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Indigenous Wisdom and its Lessons for the Systems Sciences
Philosophy and Governance aspects as presented by
Ted Lumley and Martine Dodds-Taljaard
at the World Congress of Systems Sciences in
(including graphics and post-congress perspective)
Graphical Imagery Acknowledgements:
Oil and Canvas tableaus are by Alan Rayner,
biology professor at
Sketches signed 'Jarain') are by Jacques Rainville, Montréalais Métis of mixed Abenaki and Québecois-French origin whose upbringing by his Abenaki grandmother infused in him the relativistic geometries of native tradition.
**N.B. As of August 15, 2000 Martine Dodds-Taljaards presentation of the tenets of her paper The Challenge of Governance in an Interdependent World - What indigenous governance can teach us has been appended below.**
This material on the 'theory' and 'governance' aspects of 'Indigenous Wisdom and its Lessons for the Systems Sciences', as given at the Toronto Congress, includes the brief narrative used to complement each viewgraph. A summary of questions and answers which followed the presentations, and also a reconciliation of the presented views with broad 'trends' surfacing at the Congress are appended in an 'Epilogue'.
The reasoning underpinning the central theme, which asserts the need to
'invert' the 2500 year old western philosophical tradition of 'building theory'
on top of a 'discretist' base of 'things' (molecules,
cells, etc.) and res
'Geometrically', it is also the multi-scale self-similar (holonic) model of governance as developed in social systems sciences by Gharajedaghi, a model in which 'order' is co- created relationally, self-similarly and bi-directionally within the larger containing social and natural environments in which we are embedded. This 'holonic' model is found in natural ecologies wherein the patterns of purposive actions (the 'brushstrokes') and the reciprocal patterns of 'openings in space' (the 'opportunity landscape' which contains the 'brushstrokes') are free to adapt and interfere so that the 'opportunity landscape' co-forming out of a multitude of purposive actions can 'open up opportunity for itself'. This co-evolving 'bootstrap' geometry gives rise to the expression, 'the rainforest (purposive collective) creates its own climate (opportunity landscape)'.
By contrast, the tradition of the west is to embrace an 'objective', statist and leg
That the actions of material entities and the 'opportunity landscape' which governs what actions are possible constitutes a reciprocal co-dynamic is evident to our senses; i.e. if you move your arm so that it now blocks a potential path of movement for others, their perception of this transformation of the 'opportunity landscape' induces changes in their motion (the actional behaviour of a system modulates its own opportunities for action). The recognition of this relativistic 'space is a commons' effect, which is excluded and/or denied by western science (i.e. non-relativistic mainstream science), opens the door for us to collectively 'tune' our actions to the opportunity space which forms out of our actions. This is the 'way' of indigenous wisdom and exceptional teams within our society, ... and its feasibility is well demonstrated.
The 'discretist' cosmology of mainstream science,
and as characterized within the World Congress by the ideas of, for example,
Eric Chaisson's 'Cosmic Evolution' and the
Cyberneticists, builds upon a selective, exclusionary informational base which
purges the information essential to action-opportunity 'tuning'. In so doing,
it necessarily infuses dysfunction into the system by failing to account for
The relativistic model of governance of indigenous tradition, reflected also in a western social context in the models of Gharajedaghi, takes into account both the freedom of the individual, which simultaneously includes his personal responsibility for the whole of which he is a part - and the harmonic order of that whole, which is relationally and simultaneously forming out of our actions, ... actions which are guided by our simultaneous inclusion in multiple scales of community (e.g. family, group, culture, society, nation, nature.).
The presentations on geometrical theory (Ted Lumley) and governance (Martine Dodds-Taljaard) follow;
Indigenous Wisdom and its Lessons for the Systems Sciences
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Discretist (particle) model . . . ==> Content is in primacy over Context
(e.g. Chaisson, Cybernetics)
What evolves?: --- 'community' seen as collective of discrete entities
How shaped?: --- exclusion of less-performant entities ('natural' selection)
What knowledge evolves?: --- a collective of explicit content knowledge
How knowledge shaped?: --- exclusion of less-performant knowledge items (by 'content experts').
Harmonist (wave) model . . . ==> Context is in primacy over Content
(e.g. Maturana, Infodynamics)
What evolves?: --- 'community' seen as relational network
How shaped?: --- cultivation of constructively interfering 'purpose-opportunity' patterns
What knowledge evolves?: --- understanding as implicit knowledge network
How knowledge shaped?: --- cultivation of needs-solutions interference patterns.
Supporting Narrative: With this first viewgraph, I'd like to put this presentation into perspective with respect to the conference presentations as they appears at this time. The geometry associated with the central ideas in the presentations can be categorized as either 'discretist' wherein both the phenomena and the theory pertaining to them are 'evolved' by progressive exclusion and refinement ('natural selection') of explicit entities, or as 'harmonist' wherein phenomena and the theory pertaining to them are 'evolved' by a relational interference process. It appears as if more than 90% of the papers at this conference are 'discretist' and less than 10% 'harmonist'. While the harmonist approach embodies an informational superset which includes the information utilized by the discretist approach, seeking coherency through constructive interference, the discretist approach excludes relationship information and seeks clarity by selective inclusion of information. (e.g. 'harmonist' billiards theory would utilize information on the dynamics of the relational spaces between the balls, a superset which includes the information on the dynamics of the balls themselves, ... 'discretist' billiards theory would focus selectively on information concerning the ball dynamics.)
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Indigenous Wisdom and its Lessons for the Systems Sciences
"Wisdom consists in understanding the way the world works." . . . "The learning of many things does not teach understanding." . . . . . Heraclitus
"Future Present" by Alan Rayner, Oil on Canvas
"The gift of life lies in the creative infancy of the present, whence its message from past to future is relayed through watery channels that spill out and recombine outside the box, re-iterating and amplifying patterns over scales from microscopic to universal"
"Imagination is more important than knowledge". . . . . Einstein
Supporting Narrative: The philosophy of Heraclitus
is 'flow-based', seeing 'material objects' as features of the flow and thus
seeing nature as a simultaneous unity and plur
<><><> Viewgraph 2 <><><>
Space-over-Matter Reciprocity in a Natural Space-Time Volume
The image on the left is the Global Biosphere (NASA, Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor Project, September 97 - August 98 --- Sea color data indicating chlorophyll (phytoplankton) variability and the oceans' role in biogeochemical cycles.)
On the right is The Earth and its Atmosphere (NASA, Apollo 17, 1972)
Every 'thing' ('feature of space') has simultaneous, reciprocal roles - as an 'agent of opportunity' for 'things' in its enveloping space and as an 'agent of action'.
Supporting Narrative: Particular volume-occupying features of space (i.e. the space of our experience - the earth's atmosphere), however we categorize or reify them, simultaneously source both action and opportunity. What a particular feature 'does' (e.g. a spiral weather system) can be seen in terms of both causal effect on other constituents of the biosphere, and simultaneously in terms of opening up opportunity for the full suite of features constituting the containing volume of space. This complementarity of action-opportunity is simultaneously and incessantly evolving. Because of the unbounded nature of the spherical space of the biosphere, ... the geometric shape and rhythms of what is happening melds into the background shapes and rhythms of what has happened. El nino is a rhythmic 'current' in the unbounded space-time of the biosphere whose 'lifeform' (a network of space-time relationships) resides simultaneously in both hydrosphere and atmosphere and whose shape and rhythm evolves under the influence of its own actions in concert with the actions of other features of space-time.
