dialog re/ Utopias and transformation


Richard Moore

Bcc: contributors

From: “Dave Patterson” 
Date: 4 September 2009 17:17:26 IST
Subject: that all sounds familiar… (re: Mumford, utopias, whole   systems, and community

Richard et al,

The recent 2-3 postings, including this one, have had me nodding my head in agreement – yes, this is what Green Island is all about – describing a truly ‘social democratic’ society, which could be called Utopian, although the main meaning of ‘Utopia’ translates as ‘nowhere’, and Green Island is very much written to describe what could, I think, very easily be. I hope you will add this note to the discussion, in case others out there are as yet unaware of Green Island. 
…Anyway, Green Island is not (at least primarily) meant to be read by people who already understand the way our society works, such as most, I would presume, on Cyberjournal and similar lists, but rather I would hope it gets read by people who are still unaware of what is really going on in the capitalist paradises, so they can have some help understanding the problems in their society and how they got in such a mess, and how we really could have a much better place if we/they followed social democratic ideas. 

Hi Dave,
Your essay is very good, and also a bit long, so I’ve posted it to newslog. I recommend the full text to our readers:
D wrote:
Globalism may be hitting a few bumps along its road but, personally, I can’t quite see its collapse. Until politicians have the courage necessary to tear up trade deals, globalism will sit there and fester, like a huge infection.

Hi D,
Even in places like Venezuela and Bolivia, which have taken a revolutionary path with majority support, they have difficulty with the free trade regime. I think it is unrealistic to hope for the necessary courage to manifest in Western politicians. Those who have the courage to speak up, such as Ron Paul and perhaps Kuchinic and a few others, are sidelined, given no media coverage, can’t get normal sources of campaign funding, etc. It’s a very unwise career choice for politicians who are more interested in their careers than in challenging the system. And that’s most of them, Democrats and Republicans alike, and ditto in Canada.
So I don’t think we can wait for globalism to die, and we can’t wait for politicians to rescue us. Those trends are all going in the opposite direction. As conditions worsen, politicians are fearful too, and they cling even closer to the hand that feeds them. If the ship’s going down, they want to be sure they get one of the lifeboats. And certainly they don’t want to rock the boat or alienate the captain (Wall Street) in the meantime. Their own family comes before their ideals, if they even have ideals. 
Our only way out of this mess, if there is a way out, has to come from us, from civil society, somehow organizing itself independent of the political system. We need more discussion of how that might be accomplished.
From: “Brian Hill” 
Date: 9 September 2009 15:12:32 IST
To: “‘Richard Moore'” <•••@••.•••>
Subject: RE: Mumford & utopias, continued…

Sociologists are historians at best, and although Mumford is a great sociologist, his understanding misses the 99% of human experience on earth prior to the state, prior to civilization.  Missing this knowledge it is understandable why he posits utopias in a timelessness state structured social milieu.  When civilizations, i.e., states, collapse as we are in the process of at present, pre-state cultures, namely tribes and bands revitalize.  Therefore, it is timely to include band and tribal cultures in our postulations of evolving post-imperial culture, albeit, global, which is a new phase for human culture.
  Bioregionalism, permaculture, analog forestry, states’ rights vs. federal control, localization vs. centralization, indigenous cultural revitalization are all indicator movements that are vanguards for post-state structured culture.  It seems important that we also appreciate and support these movements.

