And Who Shall Speak for Youth?

Dallas, January 14, 1999

Emile woke up with the imagery of a dream of Chris fresh in his mind. Chris, in the form of a wolf, was sitting on his haunches just outside of the circle of Emile's campfire, .... now looking into the fire reflectively, and now howling at the full moon.

Emile realized that this vision was a melding of Paula Underwood's 'And Who Shall Speak for Wolf', which Gena had given him to read on their way to lunch yesterday, and Emile's debate with Chris, which had gone on until 3:00 a.m. the evening before, as to how Emile could best share his understanding of complex social/ecological systems. Chris felt that Emile was ready to tell the story simply, in words that twentyish-year olds would readily comprehend, rather than putting all of his energies into the struggle to get it into a form which would be convincing to 'the establishment'.

'And Who Shall Speak for Wolf' was a brief, simply-written Native American 'learning story' which seemed to Emile to be unusually effective in conveying complex systems insights. It spoke to the common origins of dysfunction in social/ecological systems in a very simple and charming way, rather than in the formal terms and serious tones of complex systems science. The insights conveyed by 'And Who Shall Speak for Wolf' revolved around the notion that our decisions and plans tend to be focused on 'OUR problems', and that in moving ahead to fix one problem, we ignore the 'reciprocal effects' of our problem-solving actions on interdependent lifecycles in our environment outside of our defined 'problem space'. Without 'giving a voice' to other ecological participants encroached upon as we 'made our moves', an apparently positive action to resolve a problem could, and often did, engender new problems.

So the native 'wolf' myth, like many myths, emulated the ecological complexity of nature by personifying nature, .... giving the imagery of all the participants in the ecology, animal, vegetable and mineral, as deserving of a 'voice' with which they could express their views when human decisions were being made. The implication in this personified view of nature was that decisions which were made without the input of all the effected participants in the ecology; i.e. without giving each a voice, ... could dis-equilibrate the resonant and unifying dynamics in the ecological system.

Emile recognized that this native tale was speaking to the same issues as he was; i.e. that you could not 'manage' ecological systems on the basis of single-minded 'problem solving' because ecologies are constituted by mutually interfering patterns or cycles, which can easily be knocked 'out of phase' (out of harmony) and become dysfunctional. While the message in this native myth or 'learning story' seemed very powerful to Emile, he recognized that while people 'got it', it was still very difficult to 'see' how we continued to fall into the same dysfunction-engendering trap in our everyday lives.

To Emile, this was because society was very science-based and the traditional 'rules' of science had become deeply embedded in our cultural and religious 'ways', .... so deeply, in fact, that our problem-solving efforts almost never probed down to the depths needed to re-visit the adequacy of these old 'rules'.

After reading Poincare's 'Science and Hypothesis', Emile had recognized that the very notion of traditional scientific 'rules' depended on the assumption that you could get valid answers by starting off your description of complex natural phenomena by ignoring their embeddedness in complex weaves of ecological cycles, and describing the system in terms of the properties and behaviors of detached 'things' out of the context of time. Since ecologies were constituted by cycles which were harmonically enfolded within cycles, some slow, some fast, some microscopic and some macroscopic, it was not at all clear how one could work one's way back to an explanation of ecologies or social-ecologies from 'thing'-based scientific rules. While Poincare had pointed out that this 'thing' approach would only give answers to a limited set of questions, most people, including mainstream scientists, quietly and conveniently continued to ignore the warnings and use 'thing-based' rules for all manner of question.

This was perhaps the reason why people could 'get' the message in the wolf myth, but still fall into the same traps in their everyday lives, .... because in spite of people's persistance in managing their lives and businesses in terms of 'thing-based rules', ecologies could not be fully described in terms of detached 'things' and their behaviors, since 'things' (which are tautologically defined in terms of their properties and behaviors) were not absolute, but were continually 'co-evolving' and giving birth to new co-resonant behaviors. Emile felt that somehow, the scientific community itself was going to have to re-formulate this point very clearly in their own language, and as Chris had noted, much of his energy had been flowing into attempts to help catalyze this.

In the wolf myth, when the native community shifted the location of their village to avoid the ravages of a turbulent weather trend, the tribal council overrode an objection that they were encroaching on a traditional center of activity of the wolves. Wolves and man had been as brothers, but after this move, animosity developed as the wolves began stealing food which was now in such an available and tempting proximity, and the people begain to fear for the safety of their little ones, with wolves passing so often through and around the margins of their village, and they began to take up protective measures against the wolves. Both man and wolf had inadvertently evolved a new set of behaviors based on this new experience; .... neither wolf nor man were the same 'things' after the move, as before it.

The message in the myth was clear, in deciding on actions aimed at the improvement of one participating sector of a complex interdependent system or 'ecology', someone must speak for those participating sectors which are not present or whose voice cannot be easily heard. It is not enough to simply assume, from a 'single-minded' 'outsider' viewpoint, that those ecological participants without a voice will not be seriously discomforted, ... their patterns of life; i.e. their 'ontogenetic needs' must also be taken into account. Views which are based on 'things' and their behavior cannot account for the unpredictable co-evolution of the behaviors of 'things' through a disturbance in the ecology. Just as in the myth, where friendly wolves were transformed into adversarial wolves by an encroachment on their traditional territory, in general, the behavior of 'things' which are participating in an ecology co-evolve into new behavioral patterns when the dynamic equilibrium or whole-and-part harmony of an ecology is disturbed. Over time, the material form and structure of 'things' will also evolve in support of the evolved behaviors, as was the case with Darwin's Galapagos swallows where beak shapes followed the evolution of new behavioral approaches in food gathering.

So Emile had felt that the very fundamentals of scientific 'law' formulation, insofar as they were 'thing'-based, had to be revisited, as it seemed to be the major bottleneck which was cultivating rising dysfunction in society. To help catalyze such a revisiting, one had to learn and use the language of science, and this was what Chris was complaining about, that such arguments could not be understood by the average young person, and it was the youthful participants in the ecology who were in urgent need of a language and voice to intervene in questionable decisions effecting their future.

