KOSMOS Global Citizens Creating the New Civilization spring | summer 2012
THE GREAT COMING TOGETHER Expanded Views and New Capacities
Commoners | Occupiers | Transformational Leaders
KOSMOS is an ancient Greek term meaning the harmony and beauty of the universe wherein all parts have their place within the Whole. It signiﬁes humanity’s alignment with the unchanging ground of being and the evolutionary organic forces of Nature. Kosmos Associates embraces body, mind, soul and spirit evolving in consciousness, cultures, worldviews, institutions and nations toward a planetary civilization and world community.
NANCY ROOF Founding Editor Art Director
The mission of Kosmos Associates, Inc. is to inform, inspire and engage individual and collective participation in a global shift to a higher-order consciousness, and to transform our political, economic, ecological, aesthetic, cultural and social structures to reflect this shift.
STEPHANIE SHORTER Assistant Editor
We endeavor to do this through new ways of thinking about our commonality and diversity, and through transforming and connecting the objective world of global realities and the interior world of values and worldviews. We are the first generation called to co-create a sustainable and compassionate global civilization and world community. The call has become urgent as we awaken to the radical choice: either extinction or survival with a more enlightened consciousness. We believe that the leading edge, evolutionary and inclusive integral worldview is the most comprehensive approach to personal, cultural and global transformation today, and holds the promise of shaping our emerging global civilization in a direction worthy of human dignity. PLAN OF ACTION Expand visions of the possible through responding to the evolutionary impulse toward a new global civilization. Sensitize the heart through transformational art. Engage globally by co-creating the new world architecture and world community. • Publish Kosmos | e Journal for Global Citizens Creating the New Civilization and World Community • Track leading edge ideas and events toward a new civilization and emerging world community • Actively support world citizenship—through the Global Citizens Movement and other initiatives • Research and support Global Commons Movement • Support the Earth Charter, International Day of Peace and other global events • Participate in global dialogues, meditations, salons, academia, youth, partnerships and alliances.
spring.summer 2012 | volume XI, number 2 COVER: ©Ginger Gilmour—inspirational art, sculpture and spacial design. www.gingerart.net
RUTH HANAVAN Business Manager Communications
CRISTIE NEWHART Assistant Office Manager SANDER FEINBERG Kosmos Online NANCY ROOF TARA STUART BARRETT BROWN Representatives to the United Nations BOARD OF DIRECTORS Nancy Roof, Chair Mary Davidson James Quilligan John Schmidt Tara Stuart, Treasurer ADVISORY BOARD Michel Bauwens Don Edward Beck Barrett Brown Amber Chand Christopher Cooke Richard Falk Joe Firmage Hazel Henderson Patricia Mische Gayatri Naraine James O’Dea James B. Quilligan Abdul Aziz Said Danny Schechter Alfredo Sfeir-Younis Monica Sharma
KOSMOS DIGITAL EDITION available at www.kosmosjournal.org
KOSMOS AMBASSADORS AND TRANSLATORS Paulina Alanis
pp.4-11 courtesy Monica Sharma; pp.12-20 ©LSN/Simona Muntenau; p.21 courtesy Berrett-Koehler Publisher; pp.24-28 courtesy Khadija Moalla; p.30 ©Heber Vega; p.31 courtesy Amber Chand; pp.32-37 ©Robert Sturman; pp.39,41 Helen Titchen Beeth; p.43 ©Caroline Schiﬀ; p.46 ©John David Price; p.47 courtesy George Pór; p.49 ©Julie Dermansky; p.50 courtesy Nipun Mehta; p.51 ©Annie McShiras; p.53,55 ©Meryl Tihanyi; p.54 courtesy Jason Bender; p.62 ©Meryl Tihanyi; p.63 ©UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré; p.65 ©UN Photo/Evan Schneider; p.66 ©UN photo/Kibae Park; p.67 ©UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan; p.68 courtesy David Bollier and Burns Weston; p.69 ©Phillip Ennis; p.70 ©Phillip Ennis; p.71 courtesy Mary Davidson; pp.72-75 ©Phillip Ennis; p.77 ©Emily Bierwirth; p.78 ©Phillip Ennis; p.79 courtesy Ron Israel; pp.80-81 courtesy Elizabeth Roberts; Back Cover: ©UN photo/Rick Bajomas; courtesy Tellus Institute.
Martha Foster Anita Kelleher Australia
Eve Konstantine United States
Wanda Kraus Qatar
Stanimirka Milovanovich Serbia
Stephanie Shorter United States
Tara Stuart Nepal, South Africa, China
Nila Tadich de Ossio Bolivia
Acknowledgements With gratitude to Kalliopeia Foundation for making the publication of Kosmos possible with the help of Lifebridge Foundation and generous donors.
Stars came forth, galaxies came forth, planets emerged, life burst into existence. This power of emergence could also be called ongoing creativity. In some ways, it’s the greatest discovery in the history of the human sciences—that the universe as a whole, and each being within it, is permeated with the power of emergence. ~Brian Swimme
Editorial I was already working on the final draft of Kosmos when a last minute book review came in, so compelling that I literally stopped production. Without hesitation or thought, I downloaded and read Joseph Jaworski’s new book, Source:The Inner Path of Knowledge Creation, from cover to cover, and somehow managed to find space to publish an excerpt in this issue. What I did and how I did it turned out to be the subject of the book. This perfectly timed excerpt completes our new featured article series on Transformative Leadership or Leadership IV (beyond Leadership III, Servant Leadership), which is based on developing new inner capacities and outer competencies. Systemic transformation requires the inner capacity to source our deepest wisdom to release the emerging values and forms for a new planetary culture and civilization. Monica Sharma begins a groundbreaking new series of articles in Kosmos that open up new paths to resultsoriented leadership on a macro level, such as the banning of landmines in Israel and Muslim clerics promoting help to AIDS victims in the Middle East. For the first time, Ria Baeck and Helen Titchen Beeth share their emerging work in developing a new human capacity, Collective Presencing. They share details of a process they have been developing in sourcing collective wisdom in a small group setting, now available to our readers. What excites me about the new leadership is that it holds the promise of changing our world through the development of new inner capacities available to all humankind. What excites me even more are the amazing results of all the years those of us spent on a meditation cushion—in the lotus posture and in practicing inner mastery of our emotions and thoughts—now finding kinship with others and directing our service for the benefit of the larger whole. Exciting new forms of governance are emerging as well. Kosmos was invited to present in a 3-day Occupy Wall Street teach-in on the Commons. I was thrilled to participate in generating a new form of political space that reclaimed a place for the 99%—a new experiment in direct democracy spreading worldwide as a third force of power emerges. “The beauty of Occupy is that it is popular, wild, free… it is unsubscribed and therefore perhaps infinite in its circumference,” says Alexa Bradley, an occupier and a commoner.
“In this landscape of popular will, these changes of hearts and minds lie hidden powers that, when they erupt, can overmatch and bring down existing structures,” says Jonathan Schell. Both the commons and occupy movements are developing strategies to address the widespread realization that corporations have co-opted our material and cultural resources for profit, resulting in an unacceptable, widening gap in wealth distribution worldwide. Both movements are resisting the collusion of markets and state that has resulted in the lack of representation of the 99% and are creating new organizational forms that benefit the whole rather than the few. For commoners, occupiers, environmentalists, global citizens and more to have an impact on the growing crisis, we will need to come together as one great movement of ‘The People.’ The meeting of the commoners and occupiers brought us closer together. The Widening Circle also recently converged with a meeting in Boston. We have been passionately working online and on conference calls to catalyze a global citizens movement and this was our first opportunity to connect and learn from each other in person. We came from India, Sri Lanka, Brazil, South Africa, Pakistan, United Kingdom, France, Canada and different coasts of the US to see how we can synergize our various global projects and plan for a presence at Rio+20 and a Global Assembly to follow. But more than that, our coming together formed a certain kinship beyond blood ties that binds us together. We took a stand! Will you take a stand? Will you be motivated to act by the injustices of the world? Compassion for the immense suffering? The need to make your life count for something? For the love of life itself? In gratitude for the gift of a beautiful, sacred planet earth? The Kosmos office was blessed with the gift of a baby boy on March 14th. We call him our little global citizen. He will come to work with his Mom and serve to remind us of that joyful spirit and innocent pure life we all came into the world with. He will inherit the world that you and I have made for him. I am moved to pick up my hands, move my feet and get going… he deserves so much more.
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The Great Coming Together | in this issue kosmos spring | summer 2012 Editorial TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERS TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERS SERIES – PART ONE Contemporary Leaders of Courage and Compassion: Competencies and Inner Capacities 4 Monica Sharma
– PART TWO Explosive Wisdom: What Landmines Teach Us About Liberation and Leadership TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERS SERIES
Book Excerpt | Source: The Inner Path of Knowledge Creation
– PART THREE Transformational Leadership in the Arab Region TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERS SERIES
Khadija T. Moalla
Bridging the Feminine and Masculine in Business: One Woman’s Journey
Gallery One: Intoxicated with Beauty and Grace
– PART ONE Collective Presencing: A New Human Capacity COLLECTIVE PRESENCING SERIES
Ria Baeck and Helen Titchen Beeth
COMMONERS AND OCCUPIERS Occupy the US: Musings on Horizontal Decision-Making and Bureaucracy
Commoning Our Way to the Great Transition
If You Want To Be a Rebel, Be Kind
My Experience as an Occupier in New York City
OWS Occupies the Commons
– PART TWO Toward a Common Theory of Value: Common Trust TOWARD A COMMON THEORY OF VALUE
James Bernard Quilligan
Greenkeeping Governance: Toward a Law of the Ecological Commons
David Bollier and Burns H.Weston
GLOBAL CITIZENS My Experience in the Slums of Kibera, Nairobi
Gallery Two: The Children of Kibera
Global Citizenship and Cross-Cultural Work
What Does it Mean to be a Global Citizen?
Bearing Witness to Our World Elizabeth Rabia Roberts
transformational leaders series – part one Contemporary Leaders of Courage and Compassion: Competencies and Inner Capacities Monica Sharma Nothing short of a new level of worldwide leadership and commitment for sustainable and equitable change will suffice to create a better world today and for future generations. For the first time technologies and resources exist to transform our situation and generate lasting results. The choice is ours. Hundreds of transformational leaders are producing results in 60 countries on every continent. I currently focus on 40 of these courageous leaders around the world. My journey over 20 years has been profound, walking alongside Monica Sharma many courageous and compassionate leaders—leaders walking different, yet similar, paths! Their profile: women, men—50-50; from every region— Africa, North and South America, Arab States, Asia, Europe; two below 30, half in their 30s, a third in their 40s, and six above 50 years of age. They are from different professions—clinician, activist, actor, manager, CEO, economist, religious leader; and from different sectors—citizen, media, academia, business, government, civil society, non-government organisations, UN agencies and faith-based organisations. The skills, competencies and inner capacities articulated hereafter apply to all. I have not named these leaders and have not referred to their location because they continue to generate results at considerable risk to themselves. A quarter received death threats and a third were removed from their jobs for daring to speak up, for breaking exploitative patterns, for refusing to be part of corruption, for proactively addressing harmful social practices or for challenging and acting against strongly held societal prejudice against other religions, caste or class. I see courageous, results-oriented, passionate engagement for a thriving and just world—I see new leaders creating a new narrative for large scale change. What are the action elements of this transformative narrative that is emerging worldwide?
1. GENERATE ACTION FROM THE GROUND OF BEING. WHO AM I? Know the power of one’s wisdom for action. It is not just a vague feeling or intuition. It is concrete and grounding. Sheikh A, an influential Imam from Syria, says “I know who I am, my essence and quality of being. There is no separation between being and doing. I now know how to honor and source this 4
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space for action in everyone—and I do so routinely.” He redesigns a large programme supporting widows and their children, offering what’s needed, from giving them money to building their inner capacities and skills. Consequently, they are transformed and thrive. He says, “I state what I stand for in life and stand firmly in the ground of my being. I proactively engage with Father X, a Catholic Priest, and I have been openly threatened for collaborating with him. I have attended many interfaith dialogues and meetings and appreciated what is common in our religions— the common ground. This creates a very different space for dialogue. Father X and I deeply respect each other as human beings and work together to address social issues, such as the stigma related to HIV/AIDS, from the ground of our being, far beyond the common ground of our respective religious tenets.” This wisdom profile includes and transcends the self-awareness competencies articulated in the seminal work of Daniel Goleman on emotional self-awareness, accurate self-assessment and selfconfidence. It is not ‘wisdom’ in the sense of beneficial traditional knowledge and practices we must learn from and respect. I am using ‘wisdom’ to mean something very specific—our inner capacities for compassionate, courageous action in the world, grounded in our oneness, our prior unity, our universal compassion. Create with courage. Samantha, a citizen of the United Kingdom, directing a PanAfrican programme, creates an equal playing field between leaders from the North and South. This is a foundational shift that challenges dominating power and control. Samantha’s approach is both innovative and empowering. A few progressive officials back her up initially. But soon institutional forces rally to replace the core strategies for genuine voice, equality and empowerment with the more superficial and to move Samantha elsewhere in the organisation. Samantha says wisdom, an inner capacity within each of us, is beyond technology, and that it is the foundation for sustainable change. So she dares, like Jessica in another institution, to redesign programmes. She generates results by navigating the system with all that it takes in a large, global, established organisation where change is usually perceived as rocking the boat. Samantha is a living example of what Rollo May calls the creative courage to discover new forms, new symbols and new patterns on which society can be built. Distinguish one’s wisdom from social, professional and personality identities. Embrace all with respect for diversity. We are in Djibouti where the most influential religious leaders have gathered from 20 Arab States to address female genital mutilation. Khadija and Ehab have worked for over 4 years to create platforms for discovering new ways to generate results. Nabil, Olfat, Etienne and Sayeed engage religious leaders in the Leadership for Results programme. The results: for the first time, fatwas against this practice and sermons in mosques and churches
against female genital mutilation. And, as expected, death threats from fundamentalists who promote entrenched, harmful social practices and norms! We are in Jaipur and Chennai in India where Sonam creates platforms to address child trafficking with pimps, commercial sex workers, police, non–governmental organisations and the United Nations. Results: fewer children trafficked. Amazing—this inner capacity each and all of us have! Who pushes back against these results? Colleagues who maintain the status quo and a few who feed off trafficking in political, social and government sectors. They are threatened by competence and action. We are in hospitals in Karachi, Pakistan and Kathmandu, Nepal, reducing maternal mortality and improving the work environment. Results: fewer maternal deaths, a voice for every nurse in physician-dominated environments, a voice for janitors in decision-making, where social norms and caste structures decide all janitors will be ‘Dalits’ (low caste), and less corruption. This is accomplished by Medical Superintendents Sher Shah and Narain. Each is subject to misguided slander in local newspapers. Each is asked to leave and do so. Later they are reinstated with due acknowledgement of their courage and compassion through their persistent pressure for integrity with their respective governments. What is common in these creative and courageous leaders who generated results in these and other examples? It is their ability as leaders to ground, source and value their (and others’) wisdom as the most important determinant of sustainable change. Wisdom is our inner guidance based on universal truths and insights, leading one to compassionate action in the world. These leaders recognize and value social identities based on nationality, religion, race, gender, politics, education and culture, without rigid intolerant boundaries and relate to these diverse aspects with ease and respect. They also recognize that we all have different personal styles of expression—different personalities—unique ways of moving in the world. They are able to work with professional skills, talents and abilities in the world towards achieving success, prosperity and service. Their ability to work with multiple profiles is extremely valuable. Too many local and global wars are revved up and fought on social identities or profiles!
2. ENTER THROUGH PARTICULAR DOORS INTO CREATIVE SPACE. Burn with an inexhaustible inner fire. It is not an obsession. It is not a cause. It is not dogmatic. It is not fundamentalism. It seems like a paradox—no agenda and yet an
agenda to manifest a just world. There is a deep sensitivity to the intense suffering of the world moment to moment and a knowing that I can make a difference and will not stop until I do. It is a fire with the flow of water, the energy of a secular, global ‘Bodhisattva,’ the broken heart of compassionate action that heals and a constant eye for inequality and injustice. Paola supports youth leaders fighting for justice in post-war Serbia and Kosovo. She works with cooperatives in Italy for fair wages and inclusive labour markets; she is working with leaders from districts and municipalities in Burkina Faso to manifest equity and well being, using the Millennium Development Goals as the entry point. Wherever Paola works, the inner fire is inextinguishable! And Paola is in action. It is possible to talk or teach about injustice, but I have never been able to create a platform for igniting the inner fire in anyone for a just world. An innate sense of what is universally just seems to be present, or absent or merely rhetoric. Orient towards results. Megan is transforming the criminal justice system in a state in the United States, step by step. Ehab in Egypt and Mel in the United States are running for election with a specific results agenda—inclusion and a voice for everyone. Caitlin’s transformational leadership programmes make a significant difference for women: in Africa legal provisions translate into reality for women who can now inherit property in their own name; in India, women are bringing integrity to bear upon local governance through proactive health, education and income-generating programmes. Nileema enrolls the political and executive leadership in Ethiopia to transform the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Results: widespread testing where there was none, violence against women through female genital mutilation and abduction addressed, adequate financing for local initiatives assured. These leaders are passionately engaged and committed to results, yet they are non-attached. (Not detached—being detached is withdrawal.) They enter the space of transformational leadership through the door of commitment to action and results. They distinguish the usual output-outcome conversations from sustainable impact. Keen understanding of inter-relatedness and interdependence is core to the way they think and strategize for results. Distinguish and use multiple frameworks, methods and tools. Gomathy and Sudershan protect the commons with fishing kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
communities in the eastern coast of India. Josselyne’s purpose is to make peace profitable rather than making war profitable. These leaders enter through the door of the results they commit to accomplish and they know how to weave a coherent, aligned set of strategic transformational frameworks, methods and tools. They do not enter the creative space with the lens of one branded transformation theory or framework or set of tools or methodologies. Their work includes but goes beyond conventional multidisciplinary efforts. It is more akin to what Fritjof Capra said. We need to formulate “a network of interlocking concepts and models and at the same time, develop the corresponding social organisations. None of these theories and models will be any more fundamental than others, and all of them will have to be mutually consistent.” Today’s transformational leaders leap forward from the building blocks laid by previous paradigm shifters—human rights, civil rights, animal rights, ecological movements. They are establishing new codes and norms, such as progressive journalists creating awareness through radical transparency, making the invisible visible; celebrating diversity, higher consciousness and peace; making the science and art of our deeper consciousness accessible, available, popular and a valid foundation for societal work. The ability of leaders to use and distinguish multiple frameworks is central to generating results with diverse populations and navigating the systems in which they work.
3. DESIGN DIFFERENTLY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE! TRANSFORMATIVE ARCHITECTURE. Recognize the invisible, multiple patterns and systems that shape societal and planetary situations and actions; recognize interdependence. Pervin and Gulan organize ‘Peace Talks’ with citizens in Mumbai to foster an introspective sharing and reflection on how we experience ‘Identity.’ They focus on religious and caste-based identity and how this shapes our everyday life as well as the choices we make in the political and other public spheres. Their work is not easy because of the hatred of the few who fan vicious, violent, divisive, fundamentalist factions and ignite riots between Hindus and Muslims and because of the entrenched views and discrimination on caste lines that result in inhumane exploitation! Pervin and Gulan work simultaneously with media and the entertainment industry to explore, analyze and make visible the systems and underlying causes that perpetuate deprivation, exclusion, poverty and injustice. They promote alternate systems that are democratic and based on values of social equity. Jessica also recognizes the power of making the invisible, visible. She creates programmes for children and adults in the Tenement Museum to inquire and understand the invisible factors determining human conditions today and yesterday, towards a better tomorrow. It is increasingly recognized that the conventional industrial paradigm is inadequate to face the challenges today and in the future. Leo and Vernice, for example, design and teach innovative programmes in their universities in the context of today’s interdependent yet fragmented world where intrinsic human capabilities need to be sourced for sustainable change. Parasraman is pioneering a new field and discipline in India to redefine higher education and foster global citizens and responsible leaders for today 6
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and the future. He engages faculty and students in creative education programmes and applications through large-scale projects. Today, in every part of the world, the thinking on policies, rules and regulations is done by a few for the many, with the assumption and justification that people and citizens do not have the expertise to influence policy nor the ability to think critically. New research indicates that all humans, regardless of education, have the innate ability to see patterns and to create new systems and forms. Since critical strategic thinking is possible for all, not just the experts, we need to create ways to stimulate critical thinking along with authentic processes to give a voice to everyone. This is critical for our future. Design and deliver on actions, simultaneously in real time that (1) source wisdom—being (2) shift systems and/or create new patterns (3) solve problems. Dorrie and Cynda continue to inspire and engage in a Compassionate Care and Empathic Leadership Initiative, collaborating between the Schools of Medicine and Nursing. This is envisioned as nothing short of a transformational model for delivery of compassionate care as a way of life, a paradigm shift for health and well-being, with respect and dignity for all. The goal is to improve the lives of those with life-threatening illnesses across the life span and in health care settings by transforming practice, education, research and community partnerships. Interdisciplinary teams design and implement initiatives focused on strategic areas including adult and pediatric palliative care, oncology, emergency department and education. Results: healthy work environment; compassionate and mindful care; community shaping the new agenda and education redesign. Brad is in South Africa leading the second largest platinum mining company in the world. His trust in the human potential of everyone, his courage to take risks, his caring and integrity all shape his strategy and actions. He provides platforms for developing transformational leadership competencies for all 20,000 miners, staff and managers; encourages innovations and breakthrough initiatives within the company through employees; involves key players—governing boards, trade unions, shareholders and stakeholders. Results: he solves major problems of the company and miners; turns around the company from loss to profit— 6-fold increase in free cash flow and a 5-fold increase in earnings; establishes safety mechanisms for miners—reduces time lost due to injury by half and deaths from accidents in the mines by 90%. He sets new pathways to address ‘systems issues’ in the extraction industry beyond the company itself and shifts policy on safety in industry with zero tolerance for deaths and injury in miners. He recognizes invisible patterns and details concerning racism. Brad transforms community service—simply ‘PR’ for most companies—to an opportunity for one’s own growth and contribution for managers and employees. Together, they foster community leadership development to meet their basic needs and create opportunities for education, health and employment. Paola brings together local authorities, line ministries, traditional leaders and service providers to take a step back from businessas-usual to ask reflective questions that open a larger conversation. We start speaking more truthfully about the systems and human dynamics currently thwarting development.
Hamidou Zoetaba’s cartoons helped us visualise some hard truths such as (1.) the gap between our projects (life in the logical framework matrix!) and the human realities on the ground (equitable start to development cartoon, below), (2.) the inherent vulnerability of women as citizens and caregivers and the impact this has on children and their development opportunities, (3.) the lack of dignity and humanity that comes when service providers are not accountable to citizens, or in situations of abuse.
Having everyone (traditional leaders and newly appointed local authorities, some of whom are illiterate) participate in the conversation is key. It allows us to see that, just as we are all part of the problem, we are all also part of the solution, and that the latter is a function of our individual leadership around shared principles—at home, at work and in the community! It also allows us to see that development is not a function of a new theory, technology or idea, but that it is the process to shift dysfunctional systems and generate positive change—one action, one person at a time. These leaders are pattern-makers, not just problem-solvers. They deal with what is not working by creating alternatives. They are able to identify, distinguish, design and generate responses that integrate the different domains related to the entangled hierarchies of any given situation. They do not only solve complex societal problems at a surface level. They actively address the deeper dimensions of the problematique. They are not caught up in protracted either/or conversations, such as: “Is it about being or doing?” They demonstrate that it is possible to design and implement programmes differently. As Howard Gardner suggests, they cultivate ‘five minds’ as a foundation for action: the disciplined mind to solve problems; the synthesizing mind to make sense of the invisible patterns affecting reality as well as endless incomprehensible bits of information; the creative mind to break new ground, establishing alternatives; the ethical and respectful mind to source their inner values and wisdom for action. Yes, we can! We can simultaneously solve problems, shift systems and source our inner capacities! It is an art to simplify without being simplistic in the midst of complexity! Design for principled action: Embody values. Silke is engaged in restoring and protecting the commons globally. She says logical frameworks and brilliant analyses are necessary but not sufficient conditions for sustainable change. “We have to create a process of acting that is ethical and in accordance with the principles of commoning. And we have to be commoners. kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
There is a set of universal principles that we have to unravel, to recognize, to respect and to defend in whatever setting—social practice, business, politics, legal frameworks.” For her, principled action and embodied foundational values are the keys to making the global commons movement a reality. Be a commoner! Do the commons projects we design, lead and manage integrate strategies and methods so that individual values and principles manifest in action? And do these projects explicitly and constantly engage with manifesting core principles and values? How do we design our programmes to move human rights from rhetoric to reality? How do we generate a world with dignity and freedom for all? What platforms do we create and what methods and techniques do we use to embody the values and principles that underpin human rights while formulating and enforcing social instruments to uphold rights? For example, in designing our responses to address HIV/AIDS, we made technical solutions available—condoms for safe sex, treatment for those with AIDS, safe blood for transfusion services, clean instruments. We addressed systemic issues. We asked, how can we allocate financial resources and provide services and care to those who have little financial resources, but tremendous resilience? Or create platforms to hear those who do not have any opportunity to voice their concerns, as Khadija did? How will we embrace people living with HIV/AIDS when families, communities and society almost always ostracize and abandon them? And most importantly, we begin our work by looking within—to our attitudes, our worldviews and the spirit that informs our decisions even in the face of opposition. We ask ourselves, who am I, and do I embody the values that underpin the human rights principles? We ask, how can we provide services and care without stigma and discrimination? How can we make love in a deeply respectful way, ensuring the safety of our partner? We understand that HIV/AIDS is more than a virus. It is about power relations in the bedroom and boardroom!
4. GENERATE NEW FUTURES WITH TANGIBLE RESULTS! Persist in dancing with the entire results chain. They persist, persist and persist. This is not obsession, nor zeal. Nor is it fighting for a cause. It is working to transform what is not working. Barbara says, “I stand for manifesting courage, creativity and passion and for sourcing my action from my true deeper Self, rather than from my culturally and psychologically conditioned self (ego). I am committed to creating a profound change in the world. The major channel for this contribution is my work in the international cooperation and development field. I currently work in a multilateral agency where I am designing new ways to measure results—outputs (specific products or services), 8
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outcomes of efforts (changes in development conditions) and impacts (sustainable and equitable change).” This will shift policies, strategies and methods resulting in building on people’s inner wisdom for strategic action; liberation from limiting beliefs, habits and structures; empowerment; connections, understanding and deep respect between people and between cultures, contributing to peace and development, now and in the future. Megan engages in results-oriented initiatives that are renewing and rejuvenating the criminal justice system by working with individuals, coalitions and communities ready and willing to expand their view of what is possible. She stands for dignity, compassion, equity and vitality in her life. She is committed to shifting the criminal justice system from one that addresses not only immediate safety concerns, but also addresses and transforms root causes of crime. This approach leads to a space for human potential to emerge—from one laden with stigma and discrimination to one where justice and opportunity are inherent. Simply being charged with a crime—not necessarily convicted— can reduce income by as much as 30%. There are currently more black men in prison than in college in the US. Results are key—we all agree. Every programme, project and institution articulates the impact and outcomes they wish to produce and makes vision statements. They state the core values that form the basis of strategy and action. Yet most conventional initiatives ultimately center on outputs—production of goods and services, investments in infrastructure and selected social and economic aspects such as income, health, education, food, nutrition. Transformational leaders know that although outputs and outcomes are important, they do not provide a true measure of human potential and well-being. These leaders also hold with ease the seeming paradox of accountability and results along with the unpredictability of emergence. Transform spaces in routine action. Transform processes and the way business is transacted. We have many opportunities to influence change through policies, day-to-day activities, routine meetings or organized events. Do we know how to make these normal activities into spaces where transformation can naturally emerge? Jerry returns to Israel in 2009 to re-launch a Mine-Free Israel Campaign, this time with a growing capacity to stand firmly in his wisdom. Light. Wholeness. Liberation. He has learned how to access the transcendent, positive energy each can inhabit in any boardroom or living room. He says that this newfound realization was to become especially critical for political outreach in the Israeli Knesset. “We knew what we were against: the insidious landmine
inaction, passivity and cynicism. But what were we all standing for? We stood for the possibility of a mine-free Israel within ten years. We stood for the liberation of fertile land for farming. We stood for families living in safety, free of fear. We stood for the healing of people and the environment.” Of course, there are also other actions that are needed for a campaign: research, analysis, media outreach, coalition building, advocacy and lobbying. Jerry and his colleagues urged the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Head of the Opposition to fulfill their promises and called on them to vote in favor of the proposed mine clearance bill. That day, the bill passed its first reading by an unheard of unanimous vote across all party lines (60-0). The proposed legislation was brought back to the full Knesset for a final historic vote on March 14, 2011. Once again, the vote was unanimous. Israel had unanimously agreed to clear its non-operational minefields for the first time. Vernon stands for restoration, equality and justice. He is fostering leaders to first discover and then live from their innate greatness. A black man, restoring himself, leading an all-black team, he is invited to present his proposal for addressing violence in schools at a town hall meeting. There are over 100 hundred people in the room—a formal, all-white committee, principals of schools and community representatives. After several conventional introductions—names, institutional affiliations and positions—it is Vernon’s turn. There is pin-drop silence when Vernon introduces himself by telling who he is, what he stands for, the breakthroughs he will implement and the current reality he will change. He invites others to engage in similar conversations. He skillfully transforms the space in the room from one of ‘examining the proposal and the person’ to one of co-creating a new reality. Of the 100 plus people, two white male principals stand up to support the proposal and Vernon. Others say it is great, but… or say this is what we need, however… . Vernon and the two white men get sharp and denigrating hate mail, “What is this country coming to, having persons like Vernon leading change!” Vernon is transforming education and criminal justice, step by step, in his county in California through projects, which include the Entrepreneurs Boot Camp, Emerging Leaders, Beyond Violence, Prison Reentry and Reformation and building a high performing community collaborative. Three cheers for one black and two white men! They are our hope to transform racism and other stigmas in the US. Like most large, multi-country progammes, The Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) has a Country Coordinating Mechanism primarily to streamline project funding and coordination. These bureaucractic forums are most often uninspiring, unimaginative, procedure-driven, heavy on time as a re-
source and not focused on results or goals. But Nestor used this as an opportunity to create a results-oriented partnership—negotiating, deepening and reframing their mandate to serve and truly care for people living with HIV or AIDS in Latin America and the Caribbean through the transformational leadership programme. Result: Seventy-five key leaders, all members of their respective Country Coordinating Mechanisms (CCM) of GFATM from Argentina, Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama and the Dominican Republic participate; 98 percent of the 75 leaders note positive changes in leadership skill and accountabilities; Regional Community of Practice for People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), and another one with Religious Leaders, established. Within three months, more than half of all individual CCM goals (56%) set during the programme are achieved—a record! Knowing and using the techniques and tools for creating transformational spaces within routine action, shifting processes and the way business is done or transacted is imperative for large-scale change. These opportunities present themselves regularly and frequently in every organisation and sector, in all human endeavors, and remain largely unutilized. The pace of transformational results would accelerate exponentially if we could harness the transformative potential of the numerous routine activities. Speak out and speak up. Josselyne and Chaske speak up for the water rights of people in South Dakota. In less than a day, they produced a Public Service Announcement (PSA) enlisting the assistance of Chaske’s celebrity friends to raise awareness and support for those who have been without power and water for weeks. The PSA urged individuals to ‘shift the power to the people’ and to empower everyone to create sustainable, lasting change in their communities and countries. In less than a month, over 13,000 letters were sent to Congress as a result of the viral PSA campaign. Josselyne and Chaske say the Cheyenne River Sioux Water Infrastructure project is a launching pad to empower people to create sustainable, lasting change in their communities and countries through awareness of the current issues and conditions; awareness of alternatives that promote dignity, justice, unity and accountability; and through taking action that supports the creation of these alternatives. Jordon speaks out against violence in rough and dangerous situations—in the streets, in schools, and with gangs. He develops skills in young men, fostering leadership and integrity. He says he works to develop young men of respect, walking in character, and living their purpose and identity as leaders among their peers. These transformational leaders have the courage to speak up for actions that result in sustainable and equitable change and to kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
speak against those that do not. They are not reactive. They speak from a creative space that is sourced from a place of valuing diversity, equity, interdependence and dignity. They say, “It is not okay with me, and I will no longer contribute to it by my silence.” It is a burning for justice for all beings, a burning sourced in deep wisdom, in that non-dual self of being it all—of being humanity.
view themselves as stars of the show, rather as servers of humanity. They are riding the wave of change with wise principles and modalities. I am left with a profound question for myself and others who are not OWS change agents. What can we do, to proactively support this amazing spirit, to make what needs to happen, happen and play our part?
