The Decolonization of the Western Mind

White Rock, June 19, 1999

Taiaiake Alfred's views in his book 'Peace, Power, Righteousness: an indigenous manifesto' are, without question, and by far, the most congruent I have seen within a single work, relative to my developing understandings of 'Community as Complex System'. Taiaiake's deep and powerful nature-grounded ideas, the leadership resonances which emanate from his writing, and his 'member' status in a redman's community that has a terrible need to revitalize their indigenous traditions, is pregnant with potent promise with respect to the decolonization of westernized minds.

Feeling myself to be 'with Taiaiake' in spirit, I not only co-resonate with his words and thought, but also with what I imagine to be his 'intent' as implied by statements such as; "... we must begin to re-create a place of honour and respect within our societies for young people." But as Vygotsky points out, "To understand another's speech, it is not sufficient to understand his words --- we must understand his thought. But even that is not enough --- we must also know its motivation. No psychological analysis of an utterance is complete until that plane is reached."

The mother intent of this essay I am herewith writing is to help nurture the youth and future-oriented cause embodied in the work of Taiaiake Alfred, and the child intent is to delve further, and critically, into the underpinning issues of 'knowledge', 'rationality' and 'perception'.

What I am talking about revolves around the fundamental incompleteness of symbolic (thing-based) language and the associated, fundamental incompleteness of western thinking that Taiaiake is going to battle against; i.e. his communications weapon would appear to be infected with the 'disease' he seeks to conquer. So when he says;

... "Our youth must begin to acquire the knowledge and skills that are the true weapons of the information age. Bringing a final end to colonialism will demand complete destruction of its intellectual and moral premises. In their place, we must establish a set of justifications for indigenous self-government that will resonate with the best alternative traditions within the dominant society as well. This can happen only if we develop the ability to argue the justice of our position in a universal logic and language."

... This is fine, but there is a chicken-and-egg issue here in that the needed 'universal logic and language' does not currently exist, and without it, Taiaiake's statements on 'corrupt rulers' and 'oppressive regimes' and his action advocacy ... "We cannot expect a better future in the absence of a commitment to take action, to attack and destroy the heart of colonialism", ... may well be misinterpreted psychologically, as Vygotsky suggests, not only by government bureacrats [who are already (on TV two nights ago) accusing Taiaiake of suffering from conspiratorial delusions], but also by those who are inspired by his words to become activists.

While Taiaiake embraces an idea of 'Righteousness' which is implicitly 'beyond good and evil' or, in terms of modern physics, 'relativistic', ... this deep base which guides his navigation of complex reality is contrary to the western 'navigational' base of exclusionary judgements, of the 'universal knowledge of good' as expressed by Pope John Paul II in his current encyclical 'Fides et Ratio'; "Once the idea of a universal truth about the good, knowable by human reason, is lost, inevitably the notion of conscience also changes. Conscience is no longer considered in its prime reality as an act of a person's intelligence, the function of which is to apply the universal knowledge of the good in a specific situation and thus to express a judgement about the right conduct to be chosen here and now." This basic difference in the navigational process of western whiteman versus indigenous redman is not explicitly mentioned.

Meanwhile, Taiaiake's quote on 'Righteousness' from the Kanien'kehaka teachings is as follows;

"You shall be a good person, and, you shall be kind to all of the people, not differentiating among them, the people who are wealthy, and the poor ones, and the good natured ones, and the evil ones who sin readily; all of them you shall treat kindly, and you shall not differentiate among them. As to your own fireside, never consider only yourself, you must always remember them, the old people, and the younger people, and the children, and those still in the earth, yet unborn, and always you will take into account everyone's well-being, that of the on-going families, so that they may continue to survive, your granchildren." --- from the 'Kaienerekowa'

While the white man would base his response to his environment on his 'judgement' of 'what is good' and 'what is bad' in a 'purificationist' context, ... seeking to eliminate the bad in the world so as to distill out the 'good', ... the red man (i.e. the traditionalist red man who appears to be a near-extinct breed) orients himself, not to the non-relativistic 'elimination of problems' but to the relativistic (beyond good-and-evil) purposive pursuit "to restore balance, respect and harmony to our lives."

