Re: Total Despair & The Queen of Hearts

2003-07-24

Richard Moore

Bcc: contributors, FYI

--------------------------------------------------------
From: "Dave Paulsen" <•••@••.•••>
To: Richard K. Moore <•••@••.•••>,
              Tom Atlee, Jay Fenello 
Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2003 12:30:51 -0700
Subject: Consensus and Place in a Partnership Society

[excerpted - rkm]

This is a response to a few messages from Richard K. Moore 
(cyberjournal.org) on the Cyberjournal mail list on the subjects 
"Localism, Consensus, and Transformation," and "Total Despair & The 
Queen of Hearts." I read them in forwards from Jay Fenello 
(AligningWithPurpose.com) on his awpd list. Anyway, those messages 
were mainly responses to Tom Atlee (co-intelligence.org) and his 
reply on the "NGOs, Accountability & Democracy" thread at 
Cyberjournal.

Tom had asked Richard how localism deals with global issues. Due to 
the interdependent nature of reality, this seems an entirely valid 
and important question. Tom acknowledges the importance and worth of 
much of the work being done from the local perspective, but is 
cognizant that issues of global importance might be ignored or 
trivialized by an exclusive local focus.

Richard replies that global transformation requires consensus and 
localization. We need a common vision of the overall system, as well 
as a means of implementing that vision. I would like to present a 
vision of the system and one possible means of its implementation, 
interspersed with comments from the above threads. I think we are all 
very much in alignment, and the following should be seen mainly as 
variations on a theme.

I think the bioregional view is the most effective level for humans 
to organize and be active at. Bioregionalism can impart a sense of 
place at a human scale, and is made up of and dependent upon the 
communities and ecosystems of the bioregion, the interdependent 
relationships with the surrounding bioregions, and the global web of 
life these bioregions are a part of. It should also be stated that 
humans can find a sense of place at any of these levels. People can 
recover and strengthen their sense of belonging to something greater 
than the ego to their kin group, community, bioregion, globe, and 
universe.

Different people will be most attracted to and effective at a 
particular level. I think the majority of people and the social 
systems they create, e.g. governments, economies, transportation, and 
food production can be best sustained and will attain
the most effective active participation at the bioregional level, 
even though there will also be large numbers of people simultaneously 
working locally and globally. Of prime importance is that we all need 
to remain aware of these different layers and how they interact. 

I've delineated the core values I think all progressives can agree 
on, and the reasons I chose them at www.reststop.net/NCEP. They are: 
respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, 
social and economic justice, democracy, nonviolence, and peace.

As long as we support those working in the other layers, and can 
trust that they are working from this shared set of common core 
values, we can create the world we want to live in where we can live 
in ways that allow all others to live as well. If we understand that 
we have evolved within a system of sustainable natural systems, and 
look to Nature for examples of mutual support and reciprocity, we can 
rest assured that the power of our unity comes from the strength of 
our diversity. So it's not a localism is better than globalism, or 
vice versa, dichotomy.
---<snip>---

Richard quite rightly talks of the need to get to the root of our 
problems, of the need to affect a cure that addresses the cause 
instead of simply applying a band-aid to the symptoms. He lists many 
of the current problem areas: "the current clique in Washinton? Is 
capitalism the disease? Imperialism? Corporations? Corruption? The 
media? The financial system?"

The current manifestations of each of the above are outgrowths of a 
cultural developmental path taken millennia ago, and popularized by 
Daniel Quinn in "Ishmael" as the Taker myth. This concept is given 
further exposition and archeological evidence by Riane Eisler in "The 
Chalice and the Blade." Eisler calls it the dominator paradigm.
---<snip>---

I don't think the rise of dominator culture had anything to do, per 
se, with agriculture, animal husbandry, or the advent of tool making, 
only the processes with which they were deployed. Indeed, early 
partnership cultures who worshipped the power of creation over the 
power of destruction, and cooperation over competition, were metal-
working agriculturalists who had developed systems of administrative 
law. Also, to take issue to a point Richard made, slavery was not a 
part of these early civilizations. The idea of slavery would be 
anathema to a partnership culture.