5. SHARE LEADERSHIP: LEAD WHILE FOSTERING LEADERSHIP IN OTHERS.
Seek out potential leaders and create opportunities for their manifestation, while leading. Cedrita and Shannon recognize that today’s youth, especially young women, are extremely vulnerable to and constantly bombarded by messages that dictate who they should be and what defines true womanhood. Messages tell them what to wear, how to style their hair, how to parent, what profession to choose, what is sexy and cool and how to obtain ideal relationships. The residual effects of the crack epidemic, the influences of a pop culture that encourages material gain ‘by any means necessary,’ led to significant negative consequences. With this in mind, they encourage young women 14-18 years of age to explore their gifts and talents, develop self-esteem and the skills necessary to assume their position as the future leaders in their jobs, in their schools, and in society at large.
Be a leader while actively supporting others to lead. Kobi and Michael are leading a unique results-oriented learningin-action programme designed to ground, guide and empower OWS change agents so that they can achieve systemic-level change and help bring the world into a new paradigm of sustainability, integrity and justice. They think of themselves as shared leaders, where there is no hierarchy. When people outside the OWS movement come to speak to ‘their leader,’ Kobi responds that each one is a leader, so you could speak to me or anyone else! They say shared-leadership, direct democracy and acknowledgment of all voices are some of the key underlying core values of Occupy. These values make up the heart from which this new world is being born. They challenge us to step up and engage the deepest part of ourselves if we are going to successfully navigate this change together. We are each being called to become our most authentic selves, and to allow our actions and words to be guided by our authentic core. Michael and Kobi say, “The success of our movement rests on the shoulders of all those who are involved in the work of sustaining it and moving it forward. We are essentially the midwives of the new world. To accept this responsibility requires that we step into a substantially new manner of thinking and acting. We must become the true servant leaders of the new world, holding our core selves in highest regard while genuinely and intelligently giving our full selves to the good of the whole, and actively choosing to do all we can to better the world.” Being a leader while actively supporting others to lead is an emerging concept. This is not about simply switching roles; it is a way of being and leading. The shared leaders do not work in conventional multidisciplinary teams. They bring everyone’s talents to the table, with processes to assure that everyone is heard and that decisions are not made by ‘the few leaders.’ They do not 10
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Simultaneously, Cedrita and Shannon lead change in their workplace, building vibrant results-oriented teams. They enhance their leadership and stretch themselves to do what they are promoting with young leaders. Several people in transformational work say, “I want to empower others to make a difference.” In my view, in addition to empowering others, personal commitment to results—and it is immaterial in what social issue or topic—makes a huge impact. It makes us stretch and grow beyond our grasp. This creates a new field with the resonance and synergy necessary for large-scale change. Enable change by bolstering others’ capabilities through active support in the public domain. We are in Ukraine, working with disc jockeys from discotheques where sharing needles and intravenous drug use leads to the spread of HIV/AIDS. Results: first ever care and services established for those dying; twenty thousand people gather for a concert organized by four youths. For the first time, a young man gets up to declare he is HIV positive. Others follow. DJs in the transformative leadership programme decide to stop using intravenous drugs themselves and also in their dance clubs.
We are in Cambodia. A group of individuals in a town creates a radio talk show in which movie stars speak about issues related to HIV/AIDS and listeners call in with questions. They are answered by the Secretary-General of the National AIDS Authority. The show receives hundreds of calls, signaling a new willingness among Cambodians to speak about HIV/AIDS, not only in their own homes but also in public forums. Leaders who are willing to take risks to challenge norms that have guided individual and collective behavior get to the root of issues such as gender, power, stigma, traditional practices and other factors that fuel perceptions and actions that impact negatively on people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs). Damaging beliefs are shattered. Result: PLWHAs can worship in temples alongside other villagers and no longer have to leave their villages. We create the new emergent narrative by supporting each other in the public domain and actively choosing to stand in solidarity, knowing we are pushing the envelope on the edge of the unknown.
6. LEADERSHIP INSIDE-OUT: COMPASSIONATE COURAGE. The most urgent and sustainable response to the world’s problems and the ability to harness new opportunities lies in our capacity to expand solutions for problems that are driven solely by technology, to responses that also create new patterns and systems generated from our wisdom. Leaders in this era of global abundance and seeming scarcity need to understand and challenge the factors that allow the massive divide between the rich and the poor to persist. In a world of interconnected threats and challenges, many different competencies are required. We will only have impact if we break with businessas-usual and dramatically accelerate and scale–up action in this interdependent world.
aspects in myself? • Am I willing to invest in learning new architectural skills and competencies for transforming the aching world? After all, a system delivers what it is designed to deliver! Am I willing to ‘see’ the invisible patterns that keep one in three human beings in dire life-and-death circumstances? Have I decided it is enough and I will put myself out there to create new systems? • Am I willing to be the emerging ‘shared-leader?’ How and when will I reflect deeply and inquire into my relationship with external power and money? • Will I actively choose to do all I can to better the world? Will I commit, not only as intention, but also in action? • Am I willing to let go of my way of doing things, even if I am considered to be successful or an expert—to renew myself through the emergence of new patterns and methods in work and life? • Will I support those who are taking the risks and speak in the public domain to bolster their work? Or am I afraid? What am I afraid of losing—Reputation? Face? Expert Status? Money? Social Approval? The persistence of poverty and the lack of opportunity to live and thrive for so many is a measure of our response to date. Our sense of scarcity, no matter how much we have; our definition of ‘success’ where the proxy is basically money or ‘wealth’ without any sense of sufficiency; our rhetoric of partnership in the midst of systems set up for competition precludes creative responses. Our future depends on the choices we make. Will we continue doing the same things again and again, hoping to reverse the situation, or will we choose to generate a different reality?
What’s missing today that could make a significant difference tomorrow? Are you willing to fill the gap? We ask you, the reader, to reflect on the following questions: • Do I see myself as a courageous, compassionate contributor for alleviating suffering and creating a thriving and just planet? Who am I being, how am I thinking and what am I doing? • Do I value my inner capacity and wisdom? Do I consider myself to be a critical strategic thinker? Do I have what it takes to deliver on my word and actions? Am I willing to cultivate these kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
transformational leaders series – part two Explosive Wisdom: What Landmines Teach Us About Liberation and Leadership Jerry White I had never thought much about landmines until I stepped on one in 1984, when I was twenty years old. I was camping in northern Israel with two friends and suddenly the earth exploded around me. I looked down at my shredded bloody legs in confused horror, wanting to know where my right foot had gone. Our hike had led us through an unmarked minefield left from the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Thus began my journey of discovering who I was and what was possible. It was the beginning of a lifelong quest to do more than merely survive, but to discover the inherent power of resilience that can lead each and every one of us to greater wisdom, understanding and knowledge. My personal evolution from landmine survivor to ‘transformational leader’ happened because I had to learn early in life how to dig deeper into myself—mind, heart, soul—to find out who I really was and what I wanted to accomplish in the life I still had. More importantly, I learned that surviving and leading are collective experiences that require the support of others. No one can do it alone. I began to seek out teachers and mentors who had discovered deeper meaning and understanding of themselves, whether through trauma or accrued life experience. These role models were generous in spirit, pointing me toward a physical and spiritual recovery that I came to think of as my liberation. It was not a singular or solo experience but an ongoing social process. Tapping the power of wisdom in a violently vulnerable world means relying on one other, working with integrity, together. I believe transformation comes when individuals join forces to align their individual and collective wisdom, understanding and knowledge, not just for themselves, but for the good of all humanity. 12
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This is the story of how I came to lead a small band of resilient survivors, activists and somewhat jaded politicians in a campaign to clean up thousands of minefields in Israel, Palestine and Jordan. The best part of the story is that it shows how it is still possible to lead meaningful large-scale change in the world today. And that each of us has a role to play, from the most powerful politician to a wounded eleven-year-old boy. We all can help liberate a planet stuck in destructive patterns of violent behavior and polarizing politics. To give some context, there are tens of millions of landmines threatening innocent people in over 80 countries. The Middle East is called the ‘landmine heartland’ of the world because it is so heavily contaminated. Israel alone has up to one million mines buried from the Red Sea in the south up through the Arava Valley to the Dead Sea, and up through the Jordan Valley to the heavily infested Golan in the north. In 2009, Israel was invested in the idea that these mines were critical for their security, and they were simply not interested in giving them up. Truth be told, these mines had long ceased being useful for security and instead posed a threat to Israelis themselves, wounding innocent civilians, not soldiers or terrorists. It is important to understand that our Campaign for a Mine-Free Israel was never just about landmines. One of our overreaching goals was to modernize and transform outdated military security frameworks into human security frameworks that would increase citizen and public safety. This systemic shift in thinking and policy would not only save lives, it would strengthen economies and increase prospects for cross-border development and peace. So the Campaign was also about reforming security frameworks. The old military model was ineffective and dangerous. The new citizen model was modern and empowered to protect community interests. How does one shift consciousness from ‘must have’ to ‘must get rid of?’ What are the levers to catalyze change in human thought and behavior? What qualities of leadership are needed to create the space for transformation to manifest? What does liberation look and feel like? I believe leaders of transformation must align three core elements in order to manifest a system-level change that unlocks previously intractable problems. Successful leaders must learn to: (1) source the power of their inner wisdom, anchoring themselves in their values, not just personal interests; (2) seek the understanding of the underlying complexities and behavior patterns that contribute to harmful spirals, and discern and work toward healthier photographer | ©LSN/Simona Muntenau
alternatives; and (3) use knowledge and know-how to deliver measurable results, offering everyone a way to contribute, to pick up a shovel and dig.
knowledge. The good news is that no one person has to contain all three. Wisdom emerges as we each take steps forward in strategic action, collectively.
Simply put, liberation comes from aligning who we are at our best with how we think at our best and what we do at our best. It sounds pretty basic, but it’s surprising how many talented individuals are misaligned in their approaches to life and work. Often without realizing it, leaders leak energy by splintering and compartmentalizing pieces of their lives. They end up running on the empty fumes of anger and ego, rather than accruing the energy needed to fuel and sustain the common good.
Wisdom, born of a deep reverence for life, unleashes our inherent resilience, potential and power, and helps replace fragmentation with unity, shortsightedness with vision, and fear with courage.
One common trap for leaders is to over-exercise one of their gifts at the expense of others. Is there such a thing as being too smart, too understanding, too wise? Well, yes, if one element is being pushed to its limits without the healing balm of balance and rest. Having worked with hundreds of leaders from diverse cultures over the past twenty years, it seems to me that most of them demonstrate very strong expertise and prowess in one or two of the three critical elements needed for liberation. Knowledge is usually the dominant strain. One or two elements can forge short-term progress, but all three cylinders revving simultaneously is what sustains transformation. Liberation only comes when healthy leaders actualize wisdom plus understanding plus
It’s admirable to have a vision of transformation, something good that we want to achieve in the world or in our own lives. But visions fail when they are bound up in the force of a charismatic personality and not grounded in the wisdom of universal and transcendent values. Wisdom is often found missing in modern leadership. Leading from the soul—not just the head (brainpower) and heart (emotional intelligence)—will tap into the power to deliver sustainable results. Wisdom is fundamentally about who you are at your core, beyond title, personal passion, social identity, skillset or CV. When I first wanted to launch the Mine-Free Israel Campaign, it was 2004 and I thought I was more than ready. I had already practiced my landmine leadership on a global scale. I had worked closely with Diana, Princess of Wales, and celebrated with my colleagues in Oslo, Norway, the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to our International Campaign to Ban Landmines. We had helped kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
LIBERATION LEADERSHIP BEING WHO We Are
SEEING HOW We Work
DOING WHAT We Know
ALIGNMENT Integrity Needed for Transformation
Breakthrough change requires that social entrepreneurs learn how to align their Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge. Our goal as leaders is to align what we do, how we do it, and who we are. Inner Circle: In this space of “Doing,” we apply know-how and skills to solve technical problems and achieve results. — Knowledge Middle Circle: In this space of “Seeing,” we recognize patterns in order to create alternatives for thought and behavior. — Understanding Outer Circle: In this space of “Being,” we learn to recognize and trust our inherent power for resilience and creativity. — Wisdom
WISDOM is essential but too often missing in modern leadership. Leading from the soul of our deepest awareness and core values will tap into transformative power to deliver lasting results.
negotiate an innovative treaty to ban anti-personnel mines, now signed by 159 countries. In 1998, Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan had become the new international patron of Landmine Survivors Network (an organization I co-founded in 1995 with another American survivor, Ken Rutherford). At that time, King Hussein of Jordan pledged to ban all future landmine use, to destroy stockpiles within four years, and to clear the Jordan River Valley of mines within ten years. (Sadly, the King passed away just as the Mine Ban Treaty entered into force and didn’t live to see Jordan accomplish this worthy goal in 2012.) I thought these credentials along with my personal experiences would be enough to get Israel to take action. After all, I had the knowledge of how to get this done. Wrong. Unfortunately, I did not yet have the wisdom or understanding. Israel is one of the toughest countries I have worked in, beating Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Vietnam and Colombia…combined. There’s a saying about Israel that it’s just like any other country, only more so. It wasn’t enough for me to have studied Jewish history and Hebrew, nor to have shared scar tissue and limb loss locally. When it comes to barrier-busting shifts bringing about fundamental change of thought and behavior—what matters more than street cred is who you are at your core and what you 14
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are communicating in the present moment. What I was conveying during our first stab at changing Israel’s defense policy was too much my own personal crusade to ‘clean up Israel.’ I held a handful of perfunctory meetings with mid-level officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem and then at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. I spoke forthrightly about how Israel was ten years behind most other countries when it came to the landmine issue. I recounted my personal experience in 1984 and announced with some bravado how I was now ready to help Israel address this gap, to engage in this fight for what was right (as if the country had been awaiting my return!). Upon reflection, the energy and vocabulary were all wrong. Note to self: ‘crusader’ energy, whether medieval or modern in manifestation, never ends well. “Lama-mi-ata?” asked one irritated Israeli Colonel: “Why-WhoAre-You?” It’s a saying that implies something like, who made YOU the boss of me anyway? My naïve ideas of preparing a media campaign to publicize their Holy Land as a Deadly Land, including a 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair partnership, wasn’t exactly viewed as friendly fare. “This type of activism never turns out well for Israel. We will be slammed in the international media. Forget it.” As I got up to go with my well-meaning American tail between my legs, the same colonel asked another pointed question; this one cut to the quick: “Jerry, are you ready to do this in a way that is not about you? Something more low key that will take several years of quiet work and patience?” Patience? I thought there wasn’t time to be patient. This was clearly a ‘wrong’ that urgently needed to be made ‘right.’ But, the Defense establishment in Israel was not inclined to work with individuals or civil society, and they certainly were under no obligation to listen to me, some naïve American tourist injured on an ill-advised camping trip two decades prior. So early on, in round one, I misfired. I had not thought through my own motivations as a leader—who I was going to be in the process of birthing change. I didn’t realize that, in order to be a credible leader, people must recognize your values as their values, drawing from the same fount of energy and wisdom. They will only do that if who you represent harmonizes with how you propose to communicate alternatives and what you propose to do. Alignment is critical. It took a couple more years for me to tap into my own wisdom with generosity—in other words, making the issue about others, their vital interests and values, rather than about me and my wishful thinking. I didn’t possess the vocabulary to know what it meant to ‘tap into the power of wisdom’ until I participated in a leadership workshop at the University of Notre Dame’s Business School, co-taught by Dr. Monica Sharma and Professor Leo Burke. It was an eye-opener for me to hear others speak the language of large-scale systems change and global interdependence at a top US B-school no less. These wise teachers kept using phrases such as ‘finding grace in a competitive world’ and understanding ‘unity’ and ‘interdependence.’ Most executive education programs treat leadership as a skillset or toolbox. But
Notre Dame challenged its executives to dig deeper, beyond rudimentary discussions of social and emotional intelligence. Dr. Sharma challenged us: Who and what do you stand for as a leader? What qualities do you most admire in your heroes, and are you willing to bring those very qualities into your community, your workplace and home? If we, at our age and education level didn’t yet know who we were and what we stood for then we might as well head back to our day jobs. We were encouraged to examine the fundamental difference between corporate leadership and transformational global leadership; between improving shareholder value and effecting breakthrough change that will matter to the planet and the children of our great grandchildren. The difference is the presence of Wisdom, something indivisible that can never be owned by one individual or any group, let alone trademarked or branded. The essence of wisdom is transcendent, dynamic, spiritual, without being the exclusive franchise of any one person, religion or tradition. Wisdom cuts across borders, boundaries, and social, religious and national identities. That’s why it is a great unifier and liberator. By the time I returned to Israel in 2009 to re-launch a Mine-Free Israel Campaign, I arrived with a more humble and clear sense of what I could bring to the table—not cameras, not criticism, not angry activism, but a growing capacity to stand firmly in my own wisdom, magnifying the qualities I so admire in others: Light. Wholeness. Liberation. These big words reflect what I most admire in my heroes and mentors, and resonated strongly in the work ahead to free land and lives held hostage by minefields, real and
political. I was just learning to access the transcendent energy these concepts suggest. These weren’t magic words, but more like a mantra of sorts to remind me of the positive energy we can inhabit in any boardroom or living room. These qualities humble rather than inflate me because they are not possessions, not mine. They can be accessed anytime anywhere by grace. Wisdom is about the essential spirit one brings to the matter at hand, rather than any personal DNA of a leader. This newfound realization was to become especially critical for political outreach in the Israeli Knesset, where there is no shortage of fractious debate, suspicion and political cynicism. Before meeting the key decision-makers—from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or Defense Minister Ehud Barak, or his Deputy Matan Vilnai, to the Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni and her Kadima party colleague, Tzachi Hanegbi, then Chair of the powerful Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee—I wanted our Mine-Free Campaign to be very clean and clear. We would look each and every individual straight in the eye as a human being created equal in dignity and rights. There would be no old-school advocacy ‘throwing of ketchup’ to stain reputations with shame-and-blame tactics that divide the sheep from the goats, the angels from demons. “All is One,” as His Holiness the Dalai Lama reminded me. We would assume there was inherent greatness and resilience in each politician, and we would remain absolutely neutral regarding their personal politics or past history. After all, we were after hearts, minds and votes. To pass mine clearance legislation would require approval from the top brass as well as support from a majority of Knesset members across all parties, from the far right to the far left. kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
Before meeting Tzachi Hanegbi, I was told he’d be a cool customer, tough and calculating, as he sized me up. I invited him for an afternoon coffee in the lobby of a seaside Tel Aviv hotel. “What do you want?” was his pointed question. It seemed abrupt, at least to this American who prefers to warm up a bit more relationally, “Where are you from? How’s the family?” But Hanegbi was there on business. His demeanor, with arms crossed and no notepad in sight, quickly reminded me that Light, Wholeness and Liberation could not remain ‘pie in the sky’ stuff, but had to be brought down to earth, pragmatic and operational. I kicked into action with a 12-minute briefing on the landmine problem, handing Hanegbi a one-page map of contaminated areas. I then invited his leadership, as the influential Chair of the Knesset’s powerful Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee. Hanegbi didn’t just accept the challenge, he rose to it, as they say. “I will do this,” he promised, with conviction in his steely blue eyes and with a departing handshake. We both knew this was easier said than done. We discussed nothing about his past politics or political future. This was about where he stood here and now on the issue of liberating land and lives.
Understanding the root causes of systemic problems is needed to identify strategic pathways, in order to replace destructive patterns with constructive alternatives that will ensure lasting change in thought and behavior. Discernment is about more than diagnosing the symptoms of a problem. True understanding benefits from critical diagnostic thinking, but is most valuable when it takes the shape of exploration of underlying systems and patterns. To tackle intractable problems, leaders need to assess the root causes and mull over the strategic leverage points that might bring the most promising shifts in societal behavior. Liberating leadership requires a wideeyed exploration of alternatives. This space is more about seeing than looking. Technical fixes don’t work and armchair punditry is insufficient. To understand the complexity of a matter requires the patience to ‘hurry slowly,’ allowing time for 360-degree analysis, while including engagement with all stakeholders affected by a particular issue. It’s never a simple matter of persuasion and debate or winning people over. The pursuit of transformation presents complexity, contradiction and divergence—super-tough choices, in other words. Leaders must anticipate the consequences of their own 16
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daily choices that might send signals that either help or hinder liberation. The temptation is always for the best and brightest in a room to shut down discussion with their solutions, posed as practical next steps and ‘early wins’—anything to bring the exploration phase to a close. This is exactly the temptation a wise leader of understanding will resist. The key is to open up the discussion in pursuit of more elevated strategies for collective action that will deliver long-lasting impact. In our International Campaign to Ban Landmines, it was vital to avoid the trap of narrowing the terms of debate. This wasn’t just a campaign to ban planting landmines, it also required mine clearance, no manufacture or stockpiling, and that states provide assistance to the victims of mines—both past and future. For understanding to be transformative, it requires rigorous attention to language, including vigilance to ensure that discussion does not devolve to the lowest common denominator or become hostage to one stakeholder’s self-interest. Predictably, lawyers prefer legal lingo; CEOs prefer ‘bottom-line’ financials; and defense officials prefer military jargon. All love their acronyms, meant to keep outsiders at bay, so that insiders can control the terms of understanding. When I first queried Israeli diplomats at UN arms control meetings in Geneva and New York about their take on landmines, there were the knee-jerk responses: “This is a security issue, and landmines are a cheap way to keep terrorists from crossing our borders.” And, “We would love to live in an ideal world without mines, but our neighbors are so hostile that we can’t make progress without regional peace.” There was the odd deflection: “The United States hasn’t signed the Mine Ban Treaty, so why would we?” or even outright denial and offense: “We don’t have a mine problem in Israel—you are our landmine problem!” These were predictable refrains. Landmine ban activists heard similar statements from other defense establishments, including the Pentagon and members of NATO. Fair to say that it is not their modus operandi to surrender weapons they’ve spent decades stockpiling. Reactionary thinking is rarely about wisdom or understanding. It simply represents the entrenched response of any bureaucracy not wanting to give up gadgets or tools that might come in handy one day. Without understanding, many mine ban campaigners took the issue personally and ascribed to the
military evil motive. Most of the civil society campaigners had no military experience and found it difficult to argue credibly within a security framework. Another temptation was for each interested party to make it all about them. Deminers wanted money for demining; victim advocacy groups wanted money for prosthetics; lawyers wanted money to lobby for new legal frameworks from country to country. Such technical fixes, however seductive and pragmatic, risk short-circuiting the desired paradigm shift: the need to delegitimize landmines once and for all, ensuring an end to use, production, stockpiling and transfer of these indiscriminate weapons that can’t tell the difference between the sandal of a child or the boot of a soldier. To reframe the narrative of an issue requires critical analysis and strategic communication. One of the reasons Princess Diana was so crucial to our campaign was that she possessed a unique blend of global celebrity and authentic compassion. Princess Diana nearly single-handedly reframed the landmine issue in the public’s mind as a humanitarian rather than a security issue. To this day, over 80 percent of mine victims are civilians, not soldiers. The humanitarian argument was about the thousands of civilian women, children and farmers killed and maimed each year. Even if mines had limited military utility, what was to be done about the enormous human cost? This was a fight for people rather than against the military. To underscore the importance of human security, we organized landmine survivors worldwide to speak out, to share their undeniable stories of horror and pain. Survivors became the lifeblood of the mine ban movement. Their courageous testimonies highlighted the fact that the landmine campaign was never just about landmines, but it was about people and their right to personal safety and mobility. One of the overreaching goals was to transform outdated military security frameworks into human security frameworks that would in fact increase citizen and public safety. Eradicating landmines in the 1990s would strengthen international norms against any and all indiscriminate weapons (our successful campaign to ban cluster munitions followed in 2008, building on the landmine success story). This system change would also help repair devastated
rural economies, increase prospects for livelihood and promote peace. It was about reforming military-civilian engagement. The old military model was ineffective and dangerous. The new citizen model was modern and empowered to protect community interests. We brought this human understanding and newfound wisdom to the Campaign for a Mine-Free Israel. We recognized how important it was to engage all diplomats and militaries and not to turn them into reactionary enemies of the cause. Our language had to engage around what each of us stands for—our common values—rather than what divides us. What was it we all could agree on? Well, surely none of us wanted our own children maimed or killed by mines. So, how might we work together to stop this madness? If we had proceeded on a rabidly adversarial march, country to country with ‘Ban Mines’ posters, picket signs and strident chants, I can assure you that very little progress would have been made. Modern advocacy need not follow the competitive patterns of last century’s Cold War, where one side wins at the other’s expense. We believed that everyone would win by eradicating mines. Again, we are not talking about magic or luck. Impact requires that leaders of any liberation movement align their wisdom and understanding. This requires that you ‘know thyself ’—how your message and behavior will come across to certain audiences in different cultures. This requires that you ‘know thy audience’— thinking hard about the people whose thought and behavior you want to influence. One of the fundamental things I have learned about successful advocacy is so darn obvious that I’m embarrassed to write it here. It is this: you will run into human beings wherever you go— mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters. No matter your chosen field or cause, getting anything accomplished means you will deal with people. Whether you’re wearing a navy suit in Washington or Geneva, or a camouflaged jacket on the frontline, torn jeans at an all-day rally or sacred tunics at an interfaith service, you are always and everywhere dealing with people. These are individuals of all stripes and faiths, with values, concerns, hopes and anxieties, just like you and me. It’s so simple and obvious that we change-makers too easily forget. We fall into a trap of mis-understanding, making ‘the other’ different than we. We inadvertently create adversaries, even among our friends and colleagues. kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
I remember with regret writing a sizzling ten-page memo to US Senator Patrick Leahy criticizing the USAID War Victims Fund and enumerating all the things they could do better. For nearly ten years that memo, filled with righteous footnotes, put significant distance between me and otherwise likeminded individuals trying to deliver quality artificial limbs and humanitarian assistance worldwide. As a close friend later told me, “Jerry, being right doesn’t win you friends or get the job done.” That remark has stuck deep inside of me. By the time I returned to Israel, where I had stepped on my mine, I was learning about different types of minefields in the world— political and social. It was humbling to realize that I was responsible for creating some of them. Re-approaching Israel on this issue required me to know myself better and also to better understand my audience. Israel presented a particular challenge with a largely traumatized population that perceives itself under siege from all sides. Most Israelis believed landmines were critical to bolster border security and prevent terrorists from infiltrating. Most knew very little if anything about the extent of the contamination. Up to one million buried mines threatened the lives and livelihood of Israelis and Palestinians alike. There had been sporadic accidents, including my own and other civilians over the years—mostly non-Jews, non-Israelis or livestock, nothing shocking or painful enough to awaken the country to action. I was looking for a tipping point, something that would make clear to this battered country that the cost of mines was simply too high. Unfortunately, I found it in eleven-year-old Daniel Yuval. It was February 6, 2010 and Israel had just had its first snow of the year. Daniel and his four siblings had never actually made snowballs, let alone a snowman. They parked on the side of the road and raced into an open field. Then, BANG! There was a muffled explosion and everyone froze. Daniel had detonated a mine and his right foot was blown off. Shrapnel had sprayed his older sister’s face. Within the hour, news cameras were capturing a blood-stained father bravely carrying his children out of a useless unmarked minefield, while their mother watched in desperation. 18
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Several months earlier a local Israeli Kibbutznik had confided to me that, “Israel will never take action to clean up this mess until one of our very own children—a little Jewish boy or girl—gets hurt or killed, God forbid.” I went to visit Daniel Yuval in the hospital, just to show him that recovery from a landmine was not that scary, that if I could do it he could do it, that type of thing. But, by the time I’d left, Daniel had told me that he wanted to make sure this didn’t happen to any one else. “What can we do, Jerry, to make sure no other kids get hurt like me?” Daniel became the wise-beyond-years youth ambassador for the Mine-Free Israel Campaign, and instantly the landmine issue was re-framed. This boy became the focal point for our National Campaign, just as Princess Diana had done 12 years before for the International Campaign. One wonders if Israel would have found the political will to pass legislation one year later to clear the country of all non-operational minefields if it were not for Daniel’s innocent courage. Suddenly, this brave little boy was on the television in living rooms across the country, teaching Israelis about the true nature of a weapon that maims children. Still, it was necessary but not sufficient to have Daniel’s wisdom and Israeli understanding in full bloom. Without knowledge, including expertise, resources and action, nothing would have happened to effect concrete change.
Knowledge and experience are needed to mobilize the information, people and resources to replace ignorance and inaction with expertise and measurable results. In Israel, there was an astonishing ignorance amongst its population about the landmine problem. Families routinely drove by minefield signs and stretches of barbed wire for kilometers and had grown immune to their dangers. The information was simply not available and the mythology that minefields enhanced Israeli security was entrenched. Even after stepping on a landmine, I myself didn’t know the extent of the contamination. We found a series of hiking maps in Israel first published in Hebrew in 2004 to alert tour guides and local hiking groups to the presence of landmines. One of the problems was that there were no maps in Arabic or English, or in Russian for that matter. Tourists, new immigrants and laborers were the most at risk of injury or death. So we set out to research and independently publish the first open-source map showing the minefields throughout the country and the West Bank. Our small research team examined years of media reports, public statements and records from past casualties. Most Israelis were unaware, for instance, that hundreds of square kilometers of land are rendered unusable and dangerous due to landmine contamination. We were determined to put information out to the public, the media and policymakers, including bulleted one-page factsheets in multiple languages and accessible formats. Such a simple action made a big difference.