The non-relativistic judgemental foundation of western whiteman's culture is manifest, not only in the establishment's manner of justification of such actions as the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and the dissemination of genetically engineered products, but also in the manner of opposing actions which seek to 'eliminate' such practices. An example is the rioting in London yesterday against 'capitalism inspired' actions on these two fronts. In Taiaiake's terms, this 'absolute knowledge of good' type of justification is accompanied by a 'colonialism' which sees 'power' as being based in 'force' and employed from a position of dominance. This 'realist' notion differs radically from the aboriginal notion of power as deriving from traditional values, e.g.;

o 'To be wise is to cherish knowledge . . .' (Humans must reflect, acknowledge, seek guidance, know and practice wisdom.)

o 'To know love is to know peace . . . ' (Care, kindness, hope, harmony, and cooperation are fundamental values.)

o 'Respect is honouring all of creation . . . '

o 'Bravery is to face challenges with honesty and integrity . . .'

o 'Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of creation . . .' (Other beings should be approached with modesty and sensitivity, and our goal should be to listen and learn from them.)

o 'The truth is to know all these things.'

The western whiteman's way is, as Taiaiake suggests, oriented to 'colonization' and 'imperialism', ... i.e. to overcome the dominance of ways which are judged to be 'evil' and to supplant them with ways which are 'good', as for example, in 'green' (ecological) activism, and 'ethical' activism. An example of this judgemental approach, which may link to the London riot, can be seen in a June 17th article in RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY #655 ---June 17, 1999---. Under the following banner and introduction;


by Beth Burrows (Director and President of the Edmonds Institute)

"Attempts to forge the world's first treaty to regulate trade in genetically modified products failed this morning when the United States and five other big agricultural exporters rejected a proposal that had the support of the rest of the roughly 130 nations taking part." -- NEW YORK TIMES, February 24, 1999

... Beth Burrows comments on the dominant influence of the $68 billion per year (in the US alone) genetically modified product trade, in a way which makes clear that the implicit regulatory structure for resolving such issues is innately binary-judgemental, ... (as also, is her reaction to it);

* * *

To be there that last night in Cartegena and to realize that the whole world might get no biosafety because one country and its allies refused to allow their genetically engineered commodities to be regulated, to know that there were environmental and human health hazards and they would not be met by precaution, to remember what the head of the U.S. delegation, Melinda Kimble, had said to a group of NGOs the night before -- "The only treaty less popular in the United States than the Convention on Biological Diversity is the Treaty on the Rights of the Child" -- and to recall the audible gasp that followed her remarks as the meaning sunk in: the future was officially unpopular in the United States -- it was too much.

Right after negotiations broke down in Cartegena, I ran into someone from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the corridor; he was on the U.S. delegation.

"How can you stand yourself?" I asked him.

A nearby delegate from Eastern Europe overheard me and looked shocked. "Beth gets very emotional," the FDA guy explained.

"If rationality means risking ecological and human health on the planet for the sake of the profits of one industry," I responded, "then I certainly hope I'm emotional."

"You see what I mean?" said the FDA guy to the delegate.

"You're an evil man," I told the FDA guy.

The listening delegate, who happened to know me, attempted to intervene, "Beth, this is not an evil man. I know him. He's a very nice person. Really."

"No," I explained, "this is not a nice person. He may seem like a nice person. He may be very pleasant but he carries an evil message. If I allow myself to think of him as a nice man, if I do not insist that he is personally responsible for the messages he utters, then one day I am certain he will come and tell me that he was only following orders."

The delegate got my message. I'm not so sure about the FDA guy.

* * *

Beth's statement 'this is not a nice person' is representative of euclidian space perception wherein 'things' are characterized and categorized on an exclusionary, 'Dinge an sich' basis, out of the context of their incubating environmental 'container'. This view is very different from the inclusionary 'yin-yang' mode of the east and of the aboriginals where 'good AND bad' are seen as a dipolar unity, and where one seeks 'harmony' and 'balance' rather than 'purification' or 'imperialistic' imposition of what is deemed 'good'. In a relativistic reality, where there are always multiple systems dimensions enfolded within one another, subjectivity can never be 'absolute' but is innately 'selectivity' influenced, and that selectivity derives from our personal (and ethnic) experience. As Kant suggested, we can never know 'things in themselves' because we must use our personal experience to characterize what we see before us, and thus our own experience will cover over any innate properties of the 'Dinge an sich' if it is even reasonable to speak of such innate properties of things.

