Weve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses that only recently have we awakened to see not only that regular citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
Frances Moore Lappé, Time for Progressives to Grow Up
For those of you who prefer video to text, here are two videos by the author where he expresses the same basic ideas as are described here:
interview, June 2008, Ecuador Governance & localism
talk, 2006, Ft. Bragg, California Achieving a global democratic society
The myth of democracy
The greatest illusion of our age is the belief that we live in democratic societies. We admit the systems arent perfect, we know theyve been corrupted by special interests, but we think reforms could set things right again. Not so. Our so-called democracies have never been democratic, were not set up to be democratic, and never could be democratic. What we call corruption is how the systems were intended to operate, and have always operated. Wealthy elites are able to get their candidates elected, and government then serves the interests of those elites: thats how the system works, pure and simple. The rest is smoke and mirrors.
Theres an excellent book by Jerry Fresia that examines the circumstances surrounding the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. He explains how the thirteen colonies, immediately after the Revolution, were sovereign and relatively democratic. The Constitutional Convention amounted to a coup by wealthy elites, imposing a centralized government on the colonies a government they could control. James Madison, the main author of the Constitution, was quite clear about this in his public statements. Jerrys entire book is online: Toward an American Revolution: Exposing the Constitution and other Illusions
The myth of left vs. right
Divide and rule is a time-honored strategy for keeping people, and empires, under the thumb of their rulers. In our so-called democracies divide-and-rule is accomplished by means of political parties. The parties claim to support differing policies, and people believe they are participating in democracy by supporting the party whose policy most closely matches their own sentiments. Once in power however, there is little to distinguish the parties. All major parties are beholden to the same wealthy elites, and the big decisions are always made in their interests.
The main difference between the parties is in the rhetoric spouted by their elected officials. The ones on the left talk about human rights, while the ones on the right talk about national pride, but in both cases those are just words designed to justify policies made for other reasons. Bill Clinton, supposedly on the left, pushed through NAFTA, which is as right-wing and pro-corporation as you can get. George Bush, supposedly on the right, has done more to destroy the strength and reputation of America than any previous President.
As a consequence of this divide-and-rule strategy, people blame one another for the failures of society. Those on the left think the right-wingers are controlling the government, while those on the right think its the liberals / left-wingers. The people squabble among themselves and never look behind the curtain to see whos really running things. So-called public debate, where irrelevant left-vs-right arguments are presented in the media, acts as a smokescreen, so that even the curtain is hidden from us.
Some of the biggest men in the United States are afraid of something. They know there is a power somewhere, so organised, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.
—President Woodrow Wilson
George Carlin, video: Who owns you Americans?
A very revealing short film, how bankers run the world: Money as Debt
video: How the Federal Reserve rules the US
Michael Rowbotham, The Grip of Death: A Study of Modern Money
Find out how deep the rabbit hole goes: Zeitgeist - The Movie
A very special moment in history
About 6,000 years ago humanity began traveling a new path, a path we call civilization. The nature of this path is spelled out in the Garden of Eden myth, where we are advised to go forth and conquer, to exercise dominion over the Earth and its creatures. The core precept of our civilization has been out of tune with nature from the very beginning.
As society has become more and more efficient at exploiting our environment, a process we call progress, we have enjoyed many benefits. The Earth is bountiful, and has been able to accommodate our demands so far. We have now reached a very special moment in history, a moment when we will either change the path of civilization, or else humanity will experience apocalyptic decline, mass famine, die-offs, and civil chaos. In Africa mass die-offs have already begun, 6 million children a year from preventable starvation and diseases.
Besides being out of tune with nature, the path of civilization has also been characterized by elite rule. From chiefs to kings to emperors to international financiers, these elites have become ever more powerful and their domains ever larger. For the past two centuries we have been told we live in democracies, but this is deception and sham. Republican revolutions simply moved power from royal courts to the boardrooms of banks and corporations. The Kings garrison was replaced by mass propaganda and manipulated factionalism.
