From Sat Sep 25 10:15:06 2004
Date: Thu, 23 Sep 2004 10:43:15 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: GLOBAL TRANSFORMATION: Harmonization and global transformation
Article: 191303
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Harmonization and Global Transformation

A chapter from Richard K. Moore, Transformation: Why we Need it and How can we Achieve it? (2004)

May you live in interesting times.

An ancient Chinese curse

The crisis of civilization: a review

We are now in the midst of an extremely volatile and unstable moment in history. It is a chaotic instability, where a variety of likely events can each lead to unpredictable and far-reaching consequences. Nuclear war is a strong possibility, as the U.S. pursues its New American Century agenda and tensions continue between Israel & Iran, India & Pakistan, and China & Taiwan. Abrupt climate changes are likely to occur, as global warming threatens to melt the polar ice caps and disrupt the Gulf Stream. Global food supplies are being diminished by depletion of fishing stocks, water tables, and arable land. Declining oil supplies threaten to destabilize our entire energy-hungry civilization, while rising oil prices are already stressing the global economy. Even without the oil problem, the global economy is in serious trouble as it faces the ultimate limits to growth on a finite planet. And this is only a partial list of potentially disastrous disruptions. All major governments and political leaders, meanwhile, have no policy concept other than a stubborn insistence on ‘more of the same’. Attempts at reform have become futile, as neoliberal economists tighten their budgets and governments militarize their police forces.

In such a chaotic context, it may seem like a waste of time to pursue processes of social transformation. Perhaps it would make more sense to escape to high ground, find a cave, and stock it with provisions. A few may adopt such a survivalist strategy, but most of us cannot or will not. For the majority of us who stick with the Titanic, we might as well use our time in the best way we can. I believe that taking control of our own destinies is the most sensible thing we can devote our efforts to, no matter what the state of the world. If we can gain control of the ship before it sinks, we may be able to steer around the worst dangers. If instead we become survivors in a post-apocalyptic world, then the more we know about governing ourselves the better off we will be. If we are forced to build a new civilization, we would be well advised to take charge of that process—and consciously avoid the mistakes of our predecessors.

In other words: even in the midst of a chaotic situation, our Transformational Imperative remains in effect. Indeed, a time of chaos is the most fertile time for new possibilities. In more stable times, there would be no mass constituency for social transformation. In today's world, everyone knows that fundamental change is needed. But our societies are divided by factionalism, and this prevents us from working together to bring about change. Overcoming factionalism in society, by harmonizing our differences, is the only way that We the People can come together and become the desperately needed agent of transformation.

We know how to overcome divisiveness in the microcosm, in a face-to-face gathering. There are proven techniques for achieving that, based on deep listening, and the outcomes of such gatherings are very promising. Not only do participants overcome their differences—and reach a place where they can work creatively together—but they come away with a sense of We the People, and an understanding that factionalism can be overcome in society generally. As a consequence, participants also come away with an enthusiasm for spreading the experience to others. They’ve seen the light of hope, and being caring human beings, they want to share it.

My message to activists and concerned citizens everywhere, regardless of your political or religious orientation, is to take heed of this ray of hope. If you really want to make a difference, I can see no more promising direction for your energies at this time than to help spread a culture of mutual understanding and creative dialog. Massive worldwide protests against war and globalization have been ignored, but if We the People get our act together in the right way, there is no power that can stand against us. The following links provide useful information, contacts, and resources:

Tree Bressen, “Dynamic Facilitation for Group Transformation”:

Jim Rough's Dynamic Facilitation workshops:

Rogue Valley Wisdom Council:

Tom Atlee's politics and democracy pages:

A Canadian experiment in citizen's councils:

National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation:

Democracy in America project (the follow-up conference “for hundreds”):

Report on popular democracy in Venezuela:’846’&lists=’cj’

Achieving critical mass: the role of activists

Despite the transformative experience of harmonization in the microcosm, and despite the many groups and initiatives aimed at spreading this experience (eg., the above links), there is not as yet any real momentum—and no real harmonization movement. The Michigan gathering shows promise, in terms of systematically getting some momentum going. But in terms of a major movement that initiative is only a drop in the bucket. If the movement is to really get off the ground, we need a much wider variety of initiatives. If there is to be a harmonization movement, I believe there must first be an earlier movement, a movement to spread an understanding of harmonization—and the importance of overcoming factionalism—among activists.

Throughout the West there are hundreds of thousands of activists. They are the stalwarts who regularly show up at anti-globalization and anti-war protests, and they are the ones who organize such events. They organize boycotts to fight against sweatshop practices, they create community currencies, they demonstrate against or in favor of abortion rights—and there are hundreds of other such causes. Activists are people who have the motivation, and make the time, to roll up their sleeves, get involved, and do what they can to make a difference—according to their values and perspectives. If this kind of mass energy could be shifted to spreading harmonization, the movement could build momentum very quickly.

In general, when people experience a harmonization session, they come away with an enthusiasm for spreading the experience. In the case of activists, that enthusiasm would likely be turned into action. Currently, most activists think in terms of adversarial engagement within the current political system. After experiencing the empowerment of We the People working together, activists would naturally want to share this experience with other activists and with people generally. They would have new visions of how social change can be brought about—as did the participants in the Michigan gathering.

The Michigan participants were activists of a sort, what we might call ‘organizational’ activists. From their experience of overcoming divisiveness, they naturally thought in terms of joining advisory boards, building bridges between their organizations, planning follow-up conferences, and creating policy agendas. These are very useful initiatives, and in their way they can do much do reduce factionalism in society. But at the same time these initiatives are basically hierarchical in their nature. They are, in their main thrust, aimed at coalition building—within the context of adversarial politics. Rather than spreading harmonization as a cultural movement, these initiatives are, it seems, directed more at using harmonization as an organization-building tool.

