failures and to learn from their
mistakes.

They should not try to take over regional or national
governments, without being reasonable sure of having
attracted enough enthusiastic followers to overcome the
resistance of established elites,

In other words, the desirable BRAVE NEW WORLD shall not be
achieved overnight and ultimate success would depend on the
persistent willingness of its proponents to defend and fight
for their ideals.
__________________________________________


Dear P,

Thanks for your message.

 > In our discussion of a few years ago, I always applauded
    your pertinent and effective critique of the present World
    Order, but found your proposals for positive actions less
    convincing. This also applies to your latest messages, which
    I shall try to comment in an attached Word file.

I pretty much agree with you here. I believe that my
understanding of 'how the system works' is rather solid --
at the big-picture level. Certainly the feedback I get from
many quarters suggests that. However when it comes to 'what
to do about it, I'm searching. The latter is, after all, a
considerably more complex problem. It is easy to know that
your engine has seized up, and quite another thing to know
how to fix it. And there aren't any adequate mechanic's
manuals for building new worlds.

You too are searching, and you sketch out a network-based
movement scenario. Certainly that kind of networking among
aware activists will be an important part of bringing about
change. I could critique the viability of your scheme, but I
won't because I think that would be counter-productive. I
think we are both searching for a pass through the same
mountain, and it is good that we each keep scouting those
routes that we feel may get us through. Whoever finds a path
through first wins for all of us. And this applies to all
those many scouts engaged in this search.

  > In other words, the desirable BRAVE NEW WORLD shall not be
    achieved overnight and ultimate success would depend on the
    persistent willingness of its proponents to defend and fight
    for their ideals.

Indeed. I would say however that 'time estimates' are
somewhat meaningless when it comes to radical change. On the
one hand it may never happen, given the well-entrenched
global elite -- willing to sacrifice any number of lives and
with their fingers on countless high-leverage triggers. On
the other hand, if change comes, it could come all of a
sudden, to everyone's surprise -- as with the fall of the
Soviets. I'm not presuming change will come that way, but I
also do not presume that it must take a long time.

And though ultimate success does depend on 'persistent
willingness', as you suggest, it also depends on finding a
workable 'formula' for success. Not that there won't be many
tributary formulas, but I suspect some particular formula
will in the aftermath be identifiable as being the straw
that broke the camel's back, the wave that turned the tide,
the path that crossed the summit. Many of our struggles are
about defending our gains, or seeking short-term gains, and
that is very necessary. But some of our struggles, indeed
critical ones, are not about fighting, but about
understanding -- understanding where a path to success lies.
You've suggested a networking approach and I've emphasized
localism & consensus. But neither of us can be sure we've
got the right formula.

Let me explain why I've come to this emphasis on consensus.
It is not because I think consensus is easy to achieve, nor
is it because consensus represents my favorite vision of a
new world. It is because I've become convinced that
adversarial politics inevitably leads to rule by one elite
or another. By 'adversarial politics' I am referring to any
system which is based on interest groups competing to
influence government policy to their advantage.  I've come
to this conclusion partly because of the overwhelming
historical evidence and partly by investigating the inherent
dynamics of factionalism from a systems perspective. To put
it simply, factionalism is a win-lose system while consensus
is a win-win system. The dynamics of factionalism are about
power struggles among groups while the dynamics of consensus
are about mutual-benefit problem solving. With an emphasis
on power struggles, the natural tendency is toward coalition
building, political parties, and elite power brokers.

I think it is fair to assume that the current regime cannot
be displaced unless a mass movement of greater-than-majority
proportions somehow brings that about. If that happens,
then the movement would itself become the provisional /
interim governing body in society. There would then be an
opportunity to make substantial changes in how society
operates, both economically and politically. If we get to
that point, I think it is very important that we use that
opportunity wisely. I am convinced it would be a serious
mistake to simply put in 'our President and Congress' and
continue with the same centralized, adversarial, political
system. We would be sowing the seeds of an eventual
re-emergence of elite power.

I think it is important to focus on that moment-of-
opportunity, that moment when a successful movement brings
about the fall of the current elite establishment. When that
time comes there will be many immediate problems to deal
with, and it would be wise for the movement to already have
some idea of where it's going, what kind of structural
changes make sense if we want a sustainable, democratic
society.

In thinking about that moment-of-opportunity, it is
important to realize that the changes could be very radical
ones. Rather than thinking in terms of implementing strong
corporate regulations, for example, why not think in terms
of getting rid of corporations altogether? Why not make each
corporate site into an independent entity, and transfer
ownership to the workers and the local community? I'm not
saying that's exactly what we should do, but I am suggesting
that our scope of thinking needs to be very broad, if we are
to make wise use of our opportunity.

I think that the Communists got it wrong when they attempted
to banish private property and market economics. But I do
think rearrangements of property ownership must be a central
part of any agenda for a new society. All those trillions of
dollars that nations owe to banks as 'national debt', all
those home mortgages owed to banks, and all that third-world
debt -- why not simply cancel all those debts? Why not
break up the banks into small units and turn them into local
credit-union style co-ops?  I'm not saying the answer to
these questions is obvious. But I think these are the kinds
of questions we need to think through.

I think what we all want is to change from a non-democratic,
non-sustainable, corporate-dominated society to a society
which is sustainable and democratic, and which provides for
the needs of people rather than providing profits to elite
investors.  I suggest that we need to think of that as a
change of systems --  not just as new legislation and
policies within the current system. We need to understand
what kinds of systems are most supportive of the kind of
society we'd like to have... political systems,
decision-making systems, financial systems, and so on.

I don't mean to throw out the baby with the bath water and
start from scratch. But if we can see that some of our
current systems are inherently dysfunctional, then we would
be wise to investigate alternative systems that would be
more functional in terms of democracy & sustainability. This
has been the focus of my own investigation into 'new world
visions'. I've been trying to understand what kinds systems
would be compatible with democracy and sustainability. My
investigations have led me to the conclusion that most of
our current systems need to be changed radically.  And in
thinking about how they might be changed, we need to think
about how the different changes would work together. If
there are changes in property ownership, for example, that
affects the operation of the political system.  Consider
your observation:

  > Again I need to remind you that unfair privileges can (and
    often are) also be present in local communities and that a
    consensus acceptable to all might be just as difficult to
    achieve locally as regionally or nationally.

What you say here makes sense as regards use of consensus
today, as a way to build the movement. But if we are
thinking in terms of a new society, then we might hope that
something would also be done about  those "unfair
privileges". In that case the viability of consensus might
be seen in a different light.  We need to think about our
new society as an overall system.

This is the kind of thinking that has led me to focus on
localism and consensus. And during the investigation, I did
some research into the effectiveness of consensus processes,
such as Dynamic Facilitation. It turns out these processes
do work reliably and effectively, if certain conditions are
present. The most important conditions are (1) appropriate
facilitation is employed, (2) solving the problem at hand is
important to everyone, and (3) the people have the power to
implement the solution they come up with.

best regards,
rkm
-- 

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    There is not a problem with the system.
    The system is the problem.

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