In light of the dreams stimulated by the wolf myth, Emile now felt that he himself had fallen into the same trap that he was trying to 'blow the whistle' on, ... i.e. that his identification of science as the culprit, was in itself a 'thing' and 'behavior' oriented view. It was as if, though he explicitly knew the difference between 'ecological thinking' [et] and 'non-ecological thinking' [net], he had not yet assimilated this explicit understanding in tacit form; i.e. Emile did not yet 'live' his ecological understanding. Emile knew explicitly that it was the 'thing-behavior' inquiry mode which encouraged people to think as speak in such terms as; ''el-nino is the 'cause' of global weather variations', ... in spite of the reality being that this pacific current was simply an eye-catching phase of an endless system of continually flowing and interfering subcycles, many of which were either hidden or so dispersed and subtle (i.e. did not satisfy Poincare's 'simplicity of the elementary fact') that we neither focused in on them nor gave them 'thing-label' names.

It was equally clear to Emile that the 'thing-behavior' approach was inextricably tied up in our concept of 'judgement'; i.e. the notion of being able to isolate 'thing' from 'nothing' and 'good' from 'bad'. We persisted in 'leaning on' the notion of judgement even though matter and energy were continually transforming one into the other and the latent energies of space participated in physical (material) phenomena, and as Taoist myths such as 'the horse that got away' pointed out, the end of every story was the beginning of a new story; i.e. when the horse escaped from the old man's corral, his fellow villagers viewed it as bad, the old man, 'maybe bad, maybe good', .... when the horse returned with a herd of wild horses, the villagers viewed it as good, the old man, 'maybe good, maybe bad', .... when the old man's son was crippled while trying to break-in a horse, the villagers viewed it as 'bad', the old man, 'maybe bad, maybe good', .... when the imperial army recruited all able bodied men in the village, but not the crippled son, for a war in which they all went to their deaths, the villagers viewed the saving of the son as 'good', the old man, 'maybe good, maybe bad', ..... and the story is said to continue on to this very day. Clearly, the exclusionary thinking in 'thing-behavior' inquiry and in judgement which isolated 'good' and 'bad' was non-ecological thinking, since it ignored the phasing and interference between the many cycles or 'many stories' whose confluence produces the unity we experience in nature.

It now seemed to Emile, that in addition to his arguing for change in debates going on amongst the establishment councils (e.g. Internet discussion and debate in scientific journals such as *Complexity*), he needed to give attention to ensuring the growth of the voice of youth in the establishment debates. Only through an open sharing of understanding and collaboration amongst all ecological participants could the system experience the unity essential for sustainable and harmonic co-evolution.

Chris's insistence on 'a simple message' to give youth a stronger voice, and the native myth of 'And Who Shall Speak for Wolf', had danced and twisted in Emile's dreams to the point of unified entwinement, each within the other. Emile reasoned that, in the short term, it would be impossible to directly share his experientially acquired, jargon-rich knowledge of complex systems with Chris and his friends, nor could Emile, born in 1941, absorb the unique experiential perspectives they were absorbing in a world which was very different to the one which Emile had grown up in. In place of his earlier resistance to Chris's suggestion, the intention grew in Emile to attempt to 'tell his story' in as simple words as he could find. If it was 'intelligible' to those in their early twenties and gave them something to help amplify their voice, fine, ... and if not, more would have been gained than lost in the attempt.

Emile went to the keyboard and began to type in his reflections on how the traditional problem-oriented focus on 'things' and their properties and behaviors, and the judgemental approach associated with this, was leading to dysfunction in the social ecology. He decided to 'tell his story', starting from his earliest recollections of awareness of 'something amiss', and share how his thoughts had evolved from then and there, till here and now.

* * *

"From the first day I started school, I had this nagging feeling that there was something deeply wrong with the 'system'. That was back in 1947, over a half a century ago. My feeling was that something was amiss, ... in the way things were managed and this feeling never went away, in fact it only got stronger. In 'offline' conversations, out of the mainstream flow of the culture, I discovered that many others had the same troubled feelings about the culture as myself, and what had started off as a suspicion, over the years, resolved into the certainty that there was and is something seriously 'wrong' with our culture which emanates from its deep philosophical underpinnings.

While the many painful and resistant maladies, .... violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, mental anguish, ... all give testimony to some deep rooted source of dysfunction, the source has not at all been obvious and the judgemental fingers of our culture inevitably point outward in many directions [net]. This lack of a common understanding and/or common shouldering of responsibility rules out the possibility of collective action to transcend this pathological state [et], and this has been all the more troubling because of the continued deepening of our difficulties and what this forbodes for tomorrow's children. Through many years of struggling to understand what's going on, sharing ideas and dialogue with others with a similar purpose, imagery of what has been happening, has been progressively resolving itself in my mind. What I am now trying to do, is to find a way to share this evolving understanding.

Based on my half century of experience, kids who are growing up and coming into 'the system' today, are going to have a much tougher time, on average, than they would have had fifty years ago. What I mean is that they will have a much tougher time getting themselves situated so that they will be able to do the things they truly love to do, ... to develop their own natural potentials and make their own dreams come true. This is because the social systems we are immersed in are becoming less 'ecological', ... less accepting of the diversity which arises naturally when people embrace their own authentic ontogenies. Instead, society is becoming more selective and exclusionary in the cultural pathways through which it gives access to resources and social privilege.

Youth are increasingly being asked to participate in processes which induce them to betray their natural ontogenetic 'self' and its development needs, ..... in order to gain access to resources needed for self-development. This is one of those double bind 'crazy-makers' or 'catch 22' loops where there is only one portal of access to what one is seeking and the price for passing through it is to abandon one's search; i.e. in order to garner the resources to live your own authentic life, you are asked to live a life which is alien to you. This is because the portal passage requirements are exclusionary, .... less and less so in an ethnic or physical sense, but more and more so in a 'personal attribute and behavior' sense. This is because the passage requirements are shaped by the specific needs of business and are defined on the basis of prescribed behaviors and skills of the individual rather than the collective [net]. Business is a circular process whereby we sell things so that we can earn money to buy things. While business was originally shaped by people to support the needs of the people, it has evolved to the point where the people are shaped by business to support the needs of business. Philosophical dualism has split man in two so that our 'business-man ontogeny' has risen into a primacy over our 'natural-man ontogeny' and as a result, the business-man in us is pulled more strongly by the business ecology than the natural man in us is pulled by the mother ecology of nature.