Todays top elites are well aware that we are facing a collapse scenario. By their actions and their inactions we know the response they have chosen. They benefit from continuing societys exploitive practices, what they euphemistically call economic growth. They know how to channel the profits from that growth into their coffers. Rather than abandoning their growth paradigm and preventing collapse, they prefer to manage the process of collapse and profit from it, while letting billions of us die.
Their actions and inactions in Africa amount to selective genocide, a program of managing die-offs rather than seeking to prevent them. Their phony War on Terror enables them to manage the worlds remaining energy reserves and to manage civil chaos in the West with fascist methods.
So even more, we are in a very special moment in history. Not only must we change the path of civilization, but in order to do this we must, for the first time since civilization began, overcome the power of elites and achieve control over our own destinies.
Richard Heinberg (on peak oil), The Partys Over
Fred Pearce (water crisis), When the Rivers Run Dry
Frances Moore Lappé, World Hunger: Twelve Myths
Richard Douthwaite, The Growth Illusion
Michel Chossudovsky, The Globalization of Poverty
John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
Truth about 9/11 and terrorism (videos)
Loose Change | 911 Mysteries | Terror Storm
It ain’t left or right. It’s up and down. Here we all are down here struggling while the Corporate Elite are all up there having a nice day!Finding our strength in community
Carolyn Chute, author of The Beans of Egypt Maine and anti-corporate activist
We are all in this together. We may have very different beliefs, but we all really want the same basic things like a safe and healthy place for our children to grow up, and the opportunity to pursue a decent life in a world that isnt headed for oblivion. We can have these things. It is not too late to save the world from collapse. There is no rocket science in converting to sustainable societies we need only to apply our common sense and make use of existing knowledge. If we can find our common purpose and be of one mind in pursuing it together, no power on Earth can stop us from achieving our goals. When we stop doing their bidding, the seemingly invincible power of our rulers will evaporate into mist they will be puppeteers without puppets, commanders without troops.
Our first major challenge will be to overcome our divide-and-rule conditioning and find our common voice. We need to learn how to listen to one another with mutual respect, and to work creatively together to identify our shared problems and find solutions to them that work for all of us. The place to begin this learning process is in our own communities and neighborhoods, where we can meet face-to-face and pool our talents and energies. The power of elites comes from centralization and hierarchy. We the people can find our power by making our own decisions together in our local communities.
For most of our time as humans 200,000 years or so we lived in small, cooperative bands. The relatively recent tyranny of hierarchy isolates us, forcing each to struggle on their own. This is stressful for us and contrary to our natures. This is why a show like Little House on the Prairie is so popular: we yearn in our hearts for a secure sense of belonging. Re-creating community is not only how we can gain power over our destinies, it is also how we can restore peace to our troubled souls.
There are indigenous tribes who still live much as our ancestors did. We find in these tribes always a dialog process, based on respectful listening, that is used when conflicts need to be resolved or tribal decisions need to be made. These processes do not involve voting, where someone wins and someone loses. Instead, people listen and talk until a solution can be found that works for everyone. Usually a respected elder facilitates the process, ensuring that everyone is heard and all points of view are considered. Individualism is fully respected, and at the same time, when necessary, the tribe is able to find its common purpose and be of one mind in pursuing it.
Most of us have never experienced this kind of dialog. We have been taught to approach decision-making as an adversarial process, and we learn to fight to defeat the other. We assume that voting is the only way to get past strong differences. It turns out however that all of us are capable of participating in productive, respectful dialog if we are given the opportunity. With the right kind of facilitator the modern equivalent of a respected elder we can succeed in finding common ground with our fellows and resolve conflicts rather than settling for a win-lose outcome. We can find solutions to our common problems that work for all of us. We can re-learn how to wisely govern our own communities without hierarchy, as did our ancestors before us.