The great bulk of modern activists, on the other hand, tend to be ’grassroots' activists. They think in terms of face-to-face, locally-based affinity groups rather than at-large membership organizations. They participate in large-scale events—but they see those as collective expressions of grassroots energy rather than the result of coalitions among hierarchical groups. Their demonstrations are marked by diversity, creativity, ‘spirit’, and spontaneity, rather than by agendas and centralized planning. Within the context of our adversarial political system, these grassroots activists can be criticized as regards their ultimate effectiveness. But in terms of deep social transformation, this kind of activism could be very effective indeed—if empowered by an understanding and appreciation of harmonization and its potential.

In closing the previous section I said, “If you really want to make a difference, I can see no more promising direction for your energies at this time than to help spread a culture of mutual understanding and creative dialog.” To that I would now add that the most promising way to get the momentum going is by bringing in grassroots activists and giving them the opportunity to experience a harmonization session for themselves. The communication and organizational links among these activists tend to be horizontal and multi-branched—based on networking rather than hierarchy. If a fire can be lit among grassroots activists, it would be likely to spread widely and quickly.

Achieving critical mass: the role of community

If a harmonization movement develops momentum on a grassroots basis, then we could expect many different kinds of sessions to be organized. We could expect the same kind of imagination, variety, and energy to be expressed as we currently see in the many diverse forms of activism throughout the West. In this way an understanding of harmonization could spread throughout the culture. In this section, I’d like to discuss some of the kinds of sessions that we might expect to see, and consider how the movement might lead to an awakening of We the People—as an agent of social transformation.

One kind of session might be among activists themselves, as a means of reaching consensus on activist projects. In anti-globalization protests, for example, most of the protestors have been strictly non-violent while others, the ‘anarchist’ wing, insist on engaging in property destruction. Perhaps, by using harmonization, more coherent tactics could be adopted among all parties in such an event. This could increase the effectiveness of the event and perhaps reduce the likelihood of conflict with police.

Another kind of session might be among different parties in a local dispute, as a means of reaching resolution. Perhaps some community is divided between people supporting a development project and others wanting to protect the environment. Harmonization might enable the community to come up with a consensus approach that everyone can support. For local environmental activists, organizing such a ‘both-sides' session could be more fruitful than a traditional environmentalist protest event.

Another kind of session, like the Michigan gathering, might be aimed at reducing divisiveness among competing organizations. Certainly many activists will think in traditional political terms, and there might be attempts to create a political movement or even a new party. And there are countless other possibilities, limited only by the imagination and creativity of diverse activist groups. And whenever a certain kind of harmonization session achieves a successful outcome, that would provide energy and inspiration for future similar events in other places. In this way the movement could spread non-linearly, along many lines of propagation, and a broader sense of ‘harmonization movement’ would emerge.

Of all the various kinds of sessions that might arise, there is one in particular that I would like to focus on—a session aimed at creating a collective sense of identity and empowerment within a local community. For a variety of reasons, I suggest that this kind of session offers the greatest potential for social transformation. In order to explore this notion further, let's examine the Ashland gathering—the one that generated the enthusiasm for the Michigan event.

Held in January, 2004, the Ashland event was billed as “The Rogue Valley Wisdom Council” (see URL above). A “Wisdom Council” is a concept developed by Jim Rough, the inventor of Dynamic Facilitation—one of the most effective forms of facilitation for achieving harmonization in a diverse group of people. The Wisdom Council is Jim's proposal for how the We the People experience might be translated into the political domain. The basic idea behind a Wisdom Council is to bring together a group of randomly selected citizens, as a kind of ’representative microcosm’ of a larger population—a community, a region, or even a whole nation. Ideally, a Wisdom Council would be officially chartered in some way, so that the outcome of its harmonization process would have a claim to democratic legitimacy. The ideas and proposals generated in the Council session would be published to the larger population, and could presumably find their way eventually into public policy.

The Ashland session was organized as an attempt to implement this Wisdom Council vision for the people of Rogue Valley, Oregon. Not every part of the Wisdom Council formula was followed, for example there was no official political chartering of the event. But overall the event was a very useful experiment and from it we can learn quite a bit about the potential of Wisdom Councils and of community-based sessions more generally.

In order to achieve a reasonably random selection of participants, hundreds of names were picked randomly from the phone books for the Rogue Valley area. These people were contacted by phone, and eventually a small group agreed to participate in the event. Jim Rough personally facilitated the two-day session, and the group did indeed achieve a strong sense of We the People. The event was recorded on video, and one can readily see the transformation in the participants. At the beginning they were all rather shy and didn’t feel they had much to say. By the end, they were overflowing with enthusiasm about the possibility of some more direct kind of participation in the democratic process.

As a follow-up, a public meeting was held in the week following the session, and this was also recorded on video. The meeting started off with a report by the participants on their experience, and their highly articulate expressions were in stark contrast to their original shyness. The meeting then broke up into several roundtable discussions, each including one of the Council participants. There was no attempt to facilitate these discussions, and remarkably the enthusiasm of the Council participants turned out to be highly contagious. The people at the meeting were able to somehow pick up the We the People spirit without actually going through the harmonization experience themselves.

Everyone came away from the public meeting with a great deal of enthusiasm, including the organizers. But along with the enthusiasm, there was also a kind of let-down. The potential of We the People had felt so real, so promising, and yet the next day the world goes on as usual. How can We the People be more than a transitory experience? How can it have a noticeable effect on society? Where do we go from here? What next?

For these particular organizers, the answer to the ‘What next?’ question was the Michigan gathering. The strategy there is to piggy-back on existing activist organizations. Those organizations have some degree of political influence, and if that influence can be shifted away from divisiveness we can hope for beneficial political consequences. Jim Rough's strategy with Wisdom Councils is similar, only he seeks to piggy-back on official political institutions rather than activist organizations. Both strategies are promising and make good sense, but the sense they make is within the context of the existing hierarchical political system. They are not aimed at creating the kind of deep social transformation that is required to deal with the unprecedented crisis being faced by humanity and civilization.