In 2010, we published the first comprehensive study of the problem in English, Arabic and Hebrew: Explosive Litter: Status Report on Minefields in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Importantly, the research uncovered a trail of official correspondence, including the fact that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had publically declared that hundreds of their minefields were no longer operational, and the IDF did not object to their removal (1999 State Comptroller Report). People are the most important source of knowledge beyond research. We, therefore, set out to develop a network of individuals who understood the issue or lived next to minefields. We built a small diverse group of landmine survivors, news reporters, rehabilitation specialists and public officials who were committed to change. First, we built trust by engaging all stakeholders and sharing information freely and transparently. Then, when the time came to launch a coalition to advocate publicly for a mine-free Israel, we were ready and willing. As with all dynamic campaigns, it was important to be for something and not just against some status quo. We knew what we were against: the insidious landmine, our sworn enemy that had stolen our limbs and lives. We were also against inaction, passivity and cynicism. But what were we all standing for? We stood for the possibility of a mine-free Israel within ten years. We stood for the liberation of fertile land for farming. We stood for families living in safety, free of fear. We stood for the healing of people and the environment. There are all sorts of things to do to build momentum for a successful campaign. Without research, analysis, media outreach, coalition building, advocacy and lobbying, there would have been no going forward, no matter how much wisdom and understanding we possessed. But the vision for change goes beyond knowledge and understanding. Such vision can only come from sourcing your wisdom and that of others. Tapping into something bigger than all of us makes it possible to bring change that can benefit future generations of Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians. Yes, even the world. Liberation is never about the one obvious boulder blocking your way. Leading transformation is an internal, external and social
phenomenon. As one wise friend reminds me, â€œOur outer work is only as deep and expansive as our inner work.â€?
Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge form an undeniable platform for liberation. We had understood the problem and had built a knowledgeable team to move our mission forward. Now it was time to call forth wisdomâ€”in the politicians, military and citizens of Israel. On February 7, 2011, Daniel and his older sister Amit and younger brother Yoav (who were also hurt in the Golan minefield) joined me and our campaign coordinator Dhyan Or in Jerusalem to meet virtually all Knesset Members and head of factions. We hired the savvy Tel Aviv government relations firm, Policy, to arrange meetings with anyone inside government who would agree to see us. This ended up including the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Head of the Opposition. Careful to avoid anger and castigation, we urged them to fulfill the promises they had made to young Daniel and our campaign in the previous year, and called on them to stand with us and vote in favor of the proposed mine clearance bill. That day, the bill passed its first reading by an unheard of unanimous vote across all party lines (60-0). Remarkably, Daniel was summoned to the front of the plenary room, normally reserved only for Members of Knesset. The following week, the bill was returned to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee for hearings to resolve a number of outstanding issues (including securing over ten million dollars annually to support demining). After negotiating final language that would mandate compliance with International UN Mine Action Standards and a pilot project to be initiated within months of passage, the proposed legislation was brought back to the full Knesset for a final historic vote on March 14, 2011. As Daniel and I sat with our fellow survivors and campaigners in the honorary balcony, senior Knesset Member Ronnie Bar-On (former Minister of Finance) publicly credited us for this historic moment before presenting the bill for the second and third final readings. Once again, the vote was unanimous, and we all but burst into tears of joy, light, wholeness and liberation. Israel had unanimously agreed to clear its non-operational minefields. This was a sweet victory for everyone who cared for land and lives held hostage for decades by minefields. kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
Many Israelis and internationals were astounded by the impact and speed of our unlikely Campaign. Nothing like this had happened since the successful “Don’t Pick the Wildflowers” campaign run by the Society for the Protection of Nature back in the 1950s. Our campaign had even pushed the boundaries of military-civilian collaboration on a border security issue, just as the ‘Arab Spring’ was signaling regional unrest. How did the Mine-Free Israel Campaign catalyze this historic paradigm shift? Why did this Campaign succeed where others (including my earlier effort) had failed? Upon reflection, I see now how the early casting of leadership matters. From the start, it is essential to recruit individuals with unconventional courage, wisdom and integrity, whether as young as eleven-year-old Daniel, or the Campaign Coordinator Dhyan Or in his mid-thirties, right up to retired generals and politicians in their seventies. You don’t always get it right (with everyone revving on three cylinders simultaneously at all times), but on balance, you have to get most of it right, with leaders complementing each other’s inherent strengths. One must build a harmonized coherence among campaigners who ‘get it’ from the top down and the bottom up.
Success for the Mine-Free Israel Campaign was the result of individual citizen-leaders tapping the power of their inner wisdom, and actively sharing understanding and knowledge to effect lasting change in the Middle East. We started with the raw power of raising the voices of the people most affected by the issue—the survivors themselves. We also recruited a local coalition coordinator, Dhyan Or, an Israeli who understood the interdependent components of our strategy and could implement them with the support of dedicated partners such as Policy, ACRI, Bizchut, Quadro and Roots of Peace. Liberation movements such as the Mine-Free Israel Campaign require the casting of leaders with integrity—who know how to integrate and align their knowledge, understanding and wisdom. Catalytic leaders such as Dhyan Or, the Yuval Family, Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea and our legal and political advisors, Tirza Leibowitz and Ambassador Lincoln Bloomfield, Jr., comprise a winning team of integrity that does not have to be large in size, just huge in quality, credibility and courage.
Our campaign had even pushed the boundaries of military-civilian collaboration on a border security issue, just as the ‘Arab Spring’ was signaling regional unrest.
As we conclude, it is worth noting the four fundamental qualifications I now look for in leaders of liberation: *Are you are a doer—a person of action? You don’t just talk or complain. *Do you burn for justice and humanity? You long for a more humane world. *Do you value inner space? You are not afraid of silence or spiritual practice. *Do you retain hope and optimism? You are not cynical about the future.
Cynicism is the number one killer of hope and progress, and sadly we see it creeping worldwide, as if we are all going to ‘hell in a hand basket’ without our having any say in the matter. Such an attitude manifests victimhood, a mentality that is self-pitying and focused on the past rather than on what’s possible. Without hope and vision, even hard-working teams will die. Transformation will only be born with hopeful liberating leaders who learn to align their wisdom, their understanding and their knowledge. The Mine-Free Israel Campaign aligned all three: Who We Are (Wisdom), How We Think (Understanding), and What We Do (Knowledge). There will always be people who are afraid, like many Israelis who initially clung to the false security of landmines. The Campaign kept holding up a mirror for Israelis to look for the true face of security and progress, not the illusion found in outdated minefields. In the end, only Israel could rediscover its ancient wisdom to address this modern-day plague. 20
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Liberating leadership requires wisdom to transform contentious issues into unifying opportunities. This is done by activating leaders who are able to transcend their personal identity and social profiles to serve humanity with an eye to the wellbeing of future generations. Having worked with leaders from all walks of life and from over 100 countries, I have come to appreciate the special type of wise leadership needed for the global challenges ahead. There are a growing number of people who are learning how to summon the courage to take on some of society’s most rigidly embedded institutions in pursuit of life-saving, economy-enhancing change. We invite all leaders to embrace this liberation philosophy for change—aligning their wisdom, understanding and knowledge to challenge the established order, provoking deeper conversation and participation. This means engaging constructively with the military, religious denominations, multinational corporations, even what has been dubbed ‘the nonprofit industrial complex.’ Each of these groups has a critical role to play in maintaining societal cohesion. In the end, each piece, each person needs to be balanced by the other, contained in a whole of wisdom applied for the common good. It will certainly take more than mere technology and military expertise to clean up the many minefields we have created across the planet. We must and will call forth a new generation of wise liberators.
SOURCE The Inner Path of Knowledge Creation Joseph Jaworski Berrett-Koehler Publishers February 2012
Introduction: The Capacity to Sense and Actualize Emerging Futures In discovering our own purpose and meaning, we enrich meaning in the universe—we create something of significance that has not been there. We are part of it, and it is part of us. We are partners in the evolution of the universe. Beginning in 1973, with my country in the throes of a leadership crisis that came to be known as ‘Watergate’ and with my personal life entering its own crisis, I began a journey of discovery that I chronicled in Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership. Soon after the book was published, readers began asking me questions about fundamental aspects of the lessons I had learned from my direct experiences. The truth is, I couldn’t answer them. At times, as I would conduct workshops and work in client systems. I felt I was like a lawyer ‘practicing without a license.’ There were missing pieces to the ‘whole’ I just couldn’t articulate. Sometimes I felt I was coming close to knowing—I was gaining tacit knowledge, but I couldn’t give voice to it. Some of the readers asked me to explore with them the subject of society’s belief systems—our internal image of reality. As I later understood, they were asking me about metaphysics, the philosophy of being and knowing. Metaphysics was far beyond anything I had considered up to that moment. All I knew was that what I was describing fit my direct experience—and the direct experience of hundreds of readers who were contacting me saying,“Now I know I’m not crazy.” All of these questions and my own growth eventually led me to embark on a whole new search to understand the fundamental principles underlying these experiences. Ultimately, I came to realize that the drive to learn and know our fundamental nature is a basic human need. Metaphysics formats and enables experience, and, in turn, molds scientific, social, and individual reality. It provides a description of human experience that satisfies a deep longing within us. The mathematician, physicist, and philosopher, H. Dean Brown, in answer to the question, “What is the use of metaphysics?” replied, “We become what we behold.” The futurist Willis Harman once said to me, “By deliberately changing the internal image of reality, people can change the world. Indeed,” he added, “the real fundamental changes in societies have come about not from dictates of governments and the results of battles, but through vast numbers of people changing their minds.” Since the publication of the first edition of Synchronicity, I’ve been searching for the principles that lie at the heart of what I described
there—the capacity we have to sense and actualize emerging futures and to shape the future instead of simply responding to the forces at large. What is the source of our capacity to access the knowledge for action we need in the moment? How can we learn to enable that capacity, individually and collectively? The answers to these questions were slowly revealed to me over a fifteen-year period. Because I now feel adequate to be explicit about what I’ve learned, I’ve written this book: Source: The Inner Path of Knowledge Creation. In it, I’ve attempted not only to tell the story of my quest for the principles that form the basis of my experiences as described in Synchronicity, but also to understand the nature of what I have called—for lack of a better term—‘the Source,’ or sometimes, depending on the context, ‘Source.’ By its very nature, the Source cannot be defined. The physicist David Bohm told me that “the reality which is most immediate to us cannot be stated.” And Robert Jahn and Brenda Dunne, two scientists whom I interviewed for this book, said: . . . there exists a much deeper and more extensive source of reality, which is largely insulated from direct human experience, representation, or even comprehension. It is a domain that has long been posited and contemplated by metaphysicians and theologians, Jungian and Jamesian psychologists, philosophers of science and a few contemporary progressive theoretical physicists, all struggling to grasp and to represent its essence and its function. A variety of provincial labels have been applied, such as ‘Tao,’ ‘Qi,’ ‘prana,’ ‘void,’ ‘Akashic record,’ ‘Unus Mundi,’ ‘unknowable substratum,’ ‘terra incognita,’ ‘archetypal field,’ ‘hidden order,’ ‘aboriginal sensible muchness,’ ‘implicate order,’ ‘zero-point vacuum,’ ‘ontic (or ontological) level,’ ‘undivided timeless primordial reality,’ among many others, none of which fully captures the sublimely elusive nature of this domain. In earlier papers we called it the ‘subliminal seed regime,’ but for our present purposes we shall henceforth refer to it as the ‘Source.’ While it cannot be defined, Source can be experienced. The first time I experienced it was during a tornado I describe in the prologue to this book. My quest since then has not been for a definition but for an understanding of how we can have a connection to it—how we can engage in a deep dialogue with it. Dialogue with the Source leads to the kind of creativity associated with the most successful entrepreneurial undertakings. Action based on such ‘primary knowing’ can be ‘shockingly effective.’ This fifteen-year journey covered a long and winding path during which a colleague and I were inspired to explore what we later developed as a ‘U-process’ for accessing emerging futures. The exploration of the U-theory led to our writing Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society. But the work with the U-process and our thinking about the Utheory left me dissatisfied. Real transformation, it seemed to me, occurred at what I began to call ‘the bottom of the U’ and involved something beyond what we were doing—something we didn’t really understand. I began calling it ‘the Source.’ A leader’s ability to access this Source often made the difference between success and failure, as I learned in a painful way when a large pilot project failed. At this juncture, my road diverged from that of my colleagues, and I began the journey that has led to this book. kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
While it cannot be defined, Source can be experienced. FOUR PRINCIPLES 1. There is an open and emergent quality to the universe. A group of simple components can suddenly reemerge at a higher level of self-organization as a new entity with new properties. We can’t find a cause or reason for this emergent quality, but as we experience it again and again, we see that the universe offers infinite possibility. 2. The universe is a domain of undivided wholeness; both the material world and consciousness are parts of the same undivided whole. The totality of existence is enfolded within each fragment of space and time—whether it is a single object, thought, or event. Thus, everything in the universe, including human intentions and ways of being, affects everything else, because everything is part of the same unbroken whole. 3. There is a creative Source of infinite potential enfolded in the universe. Connection to this Source leads to the emergence of new realities—discovery, creation, renewal, and transformation. We are partners in the unfolding of the universe. 4. Humans can learn to draw from the infinite potential of the Source by choosing to follow a disciplined path toward self realization and love, the most powerful energy in the universe.The path may include teachings from ancient traditions developed over thousands of years, contemplative practices, and direct exposure to the generative process of nature.
At the heart of what I discovered during my journey to understand Source are four principles, which I’ve described preceding this introduction. While I have attempted to state these principles as simply and succinctly as I can, exploring them and how they were developed is part of the story I tell in this book—and truly understanding them deeply will take me the rest of my lifetime. In the process of this search, I gave serious consideration to the Western scientific-materialistic worldview—our underlying belief system, which has prevailed in the West for over two hundred years. I believe that this belief system is no longer adequate for the issues our society is facing; that an historic shift is now occurring; and that a more comprehensive worldview is emerging. Institutions can play a leading role in enabling this emerging worldview. At the time Synchronicity was published, the most admired institutions were led by what Robert Greenleaf described as ‘servant leaders.’ Scott Peck has referred to these as ‘Stage III’ leaders. But I believe that a more advanced generation of institutions must be led by what I call ‘Stage IV’ leaders. Stage IV leaders embody the characteristics and values of servant leaders, but have matured to a more comprehensive and subtle level of development. They exhibit a capacity for extraordinary functioning and performance. At the heart of this kind of performance is a capacity for accessing tacit knowing that can be used for breakthrough thinking, 22
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strategy formation, and innovation, including envisioning and creating the kind of institution or society we desire. Stage IV leaders believe that there is an underlying intelligence within the universe, which is capable of guiding us and preparing us for the futures we must create. They combine their cognitive understanding of the world around them with a strong personal sense of possibility—the possibility of actualizing hidden potentials lying dormant in the universe, a view that carries with it the power to change the world as we know it. Institutions guided by this quality of leadership, from line leaders to the very top, will, in my view, flourish in the decades to come. Because of their success, these institutions will become living examples of what is possible in the face of accelerating complexity and high turbulence. Operating from this new worldview, these living examples can play a major role in shifting the prevailing belief system. In discovering our own purpose and meaning—whether of our institutions or of our own personal lives—we enrich meaning in the universe. We create something significant that has not been there. We are part of it, and it is part of us. We are partners in the evolution of the universe. I hope that Source will serve your own path toward higher stages of growth and development—and that it will also serve the leadership of your institution and of society as a whole. Prologue You have capacities within you that are phenomenal, if you only knew how to release them. – David Bohm
It was Monday, May 11, 1953. I was eighteen years old and a freshman at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, which then had a population of 85,000 people. I was in my dormitory room, alone, completing an essay due later that week. By around 4:30 that afternoon, the sky had turned dark. It had been raining hard for a couple of hours, but now the rain was coming down in sheets, and the wind was picking up. All of a sudden it was as if a hundred freight trains were roaring through my room. It lasted only seconds, but I was stunned. “My God—what was that?” Within minutes the rain subsided to a light drizzle. Without really thinking, I put on a windbreaker and baseball cap and ventured out. I was not making a deliberate decision to go. I just found myself heading in the direction of downtown, not stopping to assess the risk of walking among all the live electrical lines that were strewn across the streets. There was no one on the streets—no cars—no one in sight . . . As it turned out, that corner—Fifth and Austin—was the epicenter of a deadly tornado. As I approached the corner, I was astonished to see that the Dennis Building had vanished. In its place was a towering heap of rubble. The vacuum created from the
tornado had blown the walls outward, causing all six stories to collapse onto one another, falling into the basement. The walls of bricks had flattened the cars in the street beside the building, and the cars themselves were buried under five-to-six feet of bricks. The café and the Palace Club, the pool hall next door where I had often hung out, had also disappeared. They were just an enormous pile of rubble, fifteen-to-twenty feet high . . . I learned later that the destruction I saw was the result of the deadliest tornado in Texas history and one of the ten worst ever recorded in US history. The 300-mile-per-hour winds had left a twenty-three-mile path of destruction, including 114 dead and over 1,200 injured. I was one of the first few people on the scene. There was an eerie silence pervading that corner. The few people who were standing around were stunned, in shock. Within just minutes, about a half dozen of us self-organized into a team and began the first stages of a search-and-rescue effort. A doctor was nearby, helping to guide us. We worked as a team in that particular area through the night and into the midday Tuesday, doing our best to locate and dig out survivors. Within minutes of arriving, I found one person in the rubble. We dug her out, and as I held her in my arms, taking her to the place the doctor was designating as a field hospital, he examined her and quickly said, “She’s gone. Let’s make this the morgue. Over here will be the field hospital.”
Only when our task was done did exhaustion begin to set in. It was early Tuesday afternoon, and we all paused to say goodbye. Nothing was said about what we had all experienced—it was not necessary. It was clear that we all felt it. The true trust and connection remained palpable. In the days after the tragedy, I took time to reflect on all that I had experienced. At that stage of my development, I barely knew how to think about it at all. At one level, the whole experience seemed dreamlike. But at another level, I was aware that it would deeply inform the rest of my life. As I grew and developed over the years, my understanding grew as well. That understanding was heightened by similar experiences, enabling me to glimpse the essence of what had occurred in Waco over those few hours. One experience occurred a few years later when my best friend saved my life by picking the front of a jeep up off my chest after an accident. The energy field I had felt after the tornado and the sense of deep connection was present at that time. Other instances occurred among our law firm’s teams when we were in the midst of trying a difficult lawsuit, particularly one where our client was the underdog, and we were trying to redress a great injustice.
It was a delicate operation. We patiently dismantled the debris piece by piece. We worked as a team in that particular area through the night, using flashlights and gloves that had been brought to the scene. The police, using bullhorns, directed everyone not involved in the search and rescue away from the area.
Over time, the feeling grew within me that I needed to search for the source of these kinds of collective experiences and to determine how to have access to them without a crisis—how to harness this phenomenon in organizational settings for the benefit of all society. By the time I had practiced as a litigator for twenty years, the need to learn more grew so present within me and the crisis of leadership in the country seemed so acute that I decided to leave the practice of law.
Within an hour or so of my arrival, help from the nearby Connally Air Force Base came. And by 2:30 that morning, heavy equipment had arrived—but where we were working, it was useless, even dangerous. As we found survivors, we had to be exceedingly careful not to allow the debris to shift and crush them. Eventually, we dug out a number of survivors and recovered twenty-nine bodies from the café and pool hall area.
Two days after leaving my law firm, I met the great physicist, David Bohm, who taught me that there is a creative Source of infinite potential—the ‘implicate order’—enfolded in the explicate order, or manifest universe. What I learned that day altered my worldview forever, creating the opening for all that occurred afterward. Just a week after meeting Dr. Bohm, I flew to Houston to form the American Leadership Forum.
Our little team stayed intact the entire time. While we worked together, I experienced a palpable energy field surrounding us. My sense of awareness was acute. I possessed an uncanny clarity, a sort of panoramic knowing. Time slowed down. We were able to perform very difficult tasks with apparent ease. We would accomplish something so extraordinary, I would “look over my shoulder,” so to speak, and wonder “How in the world did we accomplish that?” Yet in the moment, it seemed so natural. It was almost effortless, yet we were exerting a supreme effort. We operated as a ‘single intelligence’—as one organism—with exceedingly high coherence.
During the Leadership Forum years, I began to realize there is a deep hunger for the experience of oneness and for being used for something greater than ourselves. I began to understand that being used in this way is what it means to be human. This is why the experience of being part of a team that is acting as one consciousness in relation to something larger than the individual members stands out as a singular moment in people’s lives. Some —like me—spend the rest of their lives looking for ways to recapture the spirit of that experience. And others—also like me—spend years attempting to understand the nature of that experience. What is the Source of our capacity to access the knowledge for action we need at the moment?
We self-organized from the very beginning. Leadership on the team shifted seamlessly in the moment, as required. I was acting without conscious awareness or control, doing tasks without the sense that I was personally performing them. It was as if we were being used as instruments to accomplish what we must. But most of all, I was struck by the deeper level of knowing that I embodied. My premonitions were consistently correct. During those hours, we had the strength, courage, endurance, and internal resources we needed.
This book is the story of my quest to answer that question. Note. Excerpts from Source—courtesy Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
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transformational leaders series – part three Transformational Leadership in the Arab Region Khadija T. Moalla On November 26, 2010, HE Mr. Joseph Diess, the President of the 65th session of the UN General Assembly, delivered to me the world renowned 3rd Annual Global South-South Development Award for the CHAHAMA initiative (Network of Multi-Faith Based Organizations in response to HIV). Receiving this award aﬃrmed to me that large scale change in the Arab region depended on the active engagement of religious leaders, the guardians of values and cultural norms. Could we engage them and pull them forward towards modernity while respecting their commitment and ethical views? Could we move them beyond their religious belief systems to discuss sensitive sexual issues and deepen their access to the commonality between the committed human rights activists and fundamentalist Religious Leaders (RL)? I held fast to the conﬁdence that we could, but only if we used a new approach. I would need the courage forged out of deep compassion and a ﬁerce will to persist in the face of all the obstacles that I was sure to encounter. Background I was raised in a big Tunisian family enjoying a strong culture of respect, love and freedom. My father was an exceptional ﬁgure who enjoyed an unusual ability to embrace others with genuine unconditional love. I was raised to be sensitive to any kind of intolerance or injustice, but even more, I had an inner prompting whenever I sensed that this norm was violated. My father showed great appreciation to whatever I ventured into. I still recall his fascination with me reciting ancient Arabic poetry when I was seven. is kind of fatherly admiration still inspires the little girl with great courage and self-conﬁdence. us was born the compassionate courage that was needed for the transformational work I was to do in the world. 24
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Aer my studies in international law I went back to Tunisia to work with women in slum areas. I dared to be the lawyer for some of the most notorious dissidents of the fallen regime. Later I defended People Living with HIV (PLWH), motivated by the compassionate awareness that if I had to go through what they did, I would love to have someone at my side. I then advocated for their rights both in my country and in Sub-Saharan Africa. rough this HIV involvement, I soon found myself as a consultant with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). I got in touch with Dr. Monica Sharma who mentored me in the Transformational Leadership methodology and its application, as well as in designing programmes. A few years later, I was in charge of the UNDP Regional HIV Programme in the Arab States. HIV Initiative Transforms the Arab Region e main HIV challenges in the Arab region were the strong stigmatizing attitudes that keep people from being tested and from joining treatment programmes even when the medicine is oﬀered for free. e fact that little or no outreach eﬀorts exist in the region to intravenous drug users, men having sex with men and sex workers can again be traced to these attitudes. e highlight of my work was the pioneering of a unique Multifaith Network responding to HIV in the Arab region (20 countries). rough this, preventative and treatment services were delivered to thousands of PLWH, drug users, sex workers and men having sex with men. We enrolled top religious leaders including the Grand Imam, several Muis, Ullamas, Patriarchs and Bishops, as well as the leadership of the Muslim brotherhood. ese impactful leaders
shared the vision and internalized the transformational leadership methodologies. With a critical mass of sympathetic RLs growing and a core leadership team developing, we were able to call a historical meeting in Cairo in December 2004 using transformational approaches, methods and tools, resulting in a historic Regional Colloquium in Cairo. Eighty ﬁrst-rank RLs signed the progressive Cairo Declaration and shared in draing a Muslim and Christian training manual. Tens of thousands of RLs were then trained in all Arab countries. A “Women RLs Tripoli Declaration” was issued in 2006. e Declaration condemned female genital mutilation and demanded sex education for girls. A shi swept the Arab world, transforming the religious discourse. As a result of our program hundreds of thousands of Imams and priests delivered compassionate and respectful messages about HIV, instead of the usual doom and gloom messages. A number of countries, notably in Djibouti and Yemen, enacted progressive laws protecting the rights of PLWH. e HIV initiative with Religious Leaders in the Arab region (2004 to present) led to a measureable decrease in stigmatizing attitudes. It achieved a 24-fold increase in access to treatment in Yemen and an 8-fold increase in the use of voluntary counseling and testing in Morocco. e diversity and synergy of the network was further reﬂected by other activists who established outreach programmes transforming the lives of tens of thousands. Much still needs to be done, but a major shi took place in the last few years. A former drug user who engaged with us in our learning-in-action programme started an HIV and Drug Recovery programme in a prison in Bahrain that beneﬁted hundreds of prisoners. Other Gulf countries invited him to share the programme that reshaped policies in these countries. A proud owner and driver of a taxi jubilantly received us in Sana’a airport a couple of years ago. He had to convince me that he was the same depressed and emaciated man living with HIV who sat silently in the back corner of one of our workshops. Now a daring activist and a proud bread winner, his life had transformed. Our work with media leaders on HIV anti-stigma messaging resulted in literally thousands of programmes at the national and regional levels. One participant in our “Independent Media and Bloggers Workshop” wrote the script and directed the blockbuster and multi-award winning ﬁlm, “Asmaa: An HIV Patient's Struggle Against Social Stigma in Egypt.” e superstar actress from Tunisia who played the leading role was introduced to the importance of working against stigma through a number of personal interactions with us. Imams in Morocco listened to testimonies of PLWH. A woman living with HIV told them how she got it from her husband. A drug user shared how he was infected. en a lady shared the
death of her husband, leaving her with three children and no support whatsoever. She confessed she worked as a sex worker and told the Imams that now she is in a later stage of AIDS. She asked God’s forgiveness and would like them, as her religious leaders, to forgive her. One of them stood up and told her, “It is you, dear lady, who needs to forgive us for allowing society to do this to you.” Another, who was an ardent preacher of ‘the wrath of God’ theory stood up aer that, but could not utter a word! He choked with tears and sat down again. Morocco was transformed forever. A Sudanese lady religious leader who was very enthusiastic in defending ‘girl circumcision’ spoke out and said, “I see now that this is really genital mutilation.” What had kept her from recognizing this was, “I could not accept that I suﬀered all this and it was not even God’s will.” is kind of courageous self-awareness and daring public sharing mark much of the reponse to our initiative. Former drug users shared their stories. Judges listened and confessed they made big mistakes when they sentenced drug users to prison without considering what their life potentials could be. In all these actions the warm space provided to all leaders to explore their positions was also energized by my own passion and belief in the possibility of change. Trusted Allies and Oppositional Figures In 2004, I was challenged and pressured with increased doubts and reluctance from many colleagues and superiors when I was organizing a series of crucial events. I overcame these obstacles not only through a series of phone calls to secure appropriate approval and funding, but through a constant search for alternatives, sometimes through the enrollment of new leaders. But my persistence was mainly through my commitment to the importance and possibility of convening key religious leaders from the entire Arab region to transform the religious discourse on HIV. Having said this, it is important to reiterate that I did not do this alone; I was deeply supported both by my mentor and the tranformational leadership methodologies. Dr. Ehab El Kharrat needs to be mentioned in particular, as a representative of a great team composed of both men and women. kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
e experience did not go unopposed from within the ‘institu- e value of the CFS model is that it diﬀerentiates and then tion.’ e head of one multilateral agency, who comes from a synergizes solutions, system shis and oneness values of any recountry where homosexuals are sentenced to death, objected to sponse. We used other frameworks as well to enhance underthe wording of the Cairo Declaration, on the basis that it encour- standing, facilitate implementation, and to dive deeper into aged the ‘treatment’ of gays. In actual fact, the wording can be in- ourselves through process work. e CFS asks generative questerpreted as just enforcing their integration into society. e same tions and initiates deeper commitment. It is a framework that foperson abruptly cut the funding based upon the belief that the cuses on embodying Human Rights values while manifesting and Grand Imam would never endorse a declaration mentioning ‘con- scaling up action. doms.’ e Grand Imam had signed a document indicating his support, but the head of the agency did not waver. With Monica’s e CFS framework helped me to consistently source my own support, I contacted other friends within the system, friends who inner space and the wisdom of individuals in the group. It ﬁlled the ﬁnancial gap, stood by me through the false accusations, helped me to check out whether I appropriately addressed all and arranged a meeting to address this issue. Aer that, the head of three spheres each time I designed an intervention. It allowed me to take it to scale and to systematize my the agency gracefully apologized in Human Rights (HR) Response Framework From Rhetoric to Reality: Embodying Values Underpinning Human Rights thoughts and those of the group. public and hopefully became a supEmbodying porter of our initiative. Enrolling Dignity, Equality, Our Oneness We used many transformational trusted allies within and outside the leadership tools in Damascus with a system is one of the main strategies to Systems & Structures for Social & Economic group of Muslim and Christian Redeal with obstacles like this one. Justice ligious Leaders to lay down the Solutions for foundation of what became the Methodology: A Transformational HR Violations, Realizing Rights Architecture for Large Scale Change world celebrated Religious Leaders Inviting RLs from all denominations Initiative. Now we understood what Immediate Causes and religions within the Arab States to we intuitively had applied before we a colloquium that would discuss senwere introduced to CFS. e frameSystems sitive issues such as sexuality and Causes work was also essential to my recent AIDS was extremely tricky. e Collowork with civil society in Kuwait Underlying Causes quium adopted the motto: "Responding where I designed a long term stratT. Moalla to HIV requires a human accord that Khadija egy for the country and also in Adapted from Dr. Monica Sharma surpasses all religious and denominaworking on HIV in Gaza. tional variations. It must be an accord that derives from spiritual heritage and creates courageous responses to the problems posed I learned important lessons from the Arab States HIV initiative by the epidemic. It is an accord that inspires something greater and about the value and methods of building trust, the importance of deeper than any challenge!” an empathetic and motivational listening approach, the importance of inclusion and for the more secularly inclined activists, e major methodology used for our programme was based on learning to break out of our own denial to recognize the eﬀecthe Conscious Full Spectrum (CFS) approach. is leadership tiveness of RLs in either promoting or hindering developmental methodology sources people’s wisdom and structures a space for approaches. I found that transformation was oen gradual and system shis while solving problems. Monica Sharma introduced tacit, requiring inﬁnite patience with sometimes repetitive details. the CFS model to us in 2008. We worked with Monica on the I learned the value of a warm and safe space in discovering new basic components of the idea through other Transformational virtues and spiritual values even when you put people from diﬀerLeadership Development tools and frameworks, like Likert-Em- ent paths of life together. Who would have imagined that a priest berling for organisation and implementation, Daniel Goleman from Syria would spend six weeks in a drug rehabilitation for emotional intelligence competencies, Ken Wilber for analysis centre in Cairo to learn more about the lives of addicts? en to and the experiential learning group exercises specially designed sing songs in the streets of Damascus to reach out to these to address HIV-linked biases and prejudices. vulnerable groups? 26
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Beyond Common Ground to Ground of Being e change of heart among RLs takes place not only through sharing information and the sensitization that occurs when RLs meet face to face with PLWH and hear their stories, but also through learning to co-create a new reality together based on individual commitment and shared goals. Undoubtedly, embarrassment of appearing lenient, morally loose and too liberal played a crucial role in creating exaggerated rigidity and unbalanced viewpoints. But the root of the condemnation that religious leaders exercise towards PLWH and most-at-risk populations lies in their attempt to sustain ‘the principled majority’ and ‘the purity of the moral code.’ Usually when people work with RLs from multiple faith backgrounds, they try to seek the ‘commonalities’ between religions. Instead, we challenged the RLs by asking them evocative questions: What do I stand for? What am I committed to? What is happening today that is not in line with my principles? What is missing? What actions do I need to take in order to change the situation? From the strategy of seeking common ground of most interfaith groups to seeking the ground of being (ie. What do I stand for?), we evoked the love and compassionate courage to act. e RLs independently reached the conclusion that we tapped the true principles called for by every religion. is approach necessitates a gradual uncovering not only through direct encounter with PLWH and most-at-risk populations, but also with a direct encounter with our souls’ highest aspiration as well as facing our fear of death, sexuality and intimacy. A warm but genuine atmosphere is needed to achieve this. A Tunisian Muslim eologian woman, aer participating in our HIV workshops, embarked into a series of publications about Human Rights and gender equality by interpreting holy texts in a new light. An Imam rephrased not only his weekly sermons but also the curriculum he teaches theology students. Both worked far beyond the HIV issues, among many others. ey attributed the shi to their participation in the HIV transformational leadership workshops. Aer engaging in HIV learning in action programmes of Leadership for Results together and visiting PLWH, a Sunni Imam from Syria worked regularly with a Catholic priest on many other developmental challenges. An unforgettable moment for me was when both of them chanted to Mary in the Cathedral of Damascus. It is usual to hear Christian songs there, but the extraordinary thing was that this was followed by beautiful chanting of verses from the Quran.