On the 'people-as-means' supply side, the business-driven requirements of passage reach backwards in time to begin 'shaping' the child, from his first day of school, .... if not to the pre-school preparing of the child for 'a successful career' by parents, friends and church. On the 'wealth as ends' demand side, modern business, because of the competitive need for 'agility', strives to have access to configurable armies or networks of specialized 'business-men' which it can mechanically disassemble and re-assemble into socio-business 'machinery' appropriate to marketplace dynamics, and schools and parents strive to help out as best they can, to ensure the 'success' of their children in coping within this reality.

What this approach preempts, is the growth of a natural social ecology which puts the development of a child's ontogeny first, in a community or ecological context, and cultivates a sense of appreciation in children of how free-wheeling diversity can come together naturally and co-evolutionarily in richly beautiful and productive ecologies.

Like almost everyone in our western philosophy dominated world, this 'pre-emption' of natural ontogenetic development characterized my experiential 'passage' from early childhood into the complexifying socio-business ecology. Nevertheless, the severity of compromise between my own natural development or 'ontogeny', and the working life I had to lead to garner the resources for doing what I really wanted to do, was considerably milder then than it is today. Yes, I 'played the game' to a large extent, but I was one of the lucky ones who naturally (i.e. coincidently) possessed a sufficiency of the 'politically correct' attributes, and so tended to be included in the favored and rewarded bunch, without having to totally 'sell my soul' and proceed in a direction antithetical to that of my natural self-development; .... i.e. there was in my particular case 'elbow room' to orchestrate a measure of peaceful coexistance between my ontogenetic 'real need' and the compensated behaviors dictated by the needs of the business establishment. Nevertheless, I witnessed a huge amount of carnage amongst my fellow passage-navigators along the way, and am convinced that the commercial establishment as I left it (two years ago) would have given me a far rougher and less compromising ride had I been starting out now, as compared to when I joined it back in '64.

To me, my initial naievety as to the dysfunction in the system gave me and my contemporaries a considerable exposure to 'betrayal of self' which has left its wounds and injuries, including the knowledge of having (somewhat unawarely and confusedly) aided and abetted the perpetuation of this dysfunction into the next generation. In the extreme injury cases, individuals seemed to totally lose track of their natural ontogeny which they had only just begun to reach out to embrace in their youth, but had to set aside 'temporarily' to attend to the business-defined 'rites of passage', and when they'd 'made it through' the first few stretches of white water in their alien transit shells, became like the person with amnesia who could no longer 'recognize' his true self, .... who he was naturally meant to be.

My experience has made me want to help others who are just now entering the most severe of the white water passages to avoid this rising 'betrayal of self' or 'forgetting of self' exposure. This brings me back to the current moment and the recognition that one way to do this is to help give youth a stronger voice to speak with in matters which impact their future and their children's future. Being better able to perceive the follies and pathologies of the current cultural ways and to bring one's voice to bear so that social dysfunction is stripped of its subtle clothing and exposed for what it is, constitutes a powerful means of averting ontogenetic amnesia, ... the betrayal of one's birthright and abandonment of one's role in passing on ancestral legacies.

The understanding I am speaking about is 'tacit' (intuitive-ecological) rather than 'explicit' (rational-judgemental), and cannot be shared by simply passing it from one person to another via writing, in the manner that the knowledge of how to repair a car is passed on in a mechanic's manual. Instead, if you listen to this entire anecdote, you may assimilate the embodied 'ecological' understanding by 'tuning in' to the tacit message and putting your own experiences into the same sort of 'connection' in your mind. As native american traditionalists say, .... don't assume that you understand the meaning in a story based on your literal or explicit comprehension in reading it. As children, they were asked by their parents and elders to 'play back the meaning' in three different ways [1], not with the same words and stories, but with totally different words and stories. This is because the real meaning, the 'tacit knowledge' is not in the words themselves but in the intangible patterns suggested by the words.

As I continue 'my story', I first want to reiterate my view that what is at the very base of what is wrong with the system is that the system tries to perceive and manage everything on the basis of 'things' and the properties and behaviors of things, ... an 'exclusionary judgement' based approach, ... and this just doesn't work in complex 'ecological' situations because it is 'incomplete' in a very fundamental way; i.e. it doesn't take into account the transformative behavior of the evolving 'configuration' or 'patterns of order' amongst and enveloping the 'things', .... patterns whose flows are altered (intentionally or unintentionally) by each and every behavioral action of a 'thing'. (or vice versa, to be more consistent with relativity and quantum physics).

I know that embedding this 'theorizing' in my story may be distracting, but then, part of my experience is that I listened to many stories during my 'passage' and although I thought I 'understood' them, I later realized that I was understanding the 'words' but was not assimilating the tacit 'pattern-based meaning' which went beyond explicit meaning. There was an 'incompleteness' associated with my 'explicit understanding' which I was unaware of in my youth. It's this awareness I'm trying to cultivate with these upfront comments. It's a bit like giving upfront guidance as to how to see the 3D image from a hologram printed on a flat page; i.e. ..... it is helpful to advise the viewer not to focus on the specific details and not to worry about taking everything in, .... to just allow 'things' to come into connection in your mind and let the interference patterns re-constitute the encrypted imagery, i.e. 'understanding' in this case.

In the recent phases of my 'ontogeny', I learned that the game of pool provides a solid example of this 'incompleteness' in 'thing'-based problem inquiry. You can't manage a pool game simply by considering the balls, their properties and behaviors as you make your shots, .... i.e. you must also consider the evolving pattern of spaces between the balls, ... the 'table order' or 'table configuration'. Everything you do to 'things' (e.g. the balls), has an impact on the configuration which will be important to the evolution of the game (i.e. to the 'ontogeny' of the game if you like, 'ontogeny' being a useful word which stands for the evolution of the life of a system and a 'system' can be a person, a community, a company, an economy, an ecology or whatever). A skilled pool player is a skilled pattern recognizer and pattern massager, one who 'tunes in' to the game's ontogeny, ... who not only 'harvests' the configurations he is given, but purposefully preconditions the configuration to enhance the harvesting for his mates and their particular needs and skills, and to make the configuration more difficult for his adversaries to harvest.