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Two Choices of Space(-Time) Convention
"Space is another framework we impose upon the world" . . . " . . . here the mind may affirm because it lays down its own laws; but let us clearly understand that while these laws are imposed on our science, which otherwise could not exist, they are not imposed on Nature." . . . "Euclidian geometry is . . . the simplest, . . . just as the polynomial of the first degree is simpler than a polynomial of the second degree." . . . "the space revealed to us by our senses is absolutely different from the space of geometry." . . . Henri Poincaré
On the left, discrete material 'things' in empty rectangular space
On the right, strands in the web of life' - - - 'things' as implicit relational features of the space-time continuum (evolutionary flow).
Supporting Narrative: As Poincaré says, the
geometry we use to describe space-time is a convention selected on the basis of
ease and convenience with respect to our topic of inquiry. The discretist space of Euclidian geometry, which splits apart
space and time, is not 'the way the world is', although our culture seems to
have come to believe it to be so. In the indigenous culture, in agreement with
relativity theory, our natural containing environment is a space-time
continuum. That is, the essence of experienced space-time is incessant evolutionary
flow where nothing 'stays the same' since every 'thing' is a relational feature
of the evolving space-time flow. If we wish to 'include' in our inquiry,
information associated with whole-and-part harmony as characterizes our
experiencing of nature, discretist euclidian space is inadequate and we must choose instead a
non-euclidian space capable of representing
whole-and-part ('web-of-life') self-referenti
<><><> Viewgraph 4. <><><>
A simple view of the evolution of systems inquiry"
II. ...systems seen as an interdependent whole
"If each part of a system, considered separately, is made to operate as efficiently as possible, the system as a whole will not operate as effectively as possible."
Russell L. Ackoff
III.... cause-and-effect subsumed by 'producer-product' (non-relativistic teleology).
The 'environment-free' concept of caus
'Producer-product' is an output-oriented inquiry rather than input-oriented system view, ... the view of 'purposive systems' where inquiry proceeds 'Up and back down again' rather than 'Down and back up again'
"A teleological system and a deterministic machine are two different
aspects of the same thing. These antithetical points of view are synthesized in
the concept of re
. . . Russell L. Ackoff
IV. .. producer-product subsumed by space-over-matter reciprocity (relativity)
'Space-over-matter' systems inquiry is an outside-inwards / inside-outwards reciprocal inquiry where purpose and opportunity are codetermining. This mode of inquiry sees 'discretist' material dynamics as an information-excluding subset of whole-and-part ('web-of-life') space-time transformation.
"In terms of the ways in which the machine altered our relations to one another and to ourselves, it mattered not in the least whether it turned out cornflakes or Cadillacs." . . . Marshall McLuhan
i.e. every agent of action is, first and most importantly, an agent of opportunity.
Supporting Narrative: While the addition to systems inquiry of the notion of producer-product outcomes added the thought that 'things are coproduced' in conjunction with other environmental factors, ... this notion does not go so far as to suggest a 'simultaneous' transformation of the 'containing opportunity landscape', as in relativity theory, ... that purposive action and the shape of environmental opportunity co-determine each other (i.e. that they are two faces of the same coin as in 'the organism is its niche' in the words of Humberto Maturna or 'the organism is the environment' as Doug Caldwell says).
Marshall McLuhan's ideas centering on 'the medium
is the message' (i.e. the context is the mother of content) reflect the fact
that the induced relational transformation of the shape of the containing
space (i.e. the 'opportunity landscape') is the primary effect of any system,
... an implicit and overiding 'real' effect with
ongoing influence which includes and overshadows discrete material causal
effects, the latter being visu
Basing our understanding of systems behaviors upon
this arbitrary, observer-dependent view of re
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"It is not enough for a theory not to affirm false relations ; it must not conceal true relations" . . . Henri Poincaré
There are many theories which hold true within themselves, ... theories which were developed to address certain types of phenomena (e.g. mechanical systems), ... but because a theory 'works well for you' in your knowledge domain, ... to choose a theory on the basis that it explains the mechanics of something rather well, ... is not a scientific basis for choosing it in preference to other theories. . . . "that would be to forget the end we seek, which is not the mechanism, the true and only aim is unity." . . . Henri Poincaré (Science and Hypothesis)
"[Relativity] forces us to analyze the role played by geometry in the description of the physical world." . . . "A thrown stone is, from this point of view, a changing field, where the states of greatest field intensity travel through space with the velocity of the stone" . . . . Einstein.
Supportive Narrative: This viewgraph complements the prior viewgraph in
affirming that the dynamical geometry of space is more fundamental than the
dynamical behaviors of material objects and that the discretist 'kinetic' re
<><><> Viewgraph 6 <><><>
"Every body perseveres in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed thereon." . . . Isaac Newton
alternatively; "What is at rest with respect to 'me', ... is 'truly' at rest"
"Sometimes I go about in pity for myself and all the while a great wind is bearing me across the sky." . . . Ojibway Saying.
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." . . . John Lennon
Supportive Narrative: This viewgraph illustrates how the re
<><><> Viewgraph 7 <><><>
Relativity and Quantum Du
"[Relativity] forces us analyze the role played by geometry in the description of the physical world." . . . Einstein
"The more general statement [of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle] is that one cannot design equipment in any way to determine which of two alternatives is taken without at the same time destroying the pattern of interference." . . . Richard Feynman
"Opening Endings" by Alan Rayner, Oil on Canvas
The 'discretist' (particulate) - 'harmonist'
(wave) views of nature exist simultaneously, however,
the act of 'discretist visu
The 'harmonist' (wave) view sees 'things' geometrically, as 'interferential features of space' or 'agents of opportunity', just as a vortex in evolving flow is an 'agent of opportunity', allowing its including and enveloping space-time flow to 'pivot off of itself' in its continuing transformation. The 'discretist' (particulate) view is the information- excluding reciprocal to the 'harmonist' view, ... a view wherein the 'feature of space-time flow' is seen as a fully independent 'agent of action'. We 'impose' the notion of 'discretism' on our science but cannot impose it on Nature as Poincaré observes, and we axiomatically 'create' the existence of a 'particle' by our defining of it, as John Stuart Mill observed.
Supportive Narrative: Einstein's comment on geometry underscores the
information exclusion problem associated with 'discretism'.
That is, as soon as we see things in discretist terms
as Feynman notes, we destroy the information associated with the relational
interference pattern. The 'dying tree' may be seen, not in terms of a discrete
'thing' which had an 'absolute beginning' and an 'absolute end', but as an
included and continuous flowing feature of space-time. That is, the discretist notion of a tree as a detached and independent
'thing' is something we impose upon our view of re
<><><> Viewgraph 8 <><><>
Relativistic Inquiry/Response and the Global Highway
The Global Autoroute
1. All cars follow each other at equal speed and spacing, all around the world
2. The slow-down pulse from braking cars wraps back around the world causing each driver to 'put on the brakes because he put on the brakes'.
3. Resuming equal speed and spacing cannot be achieved by 'action management' (determining 'what to do') but only by 'opportunity management' (letting it happen.)
[i.e. The drivers must 'reference' to the
continually changing 'space' configuration (multi-re
Supportive Narrative: I am going to use two examples of re
The choosing of a local inertial reference frame will simplify 'the view'
but it will not change the fact that the dynamical reference base in which
we as constituents are contained has no beginning and no end (i.e. at least
none that we can know about, short of becoming omniscient). Furthermore, we
cannot, by planned actions, resume a whole-and-part harmonious state
characterized by equal speeds and equal spacing (seen as circular velocity or
'acceleration' about the center of the earth) unless we 'let go' of our
deliberated actions and allow our movements to be co-determined by those of the
other drivers. This is because each time we move, we simultaneously change the
'opportunity landscape' for all other drivers, and as in the game of pool, we
must instead visu
<><><> Viewgraph 9 <><><>
Relativistic Inquiry/Response and the Game of Pool
1. The motions of billiard balls on a pool table emulates spherical space
2. Any move of any ball is equivalent to the simultaneous, reciprocal transformation of the 'opportunity landscape' seen by each and every ball.