In answer to a questionnaire we developed in 2006 we found interest among the RLs in engaging in other developmental issues, particularly in education and environment, less in good governance. eir reluctance to get involved in governance may reﬂect the ‘political’ shadows involved in the terminology and the mystiﬁcation around the term in our region. eir keen interest in environment was unexpected and may reﬂect an unnoticed awareness about issues of real but subtle cosmic signiﬁcance. A cultural shi may be well at hand if similar breakthroughs are achieved in these other areas. The United Nations: A Place for Sustainable Change only if we Dare to Challenge its Ways To me, the UN universal core values revolve around Service to All People, not interest groups or governments, businesses, civil society or people with whom we have a special interest or liking. is implies a commitment to serve rather than to achieve ‘a successful career’ or please ‘your superiors.’ We need to provide a space for all to take the lead according to their capacities, to facilitate change and explore unfamiliar areas of concern. To me, the UN is about Respect. Self-respect and respect of others. is includes respecting their cultures, respecting where they are and respecting where they want to go, without compromising Human Rights. But respecting other people’s culture does not mean condoning practices like female genital mutilation or honor killing. On the contrary, it naturally puts a decisive wedge in the vicious circuit of ‘cultural’ violations and allows true access to the common human core, where dignity and equality are not empty words. To me, the UN is about Integrity. is goes beyond accountability as in the ability to match your ﬁnancial accounts with the required rules and regulations. It has to do with serving the people, not exploiting them for gain or just being indiﬀerent to injustice and suﬀering. What the UN system now lacks most is the presence of individuals with integrity and a group milieu that values integrity more than rules and regulations. To navigate the current system, one should have a deep sense of Stewardship. You have to become conscious of the way you deal with funds, time and energy to produce meaningful results. is means being responsible rather than just accountable. e UN does not require programming that listens to and is genuinely Responsive to real people with real needs and real kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
aspirations. It only requires that you conform to ‘guidelines’ centrally set. Many times, these are set through listening to the lobbies of multinationals and corrupted governments, though paying lip service to Human Rights slogans, or listening to international isolationist elites in the West who seldom listen to the people. To navigate the system, you need to carefully discern what you are doing to break through the false layers into core values and be aware of what norms and legal systems you try to shi as you implement your UN system approved plans. Again, the CFS comes in handy here. e UN needs the mechanisms, policies and relationships reﬂective of principled leadership. Guarantees of eﬀectiveness should be based upon an intrinsic sense of stewardship and a work environment that fosters creativity and initiative rather than compliance to rules and regulations. e value of the UN system is that it can be a platform for generative conversations. Development as freedom is the core of what the UN can do and was created to do. Diplomatic work is about ﬁnding a workable compromise between parties, a sort of ‘ﬁnding a middle ground.’ But I like to think that this is not the essence of
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what we do. Rather, we can use the UN to shi the way people, particularly people in leadership, see reality. We can move towards new ground and new worldviews. I like to see what we do as ‘shiing the middle ground.’ Conclusion e impact of Transformational Leadership on my life and work goes far beyond providing approaches, methodologies, tools and skills. It has to do with my own self-awareness and the emergence of group consciousness in contrast to team building. e CFS approach is the epitome of Transformational Leadership. It synthesizes the best tools and puts us face to face with the necessity to access the ground of our being in measureable action and, at the same time, to continually and creatively shi the system. I believe that the minds and hearts of the leaders of the South have the answers and that the South will, with the rest of humanity, go beyond technology transfer towards creating new ways of thinking and action based on innate wisdom. My hope is to create a new reality that will provide a soil where this new reality can take root, grow and bring forth the fruit of peace, justice and prosperity for all.
feature | transformational leadership in business Bridging the Feminine and Masculine in Business: One Woman’s Journey Amber Chand The journey began with a dream. In it I am running away from a burning city, clutching a candle, looking back, wanting to desperately return to what was once familiar, safe and comfortable. But I cannot. As I run, I come to the edge of a cliff. Too terrified to jump, I find myself gently pushed off by an unseen hand, spiraling slowly through the air and—in slow motion— landing on a soft grassy knoll. A voice speaks to me from the depths of my awareness. “Amber, you have arrived in a new kingdom. Here the rules are different. Here we live and breathe from a place of love. The old kingdom you came from burned from fear and greed.” With that dream, I awoke to a new world. Just a few months before, I had experienced the painful collapse of my previous company, a multi-million dollar enterprise that had risen like a meteor in the early 2000s, pioneering a global vision for ecommerce—only to crash and close its doors within 7 years. Left behind in the rubble of devastation was the memory of a once visionary company that had received the accolades of the venture capital community with investments of $40 million dollars in its first year of operation, a company valued at $100 million dollars before it had even made one sale, one celebrated by the media and PR world for its pioneering global work and recognized as an emerging leader in the socially responsible business community. As co-founder and spokesperson, I spiraled down with the company, caught up in the breathless unraveling of this once bold entrepreneurial vision. Within a few months, my co-founder/business partner died of a sudden heart attack. There were many lessons to be learned from the company’s accelerated collapse. Over the next painful months as I searched for answers and reflected on the gnawing question of what had happened, I journeyed into a world that offered sobering insights. In questioning some of the iconic assumptions that supported patriarchal paradigms for business, I understood the inherently unsustainable nature of businesses that were solely motivated by a frenetic testosterone drive and fast-paced trajectories of growth culminating in short-term quarterly performance cycles. These were businesses built upon the shaky foundations of fear and greed that carried a singular appetite for profit at all costs, impatient and aggressive in their drive to succeed; businesses that drew their inspiration from the Darwinian Law of the ‘survival of the fittest’ and succumbed to the seduction of virulent competition and paranoia; businesses for whom the market was regarded as a battleground for conquest and domination. The only other example of unbridled and devouring growth of this kind I could think of was cancer.
In the midst of this exhausting scenario of dysfunction came the whisperings of a gentler but nonetheless powerful vision of a new kind of 21st century business—one that sought a balanced and sober approach to growth, recognized and honored feminine principles as critical to its success, and explicitly invoked Love and Service as the foundation for its mission in the world. This new kind of enterprise is decisive, action-oriented, focused and strategic (masculine), as well as intuitive, empathetic, collaborative and inspirational (feminine). Its success lies in its capacity to create relationships built upon trust and transparency, not suspicion and secrecy. Its actions, infused with respect and goodwill to all its stakeholders—including customers, employees, suppliers, the environment—does not readily dissipate into callous selfcenteredness. Here, the values of connectedness and partnership are upheld as sound guiding principles and celebrated as a strategic path to success. Reverence and humility are its hallmarks. It was the pleas of ‘do not forget us’ from the three indigenous Bolivian women with their bowler hats, who encircled my bed in a ‘waking dream’ one sleepless night months after the company’s collapse that gave me the courage to return to the business world and resurrect the crumbling mission of the old company. Their call was insistent, as if to caution me that the only way back was to follow the interior path of the feminine, to honor her wisdom as she guided my return into the world of commerce. For without her, I would surely be lost, diminished and devoured. I understood that only by bringing all aspects of my being—as a mother, mystic healer, peace builder and global citizen—into the business world would I be able to authentically forge my way, claiming this multi-faceted feminine identity as essential to paving the foundations for the new company. So often, we can hear the word ‘feminine’ and experience it as an antidote to the ‘masculine,’ bound as we are by definitions that are solely based on gender differences. The word becomes a polarizing rather than a unifying force, denying the sense of equilibrium that can only emerge when these two universal forces are held in sacred balance. I have come to discover that it is precisely because the ‘feminine’ has been banished into the shadowy corners of business discourse and dismissed at the corporate table that we need to reclaim her spirit and allow her to emerge as a vital part of any new business paradigm. If we are to respond to the evolutionary drive to create conscious and sustainable enterprises in the 21st century, we must acknowledge and celebrate ‘the feminine’ whilst creating a skillful balance between the receptive feminine and active masculine principles. With this, I believe we can confidently celebrate business as a powerful transformational agent for social change in our world. kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
Nine months after the company’s demise, I launched the Women’s Peace Collection. Armed with fresh insight and lessons learned, I sought to create a social enterprise that would, at its heart, fuse together the pragmatism of business, the stillness of contemplative practice and the inspiration of a bold vision to serve women artisans around the world. As I began this entrepreneurial journey, I remember sitting at my dining table, with laptop and rolodex, a vase of fragrant flowers and a framed photograph of my beloved spiritual teacher before me. Bowing at this altar of enterprise, I knew that the entrepreneurial journey I was about to embark upon would require patience, vigilance and a steady sense of purpose. What would ultimately sustain me would be my ability to embrace the paradoxical worlds of the masculine and feminine as foundational guiding principles for the company.
Collaboration, empathy, nurturance, creativity and connection are intrinsic to the vitality and well-being of the feminine. In her ease of relatedness, she seeks to cross borders and build bridges, to feed her family and create alliances that benefit the common good and nourish the whole, to forge a path that is co-creative, holistic and deeply integrative. In launching the Women’s Peace Collection I recognized that the success of the company would lie in the strength and caliber of its partnerships and that it was within the context of this enlivening collaborative model that each of our partners could achieve their singular goals: to impact the lives of impoverished and resilient women around the world. Rather than competing for scarce resources, we understood that by working together we could make a sustainable difference, one that would serve the well-being of all.
It was the late Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop and one of my inspirational role models, who offered a breeze of insight when she remarked, “I run my company according to feminine principles—of caring, making intuitive decisions, not getting hung up on hierarchy, having a sense of work as being part of my life, not separate from it, putting my labour where my love is, being responsible to the world in how I use my profits, and recognising the bottom line should stay at the bottom.” As a visionary and global entrepreneur, Roddick seemed to have successfully married together feminine values that were holistic, collaborative and intuitive with the more masculine attributes of healthy competition, linear and rational thinking and drive. She had claimed her feminine voice, one that seemed to rise up from the noisy marketplace of patriarchal norms as a clarion call for women to step into the business world with confidence and clarity. To do this, we had to trust our voices, relinquish our deep rooted sense of invisibility and have the courage to be seen and heard, not necessarily “as the towering oak that sees storms come and go” but perhaps “as the fragile blossom that opens in the snow” (Alice MacKenzie Swaim). Acknowledging this sense of fierce fragility and vulnerability as we moved into this world in brave, new ways was to be an essential part of the journey.
Over the years, it has been this breathtaking vision of business as a vehicle for ‘compassionate commerce’ that has guided me in my work with refugees in Darfur, war widows in Afghanistan and Iraq, craftswomen in Palestine and Israel and genocide survivors in Rwanda. In each instance, I have understood the transformative power of business as a catalyst for change whenever it is able to open its doors to a heart-centered vision of what is possible. It is the image of Halima, the middle-aged Sudanese woman who dances in the makeshift refugee camp in Darfur, celebrating the fact that she can feed her family from the income she now receives from the woven baskets marketed in the United States through the Collection. Her spirit soars as she exclaims, “Look at me, I am no longer just a refugee; I am a talented weaver who can feed my children.” Her world is now transformed and dignity restored.
As I began to discover the secrets embodied by the feminine principle, I reveled in her wisdom, power and beauty. I learned to pay attention to the rhythms and cycles of Nature, recognizing that in seeding a vision for my company, I had to allow the seed to be sown, nourished daily, allowed to gestate and then manifest as a clear sense of mission and purpose. This would take time. Too often, it has been a spirit of restless impatience that has informed business decisions, resulting in a myopic focus on performance under the pressure of artificial deadlines. Perhaps what contributed to the demise of the old company was the sobering reality that before it had had the time to root itself in its mission and understand clearly what it stood for, it had multimillion dollars thrown at its feet. Overcapitalized (and overwatered) it struggled to meet the expectations of its investors in its fledgling early years, pressured to exceed its performance when in reality the foundations had as yet not been built or taken root.
This perhaps is the potent message for our time—one that cautions us to pay attention to the power of the feminine as she claims her seat at the table, speaks her truth and restores this delicate balance between heart and mind. Through my work in the business world, I have come to discover a deeper truth: that the disparate worlds of business and spirit, of warrior and healer, of masculine and feminine are not so distant after all—each may dance to a different rhythm but both are essential and ultimately inseparable.
photography | ©Heber Vega
There is an Indian story of a wicked demon king whose reign resulted in a terrible drought for his people. The rivers dried up, there was no food to eat, the people starved. One day, Durgha, the Goddess of Wisdom arrived in the kingdom and saw what had befallen its people. So outraged was she, that she found the King and pierced his heart with a sword. In that moment, flowers began to blossom, rivers to flow and the world was restored to balance.
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kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
photography | ÂŠRobert Sturman
kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
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About Robert Sturman His stunning images of yogis practicing asana have an immediacy, an aliveness to them that summons the potency of the life force, the shimmering field of shakti (energy) animating all things. That he does all his shoots outdoors, usually in gorgeous surroundings, adds to the sense of his art as a dance with shakti. Many of his most striking portraits are shot at the ocean and hint at a majesty that goes beyond the moment. There’s a transcendence, a promise of the infinite. Philosophers and sages throughout the ages have counseled us that beauty and truth lie in what is eternal and that true happiness is to be found in loving that which is permanent and transcends the particular. And it’s this gesture beyond the particular towards that which is timeless that elevates Sturman’s photography to the status of great art. A dedicated yoga practitioner himself, Sturman’s work has increasingly focused on capturing the timeless grace and embodied mindfulness of asana. His portraits... remind us that there is beauty everywhere. In Sturman’s own words “I often think of Rumi: ‘I can’t stop pointing to the beauty.’ That feels right to me.” Intoxicated With Beauty—Portrait of an Artist's Soul, Dearbhla Kelly. www.robertsturmanstudio.com kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
collective presencing series – part one Collective Presencing: A New Human Capacity Ria Baeck and Helen Titchen Beeth This is the first in a series of articles introducing the phenomenon and practice of Collective Presencing, a new capacity evolving in humanity at this time. Great thinkers have foreseen its coming— we recognise it in Aurobindo’s descent of the supramental and Teilhard de Chardin’s noosphere. But what exactly do those terms mean? Where these gifted individuals intuited and envisioned the birth of this new collective capacity at the dawn of the last century, we are now starting to be able to describe it from experience. While many might recognise the phenomenon from transpersonal group work and other such practices, so far as we are aware, this is the first attempt to articulate it as a path and a set of capacities that can be intentionally developed. We live in complexity all the time these days. There are no simple solutions—not even complicated ones. As our life conditions have complexified, so has our capacity to deal with complexity. And yet the globalisation of our species has itself provoked a constellation of systemic threats of such nightmarish proportions that no one seriously imagines that any one mind can navigate a rational path to salvation on behalf of the whole. And yet that is what we keep trying to do, as we wait in vain for the inspirational leader who can extricate us from the mess we’re in, throwing up our hands in disgust at the antics of our politicians, our governments, our industrialists, our economists, our environmentalists, our scientists… all those ‘theys’ who should do something about the state of the world. Deep down, though, we know that when we look to our leaders for solutions, we are looking in the wrong place, in the wrong way. Understanding how the universe evolves can provide some clues—the process of complexification that has been underway since the dawn of cosmogenesis has been accompanied at every step by an interiorisation, which allows the mind of the living universe— and certainly that most complex of beings, man—to interpenetrate ever more deeply with the subtle workings of the Kosmos.
ways in which we are organically part of a larger whole, as we have always been but have forgotten. As we enter this new stage of individual/collective awakening, men and women are being increasingly called to practice the new life-form composed of groups of individuated individuals merging their collective intelligence as the ‘Circle Being.’ These collective entities are not made up of a specific, finite group of individuals who stay together continuously. Their DNA lies in the theme of the inquiry; their metabolism is the individual and collective practices that enable men and women to join the collective inquiry. To join the circle is to offer ourselves up to a larger purpose for the duration of our participation and to allow ourselves to be used by the Mystery—our bodies and minds as sensing organs of the whole, and our lineages, biographies and knowledge as resources, filters and facets of diversity through which the future bubbling up in the middle, called forth by the shared focus and consciously-held intent, can find unique expression. What if creating these collective beings is simply the next step of human evolution, an expression of our next level of complexity as a species, and the next step towards the ever-deeper integration of complex consciousness into the fabric of the Kosmos? One such collective inquiry, unfolding over the past 5 years, has been held by a core group and a loose network of women, mostly based in Western Europe and the US, engaged in a practice we call ‘Women Moving the Edge.’ From the outset, the focus of inquiry has been on moving the edge of collective intelligence, which has become an embodied exploration of the feminine principle as it is manifesting in the Kosmos at this time. Through periodic gatherings of between 5 and 18 women and regular conference calls with a small core group, we have danced, sung, sat, spoken, painted, wept, laughed, eaten, contemplated and constellated ourselves into an ever deeper experience of individual and collective connection to Source.
There is overwhelming evidence that human consciousness is evolving, moving from collective tribal living, where the individual was totally embedded in the life patterns of the collective; through a gradual, often painful, process of individuation, with the emphasis on the will and sovereignty of the individual; to what is emerging in our time: a conscious return to collectivism where individuated, or self-actualised, individuals voluntarily— sometimes temporarily—pool their consciousness in a search for the elusive collective intelligence that can help us to overcome the stupendous challenges now facing us as a species as a consequence of how our developmental trajectory has manifested on the physical plane thus far.
The findings of this ongoing collective inquiry are now coalescing into an articulation of this new human capacity, which we are calling Collective Presencing. Not only are we now able to recognise some of the components of this capacity and identify practices that can help us to develop it, one of its essential aspects is that these practices can connect us not only with the natural realm of our living planetary home, but also with the field of unmanifest potential that lies waiting in the subtle dimensions.
So human evolution has something to do with human consciousness awakening first to itself, then to its own evolution and then to a recognition of and, finally, an embodied experience of the
Foundational Practice: The Circle The circle is the mother of all organisational forms, and the foundation of the earliest human cultures—those with the deepest
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The purpose of this article, and others to follow, is to begin to unpack some of these practices and to share our intuitions about what they make possible.
connection to the living world in which they were embedded. Simply using the Circle Practice,1 with the intention of focusing together on whatever question is in the middle, can shift a group from opinionated discussion to reflective shared inquiry. As the circle continues to sit, over time, with an intention of developing its capacity for collective discernment and wisdom, seemingly extraordinary things become possible. We see two distinct phases in the development from a circle of individuals gathering around a theme of inquiry into a genuinely collective presence able to engage in generative collective action in service of life and evolution not in the Kosmos but as the Kosmos. Phase One: The Circle of Presence The first phase is a process of deepening and widening alignment that brings the individual members of the circle into an embodiment of their own authentic selves (deepening), on the one hand, and into a growing awareness of complexity and interrelatedness (widening), on the other. Both dimensions of the process take place simultaneously, but here we unpack the two separately to show what is going on. Although the learning during this first phase unfolds in the individuals around the rim of the circle, the collective context is crucial as the circle reflects back and affirms the individual as she learns to trust her inner and subtle sensing and to feed it back into the centre whenever appropriate. Each step of the way, the practice involves a paradoxical movement and attention. On the one hand, the feminine opening up to experience, on the other hand, the masculine focusing on a specific aspect of experience. photography | Helen Titchen Beeth
The deepening movement calls the individual’s focus ever inwards, starting by observing what is, with a focus on my full experience (physical, emotional and subtle) in the here and now, of whatever is arising. This practice builds the capacity to open the mind. As this experience stabilises, the practice shifts to accepting what is, and from there, to honouring what is. Here the focus is on widening and deepening my experience, trusting the subtle sensations as they arise in me, and moving beyond. These practices build the capacity to open the heart. Finally, the practice opens out into living what is, with the focus on sharing and expressing my full experience, including the inner and subtle aspects, rewarded by a growing ability to live authentically. This practice builds the capacity to open the will.2 The widening movement expands the individual’s embrace, going through the deepening practices of observing, honouring and living what is, described above, starting with my relationship to myself, and panning out to include my relationship with others, with the group, and with future potential. The fruits of walking this path include a fuller experience of one’s own inner being, a more expansive sense of self and a connection with one’s inner gifts. I gain the capacity to connect in a truly authentic way that allows me to witness the authentic self of another, to heartfully experience our common humanity and to appreciate and invite diversity in any relationship. A corollary of this is the ability to recognise and integrate my own shadow and stop projecting it out on others. I learn how to hold a collective field, enabling me to participate more fully, become aware of shared assumptions and have a deeper appreciation of others’ full potential. Lastly, I learn how to surrender to the future potential, and this enables me to start to kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
perceive the phenomena present in the subtle future field, to source and share from that field, to see new patterns and meaning and act on them. When enough members of the circle are able to be present on all these levels, they are able to reach authentic collective wisdom. But more is possible and the circle can move into a next phase. Phase Two: The Circle of Creation The capacity to be present on all these levels is now woven together in a shared field of attention where the collective can become an entity in itself. All participants in the group now speak and act in coherence with that entity, still related with the inquiry in the centre. The deepening and transformation of the individuals around the rim continues apace, but the essence of this practice remains collective, and the Circle Practice deepens in certain aspects. It brings us to a place where we can weave human consciousness and intention into the generative processes of life itself. It is a movement towards ever-widening harmony and coherence that echoes through ever subtler realms of existence and can have—we believe—a most astounding impact on the manifest dimension in which we all play out our lives. This second phase continues the process of deepening and widening alignment, taking it to a place that most of us are unfamiliar with: an experience of the subtle dimensions that our physical senses cannot apprehend, for which we must use subtle senses that we have un-learned to trust. Attempts to speak and articulate in and from these experiences become much more challenging. Our Western language has a build-in fragmentation, which clearly demarcates object and subject as separate entities. How, then, to speak from experiences of wholeness, of interweaving and interpenetration? In essence, here, we are moving from a basis of acquired authenticity towards what is possible when we live from an authentic and generative space: the true creation that we were born into the Kosmos to manifest. As in the first phase, the deepening movement continues to focus on the practices that open the mind, the heart and, especially, the will. The widening movement gradually interweaves the individual soul into the many dimensions of existence—space, time and future potential—through an ever richer relationship with the immanent soul in all of creation. What this might mean for the lived experience of daily life is something we are slowly but surely mapping out as our own personal and collective journeys unfold. From the perspective of the individual, at the outset of this phase I start to focus on my soul’s calling, and to interweave the different levels and dimensions of my self. This process is not straightforward and has its own hurdles: Who am I to have a Soul’s Calling? Shouldn’t I just roll over and go back to sleep? And yet, this stirring calls me to participate, moment by moment, more deeply in life itself. The fact that I am anchored in a collective practice with others in the same inquiry supports me to take one courageous step after another, aligned with life itself. Our personal stories become raw materials into the collective process; we see common themes recurring and archetypes start to emerge. Together, we begin to acknowledge ourselves as subtle, collective and cosmic beings. As 40
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time passes, I find myself expressing more of my Soul’s Calling through interweaving my life, my work and my passion; I start to enjoy an Emergent, Authentic Life. This is not something I have sat down and designed. It is something that seems to happen of its own accord when we are open to ever subtler layers in ourselves and in the environment. The widening process now moves beyond the sphere of the individual and into the sphere of the collective. It is important at this point in the story to remember that the living heart of a collective entity is a field of shared inquiry held in an open container where the potential can manifest. Every meeting of the circle takes place as a continual dance of alignment of unique individual perspectives into a collective intention that can deepen and broaden the coherence of the field of inquiry, enabling coherent and generative manifestation in the world, for the good of the greater whole. Moving into the collective sphere, then, our undivided focus is now centred on the collective calling. As we interweave the diversity in the group, we lean in to inquire what it is that the collective soul is calling us to do. We learn to hold the intensity, the disturbance, the not-knowing that are invoked by this seemingly impossible question… and to wait. When clarity arises, it comes not out of the minds around the edge, but out of the centre. This is no longer a circle of human personalities, it is a bubble of cosmic consciousness that has seeped through from the invisible realms into the container we have lovingly formed and held, focused not on each other but, as one, on the mystery in the middle. This is the space of collective sourcing. This is what it means to live the authentic collective—the Circle Being. With the Circle Being now stable, the going becomes almost effortless. Our shared attention is riveted on the field of subtle place and time pulsing just out of range of our habituated physical senses, behind the veil that separates the realm of future potential from the manifest domain. Our subtle senses attuned, questing, to the subtle context of our shared inquiry, we are content to sit, with our physical eyes and ears ‘on hold’ until revelation dawns from the rich field of the invisible and unmanifest. We observe the synchronicities that speak to us of the interweaving of all life, we begin to dare to drop our agendas for Making Things Happen and lean in to a radical acceptance of cosmic timing and place. We begin to notice that the information we seek is coming to us from nature, from the arts, from the archetypal and mythological dimensions, and so we open up to the abundant and profligate Mystery. Knowing doesn’t come in bits and pieces now, it comes Whole—body, mind, spirit—gross, subtle, causal. Words can portray only the tip of the iceberg. We are invited to colours, lines, textures, shapes, sound and melody, touch, movement, embrace, laughter, tears and an ineffable inner knowing that is hard to express. We release into wonder, surrender into existential trust in the rhythms of nature, the powers of place, and begin to repeat the mantra, smiling: What if it’s easy? From the embrace of this strong, subtle container, we can begin to give language and form to our subtle knowing about whatever project is at the centre of our inquiry. From this place we can see and birth the next, minimal, elegant step out into the field of action—one at a time— trusting that it will be wise, that it will serve the whole.
