Tag Archives: conflict management

Finding Common ground

A friend of mine sent me a link a few days ago to a TED talk on resolving conflict: Julia Dhar: How to disagree productively and find common ground (201810). My friend is part of a group who are exploring how to manage difficult conversations, the one where people are almost certain to argue without resolution. Their premise (and mine), and the premise of the Julia Dhar talk, is that “Contempt has replaced conversation.” Dhar suggests that the resolution is for all parties to learn the skills of debating.

Yet, I think there is an easier way that I will describe shortly. The skills of debating are still part of the process — it is the preliminary steps that make it easier, and likely more effective.

First, to look at Dhar’s comments:

  • the nature of debate is that there is a big topic on the table, an idea that is controversial. One side argues in the positive; the other in the negative.
  • the foundation of debate is rebuttal, face to face, as the participants present structured arguments appropriate to their positions. For most people, rebuttal is difficult — it feels like attack. But if the personalities are minimized, it becomes tolerable, perhaps stimulating.
    • in a formal debate, it may be that the sides are assigned beforehand, independent of the debaters — to a certain extent, this removes the personalities of the debaters from the debate. Debaters learn to argue from either perspective.
    • Dhar notes that the “only winning strategy is to engage with the best, clearest, least personal version of the idea.”
      • of note, Dahr also identifies that “listening to someone’s voice as they make a controversial argument is literally humanizing. It makes it easier to engage with what that person has to say.”
  • she notes that powerful debaters do not seek to attack; they seek to find common ground. They create  what is called shared reality, and Dahr suggests that shared reality is the antidote of alternative facts.
  • most important of all,Dhar notes that the structure of debate, especially the ability to argue from  either side, is such that we “open ourselves, really open ourselves up to the possibility  that we might be wrong. [We encounter t]he humility of uncertainty.”

I agree with all these points yet, as noted, I think there is an easier way.

A former friend of mine (I lost track of him when he moved to Turkey) Joe Schaefer was a cultural anthropologist who engaged in community building. He talked about creative communication as “going on feeling good about the other while we resolve our differences.” And the way to do this was to talk about how you learned to hold the stances what were important to you.

I remember a process that Joe led us through. Thirteen pairs were asked to pick a topic upon which we strongly disagreed (issues like “Smoking should be entirely prohibited” or “Young offenders should be treated as adults for serious crimes” or “Gay partners should have the right to adopt children”), and then to take turns telling personal stories to each other of how we learned our attitudes to the topic. We used a standard format of “I remember when . . .,” telling the sensory details of something we remembered as being important to how we came to our conclusions related to the topic: a memory, an intuition, something seen or read, any source of meaning. These conclusions were what we were exploring, yet we were instructed to never state a conclusion during the exercise in what we learned.

We exchanged memories for ten minutes only, and then had two minutes to explore to what extent we had reached a resolution between us — twelve minutes to explore a tough issue wherein we strongly disagreed. The outcome: ten dyads were completely satisfied in their resolution; two knew they had a resolution but needed a few more minutes; one pair knew they had no resolution possible yet were satisfied that they could be friends about it. I was astounded — I had never seen conflict handled this way and so successfully.

 So what is important here:

  • first, we stayed away from conclusions, and focused on sensory details of the memories. Details like“I remember walking into Tim Horton’s to get a cup of coffee. They had a glassed-in smoking section. I saw a friend in the smoking section and went into talk to him. I was amazed that, within ten minutes, my eyes were burning and my throat was burning.” Period — no conclusion.
    • People do not argue sensory details or memories. They argue conclusions.
    • Sensory details create shared reality. If you are Canadian,I can almost guarantee that when you read “I remember walking into Tim Horton’s,” you accessed your own memory of walking into your favorite Tim Horton’s — a shared reality in progress.
      • Although Dhar talks about shared reality as the antidote of alternative facts, there are fundamentally no such thing as facts. What we call “facts” are our memories of agreed-upon experiences. For example, [fact] I weigh173 pounds because [experience] I remember stepping on the scale this morning and noting that the scale displayed 173.4 (pounds). Even if we together watch me step on the scale, within a few minutes we only have the memory of the event to denote as “fact.”
  • the sharing of memories,without conclusion, allows each of us to learn about the “reality” of the other,to step into and feel their experience. Since no conclusion is stated, we do not have anything to bump against.
    • we also learn about our own reality. Once we begin to recognize the scanty information that forms the basis of most of our cherished beliefs, we begin to entertain the possibility of being wrong. We again encounter the humility of uncertainty.
    • in this humility, we can each step into the experiences of the other and “go on feeling good about the other while we resolve our differences.”
      • rather than putting the personalities aside, we actually increase our awareness of the humanness, and the personality, of the other.
  • from this place of connectedness, we might then choose to go on to “debate” the topic, recognizing that there are important “facts” within both sides of the “debate.”
    • and that if we are to resolve the issues, we must take all these “facts” into a common ground that works for all concerned.