Thus the experience of the corporate genetically modified product executive, which selectively 'colours' the issue 'out there', furnishes him with a 'subjectivity' which may be very different from that of the environmentalist. Given a relativistic subjectivity, ... what Beth is really arguing against, as suggested by her subsequent letter to the U.S. President, is the colonialist tactics being employed;

"Because the United States has demonstrated an ability to push its way into the heart of negotiations among parties to a treaty our country has not yet ratified, it will be assumed, and perhaps correctly so, that we are behind every untoward event, utterance, or outcome associated with this treaty. Every use of 'rules' to subvert or prevent the utterance of opposing views--and there was a great deal of such 'rule' manipulation in Cartagena--will be designated an act of the United States. Every personal slight or embarrassment experienced by any of the delegates--and there were many such slights in Cartagena--will be experienced as an affront committed by the United States. Every utterance about the needs of our $68 billion a year industry will be understood as an attack on the environment and citizens of other countries. Continuous argument about protection of our industries will make us hated. We will be seen as the fat, despised, and privileged members of a society seeking only to make more money and become more privileged..."

... Beth goes on to describe the frustration of the 'losers';

"One of the Third World delegates in Cartagena, a gentle scientist who found himself among many others outside closed doors, waiting to hear news from the few 'real negotiators' within, said to me, 'Beth, I honestly thought I was doing something here. I honestly thought our discussions in the contact groups were meaningful. I honestly thought I was making a contribution worthy of what it cost my government to send me here. But this, where all of us wait while they try to force a protocol by using rules most of us hardly know--this is just brutal power, just like the old colonial days.'

"Another delegate asked me on the last day, 'Beth, do they wish to push us into the arms of Sadaam?...'"

The crowds of people in the London riots would appear to be coming from the same 'emotions' of frustration by having their issues dealt with by 'brute force power' of a dominance seeking establishment. Meanwhile, they are responding with the same 'brute force power' in seeking to remove from dominance that which is 'bad' and to replace it with a new dominance which is 'good'. This is the white western man's innately judgemental way, and it IS the dysfunction which he is seeking to eradicate. His mode of intervention is thus the 'disease' which he is seeking to cure, and this incoherency in behavior represents an 'Acute Systems Inquiry Deficiency Syndrome'.

The non-existence of an absolute subjectively determinable reality, and the fact that our subjective view of reality is selectively shaped by our personal experience means that we cannot assume that we are 'rational beings', since our rationality is 'trumped' by our relativistic subjectivity of perception; i.e. we are 'rational' with respect to our own private, emotionally and experientially sculpted perception of reality. Interestingly, this is recognized by the investment community who now reject the 'rational investor' assumption which was the foundation of neo-classical economics.

One must instead think in terms of an 'adaptive' or 'self-educating' 'autistic collective', as has been suggested by Larry Hein. But this notion of a 'floating' or 'relativistic rationality' appears to be in basic conflict with Taiaiake's quote from John Mohawk, the Rotinohshonni historian;

" ... all human beings possess the power of rational thought; all human beings can think; all human beings have the same kinds of needs; all human beings want what is good for society; all human beings want peace. . . . Out of that idea will come the power . . . that will make the people of the [Rotinohshonni] among the most influential thinkers in the history of human thought. . . . The basic fundamental truth contained in that idea is that so long as we believe that everybody in the world has the power to think rationally, we can negotiate them to a position of peace."

What John Mohawk seems to overlook is the 'theory of relativity' which gives rise to a fundamental ambiguity, ... in the mutual defining of subjectivity and objectivity [1], ... which seeks to balance 'what's out there' with 'what's in here' in a personal and unique way. Our subjective-objective reality is richly multi-dimensional and what we explicitly 'see out there', as discussed by researchers into the topic of 'explicit and implicit knowledge' is attitudinally determined. In other words, we convert our implicit perception into explicit perception based on our internal needs. Since our rationality and our debates and discussions operate on our explicit knowledge, the 'damage has already been done', and the assumption of rationality means little if we lack a common perception of reality. This is the 'crisis of perception' which physicists such as Erich Jantsch ('Design for Evolution') and Fritjof Capra speak of.

Since our western education does not recognize the 'relativistic' aspect of perception, it erroneously equates our 'implicit knowledge' with our 'explicit knowledge', though the former is sensed in a relativistic, non-euclidian pattern mode, while the latter is transposed, selectively according to emotions and experience, ('attitudinally', as Dienes and Perner [2] put it) into an 'event' or 'thing-behavior' context.

