Zen of Transformation: some new thoughts

2003-11-06

Richard Moore

Friends,

The path / vision described in ZGT is sketchy, and there are many
difficulties that the book makes no attempt to resolve. The
intent was to show the main stages of the path, to argue that the
difficulties in each stage are plausibly surmountable, and to
suggest a general means of dealing with them in each case.

Since writing ZGT, I've become increasingly certain of certain
general principles:  A new society, if it is to have the
attributes we want, must be based on localism and consensus. And
it must avoid any form of hierarchical authority or
centralization of wealth or power.

I am convinced because of what I have observed about factional
politics and the behavior of hierarchies.

Factional politics, wherever it has occurred in history, has been
divisive, has been characterized by win-lose polices, and has led
to the emergence of centralized political parties and politicians
who function as front-men for some elite constituency.  From a
systems perspective, it is easy to see that factional decision
making leads to a focus on power competition rather than a focus
on sound social policy.  This leads me to look for solutions
based on consensus.

Hierarchies, whether economic or political, always end up seeking
to expand and to centralize. If they fail in these endeavors, it
is usually because of competition from some other hierarchy. This
has been true historically, and it makes sense in terms of the
dynamics of hierarchical organizations.  In the end you have a
society run by the elites at the top of the most powerful
hierarchies. This leads me to look for strictly decentralized
forms of organization and ownership.

Most people don't respond favorably to the term "consensus". Many
think that "consensus is impractical", and some fear that it is a
form of group manipulation.  Even among those with somewhat
favorable views, many assume that consensus leads to inferior,
least-common-denominator solutions. And many reject consensus
because they distrust the judgement of their fellow humans, at
least those that are considered to be "less knowledgeable" or
"less principled".

What a treat it was for me to learn from personal experience and
personal correspondence that the right kind of consensus process
achieves very creative and effective outcomes -- and the process
is reliably repeatable. Perhaps more important, the process leads
to the encouragement of community identity, empowerment, and
mutual understanding -- despite ongoing differences in values,
ideology, and knowledge.

In terms of envisioning a better world, it is easy to see how it 
might operate with considerable stability based on local control
over resources, economy, and local affairs -- and using these
consensus processes tor planning and decision making at every
level. There would need to be universal agreement on the
principles of sustainability and non- aggression -- but other
than that, there is little that would be needed, or even
desirable, in a "New World  Constitution". There is no necessity,
nor perhaps desirability, for general agreement on any ideology,
world view, economic system, trade policy, immigration policy,
agricultural system, legal system, life style, or social
arrangements.

The consensus process takes everyone's concerns into account, and
delivers solutions that serve everyone's interests.  For that
reason, a society based on consensus would have a great deal of
inherent dynamic stability.

At the community level, the results of using consensus would
naturally lead to social harmony and and increasing faith in and
understanding of the process and its potential. When delegates
are sent from such an environment to consensus pow-wow with
delegates from other comparable communities, those delegates
could be expected to similarly come up with solutions that take
all the communities' concerns into account, and that maximally
serve all their interests.  And similarly, this process would
naturally lead to harmony and understanding among communities. 
And this pattern scales up naturally to larger-scale entities and
global consensus conferences.

With everyone working in harmony, for mutual benefit, and
everyone involved in controlling the parameters of their own
lives, there would be strong resistance to any person or any
group that sought to seize power or destabilize the system.  And
there would be little incentive for such subversive behavior. 
Indeed, the trend would be toward increasing stability over time.
 Any kind of instability that arose would soon be identified as a
problem,  and would become the topic of consensus problem-solving
sessions wherever the symptoms had been observed. The bugs would
get worked out, their appearance would lead to their demise.

The whole paradigm is based on empowerment rather than
prohibition, collaboration rather than competition, and practical
problem solving rather than ideology or "system".  Warfare would
be all but unthinkable in such a global society, just as now it
would unthinkable for LA to launch an attack on San Diego, or
France on Italy.