There is a general 'theorem' or 'principle' here concerning the understanding of natural (complex) systems, which mainstream science, business and culture ignores and by ignoring it, unintentionally cultivates dysfunction; .... the principle, already mentioned but critically important to understanding complex systems, is that the behavior of a system cannot be fully understood in terms of the tangible, causal behaviors of 'things'. This is because the behavior (action) of a 'thing', such as a pool player, changes the patterns of order in its environment in ways which can differentially enhance or handicap the behavior of other things. The inter-relating pattern-based 'latent opportunities' or 'latent pitfalls' produced as a byproduct of a 'thing-behavior' represent non-quantifiable infusions of order into the system which make (catalyze) a real difference to the quantifiable performance of other 'things'. For example, although a particular driver may have an accident free record, he may like McGoo have caused many other drivers to 'hit the ditch'.

The true leader not only exhibits high 'harvesting' performance but replenishes the order in the system, leaving a legacy of latencies which may be harvested by others. The dysfunctional leader achieves high performance by harvesting without any thought of replenishing opportunity, .... or worse, ... he harvests in such a manner that there is an overt awareness of a net diminishing of latent opportunity; i.e. where the harvesting opportunity is diminished by an amount which exceeds the harvested gains, i.e. where the 'ecology' is 'damaged'.

Thus, a full understanding of 'complex systems' as are commonly encountered in nature and society requires an understanding of the 'order' in the space between things [2] and how it is effected by 'thing'-behaviors. This goes beyond the measurement of 'thing'-behaviors into the domain of intangible pattern recognition and 'tuning in' to the continuous flow which modulates 'thing'-behaviors [3] by setting the stage for them and subsequently propagating their effects. This 'ecological' or 'wave' view of phenomena may seem complicated but the processes being described are easily and naturally understood; ... it is just that they involve tacit knowledge and are difficult to articulate.

My first sense of this 'incompleteness', i.e. of something being 'wrong with the system' occurred on my first day at school, back in 1947, when the sisters (it was a catholic school) got all the kids in grade one to run a foot race. It was clear from the start that they were going to give some kind of prizes to the winners. Now I had been in lots of informal 'competitions' with my friends before, but what struck me was that 'performing' in front of these teachers was different. If I won, the system would make me a 'hero' and if I lost, it would make me 'a disgrace'. Although I could scarce put words to it at that point in time, it was the beginning of my awareness of this 'exclusionary portal of passage'. Perhaps it was unusual that I had not come face-to-face with this situation before starting school; i.e. the situation that winners and losers would be treated differently after the competition with respect to 'privileges'. But that was the way it had been, .... when we played together as kids in a competitive manner, after the 'competition', we did not discriminate against the slow one or the weak one, we felt good about helping out each other and accepting each other, at least for the most part. It was fun for us to compete but we seemed to naturally appreciate the diversity as well and this gave us the feeling of freedom to be able to 'be' and 'act' in ways that felt natural to us; the plain girl praised the pretty girl and made her feel good and the pretty girl befriended the plain girl and made everyone feel good, and the weak boy praised the strong boy and made him feel good and the strong boy protected the weak ones and made them feel good. With respect to a variety of such properties, the differences seemed to bind together our 'kid community', and there was such a diversity of attributes that someone always seemed to end up with something which made them feel 'special' and which was admired by others in the kid-community, even if the adult society would have judged it to be a 'defect'.

The ecological appreciation I was experiencing in this natural 'kid community', was very similar to what is taught in the native american tradition [2] (e.g. Paula Underwood's 'My Father and the Lima Beans' learning story), but it was totally antithetical to the tacit lessons I received once I started school, and here I am speaking about the tacit lessons which come through the medium of schooling, rather than the explicit content in the lessons. There are no explicit words which can convey the value of diversity in a social ecology because our language is based on 'thing-behaviors' and the ecological value emerges from the interference patterns amongst thing-behaviors, as the native learning stories tacitly demonstrate. In the structured school classrooms I was in, the natural evolution of socio-ecological value was suppressed or over-ridden by the imposed 'teaching' structure. The kids were encouraged to compete on an individual basis and it was forbidden to help another student out during those times when performance was being assessed.

... I was winning the race which was over rough ground, when I tripped a few strides from the finish line. Because it was rough ground and because I would have won, the sisters decided to re-run the race, but to their surprise and mine, I refused to run the race again, even though they implored me to do so. My intuition told me something was wrong here and I stubbornly allowed this intuition to prevail, in spite of my timidity and the strangeness of my first day at school, all of which made me feel as if there was an immense social pressure and weight of authority pressing down on me, breaking the natural kid socio-ecology patterns that I had known in the pre-school environment and imposing a new and uncomfortable structure.

This was the beginning of my 'tuning in' to the fact that our culture organizes and manages primarily on the basis of 'things', their properties and behaviors, out of the context of the 'environmental impact' of what they do, and out of the context of the one's natural ontogenetic drive which seemed to be the magic nutrient inducing a social ecology in the 'kid community'. The teachers seemed to manage only on the basis of the 'things' they were focusing on, and they ignored the 'peripheral' or 'environmental impact' of what they did; e.g., .... the fact that the 'losing' runners didn't get on the team, didn't get bussed to the competitions, lost face and respect with friend and girlfriend etc. While the appreciation of kids for each other had been on an intuitive basis outside of school, the tacit lesson in school was that all kids were assumed to be 'defects' until they had demonstrated the required behaviors [net], and the basis for 'community', rather than being ontogeny-cultivating mutual appreciation, regressed towards assessed attributes which selectively favored some ontogenetic directions and steamrolled over others.

So the students, deprived of their natural ecology and not knowing what to do in the strange new world of school, tended to model their behaviors after the teachers who praised those that won the competitions, be it running or jumping or arithmetic or spelling and restricted the giving of special favors or privileges to 'the winners'. By implication, those who did not 'win' were diagnosed by the system as 'losers', and by the process of being given 'advice' from teachers and friends as to how they could improve on their 'shortfalls', were made to feel like 'defects'. School seemed to turn the ecological circles of appreciation into straight-line axes along which the 'winners' and 'losers' were progressively segregated, ... the system encouraged the 'winners' to stockpile and re-invest their 'winnings' and get onto the 'fast track', and by undermining the self-confidence of those less well equipped in the exclusioning attributes, artificially evolved a 'loser' class, progressively depriving it of tangible and intangible nutrients.