Thus, for me, Dhar’s process is simply the end point of this more simple approach wherein we become familiar with and learn to respect each other, working to common goals.

Does this work for everyone in all circumstances. No, nothing does.

The other must be at least willing to listen to me at the beginning. The beauty of Joe’s methodology is that inmost areas where I might argue, I can introduce this approach with fair ease,and often invite a dialogue rather than a debate.

The major limitation always occurs where the other is simply not willing to engage. Even there if I stay strictly with descriptions of sensory details, I can minimize argument. People cannot easily argue sensory details, especially if I tell something true that cannot be challenged (e.g., “Wow. I notice how tightly I am clenching my teeth because Iso want to argue with you and yet I am also stopping myself — I don’t want to argue. Does that ever happen to you?” — using the questions perhaps to invite common reality!)

There are so many ways to handle argument, ways that engage rather than separate. As Dhar notes, the skill is to invite common ground.

Who Cares?

Compassion4I have recently begun to explore Unitarian-Univeralism (UU), a very inclusive “church” structure that requires no dogmatic belief system and yet recognizes the human need for community and the search for meaning, the need for caring and the questing of “Who Cares?” In particular, I invite the reader to view a recent sermon at the local UU church A Big Tent with Even Bigger Dreams[1] (20180506), one that I thought was profound (as well as very humorous).

For my part, UU (in its profound inclusivity) represents the possibility of mature community, an essential component of cultural transformation (of which I have written many posts in this blog — see this series). I find a number of aspects of the local church, the North Shore Unitarians, to have deep appeal for me; I also have the intuition (and hope) that these aspects are to be found throughout the UU system.

  • They are deeply inclusive. In particular, I have found them very welcoming, and very open to diversity, especially the LGBTQQIP2SAA community and any other source of divisiveness in community.
    • A significant quote from the above sermon is “we honor this truth by encouraging our members to reflect on the Light through whatever set of windows they find most illuminating. We only require that this same freedom be honored for others.”
  • They recognize the incredible destructiveness that “religion” has played in the world.
    • I have a friend who is atheist and strongly against religion, yet from my perspective he does not seem to recognize “religion” as simply a cultural lens, and that its implications range from the very immature (including much of Christian history as well as modern fundamentalism, both Christian and Muslim) to the very mature. I totally agree with him in his disparagement of Christianity when expressed via fundamentalism, and I also deeply value the mature expression of religion when I find it. Mature religion for me is not a set of beliefs, rather it is a way of approaching life with compassion to all its complexity.
  • They are very open to questioning the meaning of life.
    • For the past year, the Church has been running a series of discussion groups called Wounded Words (words such as sin, salvation, god, prayer) in an attempt to recognize how divisive these words have been (and continue to be).

The main emphasis that I have seen is that UU encourages the recognition that we all search for meaning and that we are all in the same boat! We must learn to value “making sure there’s room for another to come sit next to me, even if, especially if, they make me uncomfortable . . . . with such a big tent [that] we don’t even agree on the words to use to describe it.”

There is for me something deep within the heart of all human beings that searches for meaning; maturity for me means that of being willing to sit in the mystery that this represents. Those who claim certainty are at high risk of fundamentalism, and the abuses of religion — this I distrust.

To give my answer to the basic question of this post, those who care are those who continue to search, allowing others also to search. I honor all who do, including the UU church.

