- During my work on environment, poverty and then sustainable livelihoods and sustainable development over the last 30 years I have witnessed the calls for action of all kinds. Reflection on these lead to some insights, similar to where David Peats Gentle Action leads.
- The environmental debates around doom and gloom, the carrying capacity of the planet and of local and global ecosystems, over and under consumption, etc. The calls for difficult policy action involving the most intransigent international negotiations like climate change and the forward and backward lurches of the development process. The bottom line has been changing human values especially greed. We started to realise that we really needed was a way to manage ourselves not the environment for example. Policy and programmatic interventions seem to address symptoms not causes. The calls have been for holistic approaches, increased coordination and integration, and public education and awareness. These alleviate mainly symptoms with some having an influence on causes.
- And in the poverty work, we were willing to consider income generation, welfare options such as safety nets, job creation, provision of basic services but not underlying structural challenges like power relations between those had and those who did not, legal rights of the poor or unequal access to or ownership of assets. Charity was fine but not equality.
- At the heart of much violent conflict was self and other, power and control, greed and apparent scarcity, ideology and politics.
- All these problems of the environment, poverty and violent conflict have been called wicked problems because solutions are not obvious, and seem to go beyond the realm of traditional policy, governance, technology or project interventions.
- Many of these problems might originate in structural flaws of our dominant civilizational narrative, but also perhaps also in an inadequate conception of who or what we are as humans. (Use Lents summary and my addition). But there has been an over-reliance on the outer (see Wilber’s quadrants). The inner has been neglected. (For recent work on the outer: Governance and the Law WDR 2017 is quite good)
Eight Structural Flaws in the Western World View (Jeremy Lent in TIKKUN) and from his Book: The Patterning Instinct. (2017)
|Structural Flaw||New Foundation|
|1. Humans are fundamentally Selfish||Humans are fundamentally cooperative|
|2. Genes are fundamentally selfish||Nature is a network|
|3. Humans are separate from nature||Humans are an integral part of nature|
|4. Nature is a machine||Nature is a self-generating fractal|
|5. GDP is a good measure of prosperity||Measure a country’s genuine progress|
|6. The earth can support limitless growth||Growth quality not consumption|
|7. Technology has the solution||Systemic change not techno fix|
|8. The Universe is essentially meaningless||The Universe as a web of meaning|
|Duality||Science and Non-duality|
- While most of will agree with Einstein that our current problems will not be solved by the same level of thinking which created them, we do not usually go the next step of outlining what that new level of thinking might look like. It might be different thinking (so called out of the box) but not usually a different level i.e. a paradigm shifting level.
- Some recent insights from complexity theory, quantum physics and consciousness studies might be helpful. Complexity theory provides insights into emergent phenomena, self-organisation, tipping points, non-linear systems behaviour, feedback loops and embracing uncertainty. Quantum physics helps explain in a scientific way how we participate in creating our realty. Consciousness studies helps understand what we are as humans. Combining quantum physics and consciousness studies is providing a deep and revolutionary understanding of ourselves, our world and our place in the universe. We see the possibility that matter arises out of consciousness. A leader in these connected fields David Peat has suggested that these new insights might guide our action in new and different way and help us resolve these wicked problems. He calls it Gentle or Subtle Action.
- Subtle action : 1) Acting at tipping points or riding appropriate feedback loops which allow a small intervention to produce a large desirable change in which the system itself does most of the work. (Use CAS theory for this). 2) Going beyond the apparent dualistic world to action from an understanding of non-duality. 3) Going beyond action based on thinking to actions based on our underlying awareness or consciousness (which is common, universal and infinite). Rough parallels might include energy generation from burning fossil fuels to water, wind or working at the atomic and nuclear levels OR computing from quantum/molecular levels compared to the limited digital level.