Of course, the culturally-defined dimensions of relative excellence in athletic and academic competition hardly described the richness and diversity of humanity and community, so the linearizing of natural ecological circles of appreciation based on these dimensions seemed to dehumanize the community in two ways; behaviorally, by encouraging 'winners' to segregate and continually refine their associations on the basis of 'winningness' (and thus impede the natural evolution of a social ecology), and mechanically, by separating out the winners so they would associate more with 'their own kind'. At the time, I only 'felt' these dysfunctional 'selection pressures' in a vague yet troubling way, and could not begin to even tacitly articulate them until later.

And so I continued my schooling, moving to a number of different public schools in different locales, always despising the strait-jacketing structural schema which seemed unnecessarily destructive, but enjoying some of the discoveries and learning opportunities within the content, and the chance to develop friendships. As luck would have it, I was naturally performant in sports and academic topics, so my ontogeny was not as misshapen as might have been, by the struggle through the exclusionary passageways giving access to the teats of resource and privilege. My next watershed insight on the 'systems' front concerned religion, and this occurred in my early teens.

While I 'tuned' to the choir and organ music, gregorian chant (especially in latin, where it often sounded like the Buddhist Om), incense burning and other passively experienced ritual aspects of the Catholic church, which seemed to induce in me a feeling of unity with the collective, ... and though I participated as an altarboy for several years, I could not accept many of the doctrinal aspects which concerned 'thing-behaviors' because they seemed fundamentally unnatural to me. I was able to see this from an 'external' point of view just a few days ago, as my mother recalled how one of the priests had told her how disappointed he had been in his inability to get me past my objection (when I was in my early teens), to the doctrine that a baby who died before being baptised, would go to 'limbo'. The notion of a person being born a 'defect' (in original sin) until he had proven himself virtuous by satisfying some man-made behavioral requirements, in spite of the alleged wisdom of 'the good doctors of the church' seemed unnatural and wrong to me. For me, this was the 'writing on the wall' and my continuing attendance at church, until I left home at age eighteen, was simply to cultivate harmony in the family ecology.

And the 'limbo' doctrine was not the only example of 'thing-behavior' judgements seeming to take precedence over natural and honest ontogeny which I was observing in the church (or in other western religions practiced by my school friend's families.); i.e. I was also hearing about the belief by several religious strains that if one was not a baptised or otherwise initiated member of that particular religion, one could not gain access to the 'privilege' of 'going to heaven'. And at least one religious faction which some of my school friends belonged to seemed to believe that my particular religious affiliation was an express ticket to 'hell'. I couldn't take these ideas seriously; .... the idea of God managing the accession of people to heaven on the basis of their following the rules, .... 'thing-based management', .... even though they abused or discriminated against their supposedly 'less enlightened' neighbours in the process [4], was an approach which was terribly 'incomplete', to say the least. My parents, while more attached to religion than I, recognized the same flaws in organized religion and openly frowned on those who used religion as a springboard for unforgiving, 'holier than thou' attitudes.

As with my school experience, my experience with religion underscored the fact that managing individual people or 'things' on the basis of prescribed behaviors left a lot to be desired. In the first place, this approach induced the 'conspicuous' demonstration of being performant in the prescribed behaviors, ... i.e. it created 'teachers pets' and 'do-gooders' who focused on 'rules' and 'rewards' far more than on the purpose which had given birth to them. In the second place, it encouraged hidden 'elbows-in-the-ribs' and more serious pathologies which could not be traced back to the individual (e.g. military actions, mob behavior, gossip etc.). And thirdly, the approach required the design of a 'behavioral assessment' for individuals and turned everyone into a 'judge'. Together, 'conspicuous demonstration', 'elbows-in-the-ribs' and 'judgemental assessments' distracted people from their natural self-development (ontogeny) and precluded the evolution of a 'natural' social ecology, and seemed to represent a highly 'overmanaged' and dysfunction inducing approach.

My exposure to the complexity of politics came in the late sixties and early seventies while working in Libya alongside of Palestinians and Egyptians as well as Libyans, Americans, Canadians, British, French, Russians, Bulgarians etc. Clearly, as the middle eastern situation smoldered, one could select whatever good or bad historical incident one wanted, to make 'the case' for the Palestinian or Israeli side. That there was a deep humanity and religious tolerance in the hearts of many individuals of both ethnicities couldn't be doubted. Political rhetoric, meanwhile, was based on 'things' and 'behaviors' and selectively formulated according to one's allegiances. When the words 'Palestinians' or 'Israelis' were used in political diatribe, Poincare's assumption of 'homogeneity' was invoked, as demanded by the scientific problem-solving tradition; i.e. when the newpapers said 'the Arabs did this' and 'the Israeli's did that', one did not ask 'which ones?', but assumed a homogenous population. If one looked at the world powers as the teachers, and the Arabs and Israeli's as students competing for privileges, the same problematic geometry associated with 'thing' and 'behavior' oriented management becomes apparent. This was of course complicated at that time by the presence of two teachers (US and Russia) and two 'behavioral assessment' schemes, but it is nevertheless true that the use of 'thing' and 'behavior' inquiry induced both the Palestinians and the Israeli's to focus on scoring high marks in prescribed behavioral areas to win privileges from the 'powers' and distracted them from their natural ontogenetic development.

Much later, as my interests turned towards understanding and sharing ideas on the complex origins of high performance and dysfunction in social systems, I began to realize the immensity of even talking about this problem of trying to manage on a 'thing-behavior' basis, using language which is also based on 'things' (subjects, objects) and their properties (adjectives) and behaviors (verbs). How do you speak about the 'configuration of not-things'? For example, if you were playing pool, how would you justify the fact that you decided not to take an obvious opportunity to sink a ball, and instead tried to 'massage' or 'cultivate' the configuration of 'not-balls' so that the game would 'evolve' better for you? You would be basing this on your experience of how configurations evolve and, as a result, how you can get snookered, or 'close the game down' for yourself while 'opening it up' for your opponent etc. It's like talking about how you ride a bicycle, you can't articulate it because it involves too many interdependent dimensions (bicycle riding involves more than ten mutually interfering dimensions; i.e. the momentum and position of each wheel, each pedal and the handlebars).