So let's return to the Ashland experience, and consider again the ’What next?’ question—from the perspective of transformation. How can We the People achieve democratic legitimacy—not as an influencer within hierarchical politics, but rather as a primary actor in society? I suggest that the answer to this question can be found at the community level. I’ve been referring to face-to-face sessions as being examples of ‘harmonization in the microcosm’. The community, I believe, is the natural next step. If a community as-a-whole can achieve harmonization, then that would be an example of harmonization in a very important larger microcosm, the microcosm of a community. If a whole community can ‘wake up’, then We the People would exist as a coherent entity in an identifiable territory. This would be a very important milestone in terms of social transformation, and we will return to this point shortly.

What would it mean for a community to achieve harmonization—for a community to ‘wake up’? It would not necessarily mean that the whole community participates in face-to-face sessions, although that might be possible in a very small community. More likely ‘waking up’ would be a multi-stage process. In Ashland, a significant number of people came away with a considerable amount of enthusiasm, from both the session and the public meeting. It seems likely that a similar project could be carried out in any locality, with similar results. So let's take the Ashland scenario, and consider how that kind of momentum might develop into a community waking-up process.

It seems to me that there would be two ‘threads' in such a process. One thread has to do with organizing more sessions and spreading the experience among more members of the community. The other thread has to do with the content of what is discussed in the sessions—and the publication of that to the community at large. The first thread serves to involve larger and larger segments of the community in the vision of We the People, and the second facilitates the evolution a ‘sense of the community’—the awakening consciousness of We the People.

After several sessions, it seems likely that certain issues would rise to the top, as being of general community concern. There would begin to be a coherence in the awakening consciousness, as a harmonized perspective begins to emerge on those issues. Subsequent sessions would have a ‘starting point’; they could move beyond simply discovering a sense of We the People, and go on to advance the ongoing community dialog. Each session would bring in new perspectives and concerns, leading to greater coherence in an evolving community consciousness. As harmonization became part of the local culture generally, it would become possible for larger gatherings, and shorter gatherings, to operate effectively within the context of harmonization. At some point the community as a whole would be awake—it would have a sense of itself as a community, it would have evolved ways of maintaining community dialog, and it would have a shared understanding of its collective concerns and priorities.

I've extrapolated quite a bit, in drawing out this scenario. But based on the experience of previous harmonization sessions, it seems to me that these kind of dynamics would be likely to develop if sufficient organizational energy were applied to pursing the two threads. In the case of Ashland, I believe enough energy was generated to enable a next step to be taken in this process—a follow-on session, let's say, and some effective local publicity. Out of the enthusiasm generated in that next session, there would be new energy released to enable another step, and so on. Perhaps that will happen or is happening, but for the time being most of the energy seems to have been diverted instead to the Michigan event. What is needed for the community process to proceed is not more seed energy—an Ashland-like event can provide that—but rather an awareness, on the part of organizers, of the transformative potential of awakened communities. This is a point that I promised , a bit earlier, to return to.

My claim here is that an awakened community has the potential to be an active and effective agent of social transformation. There are three basic reasons for this claim, and they have to do with political legitimacy, ability to act coherently, and ability to serve as a model for other communities. Let's examine each of these reasons in turn.

The most basic principle of politics, since time immemorial, has been a mutual respect among societies as regards sovereignty and territorial integrity. Whenever this principle is violated we note that as an exceptional episode, and we give it a label like ‘raid’, ’invasion’, ‘conquest’, ‘war’, or ‘imperialism’. Most of us yearn for peace, and we define that in terms of societies not interfering, or threatening to interfere, in the affairs of other societies. In today's world sovereignty and territorial integrity are defined, for the most part, at the level of nations. In earlier eras, the level was kingdoms, chiefdoms, tribes, and hunter-gatherer bands. The principle that the ‘people of a place’ have a right to run their own affairs, according their own system of governance, goes all the way back to our origins, evolving out of the territorial behavior found throughout the animal kingdom, including in particular the primates.

As the size of political entities has grown, through conquest and imperialism, peoples have often been forced together against their will. With the Kurds and Palestinians in the Middle East, the Basques in Spain, and the Tibetans in China, we see examples of peoples who see their primary identity in a smaller entity, and who yearn for their own sovereign territory. In the splitting up of the USSR, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, we see examples of such yearnings being allowed to play themselves out. In some cases we may sympathize with a demand for independence, and in other cases we may not, but we all recognize that any legitimate claim to independence must begin with a consensus among the ‘people of a place’ that they want to be independent. Thus international recognition of a new nation is frequently associated with some kind of plebiscite, verifying that the desire for independence is genuinely shared by most people throughout the identified territory.

It is within the context of this primordial principle—that the ‘people of a place’ have an inherent right to seek to run their own affairs—that I speak of the political legitimacy of an awakened community. I’m not claiming that a community has the right to become a sovereign state, at least not at this point in our discussion. What I am claiming is that a community is the ‘people of a place’, and there is an inherent political legitimacy in the will of a community—if that will is based on a genuine consensus of the members of that community. An awakened community has the ability to achieve such a consensus—to evolve a community ‘will’ or ’agenda’—and it has the ability to express that will with a coherent community voice. When ‘We the People of Our Town’ can speak with such a voice, then that voice has a legitimate claim to be taken seriously by surrounding communities and by relevant governmental agencies.

Let's next examine the ability of an awakened community to ‘act coherently’. When a community has achieved a sense of its collective will or agenda, then there are many ways in which the people of the community can act to move that agenda forward. For one thing, they can select a slate of candidates from among themselves, and elect them to all local offices with something near 100% of the vote. In this way We the People can also speak with the official voice, and exercise the authority, of the local governmental apparatus. The people of the community would be involved in ongoing policy formation, by means of appropriate harmonization processes that the people work out for themselves. The local government apparatus would serve as the operational arm of the people, rather than as a vehicle of power and wealth for local elites and politicians. And there are many things an awakened community can do outside the governmental context, such as organizing co-op industries to create employment and generate income for the community. Regardless of what local agendas might be pursued, We the People would be learning how to think, act, and respond as a whole community. This is an important phase of the waking up process.