The technical problems of achieving sustainability, handling the
transition period, reducing population growth, etc. are just that
-- technical problems. Already immense and effective work has
been done toward understanding these problems and setting forth
paths to solutions. If the whole global society was mobilized as
I've been describing, these solutions would soon be refined and
implementation would begin in parallel everywhere -- those would
precisely be the "identified problems" facing the various
societies. And there would be cross-pollenization of ideas and
experiences -- leading to a global evolution in the diverse
potential of humanity.

In this sense, I'm still satisfied with the message of ZGT, for
those who are sufficiently liberated to appreciate what it has to
say.  Where ZGT is weakest is in suggesting how "we" can work to
bring about such a new world. The prescription offered is to for
people to spontaneously get together and begin organizing
consensus sessions in their communities. And there are people and
groups doing just that, most without having ever heard of ZGT. 
But there isn't sufficient momentum or scale to these activities
to indicate they are going to become a significant force for
change in any useful timeframe.

I'm beginning to think that a more intentional kind of movement
is needed. I envision a network of four major threads of
loosely-coordinated activities -- but with an ever-growing common
focus and understanding among the diverse participants. One
thread could be called the "theory thread", to which my writing
has been my contribution. Another thread could be called the
"activist thread", involving those willing to get out and
organize, plan, and carry out projects. And there is a supporting
thread, a "strategy" thread, which involves collaboration among
activist leaders and theory folks. All of these are in support of
the "mass thread" of the movement, which is about organizing
consensus sessions in communities around real community problems
which are potentially solvable by the community -- and thereby
developing community empowerment, harmony, and enthusiasm for the
consensus process.

Presumably, if such a movement were to begin, the launchers would
come together out of a shared belief that a better world is
possible, and a shared understanding of the value and potential
of consensus. In any case, it would be essential that the various
threads employ consensus in their "internal" operations and in
their interactions with other parts of the movement. That is
important for both negative and positive reasons. On the negative
side, the consensus process inhibits the development of
centralized movement structures and the rise of power-hungry
movement "leaders".  On the positive side, consensus generates
good solutions to problems and builds movement harmony and mutual
understanding. Gandhi recommended that we "be the change we want
to see", and this movement would embody that principle. The means
of the movement are also its ends, there is no conflict or
compromise between them.

It seems to me the threads would learn from one another, and
would gradually merge together into a self-aware, holographically
capable, broadly based movement. The movement would grow by
cloning itself in new places, rather than by the development of
some centralized organization.  There would be diverse variations
in different places, and mutual learning. In a very real sense,
the movement would gradually become the new society.  It would be
an incremental evolutionary process, not an all-at-once release
into Zion.

Perhaps -- miracles are possible -- such a movement could
actually convert members of the establishment elites, and the
transition to a new world could be relatively smooth, apart from
the unavoidable technical problems which must be dealt with. But
most likely the movement would encounter various kinds of
aggressive opposition from establishment elements -- some based
on an allergic reaction to the threat of change, and some based
on a determined, calculated, and ruthless opposition.

Dealing with such opposition would of course be a major challenge
to the movement, that being the phase normally labelled "the
revolution".  And success in overcoming elite opposition would be
likely to happen all-at-once, as did the fall of the Soviet
Union, or of the Czar before that. But, as ZGT points out, the
victorious movement would not find itself in a dangerous power
vacuum nor would it face an organizational crisis. It would
simply go on doing what it's been doing, only it would have one
less problem to deal with.

rkm

PS> ZGT was an inspiration arising from a question sent in by
Janet McFarland. The ideas above were inspired by a comment sent
in the other day...

  > I discovered your email address and cyberjournal.org while
    surfing around the Ishmael Community website, and after reading
    some of your writings, I decided to write to you because I want
    to work towards changing and healing our broken world.   Yes, I
    know it's a tall order, but if those of us who feel compelled to
    do so don't get started, it just may be too late for us all. I'm
    interested in finding others who've taken the "red pill" and are
    working towards deconstructing the Matrix globally and locally.  
-- 

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    There is not a problem with the system.
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