Similarly, in school and at work, there were always those who 'looked good on paper' (their explicit behaviors were impeccable) but who everybody tacitly knew were leaving negative legacies. And this seemed to be the same case with the 'establishment' as a whole, it looked good on paper, and a lot of people could 'talk it up real good', but everybody knew 'the ship was leaking'. The trouble with tacit knowledge is that you can't articulate it in words, so nobody does (except for the poets and songwriters), and on and on it seems to go, in spite of the Captain's reassurances (lies?).

Meanwhile, the culture loves to debate and to assume that there's a 'right and wrong' answer to every question and that you should be able to articulate in language, why the answer is right or wrong. In trusting situations amongst friends, you are rarely asked to explain why you did this or that, but in business for example, you are more often asked to justify your actions, .... or even pre-justify them in terms of 'plans' and 'strategies' and then stick to what you 'articulated' even if it was much 'smaller' (lower dimensional) than your tacit understanding of what you 'meant'. Our society tends to reward those glib persons who give the impression of being able to 'explain' even the most complex phenomena, but such explanations are necessarily crude approximations at best and pure bullshit at their worst. If the glib person is asked to explain how he won the pool game, he will speak in terms of his strategy and what he did to the balls, the sequence of shots etc. since he can't describe in words the overall evolving configuration (ecology) within which the explicit action was occurring.

It's often the same in work situations, the glib supervisor will articulate how cleverly he and his team accomplished this and that and how the plan came together successfully. But he will rarely even attempt to address the 'environmental impact' of each of the 'thing'-based actions, .... the 'ecological' effects which helped him and his team achieve their results or those which he and the team infused into their surroundings which would later help or hinder others. That is, the glib manager will rarely discuss how people 'saw' things in a higher dimensional sense, and will tend to focus only on selected 'facts' or selected issues, and not on environmental contributions or environmental impact.

What is selected in articulating the story is not necessarily that which will best explain what actually occurred, but rather that which will best support the clarity of the story being articulated. That is, simplifying the explanation of complex phenomena usually comes by constructing an explicit, causal theory and then selecting the facts which fit the theory, as in criminal trials where the prosecution first assume a motive for the crime and then find the 'facts' which selectively support it, and the defense try to break it down. In business and politics, the same process of selection is practiced, to build a 'clear' explanation around the favored simplified hypothesis as to how 'things' behave. Such explanations fail to address how the socio-ecologic environment was 'harvested' by the process, nor what legacy was sown for the future.

The above historical account is a very brief sampling from my personal experiences on the problems with 'managing' and 'problem-solving' on the basis of 'things' and their properties and behaviors, where complex systems are concerned. There is much more and the findings are entirely consistent, .... that 'thing-behavior' inquiry is fundamentally incomplete and is a primary source of dysfunction in society.

'Thing-behavior' inquiry is to 'ecological thinking', as 'particle physics' is to 'wave physics'; i.e. while the former ignores complex phasing or 'interference' effects in complex phenomena which involve the confluence of resonant subprocesses, the latter takes these into account. And while 'thing-behavior' based inquiry involves quantitative measurement and explicit knowledge, 'ecological thinking' involves pattern recognition and tacit knowledge.

There is no need to think in terms of an 'either/or' choice in selecting the method of inquiry ('ecological thinking', 'thing-behavior based inquiry'). The reason that there appears to be a choice is 'language'. In fact, 'ecological thinking' contains 'thing-behavior based inquiry' as a special case, .... the case where the curvature of space-time is zero, so that we can isolate the notion of a 'thing' from 'time' (i.e. where we shift from an 'energy flow' view of nature to a 'thing and void' view of nature).

While there is no need for an 'either/or' choice, as Poincare pointed out, 'thing-behavior based inquiry' is incomplete because of the assumptions associated with it (homogeneity, etc.). If homogeneity does not hold, then one cannot use reasoning of the type 'the Arabs did this' without engendering dysfunction. What is called for in this case is to move up to the more comprehensive 'ecological thinking'. There are no explicit 'answers' in ecological thinking because one views the system being inquired into in terms of 'interference patterns' emanating from a confluence of interfering 'currents' or 'processes' or 'stories'. This approach is the natural approach used by children, and it is the approach which underlies the 'learning stories' (myth) of native americans, and other aboriginal cultures. It is a 'co-evolutional' approach which allows natural, 'ontogenetic' patterns of resonance to emerge, unlike 'thing and behavior based inquiry' which imposes its own rule structures on the system.

As Poincare noted, while we can impose these rules on our own 'science', we cannot impose them on nature. Insofar as the systems we are investigating are the man-made products of our own science, 'thing-and-behavior based inquiry' will be adequate to deal with them. But insofar as the systems we are investigating are natural and evolving, 'thing-and-behavior based inquiry' will be incomplete and there will be an exposure to the engendering of dysfunction.

The old arguments as to the superiority of 'thing-and-behavior based inquiry', as they are revisited, shift the focus back to what is intended by 'superiority'. It is natural for this connotation to be chosen to be consistent with the method itself, thus for 'thing-and-behavior based inquiry', 'superiority' would correspond to specified attributes which could be explicitly measured via competition and referenced in terms of 'best practice'. And for 'ecological thinking', 'superiority' would correspond to harmonious evolutionary consequences or sustained 'learning' of the system, since ecologies abhor dissonant or 'cancerous' or imperialistic cycles such as 'acid rain' which kill interdependent subsystems and reduce diversity. And of course, while 'superiority' would be explicitly known and articulated in the case of 'thing-and-behavior based inquiry', 'superiority' would be tacitly known (you know it when you experience it) and inarticulable in the case of 'ecological thinking'. Thus if a referee were asked to judge between the 'superiority' of a 'thing-and-behavior based' problem solution and an 'ecological thinking' based problem solution, he could not accept any written accounts but would have to 'try on' both and use his intuition as to which to go with.