Porto Alegre is a medium-sized city in Brazil which operates under a bottom-up consensus process that has enabled the residents to achieve some degree of We the People consciousness. The budget of the city is determined by this process, in which everyone can participate, and the official government implements that budget— spending the allocated amounts on the identified items. Porto Alegre is recognized internationally as being a well-managed, efficient, and livable city, and has won many civic prizes and awards. Within the constraints of higher-level government and funding, an awakened community can basically run its affairs according to its own preferences and priorities. Policies on open spaces, public services, traffic, zoning, and other matters can be developed creatively, with respect for the concerns and tastes of everyone in the community. We the People, at the level of community, can be the agent of transformation of its own civic environment.

An awakened community, I suggest, would be a very appealing model to people in other communities. Every community today has conflicts between different factions or ethnic groups, gripes about the way the local government runs things, and recognized local problems that seem to never go away. Activists, concerned citizens—and even elected officials—in such a community would naturally have some interest in finding out how ‘Our Town’ was able to resolve its internal conflicts, and move forward toward achieving a civic renaissance. Perhaps nothing could be more effective in spreading a culture of harmonization than the inspiration provided by a growing number of awakened ‘Our Towns'.

The waking of the giant

So far in this chapter we've been looking at harmonization mostly as a cultural movement. We saw in the previous chapter that such a movement exists in an embryonic form, with a handful of initiatives seeking to generate momentum in one way or another, based on one strategy or another. In this chapter we've been exploring ways in which such a cultural movement might gain momentum. We've looked particularly at the potential role of grassroots activists, and focused on applying harmonization to the mission of enabling ‘We the People’ to wake up at the level of community. I suggested that this focus is important because the people in a community, if they find common purpose, can claim a kind of legitimacy (being the ’people of a place’), and because the community level can give We the People practice in thinking and acting together coherently, and because awakened communities could, by their example, be effective vehicles of movement propagation.

If the movement were to develop in this way, and if several different communities began to achieve a sense of We the People, and if interest in these activities began to spring up in the society at large—then we would probably be able to say that the movement had reached critical mass. In actual experience with harmonization processes, as in Ashland and Michigan, participants have come away with a great deal of enthusiasm. It seems to me that we would see that kind of enthusiasm magnified many times when the process is enabling communities to begin taking charge of their own affairs. With that kind of enthusiasm, and sufficient initial momentum, I anticipate that the movement would take off in a big way.

In terms of our waking giant, this would bring us to the point where the giant is conscious and able to interact intelligently with its local environment. But social transformation cannot be brought about at the local level. We the People may begin to awaken locally, but our consciousness must become global if we are to save humanity from the crisis it faces. The giant is not fully awake until it understands its role in the wider world. Fortunately, it is very likely that awakened communities would soon discover the limitations of what can be accomplished locally. For example, they would find themselves encumbered by restrictions placed by higher-level government, they might find that outside landlords control much of the property in the community—and that remote corporations have more say over the local economy than do the local government and the people combined. Eventually, people would begin to realize that further progress requires a deeper perspective than that of civic improvement.

Besides, communities are made up of real people, some of whom are experts in various areas, and some of whom are concerned about things like sustainability and globalization. There is no reason to assume that there would not be sessions early on in the waking up process that would be brave enough to venture into radical thinking of one sort or another. I've found that in face-to-face discussions people can entertain surprisingly radical ideas. It is only in public forums and the media that everyone seems to limit themselves to mainstream thinking. Here's one experiment I've carried out a couple times in airports. I'd find myself next to some ‘very ordinary’ middle class couple and I'd strike up a conversation. They’d ask what I did, I'd say I write, they'd ask what about, I'd say political stuff, and then I'd say, “For example, what do you think of capitalism?”. That's a question that had never occurred to them, and amazingly, within about ten minutes of discussion they’d be saying something like, “I see what you mean, capitalism doesn’t really make much sense, does it?”. I'm not saying that people can be converted quickly away from capitalism, only that people are more open than we might presume to entertaining deep questions about the myths of society—if the circumstances are right.

Earlier, I introduced the concept of ‘harmonization dynamics'—within the context of a face-to-face meeting. In that context, those dynamics typically lead to remarkable results: people learn to respect one another as human beings, they learn to resolve their differences, they learn how to work creatively and effectively together, and they experience a sense of We the People. In that earlier discussion, I contrasted the dynamics of harmonizing meetings with those of ‘adversarial’ and ‘collaborative’ meetings—in which differences are not resolved, but are instead either reinforced or submerged.

Just as harmonization exhibits remarkable dynamics in the microcosm, I believe we can expect it to also exhibit remarkable dynamics in the macrocosm. I think we can assume, for example, that awakened communities would tend to stay in touch with one another on a networking basis. It would be only natural for them to want to compare experiences and share ideas amongst one another. And as people began to see the need to think more globally and more deeply, they would be likely to organize gatherings and conferences to bring in as many ideas and perspectives as possible—and to seek to harmonize them. After such gatherings, people would go back to their communities and most likely there would be follow-up discussions, harmonizing community perspectives as regards whatever ideas or proposals came up at the wider gathering. Good ideas or resolutions-of-conflicts that come up in one community would tend to spread around and be considered by other communities. Breakthroughs in any microcosm would soon become breakthroughs for the macrocosm. In this way, a movement-wide consciousness would tend to develop—and We the People would begin to have meaning on a society-wide scale. The macrocosm reflects the microcosm: communities would learn to respect one another as human communities, they would learn to resolve their differences, they would learn how to work creatively and effectively together, and they would experience a sense of We the People—at the level of the macrocosm.

If these kind of dynamics emerge and become a factor in the mainstream culture, then the giant will be fully awake and ready to become a player in society. We the People will be emerging from the anonymous masses, just like the figures emerging from the rock in Michelangelo's “The Prisoners”.