Daniel Quinn, The Story of B
Hugh Brody, The Other Side of Eden
Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade
Dialog Hawaiian style (article): hoo pono pono
Tom Atlee, article: Dynamic Facilitation
Wisdom Councils, website: Center for Wise Democracy
DVD: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil
Jim Bell, Creating a Sustainable Economy and Future
Mike Nickerson, Life, Money & Illusion
C. George Benello et al, Building Sustainable Communities
Andres R. Edwards, The Sustainability Revolution
Stephen Wheeler, Planning for Sustainability
Liberty and common sense
the next stage in human evolution
A self-governing community, based on inclusive and harmonious decision-making, is a liberated community. The community as a whole is liberated from a centralized City Hall, and each individual is liberated to participate equally in setting community policies and agendas. Such a community is governed by the common sense of its citizens, rather than by the agendas of politicians, developers, or other special interests. Such a community has sensible governance, but no government as such, where a few politicians decide for all, or where a majority can ignore a minority. In such a community, the progressive vision of real democracy and the conservative vision of limited government are both realized together, albeit only on the local level.
During our 200 millennia as hunter-gatherers, we governed ourselves by common sense, but we were isolated in our bands and we were ignorant of science and technology. During our 6 millennia of civilization we have become masters of science and technology, and we have learned to communicate and exchange globally, but we have been meanwhile governed by self-seeking, exploitive elites. From our perspective, that kind of governance has made no sense at all, with its continual and unnecessary wars, famines, genocides, etc. If now, at this critical moment in history, we masters of technology begin to govern ourselves sensibly, that will mark a pivotal shift in the evolution of our species. If there are observers from alien civilizations, they will be saying to one another, It looks like humanity has finally grown up. If God is watching, he will see that it is good.
Sustainability, productivity, good quality of life, peace, justice, and fairness are all simply common sense. These are the criteria we would all naturally use in making decisions, when we gain the power to make decisions. Self-governance is a process, not an institution or a set of laws. A self-governing society finds its own way, it does not need an enlightened cadre to set forth a predetermined manifesto. Such a society taps into the best wisdom and expertise of all of its citizens common sense does not mean uninformed decision-making. The combined wisdom and energy of a liberated humanity will be the guiding force in our next stage of evolution, and no collection of enlightened leaders could do nearly as good a job. And besides, those could-be leaders will be contributing their enlightened ideas along with the rest of us.
Just as a self-governing society is able to find its own way, so self-governance itself can find its own way into existence, organically, without being guided by any leadership group. The first seeds of this self-evolving process can already be found in various parts of the world, where initiatives around dialog and community empowerment are underway. With his Wisdom Councils, Jim Rough has packaged together a very effective set of dialog tools, and several promising initiatives are underway using those tools (references below).
I believe a tipping point will be reached when some sizable town in the first world becomes self-governing, in the sense being discussed here. In such a town, the people would naturally elect a mayor and town council that are on board with the self-governing process. The town government would then serve as an agency to implement citizen-determined policy, rather than acting as an autonomous decision-making authority. The phrase representatives of the people would at last have real meaning.
In such a town, with the liberated energy of the citizenry empowered by the official resources and legitimacy of local government, we could expect the town to become a model of sensible policies and administration. Such a community would certainly be noticed, and would probably be emulated, by concerned citizens and activists in other towns and cities, both nearby and around the world. This first viable sprout of democracy, it seems to me, would be self-propagating, as the enabling processes can be readily employed anywhere.
Once such a tipping point is reached, that would mark the beginning of an implicit community-empowerment / wise-democracy movement. Each new liberated community would become an autonomous source of propagation, and the movement could be expected to spontaneously gain momentum. Clusters of liberated communities would lead to liberated regions, bringing higher levels of official government under the umbrella of self-governance and so on up to whole nations and the world.