These pre-history equalitarian, partnership based civilizations 
provide a model for our path back to ecological, social, and 
spiritual sanity. The way we are is not the way we have to be. This 
is not our fate, though we created and are complicit in sustaining 
it. We are not hard-wired to follow only the greedy, selfish, 
aggressive, and exploitive dominator path. In fact, it takes a multi-
billion dollar pharmaceutical and psychiatric industry, cheerleaded 
by corporatism's advertising and public relations minions, to keep us 
on that path. It is the dominator path that has evolved all forms of 
elite rule, including the form of fascism that masquerades as 
democracy in America today. The American democracy that has 
culminated in the bush regime is a bipartisan consensus of 
neoconservative militarism and neoliberal economics that consolidates 
wealth and power in the hands of the few.

Fortunately, we are seeing a shift today in consciousness, as people 
begin to remember that they are a part of Nature, not apart from it. 
Cooperative coalitions based on shared values and respect for the 
community of life are gaining strength and adherents. Progressive 
politics, the Earth Charter, the Cultural Creative subculture, and 
the nascent field of ecopsychology all point to a growing 
understanding of the interconnected nature of reality, and a non-
hierarchical systems view of the world.
---<snip>---

Communities desiring sustainability have options available to them to 
nudge their neighbors into sustainability. In a global marketplace, 
economic isolation will not contribute to the overall quality of life 
people will come to expect. These expectations will be set by the 
increased access to and use of global information systems. This is 
where altruism and enlightened self-interest merge and find their 
sustainable balance.

At this point communities will do away with hierarchies, but I don't 
see them doing away with authority. As Richard points out in his 
example of societies living this way, the transition from warring to 
cooperating tribes of the Plains Indians demonstrates a shift in 
authority. This shift was from central authority to a cooperative 
consensus based approach to decision making. But this is still an 
authoritative process that people agree to adhere to.
---<snip>---

I like Tom's concept of wisdom councils, although I see wisdom 
councils working best as a bioregional citizens think tank (BCTT), 
who, in addition to drafting policy, as part of their charge are 
responsible for hosting community forums open to the public for issue 
awareness and education, and for facilitating consensus based 
roundtable discussions. These roundtables would be made up of 
representatives from coalitions of environmental and social justice 
groups, local elected officials, social service organizations, public 
works and planning departments, arts and recreation proponents, 
business and economic interests, all levels of educators, farmers and 
fishers, and health and wellness professionals. The BCTTs would then 
work together to provide policy input to an organization like the 
United Nations for global issues and to resolve bioregional disputes. 
This would give us a system of democratic government of, by, and for 
the people at all levels.

What I don't see working particularly well is the BCTTs being 
comprised of citizens who are chosen at random. People have different 
interests, passions, and strengths. Some people can more naturally 
sense and work with the large systems view, some people are more 
attuned to local issues.
---<snip>---

In full agreement with Richard, I see a decentralized system of 
consensus as being they way to supplant the current political 
climate. What is needed is a shift in worldview, which means 
consciously using our consciousness differently. We need to start 
being the change we want to see in the world, which means playing our 
own game, and not the game of the elites. Many of today's leading 
thinkers all agree that we need to institute some type of shift in 
consciousness.
---<snip>---

_dave_(peace _on_ Earth requires peace _with_ Earth)
http://www.reststop.net/NCEP/index.html
http://www.attractionretreat.org/

----------

Dear Dave,

What I'd like to do is list all the items that we appear
agree on.  Then I'll try to characterize the nature of our
remaining differences.  I hope this approach may be useful.
I've Cc'd John since he and I have had similar exchanges
recently.

rkm

Agreements
^^^^^^^^^^^
  * A sound vision of a future world must have a way of
    dealing with local issues, global issues, and everything in
    between.
    
  * Bioregionalism is a natural intermediate scale of
    community, making sense both socially and ecologically.
    