3. The wise pool player puts 'opportunity management' in the primacy over 'action management while the poor pool player does the reverse.
4. Each constituent of relativistic space is most importantly an 'agent of opportunity' whose smaller, included aspect is an 'agent of action'.
[i.e. Opportunity management is to action management as a broad landscape is to a small contained feature and as 'spherical space' is to 'rectangular (flat) space'.and as relativity theory is to non-relativistic science.]
Supportive Narrative: This viewgraph shows a pool table which is
superimposed upon a sphere, in order to show how pool emulates spherical space.
If one were to shoot a 'four banked shot' into one of the corners so that the
ball's trajectory made four 90 degree turns (two in each of the diagonally
opposite corners) and came back through the spot where it started off, ... this
360 degree change in direction would be roughly equivalent to the ball rolling
around the outer surface of a sphere. Playing pool on the surface of the sphere
gives the same geometry as the interactions of atmospheric features as in the
earlier discussion, but in this case one can visu
<><><> Viewgraph 10 <><><>
"The Medicine Wheel is the shape of the Zero. The Zero is the symbol and fact of Creation. The Zero Chiefs say that the Zero is not nothing, but is instead Everything. . . . Creation, the Zero, is perfectly balanced. The Zero is Female (WahKahn) and Male (SsKwan), and has designed and birthed all of life."
Hyemeyohsts Storm, 'Lightningbolt'
<><><> Viewgraph 11 <><><>
"All of our Medicine Wheels reflect the Earth compass."
On the left, The Medicine Wheel of the Powers of the Four Directions
On the right, The Medicine Wheel of the Four Powers of the Human Self
[[under left graphic]] "At birth, each of us
is given a particular
[[under right graphic]] "You are not just a body, mind, spirit, and emotions. You are a Self. You are directly responsible for your own care your entire life long. How you balance your Self --- Spiritually, Emotionally, Physically, and Mentally --- is the challenge you must accept and answer while you live here on Mother Earth."
[Quotes from Hyemeyohsts Storm, 'Lightningbolt']
Supportive Narrative: This viewgraph shows how the indigenous tradition braces the self-referential spherical geometry of relativity. The medicine wheel is a representation of a sphere and the four compass directions (North, West, South, East). The native tradition speaks of both the identity which comes to one by one's 'centeredness' in the containing landscape of nature as well as to one's interior 'horizons'. The native tradition differs radically from the western tradition which tends to identify people and all objects solely in terms of their assumed inherent properties and behaviors, in that it sees people and objects to be co-defined by their unique positioning within the containing geometry of environment and their unique and authentic internal self. The first priority of the native tradition is to open up the 'sacred space' for the constituents of nature to 'become who they are meant to become', and this 'becoming' is a co-becoming which forms out of their positioning in space and their authentic inherited self. This 'geometry' is one which is relativistic and facilitative of evolution since the individual and his environment are encouraged to co-evolve, unlike the western tradition which fosters a non-relativistic discrete view of 'what one should become' based on judgement of 'good and bad' which detaches the individual from the opportunity for organism-environment co-evolution and infuses dissonance and dysfunction as the individual loses touch with the reciprocal co-dynamic between action and environment.
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Non-Relativistic and Relativistic Systems Inquiry
On the left, The search and debate for the mythical 'true re
On the right, The Sharing Circle ---
acceptance of the multi-re
"Am I too busy to listen to others when they have something v
Supportive Narrative: The little circular forms in the viewgraphs are
intended as the heads of people as seen from above as indicated by their
eyelashes. In the image on the left, the assumption is that there is 'one true
By contrast, in the 'sharing circle' tradition of the indigenous tradition,
it is accepted that people are uniquely situated within 'the opportunity
landscape' and that re
<><><> Viewgraph 13 <><><>
Relativistic Harmony and Mechanical Kinetics
[[repeat graphics, jigsaw puzzle and sharing circle, thumbnail size]]
[[citation going under image on left side]]"I wish we could derive the rest of the pheaenomena of nature by the same kind of reasoning from mechanical principles ; for I am induced by many reasons to suspect that they may all depend on certain forces by which the particles of bodies, by some causes hitherto unknown, are either mutually impelled towards each other, and cohere in regular figures, or are repelled and recede from each other ;" which forces being unknown, philosophers have hitherto attempted the search of nature in vain; but I hope the principles here laid down will afford some light either to this or some truer method of philosophy." . . . Isaac Newton ('Authors Preface' to 'Principia. . . ')
[[citation going under image on right side]] "For if the ratios of the journeys are harmonic, all the other effects which the planets have will be necessitated and bound up with the journeys, so that there is no room elsewhere for establishing harmonies. But whose good will it be to have harmonies between the journeys, or who will perceive the harmonies?" . . . "Therefore, . . . I concluded rightly that the true journeys of the planets through the ether should be dismissed, and that we should turn our eyes to the apparent diurnal arcs, .." . . . Johannes Kepler ('Harmonies of the World)
The relational shape of space (the 'whole-and-part' geometry) is an informational superset without dependencies on inertial reference frames, within which discrete structural-mechanical views are included inertial-frame-dependent subsets.
Supportive Narrative: While Kepler was intent on explaining the 'harmony of whole and part' and expressed his three laws without any dependency on discrete material objects (i.e. the planetary orbits are elliptical, the orbital radius sweeps out equal area in equal time, and the square of orbital period over the cube of the orbital radius is in the same ratio for all planets), Newton formulated his laws on a discretist basis with a dependency on matter. Kepler's view, which put the relational geometry into primacy over an inertial reference frame dependent material-structural view is consistent with relativity theory and the indigenous tradition.
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An 'Acquired System Inquiry Deficiency Syndrome'
"It is not enough for a theory not to affirm false relations ; it must not conceal true relations" . . . Henri Poincaré
Cognitive illusion results when theory excludes true relational information.
Kepler's drawing of the 'pretzel-shaped' orbit of Mars based on the geocentric reference frame assumption.
Comments on the related 'Tycho's Illusion' (Margolis) which results from using both geocentric and heliocentric reference frame assumptions within a single model;
"This case ['Tycho's Illusion'] illustrates
the danger of overlooking reference frames as a fundamental aspect of cognitive
coding." . . . Laurence Harris, Psychology Department,
"The episode [Tycho's illusion] therefore
provides a remarkable illustration of how far a cognitive illusion can actually
influence significant beliefs. . . . we can also learn
a sobering lesson about how far mere logic can be counted on to change belief
when entrenched intuitions go against it. " Howard
Supportive Narrative: The pretzel-shaped orbit of Mars (and the other planets) is a 'cognitive illusion' which comes from assuming that the earth is at rest, ... an assumption which excludes information on the interdependency of the relative movements of Sun, Earth and Mars. 'Tycho's illusion' brings out the fact that views of solar system dynamics as observed from the sun and the earth (i.e. from different vantage points) are not consistent with one another. Relativity theory provides an answer to this paradox in that space-time can be seen in terms of a flowing fluid whose features (interpreted as material objects) are both kinetically independent and, at the same time, the flowing medium from which the features form. The 'identity' of the feature is thus inconstant and can 'roam' around with respect to other features (which can also roam around). The relative roamings can produce a geometry which is seen differently by observers who are themselves features of the (metamorphosing) flow. Thus, if I am a vortex which is heading on an inevitable (linearly projected) collision course with another vortex, both vortices can moderate their relative positioning in the flow-substance in the interests of 'whole-and-part' harmony, by 'giving way' ('nachgeben') for each other.