Taiaiake's comment that; "... the colonial system has some powerful incentives for non-action built into it.", ... constitutes a gross understatement which seems almost to reflect a lack of awareness of the relationship between the 'implicit' and the 'explicit'. Euclidian perception entails the identification of explicit 'things' and their properties and behaviors, ... and such perception cannot accommodate coherent patterns of non-action (coherent patterns which interweave disparate things and systems). It is by coherent 'withholding' that young people are deprived, by western society, of the resources and access to privileges that they need for the cultivation of their own ontogenies, ... and in order to gain such access, they are forced to betray their own ontogenetic needs, ... a 'catch 22' situation which 'lives and hides' in the crack between non-euclidian 'implicit' knowing and euclidian 'explicit' knowing. That is, our language, ... our medium for knowledge sharing, ... is based on explicit 'thing-behaviors' and is not sufficiently high dimensional for dealing DIRECTLY with coherencies which range across 'things' and 'systems', and our system of law is equally based on notions of 'thing-behavior' and 'cause-and-effect'. Only in rare circumstances are instances of coherent non-action dealt with in the law courts (e.g. 'discrimination' or 'neglect'), but coherent non-action is a primary means by which dominance-based colonialism and imperialism assimilates opposing cultures and suppresses its own cultural evolution (by starving out the natural creative and transformative change emanating from youthful ontogenies which compose the culture.).

Western education, which is heavily biased to the sharing of explicit knowledge and the ignoring of the 'implicit' (ignoring coherent patterns of non-action) is in itself a means of suppressing evolution. Thus there is a dangerous ambiguity in Taiaiake's statements that; "... education holds the best promise for positive change, because it creates awareness of the inconsistencies between the world as it is and as it should be." ... and ... "Education is the way to knowledge, the weapon our warriors need for the twenty-first century." More than this, his words 'best', 'positive' and 'as it should be' are innately linear and judgemental, ... being based on western euclidian 'realist' perception, .... the navigational approach that Taiaiake encourages us to be on the warpath against. That is, our educational process deifies 'explicit knowledge' and our commercial-need driven language design (Phoenician and Greek trade) 'transports' explicit information while dropping out implicit content.

Although such issues are spoken to 'in-the-round' by Taiaiake, there appear to be basic 'gaps' in his explicit treatments of 'knowledge', 'rationality' and 'perception', which may inadvertently infect his recommendations with the same dissonances which they would hope to have us rise above.

As David Bohm says in 'A New Theory of the Relationship of Mind and Matter', quantum physics tells us that we can never understand a 'thing' if we separate it from its 'field'; i.e. the environment and the thing mutually define one another. Bohm gives the analogy of an object as being like "a ship on automatic pilot guided by radar waves. The ship with its automatic pilot is a 'self-active-system, but the 'form' of its activity is determined by 'the information' content concerning its environment carried by the radar waves. This latter is independent of the intensity of these waves (as long as they can be received by the equipment available) but depends only on their form, which in turn reflects the form of the environment." That is, Bohm is saying that same thing as Kiowa writer Scott Momaday, ... that an 'event' 'takes place' .... 'takes place' in the sense that it is bound up with its space-time environment. In other words, there is phase information associated with all 'things' which associates with their englobing mother-space (space-time evolutionary history of their englobing environment) which is needed in order to bring all these 'things' into a connection within a natural space-time continuum based unity.

The euclidian 'explicitizing' assumption, which splits apart space and time, and in the process splits apart an object from its 'quantum field', removes essential (space-time phase) information from our implicit perception of things, ... and since this 'realist' 'splitting' is a basic underpinning of our western system of education which puts explicit knowledge in a primacy over the implicit, we limit in a fundamental way, our understanding of things. In particular, we come to believe that perception based on 'explicit object-behaviors' is sufficient and that our subjectivity 'cannot lie', ... when in fact we humans are far from neutral reality-perceiving machines, but invent our realities using our experiential and emotional resources. That is, the Serbs and the Kosovars look out upon the same explicit 'object-behaviors' but the subjective 'meaning' which is selectively and attitudinally ascribed to these object-behaviors is a separate issue. In other words, in our western culture, the environmental history, the 'quantum field', .... the space-time ontogeny which associates with things and events, .... the region beyond the facts- which- mark- the- point- where- our- investigations- cease, is erased and filled in arbitrarily (subjectively) by the observer. But 'things' and their behaviors are the 'children' of their englobing space-time environment, .... this is not only the message of quantum physics but also aboriginal belief (e.g. as in David Wagoner's rendering of Pacific Northwest Indian tradition in the poem 'Lost').