[1] Hartlief, M. (20180506). A Big Tent With Even Bigger Dreams, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNB–Aa5KWo, published 20180507.

The Need For A Coup, Part 2

Complexity3This is my second and concluding post on the need for a coup. Earlier I noted Schmookler, in The Parable Of The Tribes, suggesting that a civilization based on power (the original basis by which civilizations emerge) is not sustainable: it demonstrates neither synergy, enhancing the welfare or all, nor viability, sustainable in its continuing existence.

Schmookler also notes that justice could be the antidote of power, thereby underscoring both synergy and viability. Justice requires:

  • “where power is exercised . . . it should not be used to benefit the wielder of power at the expense of the health of the system as a whole” and
  • “where different parts of the system have conflicts of interest, the conflicts should be resolved not by their differences in power but by some moral principle which, if always followed, would ultimately be to the benefit of all in the system.”

As a species, we have not yet demonstrated the capability of synergy and viability — world governance, such as it is, is by tenuous cooperative agreement, the limits of which have been demonstrated by Trump’s threat to withdraw from the Paris agreement. Again, simply as one example of the many instances of inequitable dynamics, Trump’s stance is that of power; it is not that of justice. Nor is power a stance of cooperation; it is a stance of domination! And it is not sustainable: either it is stopped, or the system itself will deteriorate to the point of collapse (e.g., the predictable outcome of global warming).

So how then does one deal with such insanity, in which it is necessary to develop power over power, and yet act justly. I have seen nothing in the past years to suggest an effective outcome. All of the efforts of the social movements of the past century (including feminism, racial discrimination, the environmental movement, et cetera) have been the attempt of the “people” to get the “1%” to cooperate, and have had only limited success.

Much of what has been suggested thus far is in the nature of civil disobedience. And whereas I believe it is an important tool is opposing power, it is the attempt of the weak to convince the strong to desist certain actions. It does not seem to offer any significant shift in the maturity of the strong, certainly not those who function from the power of domination.

Thus my suggestion that we need a coup! But in contrast to most coups where one form of domination simply replaces another form of domination, we need a coup in which justice replaces domination. And the coup needs to be international, including all of the major powers of the world. Although I often use the USA as an example, I am not naïve in believing that it is the only source of difficulties on this planet.

Furthermore, the only examples of sustainable justice of which I am aware have been within indigenous cultures — cultures that have resisted civilization, albeit without great success up to this point. Our track record of “civilized” process has not been very successful otherwise.

And hence, my best guess is that such a coup must come from indigenous sources, as the power to resist domination and act justly. Again in my limited exposure to cultural issues, it is the native people of North America who seem most apt to engage in sustained resistance (witness Standing Rock and Kinder-Morgan). They also have a cultural heritage that honored justice in much richer fashion than has European-based culture.

Thus my hope . . .

Links Of Note

Two Dark American Truths From Las Vegas (20171002)

Gun violence in America, explained in 17 maps and charts (20171002)

These two links discuss the ineffectiveness of modern attempts to limit the use of power, both in preventing individual tragedies and in developing just resolutions to such forces that underlie these tragedies.

U.S. Climate Change Policy: Made in California (20170927)

An interesting example of how the interplay of legality and power work in our culture. To quote the lead-in: “A peculiar confluence of history, legal precedent and defiance has set the stage for a regulatory mutiny in California that would reverberate throughout the country.” Legally, California can regulate independently of national concerns, and controls at least a third of the auto industry, with a sizable impact on how industry must react. I am reminded of a statement that our culture has a legal system, perhaps sometimes a justice system.

The Need For A Coup, Part 1

Complexity3I said in my last post that I would consider the possibility of a coup. At some level, I truly accept that the need for a coup is the only way in which humanity will survive. I’m not a historian, nor a philosopher, nor do I have a military background, so what follows will simply be my random thoughts regarding the issues that confront us as a civilization.