<><><> Viewgraph 15 <><><>
An 'Acquired System Inquiry Deficiency Syndrome' . . . continued;
"We are currently witness to the reign and the dominance of the technocrat and bureacrat who have a strictly professional level of understanding in domains which are progressively narrowing, and who believe . . . that their little system, . . . is 'the system'. . . . Henri Laborit (The Biological Basis of Social Behaviour).
". . . to choose a theory on the basis that it explains the mechanics of something rather well, ... is not a scientific basis for choosing it in preference to other theories." . . . Henri Poincaré
The expert 'stewards' of speci
<><><> Viewgraph 16 <><><>
Natural Selection - A Discretist 'Cognitive Illusion'?
"The primary difficulty is that, although technology has been strengthened during the past 50 years, scientific thought has weakened. Scientific reasoning is sometimes referred to in the popular press as 'mind-numbing post-modern jargon' (Cartmill, 1998), and it is often completely absent from technical journals."
"Contemporary selection theory requires that any act of cooperation or altruism must be caused directly or indirectly by an act of competition or self-interest. However, if we are guided by scientific reasoning, then making competition a precondition for cooperation is an unnecessary complication that must be regarded as superstition rather than science. Thus, devising increasingly intricate explanations for altruistic behaviour in terms of either individual or group self-interest (kin selection, group selection, ecosystem selection, etc.) is the generation of mythology rather than the advancement of scientific understanding. It serves no useful purpose unless selection theory is an end in itself."
Above quotes from Douglas E. Caldwell (
From the point of view of relativity theory, which includes 'discretist' selection theory as a broad landscape includes a small, contained feature (Einstein and Infeld), selection theory excludes essential information on the reciprocal 'opportunity agent' role of the organism or group. Such information exclusion sets up the cognitive illusion of evolution as a 'genetic engineering' process, ... an illusion which is sucking us into a vicious spiral of dysfunction-inducing inquiry, response and 'epicycular' theory fixes.
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What 'Everybody Knows'
1. Everybody knows that 'things' are not wholly 'independent' but are 'features' of their containing space whose movements 'open up' or 'close down' opportunity for themselves and other 'things'.
2. Everybody knows that space is not 'empty' but that 'space is a commons' wherein the 'actions' of one reciprocally transform the opportunity landscape for others.
3. Everybody knows that we exclude the 'agent of opportunity' aspect of things, even though it is more important than the 'agent of action' aspect. ('the medium is the message - Marshall McLuhan, ... 'It's a Wonderful Life' - Frank Capra)
4. Everybody knows that 'facts' are not discrete but simply mark the point where our investigations cease.
5. Everybody knows that every time we define something, we axiomatically assert that the thing exists. (John Stuart Mill)
6. Everybody knows that "all men and women are created equal" is neither 'self-evident' nor a 'truth' since everyone is uniquely situated within the 'landscape of opportunity'.
7. Everybody knows that imagination is more important than knowledge.
.. . . that's how it goes. . . everybody knows.
Supportive Narrative: To reflect that this work is in the interest of giving youth the space to become who they are meant to become, and since the youth which I dialogue with insist that these materials should be put into the vernacular of youth, I am going to introduce this viewgraph by playing a recording of Leonard Cohen's 'Everybody Knows' . [First few verses were played on a portable boom-box as follows;
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded,
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over,
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed,
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes, .... everybody knows.
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking,
Everybody knows the Captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling,
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets,
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
and a long stem rose, .... everybody knows.]
.While the primacy of the geometry of space ('opportunity landscape') over kinetics as implied by relativity theory is difficult 'to get to' from a bottom-up quantitative kinetics (e.g. the effects are very small), this primacy can be inferred from relational considerations that 'everybody knows'. These considerations, while in stark contradiction to the assumptions of non-relativistic (mainstream) science, are fully consistent with relativity theory.
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The Lessons for the Systems Sciences
"The wise is one thing, to be acquainted with true judgement, how all things are steered through all." . . . Heraclitus
'Counter-Currents' by Alan Rayner, Oil on Canvas
"A detached silver feather, blown by wind, and a fallen gold leaf with web, caught in river currents, drift apart. But ducks, propelled by their self-possession of both wing feathers and feet webs, take to both air and water as they choose and so, within shifting limits, make their own ways. In these ways they create the fore and aft of a life-boat pattern, seen only from an imaginary perspective, that plies the surface of yet greater, more mysterious depths. So too might airy intellect and watery emotion be related when life's dynamic context is fully filled."
The Challenge of Governance in an Interdependent World -
What indigenous governance can teach us
[this is not my 'paper' but my discussion of its tenets, in concert with Ted's discussion]
"I don't believe these [political] theories [eg. Marxism] can be separated from the rest of the European
intellectual tradition.. It's really just the same old
song. The process began much earlier. Newton, for example,
"revolutionized" physics and the socalled
natural sciences by reducing the physical universe to a linear mathematical
equation. Descartes did the same thing with culture. John Locke did it with politics, and Adam Smith did it with economics. Each of
these "thinkers" took a piece of the spiritu
Russell Means, Lakota Nation
The reader may wonder why it is that we consider ontological
(nature of re
As he pointed out above regarding the discretism
so rampant in analytical science (and unfortunately also rearing its ugly head
in systems sciences) - our tendency to view the world as a 'thing out there', a
kind of empty 'backdrop', separated from us, and composed of things against an
infinity of 'empty' space - assuming then that 'science is the right reading' -
has implications not only for how we understand how the world works, how we
perceive nature, others and ourselves, but also for how we see society, and
hence for how we organize ourselves as human beings on this planet. How we view
the world, and how we decide what is worth knowing and what we know, determine
how we manage it and nature - and this, is precisely 'the problem'. We in the
West or First World, are inclined to think that at the start of the third
millennium we stand at the end of a long linear road of western philosophy and
science that constitutes the 'best understanding possible' of the nature of re
We who participated on this panel in Toronto (and we are sorry that Art Skenandore of Oneida Nation could not be with us, but he
could not be there for personal reasons), also think that 'being' (life - i.e.
'becoming') is a spiritual proposition, and we agree with Chief Shenandoah that
We on this panel, do not think that the Western model of democracy, as exmplified in the USA and other nations, is the 'best possible system' there is or can be, and we do not therefore propose, along with the IMF and World Bank and the 'leaders' of the Western world, that the whole global village should agree and do likewise. The 'West' seeks to effect this by 'tied' development 'aid' (i.e. 'structural adjustment programmes' - a term almost as innocuous-sounding as 'collateral damage' our 'professional' euphemism for destruction of people and cultures during high-tech war - meaning, "implement/duplicate western representative democracy and financial institutions, and we will loan you the money") - i.e. the 'carrot' for 'saving' the whole world in this manner, not unlike the 'saving' of primitive nations which was embarked upon during the European colonization drive starting in the 1400s, where the imposition of Christianity and the destruction of indigenous cultures everywhere went hand in hand with slavery, abuse and heinous oppression if not downright extermination, but we now try a milder form of this 'medicine', in the form of the 'best possible solution' and supposedly benign 'knowledge sharing'. It is what Taiaiake Alfred and we call, the 'colonizing mindset'. It changes shape and form and domain of application, but it does not change its underlying nature.