Cultural dynamics and cultural transformation

What we would be seeing, with harmonization in the macrocosm, is the beginning of a fundamental cultural transformation—from a hierarchical-adversarial culture to a networking-harmonizing culture. Under hierarchical-adversarial dynamics, people seek empowerment by joining forces with some faction or ‘cause’. When we ‘push’ within such a system, opposition energy arises to push back, and the net transaction tends to reinforce divisiveness—whether or not our pushing gets us anywhere. We have little motivation to think creatively about solving the problems that face us as a society because no one would listen to us, and besides our energies must go to supporting those candidates and causes which are, at best, _somewhat aligned with our own concerns. No one asks us for our ideas, they only ask us for our support. The creative thinking that sets the direction of our societies comes from the top down, and it reflects the interests of those near the top. Furthermore, this hierarchical planning results in a tendency toward uniformity in society—cookie cutter towns with a Starbucks, a WalMart, look-alike motels and freeways—and now occurring on a global scale.

A networking-harmonizing culture begins in the community, and it's creative thinking is aimed at dealing fairly with everyone's concerns. We can seek empowerment in such a culture by openly expressing our concerns and ideas, and by listening respectfully to those of others. If we ‘push’ a concern which is important to us, we will be listened to, and rather than opposition we would find cooperation in trying to find a way in which the concern can be dealt with, taking into account conflicting concerns as well. Regardless of what the concern is about, the net transaction tends to broaden community understanding and deepen harmonization. In such a culture, we have every motivation to think creatively about the problems that face us a society, and at the scale of community we will find that we are blessed with a considerable measure of collective wisdom.

In a networking-harmonizing culture, creative problem solving goes on in parallel in every community, and indeed in every gathering or conference that is concerned with social issues. Whenever something is learned in one venue, or a new idea is generated, that becomes available for consideration everywhere else. In this kind of culture, we could expect the emergence of diversity, as different communities find their own way of dealing with their own unique problems and opportunities. Such a culture would be incredibly more creative in dealing with social and economic problems than is our current culture. Under hierarchy, fundamental policies are determined centrally, and then implemented everywhere more or less the same way. Apart from the fact that ‘one size does not fit all’, there is a more systemic problem: a central planning agency is a creative bottleneck. It's like having one central processor in society's computer instead of thousands of parallel PCs—each of which can share its discoveries with the others. (In our current society, we see this kind of parallel creativity in the way the marketplace operates, but unfortunately all that creativity is constrained and channeled by the harmful dynamics of capitalism.)

I suggest that a networking -harmonizing culture is precisely what we need to be aiming for, in terms of social transformation. The community as the primary autonomous unit, harmonization as the way of relating, and networking as the principle of organization. That is my formula for the enlightened society. I come to this not because I think it is ideal, nor because it suits my native sentiments—although both or these are true—but because from a systems perspective I see this as the only viable alternative to hierarchies and elite rule.

But I get ahead of our story. So far, in our examination of where harmonizing dynamics might lead, we’ve gotten to the point where a culture based on networking and harmonization is growing up within the larger hierarchical society. The new culture is characterized, to use the rhetoric of revolution, by ‘captured territory’—ie., the network of awakened communities. This territorial aspect is very important. When people in their everyday lives participate with their neighbors in a new culture, that culture is reinforced and strengthened, and the culture begins to elaborate itself in the form of artistic and poetic expression. Awakened communities are in fact ‘liberated zones', and in liberated zones we begin to see the potential of a transformed society. Without territory, there are only dispersed partisans. With territory, a new culture will begin to lay down roots.

I daresay it would not be too long before people would began to ask, “Why can’t we just run society this way? What are those jerks in Washington (or Dublin, or Paris, or wherever) doing for us anyway? What do we need them for?” This is when the giant begins to realize its own power. In terms of revolutionary dynamics, this situation is very similar to that of the American colonies under British rule.

The American colonies were not really ruled by Britain, rather they were compelled to pay tribute to Britain in monetary terms, in the form of levies to the Crown or profits sent home to British-owned enterprises operating in the colonies. In terms of governance, the colonies had their own elected assemblies that managed their own local affairs. The American Revolution was not a social revolution—as were the French and Russian—it was simply the severing of ties with the Mother country. Whereas the French and Russian revolutions were followed by considerable conflict and strife, the aftermath of the American ‘Revolution’ was relatively orderly and civil. The new society had already been in place—it only needed to be freed from outside domination. The Constitution was not intended to transform the colonies, but rather to legitimize the way they already were—and to preserve the privilege of those who had come out on top under Crown rule. There was no breakdown of society, no chaos, when the British were defeated. The transition to the new regime was at least orderly, even if it didn’t lead to a democratic society.

Similarly, as the new networking-harmonizing culture begins to establish itself throughout society, people will begin to realize that their relationship to the hierarchy is a matter of paying tribute—in taxes to government, in profits to corporations, in interest to banks, and in young people sacrificed to the military machine. As we gain experience in running our own affairs, we will understand that it is possible for us to sever our ties with oppression and exploitation. At this point, our giant is making the decision to claim its rightful ground.

Global transformation and the third world

The third world persists in poverty for precisely one reason: because it has been systematically dominated, robbed, and looted by centuries of still-ongoing imperialism on the part of the industrialized nations. This has been a horrible fate, accompanied by much genocide, bloodshed, and suffering, and no right-thinking person would wish such an experience on those peoples. And yet, there is a benefit that accrues from that suffering: social transformation will be much easier for the third world than it will be for the West.

The problem for the West is that we believe we already live in democracies. When a ‘bad’ official gets elected, we blame ourselves for not ‘getting out the vote’. We get caught up in adversarial games, pursuing reform, and don’t realize that all the paths of the maze leave us inside the same box. We are kept from liberation by what the Sufis call a ‘veil of light’, which is more dangerous than a ‘veil of darkness'. A veil of darkness is a recognized obstacle, against which we know we should muster our resources. A veil of light is a seductive siren that seems to be what we want, but which imprisons us. Moving past our pseudo-democracy veil of light requires, if my investigation has been relevant, a wholesale cultural transformation. Only when we experience genuine democracy will we realize that what we had wasn’t the real thing.

The third world, on the other hand, sees the mainstream capitalist imperialist system as a ‘veil of darkness'. People in the third world know that most of their rulers are corrupt puppets, and that globalization and corporations are continuing to rape their countries—modern descendents of the missionaries and conquistadors. People in the third world don’t need to awake to the possibility of transformation, they need only the freedom to liberate themselves. If the West is able to transform itself to a culture based on networking and harmonization, and if it ends imperialism and extends the hand of friendship and support to the people of the third world, I suspect that social transformation will be global in a matter of weeks.