First, as noted in my original first post of this blog (see my home page), Laszlo (in Evolution: The General Theory, 1996) wrote that we are in a cascade of crises, and that we must extend ourselves into a new maturity, else we will likely perish as a species (or at least as a civilization). I also recall from my PhD research, Toynbee in A Study Of History (1946) considered that in the failing of civilizations, new ones arise at the periphery (of the old collapsing civilization) wherein a small group arises who both represents a new energy of purpose while espousing a new religion, meanwhile opposed by the old tyranny. In my dissertation, I suggested that the small group was the Cultural Creatives and the new religion was our maturing relationship with ecology. The current difficulty with both the Cultural Creatives and the ecology movement, though, is that they are disorganized, and do not present a coordinated front to oppose the oppressive forces of our current civilization. Furthermore, this past century is the first occurrence in which we as a species have come to be both a global village and a power dynamic capable of altering the dynamics of the entire ecosystem of our world; there is essentially no periphery for a new civilization — we must confront the center of the old.

I also noted in my posts about power (beginning 2016-08-16) that civilization(s) arose because the human species came into relationship with power, a relationship different from that of all other previous species. Schmookler in The Parable Of The Tribes[1] indicated that “our destructiveness as a species and of our current culture . . . is a simple consequence of our creativity, a tragedy representative of the inevitable options for power” — and that there is “no way to return the dangerous djinni of human power back into the bottle.” In addition, “The laws of man require power, for power can [only] be controlled with power. The challenge is to design systems that use power to disarm power. Only in such an order can mankind be free.” Perhaps mankind will evolve to “control the actions of all to the degree needed to protect the well-being of the whole.”

Schmookler mentions a number of relevant definitions:

  • system: an aggregate the elements of which interact (and therefore no element of the system can be understood in isolation)
  • synergy: a pattern whereby each part functions in a way that enhances the welfare of the other parts as well as its own
  • viability: the ability to maintain without diminution whatever it is upon which its continued existence depends

Our civilization is definitely a system, yet it is neither synergistic nor viable. Our civilization is based on power, not synergy and viability. We compete rather than cooperate. We control by short-term domination rather than by consideration of the long-term. We demonstrate immense creativity, but we do not consider the impact of our creativity on future generations (in either our consumerism or our technological advances).

To be continued

Links suggestive of our cultural insanity

Heartless world watches while Rohingya nightmare continues (20170928)

An example of the inability of our species to deal with power.

Trump doesn’t get it on Puerto Rico. He just proved it by lashing out at San Juan’s mayor. (20170930)

I am suggesting this link, not as a critique of Trump (which it is), but as an indication of the need for definitive action in stopping this kind of tribalism, a stance that likely results in major deterioration of justice and viability. The current system is not healthy.

Homeland Security to monitor social media accounts of immigrants and citizens (20170926)

Where does surveillance stop? When is it effective? Here we seem to be moving to a police state, again with a major deterioration of justice and vitality.

Even This Data Guru Is Creeped Out By What Anonymous Location Data Reveals About Us (20170926)

So easy, and with enough computer power, likely also easy to cross-map details of how groups of people interact. Truly, Big Brother is watching.

[1] Schmookler, A. B. (1995). Parable of the tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution. New York, NY: State University of New York.

Knowing Through Relationship

Relationship1The week has been busy — lots of little jobs, and also I have been having difficulty organizing a workshop I will be doing (in October) on relationship. I am taking an older workshop, one that I have never been fully satisfied with, and both reducing it in size (for a full weekend to 1½ days). Such a reduction is always difficult for me, and more so this time as I have been searching for how to focus the workshop in a way that satisfies me. What I have settled upon, and which satisfies me, is to emphasize the importance of intersubjectivity.

Intersubjectivity is a concept I learned from my research advisor Christian deQuincey when I was doing my PhD. To quote one of Christian’s books (Radical Knowing: Understanding Consciousness Through Relationship, 2005):

Intersubjectivity is “knowing through relationship” — a form of non-sensory, non-linguistic connection through presence and meaning, rather than through mechanism or exchanges of energy. (Kindle location 452)

Christian also distinguished three forms of intersubjectivity:

  1. Intersubjectivity-1, the exchange of linguistic tokens (words and other sounds),
  2. Intersubjectivity-2, where we influence each other with the meaning we promote, and
  3. Intersubjectivity-3, where we co-create each other into a meaningful experience by the wholeness of who we each are.