In contrast to the 'carrot' of control over money and access, institutional
and natural resources, the 'stick' of course, is to be branded a 'rogue nation'
or worse - anarchists, trouble-makers, fanatics, terrorists, environmental wacko's, cooks, you name it, the media have a plethora of
'objective' descriptions to select from - and to have sanctions imposed till
your national (or individual) will is sufficiently weakened for you to 'come to
your senses' and join the 'mainstream consensus'. (We also addressed this
exclusionary paradigm in a previous essay, Bottoms up in
This same persuasive tendency operates in the halls of academia, where you
are not supported or 'allowed' to pursue research outside fields or specialties
approved of by the 'mainstream' opinion. But this is nothing new - almost all
the great scientists now belatedly lauded and commemorated as poster boys, were
so obstructed in their time. Thus confusing the quantitative
'number' of votes (common consensus) for 'qu
The nature of governance
Representative democracy is supposedly a model for participation in
governance. In contradiscinction to autocratic rule,
where a dictator, or monarch or oligarghy, determines
how society should be governed, who eats and works, and who do not. This is a
mistake, and in fact, a very unfunny 'joke'. People believe somehow, that if
they vote for somebody to think and plan on their behalf, they will be
participating in the creation of the society and future they want. It could not
be further from the re
I say this bluntly, because the model of organization which is used in representative democracies and business corporations everywhere, is a type of organismic model premised on the analogy to a human body, which has 'one mind' - i.e. a uni-minded system. We know, and this is seemingly forgotten, that a society or community is a multiminded system. Every part of it (person), has a brain, and is capable of choice and its own 'opportunity management' if only it were allowed to do so. The Iroquois model of governance, which greatly influenced the Founding Fathers of the US Constitution, but has now had its principles distorted beyond recognition by 300 years of expert practice, was such a model. The United Nations, and indeed every government, should do the world a favour, and explore its dimensions and implications and its proven potential for harmonious social organization. It is not because it worked 'then' , but its systemic nature, and its consistent principles of natural harmony, that underlie this claim. This was again recently demonstrated in a still ongoing process of national development, involving the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, the fifth iteration of which is discussed in Gharajedaghi's Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity, 1999. In this process, the Interact social systems science model and that of the Iroquois conferedacy's clan based model, were found to be totally congruent.
So I return 'without permission' to this supposedly 'primitive' indigenous model, which is nowhere even discussed or inquired into, except among Indian nations themselves (hopefully) and seemingly buried with the artefacts and cultures which had brought it into being and who lived in such remarkably sustainable harmony with nature, that their environment was considered an unspoiled 'wilderness' - i.e. 'proof' that it needed 'taming' and destruction for 'real human settlement'. (See, Wilson, 1998: The Earth Shall Weep - a History of Native America weep.)
I will tell you moreover, that it is the ONLY model that is in congruence
with a curved space view of re
The current model of organization, is not only the same in governments as
in corporations everywhere, it is also the same whether the society is
We can only touch on some features of this model, and one of the things it destroys, is any 'phase information' or relational understanding, which might enable its members to function in a more coherent way. Plus, but this should surprise no one, it makes accountability impossible. As such, a very convenient solution for maintaining the status quo and resisting any attempt at real change or transformation, let alone elimination of corruption (see Dodds 1998: Transforming Organizations; Ackoff 1999, Gharajedaghi 1999).
Through separation of authority and responsibility (the 'divide and rule' mechanism that is not only employed in analytical science to break the world into its consitutent parts in order to 'know' and quantify and categorize and label the parts), but also forms the basis for how we organize and govern and 'control' (divide et impera) - and through separate functions, in separate linear hierarchical 'towers', with separate decision criteria, performance and reward measures (where the means (solution) selected for each end (objective) is invariably in conflict with those within a different functional department) - division of the organization/society into management/government (the brain)/ those who have 'authority', VERSUS labour/'the people' (the hands)/those who have responsibility for execution of orders from 'above' - rendering every part of the organization/society in structural conflict with every other, not by 'accident' but by DESIGN. All of this magnificent structure, moreover, based on Aristotle's Law of the Excluded Middle, or Binary Logic (see Bart Kosko), which we projected onto the world (it pertains to proposional logic only but we forgot that).
As we know, this model worked beautifully in the World War II era and just
beyond, before people (workers, teenagers, cultures, nations) discovered that
they have 'choice', (which 'technically' means that in any given
situation, there is not only one way in which to respond, but two at least, or
more) - which re
And here lies the paradox of management, as many have pointed out, namely
that whilst the 'whole' (global system) is increasingly INTERdependent,
its parts (people, groups, cultures, nations) are concurrently, increasingly INdependent. (as Gharajedaghi might say, "Operation successful, patient
dies". 'Success' ('efficient' action)* of a given model, changes its
containing operating environment, or 'opportunity
landscape'- as Ted pointed out so well in his discussion. This rquires new responses from
us. *[efficiency is about 'doing things right' - effectiveness, is about 'doing
the right thing '- this model, as the discretist
science upon which it is premised - was oustanding at
doing things right, and has been lousy at doing the right thing. THIS is our
dilemma today.] So the challenge of governance relates to both the system, and
its parts, AND its containing opportunity space, and
requires that we manage ourselves in such a way that we do not stifle the
variety and diversity which alone can ensure our freedom and survival, but can
Such a changed systemic environment requires responses which are appropriate to its nature and dynamics - we cannot continue to ignore the evidence that 'things are not working right' and simply 'do more of the same', while we treat symptoms in our youth and culture with psychiatric and neuroleptic drugs to keep them quiet, just because we mistakenly assume that it is 'the best way we have' - this 'best way', applied persistently in the face of its patent failure, only amplifies the dissonance and dysfunction in the system. This challenge, both within science and society, is the same one encapsulated in Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety. (See my other papers and this paper, hopefully appended at some point.)
The cybernetic/organismic model of governance and management, premised on the analogy of a human body, leaves no room for choice, for the purposefulness of its members, who are not there to just 'do or die', but actually consider working in order to live, and not vice versa, as their 'right', and who have mobility and access to information that was never foreseen by this model in its 'glory-days' before Leonard Cohen and rock and roll took the microphone.
If this were a 'natural' way to organize a multiminded
system - as the notion of 'organismic' might seem to
suggest if we do not inquire into this metaphor's appropriateness or
applicability to a SOCIAL system, which differs in critical ways from other
natural and technical systems - we might look at it and decide that here nature
fumbled the ball, and proceed to set it right - but no, we take a metaphor FROM
nature (analogy of a human body), and apply it in a distorted form to a type of
system ( a group of people, or multiminded system) -
where it does not reflect the multimindedness ('parts
have choice' and purposes)- nor the multidimension
And Behold! THIS, is the 'best possible solution' and the one we seek to sell to the world like Kentucky Fried Blueprint for Organization. We have every business school, management consultancy, expert and then some, selling some version of this model, dressed in different language, of course, and encrustation upon discrete encrustation of separate little solutions for every problem and pathology which this model produces with such staggering regularity and efficiency, that the services industries surrounding it will no doubt flourish into perpetuity or until our demise, whichever comes first. I believe it is correct to say that Indigenous societies had no asylums, neuroclinics or jails, but we see that evidence of systemic failure as the proud legacy of our 'advanced civilization'. They did not need them because their mode of social organiation did not drive people and cultures into habitual and endemic crime, pathology and despair.