  * If everyone is working from the same social ethic, then we
    will be able to trust other people and communities to act in
    mutually supportive / cooperative ways.

  * "respect and care for the community of life, ecological
    integrity, social and economic justice, democracy,
    nonviolence, and peace" are desirable qualities of a future
    world that many would already agree with.
    
  * Creating a sound vision requires appropriate radicalism --
    getting to the root of our problems -- not a band aid.
    
  * At that root is the dominator / taker paradigm.
    
  * We need to understand that we are not by nature dominators
    -- "The way we are is not the way we have to be".

  * "it takes a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical and
    psychiatric industry, cheer-leaded by corporatism's
    advertising and public relations minions, to keep us on [the
    dominator] path"
    
  * "we are seeing a shift today in consciousness, as people
    begin to remember that they are a part of Nature... a
    remembering of who we are as a natural system"
  
  * "The American democracy that has culminated in the bush
    regime is a bipartisan consensus of neoconservative
    militarism and neoliberal economics that consolidates wealth
    and power in the hands of the few"
  
  * "we must take part in the political process, and make it
    our process...  We should not beg the elites to be able to
    play, we should inform the elites that they are no longer
    players."
    
  * "a political system, of some form, is necessary for people
    to exist in societies and for societies to harmoniously
    co-exist"
    
  * "I see a decentralized system of consensus as being they
    way to supplant the current political climate"
    
  * "if political and economic autonomy is based on a
    'predominate social ethic [that] is one of harmony,
    sustainability, and consensus [...] a natural and benign
    stability could be expected to develop.'"


Differences in assumptions
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

* Authority 

  re/Plains Indians -- you say
   > the transition from warring to cooperating tribes of the
    Plains Indians demonstrates a shift in authority. This shift
    was from central authority to a cooperative consensus based
    approach to decision making. But this is still an
    authoritative process that people agree to adhere to.
 
I do not agree that a consensus process is a form of
authority.  In an effective consensus process, of which
Dynamic Facilitation is one example, the participants
together create a solution which everyone agrees is best.  
Their compliance with that agreement is a voluntary act.  
My dictionary defines authority as "The power to command,
enforce laws, exact obedience".

You might suggest that authority would be required to deal
with people who violate the consensus in destructive ways,
but that is another issue apart from consensus itself.

In the case of the Plains Indians there was never a central
authority.  The transition was from warring autonomous
tribes to collaborating autonomous tribes.  Within a tribe
there was no authority either, but a consensus process.   
The inter-tribal collaboration was based on extending the
consensus process up one level via councils of tribal
delegates.  There was no permanent council that sat with
authority.  A council / pow-wow existed only temporarily,
and then the still-autonomous tribes continued to run their
own affairs, informed by the agreement that had been
reached.  No system of laws or administration existed 
apart from the internal practices of each tribal unit.
  

  re/Partnership Cultures -- You say
   > early partnership cultures who worshipped the power of
  creation over the power of destruction, and cooperation over
  competition, were metal- working agriculturalists who had
  developed systems of administrative law
  
I have not heard of these cultures, at least not by that
name or description.  Could you give some examples of who,
when, and where they were?  Once so identified I can probably
find them in my reference library.

---

* Public education
   > In order to start living in a way that is supportive of
  the Global Life Community, I think we need to work on
  awakening people to the fact that we are a part of Nature
  
It seems to me that people generally are already awake to
this basic principle.  The Rio Summit, for example,
demonstrates strong global political pressure for
environmental good sense.  Every week we see dozens of
nature documentaries on TV about the interdependence of
environment and species.  There are literally thousands of
eco-oriented activist organizations around the world.  As
you say yourself, "we are seeing a shift today in
consciousness, as people begin to remember that they are a
part of Nature".  Would even more public education change
the fact that this consciousness does not find expression in
legislation?  Is public education the problem here?