Of course we cannot be certain this scenario will play out as I have imagined, but each step seems to have a considerable degree of plausibility. Although emerging spontaneously and without leadership, this movement brings with it a very advantageous set of strategy characteristics. That is, it is non-violent, decentralized, self-propagating, liberating, inclusive, territory-capturing, adaptive, flexible, minimally confrontational, and holographically led. Such a movement is very difficult for elites to suppress or co-opt.
Lets imagine then that such a movement does emerge, and does grow to take in cities and regions. What would be likely to happen within liberated territory as regards the relationship among communities? Lets consider the experience of a single community within such a territory. At first, the communitys involvement is focused on its own learning process, as regards dialog and self-governance. When it becomes self-governing, it will then have two sets of concerns: managing its internal affairs and managing its relationship with surrounding forces, whether those be liberated or not.
As regards its internal affairs the community would be essentially autonomous, and there is no reason for that to change when the surrounding territory is also liberated. Liberated communities would naturally collaborate with one another on common concerns and projects, but there would be no need or inclination to create any centralized regional authority that would be able to dictate policies internal to communities.
Just as citizens in a community achieve policy consensus through dialog among themselves, so would communities in a region achieve policy consensus on shared concerns by means of dialog among communities, carried out among representative delegations. Direct face-to-face democracy is only feasible on the scale of a community (Id say about 3,000 people). On larger scales, the dialog would naturally occur among peer entities of comparable scale (via delegations), each entity being fractally self-governing. The same kinds of respectful-listening dialog processes would naturally be used at all levels, as experience in each community will have proven their value and utility.
What this means is that there would be no distinction between the emergent movement and the transformed society that results from that movement. The one naturally becomes the other the means are the ends. Unlike revolutions of the past, there is no anti-climactic point of victory leading to a relaxation of popular energy and providing an opening for would-be power seekers to enter (eg, the Bolsheviks in Russia, Colonial elites in America). The business of the movement is the management of its territory rather than a struggle against the state, hence there is no end-of-struggle crisis to deal with. Liberated territories simply keep managing their affairs as the scale of liberated territory continues to grow. When the whole world is liberated, it will become possible to sensibly manage globally-shared resources such as scarce minerals, fossil fuels, the high seas, etc.
I must emphasize that this scenario of liberation is not something I invented, in the sense that Plato invented his Republic. Nor is it something Im prescribing as being good for us, in the manner of a Green Party platform. Rather this has been my objective attempt to anticipate how events are likely to unfold if some communities learn how to achieve and maintain an inclusive consensus regarding community affairs. I was inspired to begin exploring this scenario when I was first exposed to effective dialog processes, and was able to observe impressive outcomes in microcosm. Since then Ive been tracking various dialog initiatives and they have been re-confirming my initial observations.
A question naturally arises: if this kind of scenario is as inevitable as it seems to be, why hasnt it happened a long time ago? I think the answer to this has to do with our special moment in history. More and more people are realizing, consciously or unconsciously, that civilization is in serious trouble and that the era of Western liberalism and prosperity is coming to an end. Hopelessness is widespread, as evidenced by increasing youth suicide. Such conditions provide fertile ground for initiatives that show hope of real change.
Richard Moore (rkm)
1 September 2008
Some promising initiatives:
Victoria, British Columbia Wise Democracy Victoria
Port Townsend, Washington three Wisdom Councils
San Francisco, California Collaborative San Francisco
Vilcabamba, Ecuador The Phoenix Gathering
Other material by author (rkm):
article, 2000: Escaping the Matrix
pamphlet, 2002 The Zen of Global Transformati
book, 2005 Escaping the Matrix
article, 2007 Experimental Framework for Community Democracy
conference paper, 2007 Inclusive dialog as a cultural movement
article, 2007 The Post-Bush Regime: a Prognosis
article, 2008 The Grand Story of Humanity
website, ongoing http://cyberjournal.org
discussion group, moderated, low-traffic google/groups/cyberjournal
about rkm | contact firstname.lastname@example.org