Portrait of a Panel of Idea-Sharing, Intra-causal Agents

Montréal, March 22, 2000


. . . . The idea sharing session "Indigenous Wisdom and its Lessons for the Systems Sciences" will take place at the World Congress of the Systems Sciences, July 16 - 22 in Toronto. The theme for this session emerged from dialogue amongst web-friends who may also be participating in the conference.


Our panel of four; Art, Cornie, Martine and Emile, who will be sharing thoughts with each other even as we share with participants in the World Congress of the Systems Sciences in Toronto (July 16-22) are profiled, very briefly, and geometrically, below. While we are neither 'into' the 'reifying of personality' nor of ideas, ... the idea occurred, to make just that point, ... in a meta-reificational sense, ... by prefacing the abstracts prepared for our idea sharing session, ... with short yin-profiles of our constituency, ... and in the process share our 'medium is the message' view that because we see ourselves as immersed participants in a dipolar world of 'co-dynamics' rather than as voyeurs of 'dynamics', ... we do not claim there to be any value at all in what we have to say, ... any more than we would claim that you can hold the north pole of a magnet in your hand, ... having stealthfully detached it from its south pole. So, in spite of our above acronym, whatever value may arise from our idea sharing, in our view, can only be co-determined by sharer and sharee, but our dream is of much co-induced harmony.

While not knowing each other very well, we know each other very well. What I mean is that while we do not know each other well in terms of our historical specifics and the actualities of physical properties and behaviours, ... we know each other very well in terms of our 'possibility space geometries', ... the evolutionary geometries of 'where we're coming from and where we're going to'.

That is, we are all 'shape-over-shots' people in the non-euclidian, relativistic terms of pool. What does all that mean? In terms of playing with billiard balls, it means that our center of observation is not from 'subject to object', ... as we 'make our shots', we do not see ourselves in terms of a 'cue ball' which knows what must happen and which strikes out to 'make it happen'. Instead of perceiving and responding on the basis of 'being 'causal agents', our center of awareness and our responses emanate from the 'space between the balls',.... from the hermeneutic circle which lies, reciprocally, in the finite and unbounded space between subject and object. We see systems management responses as being inductively co-determined in the cultivation and sustaining of whole-and-part harmony in the system. When we shoot, our eyes are star-crossed and our mind is 'of the wind' as we shoot for the harmonic evolution of the 'shape of things' out there. ( http://www.goodshare.org/fishwink.htm ).

Yin-Portraits of the Panelists:

Art Skenandore , of the Oneida people, is a 'bridger' of past and future, a melder of the ways of the indigenous peoples with modern, western ways. In my terminology, he is one who knows how to 'graft' western initiatives onto the naturally robust 'systems rootstock' of the aboriginal peoples. Art is an associate of 'Interact' , the organizational sponsor of our panel (http://www.interactdesign.com). Interact was founded by Russell Ackoff and Jamshid Gharajedaghi, and has a rich history in the heart of systems sciences country. Interact works alongside the Oneida nation on their 'national development', ... 'national development' as seen in terms of the emergent property of whole-and-part harmony.

Cornie Gruenewald , of the european-in-South Africa people, is a melder of community development and sociology. In my terminology, he is one who knows how to elevate the notion of 'developing' from the context of a strategically planned ensemble of causal transactions, to the relativistic realm of coevolutional emergence fed simultaneously by the cultural experience of ethnic community constituencies and the constituencies of their immersing world. ( http://www.sun.ac.za ... then click 'alphabetic listing of departments', then 'sociology', then 'staff')

Martine Dodds-Taljaard , of the european-in-South Africa people, is a melder of philosophy and organisational transformation from a 'social systems perspective'. In my terminology, she is one who knows how to elevate the vantage point of the 'self', whether the individual, cultural or organizational 'self', from seeing itself as a 'center of doing', to the 'self' as coming from a 'center of awareness' of what is being done, ... to elevating the 'self's' vantage point from ontological existence, to one of co-participation in ontogenetic becoming. (http://www.interactdesign.com/mcv.html)