Taiaiake Alfred, in 'Peace, Power, Righteousness', like Henri Laborit in'Les bases biologiques des comportements sociaux', seems also to suggest that; "We are currently participating in the reign and the dominance of the technocrat and the bureacrat who have a strictly professional level of understanding in domains which are becoming narrower and narrower, who, in total ignorance of the underlying motivations of their actions, believe that their little 'thing', their 'socio-ensemble', constitutes the whole system.

As mentioned at the beginning of this essay, Taiaiake's ideas in 'Peace, Power, Righteousness: an indigenous manifesto' are more congruent with the 'sciences of complexity' based views of 'Community as complex system' that I have been working on, than any other single work I have been exposed to. I believe that Taiaiake's work and his recommendations are deserving of our full attention and nourishment, in particular;

"Along with new leaders, a new leadership ethos grounded in tradition must be put in place, one that promotes accountability to the people through the revival of traditional decision-making processes. We must become educated both in the ways of our ancestors and in the new knowledge and skills required to carry our communities forward. And most urgently, we must begin to re-create a place of honour and respect within our societies for young people."

My remarks, with respect to the utility of a reconciliation of Taiaiake's ideas with those coming from complexity and modern physics, are in support of these recommendations.

* * *

[1] Comment on relativity and the subjectivity - objectivity problem as it will appear in volume 4, issue 5 of *Complexity* (affiliated journal of Santa Fe Institute).


John L. Casti,

Executive Editor Complexity,

1399 Hyde Park Road,

Santa Fe, NM, 87501

March 1, 1999

Re: Chaos Emergence, and Life (from *Complexity*, Vol 4, no.2)

In the application of the ideas of complexity and chaos to social systems, in addition to conflict between the themes of 'chaos' and 'emergence', as noted in the above-cited article by Professor Morowitz, relativistic issues also arise.

Human capacity for memory and emotional thresholds, coupled with pattern recognition, can mutually interfere so as to transduce subjective patterns (real or imagined) into tangible system behaviors, as described, for example, by researchers into chaos and order in the financial markets. The manifest 'relativistic' nature of subjectivity and objectivity in complex social systems has been described by Bergson in terms of there being "two profoundly different ways of knowing a thing. ... the first one implies that we move round the object; the second that we enter into it... ", ... by Varela in terms of fractal circularity, ... "Tradition would have it that experience is either a subjective or an objective affair, that the world is there and that we either see it as it is or we see it through our subjectivity. However, when we follow the guiding thread of circularity and its natural history, we may look at that quandary from a different perspective; that of PARTICIPATION and INTERPRETATION where the subject and the object are inseparably meshed.", and by Erwin Schroedinger in terms of there being "... an unavoidable and uncontrollable impression from the side of the SUBJECT onto the OBJECT ... "What remains doubtful to me is only just this: whether it is adequate to term one of the two physically interacting systems the 'subject'. ... FOR THE OBSERVING MIND IS NOT A PHYSICAL SYSTEM, IT CANNOT INTERACT WITH ANY PHYSICAL SYSTEM. And it might be better to reserve the term 'subject' for the observing mind."

Human imagination and intuition, operating on selective views of modelled reality; e.g. views favored because of mathematical model tractability [1] and scientific patronage [2], infuse new, subjectively modulated behaviors into the system of observer plus observed. Schroedinger's observation that the subjective agent of this type of behavioral infusion (the subjective mind) is intangible, implies that causal analysis of complexity in 'immersed observer' systems is innately incomplete.

The relativity of subjective perception would thus seem to condemn the causal rules or meta-rules frameworks discussed by Professor Morowitz, to a fundamental 'incompleteness' with respect to explaining complexity in systems that include both observer and observed; i.e. 'community seen as complex system'. An observation such as that made by Professor Morowitz, "Strange as it may seem, noise sometimes operates counter to chaos, which frees us from worrying about insects flapping their wings in Katmandu.", places beyond question the subjectivity of the assumed observational model from which the observation derives (passes over the relativistic aspect of perception), yet the subjective nature of such 'relative' observations (as indicated by 'we don't have to worry') modulates observer behaviors which are being cycled back into the system. This failure to account for, or question, relativistic effects equates to an 'infallible or non-subjective observer' assumption, even though the incompleteness of external (non-immersed) observer based perception is well demonstrated by science (as discussed above), as well as art and architecture.