---

* Progressives
   > I've delineated the core values I think all progressives
  can agree on, and the reasons I chose them

Is the constituency for a better world limited to
progressives?  Do those currently deluded by right-wing
propaganda not want a better world too?  Are they beyond
ever understanding?  Do we seek for progressives to dominate
non-progressives?  If not -- if our new world is to be inclusive -- 
when is the right time for communication to begin among what
we perceive as factions?

--------------------------------------------------------

Differences in perspective
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Bioregionalism, interdependence with nature, and economic
sustainability are core principles we would all agree on. 
It is very important and useful that people have been
investigating these kinds of principles, writing books about
them, and otherwise raising people's consciousness about
them.  There's a huge and informed literature now about
sustainable economics, appropriate technologies, bioregions,
ecological systems, co-evolution, inter-species
cooperation, etc.

In thinking about what a livable new world might look like,
we find that most of the technical issues have been
well-researched.   Not only that, but there are plenty of
appropriately educated folks out there who could contribute
to more specific planning if the opportunity for
implementation ever arises.

The one technical area which receives far too little
research  and thinking is that of politics.  I can see many
possible reasons for this.  For one thing, most of us find
the idea of politics depressing -- we see the bankruptcy of
mainstream politics and we often experience frustration in
the politics of activist groups we try to work with.   For
another thing, many of us assume that the structures of
'democracy' are sound, and that it is only corruption and
propaganda that must be eliminated.   We presume that
democracy is an understood technology, lacking only in the
application.  Perhaps we believe that only the leaders need
to be changed.

Those are speculations.  For whatever reasons, I don't see
much fundamental discussion about political structures and
alternatives.  With economics and environmentalism, we see
mature, well-worked out and radical ideas.   People are
ready for total transformation, from gross exploitation to
cooperative sustainability.  In the political realm, people
pick at the edges, talk about reforms, citizen
participation, 'restoring democracy', and the like.
In politics, our thinking is still at the stage of "stop 
pollution"; we haven't moved on to system thinking like 
we have with ecology.

---

My own view is that politics is the central problem we must
face.  If we don't get the politics right then any other
accomplishments remain at risk.  If we somehow changed the
world and achieved bioregional-based sustainability, why
would we expect that to last?  We must note that until the
industrial revolution, the world had always been more or
less sustainable.   That was only a moment ago in the human
story.  If we want lasting economic sustainability, we must
start with a sustainable politics that supports that
principle.

---

What can / should be the basis of such a politics?  I
believe the answer lies in democracy, but is that obviously
desirable?  Can we trust ordinary people to make good
decisions?  I wonder if each of us has asked ourselves that
question.   How many of us have reservations?  ...
"Democracy is what we want, but let's be sure the guidelines
are decided in advance."  "Where is the line between
democracy and mob rule?"  Or as Dave puts it, "What I don't
see working particularly well is the BCTTs being comprised
of citizens who are chosen at random."

I suspect that many of us have as much fear of genuine
democracy as we do of the current regime.  At least now the
trains run on time, more or less, and there's food in the
super market.   Think about all the ignorance you see around
yourself everyday, the people who think Bush is great and
believe what they see on TV.  Would you trust them to run
society?  Would they trust you to run it?   Is democracy
even feasible?   What is democracy?  If these questions seem
formidable or perhaps novel, that underscores my point
about the topic being under-researched.

---

From a systems perspective, I believe we must make a
political choice between centralization and decentralization
-- between local autonomy and hierarchical authority.  In
order to clarify, I need to say more about both hierarchy
and autonomy.

In looking at either of these choices, we are assuming that
we have somehow achieved first a shift in cultural
perspective -- a social ethic based on harmony,
sustainability, and consensus.   Given that paradigm shift,
the question is:  Where are each of the system choices
likely to lead?

Let's begin by considering local autonomy.  I imagine that
for everyday activities, we might all agree that a community
or other societal unit would run its own affairs.   A
difficulty comes in if such a unit begins acting
anti-socially (against the common social ethic).   Perhaps
an elite seizes power and subjugates some of its citizens
(an internal violation), or perhaps the unit begins
polluting a common waterway or stockpiling offensive weapons
(external violations).   Clearly something must be done to
address and correct these kinds of events.