Martine, in my view, is of the same mind as Erwin Schroedinger, who said; "For philosophy, the real difficulty lies in the spatial and temporal multiplicity of observing and thinking individuals. If all events took place in one consciousness, the whole situation would be extremely simple There would be something given, a simple datum, and this, however otherwise constituted, could scarcely present us with a difficulty of such magnitude as the one we do, in fact, have on our hands. I do not think that this difficulty can be logically resolved, by consistent thought within our intellects. But it is quite easy to express the solution in words, thus: the plurality that we perceive is only an appearance; it is not real. ... Yet each of us has the indisputable impression that the sum total of his own experience and memory forms a unit, quite distinct from any other person. He refers to it as 'I'. 'What is this 'I''? If you will analyze it closely, you will, I think, find that it is just a little bit more than a collection of single data (experiences and memories), namely, the canvas upon which they are collected."

Martine, and all of the four of us, are 'geometry people', ... we do not accept 'facts' as 'facts' but see 'facts' as the place where investigations commonly cease, ... as the standing wave nodes from relational interference effects back-scattered from a reality constituted by a multitude of scatterers dispersed across space-time. Our view is that an understanding of 'the way the world works' must come from an inclusionary synthesis of these back-scatterings, ... bringing them into connection in our mind, through sharing circles and other inclusive processes, so that the implicit mental imagery that forms in our minds becomes a broader, meaning-giving contextual landscape in which these 'facts' are but tiny, contained features or singularities.

Myself, Ted Lumley , aka 'Emile ', am of the european-in-North America people, and I am one who melds ancient philosophies of the indigenous peoples, ... the relativistic geometries of Heraclitus, Lao Tsu which are mirrored in the physics of relativity and quantum duality, .... with community ontogeny. Elaborations on where I am coming from and where I am going to, ... in relativistic rather than causal terms to be sure, ... can be found in my essays on these web pages ( http://www.goodshare.org )

So, it is this 'yin gang of four' who will come together and share ideas on "Indigenous Wisdom and its Lessons for the Systems Sciences" at this World Congress of Systems Sciences in Toronto. The abstracts of three papers, to be precipitated from mental thoughtflow to bitstream over the next month, as in the conference proceedings, follow;




Good$hare International , http:www.goodshare.org, E-mail: emiliano@sympatico.ca

"Indigenous wisdom" has returned to center stage in the midst of rising dysfunction in western society. The 'web-of-life' harmony in the 'systems' legacy of indigenous peoples stands in manifest contrast to the 'diseased' state of western management and regulatory systems.

How can this be?

What is the nature of the difference between these very different strains of systems geometries?

In the modern, non-indigenous realm, our problem inquiry and treatment seems, itself, to undermine natural system harmonies, .. as if we are afflicted with an 'acquired system inquiry deficiency syndrome' (ASIDS) which clears the way for its own rampant re-infection and entrenchment, ... purging its inquiry of the self-referential capability needed to identify itself as the culprit, ... an affliction we re-impose on upcoming generations.

Over the past few decades, the systems sciences have identified unaccounted for factors in our systems thinking such as the omission of system purpose, the purposes of the parts and of the system of which it is part. Today, we have a terrible harmony of purpose across all levels of the global economic system, and are seeing symposia organized to determine if the economy is a 'web-of-life' with a mind of its own, and whether systems thinking is the disease rather than the cure. Compared to the systems thinking implicit in the indigenous peoples' traditions, the basic underpinnings of our systems inquiry appear to be 'upside-down'. Heinz von Foerster, in the 1980's, suggested that we have been thinking in terms of the evolution of 'things' rather than in terms of the evolution of 'environment'.

In the indigenous traditions, and also in the general theory of relativity, our containing space-time is seen as a finite and unbounded continuum which 'wellsprings' a material world in which 'things' are secondary abstractions --- 'niche-fillers' --- like the Heraclitean candle-flame whose existential transience signals a more fundamental evolutionary underpinning. Indigenous traditions, by putting space-time in the primacy over material structure, orient systems management to the landscape of opportunity which opens the way to actuality, an orientation in which children are given the 'sacred space' to 'become' who they are meant to become. The West, meanwhile, continues to put purposeful structures in the primacy over space and time and to manage actuality out of the context of the transformation it induces in the landscape of opportunity. Purposeful structure-based actuality-management is imposing increasing demands on 'human resources' while transforming the commons of space-time from an opportunity landscape into a toxic wasteland.