In his article concerning art and architecture [3]. Donald Kunze observes that external observer perspective implies Euclidian geometry and that there is ".. a certain logic that is characteristic of all Western visuality, a logic that makes the viewer a VOYEUR or parasite of the visible."

In summary, a third theme appears to come into play in seeking to understand 'community as complex system', beyond the issues of 'chaos versus emergence', and this is the impact of subject-object relativity. While the beyond-question adequacy of external observer-based scientific observation is implicit in 'Chaos Emergence and Life', and while this may satisfy inquiry into complex systems behaviors that can safely be approximated as independent of the observer, complexity in 'immersed observer' systems such as social systems is catalyzed by the subjective relativism of the observer; i.e. by the subjective setting of 'adequacy' of observation relative to the purpose of the INQUIRER rather than to the purpose of the INQUIRY; i.e. the former purpose being relative to research standards or scientific patronage goals, and the latter purpose being relative to the sustaining and amplifying of community harmony.

Ted Lumley

[1] Evelyn Fox Keller, in 'Reflections on Gender and Science', Yale University Press,1985, notes the circularity between mathematical tools and observer behaviors, "To the extent that such models [models that posited central governing elements] also lend themselves more readily to the kinds of mathematics that have been developed, we need further to ask, What accounts for the kinds of mathematics that have been developed? Mathematical tractability is a crucial issue, and it is well known that, in all mathematical sciences, models that are tractable tend to prevail. But might it not be that prior committments (ideological, if you will) influence not only the models that are felt to be satisfying but also the very analytical tools that are developed?'

[2] Edward O. Wilson, in 'Consilience and Complexity' (*Complexity* vol. 3, no. 5), notes the circularity between scientific model development and public patronage; "Scientists have been charged with conquering cancer, genetic disease, and viral infections, all of which are cellular disorders, and they are massively funded to accomplish these tasks. They know roughly the way to reach the goals demanded by the public, and will not fail, Science, like art, and as always through history, follows patronage."

[3] Donald Kunze, Associate Professor of Architecture & Integrative Arts, PennState . See also http:// for a mathematical treatment and literature based modelling of the subject-object boundary problem.


[2] Dienes, Zoltan & Perner, Josef. (1999) A Theory of Implicit and Explicit Knowledge. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22 (5):, Cambridge University Press (in publication)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Epilogue to 'The Alien Heart of Science'

June 20, 1999

Guided by the purpose of trying to understand youth depression or the toxicity of corporate environments to emergent, exceptional teams, one tends to develop rather different conceptual views than if one starts from theories of this or that and tries to apply them to complex issues of community. If effect, if one starts with complex community scenarios, and sees 'theory' as implicit raw material which can help one 'navigate' community complexity and amplify community harmony (internally and with the englobing environment), one is starting with the 'answer' and letting the question define itself. This is the commonality that I see, between my researches into 'community as complex system' and Taiaiake Alfred's researches as expressed in his 'indigenous manifesto'.

This 'bootstrapping' approach is not popular with disciplinary researches because it treats their highly refined products as expedient resources. On the other hand, if one seeks one's nurturance from a professional discipline, one must 'pay one's dues' and respect the products of the profession and the entire disciplinary system, high priests and all, is set up to assess the value of work within the disciplinary context. It is the western way to set up 'control hierarchies' and 'optimize' the system, viewing it as a rational game with rational components.

If one starts with physics, or psychology, or biology or philosophy, with the aim of understanding a complex issue in 'community' such as youthful depression, which has been rising exponentially, it is like working one's way through a maze and one can expect to work one's way into many cul-de-sacs. This problem with 'bottom-up' investigation is intuitively understood by children who, if you present them with a maze problem, .... will start with the 'answer' and work their way backwards thus avoiding a multitude of cul-de-sacs or 'non-sequiturs'.

So the investigative approach employed by Taiaiake and by myself is one which starts with the 'answer' and utilizes whatever theory is relevant, ... an approach which is not very popular with disciplinary purists, but which has a fundamental advantage in that one does not have to approximate the problem upfront as a rational game, as all disciplinary research must. And it is in the problem approximation phase that the euclidian assumption comes in, forcing everything into the terms of rational 'thing-behaviors' and dropping out the relational interference or 'quantum field' information. In this sense, our western approach to system regulation (community regulation) follows this same upfront approximating the problem in terms of 'thing-behaviors'; i.e. we see community behaviors as being the result of the collective actions of individual, independent components whose behaviors can be described in explicit 'stand-alone' terms out of the context of their evolutionary history and experience. For example, this 'rational community member' assumption would imply that there exists a fixed set of protocols which describe how a man or woman will respond to 'environmental effects', out of the context of their historical experience.