In Figure 2 below, you can see the societal development dimensions identified by Gharajedaghi, and their SUPPOSED yield (participation, memerbership, security, plenty, etc.) and then, the ACTUAL yield, in terms of social pathology. And we could continue the list on the level of the individual as wel as the transnational levele, where niche-war conflict has become apparently endemic. (as Ted often says, every war is a civil war). This situation is created by the obstructions to development incumbent upon our mode of governance, or model of organization, at organizational, societal and international level, and those in turn based on our discretist, analytical thinking. I rest my case.
Indigenous ways - (from 'being' , or state control, to 'becoming' - who you can be)
In contrast, and in case we have forgotten what 'governance' is about, let me refer you to Taiaiake Alfred's book, Peace Power and Righteousness - An Indigenous Manifesto, in which he says the following:
"The most fundamental right of a people is the one that empowers them to determine their own identity (1999:71) The indigenous conception of justice builds a framework of respectful coexistence on the fundamental acknowledgement of the integrity and autonomy of the various elements that make up the relationship. It goes far beyond even the most liberal Western ideas of justice in advancing the cause of peace, because it explicitly allows for difference while promoting the construction of sound relationships among autonomous elements.
Taiaiake Alfred, 1999: Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto
To those teaching governance or management to others, I would urge you to
rid yourself of the other interesting but misleading western his
Whilst the above synoptic quote from Taiaiake
Alfred may to some reflect 'only' the unacceptable relationships that pertain
between indigenous peoples and 'Western-style' governments, I would go further,
and maintain that this same challenge of re-thinking and 'de-thinking', is
today faced by all humanity in our relationships with nature, between one
society or civilization and another, as well as in how we create order in human
society, no matter what 'nation' we are speaking of. For we have not only
colonized others, we have also colonized nature and ourselves, through the
adoption and imposition globally, of a thinking pattern and concomitant praxis
that not only exhausts nature, but has left us now with a fast-glob
At the core of this process, now popularly and loosely referred to as 'glob
The rethinking to which Taiaiake Alfred refers, if it is to have any impact and move beyond the domain of philosophical speculation, would have to include not only a changed model of governance but an entire reformulation of how any and all of the parts of the global system (including our relation to nature) relate to one another. This rethinking therefore crosses the conceptually 'convenient' and traditional 'lines' and artificial 'boundaries between levels of the global system (biosphere, earth, nations, cultures, groups), including the basis for their interaction (i.e. either harmoniously or in conflict) . It would also have to transcend the conceptually imposed 'lateral borders' between the societal dimensions of politics, economics, education, aesthetics and ethics. Such a process of course implies a concurrent shift in world view, in our philosophical premises and assumptions, in our 'logic', attitudes, and values. Perhaps one could call this requirement an 'evolutionary revolution' - because it would involve every aspect of life. Whilst the systems sciences themselves have sought such a shift since their inception, I believe that they have not gone far enough. It is not enough to change how one thinks about the world, abstractly, and within science as one artificially isolated domain of human endeavor, and this only in an expansion of a discretist epistemological base. Unless translated into a changed praxis (mode of organization/governance), such a shift can remain at best, an interesting 'difference that makes no difference.'
In introducing his own methodology and discussing the potential for transforming our societies, Gharajedaghi (1999:46-49) notes the following principle operative in systems, which I would attribute to the 'curved space' transformation geometry that Ted was referring to earlier:
"Counter-intuitiveness means that the actions intended to produce a desired outcome may, in fact, generate opposite results. It has been said that the path to hell is paved with good intentions needs to understand the practical consequences of the following assertions:
Cause and effect may be separated in time and space. An event happening at a given time and place may have a delayed effect, producing an impact at a different time and a different place.
Cause and effect can replace one another, displaying circular relations.
An event may have multiple effects. The order of importance may shift in time.
A set of variables that initially played a key role in producing an effect may be replaced by a different set of variables at a different time. Removing the initial cause [therefore] will not necessarily remove the effect."
Paula Underwood (1994), a well-known native American thinker, refers to this
same principle, which is what creates the 'complexity' that so baffles the
'rational' world - as her 'Rule of Six' - (it is what Ackoff
calls 'messes', or interrelated systems or sets of 'problems' or conditions -
probably the most fundamental principle within the systems sciences as a field
of inquiry) -- i.e. there is no 1 to 1 relation between 'cause' and 'effect' or
intent and outcome, or means and ends, or plan and execution/outcome. And every
apparent phenomenon, has a multitude of plausible
explanations, but 'at least six' is a useful reminder to us of this re
This should also be a reminder to us of the patent shortcomings in our
reliance on socalled 'expertise' (from a systemic
viewpoint, more appropriately 'unpertise'). An
'expert' is someone who thinks in terms of isolated domains or 'parts' of re
We think that 'reengineering government' or business,
is a structural 'downsizing problem'. That is a quantitative solution to a
The indigenous view of the world as interconnected 'web of life', or of close interdependency of the whole (nature and the global commons) - even amid high levels of autonomy and independence of the parts (individuals, cultures, nations), is closely congruent with a few (less visible) currents within the systems science domain, of which Ted also noticed some during this conference - though expressed very differently and within an oral tradition of story-telling - where the complex interconnectedness of dimensions, systems and phenomena are woven 'geometrically' into the story.
The indigenous way or American Indian way of living and doing and being, also in its form of social organization or governance, incorporates in an integrated, harmonious and holistic way, all the systemic dimensions and principles - and centrally those of concurrent differentiation amid integration, of freedom amid responsibility, of the benefit, health and harmony of the whole AND its parts - as does social systems methodology - the latter ironically being 'cutting edge' management philosophy and organizational design methodology, and the former an ancient way of life that has much to teach us about how to relate to our social and natural environment and to understand and respect the world we live in.
"No part is separate from any other part. The health of the whole enables the health of any part thereof. Sickness of the smallest part affects the whole."
Paula Underwood 1996. Creation and Organization: A Native American looks at Economics. ( http://www.ratical.com/ratville/future/economics.html )
This thought of Paula Underwood, which is indicative of the entire philosophy and form of life of American Indian societies, in systems terms, also reflects Boulding's 'name of the devil is suboptimization', as well as the philosophical basis on which Interact methodology is founded. It is (was?) also the most basic underlying assumption of the whole endeavor called 'systems sciences' - though one might be forgiven for thinking otherwise in the light of recent efforts to emulate the 'success criteria' of the analytical disciplines, just as philosophy sold herself down the river trying to duplicate the criteria of positivist science. Hence our chosen theme for this team-presentation.
The Iroqois Model of Governance
"Social learning is not the sum of the isolated learning of each member. It is the members' shared learning as manifested in a notion of a shared image and culturesocio-cultural systems to continuously increase their capacity for higher levels of organization. This is what social development is all about. It is this collective and shared learning that enables societies to redesign themselves by successively creating new modes of organization at higher levels of order and complexity. However, creating a new mode of organization involves a cultural transformation. More specifically, it requires changing the default values of the organizing principles.