But in fact the third world is not waiting for us in the West to lead the way. All over the third world people are struggling for local control, and they are building networks and learning to find their empowerment as We the People. They have been forced into bottom-up solidarity by the array of forces exploiting and dominating them. They have not been encumbered by illusions of living in democracies. Under the hyper-exploitation brought on by globalization, rejection of the imperialist system is spreading to all strata of many third world societies, not just the poorer segments. I mentioned earlier the example of Porto Alegre, a medium-sized city in Brazil, where the budget is determined by a bottom-up consensus process. This model has been replicated elsewhere in Brazil, and there there are many other democratic initiatives and innovations being pursued in Brazil, under the progressive stewardship of a strong labor party at the national level.

There are more radical examples of third-world leadership on the path to social transformation, but before I mention them I’d like to review a few points. Consider for a moment the possibility of a whole society operating on the basis of harmonization and networking. Each community basically runs its own affairs, and wider scale issues are dealt with by harmonizing the concerns of all affected communities. There's a lot more to be said about how that could work in practice on a global scale, and we’ll get into that in the next chapter. For the moment and for the sake of the argument, please imagine that such a society would be viable.

What I’d like you to notice is that voting and political parties do not play a role in such a society. Parties are the embodiment of factionalism, and they make no sense in a culture of harmonization. If people have concerns that need to be addressed, harmonization is a more effective way of addressing those concerns than would be the formation of a faction dedicated to those concerns. As regards voting, there are two kinds to consider: voting on issues, and electing representatives. As regards issues, voting is a vastly inferior decision-making system in comparison with harmonization. If there are competing proposals on the table, it makes much more sense to creatively harmonize the underlying concerns than it does to simply choose among the proposals. Indeed, this is the core principle underlying the virtues of harmonization.

As regards electing representatives, the issue is really one of hierarchy. In our current system, candidates compete to be given the power to rule over us. We choose among masters, live under a hierarchy, and call it democracy. While we live under this illusion, it is natural that we value ‘open and fair elections'. That serves to maximize the meaning of our votes, for whatever that's worth—at least it helps us be comfortable in our illusion. But ‘open and fair elections' are only of value within the context of hierarchy. In a society based on harmonization there are no rulers and no need to elect any. Instead we might select people, or solicit volunteers, to manage certain projects or to represent the community's concerns in some gathering or conference, what the Native Americans called a ‘pow wow’. Such representatives or managers are not ‘given power’, but are rather given the responsibility to carry forward the agenda that has been articulated by the community as a whole. If people compete for such roles, it is not on the basis that they will ‘make better decisions', but rather on the basis that they are good managers or good communicators. And in many cases, it would probably be a team or slate that would be selected for such a role rather than an individual. Competitive elections of rulers, whether ‘open and fair’ or not, make no sense in a society based on harmonization and networking.

It is in the context of these observations that I dare to bring up the examples of Cuba and Venezuela. I’m not claiming that these are ideal societies, nor that they embody harmonization, but I do suggest that we can understand these societies better if we are able to see that competitive parties and elections are not the same thing as democracy. According to mainstream mythology, there are basically two kinds of governments: democratic and dictatorial. In this mythology, democracy equals fair & competitive elections, and everything else is dictatorship. And indeed, most of the governments in the world that don’t have fair & competitive elections are indeed dictatorships. I suggest, however, that Cuba and Venezuela are examples that need to be examined on their own merits.

In the case of Venezuela, we do have fair & competitive elections, as recently verified by international observers including Ex President Jimmy Carter. Nonetheless, based on the grassroots support for Chavez's radical programs, one suspects that a one-party-state scenario might develop. Based on eyewitness reports I’ve seen, by Venezuelan and foreign observers alike, Chavez is facilitating a cultural transformation in Venezuela. He is not launching massive state programs, but is instead encouraging local empowerment, and providing services and support for those programs which seem to be achieving results. Katherine Lahey, a community studies major at the University of California Santa Cruz, offers these comments in an article she wrote based on her observations in Venezuela:

The stitching of the fabric of the revolution is unmatched in its strength and breadth of anything I have ever seen.

Throughout the country, not just in the urban barrios, social programs called ‘misiones'—a social development strategy borrowed from the Cuban revolution—are being implemented by the people with the support of government resources.

What takes place behind the scenes of each mission is simply incredible and inspiring beyond words. These campaigns include education—from literacy to university level, health, employment, citizenship, support for indigenous groups and their reincorporation into society, economic justice and resistance to neoliberalism through development of grassroots and community cooperatives and businesses, to name a few.

-> Full article at:’846’&lists=’cj’

Chavez is genuinely trying to help the people of Venezuela mobilize their own creativity to solve their problems and develop their communities and society generally. He is not representing a privileged elite. If his efforts lead to a We the People kind of democracy in Venezuela, then competitive elections will not be relevant to the situation. It is likely that the people would choose to continue on that path—there would be no rascals to vote out of office. Venezuela under their “Bolivarian” revolution needs to be judged on its own merits, not compared to a set of political standards that themselves do not deliver democracy. If Chavez starts suppressing or exploiting people then he's a dictator after all. If he continues to shepherd a cultural transformation toward local empowerment, then we should acknowledge him and the people of Venezuela as being bold pioneers on the path to global social transformation. So far, at least, that seem to be what is going on. In the third-world context, Venezuela is apparently evolving a credible response to our Transformational Imperative. And that is precisely why our elite rulers in Washington and Wall Street don’t like Chavez and don’t like the broad-based support of the Venezuelan people for the Bolivarian revolution. One can only hope that the Venezuelan military is loyal to the government, unlike the Chilean military in the time of Allende which was covertly linked with the CIA.