Building on the assumption that such protocols exist, this commonly used investigative approach suggests that we can make an initial approximation to a theoretical explanation and continually refine and improve on the theory. If, however, community behavior emanates from such nonlinear effects as experience and emotional thresholds, this euclidian 'thing-behavior' approach cannot possibly work, because it entails dropping out the essential 'experiential' information as we conceive of the community as being composed of independent, rational 'things'.

Well, we know all about this shortfall in the traditional scientific, 'thing-behavior' or linear-causal investigative approach, but it hasn't permeated our cultural practice, because the approach by which we appraise new approaches in our culture is itself blind to historical experience because of its exclusionary logic. In other words, the western notion of linear progress is fundamentally toxic to its own evolution.

What has been happening is that we are assuming that we can 'improve' our current social regulatory approaches to overcome current 'problems' and dysfunctions and that's how our rewards are being allocated. So what we have is an adaptive system which is self-refining and innately based on the premise of 'rational community members' whose behaviors are determined by current interplay with their environment, and not influenced by their historical experience.

Meanwhile, leading edge research into capital market investments has concluded that the investor (another name for the community member) is non-rational and that his/her behavioral response to current environmental interplay is indeed effected by his/her historical experience. Since one's historical experience is unique for each individual, this means that there is no generalizable set of (thing-behavior) protocols associated with a 'person', no matter how carefully we 'categorize' people, thus one cannot converge towards a 'better answer' which is in terms of 'thing-behaviors', no matter how we re-describe the 'things' which are seen as comprising the 'system'.

The problem here is that rational systems work on the basis of perceived 'thing-behaviors', however, when 'things' evolve through experience and adapt their behaviors on the basis of how the system responds to 'thing-behaviors', the system becomes nonlinear and non-rational. Rational systems operate on the basis of real, tangible 'behaviors' and they cannot 'see' implicit, coherent patterns of non-behavior which are evolving in response to the rational responses of the system. This limitation represents an innate 'incompleteness' in the rational system, as proved by Goedel's theorem, and often stated in terms of the rational system being 'unable to look down upon itself and respond ontogenetically to its englobing environment (e.g. a computer is pre-occupied with executing a logical program oriented to fire-fighting regardless of the fact that the office is burning down around it or etc.).

Perceptually, we can look at the 'game of life' seen in terms of being 'out there' (voyeur perspective) or we can perceive life by means of our immersed experience; .... the former being a rational and explicit 'Perspective' and the latter being a non-rational, implicit 'experience', whereby we can comprehend and adapt to 'the game of life' and the behaviors of its players. In this manner, our identity as a player 'evolves', and rational algorithms which seek to optimize system outputs on the basis of a rational, voyeur view of 'thing-behaviors' (and thing-properties) are foiled by evolution.

The tiger moth (?) butterfly, preyed upon by the birds, evolved markings which were very similar to those of another butterfly which the birds avoided because of its terrible taste and toxic effect. In effect, this butterfly was experientially manipulating the perceptual field in 'the game of life' and foiling the rational assumption which assumed 'honest' components, ... 'honest' meaning 'rational' in that the components could not look down upon themselves and manipulate their 'thing-behavior' so as to trick the rational system processes. Rational systems seek to home in, through optimizing processes, to finer levels of categorization and 'thing-behavior' detail of the systems components, but in reality, ... the very 'identity' of component is evolving and it's new identity seeks to exploit the rational patterns of system behavior in which it is immersed. So, while the rational system assumes fixed identity components, the components are exploiting this rational assumption.

This second order or 'non-rational' adaptation (also known as 'evolution') in 'community as complex system' is well demonstrated in the film 'The Color of Money', a film about pool hustling with Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. The hustler seeks to understand people's behavioral responses and to exploit them, thus the voyeur view of the 'game of pool', in terms of real tangible behaviors, is innately incomplete. The components of the game, the players, become performers which are adapting to the observer's responses. Since the observers are 'other players', ... the game is no longer a game 'out there' as perceived in the voyeur perspective, ... but it is a game 'in here'. To paraphrase Vygotsky;

"To understand a thing's behavior, it is not sufficient to understand its actions --- we must understand its physico-chemical processes which give rise to its actions. But even that is not enough --- we must also know its motivation. No psychological analysis of a thing-behavior is complete until that plane is reached."