The view is presented that recovery from ASIDS will require a similar response to the historical case of rampant phylloxera in the vineyards of europe; i.e. the grafting of western community initiatives onto the more robust 'systems rootstock' of indigenous tradition.

(INTERACT Panel: Indigenous Wisdom and its Lessons for the Systems Sciences)

* * *

DODDS, Martine M.E.


INTERACT (The Centre for Designing Interactive Systems), Bryn Mawr PA (Philadelphia) USA;Good$hare International; and Departments of Sociology & Philosophy, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch 7600, South Africa. Email:

{ HYPERLINK mailto:mdodds@akad.sun.ac.za }mdodds@akad.sun.ac.za

The aim of this paper is to explore the redundancy of current models of governance in a transformed operating environment, pointing out why there is a mismatch between the requirements for good governance in a multiminded (social) system (and indeed what 'good governance' might mean), in contrast to how current modes of governance and their leadership, function.

The systemic challenge for any model of governance lies in the extent to which it can create and promote order, social cohesion and alignment of purpose at system level, whilst simultaneously allowing for high levels of individual freedom, spontaneity and creativity within its parts and subsystems. The future development (and hence also the evolutionary direction) of any social system, is determined by its mode of governance/organization. A 'globalized' and interdependent world requires not only a shift in the LEVEL(s) at which order is created, but also in the nature or form of organization that is used to do so. Thus both the 'internal' and 'external' qualities of the system and its context, are critical in defining the required mode of governance and leadership.

It will be shown that the current model of representative democracy cannot address the challenges of the new realities incumbent upon a globalized world, and that participative democracy offers the greatest hope for transcending the conflicts and disparities incurred by a redundant set of relationships between parts of the global system. The mode of governance and society developed by the Iroquois Confederacy and First Nations peoples of the United States and Canada, reflects such a model of governance, one that allows both for the freedom of its 'parts' and the harmonic collaboration of the 'whole'.

(INTERACT Panel: Indigenous Wisdom and its Lessons for the Systems Sciences)

* * *



Head, Department of Sociology, University of Stellenbosch, Arts Faculty, Stellenbosch 7600, South Africa.Email: cjg@akad.sun.ac.za

Globalization, the dominating thinking mode of our time, conditions our thoughts to see the world as a system from the perspective of the economic powerful political entities located in the North. In this scheme the poor, less powerful South used to be constructed as a dependent receiver of development aid that is also expected to conform to the normative dimensions of the former. As a result, economic systems, political models, social patterns and values reminiscent of the leading West serve as a guiding model for the development of the rest of the world. One latent implication of this application of thinking is that the developing parts of the world are also the receivers of the negative products of development, such as unemployment, disease, exponential population growth, squalor, commercialization and anomie.

Yet the cultures and nations of the "dependent" world contain localized, indigenous strengths, emanating from their proud histories and strong social interactions, that have enabled them hitherto to survive, overcome and resist demolishing tendencies accompanying "development". An awakening of a consciousness of these internal forces is rising currently - in Africa, for example, the African renaissance has become the motivating phrase for the new millennium.

If we translate these different, sometimes opposing forces, to the day-to-day experience of the ordinary person, the life-world of the local community comes to mind. It is at this level that the individual is confronted with and drawn into the network of the "power of flows (that) takes precedence over the flows of power" (Castells, 1996:469) - flows that are the conduit for knowledge, money and power. But it is also the level where the individual, backed up by communal forces and a community identity, is able to give input to and redefine these global trends. Unique interpretations are being given to global patterns to make sense to local groups in terms of what Castells calls "resistance identities" (1997:356). And because the flows are randomized throughout the network society, these interpretations become part and parcel of the cultural stock of the global world. As a consequence, development as the cultural product of modernity, is becoming as much a result of the developing world as of the developed world - with of course the derived consequence that localization is increasingly complementing our global conceptualization of the world system.

It is within this framework that an assessment will be made of the contribution of Africa, as a development object, to the post-modern condition of our globe.

(INTERACT Panel: Indigenous Wisdom and its Lessons for the Systems Sciences)

* * *

[1] This is an update of a preliminary overview of this session, which was given at http://www.goodshare.org/rootstoc.htm, ...conference details are at http://www.isss.org/2000meet/2001anno.htm

Return to Index of Essays