I’ve saved Cuba to the last because it is the most controversial case. We never hear Castro's name mentioned in the news without it being accompanied by the label ‘dictator’. And in mainstream entertainment propaganda, we see stories of ‘daring refugees from tyranny’, who never have anything good to say about the Cuban Revolution or Castro. And in the case of Americans, we are told by our government that Cuba is a communist dictatorship, and that loyal Americans shouldn’t go there. And it goes deeper than that. With the history of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs, and the derision of Cuba in right-wing circles, Castro turn out to be rather deeply embedded in the general American psyche as a bad-guy commie dictator. I risk alienating my readers if I dare challenge that myth.

Nonetheless, I must take that risk and offer the challenge. As an example, Cuba is too valuable to ignore, despite the shadow cast by decades of demonizing propaganda. As it turns out, the extent of Cuba's success in achieving a culture of community-based democratic harmonization can be estimated by measuring the hostility of Washington toward Cuba. Hostility from Washington is not a guarantee that democracy exists somewhere, but wherever a people stand up effectively for their rights against the imperialist system, you can be sure Washington's ire will soon follow. For Washington, Cuba is too important an example to allow it to be seen for what it is—proof that there are viable models for development outside the capitalist paradigm. The success of Cuba stands as a contradiction to the dominant mainstream economic mythology. It is not at all surprising that Washington and the corporate media make every effort to demonize, destabilize, and harass Cuba in every way they can—and every effort to make other third-world nations understand that Washington would look with strong disfavor on any nation that might seek to emulate Cuba, as we have seen in the case of Venezuela.

Charles McKelvey, an American Professor of Sociology, has spent considerable time in Cuba as an observer. In 1998, he wrote a report on his studies for an Internet list, and here are two excerpts:

The Cuban political system is based on a foundation of local elections. Each urban neighborhood and rural village and area is organized into a “circumscription,” consisting generally of 1000 to 1500 voters. The circumscription meets regularly to discuss neighborhood or village problems. Each three years, the circumscription conducts elections, in which from two to eight candidates compete. The nominees are not nominated by the Communist Party or any other organizations. The nominations are made by anyone in attendance at the meetings, which generally have a participation rate of 85% to 95%.

Those nominated are candidates for office without party affiliation. They do not conduct campaigns as such. A one page biography of all the candidates is widely-distributed.

The nominees are generally known by the voters, since the circumscription is generally not larger than 1500 voters. If no candidate receives 50% of the votes, a run-off election is held. Those elected serve as delegates to the Popular Councils, which are intermediary structures between the circumscription and the Municipal Assembly. Those elected also serve simultaneously as delegates to the Municipal Assembly. The delegates serve in the Popular Councils and the Municipal Assemblies on a voluntary basis without pay, above and beyond their regular employment. …

So the Cuban revolutionary project has many gains, not only in the area of social and economic rights, but also in the area of political and civil rights. Because of these achievements, the system enjoys wide popular support, in spite of the hardships caused by U.S. opposition and by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Drawing upon the institutions that they have developed over the last forty years, they are responding to the present challenges and are surviving in a post-Cold War world. The strength and vitality of these institutions is worthy of our investigation, for Cuba may represent an important case as we seek to understand how peripheral and semi-peripheral states can overcome the legacy of underdevelopment.

-> Full article at:’0009’&lists=’cj’

I am not trying here to give a full, balanced report on Cuba or Venezuela. I imagine there are failures as well as successes in both places, as regards democracy and justice. My main point here is that the absence of competitive elections is not necessarily a sign of dictatorship, and may in some cases be a sign of a democratic process characterized by the dynamics of harmonization. Each case deserves to be evaluated on its own merits by looking at the results on the ground and at the reports of people who live there. And the fact that Castro is still around after all these years is not necessarily evidence that he is a tyrant. It could equally be an indicator that the people of Cuba continue to support their revolution, and that Castro continues to support the people in their project. If that is the case, as it seems to be, then one can only hope that the Cuban scenario does not depend too heavily on Castro's personal moral leadership, as he will not live forever.

As regards the third world in general, I repeat my observation that social transformation will be easier to accomplish there than in the West—once the West abandons its imperialist ways. In the meantime it seems that the third world is leading the way in transformational innovation and may provide models that we can learn from in our own pursuit of transformation.

Engagement with the regime

In the West there are two primary obstacles to transformation. The first, which we have been discussing at length, is the current absence of an effective transformational movement. In the principle of harmonization at the level of community, I believe we can find one viable path to building such a movement. Perhaps there are other viable organizing principles and paths as well, although I haven’t heard of any as yet. But whatever kind of transformational movement might arise in the West, it will sooner or later need to face the second obstacle: determined opposition by the ruling elite regime.

In this section, I will try to anticipate the various kinds of opposition we could expect to encounter, based on the experiences of previous social movements and based on what we know about the tactics and attitudes of the current regime. I will present this material as a kind of Movement Guidebook—”How to Overcome the Regime With the Least Confrontation”. I am not competent to write a definitive version of such a guidebook, but this seems to be the most convenient way for me to convey observations and analysis which, hopefully, may be of some value to the movement.

To begin with, I believe it is very important that we look to the game of Go for our models of engagement rather than the game of chess. Chess is about battle, and on the battle ground it is those who command tanks and attack helicopters who have the advantage, not the people. Besides, transformation is not about destroying anyone, but about taking everyone's concerns into account. When eventually they have no useful alternative, our elite brothers and sisters will be willing to talk to us, and their concerns will be listened to with the same respect afforded everyone else. Indeed, it will be much easier for us to transform our economies and infrastructures when we have the enthusiastic cooperation of those who currently run our governments, corporations, and banks.

The game of Go is about gradually consolidating territory while artfully constraining the alternatives of your opponent—so that eventually he has no available move that can improve his position. Among master players, it is seldom necessary to actually remove stones from the board—both players know from the position what would be the outcome from that mundane exercise in mechanical capture, and so they don’t bother with it. As I pointed out earlier, this kind of strategy characterized Gandhi's resistance movement against British occupation. Certainly his non-violent ethic provides a model we want to emulate, and I suggest his Go-like strategic approach also provides us with useful lessons.

