re/ A question for 2013


Richard Moore

Bcc: FYI
rkm website

The question was:
I’d like to start off 2013 with a positive conversation. In particular, I invite you send in your own personal answer to this question: What kind of world would you like to live in, and how would you like it to operate?


Fifteen people responded to the question, some with a few words, and some with multi-page essays and whole articles. Some responded to the question, and some wrote about other things. Most people talked about qualities they’d like society to have, such as peace and prosperity, but only a few said anything about how they’d like society to operate, about how governance would be handled. 

I’d like for us to continue this conversation. And for that to be productive, we’d need to consider carefully what people say here, and take that into account in making our next contribution. So often online conversations get circular, with people restating their positions. It would be great if we could get beyond that.


Evelyn Goodman wrote:
I would like to see a world with more love in it, and a genuine caring for one’s fellow person, (and animals, etc.).
It all starts with that, and goes from there.
A more respect for all living things, including the earth, and plant life.  How much a better world if we could start with that, and go from there!

I’d say you are describing the culture you’d like to see. And it’s a culture I think most of us here resonate with, and a culture that we to some extent already live by in our personal lives — I’d say it’s the latent culture of the 99%. We are left then with the question of how society would operate, so that ‘the peoples’ culture would be reflected in the activities of society generally. For me, that is the same question as ‘How would a real democracy operate?’. I like your emphasis on culture, because I think cultural transformation is the core what we need to be aiming for. 

James McCumiskey wrote:
I want a peaceful world.

Which is to say, a world which has found a peaceful way to deal with problems that come up among societies. Do you have any ideas about how that might work?

Marianne Hoepli wrote:
FOR ME and my beliefs? ONE BIG THOUGHT IS: ( and of course I have many more than this one!) I think that if each person would act in their lives with truthfulness and with compassion in their heart we would have a much better world. I just look at the Dalai Lama and see what a incredibly huge and positive influence this man has with his spoken wisdom. I am a firm believer in meditation, ( I practice a lot of Yoga!) and believe that sending peaceful energy into the world works.

As with Evelyn, I’d say you are talking about cultural values that most of us would resonate with. At the same time, when you suggest that everyone (including the pathological 1%) should have truthfulness and compassion in their hearts, I’d say you’re hoping for there to be a change in human nature. I think we need to accept that human nature is not going to change, and we need to think in terms of systems (ways of operating) that give expression to our higher cultural attitudes, rather than our lowest.

Laura Hornreich wrote:
A much smaller population would be ideal.  I’d like money to somehow be obsolete and for there to be more of a community feel where each person helps out the other because they truly care and not for monetary gain.  
I know it’s short but if I think about this subject too long it depresses me.

I’m curious as to why this depresses you. It could be because we’re so far from what you want, or because what you want is difficult to pin down, or perhaps something else. I think population is over-rated as a problem. It’s our wasteful industrial economy that is a threat to resources. And I have a hard time imagining how a society would operate without commerce and incentives. I don’t think it has worked very well when it’s been attempted. 

Marcolorenzo Ruggenti wrote:
4. has no more slums
7. guarantees education for everyone
9. gives thanks to God every day and teaches divine truths & the need for religion to everyone
11. has 3/4 fewer cars & develops non-polluting mass transit systems
16. has nations ruled by the wise (philosoper kings), w/ abolition of democracies
18. is basically vegetarian , no more killing of animals for food, teaches kindness to animals

40 items was too many to post, so I selected a few representative ones. I agree with lots of your points, such as no more slums, but I must say I wouldn’t want to live in a world where a religion was pushed on everyone, and where some designated ‘wise ones’ made decisions for everyone. How necessary are those things to your vision of a better world?

Vera Bradova wrote:
I ran a similar question on my blog a few months ago. This is what we all came up with:
A sane human world where
* wisdom rather than folly gets amplified
* we act with kindness toward all people, all creatures and the future
* there’s an abundance of helping, giving, and caring, for each other and future generations
* where people don’t consider themselves and act as the only species that matters
* we think big, live small
* we contaminate evil with overwhelming beauty
* technology remains comprehensible
* “more being and less doing” is our way
* everyone’s real needs are met
* humans live cooperatively as one species among many, within natural cycles of resource abundance and scarcity, consuming no more resources than are replenished naturally and producing no more wastes than are dispersed and recycled naturally

As with earlier contributors, you are describing a culture that most of us would resonate with. You also get a little bit into the question of how it would operate. When you say ‘wisdom rather than folly gets amplified’, you are implying that processes need be found that achieve the right kind of amplification. And when you say ‘technology remains comprehensible’, that has the effect of enabling us 99% to participate in deciding which technologies to pursue and which to leave behind. 

Nicola Furey wrote:
Thank you Richard for the opportunity –
A world with ethics, empathy and justice, respect for humanity and the environment where profit, gain and greed are not the ideals and where the future generations will be given the tools to make the changes that are so vital and be satisfied with a respectful and healthy life for all.

Vera Gottlieb wrote:
I would like to see (and I am not talking about luxuries that only the rich can afford):
…a decent roof over everyone’s head
… enough food in everyone’s plate
… basic education
… basic health care
… an environment that harms neither person, plant or animal
… a chance to make a decent living by having a decent job that pays a decent wage
… no weapons of any kind
… with everyone having enough there would be no need for crime
… for everyone to have a social conscience and thus care for those needing help
For the sake of brevity – I am staying away from politics and religion.