Already the choice between centralization and decentralization
must be faced.  The centralized solution would be to have
some kind of higher-authority institution (a regional police
force and court) that could routinely intervene and dictate
& enforce a solution in such cases.   The decentralized
solution would be for neighboring social units to act
collectively to deal with the case on an emergency basis --
without the creation of any standing central authority.

These two choices lead to profoundly different consequences,
to two entirely different kinds of worlds.

---

If we take the centralized path, as a systems choice, then we
end up with hierarchical layers of authority & policing
institutions, all the way up to the global level (a strong
UN with a standing army).    I say this because the problem
of an anti-social societal unit could occur at any level.  A
nation could go bad just as could a community or a region. 
If our answer is higher authority, then we end up with a
hierarchical global system with a top central governing
institution.  And we have police / military establishments
at every level, with each level necessarily having a more
powerful military than the levels below -- otherwise it
couldn't do its enforcing job.

My arguments will be sketchy here, wanting to be brief, but
my investigations indicate clearly that there are severe
negative consequences with any such hierarchical system --
even if it is founded in the spirit of our benign social
ethic and with enlightened constitutions at the various
levels.

One of the problems would be the danger of military coups:
if a military establishment exists, then there is the
possibility of some ambitious clique using the military to
seize power.  Another danger comes from the concept of
'greatest good': the kind of reasoning -- natural to a
central authority -- which decides to pave a highway through
the middle of some local community.   There is a natural
tendency toward majoritarian politics instead of consensus
politics -- when centralized authorities exist.    And
majoritarian politics leads to divisiveness, factionalism,
coalitions, power-brokering, and the emergence of ruling
elites.  My arguments for all of these points would be
supported by both history and system analysis.

From a purely systems perspective, centralization has
several disadvantages compared to decentralization.  With
decision making funneled into centralized institutions,
there is a tendency toward the lowering of diversity, and a
slowing of cultural evolution -- as compared to the parallel
activities of autonomous units.  It's much the same as with
super computers: they can get more done if they are based on
lots of independent parallel processors.  And then there's
the problem of system failures.  Every system fails
sometimes.  If it's a centralized system, the failure can be
catastrophic -- as when a massive power failure occurs on
the grid.  It the system is decentralized, then the failure
is isolated and the rest of the system keeps running.  
Recovery is easier and the downtime less costly.  That's why
the Internet is decentralized.  In the case of our world
system, a catastrophic failure could be something like a
military coup in the all-powerful UN military -- leading all
at once to global dictatorship.

---

Let's look at the decentralized choice in the face of
anti-social behavior: neighboring societal units act
collectively to correct the violation --  as an emergency
operation without creating a standing central authority. 
The difficulties of intervention and peaceful resolution of
the conflict remain more or less the same, but with a
different intervening agency.  Presumably in both cases this
can be done successfully, restoring local harmony.

In the decentralized scenario there is no need to establish
levels of authority nor standing police / military forces. 
Presumably there would be limited part-time militias, whose
weapons are small-scale, and whose only purpose is to
participate in collective enforcements when and if
emergencies arise.  Something like the Swiss, where
able-bodied citizens have rifles in their homes for
emergency, collective, self-defense purposes.   In this way
the world's military is minimized and is distributed
holographically throughout the localities, under no central
control or authority.  A societal unit which exceeded these
armament levels would be in serious violation of the shared
social ethic and subject to correction before it got out of hand.

There is little danger of major military escalations, as
could occur if layers of standing armies existed, each layer
with more sophisticated weapons than the one below. There is
no convenient power apparatus for an ambitious clique to
seize.  There is no 'center' whose collapse could lead to a
system-wide failure.

---

We have been considering worst-case scenarios, because it is
important that they can be dealt with if and when they
arise.  Like I said, every system fails sometimes.   I've
tried to show, in brief outline, that decentralization
behaves better under stress than does a centralized system. 
But the real advantage of decentralization is in normal
times, when communities, regions, etc., are collaborating
voluntarily for their mutual benefit.