Now at the culmination of the journey—or as far as we have yet been able to perceive—we know we are not alone in the Kosmos. We can focus on playing our full part in the generative processes of life, bringing our collectively aligned intention to play in a full interpenetration with further dimensions of creation, both ‘known’ and unsuspected. We notice the feedback from life itself and respond accordingly, opening our minds, bodies and heart for cocreation with the subtle. We understand that human free will and focused intention are our species’ unique and needed contribution to the Kosmos—a gift from evolution itself, a gift of consciousness to itself. Understanding also that we are not alone in being conscious, we use this gift to invoke the other dimensions into consenting co-creation for the good of the whole. We are in love with the Future, continuously sensing into its unmanifest potential, and we joyfully embark on a continuous collective action research project, funded by the Kosmos. At the time of writing, we are teetering on the edge of a dawning intuition that the full flowering of this collective human capacity we are seeking to develop is a collective lovemaking with future’s potential: a full-body/mind/spirit, no-holds-barred consummation of evolutionary potential with no ‘little death’ at the moment of orgasm. It’s time to enjoy the Collective, Creative and Generative Life that has always been our birthright. Conclusion We cannot emphasise strongly enough the benefits of these practices. The benefit to individuals who participate regularly in one or more such collective inquiries is a quickening and deepening of the maturation process, which culminates in the rich rewards of the Authentic Life. For the collective and the inquiries at hand, the practice brings the benefit of generating wise action on behalf of the whole, as well as a deep, ongoing engagement with the social and natural field—the level from which generative social transformation of the kind we so badly need can spring.
photography | Helen Titchen Beeth
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feature | horizontal leadership Occupy the US: Musings on Horizontal Decision-Making and Bureaucracy Marianne Maeckelbergh The year 2011 has breathed new life into horizontal models of democratic decision-making. With the rise of the 15 May movement and the Occupy movement horizontal decision-making became one of the key political structures for organising responses to the current global economic crisis. While this decision-making process has arguably never been as widely practiced as it is today, it has also never seemed as difficult and complicated as it does today. At its height there were 5,000 people at the general assemblies in Placa Catalunya in Barcelona and even more in Madrid. It is no longer just activists trying to use and teach each other these decision-making processes but it is hundreds of thousands of people who have a far greater disparity in terms of backgrounds, starting assumptions, aims and discursive styles. This is incredibly good news, but it is not easy. The current historical juncture requires reflection on these decision-making methods and here I explore a few of the important lessons that seem to stand out after participating in these processes in Barcelona, New York and Oakland. First, more awareness of the political values that underlie these seemingly practical meeting procedures referred to as ‘process’ would be helpful. Second, the link between these political values and the social relations of economics could use some analysis: in order to create new political structures we actually have to let go of certain economic relations which we take as given. For example, horizontal decision-making does not work when we assume a) that resources are scarce, b) that we therefore need to compete with each other and c) ownership is an exclusionary relation—a proprietary relation. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the more we try to set the rules in stone, to find the ‘golden key’, the ideal set of procedures, the more we disengage from the central political questions of how we decide—a terrain of politics that has to remain open if it is to remain horizontal. In order for a ‘general assembly’ to be productive, effective and empowering to participants, the procedures have to maintain a certain degree of flexibility as the circumstances in which we find ourselves shift. Let me explain what I mean… Whirlwind History Horizontal decision-making was, of course, never invented as such. People making decisions together without any structured hierarchy has always existed. The particular form that horizontal decision-making is taking today in the Occupy movement in the US, for example, has a history that can be traced back at least into the 1960s. During the 1960s, the New Left broke off from the traditional political party structures and began (inspired of course by those who came before) a long journey on the path towards participatory democracy, inclusion, equal say of participants and less programmatic approaches to social change. Communism as the main ideology of the Left came into discredit with the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 and then Czechoslovakia in 42
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1968. In the lacuna created by the decline of Communism as a real alternative to capitalism grew a search for a less ideological, less programmatic approach to social change. Notions of participatory democracy started to merge with practices of consensus, especially in the US, and grew over time into a key aspect of movement culture, in no small part due to the women’s/feminist movements, anti-nuclear and peace movements of the 1970s. Through the 1980s and 1990s, Do-it-Yourself culture and environmental movements kept these decision-making practices alive to be reinvented as ‘horizontal’ decision-making in the 2000s, post-Seattle, post-Zapatista uprising, post-2001 Argentinian economic collapse, etc. For ten years horizontal decision-making was practiced on a relatively large scale, with varying degrees of success, within the global networks of the alterglobalization movement during the preparations for the anti-summit protests (anti-WTO, IMF/WB, G8) and for the world, regional and local Social Forums. Importantly, these decision-making methods were not just practiced as procedures, but as the building blocks for the alternative models of social and political organization being proposed by these movements. These same procedures of horizontal decisionmaking re-emerge in the Occupy movement, or very similar ones, as well as the idea that decision-making procedures are not only practical, but also the basis for political alternatives to the current economic paradigm of governance. The Political Values Underlying Horizontal Decision-Making Perhaps some reflections on the political values that have accompanied horizontal decision-making in the past would therefore be useful. Here I draw on ten years of experience with horizontal decision-making in the context on anti-summit mobilizations and social forums to raise some food for thought. (For a much more detailed and complicated analysis of these values see the book: The Will of the Many: How the Alterglobalisation Movement is Changing the Face of Democracy.) 1. Horizontal decision-making practices are not just procedures, but they are the building blocks of an alternative form of governance in the making. It is therefore very important that the meetings are as inclusive as possible, as functional as possible and, perhaps most importantly, as empowering as possible. 2. Horizontal decision-making rests on a transformation in the way we think about ‘equality’ and how it is created. The starting assumption is that full equality between all participants cannot exist naturally, and therefore structures and procedures are needed in order to continuously challenge hierarchies as they arise—whether they be based on gender, sex, race, class, education, skill, job, ability to express oneself, or inter-personal power dynamics based on past interactions. In this model of thinking, equality is not something that can be declared and then forgotten
about as in: ‘all men are created equal,’ but is something that has to be continuously created and worked on. 3. In order to ensure that equality can be increased between people from different backgrounds, the differences between people need to have room for expression. The aim of decisionmaking cannot be to create the one best solution that is enforced on everyone. Unity of thought, of action, of identity makes this type of equality impossible. This is why one of the key values underlying decision-making in the alterglobalization movement is ‘diversity.’ Diversity is a rejection of unity as the guiding principle of cooperation. What diversity means in this case is not that everyone is different, but that these differences are taken seriously and translated into the outcomes of the decision-making process. There is very little political power in giving each person equal input into a decision if the outcome of the decision only represents the concerns of one group of people (as in a winner-takes-all voting system). This multiple outcomes approach, however, requires that people realise that they have the option to act autonomously. This means that if they don’t agree with a decision taken, they don’t have to implement it and they can do something else. 4. Autonomy between participants is essential to keep the ‘general assembly’ from becoming a source of centralized and hierarchical power. If equal outcomes are multiple outcomes then the best suited political structure for horizontality is a structure that allows for multiple, separate groups of people to coordinate with only limited unity of purpose. Decentralized network structures are ideal for this. People align themselves based on any number of different interests or activities and only come together with people who share different interests or activities in order to a) communicate about what they are doing and to hear about what others are doing, b) to coordinate their activities when necessary, and c) for decisions that will affect everyone. Autonomy/decentralization is necessary to embrace diversity and diversity is necessary for equality. From Political Values to Economic Relations The task facing meeting ‘facilitators’ today is considerably harder than the task facing facilitators in the alterglobalization movement. Even before I arrived in the US, I was struck by how often I heard via email, phone, Facebook, and via.com complaints about how ‘bureaucratic’ the process of decision-making had become in the Occupy Wall Street movement. But it was not until I attended my first general assembly in Zuccotti Park and not until I spent hours having discussion after discussion about the problems with ‘process’ in New York (with people from the different working groups inside Occupy Wall Street, loosely affiliated activists and people who intentionally reject the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ label) that I began to understand what was meant by ‘bureaucracy’ and why it was perceived as such a danger to the movement. Although people themselves were still searching for what they specifically meant by ‘bureaucracy’ and why it was such a big problem, several factors were immediately apparent. Those photography | ©Caroline Schiff
participating in the general assembly were applying what I would consider a ‘capitalist’ logic to horizontal decision-making. Specifically, the three related assumptions that I saw appear, which I classify here as ‘capitalist’, were 1) that resources are scarce, 2) that we need to compete with each other to be heard or to get what we want and 3) what I would call a ‘proprietary’ attitude between participants: people were claiming domains of activity or knowledge as theirs, as something they were in a privileged position to know or act upon (everything from the kitchen to the figures of the ‘artist’ or the ‘academic’ were mentioned in discussions as groups of people who set themselves apart, claimed certain privilege based on knowledge, skill or work hours, and used this claim to knowledge to exclude others). As a result there was a perception that people were placing themselves in a position of control or superior knowledge and were resistant (for what I imagine are a very complex set of reasons) to sharing these tasks, skills or knowledge by creating the forms of constructive communication that are essential to the functioning of horizontal decision-making. Part of the appeal of horizontal decision-making is that it rests on a different set of values than those of the current profit-driven society. This is also the source of its potential as an alternative to the current economic paradigm of democracy. So it is no small matter when the ‘process’ isn’t working well for so many people. As the weeks carried on, I began to see how interconnected all of these assumptions were. These complaints when taken together indicate that far from using the term ‘bureaucracy’ informally to refer to ‘red tape,’ those complaining about bureaucracy were expressing an implicit understanding of the relationship between bureaucracy and capitalism. This insight, which is being both intentionally and unintentionally developed in New York, is crucial to understanding how horizontal decision-making works and when it does not work as a political structure. First, the idea that resources are limited. The introduction of so much money into the Occupy Wall Street movement seems to be at the centre of this problem, but it is not only money. Fame too is a big one. So many people want to be in the spotlight and the spotlight is limited and fleeting. But Occupy is not the first movement to have money or to need money. Though the precedents in terms of money’s influence on horizontal movement building are not great. One of the reasons that anti-summit mobilizations kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
worked more horizontally than Social Forum mobilizations was in part due to the different attitudes to money. In the anti-summit mobilizations money was often treated as secondary—first you decide what you want to achieve politically, and then you see how much money you need and where to get it from. In this way political discussions were separated from financial ones. In strong contrast to this, the General Assemblies I attended in NY were equating political points and financial ones and as a result the discussion was confused. Someone would make a political point in support of a particular course of action and the ‘concern’ raised or the block made would be based on there being a lack of money—or the ‘need for receipts’—which cannot always be produced. People did not seem to recognize it as such, but this is a capitalist logic. The idea that you can only act when you have money is based on thinking of money as power and as a restrictive form of power. Sure, if there is no money, you have a practical problem, but it is one that is rather easily solved and one that has rarely impeded people from taking action in the past. (If and when the movement needs more money, an appeal can be sent out and people will donate more, or the movement will find ways to carry out activities without money, as they did at the start and as others continue to do all over the world.) In Oakland on the other hand, the political discussions were separated from financial ones. First a discussion complete with pros and cons would be had about whether or not to take a certain course of action, or how to take it, and then at separate meetings a proposal would be submitted for funds for this action. In the case of finance proposals, there were only clarifying questions and then a vote, no pro/con discussions. This structure seemed to work much better than discussing the pros/cons of an action at the same time as the cost of an action. This had the added bonus of making the meetings far more empowering because every meeting was not about finance (which is framed as a limit to action), but many were about potential for action and created a collective pro-active spirit. The second damaging aspect of treating resources as limited (when in fact there is no real reason to) is that it leads to competition between actors. If the resources, whether it be money, fame, political options, or decision-outcomes are considered to be limited, then large-scale horizontal decision-making cannot work. This is due to the central importance of diversity to the functioning of horizontality. If those participating in the horizontal process perceive their ability to get funds for their activities to be threatened by your request for funds (because it diminishes these scarce resources) then they will of course vote against it, rather than think about the value of an activity itself. The aim of horizontal decision-making should be to look for ways to make all activities possible, if need be without money, so that this attitude of competition does not arise. The reason why network democracy is more inclusive than nationstate-based democracy is largely due to the lack of forced centralized unity. A nation-state is a political structure based on the delineation of a geographical area within which everyone must share some aspects of national identity and within which everyone is subject to the same legal rights and responsibilities. This may seem inevitable within a polity, but within a network, there is no 44
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clear beginning or end and as a result also no clearly delineated group of people who are subject to the remit of decisions taken—even by the general assembly. Although this can seem ‘out-of-control’ sometimes, this is actually the strength of horizontal decision-making. Networks can multiply and split without creating divisions. Flexibility not Bureaucracy In order for the general assembly to avoid becoming a centralized form of authority that attempts to ‘control’ the behaviour of others (and hence reintroduce hierarchy), there has to be an understanding that when someone or a group of people disagree with a decision, they can do their own thing, they can create a new subgroup, a new node of the network within the existing structures. In order for most people, especially those of us who are used to the nation-state system of democracy, to feel comfortable relinquishing control like this it requires us to think through a few questions, for example: why do we want to control other people’s actions? Do we see their actions as reflecting on ourself in some way? Finally, an important question is, where does this desire to control other’s actions end? Will we try to control everyone’s actions? If so, the task is hopeless anyway. If not, then you need criteria to distinguish between those that need to be controlled and those that do not as well as a way to enforce this arbitrary boundary of inclusion/exclusion. The point being, in order to use horizontal decision-making, participants have to be willing to relinquish their desire to control others. This means that the general assembly would not be a space to control, monitor, or approve of the actions of participants, but it would be a place to discuss, cooperate and create these actions— it would be a space for coordination and communication to improve the actions taken. The procedures and structures in place through which to coordinate and communicate work better when they retain a degree of fluidity. Once there is a ‘decision’ about how the meetings are going to run, and that decision is taken to be binding for all meetings, all decisions, all circumstances, all groups, all topics, a great deal of flexibility is lost. This makes the process seem rigid and often undermines its effectiveness for dealing with a diversity of people and for adjusting to changing circumstances. And since social movements are usually trying to bring about changes in circumstances, this is a considerable drawback. More importantly than the practical drawbacks to having procedures set in stone are the political ones. The key lesson from the decade or more of anti-summit mobilizations and social forums, was that meaningful political participation must involve an ability to influence not only which decisions are made and what is decided, but crucially, how the decisions are made. It is in the procedures for how that the lines of inclusion and exclusion are drawn and so continued attention to matters of how and a certain degree of flexibility in how decisions are made is essential to ensure that large-scale horizontal decision-making is empowering to the participants. Note. This article was originally published in STIR. www.stirtoaction.com
feature | the commons and occupy Commoning Our Way to the Great Transition: Notes on the Being and Becoming of the Occupy Movement George Pór Are We Really Ready for a New World? This is a time of sudden acceleration of history, when what has been impossible becomes possible and the systems and institutions that keep the human heart enslaved are losing legitimacy. Their reign keeps us from realizing our true potential—who we really are as authentic individuals, communities, organizations and the one humanity in the one Life. Of course, evolution with its intricacies, tensions and contradictions will not cease to exist after liberation. However, withdrawing legitimacy from and massively abandoning all institutions that don’t serve the well-being of humanity will remove the bulk of the barriers to discovering what innovations freedom and social creativity can realize when unfettered by the dominance of State and Market. It might be difficult to imagine, in humankind’s current predicament, yet more and more of us think that a world is possible where the wellbeing and development of each part is the aim of the whole (and vice versa). The ripples of Occupy that keep reaching wider circles, despite the evictions from major city centers, provide ground for that hope. “Occupy Wall Street has been criticized for its lack of clear demands, but how do we issue demands, when what we really want is nothing less than the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible?” (Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein) It is when images of a beautiful and possible future appear simultaneously in the imagination of a growing number of people and when those images become part of the emergent culture that they become a material force.
The transition to a democratic society cannot be complete and irreversible without a massive development of these collective human capacities. The learning-by-doing that takes place in the daily practice of the Assemblies and Working Groups of the Occupy and other horizontalist movements addresses the shortage of these capacities. The more people those movements can reach, the more the citizens will grow the skill and desire necessary to meaningfully participate in decisionmaking that affects their lives. In that sense, Occupy is both a movement and a training ground for participatory democracy. That training is indispensable because as Thomas Jefferson explains, “The qualifications for self-government in society are not innate. They are the result of habit and long training.” Our task involves more than liberation from the yoke of unequal power relations. We will need to develop the competencies and capacities for creating the collaborative arrangements necessary to further develop and protect the new modes of organizing production and governance at all scales. ‘Free-from’ must be coupled with ‘free-to’ in order to close the gap between our present human condition and our fuller potential, to become capable of rapid and accurate collective sensing, meaning-making and wise decisionmaking. Only then will we be able to pass the evolutionary test of replacing capitalism—a stage in humankind’s journey that has outlived its evolutionary usefulness—with the emerging new world of solidarity and commoning.
In my mind’s eye, I see a moment, when the evolving Assemblies and Working Groups of Occupy are generalized and start complementing, then replacing most of the dysfunctional structures of coordination and governance by our (un)representative democracy. May the growing popularity of social movements practicing participatory democracy mark the beginning of the great transition to a ‘more beautiful world?’ We will know that have we reached that new beginning when we also begin to roll back the enclosures on what belongs to all of us— the commons.
I see many Occupy supporters who are actively involved with the movement growing rapidly in their capacity to host horizontal events, face complex challenges and engage in commoning—the practice of shifting from ‘me’ to ‘we’ in thinking and action.
Will that be enough to make the transition irreversible?
That gives rise to some new questions, such as those that Occupy Wall Street campaigner Vicente Rubio asks: “What kind of organizational forms, actions, structures, etc. can help us to build the commons in political work and action? What would, or do they look like? What would a movement of the commons look like?”
“That might be sufficient, perhaps, if we were to believe that the formation of the multitude was already achieved, that we were all already somehow not only purified of the hierarchies and corruptions of contemporary society but also capable of managing the multiplicity of the common and cooperating with one another freely and equally— in short, that democratic society was already complete.” (Common Wealth, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri)
Through participating in the General Assemblies, Working Groups, or any of the zillion other initiatives of the movement, we become better equipped as individuals to bring direct democracy to every area of our social and economic life.
Horizontality, Collaborative Sensing and Collective Thinking
The term ‘horizontality’ gained political meaning as ‘horizontalidad’ when the autonomous social movements introduced it in kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
Argentina in the first years of the 21st century. Since then, it has become the credo of a growing number of movements around the world, including Occupy. “Horizontality is an attempt to decentralize power by allowing everyone to become active and direct participants in the decisions and actions that affect the individual most. This is accomplished without top-down directives or obligations to the individual. Autonomy is constructed through mutual agreements and voluntary commitments that respect the diversity of individual capabilities and personal desires.” (Wikipedia) When the interdependence of autonomy and community is understood and honored, we make choices from the stance: I am because you are. The ‘you’ in the Occupy context can be a fellow occupier or the community gathering in its General Assemblies and Working Groups or even humanity as whole, depending on the breadth of one’s worldview. Neka, a participant in the unemployed workers movement of Solano, outside Buenos Aires, defined the strength of that interdependence when talking about how shared inquiry and horizontality increase collective self-awareness and open new horizons. “First we began learning something together. It was a sort of waking up to a knowledge that was collective and this has to do with collective self-awareness of what was taking place within all of us. First we began by asking questions of one another and ourselves, and from there we began to resolve things together. Each day we continue discovering and constructing while walking... . It is the walk, the process of questioning as we walk, that enriched our growth, and helped us discover that strength is different when we are side by side, when there is no one to tell you what you have to do, but rather when we decide who we are… My personal perspective has to do with the idea of freedom, this idea of discovering that we have collective knowledge that brings 46
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us together, that give us strength, that brings us to processes of discovery. This is beyond revolutionary theories, theories that we all know and have heard so often, theories that are often converted into tools of oppression and submission. The practice of horizontalidad can give the possibility of breaking with this and creating something that gives us the security that we can self-organize, and do it well, and do so far away from those that try and tell us politics must be done in a particular way. Constructing freedom is a learning process that can only happen in practice. For me, horizontalidad, autonomy, freedom, creativity and happiness are all concepts that go together and are all things that both have to be practiced and learned in the practice." (Horizontalism, Marina Sitrin) Neka’s account of collaborative sensing and meaning-making in a horizontal movement is a story essential to understanding how the practice of horizontality is inseparable from making sense and meaning of both our inner and outer worlds. Sense-making is a social act; we evolve our identities and narratives in conversation with each other. Only when those narratives come into resonance does a group have a chance to develop shared meaning and purpose. Horizontal group practices provide equal access to discover and validate the patterns of what does and does not work well in the community and help its self-awareness to emerge. Just as the movement learns to transcend and include the protest focus in its next transformative incarnation, it also needs to continuously improve the collective sensing and meaning-making organs that it needs for developing its collective consciousness and intelligence. This process is not without challenges. Which internal and external challenges will let us learn what we need, in order to succeed not only with liberation from, but also with liberation to? Internal challenges include the recognition of our conditioned thinking and behavior. It calls for a re-programming of our attitudes, habits and thought patterns that no longer serve us. External challenges include the lack of adequate tools and working methods for photography | ©John David Price
absorbing complexity faster without creating a new class of experts. It calls for boosting the power of our collective thinking, sensing and self-reflection. These qualities of the collective mind have been present from day one in the movements of Indignados and Occupiers. The Commission for Group Dynamics in Assemblies of the Puerta del Sol Protest Camp (Madrid) defined collective thinking as follows: “Collective Thinking is an essential part of our movement. To our understanding, Collective Thinking is diametrically opposed to the kind of thinking propounded by the present system. This makes it difficult to assimilate and apply. Time is needed, as it involves a long process. When faced with a decision, the normal response of two people with differing opinions tends to be confrontational. They each defend their opinions with the aim of convincing their opponent, until their opinion has won or, at most, a compromise has been reached. The aim of Collective Thinking, on the other hand, is to construct. That is to say, two people with differing ideas work together to build something new. The onus is therefore not on my idea or yours; rather it is the notion that two ideas together will produce something new, something that neither of us had envisaged beforehand. This focus requires of us that we actively listen, rather than merely be preoccupied with preparing our response.”1 "We are on the threshold of a time when no one can find their reality on their own. And no outer force or external teaching will affect human progress as much as our common interest in learning from one another. When we discover what leads us to feeling more alive [and then connecting with those that share that feeling,] we will have found the key to bringing the commons to life." (Artful Leadership: Awakening the Commons of the Imagination, Michael Jones). As Occupy London organizer Tina Bakolitsa put it, “The value of the commons hardly requires explanation to people whose war cry has been ‘Whose streets? Our streets!’ Just as in the Arab Spring, Occupy may not have leaders but it has a leading force: the radicalized youth taking wings.” “What kind of organizational forms, actions, structures, etc. can help us to build the commons in political work and action?” In my opinion, the most fertile process favorable to building commons are not outside, in the world of organizational actions and structures, but inside, in the world of our individual and collective values, beliefs, opinions. Collective Presencing is “a process of deepening and widening alignment that brings the individual members of the circle into an embodiment of their own authentic selves (deepening), on the one hand, and into a growing awareness of complexity and interrelatedness (widening), on the other.”2
them. The widening that Baeck and Titchen Beeth write about includes transcending the illusion of separate self and expanding our sense of identity so that it embraces, ultimately, all of life and the Kosmos. It may sound like a tall task but the good news is that when that internal alignment of deepening and widening starts happening, it becomes unstoppable. Commons Design Principles for Behavioral, Organizational and Political Forms The behavioral, organizational and political forms that help grow the movement as an ecosystem of political commons are based on the principles of horizontality enhanced by the application of some of the commons design principles discovered by Nobel Prize Winner, Elinor Ostrom.3 For example: • Define clear group boundaries. • Match rules governing use of common goods to local needs and conditions. • Ensure that those affected by the rules can participate in modifying the rules. • Make sure the rulemaking rights of community members are respected by outside authorities. • Build responsibility for governing the common resource in nested tiers from the lowest level up to the entire interconnected system. Those of us who are committed to seeing the Big Shift within our lifetime can do one thing to bring that future closer—turn commoning into the organizing principle for how we live at every scale from household to neighborhood, to city, country and across the globe. In so doing, we retrain our perception. We learn to see through the thick fog of the hegemonic discourse and start to discover commons everywhere that need to be reclaimed. The most important commons that the Occupy movement has started to reclaim is the political commons, our collective capacity to take back decision-making that affects our lives. Freeing ourselves from the repressive division of labor that has classified us for millennia into leaders and followers, thinkers and doers, is a transformative process that may take decades to complete. By participating in this movement we discover the inherent unity of all life and become midwives to the birth of the new humanity. Let’s connect and learn together so that we become experts at it.
That authentic self is the part of us that wants to learn, evolve, realize our highest potential. The one that wants to take stock of the insights we gained from reading this article and to act on kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
feature | occupy: nonviolence as a way of life If You Want To Be a Rebel, Be Kind Nipun Mehta The police had declared Monday, November 14th of 2011 as the day of the raid on the Occupy Oakland encampment. It was the first Occupy site to call for a general strike that shut down the fifth largest port in the country; it was also the first Occupy gathering to report a shooting and a murder, as police violence also reached new heights. With tensions mounting amidst political chaos, police escalated their violent crackdowns and the narrative of fear. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent in preparation for the raid, police from around the state were called in, and uncertainty filled the air. The night before, Pancho Ramos Stierle heard about growing tensions in the community and thought, "If police are stepping up their violence, we need to go and step up our nonviolence." So on that Monday morning at 3:30 a.m., Pancho and his housemate Adelaja went to the site of the Occupy Oakland raid. With an upright back and half-lotus posture, they started meditating. Many factions of protesters were around but the presence of strong meditators changed the vibe entirely. Around 6:30 a.m. the police showed up in full force. Full-out riot gear, pepper spray, rubber bullets, tear gas. All media was present, expecting a headline story around this incredibly tense scene. Instead, they found 32 people, all peaceful, with Pancho and Adeleja meditating with their eyes closed in the middle of the Plaza. As the police followed their orders of arresting them, people took photos—particularly of two smiling meditators surrounded by police looking like they're ready to go to war. Within a day, that photo would spread to millions around the world, as the Occupy Oakland raid ended without any reported violence. One such experience can be enough for a lifetime. For Pancho, though, this is just run of the mill. In small ways and big, he is always looking to step up his compassion in the most unexpected places. Raised in Mexico, Pancho was fascinated by the stars, planets and galaxies. He would always look up into outer space and admire the border-less cosmos that we inhabit; and he'd imagine looking down at Planet Earth from outer space—and not seeing any lines across countries. He envisioned a world of oneness and unity, and when he got a full scholarship to study the cosmos at University of California at Berkeley, his vision got a huge boost. He moved to Berkeley to pursue his PhD in Astrophysics. On campus one day, he serendipitously engages in a profound hallway conversation with a janitor. It opens his eyes to the janitor's incredibly difficult life. Something awakens in him, as he actively starts looking for solutions. "I saw that instead of PhDs, what the world needs more are PhDos," Pancho recalls. As time went on, Pancho realizes that his research supports an institution that actively proliferates nuclear weapons. That tips him over the edge. Not only does he stop cooperating with the university system, he starts raising a dissenting voice. 48
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When his complaints fall on deaf ears, he partakes in a nine-day fast with other students and professors across California to request an open dialogue with the UC Regents—the governing body of the University of California. The fast cultimates at a public hearing of the Regents. When the student request is denied, they lock arms in nonviolent protest and sit peacefully. To disengage them, the police are ordered to make an example of one of them. They lift up this man, slam him to the ground, put a knee on his neck, twist his arms behind his back and handcuff him ruthlessly. Supporters start shouting at the overt show of inhumane behavior towards a fragile student who hadn't eaten a single morsel of food for nine days. That man was none other than Pancho. The story would end there, except that Pancho's strength resided beyond his body. "It was excruciating pain," Pancho recalls. Perhaps the police officer picked on Pancho because of his small and skinny frame, but the outer force is no match for Pancho's inner might. The injustice is obvious, but Pancho knew that the officer was not to blame. In a completely unrehearsed move of raw compassion, Pancho, with all the love in his heart, looks directly into the police officer’s eyes, and says, "Brother, I forgive you. I am not doing this for me, I am not doing this for you. I am doing it for your children and the children of your children." The overflowing love coming from the heart of this man on a nine-day fast is unmistakable. This is not the kind of encounter that police are trained in. Seeing his confusion, Pancho steps up his empathy and changes the topic. Looking at the last name on his badge, he asks for the officer's first name. And addressing him as a family member, he says, "Brother, let me guess, you must like Mexican food." [Awkward pause.] "Yes." "Well, I know this place in San Francisco that has the best carnitas and fajitas and quesadillas, and I tell you what, when I get done with this and you get done with this, I'd like to break my fast with you. What do you say?" The police officer is completely flabbergasted, his humanity irrevocably invoked. He accepts the invitation! Dropping eye contact gently, he then walks around Pancho and voluntarily loosens his handcuffs, in silence. By now, all of Pancho's comrades— twelve of them—are also in handcuffs, so the officer then goes around to loosen everyone else's handcuffs too. There are those who use anger, sarcasm and parody to confront unjust action. Pancho does it with just the simple—and radical —power of love. If he had a superpower, that would be it. He is a fearless soldier of compassion, unconditionally willing to hold up a fierce mirror of love. For Pancho, the whole World, every moment, is his field of practice. When he was recently asked what nourishes him, his response was clear: meditation and small acts of kindness. Meditation deepens his awareness while small acts of kindness deepens his inter-connectedness. Or as Pancho would sum it up,
Police arrest Pancho who continues to meditate during a raid at Occupy Oakland
"Meditation is the DNA of the kindness revolution." Ever since he first went to a meditation retreat, he has continued to meditate everyday. ‘Pancho 2.0’ is what he calls himself since then. It was as if he had discovered a new technology to battle our burning world. Spirituality often sees activism as unnecessarily binding, while activism often sees spirituality as a navel-gazing escape. For Pancho, though, the two paths merge into one. Meditation is internal service, while service is external meditation. Ultimately, it was in Gandhi that Pancho found his greatest role model for social change. "Nonviolence isn't just a philosophy of resistance. It is a way of life. Nonviolence is the thoughts we have, the words that we use, the clothes that we wear, the things that we say. It is not just an absence of violence, not even just the absence of wanting to cause harm. Nonviolence is a state when your heart is so full of love, compassion, kindness, generosity and forgiveness that you simply don't have any room for anger, frustration or violence," says Pancho. When Pancho stopped cooperating with the University of California system, he lost his student visa. In light of his courage, more than a dozen people offered to help reinstate his status. He appreciated the gesture but chose to stay undocumented. More than being in one geographical location or another, he was more interested in blooming wherever he was planted. Now, all of a sudden, being ‘undocumented,’ he got an experiential insight into what that meant for 11 million people living in the United States; he couldn't work, he couldn't have a bank account or a credit card, he couldn't own anything and he'd have to work low-wage labor jobs, without any insurance, just to survive. Here is someone capable of being a rocket scientist, whose father is an Economics scholar and author in Mexico, who chooses to photography | ©Julie Dermansky
live without any financial currency—just so he can be of service to his struggling brethren. He is sustained purely by social capital. His tendency to constantly seek to be helpful earns him many friends, who would host him one day of the week. And on days that he didn't have a host, he'd just live out in the woods (‘Redwood Cathedral’ as he calls it). Such details don't matter much for Pancho. All his possessions fit into one bag pack, as his life organizes around doing acts of service. When Pancho learned about the troubled situation in his neighboring East Oakland, he was quite moved. Rife with gang warfare, it is an area that most people have written off. Every week, residents hear the sounds of gun shots being fired—and that's no exaggeration. It’s a community with 53 liquor stores and no grocery stores. The tensions between the police and the community have continued to escalate, while traditional civic programs haven't made much of a dent. So Pancho decides to do something about it, with an altogether different framework. Instead of helping from the outside, he wants to become one of them; instead of just receiving external aid, he wonders if the community could not only discover undiscovered gifts but then share them freely with others. With a few like-hearted friends, Pancho rents a house right on the border of two gangs. They call their home ‘Casa de Paz’—house of peace. The shared values of the house include 2 hours of daily meditation, no drinking and a vegan diet. And no locks on the doors— anyone can come in any time. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, they meditate and do yoga at the local César Chávez park (which has been home to several shootings in recent months). People have all kinds of reactions to kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
their public meditations. One time, a mildly drunk man with bloodshot eyes roams the park with his girlfriend. Initially, they smirk and make snide remarks but then as they approach Pancho and his two housemates sitting in crossed-legged meditation, Pancho opens his eyes with a loving embrace. As Pancho reaches to grab something from his bag, the man instinctively reaches for something (possibly a gun) in his pocket. "Brother, here's a fresh, local, organic strawberry for you," Pancho says while holding up the edible, red-colored gift from Nature. Almost every day, they facilitate these transformations. Another time, a few young boys boisterously smash empty alcohol bottles on the streets, just as a prank. Instead of cringing in fear, Pancho runs outside, barefoot. The boys could see him and vice-versa, and instead of anger, Pancho humbly bends down and starts picking up the pieces of broken glass. Something about that act took the kids by surprise, as they slowly returned back. "Brother, you see that house over there? They have a young one, and when he walks out on the street, we don't want them to get hurt," Pancho explains to them in fluent Spanish. One thing after another, the kids themselves start helping pick up the broken pieces—and make role models of these love warriors on their street. In isolation, these are small stories. Yet, collectively, its impact adds up. It binds the community, it creates new connections, it fills the gaps. It’s like the silence in between the notes that allows the music to be heard. Pancho Arrested at Occupy Oakland One of those observances is Silent Mondays. In the tradition of Gandhi, Pancho is silent every Monday. Even on that November 14th, the day of the Occupy Oakland raid which happened to be a Monday, Pancho stays silent on principle. As the riot police arrest him, he writes a comment on a piece of paper: "On Mondays, I practice silence. But I'd like you to hear that I love you." The officer smiles. Of the 32 people arrested at Occupy Oakland, 31 are sent home on the same day, with a misdemeanor charge. Pancho, however, is held for deportation. Very quickly, he becomes an iconic symbol for all that is wrong with the dominant paradigm. Within two days, twenty thousand people sign a petition to free Pancho. At his court arraignment, a large group of people show up to meditate, which has never happened in that courthouse, and again confuses all the police in riot-gear who are themselves drawn to the circle. People from around the world call the sheriffs and congress representatives. Media everywhere reports the story. Vigils are held by many around the globe. By the end of the four days, Alameda County D.A. drops all criminal charges and ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) releases Pancho from jail, without any bail. No one can really explain the unprecedented move by the authorities. "It was truly a miracle that he was let go," Marianne Manilove posted on her Facebook wall. Francisco Ugarte, Pancho's pro-bono lawyer, happily reported, "They really didn't know what to do with him." He would relay Pancho's notes from various jails that he was being shuttled to. "Tell them that I love them all. (It’s a) great place to meditate!" was his first note to friends and supporters. Francisco's second note conveyed this message: "Pancho wanted me to convey to folks that 50
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he was, for some reason, identified as a particularly dangerous inmate, wearing red clothes in jail, and shackled so that the movement of his arms was restrained.” The shackles were metal and surrounded his waist. Apparently, this treatment is reserved only for the most dangerous inmates. It is unclear why Alameda County has done this. But after a short conversation, we agree that, without a doubt, Pancho was the most dangerous person in Santa Rita Jail—dangerous to the whole system. As Pancho said, “The most effective weapon against a system based on greed and violence is kindness.” Kindness is indeed Pancho's go-to weapon. When in doubt, be kind. Even otherwise, be kind. As Pancho is shackled up in solitary confinement, he creates a makeshift cushion with his shoes and starts meditating. The guards themselves start taking photos to post on their Facebook walls! Moved by his equipoise under conditions of extreme stress, some guards even inquire about the specifics of meditation. One of them befriends him and gifts him an extra ‘package’—a toothbrush, a toothpaste, a piece of paper and a pen. Pancho then cleans up his cell of all the litter, toilet paper and other waste; on the piece of paper he writes, "Smile. You've just been tagged with an anonymous act of kindness!," and leaves that extra toothpaste and toothbrush next to it. "I wanted to beautify the cell for the next person after me," he would later say. Jails didn't have any vegetarian food, so he smilingly fasted—having two oranges in four days. He gifts away his ham sandwiches to other inmates and connects with them in the spirit of generosity too. In transit, when he has more contact with other prisoners, he educates them about their rights. With the ICE agent who shackles him, he smilingly says, "Sister, your soul is too beautiful to be doing this kind of work." To which she smiled back and responded, "Thank you." Really, there’s not much else one can respond with. When he is released from jail, lots of media houses are frantically looking for him. Pancho, utterly uninterested in the games of fame, is unreachable. The man doesn't even have a phone. That weekend, like every weekend, the best way to find him was to meditate at Casa de Paz, or volunteer at Karma Kitchen, or farm at the Free Farm Stand. "Let's replicate constructive programs," he would say, while retelling stories of Gandhi. From anarchists to administrators, people love Pancho—not just because he fiercely stands up for his values but because he is genuinely and constantly moved by love. Former US Marine Jason Kal recalls, "When we first met, I just casually told Pancho that I liked his t-shirt that said 'ahimsa' (meaning nonviolence) on it. The next thing you know, he just takes off his t-shirt and gives it to me. I was totally speechless. I've never seen anyone do that." Today, Jason is Pancho's housemate at Casa de Paz and a dear friend. As Pancho often signs off his emails, “If you want to be a rebel, be kind.” Note. This is an edited version of an article originally written for Parabola.
feature | occupy wall street My Experience as an Occupier in New York City Cheyenna Weber I sometimes joke that working within the Occupy movement is a little like taking a graduate course in building a mass movement. While I don’t always know that I’ve succeeded in making the changes I want to see, I am always learning from the process and people involved. It is a rich, beautiful, empowering and disarming experience I’ve been waiting for my whole life. It is also challenging and frustrating, sometimes even maddening. There are moments when all I can do is yell “Ahh, what a hopeful mess we have made!”