For me, when I experience it, intersubjectivity-3 is the richest form of dialogue of which I have experienced.

So the workshop is becoming a process whereby we (myself and the participants) explore how to have a really great relationship. In essence then, for a given relationship, to what extent are we willing

  • to be authentic with each other,
  • to support each other to be the person we each want to be (as opposed to who we should be for the other , or for society),
  • when difficulties arise in the relationship (inevitable), to explore the difficulty with total honesty.

Hard work, requiring that we love ourselves as well as our partner, and that we define the truths by which we each stand (or fall). The most important place for learning about life, provided we have ways to sort the complexity.

One component of this is what the Family Therapist Murray Bowen called self-differentiation — the consistent ability to be a self while in the presence of others. Amongst his other contributions, Bowen developed a scale for self-differentiation, ranging from 0 to 100. He believed most people scored around 40, and that no one ever scored above 70 — it is simply too difficult to stay separate from the influence of others (we are not designed to do so).

Anyway, the workshop is looking interesting.

Other issues of note for the week, both on climate issues:

The Planet Is Warming. And It’s Okay to Be Afraid (20170717)

Last week, I listed The Unhabitable Earth, an article that discussed the worst case scenario of what we face, indicating how close it comes to doom-mongering (worst case scenarios are usually very challenging). This link (The Planet Is Warming . . .) is an excellent response to the concern re doom-mongering in regards to global warming — unfortunately, if we are to respond effectively, we each need to deal with our despair. Not fun, but necessary.

A Brief History of the Straw (20141023)

Plastic straws suck (20170720)

Two interesting links to the impact of plastic straws, the first on our creativity, the second on our ecology. Apparently we discard 180,000,000,000 straws a year (1,400,000 kilograms a year, 500,000,000 a day) to landfill and other forms of discard. I deliberately changed the data from 180 billion to 180,000,000,000 to emphasize the impact. And that is just drinking straws!

Issues Of Insanity

Insanity Sanity Signpost Shows Crazy Or Psychologically SoundI’ve recently returned from Ontario, where I was presenting two workshops on Authenticity (what it means, and how to be authentic — the work required); both were well received. For me, they also illustrated the huge desire and need for people to be authentic, as well as how little teaching there is in our society regarding emotional maturity.

Question: how often have you gone to a workshop that emphasizes emotional growth, or resolving relationship issues? My guess is that, for most people, the answer is: Never!

The preceeding centuries, at least since the 18th century, have emphasized technology and consumerism, all fueled by scientific materialism and especially by neoliberalism — great for industry, but not a good combination for health, especially emotional health. For me, they are a sad reflection on the path of human development.

As I emphasized on one slide of the workshop, our history has been that of hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years. As such, many of these societies have been incredibly healthy, perhaps our oldest true immediate democracies. Then we had the beginning of agriculture, with the introduction of civilization. And empire, including slavery. With the Greeks, we had the identification of democracy and the valuing of wisdom. And eventually feudalism, and functional slavery. With the Renaissance, we had science and the valuing of the individual. And industrial slavery. With the 20th century, we had technology and the valuing of women. And consumerism (and perhaps commercial slavery). Now with the 21st century, we have the information revolution and the valuing of diversity. And global warming (and The Climate Lie). Such a strange path we humans have lived.

So now we are reaping the costs of this path. Some examples follow.

The insanity of politics

Mr. Mueller Is Following the Money (20170615)

A rather crude article, but it hits all the sore points of this insanity of politics.

Comey’s testimony was a media disaster for Trump. These headlines prove it. (20170609)

The responses to Comey’s testimony.

Cashing in on the Rise of the Alt-Right (20170616)

The destruction of political norms started decades ago. Here’s how it happened. (20170618)

The strange nature of our society, as it becomes more and more polarized.

WTF is going on in the UK? (20170609)

Strange politics is also part of other areas of the world.

On global warmingAntarcticMelt

Scientists stunned by Antarctic rainfall and a melt area bigger than Texas (20170615)

A potential harbringer of the future.

New Solar Milestone Has Big Consequences (20170606)

Progress is slow, but ongoing.