But as 'The Color of Money' well illustrates, motivation is itself a moving target; i.e. it evolves experientially with the 'play'. There is no way to 'figure out' the game because, in the end, there is no firm distinction between the game of pool and the game of life (evolution of the living universe). In other words, the properties and behaviors of 'things' are not innate in the 'thing', but are also a function of the englobing environment (external observers and their responses); i.e. a 'thing' is co-defined by its environment. In Bohm's quantum physics metaphor, ALL 'things' are "self-active-systems" like a ship on automatic pilot guided by radar waves, where ... " ... the 'form' of its activity is determined by the information content concerning its environment carried by the radar waves. This latter is independent of the intensity of these waves (as long as they can be received by the equipment available) but depends only on their form, which in turn reflects the form of the environment."

This shortfall in viewing system components as 'rational' and the system as being a 'game out there' precludes an understanding of 'the system as a game out there'. The colonial-imperialist game-playing tactic of the western culture runs into trouble because it persists in making this 'rationalist' assumption. The rationalist optimization structure it uses is the 'control hierarchy' wherein 'thing-behaviors' are studied and those which are deemed most contributory to organizational goals are rewarded by being given more 'power' (via wealth and control over others). This multi-level system is supported by the legal system and on an international scale, by the nation's military and western military alliances (e.g. NATO). As in 'The Color of Money', it is impossible to tell to what extent the 'thing-behaviors' are rational responses to current events, and to what extent they are shaped by experience and evolving motivations. For example, as the song 'Me and Bobby McGee' says, ... 'Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose', and when a youth comes into the corporate world, his 'thing-behavior' may be open and honest as it appears to be, ... but as we know, something happens when people start 'running for office' within the control hierarchies, and their behavior begins to adapt so as to maintain and improve upon their position of power. It is impossible, as Vygotsy points out, to know the intent behind the 'thing-words' and 'thing-behaviors'; i.e. the extent to which they can be taken 'literally' (rationally) versus the extent to which they reflect an implicit game based on listener-observer responses.

The manager who says 'people are our most valuable asset' and proceeds with a massive downsizing wherein he is massively rewarded (augments his powerbase), exposes the non-rational duplicity in the system. As in 'The Color of Money', he effectively leads his team into a loss to set himself up as a winner in the next game; i.e. the failure of the organization is presented in terms of the properties and behaviors of 'things in themselves' (non-competitive employees) and the recovery of the organization is presented in terms of the properties and behaviors of its senior management. The implicit game of coherent 'non-action', emanating from 'things' in response to how the regulatory process is viewing their 'thing-behaviors', is a non-rational adaptive effect which is a prime factor in overall system behavior, and which cannot be handled by a rational system approach. While everyone can 'smell' the duplicity as the 'thing-components' in the system 'perform' to exploit rational regulatory process, there is no process for handling it within a rational system; i.e. courts of law deal in explicit tangible facts and not in 'innuendo', thus the most powerful aspect of our consciousness, our 'inclusionary, intuitive' thought process, is ruled as being out of bounds, with respect to regulatory process.

In other words, rational systems management techniques are based on generalizing the categories, properties and behaviors of 'things' as seen in the context of 'the game out there'. Meanwhile, those 'things' are aware of the rational design process and can thus adapt so as to exploit the process for their own intent, ... an intent which cannot be known and which evolves with experience. Given the nominal aims of the 'game out there', rewards are allocated in terms of 'power' based in force, and money which represents a liquid form of such 'power', ... and in view of the blindness of this rational regulatory method to 'coherent non-action' and experience-based evolution of the system components, what may be optimized, instead of the nominal optimization target, is the hidden intent of the players; e.g. power for power's sake.

As Taiaiake points out, and as I try to point out in my essays on 'community as complex system', the 'power' which must be nurtured is the power to amplify harmony in the community, and this is the power which comes from true leadership, rather than leadership in the form being appointed to positions of sovereign authority in a bureacratic, 'power-by-force' sense, ... "The essence of leadership .... is the recognition of real need, the uncovering and exploiting of contradictions among values and between values and practice, the realigning of values, the re-organization of institutions where necessary, and the governance of change."

* * *

Return to '98/'99 Update Page and Index of Essays