There are other challenges. How do you build infrastructure for a movement, which by definition is always moving? Political situations change fast at OWS and many are currently frustrated that ad hoc bureaucracy is no longer serving our best interests. We built a house that now none of us want to live within. So we’re back to living outside of it, splintered and marginalized sometimes by our own efforts and desperately trying to connect the pieces.
I value OWS for a lot of reasons but I’m most thankful that we’ve rekindled the radical imagination. What is possible? What is just? Participating in even the smallest details of Occupy actions requires us to ask this. At Zuccotti Park everyone was open to dialogue and discussion because we set ourselves up not only to identify what’s wrong but to practice a different way of being. Rather than demands, at our occupation we only offered invitations: come celebrate, come talk, come work with us. People joined in droves.
To make things more complicated, communication remains difficult. It is impossible to be everywhere, but we all try! I’m on multiple listservs, all on digest mode so I can read them in one clump every morning. I peruse meeting minutes on the NYC General Assembly website and follow livestreams posted on Twitter. I no longer watch or read mainstream media, instead devoting my limited time to knowing what is being planned, who is working with whom, what connections are being made, and where we are going collectively even in our million spinning pieces. It takes many hours a week just to keep up with the information and I work with a team of other organizers to share report backs of meetings. The mainstream media thinks Occupy has fizzled out, but we’re still working in anticipation for spring. Meetings just aren’t exciting enough for the news to cover.
Part of our appeal then and now is our willingness to state when something is wrong. When there are houses standing empty and people are on the street, that is unjust; when food goes to waste or kills us, that is corrupt; when an empowering education is out of the question, that is criminal; when someone is denied healthcare, that is morally bankrupt. Occupy logic is elegant in its simplicity—together, as the 99%, we can fix this, and those who oppose our attempts to right these wrongs are morally bereft. We have both the high ground and a target—the Gordian knot that binds us, corporate control of our institutions and our communities. Underneath this united narrative the stories are more nuanced. We are divided by our history and practice along faultlines of privilege and oppression. Often we don’t know what to do about this. There is frequent discussion of group dynamics, even though it is awkward and uncomfortable for many, wherein we try to find ways we are reinforcing patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalist economics, etc. We try to build alliances with existing organizations and that too is difficult, often because access to power has divided us as a movement now and historically. It’s clear we have to change the way we behave with each other even as we try to change the larger world beyond our meeting halls. photography | ©Annie McShiras
I’ve already seen a few victories locally in NYC. We have two new worker co-ops that formed from OWS, OccuCopy (printing) and Screen printing (t-shirts and prints), and the group plans to form a revolving loan fund to develop additional cooperative businesses. Many people were politicized by involvement with OWS and we’re growing a new generation of organizers. We’ve kept people in their houses via Occupy Homes, and shut down foreclosure auctions in several boroughs. Nationally we’ve changed the conversation and brought new issues together under a single unifying frame—we are the 99%. Spring will bring another blossoming of activity. We’re only just getting started. If you haven’t already, won’t you join us?
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feature | commons OWS Occupies the Commons Jason Bender Occupy and Commons: Making Connections Removed from the ivory tower of academia, the legislating bodies of nation states, and the well resourced think-tanks of private institutions, a dedicated group of Occupiers brought forward a new agenda this winter at the OWS Forum on the Commons. For three days, people made their way into a working class neighborhood of Brooklyn to spend hours exchanging thoughts on the intersection of two promising movements: Occupy Wall Street and the Commons. Particularly savvy on the part of the forum’s organizers was their deliberate attempt to integrate issue groups that would otherwise be considered disparate projects, such as the Great Lakes, student debt and breastfeeding. Far from being atomized, this diverse group represented a spectrum of commons categories, a place where people who focus on human-care, monetary policy, farming, the Internet, art and economics could begin to forge the cognitive links necessary to understand their connections and the composition of a common project. Helping to guide the discussion, commons experts were invited to give conversational presentations, as they sat among the audience while delivering their information. At the onset, this group was acting differently, producing differently, and their discussion of what Occupy and the Commons might accomplish together was a refreshingly different conversation. The Commons: Transcending Forms of Ownership The forum began as the Occupiers clarified their meaning of commons. According to this group, a commons is not something that can exist in isolation; it is not simply a resource. As Marcela Olivera described it, a commons is less like a noun and “more like a verb, it is more about the relationship that we build with things.” Actually, many commons scholars are saying the same thing. Although in somewhat more technical language, a commons, they explain, must involve a resource and a community organized around the resource. There has to be the creation of rules for the preservation and governance of the resource, as well as rules determining use and access to the resource. A commons must also produce its own value, which is generated from the organizational practices of co-governance and co-production. Participants named an even deeper distinction, concerning the idea of ownership. To them, a commons is not conceived within the boundaries of property ownership models. On this point, Olivera questioned the group, “Can you imagine a world where people do not own anything, not even collectively?” She went on to explain that, for her, this is where the commons starts because this is where the commons breaks down our conditioning around property. The commons then is not based on forms of public or private ownership. Nor is it based on collective ownership, as 52
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James Quilligan explained: “collective ownership is fine, co-operatives are great, they are a commons; but ultimately, the vision of the commons is to move from ownership to trusteeship.” With this view, the commons is able to transform property from private and state ownership models to commons trusteeship. Yet, for many people the commons remains an ambiguous concept. Recognizing that the commons movement needs to exercise much greater discipline when it talks about the commons, conference participants began to distinguish commons from the public sector. The commons is not public parks or municipal watersheds, they said. It is not public libraries or public education, and it is not public roads or sidewalks. These things and many others like them are public goods, for they exist within the perrogative of government management models. With this understood, a more accurate framing of common goods is possible. Helping to lay out the discussions on economics, the Occupiers used conceptual tools, such as common goods, to help them discern the modes of production that exist outside the public and private sector. Although many considered the commons more than a theoretical discipline, they also expressed that new language is necessary to identify its alternative forms of production. Shifting to a slightly deeper observation, the group looked at some of the philosophical foundations upon which liberal democracies have been built. Here, they found the need to clarify the term ‘common good,’ because according to them, the commons is not about the common good. This may sound strange at first, but the term common good actually has a longstanding tradition in political theory, giving its definition a very specific meaning. The common good, in this context, can also be seen as the ultimate goal of the state. It is a mistake to conflate commons with the common good because it risks easy co-optation of the commons by the state. As Quilligan pointed out, the areas that already have a tradition within the state—common good, public domain, eminent domain, public trust doctrine—should not be confused with commons. He explained that doing so “invites the state into the adjudication of the process” and the power of the commons is thus lost. Enclosures: Producing Inequality, Destroying Commons It seems that Occupiers and commoners are not about to let that happen, and both movements continue to express their forms of resistance. More than anything, the commons movement is a reaction to enclosure. Taking a quick glance at history, enclosures began roughly around the Enlightenment era. During this time, society witnessed the birth of two distinct institutional structures.
One was the market-based economy, premised on the idea of a system of self-regulating markets. The other was the nation state, premised on constitutional law and order administered by government. Over the past few centuries, these two have worked closely together; the market responsible for building wealth and producing certain goods, and the state providing legal protection to the market and supplementing the balance of goods unmet by private production. In the last forty years, these institutions have fused into a strategic partnership which Quilligan identified as a market-state duopoly. The market-state, having been built over many centuries, has thus relied heavily on the process of enclosure for its preservation and reproduction. Enclosure has increasingly been recognized as the pathological source distressing the social body and natural environment. Unsurprising, then, was the ease with which this group of Occupiers was able to explain how this divisionary process is always finding new resource domains to slice up into privately controlled wealth. David Bollier spoke of the unprecedented land grabs that are happening in Africa and Latin America by agri-business, sovereign wealth funds and corporations, which is essentially creating a modern day replication of the English enclosures that forced economically independent people into market wage slavery. Alec Higgins told of the enclosure of genetic information, the blueprints of our food sources, through the seed patenting frenzy led by Monsanto Corporation. This means that society as a whole will now pay out more through increased food prices, for which profits will be distributed to a very small number of shareholders. Olivera spoke about the privatization of water in Bolivia, which made it illegal to collect rainwater. Can you image paying Bechtel Corporation every time the clouds watered your grass? Such is the level of absurdity that market-state logic has reached, and photography | ©Meryl Tihanyi
these are only the most blatant forms of enclosure; there are much subtler forms happening as well—like the enclosure of our minds, which makes it difficult for today’s culture to even imagine the commons. Alexa Bradley described it “as if there is this double yellow line through our brain, on the other side of which is the realization of a fundamentally different set of relationships that we are not supposed to think about or work toward.” While this certainly seems to be the case, the Occupiers had no issues with crossing that line, fully intent on breaking down those mental barriers that keep a culture from imagining itself differently. Much of this conversation focused on the need to create a new identity and language, with the commons offering both. Just to use the word ‘commons,’ according to Bollier, is to reorient the discussion. We begin by “adopting the language and the identity of the commons, because it starts to deconstruct the prevailing culture and reconstruct an alternative one based on different values, a different core terminology, and a different epistemology.” This is important because it provides ways to reframe the pernicious effects of the market-state, it helps to illustrate the difference between real commons and metaphorical commons, and it supplies the perspective needed to imagine and create the structures capable of addressing the divisions that produce our inequitable and unsustainable modes of living. Co-opting the Commons: Business of the Market-State Keen on revealing just how subversive market-state tactics can be, this group spoke of the disastrous effects of microfinance. Often heralded as a social tool of humanitarian invention, the practices of microcredit and rural lending are actually destroying many commons. Microfinance works by selling the community first on the neoliberal ideology that tells them they are poor kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
because they have no capital, because they have a mode of life that is built on subsistence instead of money. It tells them that they are poor because they are attached to a communal way of living, using the land for food and shelter. The people are convinced to take what they hold collectively, usually land or labor, and use it as collateral for a bank loan. Once they get the money, so they are told, they can build a little business and pull themselves out of poverty. According to Silvia Federici “microcredit has succeeded in creating a whole population of women who are now in debt, who are in fact working ten times more than they used to work before, because now they have to borrow money from money lenders at exorbitant interest rates to pay back the money that they owe to the bank for the original microcredit.” Furthermore, because the money is lent to the group, it ends up destroying the people’s original subsistence commons. It moves them from relationships of mutuality and self-governance, to those of competition for scarce money and policing one another over their debt obligations to the bank. Thus, the system reproduces its modes of division, destroying the commons, while guised in the moral discourse of poverty eradication. Obviously, this is not an isolated case, and the market-state is continually finding new ways to achieve its agenda by manipulating grassroots rhetoric. Several forum participants drew attention to the tactics now being employed by the UK government to push through austerity measures and spending cuts on social programs. Referring to David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ policy, they called it essentially a government retreat from social services, which is being characterized as community empowerment. So the free labor of society is exploited while the government pushes through austerity measures and unloads its responsibility to deliver public goods. Moreover, Big Society means that the government tells the people which resources it can now manage, which is exactly opposite of the commons. Rather, to these Occupiers, the commons means people empowering themselves in the management of their own resources. Commons as Structural: Taking a Step toward Sustainability These types of rhetorical hijacking are happening all the time. The global commons has been used in many official documents at the United Nations, the World Bank, the IMF, and even the Pentagon is now using the commons to sell its latest series of enclosure projects. Understanding that the commons is prone to these forms of co-optation, there was a sensibility in the conversation expressing that the commons needs to be more than a metaphorical expression. The point is that if the commons is referenced only as a set of principles and communal practices, or if it is seen only as re-localization and alternative production, then it does not go far enough to create the type of systemic understanding that the commons is trying to express. Aware of this, many of the Occupiers did speak of the commons as something more systemic. It is what Federici explained as the need to create our own accountability structures “so we don’t have to go to the police when we need to reconstitute the community.” Adding to this line of thought, Bradley described an initiative that aims to 54
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reclaim the Great Lakes as a commons. Conceived as a long-term project, it intends to use well-designed methods of public deliberation that will build mutuality among the diverse communities who are dependent on the water resource of the Great Lakes for their well-being, life and livelihood. The goal of the process is to create a living social charter which, according to Bradley, articulates “the relationship that we want to have to that body of water and to one another that will enable us to sustain it.” The next stage of the project will look at how to create a social charter which would allow the community to be fully involved in the decisionmaking process when hydro-fracking, or proposals to ship nuclear waste across the Great Lakes, is introduced. A system of co-governance that would allow this type of decision-making, points directly at the trusteeship model Quilligan referred to as a commons trust. Although accountability structures, social charters and commons trusts only represent a fraction of the systemic thinking around the commons, they do help to illuminate the possibility of new institutional frameworks. They also suggest some ways of envisioning a scale from local to regional commons—for example, from the healthy self-governance and peerproduction found in the local commons, such as community gardens, to similar forms of co-governance and co-production that can be embedded in much larger resource domains, like the Great Lakes. As OWS begins to join the commons movement, it brings with it new possibilities. Together they offer the power of collective demonstrations as well as the power to realize an alternative institutional framework. This forum has already established that Occupiers see the commons as a much deeper project than simply alleviating the symptomatic effects of the market-state. The commons then becomes a way to intentionally organize, helping otherwise disparate groups find the connections among themselves and allowing for greater modes of cooperation. As more Occupiers around the globe begin to occupy the commons, the movement will find more adequate modes to address the systemic causes of the unequal distribution of capital and wealth. It will better understand its strategic leverage points when confronting the globalized practice of market-state enclosures. And it will also find a process that is capable of generating new institutional structures designed specifically to manage today’s social, economic and environmental problems. OWS now stands with the potential of bestowing upon the commons the greatest gift of all, its collective power to generate new realities, thus enabling the commons to reclaim the wealth of society and the sustainability of the future.
photography | ÂŠMeryl Tihanyi and Tara Stuart
toward a common theory of value series – part two Toward a Common Theory of Value | Common Trust James Bernard Quilligan
Beyond The Credit-Debt Pendulum: A Search for Common Value This series of articles examines the meaning of value in economics. Through the lens of the commons, we hope to stimulate a rethinking of the goals, methods and conceptual structures of economic theory and its modes of action. In Part One, we considered Aristotle’s contrast between C-M-C’ (the exchange of useful things through sufficiency and credit in the household) and M-C-M’ (the money-making activities of commodity trade and debt in the market). This important distinction—which reveals how the early market economies broke away from the legal, customary and ethical constraints of pre-modern societies—has influenced commons thinkers down the centuries. Karl Polanyi called Aristotle’s economic formulation “probably the most prophetic pointer ever made in the realm of the social sciences; it is certainly still the best analysis of the subject we possess” (The Great Transformation, 43). Yet, as Part Two suggests, Aristotle’s guideline needs to be recalibrated for the economic realities of the 21st century, since household sufficiency doesn’t begin to describe the many facets of the commons that we recognize today. Many reviews of economic history begin with gifts, move to barter, and then explore money, banking and credit. But as numerous scholars have observed, barter has played only a marginal role in economic exchange. Anthropologist David Graeber (Debt: The First 5,000 Years) maintains that credit existed long before barter and money. Surveying the monetary history of world civilization, he traces long-term swings between credit and debt systems in which barter was not a significant factor (Figure 1). During eras like the Agrarian Age and the Middle Ages, for example, virtual credit systems were dominant and the economy was deeply embedded in everyday households and communities (C-M-C’). Economists Bernard Lietaer and Stephen Belgin (New Money for a New World) have described how the principle of demurrage—a fee charged for holding a currency without spending it—created prosperous societies in Ancient Egypt and Medieval Europe through a form of social sharing and redistribution based on credit. Serving as a kind of deflationary algorithm or negative interest rate, demurrage supported the polycentric values of matriarchal culture, customary traditions and community democracy (although such societies were not completely free from centralized command structures of production and distribution). Following these long stages of social cohesion and interconnectedness backed by credit, the historical pendulum veered to debtbased systems of money (M-C-M’), which encourage individual separation and social disconnection. During periods such as the Roman Empire and Modern Capitalism, powerful monocentric systems (of hierarchy and patriarchy) impose a single currency 56
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Predominant Global Monetary Regimes Agrarian Age 3500 - 800 BCE Virtual Credit Money
Middle Ages 600 - 1450 Virtual Credit Money
Axial Age 800 BCE - 600 AD Metallic Debt Money
Capitalist Age 1450 - 1971 Paper Debt Money
Second Axial Age 1971 – ?
upon citizens to ensure the payment of tributes or taxes to a governing authority. The economy is disembedded from society through the accumulation and concentration of capital by a ruling class and the separation of local resource producers and users. For the people in these communities, oppressed by hierarchical governance, consolidation of wealth and debt payments, daily life is conflictual, static and isolated. The year 1971 marked the beginning of a new monetary era, although it’s unclear what direction this regime will ultimately take. Since the United States ended the international gold standard, shifting the global economy from fixed to floating exchange rates, societies have been wandering through a miasma of mixed signals. For forty years, the world’s people have been asked to hold two contradictory theories of value at the same time. One moment, free market ideology is persuading us that value arises through the unrestricted, scientific price signals of supply and demand in a self-regulating marketplace. In this version of reality, money is value-neutral and we are all perfectly free to obtain credit (through wages, investments and savings). The next moment, our financial news pages and personal bank accounts are reminding us that fluctuations in the value of money result from the humanly managed signals of interest rates—a growth imperative crafted by a handful of people at the world’s central banks. In this version of reality, money is not value-neutral and everyone is deeply enslaved in debt (through interest and tax payments). During these past four decades, the objectivist theories of structuralism and behaviorism—that all values are relative, since nothing whatsoever can be inferred about individuals beyond their spoken or written words and body language—have been put into practice by economists and government policy makers. This scheme of economic positivism (monetarism, deregulation, financial and trade liberalization) has conditioned many people to believe that external facts have no moral significance and may be entirely uncorrelated with human consciousness, meaning,
life-experiences and values. Thus, market prices have become our most important facts, outwardly present, immediate and real— while currency value has come to represent only a vague kind of subjectivity, shunted to the background of awareness where it is taken for granted, its language and significance blurred. Most of us now accept the prominence of objective price over subjective currency value as an essential feature of our post-modern information society. Yet both of these measures of value—collective meaning as market prices or as interest rates—are specious. Yoked together in the crucible of political capitalism, these false options are generating mass cultural schizophrenia and political protest all across the world. Our common trust in the value of prices and money is nearing a breaking point. Out of this struggle and collapse, a more holistic approach to knowledge, meaning and human possibility is emerging, although not as Aristotle envisioned. In a broad sense, economic history does resemble a dialectic between poles: credit—C-M-C’, including gift economies which express the feminine values of care, collective interest and cooperation debt—M-C-M’, involving commodity economies which are driven by the masculine values of rationalization, self-interest and competition Yet this either/or framework is not the complete story. It fails to encompass the broader world of human value before it was separated into householding credit and money-making debt (and the reunification of value that will ultimately transcend this dichotomy). In a world historical sense, these pairs of opposites derive from a deeper systemic whole. A third source of value creation is coming into view: the natural, social and cultural commons of humanity. We are recognizing now that wealth arises from the capacities and cultures of earlier generations; the regenerative capacities of Earth and its living creatures; our shared values, understanding and institutional structures; networks of social connectivity; and the language of the ordinary world of social behavior and well-being. This is a major evolutionary step, since common value has never before guided economic exchange on a global scale. Outside a Small Circle of Gifts: The Loss of Inalienability The Internet has launched an unprecedented period of sharing and collective action. Open software communities, wikis and collaborative websites have become an extraordinary source of productivity, innovation and efficiency. Self-organized resource communities such as Trade School, Gift Circle, Giftflow, Neighborgoods and Shareable are demonstrating new possibilities for decentralized creativity, inclusiveness and cooperation in the circulation of resources. These open networks are helping people rediscover the self-determined customs and norms that traditional communities have always used in nurturing and protecting their common resources, whether in fishing grounds, grazing pastures or community plazas. Increasingly, resource producers and users are becoming active participants in their own cultures, revitalizing their communities through open source incentives and creating an inclusive sense of self. From Slow Food and Slow
Money to free software and open access publishing, new forms of community self-organization and social technology are restoring human relationships to their former connectedness and sufficiency in local values. At the heart of these social ethics and practices is the principle of inalienability, a recognition that our individual, separate selves are vitally connected to other people and to the Earth. Since our Being is inseparable at this foundational level, we realize that the greater cycle of natural and social gifts—which we inherit from our ancestors, enjoy during our lifetimes, and pass on to those who come after us—must be protected from the expropriating grasp of ownership, profit and interest. Inalienability teaches that the commons are so essential to human life and identity that they should never be turned into fungible units of money or commodities for the marketplace. This realization of Being—expressed through the humility and gratitude of gift exchange—resists all monetization of the commons through cash exchanges, legal contracts, commodification or property rights. Such enclosures destroy natural resources, undermine social relationships, dehumanize individuals into passive consumers and dispossess people from their commons. Much commentary on the commons has rightly focused on why the present interest-bearing economy is not sustainable. Yet it is important to give equal attention to why a return to the idealized model of gift economics is not sustainable either. Many resource communities which strongly support the inalienability of gifted objects also uphold alienable forms of reciprocity to enforce community norms for their commons. Reciprocity is, after all, one of the primary tools that commoners use in negotiating resource sharing agreements through governance (terms of barter, cooperative management structures, exclusion of access) and production (producer-user arrangements, hybrid systems of outsourcing, shared distribution chains). But in adopting such rules, we often minimize the fact that once reciprocity is introduced into a commons, the pre-modern forms of economic integration break down and the inalienablity of the gift is dissolved (Figure 2). Figure 2
Forms of Economic Integration in Pre-Modern and Market Societies
Pre-Modern Gift Inalienability Rural Household Matriarchal Polycentric Periphery
Market Commodity Reciprocity Urban/Foreign Market Patriarchal Monocentric Center
The essential lesson about the gift economy is that the giver of a gift does not expect to receive something in return from the recipient. Inalienability simply means receiving a gift in the spirit with which it is given—in pure gratitude and without a sense of guilt or compulsion to repay it with a countergift. The recipient of a gift may indeed experience gratitude, yet there is no expectation, obligation or quid pro quo to give something back (even though the recipient may choose to do so). But here is where it gets tricky. kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
We want to be present to our commons as legacies from earlier generations, gifts of nature, and the creations of social communities. Yet when there is no enabling environment for the realization of presence value (the ontological recognition of a common resource through its production and management), our exchange of goods and services as gifts actually strengthens the reciprocity economy and veils the conditions by which a new system of economic value may be built. Even with barter, we are unable to return to a pure economics of sharing and gratitude because our deepest desires to be creative and generous are still affected by the commodity structures of the world’s current system of economic value. Without a supporting context for sharing—rules and institutions that enhance people’s sense of generosity and gratitude—our practice of economic exchange adheres to a monetary standard of value which is already rooted (both ideologically and structurally) in the social obligation of compensation. As long as reciprocity is viewed as a characteristic of a gift commons, gift exchanges do not express our interconnectedness and inseparability with others and all of life. Objects of barter or commodities that fulfill a moral or social obligation may indeed be given in gratitude; yet this is quite different from the inalienability of gifts that are given without expectation of reward, unaffected by gain or loss. A return to community gift-giving by itself does not transcend the hierarchical infrastructure of social reciprocity or redistribute the assets of economic wealth and power. The Trouble with Commodities: Reciprocity and its Disenchantments What’s appealing about pure gift economies is their absence of boundaries. As commons scholar Lewis Hyde (The Gift) has explained, communities of the past (and many today) set no borders on their exchanges with families, friends and community groups. When a gift is given at a minimal social distance in a local setting, only the gift and the social relationships are of value. On this limited scale, where the spiritual, moral and economic life of the community is transparent and people have high levels of trust, Being is easy to realize. Beyond these small gift-circles, however, something else occurs. With the introduction of barter, commodity exchange and the charging of interest on loans, an implicit boundary is drawn between the people within a community and those on the outside. Through this formal separation, a new moral standard emerges: it becomes a social obligation to exchange things with the expectation of reward. Rather than a benefit shared by the community, the value of an object is now calculated as a material increase for certain individuals, affirming them as discrete selves, separate from the group. This is the development of a reciprocating generosity, which reduces the community norm of collective interest to the financial transaction of self-interest. Once this line is crossed from irredeemable gratitude to reciprocal obligation, and exchange no longer connects one person with another at an intersubjective level, the inalienable gift is emptied of meaning. It is now an object of property, dissociated from a personal to an impersonal relationship through trade boundaries and social 58
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Brief History of the Disappearance of the Commons • Commodities become detached from their real value as gis
beyond price • Use value is transformed into exchange value • Cooperation, altruism and mutuality are displaced by reciprocity, calculation and utility • e State emerges to protect private property and defend the home land through legally sanctioned violence • Civil law replaces customary or moral law • e world becomes increasingly mechanical and decontextualized • Access to nature is restricted • Society is divided into creditors and debtors • Exchange takes place through a currency based on bank debt • Interest charges promote competition and encourage perpetual growth • Commercial exchange expands • Alienability becomes marketability • Common faith and community bonds deteriorate • e signiﬁcance of tradition and culture are diminished • Morality and natural law become a matter of self-interest and personal choice • New owners are granted legal titles to common properties • Commoners are forcibly displaced from the same forests, streams and ﬁelds they had once considered inalienable through customary law • Material wealth and poverty exist side by side • e boundaries between centers and peripheries are strengthened through trade • e principle of a double economy pertains in long-distance trade: one set of policies for the domestic population and a diﬀerent set for those abroad
barriers. This denaturing of the object—from the inclusive Being of the gift to its (re)presentation as an exclusive commodity—is the history of the disappearance of the commons (Figure 3). As a relationship of mutual dependence between people, reciprocity has become a double-barreled principle in modern society. Reciprocity calls for a kind of normative equity by encouraging the community or a central authority to enforce social standards through the punishment of individuals who exploit others. While the norms of reciprocity anticipate social cooperation, they also leave open the door for individual or mutual refusal of such cooperation. Reciprocity thus encompasses the human capacity to either repay a kindness with kindness or a betrayal with revenge (since an individual is free to choose between them). Hence, reciprocity carries the asymmetrical meaning of an expected return or corresponding action—whether this is an informal, benevolent and fair exchange or involves the harmful effects of formal competition, profiteering and usury. The ambiguities of modern liberalism allow us to pretend that we still emulate customary gift-giving, while enforcing the legal alienability of property. When we sell our labor, goods and services for the social benefit with the objective of personal gain, we are not honoring the spirit of gift exchange but the legal obligation involved in the trading of goods and services. Political capitalism may encourage voluntary philanthropy, but requires structured reciprocity between unequal pairs (nature/society, friend/stranger, spiritual increase/material interest, borrowing/loaning, buying/selling, demand/supply, periphery/center, customary law/civil law, people/government, domestic/foreign). The social dissonance that results from this epistemological blurring of the gift with the
commodity creates mixed motives, encouraging the commodification of human activity and inviting further enclosure of the commons. What is needed is an inclusive framework of social exchange that goes beyond the cohesion expressed in small gift circles (gratitude, connectedness, empathy) and the sense of separation expressed through commodities (obligation, isolation, utility). Before exploring this more encompassing unity of value, we turn to examine the significance of complementary currencies. Complementary Currencies: The Problem of the Whole The critique of debt-based currency is well known. When money has to be borrowed at interest from a central bank, it becomes expensive and artificially scarce. To pay back this interest either means making more or higher wages, borrowing additional money or going bankrupt. And in competing for money to pay back the banks, people and businesses overproduce and overconsume, contributing to the endless material growth that leads to economic and social inequalities and damages to the long-term vitality of the environment. Complementary currencies are created to overcome this duality. Unlike barter, complementary currencies establish a unit of account (a token, receipt or computer entry) for the adjustment of mutual credit. The circulation of these supplemental monies is intended to unleash the local creativity, interdependence and abundance which national currencies thwart. The local economy becomes stronger and more resilient by matching the quality of goods and services with the quantity of money in circulation, thereby enhancing cooperation and building community. The use of local currencies in exchange for local goods also reduces the need for long distance transportation and the level of greenhouse gases, leading to a cleaner environment. Rather than dismantle the debt-based system of interest, however, complementary currencies try to slow it down or neutralize it. Some proponents call for zero interest rates to eliminate material increase and recreate the equitable conditions of the gift economy. A form of negative interest has also been suggested for realigning the interest-driven economy. This would be a time-related charge on outstanding currency balances that penalizes people who hold on to their money for too long, encouraging them to spend or invest it. In either case, by making credit abundantly available through zero or negative interest, complementary currencies would match the unmet needs of society with the unused resources which scarce, debt-based money fails to connect through the marketplace. Yet this formula does not address the problem of the whole. Leaving the system of interest-driven money in place while creating a parallel interest-free currency does not constitute a new unity of economic value: it just creates objective and subjective polarities. These opposites do not comprise a greater monetary unity because they are still embedded in the rules and institutions of one of the poles—the centralized, hierarchical monopoly of banks and states and their official standard of value. Here’s the underlying problem. With the possible exception of Ven, few complementary currencies have successfully created their own standard of value. Some, like Time Dollars, LETS and Bitcoin, do not try. Others, such as Ithaca Dollars, Toronto Dollars and WIR, link their money to the value of a national currency. In nearly every case,
when a complementary currency creates a unit of account without a new standard of value, it actually reinforces the scarcity ethic (of meeting human needs with unused resources) which, of course, is what the currency was intended to reverse (Figure 4). Figure 4
Unresolved Duality in Monetary Exchange of Complementary Currencies Interest-Free Currency
Vs. Interest-Based Currency
(the standard of value in both is based on the scarcity ethic of matching unused resources with unmet needs)
The difficulty here is not the focus on needs but the creation of value through the production and management of unused or underutilized resources. Under the world’s present political regimes, some form of property ownership (whether private, public or collective) is required for the right to enclose and develop unused resources of significant or even marginal social value. The creators and users of complementary currencies do not create political accountability structures (like trusteeships) to protect these unused resources from enclosure. With neither the political leverage nor an independent standard of value to secure the sustainability of natural, social and cultural commons, complementary currencies provide little incentive to reduce the world’s growing amount of overutilized resources which are generated through interest and debt. This, in turn, creates disincentives for the use of complementary currencies. Instead of power shifting to citizens through these new monies, most people simply gravitate back to interest-bearing currency, since it’s more efficient when everyone uses the same unit of exchange. What originated as a critique of the duality of the debt-based economy (the division of the world between credit and debt) ends up in yet another form of dualism that maintains the status quo. Instead of an undivided, autonomous standard of value that allows the world’s economic system to regulate itself according to the money available, the new monetary system is framed in terms of objective units (interest rates) and their subjective opposites (zero or negative interest). By allowing interest and debt to persist, this dual-track system simply perpetuates the exponential growth of money and discounts the sustainable value of all commons, whether rivers, forests and indigenous cultures or solar energy, intellectual property and the Internet. Mutual credit systems are greatly needed at local and regional levels and alternative currencies are an earnest step in that direction. But so-called complementary currencies won’t rebalance the conventional money system because they are not actually complementary. Technically speaking, complementarity is the unified diversity of a whole operating through the sum of its parts, not an adjustment arising from one part of the system. To supplement an interest-driven currency with its opposite does not create a complementary exchange system. The ultimate goal is not to supplement but to supplant the interest-based system of currency with a standard of value that does not result in scarcity. kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
Chasing Flows: How We Confuse being with Being Information systems seem to represent a spontaneous, self-organizing model that transcends barriers and connects people together, opening the space for Being to arise. As Lietaer indicates, these flow systems require a balance between two properties, resilience and efficiency. Since debt-based money systems decrease their own resilience by overemphasizing efficiency, it seems obvious that the way to restore the diversity and interconnectivity of resilience is to increase the flows of currency. Many groups (including gift, alternative currency and commons advocates) are prompted to address the social deficits of poverty and need by increasing the flows of information and money through networks of human exchange. Indeed, as filmmaker Adam Curtis (All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace) has noted, numbers of people believe that flow networks linked by computers have the capacity to create a self-organizing and non-hierarchical social order that can balance and manage itself without centralized control. Many social activists say that this could rebalance the consolidated wealth and power of the modern technological infrastructure and its surplus of stock. (The term ‘stock’ in this discussion refers to a property of systems behavior, not to the capital account of a business security in a stock exchange.) Yet the extent to which these underdeveloped flows are dependent on, or embedded in, the overdeveloped stocks of capital and technology is largely unaddressed. The temptation to view money purely as an information system minimizes the role of the machines that serve this system, the corporations which house the hardware for communication networks and information flows, the financial incentive structures that allow corporations and banks to accumulate capital and consolidate wealth, and the power of the decision-making behind these networks. While the diversity and interconnectivity of information systems may seem to express the values of democracy, equity and justice, today’s flow networks are enmeshed in the very stock systems which commodify individuals into products, uphold the division of labor between producers and consumers and widen social inequality. For example, people who use social technology casually to share personal information are also providing advertisers and businesses with technical information to target their interests as consumers. Organizers using social technology to plan political mobilizations do so by benefiting the corporate earnings of Twitter and Facebook. The mass production of hardware for social technology, which increases the power of social networks, is also increasing the layoff of workers through computerization. Structural parallels between the human brain, the computer and the market are compelling, but it is vital that commoners see where these analogies fit and where they break down. The values sought by social networks—diversity, polycentrism, interconnectivity and non-hierarchical order—are necessary but not sufficient conditions for a new unity of economic value. Since flow networks are only a partial expression of collective human value and meaning, they (re)produce yet another form of subjectivity in a world that continues to be perceived as a polarity between subject and object. Evoking the subjective benefits of flow networks does not 60
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create a countervailing force against the existing system but actually rationalizes and embraces its unequal structures. When we speak of the values of self-organization and spontaneity that arise from the commons, we must also recognize that ‘selforganizing, spontaneous communities’ is precisely the definition of free markets, which operate exclusively in an interest-driven environment. The stimulation of network flows does not transform this system (as Keynesians are learning) because within this interest-driven environment, flows are generally conceived as debt (finance, aid, loans, deficits), while stocks are seen as credit (trade and capital surpluses). These pairs of opposites do not generate the same spiritual and social increase as the inalienable bonds of gift exchange because they are conceived in the asymmetrical context of interest-bearing money, return on investment, legal contracts and hierarchical social order. There remains a huge discrepancy between the presence value expressed in the enduring nature or inalienability of the gift and the time-bound value of the commodity expressed through price and interest. Increasing network flows does not automatically restore the environment, neutralize interest rates, redistribute resources, integrate resource producers and users, or clear the imbalances of these natural and social costs in real time. Instead, the double standard of economic reciprocity remains deeply entrenched in everyday life. Thus, we are back to Aristotle’s original dilemma. The entire thrust of monetary history has shown that no amount of stimulus of C-M-C’ (householding, use value, self-sufficiency) will counterbalance M-C-M’ (money-making, exchange value, self-interest) and reintegrate the economic system. When people are not acting in mutual trust through resource management communities or communities of practice, they remain embedded in the monocentric dynamics of the larger system. This is why ethical, moral, peace, social reform and religious movements cannot escape the rationalism and materialism of the Market State and liberate people from the old forms of control. This is also why important systems values—such as re-localization, resilience, pluralism and diversity— are easily mistaken for the new politics of meaning that is necessary to challenge the authoritarian exercise of political power and develop a fully integrated framework of social exchange. Of course, new economic and social policies are needed to promote interconnectivity and redistribution through increased flows of matter, energy, information and money. But the ontological context needs to be broadened. As philosopher Martin Heidegger (Being and Time) cautioned, what we call ordinary value is just a linear form of social thinking which calls itself ‘being’ because of its self-organizing capacities, but has actually become divided from Being. Self-organizing systems promise an egalitarian social order, but cannot transform the overriding hierarchy and power of material growth (surplus value, capital accumulation, supply-side economics) which stands in the way of Being. A clearer vision of social exchange is needed. It’s time to consider how the present economic conditions of division (commodity, scarcity, reciprocity) and unity (gift, sufficiency, inalienability) may be reintegrated through a greater unity of value. For it is only by seeing the whole that we may understand the meaning of the parts.