On the positive side:

Defiance of Trump spawns international workarounds with U.S. states, cities (20170609)

A good summary of Trump issues.

How to Fight Trump’s Paris withdrawal by taking climate justice into our own hands (20170613)

A good article on local action regarding the off-loading of consumer costs, and the possibility of legal challenge — a slow, but necessary, step in a more mature process.

Protecting oceans is paying off (20170608)

Fascinating research.

Accepting One’s Quirky Personality (2017)

Jack Kornfield often has brief but intersting comments of living with the insanity. My own stance is that we need much greater emphasis and availability of teaching on how to do this work. Otherwise such articles simply become another ‘should’ of how we should live.

We are such an interesting species! (A reminder of the Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times!)

More On Problems

problems1Previously, I written a number of blog posts on the nature of change, and the distinction between difficulties and problems (they start here as of 20160630). I need to add to that, especially with a highly useful concept ( concerning logos, ethos, and pathos) that I encountered somewhere in my career, one attributed to Plato (I’m currently searching for a specific reference).

Anyway, the distinction is that between logical issues (logos), ethical issues (ethos), and emotional issues (pathos). An example will help.

Suppose my toaster is not working, and I want toast.

The Difficulties: In theory (the Logical), I (or someone else) could take the toaster, determine what is the difficulty, and with the right parts, simply fix the toaster, returning it to its functional state. This is the logical approach to a technological difficulty. (Logical resolutions work best with technological issues.)

However, in our culture, it is much more likely I would put the toaster in the garbage (increasing the environmental load), and go to the local store to purchase a new toaster. I bypass the logical.

The difficulty here is that we somehow believe it to be less expensive to do this than to find someone, as above, who has the necessary skills and necessary parts for the repair process. In our complex culture, there is a certain truth to this (it is much less so in a third-world country where many people make their living with such simple repairs — but we are not a ‘third-world’ country!).

To find someone in my city who would be willing to do such repairs and who had the necessary parts (likely needing to be back-ordered rather than immediately available) would take much searching and massive effort as well as considerable time — in the past when I have gone to electrical stores, they have simply said it is cheaper to buy a new toaster.

So with difficulties of this nature, such as the toaster, I therefore do not bring a logical resolution to the logical problem. It is ‘too expensive.’ Instead, I move to the Ethical: I go to a store for a toaster.

In buying the toaster at the store, probably as a very cheap price (because the many environmental costs are ignored), they will give me a warranty for the new toaster — an ethical statement that the toaster is new, and will function without difficulty for a certain period of time. Let’s assume the warranty is good for 90 days.

So I take the toaster home, and enjoy my toast for the next few weeks. But then, the toaster fails, at day 89. I go to the original store where I bought the toaster, together with my original purchase receipt. Then give me a replacement toaster, a new one — mine has crashed within the warranty period, and the warranty guarantees a replacement (meanwhile the failed toaster goes into the garbage — more garbage). This is an ethical resolution to a logical problem (repeating again, as above, that a logical resolution is ‘too expensive.’)

But suppose I have had a busy week, and I do not get back to the store until day 91. What then?

I tell the store that the toaster failed two days ago, on day 89 (and of course, explaining that this was within the warranty period), but I have had a really busy week. So what is the store manager to do?

On the one hand, I’ve brought the toaster back on day 91 — it is out of warranty! It is beyond the ethical resolution!

But on the other hand, thinks the store manager, “if I refuse to give this guy a new toaster, he will leave the store disgruntled, and likely complain to his many friends as to how unfair my store policy is, and I might lose 10 future customers as a result. I’ll give him a new toaster — it’s a cheaper solution.”

So I get a new toaster again. But this is not an ethical resolution — it is an Emotional resolution.