This concludes my brief historical accounting of how my ideas on this topic have evolved.


* * *

As Emile finished typing out his historical account on the problem with applying 'thing-and-behavior based inquiry' to complex, evolving systems, he wondered if this was the type of thing that Chris could relate to. The 'thing' orientation of language and the inability to directly articulate multi-dimensional co-resonance concepts, as were involved in ecological thinking was a major impediment to communications.

However, if Chris could key in to the Taoist story of the escaped horse, and the 'learning stories' of Paula Underwood, he would have some good examples in hand of 'ecological thinking'. Armed with these plus his understanding of how 'thing-and-behavior based inquiry' related to 'ecological thinking', he could begin to apply these to his own experiences and see if this clarified any issues and suggested a better way to approach problems.

While 'ecological thinking' as applied to social systems provided a much more honest and mutually appreciative (diversity appreciating) way to go, the implications were very counter-intuitive (and, of course, counter-culture, since our culture is based on 'thing-and-behavior' inquiry). Emile thought of the implications with respect to the systems of relationships (e.g. marriage and family etc.). While 'thing-and-behavior based inquiry' involved the establishment of 'best practice' based on prescribed attributes, 'ecological thinking' involved harmonious evolution or 'whatever works' for the diversity of participants (i.e. no absolute measures of 'good').

In some ways, thought Emile, society seems to be naturally evolving in the direction of ecological thinking, as divorced couples remain friends and children are cared for without the parents ever marrying. In other words, the prescribed attributes and behaviors and the 'best practices' based on these, seem to be giving way to 'whatever works'. What is not working seems to be more related to a breakdown of 'thing-and-behavior based' approaches, rather than failed attempts at 'ecological thinking'; i.e. the intuition based approach seems more robust in these times of change.

Emile stopped short, as he thought of how the reverse trend was more true in the more formal aspects of our life over which we had less flexibility. It was interesting that while individual personal relationships were ignoring the behavioral rules and heading for 'ecological thinking', formal social structures were tightening up the 'thing-and-behavior' oriented management approach. Emile recalled that when more businesses were small and local 'mom & pop' outfits, staff would be hired on an 'intuitive assessment' or 'inclusionary' basis; .... e.g. the employer might say 'Johnny smokes pot occasionally, and he got drunk and stole a car last year, but everyone says he is basically a great guy and has been getting himself together, so let's offer him the delivery job in our grocery store'. But now that businesses are more pervasively large and global, they were leaning on the 'thing-and-behavior based' rules and 'best practice' profiles more heavily. In Johnny's case, he would probably have to lie to get past the application form-filling stage and gain access to needed resources and privileges. Emile reflected that Chris would very likely relate to this comparison, since he despised the dishonesty and the game-playing that went on in social situations, which was so often the source of dysfunction, and appreciated the honesty of musical 'jamming' which was congruent with 'ecological thinking'.

And as far as the political scene was concerned, Emile knew that Chris was familiar with the views of professor Noam Chomsky (linguistics, MIT) and professor Howard Zinn (history, Boston University) who accused US leadership of 'lying' by 'selecting the facts'. They pointed out that when Saddam Hussein was an ally, no-one in circles of power said much about his 'weapons of mass destruction', and there was a deafening silence from establishment powers in response to Iraqi forces killing of tens of thousands of Iranians with nerve gas. Meanwhile, Saddam continued to gather power, influence and weaponry through his alliance with the west while the hands-off, look-the-other-way policy was in effect and it was 'ok' to sell him (Iraq) weapons, technology and biochemical know-how. Chomsky and Zinn had pointed out that it was only when Saddam grew strong enough to try to challenge the west, that the US leadership asserted that he must be stopped because of 'the clear and present danger' which he and his 'weapons of mass destruction' represented.

Chris had seen Zinn's provocative statement on this on the Internet; "We are living in times of madness, when men in suits and ties, and yes, a woman secretary of state, can solemnly defend the use, in the present, of indiscriminate violence --- they do not know what they are bombing! --- against a tyrant who may use violence, in the future. The phrase "clear and present danger" has therefore lost its meaning. The phrase "weapons of mass destruction" too has lost its meaning when a nation which possesses more such weapons, and has used them more often, than any other, uses those words to justify the killing of civilians "to send a message." We who are offended by this should send our own message to our demented leaders."

Emile guessed that Chris would recognize that the reason for the 'counter-culture' feel to Chomsky and Zinn's statement was they were coming from 'ecological thinking' while the global standard for politics and government was still 'thing-and-behavior' oriented, and thus the political leadership and more often than not, the media, selected explicit 'facts' to support their purpose and refused to entertain tacit pattern recognition based commentary. And of course, 'read my lips' was not the type of pattern recognition that was called for in the ecological thinking approach.

Well, 'que sera, sera', as they said, and Emile would find out in due course, if his notes were of any use to Chris and his friends. At least they would likely relate to the story 'And Who Shall Speak for Wolf', and envision the potential avenue for the voice of youth becoming far more powerful than it presently was. Emile felt that in spite of the feeling of powerlessness which tormented today's non-mainstream youth, if they could just start a new myth of their own, ..... as the Brazilian proverb said; "When we dream alone, it is only a dream. When we dream together, it is no longer a dream but the beginning of reality.

Return to '98 Update Page and Index of Essays

* * *

[1] Underwood, Paula, "And Who Shall Speak for Wolf", A Tribe of Two Press, 1991. See also the rest of the three learning (short) story collection, and 'Three Strands in the Braid: A Guide for Enablers of Learning', 'My Father and the Lima Beans' (9 pages) and 'A Native American Oral History' (840 pages).

[2] This need is known in modern science, and associates with the notion of curved space 'reciprocal disposition' and the fact that 'space is a participant in physical phenomena' (Einstein).