With autonomy all the way down to the local community, and
the use of consensus, we would experience a kind of freedom
and empowerment we haven't known for 10,000 years.   We
could expect an unprecedented unleashing of human creativity
and initiative.  Different localities could be expected to
try new forms of education, of neighborhood and zoning
patterns, of construction materials, of appropriate
technologies and sustainable systems, of artistic
expression. Cross-pollenization could be expected to lead to
rapid evolution and progress on a global scale of a useful,
non-destructive kind.  Wisdom Councils which advise are a
good thing; community consensus with the power to act is
another level of empowerment altogether.

---

There remains the question of how large-scale issues would
be dealt with under decentralization.  Things like fishing
rights on the high seas,  the management of shared resources
(eg.rivers), and the development and management of shared
artifacts (eg. transport systems).  The decentralized answer
is tiered consensus.  Each community first reaches consensus
locally on the wider issue, and then sends a delegation to
to a wider-scale session where a wider-scale consensus is
sought, and so on up the line.  The process can begin again from
the bottom if unforeseen problems are uncovered at higher
level sessions which prevent consensus on the first round.

Again, as in the case of emergencies, there is no central
authority or institution created.  When a consensus solution
is found for the large-scale issue, each social unit does
its agreed part  voluntarily to implement it.   It might be
necessary to create a  project team (road-building crew or
whatever) to carry out the work, but that would not be a
policy-making body with authority and it would be temporary.

---

We can now return to an earlier issue.  Given all the
ignorance in our current populations, how can we expect good
policy to come out of local consensus sessions, let alone
wider-scale sessions?   One answer to this lies in the fact
that expertise does exist in society for every technical
issue that might come up.  We can assume that appropriate
expertise would be available on a consulting basis to our
sessions, at whatever level.   But the real answer lies in
the nature of well-facilitated (eg. Dynamic Facilitation)
consensus sessions.

The experience (not just theory) of such sessions is that
they lead to creative breakthroughs and good solutions even
when the participants start out with conflicting beliefs and
values regarding the problem under consideration.  And this
applies even when none of the participants have any
pre-existing familiarity with consensus.  One can only
imagine how effective the process would become if everyone
was experienced at it.  Furthermore, a secondary outcome of
such sessions is the creation of a spirit of cooperative
community.

The decentralized perspective leads to a world of
collaborating localities with no centralized institutions or
authorities.   Each community manages its own affairs and
enters into voluntary arrangements with its neighbors for
mutual benefit.   Within a community, the consensus process
ensures that the concerns of all citizens are listened to
and accommodated in the community's agenda.

---

Finally, let us recall your policy proposals:
  > I've delineated the core values I think all progressives
    can agree on, and the reasons I chose them at
    www.reststop.net/NCEP. They are: respect and care for the
    community of life, ecological integrity, social and economic
    justice, democracy, nonviolence, and peace.

Consider this question: What is the appropriate forum to
which such proposals should be submitted for consideration? 
At one level, we send such proposals out to our lists, in
the hopes of reaching agreement there.  You are suggesting
that 'all progressives' adopt them as a way of unifying and
empowering the progressive movement.  John would embody them
in the SIMPOL document for simultaneous adoption by national
governments.   I imagine that Tom would not emphasize such
a summary, but would promote the processes in which such
proposals would have relevance.

My own view is that the time to formalize such notions is
when there are empowered communities that have the power to
act on them.  And if I were in such a community, I would not
want to be bound by a formulation someone had set up in
advance.  The ideas in your policy proposals are already out
there in the wider community.  They are what have inspired
the anti-globalization movement, the massive anti-Iraq-war
demonstrations, and thousands of ongoing activist
organizations.   We can preach to the choir, but what do we
gain?

I believe that leading-edge activist thinking needs to focus
on those questions which the choir does not already agree
about.   These are (1) the political structure of a
sustainably democratic world, and (2) the means to achieve
it.

thanks again for your initiative toward seeking consensus amongst us,
rkm
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