Governance in a Mature Society, Part 1

This is our home! We must clean house.
This is our home! We must clean house.

The word govern comes from the Latin gubernare (to direct or guide) and from the Greek kybernan (to steer or pilot a ship). Essentially it means to rule with authority; in democracy, that authority is assigned by the people. Authority itself is power to make decisions and to give orders so as to accomplish a task; it can be delegated, but the delegator is usually still accountable for the accomplishment of the task.

Thus, to govern refers to having power over power, the concept I have been referring to in the last few posts, The Nature of Power. Quite frankly, in the shift to civilization over the past 10,000 years, we have not done very well. Power has controlled us, rather than we having control over power.

We must learn to transform ourselves.

Given we are at the edge of the ending of our current civilization, if not the ending of ourselves as a species, this must change. We must shift from the dominator mode of power to that of a global embrace of personal power. We must learn to value the personal growth of individuals such that they advance in wisdom (phronesis, as well as the supplementary skills of sophia, discipline, hope and playfulness) — see Acedia and The Climate Lie, Part 1 for details.

I say personal power because, although governance largely has to do with professional power, it is the deep transformation of individuals that allows them to be effective leaders. Over thirty years ago, John Scherer[1] introduced me to the Adaptive Skills, the skill set that allows leadership, the skill set that makes you who you are, the core that people “get” when they are with you. A mature society will value the development of these skills in all people, and when well developed, from whence will come leadership.

In my dissertation (and subsequent book Acedia, pp. 200-205), I devoted a number of pages to the governance of a mature society. In re-reading these pages, I have changed little in my thoughts. I will therefore quote extensively from this source, adding some brief comments to update the text.

Challenging growth

As indicated in earlier posts, I suggest that in a mature culture, people would meet several times per week in small groups within their “villages” in order to discuss their own growth as well as the community issues of concern.

. . . they would also mentor each other, challenging both themselves, and the systems within which they live. This would be the place where people cross-link with each other, providing the maturity necessary for the resolution of conflict; it would be the source of growth necessary for the priorities of the [culture]. Such meetings might potentially sound communistic, and subject to the “crab-box effect” of togetherness, but when skillfully led, I know of no richer experience for human interaction — they are the platforms where people develop the skills of authentic relating. When skillfully led, such meetings can be places of immense playfulness and wisdom [as well as the development of leadership skills].

To be continued.

[1]John J. Scherer, The 1980 Annual Handbook for Group Facilitators, pp. 152-156.

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