[3] The pool example can be related to modern physics and philosophy as well as to aboriginal myth; i.e. it involves the manipulation of order in the environment according to human purpose (i.e. 'behavioral attractors'). There is an analogy to purpose in all things, animate or inanimate, in the property of 'attraction' (and 'repulsion'). The behavior of 'things' is in general effected by complex 'attractors' in the environment, and these attractors are based on the ordered patterns of the spaces between things as well as the behaviors of things. In order for the knowledge of 'thing'-behavior to completely determine overall system behavior, the changes to environmental order caused by the tangible behavioral actions of things would have to be purely 'causal'; i.e. random with respect to helping or hindering the behavioral performance of other 'things', or 'unbiased' or 'non-purposive'. As Nietzsche has pointed out, "The belief in cause collapses with the belief in purpose", implying that these are two fundamentally different ways of inquiring into the behavior of systems. While inquiring into a system on the basis of cause implies that the system can be completely understood in terms of the tangible properties and behaviors of its component parts, the inquiring into a system on the basis of purpose implies that an understanding of the system behavior also involves 'imagination'; i.e. the ability to exploit pattern recognition, .... to 'tune in' to the tacit information in patterns and to use this information in such a way as to purposively influence the evolutionary development of the system. Such influence can be 'sown' into the ordered configuration of the system, as in the pool example, so that it can be harvested by other 'things' at other times. Since the relationship between the order in a system and the tangible behavior-based performance of a constituent 'thing' in the system is measured relative to the observer's choice of 'measurement stick'; i.e. performance is relative to the observer's reference frame, ... there is no 'absolute' way to assess the order in a system. In measuring the order in a system, the observer's measuring sticks depend on his knowledge/experience; i.e. he cannot measure behaviors which he has not yet seen/experienced, yet the existing (evolutionary system) is pregnant with latencies from which new ordered behaviors will emerge. Meanwhile, the observer can 'intuit' the future emergence of new behaviors and tacitly assess whether they will be harmonious or dissonant with respect to the existing ecological order.

"And Who Shall Speak for Wolf" gives a general view of the evolutionary process and of the limitations of 'thing-and-behavior' based inquiry. This can be seen in terms of the 'behaviors' of 'things' under the influence of dynamical space-time 'attractors' (behavioral patterns). Since the notion of a 'thing' is defined in terms of its 'behaviors' (it's ability to impact other 'things') and it's 'properties' (ability to influence observer behaviors), there is a tautological relationship between 'things' and 'behaviors'. That is, a 'thing' is a notion which exists only by virtue of logic, by the logical relationship the observer establishes between the 'thing' and its own properties and behavior, and not by any intrinsic 'ding an sich' essence. Thus the notion of a 'man' is a logical notion based on properties and behaviors, rather than on innate essences. Moreover, new behaviors can emerge out of the evolving interference between attractor patterns, and not merely from 'cause and effect' attributable to the 'behaviors' of 'things'. When the native community changes locations because of weather patterns, they encroach on an important confluence of attractor induced trajectories of wolf (hunting and rearing etc.). Members of the native council know tacitly, that this new pattern of interference could lead to the emergence of new (and dissonant) behaviors, but the new behaviors are not explicitly predictable.

Thus there is a fundamental incompleteness in describing phenomena in terms of 'things' and their behaviors which derives from the fact that new behaviors of things can emerge from interference between behavioral patterns, rather than being the direct consequence of other behaviors. When the native community changed location and put their food in front of wolf all the time, this encouraged wolf to eat their food rather than finding his own, and it encouraged the community to try to drive the wolves away (change their natural trajectory) and the wolves to attack the natives and so on. The important thing to note here is that it was simply a shift in the relative coordinates of the behavioral trajectories (space-time phase relationships) which catalyzed the emergence of new behaviors. Behavioral evolution is therefore not just a consequence of 'thing'-behaviors, but a consequence of recognizing patterns of interference amongst the behaviors of different things. Space-time pattern recognition involves imaginary as well as real information, such as the remembering of periodicities and phase and bringing them into connection in the mind; i.e. wolf may remember his cycle of hunger and the cycle of when small native children play at the fringe of the village, and bring these into connection in his mind. Prior to the move of the community, these two occurrences may never have been 'connected' by wolf.

As the examples of pool also illustrate, the tacit domain of interference between the behavioral trajectories of things involves 'imaginary' or 'intangible' patterns in 'inter-thing space' which transcend the notion of 'things'. This is because they deal with remembering the phase properties of behavioral trajectories of multiple 'things' and being able to bring these into connection in the mind so as to predict the space-time coordinates of new opportunities or new problems. These imagination based predictions constitute complex attractors which can induce the emergence of new behavioral patterns. What is missed in basing the understanding of phenomena on the behaviors of things, is the relative (inter-thing-space) phase information associated with the interference of multiple behavioral trajectories.

Given that new behaviors can emerge from the complex interference patterns amongst multiple thing-behavior trajectories, the incompleteness in 'thing-and-behavior' oriented inquiry cannot be resolved by going to finer levels of explicit detail. Improved understanding of complex systems must come from improving one's pattern-recognition oriented (i.e. 'tacit') memory and imagination.

[4] The notion of a hierarchical 'order' of value of created 'things' based on 'God's ordinances or 'the rule of right and wrong'' was assimilated into Church doctrine from the voluminous works of St. Augustine (354 - 430 A.D.), such as his 22 volume 'De Civitate Dei', 'The City of God. In this work (see 'A Guide to The City of God' by Marthinus Versfeld), Augustine described the order of nature in descending value; i.e. God, angels, men, animals, plants and inanimates, and asserted that 'man has a right to use things below him in the order of nature.' Thinking in terms of a linear 'holier than thou' hierarchy clearly runs counter to the ecological notion of whole which exists by virtue of the harmonious relationship of all of its constituents. The hierarchy also lends itself to further subdividing along the boundary between 'man' and 'animals'. As the religious historian Mircea Eliade notes, prior to the twentieth century, aboriginal cultures were viewed as 'savage' and subhuman, and documentation of their behaviors "had hitherto [the present] been studied with the detachment and indifference that nineteenth century naturalists brought to the study of insects." The notion of the 'special role of man' over nature is still stressed by Church, and spoken to explicitly in Pope John Paul II's 1998 encyclical 'Fides et Ratio'. Relationships of the type 'A is more valuable than B' are again, 'thing-based' and exclusionary, rather than ecological (whole-and-part harmonically related) and inclusionary.