Stock and Flow: The Real Meaning of Complementarity The commons express both the inalienability of life as a gift which inspires gratitude for our abilities and resources, as well as the socially negotiated norms and rules of reciprocity. Yet more is required. We cannot continue to base our social exchange systems on economic units (like currency, prices, contracts, households, factories, corporations, jobs, consumer demand, individual preferences) that follow rates of growth which are not commensurate with the biosphere in which they exist. Since the Earth itself is developing without growing, its subsystem—the economy—must eventually conform to this no-growth ecology. However, Being is more than a steady-state or natural order in which systems regulate and stabilize themselves through a network of feedback loops. The economic unity that we seek is far greater than simply matching present resources (supplies, abilities) with needs (demands, rights) through the algorithms of growth or no-growth. Systems theory, complexity theory and information theory show that economies are complex, adaptive living systems similar to natural systems. Information systems, physics and biology also demonstrate that resource systems are not self-balancing as was once believed, but unpredictable and constantly changing. Yet there is a way in which these resource systems are similar. Flows of matter, energy, information or money concentrate in a stock and are then recycled as a flow, whether this flow-stock cycle is instantaneous or involves delays of varying duration. As Elinor Ostrom explains, “Resource systems are best thought of as stock variables that are capable, under favorable conditions, of producing a maximum quantity of a flow variable without harming the stock or the resource system itself ” (Governing the Commons, 30). The most irreducible fact in economics is that resource systems may either be depletable (natural, material) or replenishible (natural, solar, social, cultural, intellectual, digital). This is why we need to be looking at the complementarity of the stocks and flows in resource systems—not just the flows themselves—to give us a better indicator of sustainability in a world of disequilibrium and instability. Indeed, the complementarity of Earth’s systems (mind, life, matter) demonstrates that the only way depletable and replenishable resources can be conceived as an economic unity is through the relationships and connectedness that human beings share with them. Value does not originate independently through communities or their resources, but in the relationship of the communities to those resources. What unites stocks and flows is that no one person may claim them as property—it is our trusteeship that makes them common. This complementarity can arise through gratitude (gifts, sufficiency, replenishability) and reciprocity (commodities, scarcity, depletability) only as the result of human trust. It is our trust that provides the powerful, aligning bridge for a commons-based economics, where commons are both the resources themselves and the social relationships developed by the people who preserve, produce, manage, access and use them (Figure 5). Our Crisis of Trust: Seeing Things Whole Again The free market is often described as a special ‘trust among strangers’ which organizes the impersonal exchange of goods and services among autonomous individuals over vast distances.
Figure 5 Transcending the Polarity in Today’s Economic System Inalienability
Similarly, the state is said to be based on a unique ‘social contract’ under which people give their sovereign trust to an authority in return for security, quality of life and happiness. Yet the economic and political crises erupting now across the world are exposing the breakdown of the people’s trust in both the Market and State. Restoring that trust—and bringing our lives back into alignment with the bio-systems of Earth, our collective heritage and the social bonds between us—means applying the principle of complementarity to the underlying realities of stocks and flows, both for ourselves and for generations to come. Our task is to develop a political and economic system that roots power in people and communities and allows us to meet present and future needs through the production and governance of the commons. When people take responsibility for managing common resources through collective practice and intentional action, it releases their innate human capacities for sharing, honesty, service, compassion and creativity through the cultural life of the community. For example, when a local group maintains its water systems or its parks, or when an online community manages a chatroom or an information platform for mutual benefit, the power of decisionmaking is distributed among members in their different roles as resource users and producers. These relationships determine not only the production and distribution of goods and services. They also shape the consciousness of individuals and the development of their local rules and institutions, ensuring that nature, culture and society are all embodied in the community’s self-determination and sovereign rights to its commons. When we preserve a commons and ensure that its resources remain commonly available, these activities foster responsibility and public spirit, enabling us to work together and improve the quality of our lives. Far-reaching bonds of trust are created when resource users produce and manage their own resources, creating a worldview broad enough to see human beings as an interdependent and intergenerational part of the complex web of life. As the tumultuous history of credit and debt reveals, the development of an equitable economic system that contains both replenishable and depletable resources requires a major leap in human self-understanding. It is only our trust in the complementarity of stocks and flows that can reintegrate the unity of the gift with the division of the commodity through a greater synthesis. Only human trust will reunify a society within itself and with nature. Indeed, this is the Being that eluded Aristotle. Commons Trusts: The Era of Barter and Global Exchange Value Graeber’s insight that global monetary history may be viewed as a polarity between credit and debt economies has great resonance kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
today. It is the challenge that began this discussion: whether collective value originates in the unrestricted signals of supply and demand in the marketplace, through the managed signals of interest rates by the world’s central banks—or from some third source. There are many signs that a new era of common value is emerging. Barter, which has never been a significant factor in social exchange, is becoming a major alternative to money. A commons reserve system of global exchange value is also being proposed to replace the fractional reserve system of money (Figure 6).
non-monetized metrics such as sustainability, quality of life and well-being. In turn, the needs of the present generation are met through a new relationship between businesses, commons trusts and governments, as suggested by economists Henry George (Progress and Poverty) and Peter Barnes (Capitalism 3.0). Private industry provides the public with goods and services which are produced from the surplus resources rented from commons trusts. Government then recycles these rents as social dividends for the public and as funds for the preservation and regeneration of the commons through the trusts.
Evolution of Metrics toward Global Exchange Value Sharing Credit Negative Interest
Ownership Debt Interest Rate
Trusteeship Barter Global Exchange Value
Both barter and this global scale of value must be grounded in new structures of political accountability. This will involve cooperative associations to protect and manage the shared property of a commons by holding it in trust. Commons trusts (including social charter initiatives, resource management groups, mutual credit systems, cooperatives, cooperative banks and credit unions) are already reformulating the meaning of socially created wealth through co-structured rules and institutions. Unlike national and alternative currencies, the primary aim of commons trusts is not to increase the flow of productivity and value by matching presently underutilized resources with people’s unmet needs. That would simply follow the way the existing money system works, requiring the ownership and production of underutilzed resources to generate interest and debt, thereby creating scarcity and forcing economic growth. In the emerging era of barter and global exchange value, commons trusts will focus primarily on the condition of overutilized resources. Each trust will determine a resource differential rate which compares how much of its resource to use in the present with how much to set aside for the future. Trustees then put a cap on the maximum extraction and use of this commons, protecting a significant portion of the resource for coming generations. These caps indicate how much the withdrawal rate of depletable resources must be slowed to allow stocks to catch up with flows. For example, limits on resource use may be set on air and water quality, ecosystem health and biological diversity; living creatures, organs and seeds; and minerals, water and the atmosphere. (Similar indicators can be developed for replenishable resources, including indigenous wisdom, household work and the arts; health, literacy, economic output and income distribution; and scientific knowledge, intellectual property and information flows.) The goal of commons trusts is thus to match today’s overutilized resources with the needs of future generations, according to 62
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This social and political infrastructure is underpinned by a new monetary system. The long-term security of the commons under each cap becomes the basis for a global exchange value, against which many varieties of currency (national, regional or local) may be pegged or adjusted according to scale. Since the metric for these caps is not monetized, the currency issued by commons trusts has a unique standard of value: the timeless, non-commercial preservation of the commons; the vitality or creative life-energy embodied in the relationships of people with these resources; and the production and governance capacities of the social institutions that use the trusts. The secured commons provide 100% backing for an interest-free money, through which the credits and debits of each currency user are instantly issued, adjusted and cleared. This mutual credit will not be needed for small transactions (locally or between global partners), where barter may be used independently without a monetary unit of account or standard of value. But for people, businesses and governments that can’t use barter, the self-regulating system of credits and debits adjusted to the global exchange value will serve as a vital source of monetary stability. (The rise of barter and the development of global exchange value will be discussed in Part 4 of this series.) To break the longstanding dichotomy between Aristotle’s C-M-C’ and M-C-M’, we must make the economy a component part of the biosphere. This means recapturing value through the faith and knowledge that the commons are held in trust for all people and cultures. When human beings become the legal trustees of collective value secured by the real wealth of their commons, the either/or perception of the world is dissolved. The (asymmetrical) reciprocity of the commodity and the (delimited) inalienability of the gift are transformed. Barter fulfills the role of symmetrical reciprocity and global exchange value expresses universal inalienability, bringing collective human value much closer to Being. Money—an expression of the need, love and magnetic power generated between people and their resources—is now seen as more than a token of gratitude or the price of a commodity. It is the presence of our common trust.
feature | the commons Greenkeeping Governance: Toward a Law of the Ecological Commons David Bollier and Burns H. Weston
At least since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, we have known about humankind’s squandering of nonrenewable resources, its careless disregard of precious life species, and its overall contamination and degradation of delicate ecosystems. In recent decades, these defilements have assumed a systemic dimension. Lately we have come to realize the shocking extent to which our atmospheric emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases threatens Planet Earth. If the human species is going to overcome the many interconnected ecological catastrophes now confronting us, this moment in history requires that we entertain some bold modifications of our legal structures and political culture. We must find the means to introduce new ideas for effective and just environmental protection—locally, nationally, regionally, globally and points in between. We believe that effective and just environmental protection is best secured via commonsand rights-based ecological governance, operational from local to global and administered according to principles rooted in respect for nature and fellow human beings. We call it ‘greenkeeping governance.’ We also believe that the rigorous application of a reconceptualized human right to a clean and healthy environment (or ‘right to environment’) is the best way actually to promote environmental well-being while meeting everyone’s basic needs. It is our premise that human societies will not succeed in overcoming our myriad eco-crises through better ‘green’ technology or economic reforms alone; we must pioneer new types of governance that allow and encourage people to move from anthropocentrism to biocentrism, and to develop qualitatively different types of relationships with nature itself and, indeed, with each other. An economics and supporting civic polity that valorizes growth and material development as the precondition for virtually everything else is ultimately a dead end—literally. Achieving a clean, healthy and ecologically balanced environment requires that we cultivate a practical governance paradigm based on, first, a logic of respect for nature, sufficiency, interdependence, shared responsibility and fairness among all human beings; and, second, an ethic of integrated global and local citizenship that insists upon transparency and accountability in all activities affecting the integrity of the environment. photography | ©UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré.
We believe that commons- and rights-based ecological governance—greenkeeping governance—can fulfill this logic and ethic. Properly done, it can move us beyond the neoliberal State and Market alliance—what we call the ‘State/Market’—which is chiefly responsible for the current, failed paradigm of ecological governance. The basic problem is that the price system, seen as the ultimate governance mechanism of our polity, falls short in its ability to represent notions of value that are subtle, qualitative, long-term and complicated. These are, however, precisely the attributes of natural systems. The price system has trouble taking account of qualitatively different types of value on their own terms, most notably the ‘carrying capacity’ of natural systems and their inherent usage limits. Exchange value is the primary if not the exclusive concern. This, in fact, is the grand narrative of conventional economics. Gross Domestic Product represents the sum total of all market activity, whether that activity is truly beneficial to society or not. Conversely, anything that does not have a price and exists ‘outside’ the market is regarded (for the purposes of policy-making) as having subordinate or no value. What is more, it is an open secret that various industry lobbies have captured if not corrupted the legislative process in countries around the world; and that the regulatory apparatus, for all its necessary functions, is essentially incapable of fulfilling its statutory mandates, let alone pioneering new standards of environmental stewardship. Further, regulation has become ever more insulated from citizen influence and accountability as scientific expertise and technical proceduralism have come to be more and more the exclusive determinants of who may credibly participate in the process. Given the parameters of the administrative State and the neoliberal policy consensus, truly we have reached the limits of leadership and innovation within existing institutions and policy structures. Still, it will not be an easy task to make the transition from State/Market ecological governance to commons- and rightsbased ecological governance. Greenkeeping governance is, indeed, a daunting proposition. It entails serious reconsideration of some of the most basic premises of our economic, political, and legal orders, and of our cultural orders as well. It requires that we enlarge kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
our understanding of ‘value’ in economic thought to account for nature and social well-being; that we expand our sense of human rights and how they can serve strategic as well as moral purposes; that we liberate ourselves from the limitations of State-centric models of legal process; and that we honor the power of non-market participation, local context and social diversity in structuring economic activity and addressing environmental problems. Of course, there is also the deeper issue of whether contemporary civilization can be persuaded to disrupt the status quo to save our ‘lonely planet.’ Much will depend on our ability to articulate and foster a coherent new paradigm of ecological stewardship. Fortunately, there are some very robust, encouraging developments now beginning to flourish on the periphery of the mainstream political economy. These include insurgent schools of thought in economics, ecological management and human rights aided by fledgling grassroots movements (e.g., Occupy Now) and Internet communities. Although disparate and irregularly connected, each seeks in its own way to address the many serious deficiencies of centralized governments (corruption, lack of transparency, rigidity, a marginalized citizenry) and concentrated markets (externalized costs, fraud, the bigger-better-faster ethos of material progress). Taken together, these trends suggest the emergent contours of a new paradigm of ecological governance. For all their power and potential, however, none of these movements or their visions can prevail without some serious grounding in law. And in this regard we believe the legal and moral claims of human rights can be the kind of powerful, mobilizing discourse that is needed for real change. Human rights can provide a broad, flexible platform and a respected legal framework for asserting the right of everyone to a clean and healthy environment. The Human Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment Human rights signal a public order of human dignity, for which environmental well-being is essential. They consequently challenge and make demands upon State sovereignty and upon the parochial agendas of private elites as well. They trump most other legal obligations, being juridically more elevated than commonplace ‘standards,’ ‘laws,’ or mere policy choices. And they carry with them a sense of entitlement on the part of the rights-holder, and thus facilitate legal and political empowerment. For these and other reasons, we believe that the human right to a clean and healthy environment can be a powerful tool for imagining and securing a system of ecological governance in the common interest. But there are skeptics who say that the right does not exist except in moral terms, that it lacks the elements of authority and/or control requisite to making it count as law. Are they right? The answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ According to the law of the State system, there are at least three ways in which the human right to environment is today officially recognized juridically: • As an entitlement derived from other recognized rights, centering primarily on the substantive rights to life, to health, and to respect for private and family life, but embracing occasionally other perceived surrogate rights as well—e.g., habitat, property, livelihood, culture, dignity, equality or nondiscrimination, and sleep; • As an entitlement autonomous unto itself, dependent on no 64
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more than its own recognition and increasingly favored over the derivative approach insofar as national constitutional and regional treaty prescriptions proclaiming such a right are evidence; • As a cluster of procedural entitlements generated from a ‘reformulation and expansion of existing human rights and duties’ (akin to the derivative substantive rights noted first above and commonly referred to as ‘procedural environmental rights,’ i.e., the right to environmental information, to participation in decision-making, and to administrative and judicial recourse). A careful review of each of these official manifestations of the right to environment around the world reveals that, however robust in their particularized applications, they are essentially limited in their legal recognition and jurisdictional reach. It also shows that, as part of our legal as well as moral inheritance, the right to environment needs to be taken extra seriously. For this to happen— indeed, for Earth itself to survive hospitably to life upon it—the right must be reimagined and reinvigorated, and as soon as possible. Juridically, this right is most strongly recognized in its derivative form (i.e., derived from other recognized legal rights) rather than in its autonomous form (i.e., legally recognized in its own right). When framed autonomously, interestingly, the right is found to exist principally—indeed, almost exclusively—in the developing worlds of Africa, Asia and Latin America. There also is a growing sentiment (primarily at the regional level so far) to recognize procedural environmental rights. But at bottom, it seems that as long as ecological governance remains in the grip of essentially unregulated (liberal or neoliberal) capitalism, there never will be a human right to environment— certainly not an autonomous one—widely recognized and honored across the globe in any formal or official sense. In recent years, however, two attractive alternative approaches have emerged. The first approach (intergenerational environmental rights), though firm in legal theory, relies heavily on its ability to appeal to the moral conscience. The second (nature’s environmental rights), pioneered by the governments of Ecuador and Bolivia, chooses to alter the procedural playing field altogether. These nations assert that nature has legal rights of its own that must be defended by human surrogates. Both these approaches go beyond the narrow anthropocentrism of existing law. In their legal character they bespeak autonomous rights rather than derivative rights. They look to claimant surrogates to enforce the rights. And they are asserted primarily at the official national and subnational levels. Politically, both approaches reflect a deep frustration with the environmental community’s conventional terms of advocacy and with the formal legal order’s deep commitments to neoliberalism. However, barring some game-changing ecological disaster, huge economic and political forces will continue to resist these innovative legal gambits, for reasons that are both historical and philosophical. Greenkeeping governance that looks to the Commons points toward a different approach for securing a right to a clean and healthy environment. It calls for the establishment of a new procedural environmental right, the human right to commons- and rights-based ecological governance.
The Commons as a Model for Ecological Governance A commons is a regime for managing common-pool resources that eschews individual property rights and State control. It relies instead on common property arrangements that tend to be selforganized and enforced in complex, idiosyncratic social ways. A commons is generally governed by what we call Vernacular Law— the ‘unofficial’ norms, institutions and procedures that a peer community devises to manage community resources on its own and typically democratically. State Law and action may set the parameters within which Vernacular Law operates, but it does not directly control how a given commons is organized and managed. In this way, the Commons operates in a quasi-sovereign manner, similar to the Market but largely escaping the centralized mandates of the State and the logic of Market exchange while mobilizing decentralized participation ‘on the ground.’ In its broadest sense, the Commons could become an important vehicle for assuring a right to environment at local, regional, national and global levels. But this role will require innovative legal and policy norms, institutions and procedures to recognize and support Commons as a matter of law. The Commons represents an advance over existing governance because it gives us practical ways of naming and protecting value that the market is incapable of doing, and, as already noted, in an essentially democratic manner. For example, the Commons gives us a vocabulary for talking about the proper limits of Market activity—and for enforcing those limits. Commons discourse helps force a conversation about the ‘market externalities’ that often are shunted to the periphery of economic theory, politics and policymaking. It asks questions such as: How can appropriate limits be set on the market exploitation of nature? What legal principles, institutions and procedures can help manage a shared resource fairly and sustainably over time, sensitive to the ecological rights of future as well as present generations? photography | ©UN Photo/Evan Schneider
The paradigm of greenkeeping governance is compelling because it comprises at once a basis in rich legal tradition that extends back centuries, an attractive cultural discourse that can organize and personally energize people, and a widespread participatory social practice that, at this very moment, is producing practical results in projects big and small, local and transnational. The history of legal recognition of the Commons, and thus the commoners’ right to the environment, goes back centuries and even millennia. There were forestry conservation laws in effect as early as 1700 B.C. Pharaoh Akhenaten established nature reserves in Egypt in 1370 B.C. Hugo Grotius, often called the father of international law, argued in his famous treatise Mare Liberum (1609) that the seas must be free for navigation and fishing because the law of nature prohibits ownership of things that appear ‘to have been created by nature for commons things.’ Antarctica has been managed as a stable, durable inter-governmental commons since the ratification of the Antarctic Treaty in 1959, enabling international scientists to cooperate in major research projects without the threat of military conflict over territorial claims. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 declares outer space, the moon, and other celestial bodies to be the ‘province of all mankind’ and ‘not subject to national appropriation….’ Commons have been a durable transcultural institution for assuring that people can have direct access to, and use of, natural resources, or that government can act as a formal trustee on behalf of the public interest—what we call ‘State trustee commons.’ The regimes have acted as a kind of counterpoint to the dominant systems of power because, though the structures of State power have varied over the centuries (tribes, monarchies, feudal estates, republics), managing a forest, fishery, or marshland as a commons addresses certain ontological human wants and needs that endure: the need to meet one’s subsistence needs through cooperative uses of shared resources; the expectation of basic fairness and kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
respectful treatment; and the right to a clean, healthy environment. In this sense, the various historical fragments of what may be called ‘commons law’ (not to be confused with the common law) constitute a legal tradition that can advance human and environmental rights. These regimes speak to the elemental moral consensus that all the creations of nature and society that we inherit from previous generations should be protected and held in trust for future generations. In our time, the State and Market are seen as the only credible or significant forces for governance. But in fact the Commons is an eminently practical and versatile mode of governance for ecological resources, among many other forms of shared wealth. The viability of the Commons has been overlooked not just because of the persistence of the Hardin ‘tragedy’ parable and the overweening power of the State/Market, but because the Commons exists in so many forms and is managed by so many different types of commoners. Imagining a New Architecture of Law and Policy to Support the Ecological Commons For a shift to this paradigm to take place, State law and public policy must formally recognize and support the countless commons that now exist and the new ones that must be created. By such means, the State, working with civil society, can facilitate the rise of a Commons Sector, an eclectic array of commons-based institutions, projects, social practices and values that advance the policy of collective action. Extending to the Commons the legal recognition and generous backing the ‘free state’ and ‘free market’ have enjoyed for generations would unleash tremendous energy and creativity needed to provide better institutional stewardship 66
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of our planet. Such recognition of Commons could also help transform the State and Market in many positive ways, not least by checking the cronyism, corruption and secrecy that currently mark each. If the Commons is going to achieve its promise as a governance template, however, there must be a suitable architecture of law and public policy to support it. We believe that innovations in law and policy are needed in three distinct fields: 1. General internal governance principles and policies that can guide the development and management of commons; 2. Macro-principles and policies—laws, institutions and procedures—that the State/Market can embrace to develop commons and ‘peer governance;’ and 3. Catalytic legal strategies that commoners (civil society and distinct communities), the State, and international intergovernmental bodies can pursue to validate, protect, and support ecological commons thus defined. General internal governance principles and policies. Ostrom’s eight core design principles, first published in 1990, remain the most solid foundation for understanding the internal governance of commons as a general paradigm. In a book-length study published in 2010, Poteete, Janssen, and Ostrom summarize and elaborate on the key factors enabling self-organized groups to develop collective solutions to common-pool resource problems at small to medium scales. Among the most important are the following: 1. Reliable information is available about the immediate and long-term costs and benefits of actions; photography | ©UN Photo/Kibae Park
2. The individuals involved see the resources as important for their own achievements and have a long-term time horizon; 3. Gaining a reputation for being a trustworthy reciprocator is important to those involved; 4. Individuals can communicate with at least some of the others involved; 5. Informal monitoring and sanctioning is feasible and considered appropriate; and 6. Social capital and leadership exist, related to previous successes in solving joint problems. Ostrom notes that “extensive empirical research on collective action . . . has repeatedly identified a necessary central core of trust and reciprocity among those involved that is associated with successful levels of collective action.” In addition, “when participants fear they are being ‘suckers’ for taking costly actions while others enjoy a free ride,” it enhances the need for monitoring to root out deception and fraud. If any commons is to cultivate trust and reciprocity and therefore enhance its chances of stable collective management, however, its operational and constitutional rules must be seen as fair and respectful. To this end, ecological commons must embody the values of human dignity as expressed in, optimally, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and nine core international human rights conventions that have evolved from it or those of them as may be applicable. As this suggests, both human rights and nature’s rights are implicit in ecological commons governance. Macro-Principles and Policies. For larger-scale commons-pool resources—national, regional, global—the State must play a more photography | ©UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan
active role in establishing and overseeing commons. The State may have an indispensable role to play in instances where a resource cannot be easily divided into parcels (the atmosphere, oceanic fisheries) or where the resource generates large rents relative to the surrounding economy (e.g., petroleum). In such cases, it makes sense for the State to intervene and devise appropriate management systems. State trustee commons typically manage hard and soft minerals, timber and other natural resources on public lands, national parks and wilderness areas, rivers, lakes and other bodies of water, State-sponsored research and civil infrastructure, among other things. In such circumstances, however, there is a structural tension between commoners and the State/Market because the State has strong economic incentives to forge deep political alliances with the Market and thus promote an agenda of privatization, commoditization and globalization despite the adverse consequences for ecosystems and commoners. Any successful regime of commons law must therefore recognize this reality and take aggressive action to ensure that the State/Market does not betray its trust obligations, particularly by colluding with market players in acts of enclosure. The overall goal must be to re-conceptualize the neoliberal State/Market as a ‘triarchy’ with the Commons—the State/Market/Commons—to realign authority and provisioning in new, more beneficial ways. The State would maintain its commitments to representative governance and management of public property just as private enterprise would continue to own capital to produce saleable goods and services in the Market sector. But the State must shift its focus to become a ‘Partner State,’ as Michel Bauwens puts it, not just of the Market sector but also of the Commons sector. kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
...we must re-imagine the role of the State and Market, and imagine alternative futures that fortify the Commons Sector. Catalytic Legal Strategies. Perhaps the most significant challenge in advancing commons governance is the liberal polity’s indifference or hostility to most collectives (corporations excepted). Accordingly, commoners must use ingenious innovations to make their commons legally cognizable and protected. Since legal regimes vary immensely around the world, our proposals should be understood as general approaches that obviously will require modification and refinement for any given jurisdiction. Still, there are a number of legal and activist interventions that could help advance commons governance in select areas. • Devising ingenious adaptations of private contract and property law is a potentially fruitful way to protect commons. The basic idea is to use conventional bodies of law serving private property interests, but invert their purposes to serve collective rather than individual interests. The most famous example may be the General Public License, or GPL, which copyright owners can attach to software in order to assure that the code and any subsequent modifications of it will be forever accessible to anyone to use. The GPL was a seminal legal innovation in helping to establish commons for software code. • A number of examples of eco-minded trusts serving the interests of indigenous peoples and poorer countries could emulate private-law work-arounds to property and contract law in order to create new commons. One example is the Global Innovation Commons, a massive international database of lapsed patents that enables anyone to manufacture, modify and share ecologically significant technologies. • The ‘stakeholder trust’ could be used to manage and lease ecological resources on behalf of commoners, with revenues being distributed directly to commoners. This model is based on the Alaska Permanent Fund, which collects oil royalties from state lands on behalf of the state’s households. Some activists have proposed an Earth Atmospheric Trust to achieve similar results from the auctioning of rights to emit carbon emissions. • Some of the most innovative work in developing ecological commons (and knowledge commons that work in synergy with them) is emerging in local and regional circumstances. The reason is simple: the scale of such commons makes participation more feasible and the rewards more evident. Salient examples are being pioneered by the ‘re-localization movement’ in the US and UK, and by the Transition Town movement in more than 300 towns worldwide. • Federal and provincial governments have a role to play in supporting commons formation and expansion. State and national governments usually have commerce departments that host conferences, assist small businesses, promote exports and so on. Why not analogous support for commons? Governments could also help build trans-local structures that could facilitate local and subnational commons, such as Community Supported 68
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Agriculture and the Slow Food movement, and thereby amplify their impact. • The public trust doctrine of environmental law can and should be expanded to apply to a far broader array of natural resources, including protection of the Earth’s atmosphere. This would be an important way to ensure that States act as conscientious trustees of our common ecological wealth. • Various digital networking technologies now make it possible to reinvent the administrative process to be more transparent, participatory and accountable—or indeed, managed as commons. For example, government wikis and ‘crowd-sourcing’ platforms could help enlist citizen-experts to participate in policy-making and enforcement. ‘Participatory sensing’ of water quality and other environmental factors could be decentralized to citizens with a stake in those resources. Moving Forward It might be claimed that greenkeeping governance is a utopian enterprise. But the reality is that it is the neoliberal project of everexpanding consumption on a global scale that is the utopian, totalistic dream. It manifestly cannot fulfill its mythological vision of human progress through ubiquitous market activity. It simply demands more than nature can deliver, and it inflicts too much social inequity and disruption in the process. The first step toward sanity requires that we recognize our myriad ecological crises as symptoms of an unsustainable cultural, socioeconomic and political worldview. Moving to greenkeeping governance will entail many novel complexities and imponderable challenges. Yet there is little doubt that we must re-imagine the role of the State and Market, and imagine alternative futures that fortify the Commons Sector. We must gird ourselves for the ambitious task of mobilizing new energies and commitments, deconstructing archaic institutions while building new ones, devising new public policies and legal initiatives, and cultivating new understandings of the environment, economics, human rights, governance and commons.