Chief Oren Lyon, Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation:
"The true purpose of human political organization, The Peacemaker argued, must be to oppose violence. This, he said, can be accomplished when men of healthy minds and bodies unite to create a just world in which human abuse is abolished forever, and in which war is abandoned as a way of settling disputes. Force, he asserted, is justified only when it is necessary to halt aggression and to create the conditions we might call a truce that could be used to create a road to peace. In addition, The Peacemaker proposed that a council be formed to provide a forum in which violence would henceforth be replaced with thinking, and disputes would be settled with words
exhausted conquered were to enjoy rights. There would be no collection of spoils from those who were conquered. There would be no requirement that a conquered people adopt the religion of their conquerors. The aggressors would be required to disarm, but otherwise they would be left in control of their country, and the dispute would be taken to the Great Council, where it would be resolved
The Peacemaker unified the nations of the Confederacy onto one nation under an ideology that was complex but whose symbols were easy to grasp. The Longhouse the symbol of a nation: the sky was compared to its roof; the earth was like its floor; and the fires burning inside were like the nations stretching east to west. The people of a nation hold fast to the idea of a unified nation, and The Peacemaker introduced ideas to promote that sense of unity, admonishing the people of the clans across the nations that they are all brothers and sisters, and creating a folk law that the people of a certain clan of the Mohawks could not marry the people of the same clan of the Onondagas or any of the nations, because brothers and sisters do not marry. These were powerful ideas which created customs that survive to this day.
Onondaga, where the Great Tree was planted and the fifty chiefs (sachems, or Hoyane - He who does good') met in council. There the Peacemaker taught that peace is not simply the absence of violence but can only exist through the vigorous efforts of clear-thinking people to eradicate injustice in the world Peacemaker facilitated what can be described as a revolution. He caused the power of the warrior leaders to be subordinated to the workings of a council of elders whose purpose was to promote peace within the framework of a true confederacy. At the same time, the member nations were encouraged to continue practicing their local laws and customs as beforeHaudenosaunee controlled its internal affairs independently of the Confederacy Council, while the Confederacy Council was restricted to controlling affairs of a national or international character
Gaswentah or Two-Row Wampum. Of special significance for an understanding of the Haudenosaunee principles of friendship and peace in connection with early white colonists is the oral tradition of the earliest treaties. In essence, these treaties, which the Haudenosaunee associate with the principle of the Silver Covenant Chain, extended to the Europeans the Haudenosaunee principle of respect for the laws and customs of different cultures. The Silver Covenant Chain is a promise that the Haudenosaunee will not interfere in the internal affairs of the European people, and reciprocally that the Europeans will not interfere in the Haudenosaunee internal affairs. The modern American idea of states' rights is a correlative to this principle links on the chain will represent certain things. The first link will mean friendship. The second link will mean peace. The third link will mean that it will always be the same between us
Haudenosaunee have been central to
our relations with other nations and states, whether Indian, European, or
American. In these traditions, there is a recognition
that peoples are distinct from each other. However, since the beginning of our
memory this distinctiveness has been seen as foundation for mutual respect; and
we have therefore always honored the fundamental
right of peoples and their societies to be different. This is a profoundly
important principle, and one which, even in the twentietth
century, humans continue to struggle to re
A feature of this form of political organization, is that it is not purely
'political' - the people lived in an integrated way, where social functions,
spiritual beliefs, the values and respect for nature's patterns, cycles and
conditions, formed a closely interwoven tapestry of mutually reinforcing ideas
and life norms that informed individual, clan and national life, and determined
also their relations to other nations. Would that this
'simple' (yet complex) geometry were the foundation of today's societies and
global commons. This simplicity, interconnectedness, coherence and
consistency of its symbols and core principles, every one of which has a very
specific meaning, also in relation to others, and where no theoretical 'excess'
clouds their meaning, as Chief Lyons indicates, contain a very complex set of
systemic ideas about social organization, and indeed a philosophy of life, of
how the world is ordered, and what our role and place within that world should
be. For such a way of life you do not need 'experts' to
interpret the 'law' - their 'geometry' is contained in learning s
And should anyone assume that that simplicity and coherence of a 'total'
(whole) life and belief system is not re
That the US Constitution took many of its central tenets from the Iroquois
Confederacy and its Great Law of Peace, is not in
doubt. It is not a European product based purely on Christian principles' as
some would now like to believe. Indian ideas and philosophy traveled in the
other direction, rather, influencing thinkers like De Tocqueville, Rousseau and
many others. According to Paula Underwood, as is also pointed out by other
writers and his
Haudenosaunee (Iroquois League) themselves say the Great Law is about 1,000 years old. From the beginning it included and still includes concepts such as democratic representation, the right to impeach officials, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, prohibition against illegal search and seizure. It also included equal rights for women and for all men, the rights of children, and responsibility for the environment." Paula Underwood, 1996. (http://www.learningway.org/Articles/Roots.html).
However, in the process of its incorporation into 'modern' society, and
under the influence of 'enlightenment ration
The color symbolism indicated in connection with the Medicine Wheel or
Circle in Figure 3 - is significant regarding the Indian nations' subsequent
loss of their own territory to the white colonists, since white was a color
symbolizing purity and spiritu
One is tempted to ask, what type of 'civilization' treats others in this
way, so that the distinction between what and who constitutes 'the savage'
becomes questionable. By defining 'civilization' according to European ways of
life in the 1600s, linking it to a specific belief system such as Christianity,
as well as what it means to 'inhabit' a country (as distinct from just 'roaming
around in it') (!), and by defining ideas such as 'sovereignty', 'rights' etc.,
in the 'Western way', the American Indian's physical and spiritual genocide,
theft of land, enslavement and destruction of culture, were 'ration
To an American Indian (meaning in dios -
'living in God'), nobody 'owned' the earth. The earth was not created by man,
and his role therefore, is that of stewardship, not ownership. These beliefs
were cynically exploited to rob them of their habitat, culture, traditions and
livelihood. Thus Taiaiake Alfred (1999:62) states
that "The only position on development compatible with a traditional frame
of mind is a balanced one, committed at once to using the land in ways that
respect the spiritual and cultural connections indigenous peoples have with it
and to managing the process so as to ensure a primary benefit for its natural
indigenous stewards. The primary goals of an indigenous economy are to sustain
the earth and to ensure the health and well-being of the people. Any derogation
of that principle - whether in qu
'Sovereignty', moreover, in this view, means the right to be who you are, and is not seen as legally (abstract, statist) derived 'power' based on 'ownership' of a territory to do with as one sees fit no matter the consequences, but just as 'nationhood', is about 'being' "Being is who you are, and a sense of who you are is arrived at through your relationships with other people - your people. So who we are is tied with what we are: a nation [the Western concept of it] - the authority to exercise power over life, affairs, territory - this is not inherited. It's not part of being a thing that can be given and thus can be taken away. It is clearly a foreign concept, because it occurs through an exercise of power - power over another." (Ibid:65,66) As already pointed out, the Indian concept of power differs markedly from the Western view of it as 'power overGharajedaghi, 1999:57) where he discusses both his and Ackoff's distinction between power over (which is coercive domination through abstract authority); and power to, which is equated in social systems terms, with competence, strength of character, responsibility and personal integrity.
The Western concept of power as 'authority over others', by whatever means, is not consistent with current 'global citizens' views on human rights concerning one's right to be who you are, or the American Indian view. (Again, we have come full circle - the only people who do not recognize this, are the 'leadership' of the world.) Thus the redundancy of the cybernetic model of governance also in this regard. If democracy is only taken to mean 'right to vote for those who then acquire power over you' - it will not have a long future. Small wonder elections are not even respected in a lot of African countries, for e.g., who also have a history of natural chieftainship and shared authority in kinship groups. The 'right to vote' does NOT constitute, in any practically equatable terms, the 'right to self-determination' or autonomy. It is the 'right' , instead, to abrogate those rights, and second them to 'politicians' who act and decide on your behalf, in terms of criteria that you had no hand in formulating - which makes a mockery of the notion of 'democracy' as 'freedom of the individual'.