Over the years of my career as a therapist, this distinction between logical, ethical, and emotional has been one of the most useful concepts I have encountered! When I have a difficulty, I ask myself:

  • Is there a logical issue here? What will be require for resolution? Is there a known process that can be brought to bear on this issue?
  • Is there some kind of written (or even verbal) agreement (the ethical) that applies to this difficulty? If so, to what have we actually agreed?
    • Fundamentally, this is the concept of fairness — do we have an agreement as to how we will act when difficulties arise. It is fair that we keep this agreement, and unfair if one of us does not.
    • And if we do not have an agreement, fairness has nothing to do with the issue at hand!
  • And finally, what are the emotional issues within this difficulty? No known process to be applied; there is no agreement as to how we should act. So now I have two further options as to how to act . . .
    • I can do a transaction for payment — how much is it going to cost for resolution, to me, to the other? And if I don’t get paid, I resent — for which there are likely to be future consequences!
    • Or I do give a gift of my time and my effort. No payment necessary, not even a thank-you. But gifts are paradoxical — when I gift to others, somehow they recognize this, and they want to gift back (or they gift forward!).
  • But beware: the major problems of living arise when I am not clear about the distinction between gift and transaction! I resent ‘gifts’ when they are actually sneaky transactions.
    • The store manager above needs to be clear; otherwise he or she will become very dissatisfied.

Keeping all of these distinctions in awareness is perhaps difficult initially, but with time, very rewarding:

Logical? Ethical? Emotional?

Transaction? Gift?

The Victory City Model — Why I Like It

A sustainable city?
A sustainable city?

For a number of months now, I have been presenting an extended series of postings on my vision of a mature society. Mainly I have done this as an invitation to the reader (and to myself) to undertake the thought experiment of what would life actually be like. I’ve often focused on the Victory City model in so doing.

I have also done this because I strongly believe that we need to have a positive vision to move towards. Essentially if you don’t know where you are going (i.e., towards something as compared to away from), “it doesn’t much matter which way you go.” (thus spoke the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland.) From my perspective, most of the writings in global warming describe what we need to move away from, e.g., away from fossil fuels, away from global warming. Often there is a movement towards technology such as renewable energy sources, but seldom is there a discussion of where our culture is going.

Throughout this series I have been fleshing out the Victory City. Why?

There are a number of reasons.

  • First, I believe we must stop interfering with the ecology of the planet. It can take care of itself if we let it.
    • The total human population of the planet needs to be under 2 billion people. Let’s assume 1.2 billion.
    • I estimate that the physical footprint of any given Victory City (one of 6000 cities) would be approximately 50 square kilometers maximum).
    • The total human population (200,000 people per city, or 1.2 billion people on the planet) would occupy 300,000 square kilometers., or 0.2% of the land surface area.
    • Assuming each city set aside another 150 square kilometers for recreational purposes, then 99% of the world could be left as wilderness! Leaving nature to resume its natural ecosystems.
  • Second, the Victory City could be designed to be self-sufficient, and ecologically both sustainable and resilient.
    • Everything would be recyclable, and there would be no garbage, no waste.
    • The modular structure of the Victory City would allow maximal productivity with minimal “waste,” even though a use would be found for any “waste.”
  • Third, the proposed lay-out of the “villages” would be consistent with the requirements established in Future Primal as previously described — the Truth Quest: the seeking of wisdom (individuation), face-to-face discussion of important issues (intersubjectivity), shared decision making in trusted groups (direct democracy) and a narrative of meaning (mythic narrative).
    • The village structure would allow the various components of personal growth and mature governance to develop within the parameters of the Truth Quest.
    • From this village structure would evolve increasing levels of justice circles as the basis of governance, always with the intention of maintaining a grassroots village-like human contact process.

If we are to survive as a species, we must shift to a society that values wisdom (phronesis — practical judgment) via wisdom (sophia — useful knowledge), discipline, hope and playfulness.

The Victory City proposal is certainly not the only way in which our culture could thrive. Fundamentally, what I like about the concept is that it encapsulated so much that I think is essential to a mature culture.

In the next post, I will reflect on what it will take for maturity, and my thoughts on how difficult it will be to achieve.

Onward — what are the blocks that stop human beings from maturing.

Governance in a Mature Society, Part 4

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

Continuing the theme of governance in a mature society, my thoughts have changed little since the writing of my book Acedia; thus, I am mainly quoting from this source (pp. 204-205), with additional minor commentary as update.