feature | global citizens My Experience in the Slums of Kibera, Nairobi Mary Davidson Several years ago I made a critical decision in my life to leave my comfortable home in the suburbs of New York City and travel to Kenya with an organization called Cross Cultural Thresholds for a five-day work trip in the slums of Nairobi.
from all its evident and not so apparent malaises was possible— throw some money at it, send over the Peace Corps, teach the gospels of the Bible, take over a country in the name of democracy and human rights.
Cross Cultural Thresholds is an organization dedicated to working with local grassroots leaders focused on the education, care, health and hopes of the poorest of the poor and the voiceless—the children who struggle every day to scrounge some bits of food to fill the unquenchable hole of hunger. In these slums, food is the first priority, safety is the second, lodging is the third and education is an afterthought. Cross Cultural Thresholds identifies and works with those few leaders who have managed to find their way out of this deep despair to look back and, with unimaginable determination and vision against all odds, try to bring others along with them.
Before our departure to Kenya, we had been well prepared to expect the unexpected. Various ‘what if ’ situations had been explained to us and I thought that I was fully ready to be a part of a team on its way to ‘save at least this corner of the world.’
While there, our group’s daily routine would be a range of work: some of us would build classrooms in the midst of mud and fresh flowing sewage while others in the group would bring some bit of education and exposure of the arts to the children. As the day came closer to departure on that 18-hour trip by air to Nairobi, I asked myself why in my middle age with a secure life had I been so touched to travel over to what was certainly going to be a challenging five days in ways I could not yet even imagine. I remember specifically on the eve of departure a moment when I walked into my bathroom—warm in the midst of a wintry cold day outside—flicked on the shower to let the water warm up, flushed the toilet, and the revelation came to me that I would never again experience this situation in the same way. At that moment I could not fully fathom how profoundly different I would feel upon my return about hot running water and a flushing toilet. As an American, I grew up thinking that where there is poverty we must try to change things and in a hurry. To save the world photography | ©Phillip Ennis
When we got out of the van to enter Kibera (one of the slum areas of Nairobi), where our orphanage is, I was nearly struck down by the smell, which was so strong that it seemed to take on a physical form. The overwhelming sense of being enveloped by it did not allow me to focus on anything else until I became aware of the utter and complete sense of chaos, the movements of huge numbers of people with no apparent destination. Somebody reminded me to watch where I was walking to avoid the rivulets of fresh sewage, the carcasses of dead dogs, the little tiny children running up to us with their invariable and joyful shouts of “Hello!” and “How are YOU?” I was not discouraged. I was thrilled to be there to ‘help’, to make a difference, to have an impact—to solve the problems of poverty. Certainly I was uncomfortable by the realities of the venue, but I knew that anything was possible and I could let that discomfort go. I would just apply our well-worn American practices of assessing the problems, then design and apply the solutions and all would be well. Idealism at its best! When we walked through the very crude fencing that was the entrance to the orphanage, I was staggered by the faces of 300 children, ages 4-17. Many had huge smiles and looked at us with wonderful joy; others sat on the edge of the circle and looked uncertain and a bit scared and subdued. I wondered about them. I knew that I was looking into the eyes of many who had suffered unimaginable abuse of all kinds in their very short kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
lives—starvation at an early age, most irreparably scarred by the simple reality of being orphans in the midst of desperate poverty. My heart rang out with “these poor children—it is all so sad.” I looked around and gauged the work to be done—the classrooms that we would try to build in our brief visit and so much else that we had planned. I knew that we would make such a measurable difference to these children with all of our ‘doing’ and we would go home having accomplished so much for them. This sense of anticipated accomplishment gave me such a good feeling and I couldn’t wait to get to work. The first few hours were most successful (by our standards) with hammers and shovels going at full speed, everyone working hard and the children watching from their classes. Lunch time came and we ate our box lunches that had been prepared by our hotel and the children ate their lunch, a non-nutritious gruel with their fingers, having patiently waited in a long and very slow line to put out their little tin bowls for the one scoopful of food. I noticed the contrast—our healthy and plentiful food versus their ‘slop’— and a slight twinge of unease came over me. We went back to work for the afternoon. A few hours later, with comments like “job well done!”, off we went back to our comfortable hotel and another full meal. As we debriefed over dinner, 70
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we expressed some of our discomfort and fear about Kibera, and our concerns for the health and well being of the children. We all realized that after only one day we were coming up against some disquiet that we couldn’t or didn’t want to articulate. The next day was both a little more comfortable and a lot more uncomfortable. As we walked through the entrance of Kibera, we were fully prepared for the sights and smells. We started greeting people as we walked past them. We smiled at the children and when they asked, “How are YOU?” we replied, “I am fine—How are YOU?” They loved the interchange and kept repeating their well-learned lines, ever louder and with more certainty. I thought to myself that on my next trip I would walk through the 6 square miles of Kibera and try to teach every child I could find a few more lines to greet foreigners. Discomfort came as we entered the grounds of our orphanage. All was the same: some children laughing and smiling in their greetings, others sitting alone and not sure or not believing. And I became more unsettled as I realized that the work that we were doing was wonderful, impactful and would make a difference to each child… but what else? Thus began the real discomfort for me—we had come to build, to ‘do’, not necessarily to become attached. After all, we might photography | ©Phillip Ennis
never see these children again and emotional attachment in a world so very distant in time, place and circumstance had not been part of my equation. One of the customs in Kenya is that the children do not shake hands; they bend and present the tops of their heads to be patted in greeting, as a sign of reverence for the elders and affection to the children by their elders. It is only after that connection is made that they may look in an elder’s eyes. The second day passed much the same as the first, but now I came to realize that the time schedule we had set up for ourselves was a bit unrealistic. Within our cultural standards and expectations it was fully possible, but that was without all the extras that were expected in the Kenyan culture. What about conversation? What about taking some time to sit and relax with the teachers? How about running around a bit with the children? Once again we were faced with our cultural pressure of ‘doing’ and ‘accomplishment’ while our hosts looked at time in very different ways. The sun came up and the sun went down and in between there were no set hours to ‘do’, but there was an expectation to ‘be’ together, to share each others’ stories. The hammers were no longer banging away, the shovels had stopped heaving the mud around and in the last hour there, we were quietly together, listening and speaking with each other. The job could get done tomorrow and as we returned to our hotel, we experienced a strangely different sense of the day than that of our first day. The third day was busy, or at least the morning was, and the afternoon was devoted to ‘being’ with the children, playing some of their very simple games created with the detritus and discarded objects of slum life. We forgot about their dirty fingers that clasped our hands and our cleanliness-is-everything attitude was ignored as we sought that human touch. The cross-cultural shift had begun to take place. Changes in attitude began to seep through our bodies, hearts and minds and released each of us to a new awareness of ‘being’ in a very different community but with all the same human needs for affection, respect and attachment. All of this meant breaking through some deeply ingrained attitudes of expectations about success and accomplishment. The fourth day we attempted to get caught up, back on schedule, and each of us could feel the tension of having relaxed too much the day before. We had had too much fun and now we had to work really hard. But when the children finished their class work in the morning, they wanted to spend time with us to teach us new games. They showed us the letters they had written to each of us to take to our families at home describing their lives in Kenya so that we would never forget. Did we know what an elephant looked like and had we ever seen a picture of a giraffe? Did we know that they had these animals in their country called Kenya? Someday, they said, they might even be able to see a real one, not just a brightly colored picture. Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized how many times I had seen elephants, giraffes and zebras and only a few miles away from these eager and proud
children. Could they ever imagine a tiny bit of my life or would they always imagine it in terms of their own? Whether the images in their minds accurately reflected my actual life, none of that mattered. We had crossed over the cultural threshold of a far deeper understanding of each other via other rituals: patting all those little heads, most marked by the scars of malnutrition; catching and throwing balls, so old and overused that they were always leaking air and having to be blown up constantly; practicing their penmanship with letters for each of us to take home; holding hands as a way to reassure each other that the human touch was so much more important than the last nail banged into the corner of the building. On the fifth day the children performed several skits, sang out with rich and sure voices, and thanked us in all sorts of different ways including dances and poetry. None of us knew quite what the specific words meant but we were each very clear about the message. As we walked through the fence we had entered five days before, full of the certainty of our purpose and clear about our expectations of the week, I was struck by how all of us had changed in ways we would not even fully realize for weeks, months and even years. I looked back and saw all the beautiful work we had gotten done and I was proud of that, and there was the profound realization of so much more. These children were not victims; they were strong and had already endured so much more than most of us would in a lifetime. They had survived, still loving and trusting ‘the other,’ the foreigner who came in to their midst. Their innocence was palpable and yet their maturity could be spelled out in one word: wisdom. I clutched close to my heart the memory of that little ritual of patting their tiny, scarred heads and how they had reciprocated by the soulful look into my eyes, not asking, not expecting anything except the connection of one human to another. In those short five days, inside this filth-ridden slum, grace had entered and was present in our midst. Our cultures, too often defined by profound differences, had connected and changed each of us.
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gallery two | the children of kibera Phillip Ennis
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feature | global citizens Global Citizenship and Cross-Cultural Work: As Paideia, Restorative Justice and Salvation Carter Via From nearly the beginning of history, and certainly since tribes of human beings began to encounter other tribes of human beings, we the human family have been doing cross-cultural work. In other words, we have been competing with, making judgments about, sometimes demonizing and occasionally collaborating with our neighbors. Inside this complex web of competition, judgment-making, language differences and religious practices, there were and are at times interesting learnings and, at other times, complicated misunderstandings created. All of this can be reinforced by a melee of other social dynamics including negligence, manipulation, domination/oppression and charity. As we move most effectively into this practice of global citizenship, it would be helpful to acknowledge these differences and complex dynamics. One of the most provocative and compelling of questions at the base of the work of global citizenship is that too often the crosscultural work and communication necessary for successful global citizenship develop into patterns of mistrust, social injustice, financial manipulation, and inequitable use of natural resources, among many other consequences. There may be a sure and certain identified motivation and intention of ‘doing good’ while making assumptions about cultures, long-held belief systems and traditions. Can we re-define the core issues at the heart of cross-cultural engagement and thus become more conscious of what is at stake and more consistently humane and open with our behavior? In order to initiate the conversation, we would like to suggest these three concepts/principles as central to the understanding and practice of purposeful cross-cultural work that will lead to effective global citizenship: • • •
Paideia Restorative Justice Shalom
Paideia Paideia as a concept and practice comes from Greek civilization and more or less argues that education is critical to being a citizen. Yet it isn’t just a standard form of education, and most certainly is NOT education as biased information gathering and recycling. Cornel West, a distinguished professor of philosophy and African American Studies, writes: “Plato always understood truth as tied into a way of life, as a certain mode of existence. And so what he’s trying to get us to enact is paideia1, which I think at the end is really at the center of any serious philosophic project.” For Plato, this form of complete education was a move away from established propositions about objects in the world and a move 76
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toward critical examination of propositions for the purpose of deeper engagement with the world. Plato believed strongly that this brand of deep learning would foster a citizenry of philanthropists, or lovers of humanity. Having traveled extensively in Central America and East Africa with groups of North Americans, I have come to believe that paideia is the determining factor in whether or not a great crosscultural trip is merely an experience OR becomes a sustainable shift in how a person engages with and commits to the world. Undeniably, the work of paideia is hard work. It necessitates cutting through half and partial truths. Frankly, it is far easier to live inside of half and partial truths. This kind of existence allows us to rest comfortably with simple propositions about both others and ourselves. Just recently, one of our trip participants working in the Kibera Slum (Nairobi, Kenya) went on a rant about the failure of African leaders and governments to deal responsibly with their own people. I said, “Well, that is true enough, and the rest of the truth would need to consider the long-standing reality of human violence, the reality of European exploitation and colonialism, the harsh realities of the Cold War, and perhaps, just for the fun of it, the reality that power and greed corrupts anywhere and everywhere.” With a broader and deeper truth in view, paideia goes a step further in its process. Turning again to Cornel West, he explains, “Paideia is ultimately about learning how to die in order to live more intensely, critically and abundantly.” The great South American educator, Paulo Freire, makes concrete this idea and pushes it back into the realm of personal responsibility. He asserts, “At the end of any examination of social reality and all determinations of blame, we must still ask ourselves ‘what can I do to make a difference?’ ” This points us to our second principle … Social Justice The concept of social justice has been a factor in cross-cultural work for a long time. In certain respects, it is the antidote to crosscultural work that is built on models of charity—i.e., someone from a dominant or developed culture feels pity for someone from a less dominant or developed culture and then sets out to ‘help’ them with the best of intentions. One is left asking the question, whose cultural standards and accepted practices of ‘living well’ measure ‘the help?’ Does this ‘help’ consider cultural traditions and spiritual rituals, for example? While charitable efforts can create a desired result (like feeding hungry people), charitable efforts by design rarely, if ever, generate any systemic change, and in fact can too easily create confusion and resentment. Too often those being ‘helped’ become the dominated and those well-intentioned ‘helpers’ become the
dominant. As a general rule, these efforts do not envision a world re-made in service to the common good and risk excluding respect for both the community’s and the individual’s needs. A Nicaraguan friend and political activist, Mirna Cunningham, used to say to well-meaning groups of Americans arriving in her country,“If you came here out of sympathy to help us, please go home. But if you came here because you understand that our spiritual and shared destiny are inextricably bound together, well then, let’s get to work.” The Hebrew tradition is instructive on this topic of social justice. In the sacred texts, justice (tzedakah) is more or less defined as ‘right relationship,’ and can be tracked in one of two ways—as retributive justice or as restorative justice. While retributive justice focuses on crime and punishment and finds its appropriate place as a legal concept, the more common brand of justice is in fact restorative justice. Restorative justice is always about the well-being of the larger community. For example, restorative justice demands the practice of giving to the poor, not because someone has an impulse to be generous or may feel good about helping someone else. Rather, one carries a moral imperative to give to the poor because it is photography | ©Emily Bierwirth
essential to the relational well-being of the world; stated more crassly, restorative justice requires that the community gives the poor their ‘due’ as defined by a deep respect for ‘the other’ and the skills of shared listening to know how that ‘help’ and ‘giving’ might be best made manifest. When one takes even a superficial look at the percentage of the world’s population living in acute poverty and the equally disturbing disparity between the wealthiest and the poorest, we should quickly conclude that cross-cultural work needs to reclaim a deep understanding of restorative justice. This is not the time in history to feel sorry for the poor, for quick fixes, or for feelgood service opportunities. However, it may be the time in history for all of us to be engaged in bringing about a world remade in service to the common good. So we come to the final principle at the heart of purposeful and effective cross-cultural work. Shalom Shalom is another powerful Hebrew concept and arguably completes the arc of purposeful cross-cultural engagement. If paideia is about the necessity of deep education at the heart of this work, and retributive justice is about the moral obligation for each of kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
the Aviation Club. In hopes of gathering posters and diagrams for the club, he began to write letters to aviation companies in Europe and the United States. He wrote one letter, then two more, then fifty, then a hundred, and finally three hundred. Letter 300 was the magic number. A CEO from New Canaan, CT wrote back.
us to participate in re-creating the fabric of right relations, shalom is about the way particular kinds of engagement complete us and point us toward a kind of salvation. Salvation is, of course, a loaded word in modern parlance. My intention is not to make any otherworldly judgments or declarations. Rather, I borrow from the Hebrew tradition, which most often defines salvation as shalom. Here is one helpful definition: It is not a reach to describe salvation as shalom. As term and message, it seems to encapsulate a reality and hope of wholeness for the individual, within societal relations, and for the whole world. Let us not be naïve about either cross-cultural work or global citizenship: neither is easy to articulate, one without the other; nor simple to accomplish; nor without terrible and unexpected challenges. Rather, we must understand that these two concepts are intrinsically tied, one to another with the incumbent challenges and exhausting work. We know that effective global citizenship cannot happen without intentional cross-cultural work, without deep listening to ‘the other,’ without letting go of well-learned patterns of behavior and assumptions about cultural identities, practices, traditions and language. In every conversation about global citizenship, it seems imperative that we must acknowledge the necessity for effective cross-cultural work because differences are real. Global citizenship cannot risk and must not result in reduction of all differences to cookie cutter molds. A Story about Jimmy Kamau To illustrate the significance and power of these reflections about cross-cultural work, I would like to share a very personal story from my work in Kenya. The story centers around a young Kenyan man who grew up on the outskirts of Nairobi in relative material poverty. His name is Jimmy Kamau. As a tiny boy, Jimmy developed an undying love for airplanes. He watched the sky for airplanes. In school, he drew airplanes. On the weekends, he would walk to a nearby airstrip just to catch a glimpse of those magnificent flying machines. Early in high school, Jimmy joined 78
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On that day, a relationship was born. David Squier, a CEO from New Canaan, and Jimmy Kamau, a Kikuyu teenager from Nairobi, found each other. Over the next ten years, the work of shalom would unfold. David helped Jimmy to attend college and flight school. Jimmy worked hard. And today, Jimmy Kamau is a pilot for Kenya Airways. Last March, I led a trip to Kenya that included David. David made the trip for two reasons—to meet Jimmy’s family and to work with our organization in the Kibera Slum. David had a poignant and heart-warming time with Jimmy’s family and was then inspired to invite Jimmy to join our work in Kibera. Jimmy had never been to the slum and he now claims that “the experience changed my life.” Since then, he has joined the Board of Directors of our partner organization in Kibera and is working hard on behalf of grossly underserved children. On the last night of our trip last March, we met as a team to reflect on the impact of our trip. Jimmy took the time to speak and declared his profound gratitude for David, his generosity and his commitment. Then he said, “Without you, I would have never realized my dream to fly. Thank you for that gift.” It was an extremely touching moment and a clear indication of shalom at work. But it was David’s response that has stayed with me. He responded, “What I did for you made whole something in me.” We cross over tribes, classes, religions and orientations to become more whole while acknowledging and respecting our profound but not insurmountable differences. Thus is the work of global citizenship. 1
Greek paideia, according to Xenophon, was “the process of educating man into his true form, the real and genuine human nature.”
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feature | global citizens What Does it Mean to be a Global Citizen? Ron Israel
At The Global Citizens’ Initiative we say that a “global citizen is someone who identifies with being part of an emerging world community and whose actions contribute to building this community’s values and practices.” To test the validity of this definition we examine its basic assumptions: (a) that there is such a thing as an emerging world community with which people can identify; and (b) that such a community has a nascent set of values and practices. Historically, human beings have always formed communities based on shared identity. Such identity gets forged in response to a variety of human needs— economic, political, religious and social. As group identities grow stronger, those who hold them organize into communities, articulate their shared values, and build governance structures to support their beliefs. Today, the forces of global engagement are helping some people identify as global citizens who have a sense of belonging to a world community. This growing global identity in large part is made possible by the forces of modern information, communications and transportation technologies. In increasing ways these technologies are strengthening our ability to connect to the rest of the world—through the Internet; through participation in the global economy; through the ways in which world-wide environmental factors play havoc with our lives; through the empathy we feel when we see pictures of humanitarian disasters in other countries; or through the ease with which we can travel and visit other parts of the world. Those of us who see ourselves as global citizens are not abandoning other identities, such as allegiances to our countries, ethnicities and political beliefs. These traditional identities give meaning to our lives and will continue to help shape who we are. However, as a result of living in a globalized world, we understand that we have an added layer of responsibility; we also are responsible for being members of a world-wide community of people who share the same global identity that we have. We may not yet be fully awakened to this new layer of responsibility, but it is there waiting to be grasped. The major challenge that we face in the new millennium is to embrace our global way of being and build a sustainable values-based world community.
Since World War II, efforts have been undertaken to develop global policies and institutional structures that can support these enduring values. These efforts have been made by international organizations, sovereign states, transnational corporations, international professional associations and others. They have resulted in a growing body of international agreements, treaties, legal statutes and technical standards. Yet despite these efforts we have a long way to go before there is a global policy and institutional infrastructure that can support the emerging world community and the values it stands for. There are significant gaps of policy in many domains, large questions about how to get countries and organizations to comply with existing policy frameworks, issues of accountability and transparency and, most important of all from a global citizenship perspective, an absence of mechanisms that enable greater citizen participation in the institutions of global governance. The Global Citizens’ Initiative sees the need for a cadre of citizen leaders who can play activist roles in efforts to build our emerging world community. Such global citizenship activism can take many forms, including advocating, at the local and global level for policy and programmatic solutions that address global problems; participating in the decision-making processes of global governance organizations; adopting and promoting changes in behavior that help protect the earth’s environment; contributing to world-wide humanitarian relief efforts; and organizing events that celebrate the diversity in world music and art, culture and spiritual traditions. Most of us on the path to global citizenship are still somewhere at the beginning of our journey. Our eyes have been opened and our consciousness raised. Instinctively, we feel a connection with others around the world yet we lack the adequate tools, resources, and support to act on our vision. Our ways of thinking and being are still colored by the trapping of old allegiances and ways of seeing things that no longer are as valid as they used to be. There is a longing to pull back the veil that keeps us from more clearly seeing the world as a whole and finding more sustainable ways of connecting with those who share our common humanity.
What might our community’s values be? They are the values that world leaders have been advocating for the past 70 years and include human rights, environmental protection, religious pluralism, gender equity, sustainable worldwide economic growth, poverty alleviation, prevention of conflicts between countries, elimination of weapons of mass destruction, humanitarian assistance and preservation of cultural diversity. kosmosjournal.org | spring.summer 2012
feature | global citizens Bearing Witness to Our World Elizabeth Rabia Roberts The work of a citizen activist is grounded in intimacy with people and places. I first learned this in 1965 when, at the age of 19, I left university to work in Selma, Alabama for one-and-a-half years with Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. As I stepped off the bus that first afternoon, I realized I had no clue about the Southern experience—black or white. But over time, I learned it was possible to work for justice without making the ‘other’ into an enemy to hate and blame. By the time I went back to school my narrow identity had expanded beyond my own private concerns. To show up, without judgment, to different perspectives was life-changing for me. Without leaving the country, I had learned the first lessons of ‘global citizenship.’ Since then I have worked for peace, social justice and environmental sanity in Burma, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Palestine/Israel, Thailand, Nicaragua, Brazil, Afghanistan and Pakistan. My roles in these countries have changed depending on what is needed or asked for by each situation I find myself in. I have used many identities over the years: women’s advocate, deep ecology teacher, peace negotiator, international citizen activist, pilgrim and friend. Through working across borders from Selma to Kabul, I repeatedly found that what I think I ‘know’ can be the greatest obstacle to my being fully present to what is, and thus what is possible. I have gradually come to think and feel beyond the narrow confines of a single identity. My cherished values and beliefs often have been left behind so that something new and more useful to the larger community can emerge. In exchange for letting go of most of what I was taught about the world, I have learned to see more clearly how different cultures actually work, and the systemic way most change takes place. It is not a process to be controlled by one person, one political party nor one ideology. No one knows what a just and peaceful world looks like; it is constantly a work in progress. We need to learn to work organically, allowing each situation to show us how to proceed. I use an approach that I believe does this, called bearing witness. Bearing witness consists of five simple-sounding human capacities. But like most of the important things in life, these capacities take some effort to develop. First, to be of service to a people or place, I need to show up to them. There is no way to get around this first requirement. To know what is possible, I need direct experience. Second, I listen to the stories of the people I encounter, however they want to tell them. I witness their struggle and their pain. Third, I ask caring questions and listen without comment or judgment. Council process is particularly effective in encouraging this deep listening. Fourth, I practice patience. I try to hold the focus driving the agenda. Fifth, if necessary (and it almost always is) I go back and listen more. I wait for the moment to ripen when right action, or the next step, is clear. It is an attitude more like that of a midwife than a CEO. 80
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I have come to trust this process for peace building as well as for social change. It is the opposite of top-down, or all-at-once, planning. It is iterative and it gives time for trust to build and all voices to be heard. It is intimate and encourages honesty. With this approach you can’t know at the beginning how it will turn out at the end, or what success will look like. For example, over the last one-and-a-half years, I traveled to Afghanistan three times to listen to local women, women refugees, and the activists working with them. They emphasized that there could be no peace in Afghanistan until there was peace with Pakistan, and that would require policies based on greater trust with India. I brought these stories back to women funders in the US. As a result, a new regional initiative is underway to bring women from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India together to develop a permanent network and to plan a larger international conference with women leaders and activists from other parts of the world to bear witness to their mutual security needs and social empowerment. Through bearing witness I don’t try to fix anyone, which only assumes they are broken and have nothing to offer. I don’t tell people to be different than they are. I am even cautious of the word ‘helping’ because it has the connotation of superiority. I am simply there to be with them, in caring and compassionate concern for their well-being. This includes those I may not feel comfortable with at first glance: angry Arabs, dying women and children, armed soldiers, conservative imams, men in mental institutions, complacent officials—all have been part of my journey and my learning. Through the process of bearing witness an essential intimacy arises. Every situation has its own unique intelligence, which is revealed through the many relationships that comprise it. By practicing deep listening, what is possible through these relations, and in the interests of the greater community, will emerge—if we don’t stifle it with our own agenda. This is a radical approach. I don’t expect the State Department or the World Bank to start bearing witness to the pain and suffering of our world next month. But things are changing in many positive ways and this is the work of optimists. The interconnected web of problems we now face may be called ‘global’ because of their planetary expanse, but they will be solved through millions of citizens working together in intimate relationships with others who are very different from themselves.
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Can we all come together? We think we can. How?
JOIN US AT THE PEOPLE’S SUMMIT RIO+20 JUNE 2012 THE WIDENING CIRCLE—TOWARD A GLOBAL CITIZEN MOVEMENT Many of us are identifying as global citizens today and even devoting our life and work to worldwide projects. However, our power to inﬂuence the destiny of the planet and humankind has been limited as isolated individuals and groups. What if we connected from the heart and shared our learning and skills from diverse cultures? A group of us from around the world has initiated e Widening Circle Campaign to explore this possibility. We shared ideas monthly by phone for over a year and met face-to-face in March 2012, solidifying our commitment. Now we are ready to meet you at Rio+20 to discuss your ideas for a global citizens movement for the great transition. Please follow the Kosmos Newsletter for updates. www.kosmosjournal.org; www.wideningcircle.org; www.earthsummit2012.org/other-publications.