Participative democracy, on the other hand, is a system in which
those affected by decisions have a hand in formulating them or rejecting those
that work against their interest. This occurs through thought sharing within
the circle, as Ted showed in the beautiful picture by his friend Jacques,
through a process of consensus building around shared decision-criteria ('rules
of the game' - rules of how we conduct ourselves in this world). Moreover, the
power given to 'government' should be only those that individuals and smaller
entities cannot themselves effectively pursue, such as national defence. As Gharajedaghi points out (1999:72): sharing of decision
criteria, not abdication of power, that results in empowerment and makes
Russell Means, of whom it is said that "he awakens the spirits of the
Great Chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse(N.Scott Momaday and Oliver Stone,
Ibid.) also notes that, "You can't talk about the environment, you can't
talk about political correctness, affirmative action and all the other
innumerable things that freedom is about, unless you have a free society
based upon the integrity of the individual. If you have a responsible
society, these other issues will not come up in a responsible society, and that
is what freedom is all about. We are the very people, the American Indians, who
taught the world about freedom of the individual through representative
government. That was largely taken from the Northeastern
Indian peoples of
We can clearly see from these discussions what the foundation for a
participative democracy has to be. It is a self-governing
system engaging in a process of consensual, interactive, participative, and
iterative DESIGN. (See Gharajedaghi, 1999:
Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity, where he describes how this
design process was implemented as national development process with the Oneida
Nation of Wisconsin, as Art Skenandore was going to
address in his presentation). As such, it is also a learning system. A multiminded-system, i.e. like a human society, or within an
organization, or in a clan or family, is one where every 'part' (individual)
has a mind to think with and to govern themselves
with. "Mind' (the 'control' system of a living being) is not a property of
a committee or only some members of the system. If this responsibility to
govern oneself is abdicated to others, who rule by an abstractly defined
(non-living) 'authority', conceptually defined and bestowed on them by vote or
other means, the individual is no longer really responsible for his own behavior and development. Nor is he living as a free and
autonomous being. The extern
How then, is 'order' maintained, if everyone is free to be responsible? We
are so accustomed to thinking in terms of Western notions of what governance
means (top-down control and coercion via the law, and via bestowed, gener
This type of 'sovereignty' is inherited from life itself and considered to be 'inherent' (constituted by one's human nature within the larger order of nature). (See also 'Inherent Sovereignty' as defined by the Oneida Nation - http://www.oneida-nation.net/inherentsov.html ). It is sovereignty seated within the individual FIRST, and not primarily within an abtract 'state' or institution, just as it is in the clan, and the nation. Therefore, the direction of that 'progression' across systemic levels, starts from the individual, NOT from the 'government' (a 'reversal' of the Western 'order') - in other words, the first place 'where the buck stops' - is with the individual - it is HIS responsibility, to govern himself. From there, this autonomy and sovereignty moves to the level of the clan - where individuals CO-determine the rules whereby they live in their context and environment and in terms of their clan's social responsibility within the larger whole of which they are a part - and from there, to the nation and then federation of nations.
Viewed from this perspective (an 'inversion' of the Western way) - it is easy to see how 'The People of the Longhouse' (Haudenosaunee) did not need jails, police and coercion to secure a harmonious society living also in harmonic balance with nature. It was everyone's responsibility. And in that lay the freedom of the individual, as autonomous being, as well as that of the clan and the nation and confederacy. A different notion of sovereignty indeed. Russell Means, in an interview with Linda Brookover ( http://www.dickshovel.com/intermeans.html ) notes that "The only way you can be free is to know that you are worthwhile as a distinct human being. Otherwise you become what the colonizers have designed, and that is a lemming. Get in line, punch all the right keys, and die." Perhaps this is also the intuition that underlies the 'Seattle', 'Washington', 'Davos', 'London' and other protests against a 'New World Order' based on a control model.
Within this Iroquois participatory democracy, every individual has the right to voice opinions and disagree or agree on actions and decisions. Local chiefs promote internal peace and local traditions and laws - guided according to the shared wisdom of the nation, whilst the Confederacy is organized to meet external threats or national concerns. The 'Chief', therefore, 'manages outwardly', - which is the essence of true leadership - not through downward control - he is the link to the larger system of which the clan is a part. (Again, the very same philosophy contained in 'Interactive Management'). Thus, as a system of governance, it is not aimed at internal control ('administration'), and had no organs of repression, police, or jails, since 'just' and 'honorable' behavior is everyone's responsibility. Those values indicated in Figure 3, namely Peace, Power, Righteousness - all founded upon a life lived in respect - are personal values, not abstract ideas.
"The Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee shall be mentors of the people for all time" (i.e. this form of governance was premised on leadership, not control). The Tadodaho, is the Firekeeper or Principle Chief of the Iroquois Nations, a spiritual elder, his role first created by Deganawida, "The Peacemaker", who was the son of a young Huron virgin who dreamt that her child "will be a messenger of the Creator and will bring peace and harmony to the people of the earth") - as described by Chief Lyons in the opening quote of this section. Deganawida went (with Haiawatha) and convinced the Mohawk nation of his injunction from the Creator, to bring peace, power and righteousness, who then became the founders of the League of formerly Five, now Six Nations Confederacy. The symbol of their unity is the bundle of arrows, which singly, can break, but together, are strong. Before conversion to Deganawida's mission, Tadodaho was a 'malevolent' Onondaga shaman - his name now represents the role of the Principle Chief of the League, or Firekeeper. (See Wilson 1998, Chapter 5).
We came to
There was no exploitation of the environment, for when the earth is seen as
nurturing 'mother' - she is honored and treated with
the same respect given mothers of the clans. This was also not 'a roaming way
of life' - the reason why the 'wilderness' was still in its 'pristine state'
upon the arrival of the colonists, is that it was lived in sustainably
and harmoniously, but this was seen as 'proof that they needed civilizing'.
Each season provided a different type of opportunity for survival - the warmer
seasons for settled agriculture and the others for hunting. As for 'knowledge,
truth and wisdom' - the tradition based on an oral practice of story-telling,
is a life based on the 'learning way' - as it is is
in some of the Eastern traditions like Taosim - it is
also an ongoing journey, a process, and not a destination. It is one that
accords the path (the linear left-brain, 'explicit' knowledge way) as much
value as the forest (the right-brain intuitive, 'tacit knowledge' capacity of
mankind) and indeed saw the former within the context of the latter, just as
the systems sciences first sought its task in providing the larger
understanding which the speci
We see here a concept of 'development' the rest of the world should relearn and rediscover. It is about learning to BE, and 'meaning', instead of just 'having', or pursing 'means'. As Gharajedaghi (1999:173) puts it, in describing this concept of development which places everything we do in its rightful context of embedding meaning, it is about "learning to be". "Learning to be is essentially a character building activity. It is about values, worldviews, and identities. It involves desires as opposed to abilities, the capacity rather than the content; the direction rather than the speed; the why's rather than the how's; the feeling rather than the thinking; the meaning rather than the action; the process of becoming rather than the state of having. It is about doing the right thing, rather than doing it right."
Such a 'learning to be' is what we in the West have forgotten in our single-minded pursuit of the means, the how's, the thinking, the thoughtless action, the having, the power over
Mitaku Oyasin - we are all related.
"When we walk upon Mother Earth, we always plant our feet carefully, because we know the faces of our future generations are looking up at us from beneath the ground.We never forget them."
Chief Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper, Onondaga Nation
"We are instructed to carry love for one another, And to show great respect for all beings of the earth. We must stand together, the four sacred colors of man, as the one family that we are, in the interest of peace
Chief Leon Shenandoah (Onondaga), Tadodaho of the Six Nations Confederacy.
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