In our case, assuming that the movement develops along lines similar to those I have outlined, the first strategic objective should be to capture as much territory as possible—while keeping a low a profile on elite radar. The initial task of the movement is not to confront any regime, but rather to spread and develop a culture of harmonization and networking. The more widely such a culture can spread and the more firmly established it can become, prior to encountering strong elite opposition, the better off we will be. We would be well advised to focus our initial We the People empowerment on local problems and issues, and on developing our We the People consciousness. We need to learn to walk before we can run, and during that learning process we should not trod too near to sleeping dogs.

During this stage, we need to beware of the temptation to reach too high and too soon for the gold ring. The experience of harmonization generates a lot of hope and enthusiasm, and many of us might come away with the feeling that there is a magic short cut to transformation. We see this already in the agenda of the Michigan organizers and in Jim Rough's Wisdom Council strategy. These are intelligent people and their sentiments are beyond reproach, but the diversion of movement energy in those ways causes problems of two kinds. The first problem is that early attempts to influence the general society are premature: they can only have meaning within the arena of adversarial politics, and there has not as yet been an opportunity for We the People to evolve any kind of consciousness of who we are and what we’re about. Any discussion of major issues at this point would be impoverished, and would be dominated by mainstream thinking—discussion now could only remain ‘inside the box’. The second problem, perhaps more harmful, is that such efforts take up scarce energy that would be more usefully devoted to spreading a culture of harmonization more widely, particularly with a focus on grassroots activists and community empowerment. At this early, embryonic stage of the movement there are only a handful of activists who are politically oriented in their activism and who at the same time understand the value of harmonizing processes. Until some of their energy is guided by a more strategic transformational perspective, or until new activists get involved, the potential of the movement remains, unfortunately, only latent.

Despite our best efforts to keep a low profile on elite radar, it is unlikely that we could postpone an elite response for very long. Public opinion and shifts in alignments are of great interest to the establishment, and they keep close tabs on trends. It's not that they want to be responsive to public sentiment, but rather that they want to maintain control with their system of divide-and-rule propaganda. If they begin to see a trend toward people listening to their own drummers, and dialoging across factional lines in their communities, the opinion managers will have the good sense to perceive that as a potentially serious threat to their system of control. They might initiate appropriate counter-measures earlier than would seem to be warranted by the actual progress of the movement on the ground. We must keep in mind that the current regime is characterized by preventive, preemptory action against those deemed to be a potential threat. Indeed, the Patriot Act amounts to a preemptory strike against popular movements in general.

Let's consider some of the early counter-measures that they might deploy. Surveillance and infiltration by spies and provocateurs are very common tactics used against movements of all kinds throughout the West. But a harmonization movement is relatively secure against those tactics. The moment has nothing to hide as regards its activities, and the harmonization process is characterized by too much good sense to allow itself to be sabotaged by a provocateur pushing some counter-productive agenda. There may be infiltrators who intentionally try to thwart the progress of sessions, and we may need to develop some sensible counter-measures to that line of attack. More drastic measures, such as arresting organizers or banning discussions among citizens, are unlikely to be undertaken at any early stage. That would be a strategic error on the establishment's part, as it would only bring attention to the movement and generate support for it.

There are other counter-measures that might be deployed, but the one I believe is most likely would be a demonization campaign launched over various media and propaganda channels. Religious conservatives would be warned, from pulpits and from radio pundits, that harmonization is a cult movement, and that it seeks its wisdom not exclusively from the Word of God—good Christians should stay away. To the libertarian-minded would come the warning, from radio chat jocks and online bulletin boards, that harmonization is communistic and that it submerges the individual in the collective—stay away and don’t risk being brainwashed. Liberals would read in the Op-Ed pages that harmonization is undemocratic and that it would lead to one-party tyranny. They would learn that it's hip to dismiss harmonization, in the same way that it's hip to scoff at ‘conspiracy theories'.

It would a mistake to underestimate the potential effectiveness of such a campaign, particularly in the American context. If the general population adopts a variety of strong negative attitudes toward harmonization, that might stifle or even destroy the early movement. But if the movement can build sufficient momentum in the meantime, and establish sufficient roots, it should be able to hold its ground and respond effectively to such an attack. We can take some comfort from the fact that a demonization campaign would make no sense until after the movement has made noticeable progress.

I believe that such early confrontation would lead to a major turning point in the development of the movement. The establishment would be pushing the movement to consider issues beyond the civic and the local—perhaps earlier than if the movement had been left to develop at its own pace. In the struggle to respond, We the People would be forced to raise our political consciousness. Nothing can wake up a giant more quickly than a poke with a sharp stick. The establishment would be saying we are dangerous to society, and we would begin to realize that they are right. We would begin to understand that the latent destiny of the harmonization movement is nothing less than the transformation of society.

The movement would be spreading a culture based on harmonization and networking, and it would be developing a vision of a society organized around those principles. As the movement deals with difficulties, innovates in the local arena, and finds ways to cooperate effectively on a networking basis, people would be creating the foundations of a transformed society. They would come to understand, based not on theory but on their own experience, that We the People are capable of running our own affairs, and that we can do a much better job of that than can any remote and corrupt central government. And yet, even with this raising of ‘transformational consciousness', the movement could continue to co-exist comfortably within the current electoral system. In liberated zones, we would be able to incorporate local and regional governmental structures into the movement. Government there would be aligned with the will of the people, which is, after all, the proper role for constitutional government.

The movement would have no incentive to cause any kind of trouble for the regime—until the time came when such initiatives could be effective. Before that time the threat to the regime would exist only in potential, and conflict would be most likely to arise due to preemptive attacks from the establishment, not all of which can be anticipated in advance. We can only trust in the inherent wisdom of the harmonization process, and our own collective creativity, to deal with such challenges as they arise.

Eventually, if we overcome the intermediate obstacles, most of our society will be part of the new culture, and we will have developed a coherent vision of a transformed society. Only then does it make sense to initiate decisive dialog with the regime. One form of dialog will be to elect our own people to all the national offices. But enforcing rules from the top is not the way of harmonization. We will also want to bring elite leaders into the dialog process—but only when they realize their best option is to participate. When the time comes to consolidate the new society, we can expect everyone to be involved.