The best example of governance I have encountered is that of Gaian democracies (Madron, 2008). Madron notes that “we have to transform our societies so that they are capable of learning how to co-evolve for many thousands of years as complex, adaptive, viable parts of the total Gaian system.” He emphasizes that citizens must understand, be committed to, and share, a set of purposes and moral and ecological principles. These purposes and principles must be developed through intensive participative processes—they cannot be handed down from above. This requires dialogue-rich groups, focused on action shaped by reflection, and such that local groups have the power and authority to create change directly. People are rewarded with active immediate feedback based on success, and leaders are committed to their own learning. [emphasis added]

To this, I would add the skills associated with holacracy as described by Robertson (2006) in “Holacracy: A Complete System for Agile Organizational Governance and Steering.” Holacracy is a modern development in organizational development concepts. It is based upon intense participative processes and local group authority. In a holarchical business, representation of interests is distributed downwards and upwards by double linkages at all levels, downwards by those responsible for the broad interests of a company and upwards by those responsible for specific aspects of the functioning of the company. Although designed for coordination with businesses, I suggest it to be ideal for the kinds of inter-group coordination that will be necessary at all levels of governance in a mature society; I know of no better process to encourage participatory leadership.

Is this type of mature culture possible? I do not know. Is it necessary? I maintain the answer is Yes—we have to come to terms with a zero-growth sustainable culture, one that honors all species on the planet. Need it have the characteristics I am suggesting? No, but likely something like this would be necessary. We need to live in peace with our world; we need to live in peace with each other, especially our differences. [And we need to live sustainably and resiliently.]

It will be difficult to achieve. I remind the reader of the difficulties identified by the project participants, such as “I’ve worked on these issues for 20 years, and am amazed at how hard I have had to work.” Our current civilization is in a state where all of the forces that oppose acedia are disparaged, and thus, conversion to a more mature state will require much time and effort. Consistent with the proposals put forth by Gilding (2011), I believe that we are capable of such conversion, once we decide to do so. However, whether we will do so in time to save our species in not yet clear.

Coming next: Why I like the Victory City concept.

Governance in a Mature Society, Part 3

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

Continuing the theme of governance in a mature society, my thoughts have changed little since the writing of my book Acedia; thus, I am mainly quoting from this source, with additional minor commentary as update.

As I reflect on what I have written so far, in this long series of posts on the nature of a mature society, I realize that much of what I have written is very utopian (one original meaning of the Greed word utopia is no-place). I will add my reflections on this at the conclusion of the series (another three posts from now).

How do we recognize maturity.

Sophisticated electronic communication, including frequent high-level polling of needs and ongoing values, would allow the government to stay in touch with the populace. Each member of the populace would have multiple votes—I was immensely impressed, years ago, by an idea presented by Nevil Shute in his novel In The Wet, Shute proposed that each member of the electorate had up to seven votes: one basic vote, and additional votes depending on family stability (1), educational level (1), foreign travel (1), success in business (1), and contributory service to society (2). This type of system then preselects individuals who are likely to have a degree of maturity and wisdom. Higher levels of government would depend on input both from lower regional governments and from polling of the general population.

This is one way. Another way comes from recognizing those people who deserve respect. Amongst the pre-conquest native American peoples, the grandfathers were recognized as leaders, but they obtained their authority from the grandmothers.

The judiciary system would need to be a justice system, not a legal system. There must also be a way to deal with terrorism (preferably identifying the predisposition of individuals to be rebellious before they become terrorists).

Finally, the judiciary system of such a culture would function at all levels in a fashion of justice circles, the intention being that any discordance is to be resolved in ways that support the rights of both individuals and the groups concerned. In such a culture, there will arise occasions where individuals repeatedly act contrary to the needs and desires of the group. I suggest that, here, more senior groups (groups to which earlier decisions might be appealed) would have the power . . . whereby such individuals are ostracized from the group, perhaps to live in enclaves not subject to the standards of the general culture. These alternate cultures would be free to develop their own standards, but would not be permitted to impose their standards on the main culture. If desired, individuals in these substitute cultures could transfer back to the main culture, but a requirement would be they demonstrate they have sufficient intention and maturity to live within the main culture.

To be continued.