I wish you had gotten into politics, as that’s the ‘how does it operate’ part.

Stephanie McDowall wrote:
Richard…..what darned difference does it make what any of us think or want?
There is an agenda and none of us can truly influence this. As you have pointed out in the past…we only have a bit of influence with our local/municipal governments and our own communities.
Don’t you see this as a waste of time ? I do.

If there is no way we can influence ‘the agenda’, then anything we do is more or less a waste of time. Even local gains will eventually be nullified as the reins of control tighten. However I believe that we can influence the agenda, indeed I think we can set a new agenda, but only by achieving unity among us 99%. And I think the thing we can unify around is a vision of the kind of world we want — and a vision of how it will operate. 
     Notice how similar most people’s contributions have been. And I don’t think we on cyberjournal are unique in sharing such cultural values. I think conversations along these lines are the most valuable thing we could be doing. Conversations in communities, across ideological divides. If people begin realizing they all really want the same things, across those divides, that could be very empowering. It’s always emotionally dramatic when adversaries become allies; that’s why that theme is used so often in films.

Peter Koenig wrote:
The world I would like us to live in — is one where humanity finds unity, solidarity and lives in love and peace with each other and in harmony with all the sentient beings and with Mother Earth.

Serendipity: I’m posting contributions in the order they arrived in my inbox, and your contribution comes just after I brought up the issue of unity. Unity and solidarity are central principles in a better world because they enable that world to be stable politically. They are also central principles for any movement that hopes to transform society. And they represent a cultural transformation, from this culture of divisiveness and conflict. Thanks for emphasizing those principles.

Jeremy Taylor wrote:
I would like to live in a world where ego driven culture can only evaporate and where selfless contributions of human energy can fulfil their natural potential. I would like this world to operate using a constantly evolving trust-based political structure empowered by a new paradigm of Internet technology. Trying to work out any more detail than that, for now, would be fruitless and wasteful. We just need to focus on generating a critical mass of open and ubiquitous technology. (this is my current mission in life, but there’s a huge amount of coordination needed !)

You pack a lot of ideas into a single paragraph. As regards ego, I think it is an essential part of human nature. Our ego is what makes us unique, and variety is the spice of life. Ego is a source of creativity and motivation. In our current culture ego is overemphasized, but whenever we talk about changing things, we need to beware of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, of swinging the pendulum from one extreme to the other. What we need is a cultural balance between ego and, as you put it, ‘selfless contributions’. When we look at indigenous cultures, that honor wisdom and integrity, and that live in harmony with nature, it is important to note that ego is not absent from those cultures.
     As regards a ‘constantly evolving trust-based political structure’, I think that’s a very useful comment. It frames governance as an evolving process, rather than as something handled by static institutions. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘trust-based’ however. Perhaps you can elaborate.
     As regards basing governance on the Internet, I know lots of people thinking in those terms. I suppose the reason is that we can find more interesting conversations, and more people with ideas, on the Internet, than we typically do in our real-world encounters. So we think of the Internet as a more creative place than the real world, a place with more potential for creating a better world. 
     I think this potential, however, is an illusion, a mirage, always on the horizon but never reachable. I’ve had a lot of experience with online conversations, as a participant and as an observer, and everywhere I’ve found that the media tends to generate circular debate rather than the development of mutual understanding and agreement. There’s something about the lack of face-to-face presence, and the intermittent nature of participation, that works against reaching agreement.
     And that’s when you’re having conversations with like-minded people. When you start bringing in people with strongly adversarial positions, then an online forum becomes an outright battleground. If we’re going to achieve unity and solidarity, that needs to be on an inclusive basis, which means finding common ground across ideological divides. That is something that can only happen in face-to-face conversations, and even then careful attention to process is necessary.

Sue Skidmore wrote:
Hi Richard—Truth, Justice, Beauty, Peace, Harmony & Love. I think we should operate with Councils leading the way but I do not have anything sketched out.

Very good, councils: the most concrete idea we’ve gotten so far about governance, about how ‘things might operate’ in a better world. I agree of course about councils, as anyone knows who has followed cyberjournal for any length of time. Councils are about people coming together to talk about how they want to deal with their shared problems and opportunities. There are processes that can enable councils to tap into the collective wisdom of the group. And the ‘principle of the representative microcosm’ can deal with the efficiency issue re/ participatory democracy.
     I’ll explain that principle, yet again, for any who might not be familiar with it. It’s the same principle the jury is based on: if the jury includes the general sentiments of the community, and the jury reaches a unanimous verdict, then we can assume the general sentiments of the community are in line with that verdict, and that the whole community would have come to that verdict, if they could all be involved in the deliberations, which is of course impractical. And twelve randomly selected people tends to provide a representative microcosm. 
     In the same way, when a council talks about how to deal with issues, their outcomes are likely to find resonance in the community generally, if the participants are a representative microcosm, and if they use a process that brings out their wisdom and enables them to reach a unanimous conclusion. If a jury gets it wrong, that could destroy the life of an innocent person. However if a council gets it wrong, no harm is done, because the community can reject what they came up with. Councils are not instead of wider discussion; they’re an accelerator of convergence. 
     I’ll close by sharing, once again, a model of how council-based governance could work on a large scale — a model of a practical participatory system of governance. We didn’t get much discussion of this model in the past. Perhaps what we’ve talked about in this posting might motivate people to give it a closer look:

self-governance-2 (slide show)