- David Peat’s Gentle Action (2008) Bringing Creative Change to a Turbulent World. Shifts from a Newtonian clockwork, mechanical, linear and reductionist world view to one based on systems thinking, holism, organic, chaos and complexity theory. It argues for creative suspension to allow for creative confusion which allows self-organisation to produce something novel, effortless action (wu-wei) based on the spontaneity of the present moment, the now, without regard for reward, and working in harmony with the system or universe not resisting change but flowing with it. He emphasises trust and social capital, supports Gandhi’s ahimsa not only non-harming but recognising the capacity for truth and trust in the other and helping them restoring that capacity if it seems temporarily lost. He cites several examples of gentle action including Heifer International, Grameen Bank, Each one Teach One (Paulo Freire), Gaviotas and Native American Talking Circles.
- Leading from the Emerging Future. (Otto Scharmer) Theory U. The ecological gap is based on the divide between self and nature, the social divide between self and other, the spiritual-cultural divide between self and Self. Today’s real economy works as a set of highly interdependent ecosystems, locally embedded but globally interlinked; but the consciousness of the players within them is fragmented into a set of ego systems. The gap between ecosystem reality and ego system consciousness may well be the most important leadership challenge today in business, government, and in civil society. The ability to shift from reacting against the past to leaning into and presencing an emerging future. It requires us to suspend our judgements, redirect our attention, let go of the past, lean into the future that wants to emerge through us and let it come. Exploring the edges of the self means shifting the inner place from which one operates. Shift from “form follows function” to “form follows consciousness”. The blind spot in leadership: the inner place from which we operate. (See loc 354 to 400 in Otto’s book (Kindle version). Or Huffpost: Collective Mindfulness (From Collective Sleepwalking). Key point: Acting from the world we want to create rather from the one we don’t want. (Similarity with the assets approach?). Open Mind, (IQ), Open Heart (EQ) and Open Will (SQ: Spirituality Quotient).
- Joseph Jaworski. Synchronicity and inner leadership.
- David Bohm. (On Dialogue). In a group of thirty or forty, many may find it very hard to communicate unless there is a set purpose, or unless somebody is leading it. Why is that? For one thing, everybody has different assumptions and opinions. They are basic assumptions, not merely superficial assumptions – such as assumptions about the meaning of life; about your own self-interest, your country’s interest, or your religious interest; about what you really think is important. And these assumptions are defended when they are challenged. People frequently can’t resist defending them, and they tend to defend them with an emotional charge. It is important to see that the different opinions that you have are the result of past thought: all your experiences, what other people have said, and what not. That is all programmed into your memory. You may then identify with those opinions and react to defend them. The collective dimension of the human being, where we have a considerable number of people, has a qualitatively new feature: it has great power – potentially, or even actually. And in dialogue we discuss how to bring that to some sort of coherence and order. The question is really: do you see the necessity of this process? That’s the key question. If you see that it is absolutely necessary, then you have to do something. By its very nature Dialogue is not consistent with any predetermined purposes beyond the interest of its participants in the unfoldment and revelation of the deeper collective meanings that may be revealed. Move to the single (collective) intelligence of the group.
- William Isaacs. Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together. (Based on Bohm’s thinking on Dialogue). Most of our workplace conversations are characterised by rigid roles, by all movers pushing past one another to champion their views; by disabled bystanders paralysed at not being able to bring their voice; or by cowed followers fearful of anything but the meekest agreement to the voices of authority. This book considers the architecture of the invisible, a subtle world of forces born of intention and awareness. Here we begin to see conversation as an aperture through which social realities emerge. David Bohm saw the seed as an aperture through which the tree emerges. It organises the processes of growth which eventually create the tree. Just so our conversations organise the processes and structures which shape our collective futures. The nature of the aperture rests in the spirit that shapes the undertaking.
- Conclusion: This blog raises a bunch of ideas and thoughts which I believe can work together to provide deep and profound insights into understanding some of the most important and yet intransigent problems of the today such as climate change, sustainable peace, sustainable and inclusive growth and the eradication of poverty and hunger.