Hi Brian,
I haven’t commented on the last part of Mumford’s book, where he talks about his own ideas of what kind of thinking would be involved in a useful utopian vision. What went before was his analysis of various utopian essays, and existing social conditions. I think you’ll find him more open minded than you’re assuming.
That aside, I’m certainly with you on the importance of pre-state cultures, when we try to envision how today’s society might be transformed for the better. I’m convinced that those are the relevant models. They give a ‘first approximation’ of a post-hierarchical society – local decision making, consensus decision making, local-centric economics, etc. But those cultures don’t tell us much about how modern technology & communications fit in, and how global-scale problems can be dealt with. 
There is an inherent stability in a self-governing community, once achieved, but these other elements could be destabilizing forces if we don’t also have an understanding of how they can be dealt with in the context of an updated ‘band culture’.
I cannot agree, however, that civilization is collapsing, in the sense that an organizational vacuum will be created, making room for tribal cultures to spring up and blossom. We see some long-standing icons being demolished, such as the nation state, General Motors, the US dollar, the US Constitution, and others. Personally, I think even capitalism is being abandoned – significant real growth no longer being achievable – to be replaced by some kind of managed industrial / feudal model. 
But these ‘collapses’ are all being carefully managed, a ‘controlled demolition’ project. While other icons fall, Wall Street carries on more in control than ever. There is no economic shortage when it comes to the funding of the security apparatus, both military and police, and no breakdown in the chain of command, a chain of command that begins in Wall Street. And of course it’s Geithner and Sommers running the Administration, both on loan from Wall Street.
You say:
Bioregionalism, permaculture, analog forestry, states’ rights vs. federal control, localization vs. centralization, indigenous cultural revitalization are all indicator movements that are vanguards for post-state structured culture.  It seems important that we also appreciate and support these movements.

I agree with this of course. But as I said, I don’t agree that these are vanguards of something that’s going to happen ‘naturally’, by the collapse of civil order. These are the promising movements, but there is an essential element missing from them. They aren’t thinking about how the macro system can be changed, and what kind of role they can play in that process. They are acting locally, but not thinking globally in the way that is needed if real change is going to be achieved.
I’ve done my share of thinking about what kind of ‘global thinking’ is needed, but I don’t necessarily have the right answers. But whatever those answers are, injecting those answers into these localization movement is in my view the key that could open the door to a transformational movement. In other words, the movements you mention are the ‘fertile soil’ for transformation, but we don’t yet have the necessary ‘seeds’ to plant in that soil.
From: “Madeline Bruce” 
Date: 9 September 2009 15:38:19 IST
Subject: Re: Mumford & utopias, continued…

I have been writing my heart out in my weekly commentaries on the Canadian TV Series Intelligence on the Canadian Dimension Magazine Internet site.  Intelligence has been shown for the second time on CBC Television over this summer.  The series, two seasons of it, won many awards and international interest.  CBC didn’t sign up for a third season, however.  It is felt by many that this espionage/crime series was touching  on issues too hot for the government, which is controlling CBC, to overlook.  American infiltration into our institutions, their designs on Canadian water, were just two of the hot buttons.  Looking deeper, under the layers of exciting action, it was portraying a society with no moral compass, based on greed and power-lust alone.  It was a window into what so-called civilization has become, but which the population is not quite ready to face yet.  This was a way to begin showing it to them.  I was describing this in my weekly commentary over this summer, 2009.  Three times episodes have been pre-empted, twice for the Calgary Stampede, and the last time, on September 5, 2009, for no rhyme nor reason, as the TV schedule said Canadian News, yet something else again was put in that spot.  This series makes certain people feel uncomfortable, as did my commentary on it.  Both were raising awareness. – Madeline Bruce, Nanaimo, B. C. Canada.   

Hi Madeline,
Sounds like a very interesting series. One wonders it is some kind of guerilla expose series, or if it is intended to get people to accept these shenanigans as ‘normal and expected’. Is there anything on Youtube?
From: Bill Ellis 
Date: 12 September 2009 13:28:18 IST
Subject: A Gaian Paradigm

rkm wrote:
On yet another note, I’d like to see some discussion of ‘what is worth 
doing’. I try to devote my time to things ‘worth doing’, but I always 
have my doubts. I only see the world getting worse.

I know the feeling.  If you look at the world, or try to change it, it is only frustrating.  But if you follow the small but rapidly growing alternative and transformational movements there is hope.  
Since the formation of TRANET at the U.N . Conference of Human Settlements in 1976.  I have been involved in networking the A.T. movements. Traveling the world to witness local entrepreneurs at work solving local problems with local resources and local skills has given me a very positive view of the possible creative future.
My recent realization that Chaos, Complexity and Gaian theories are providing a solid base for a transition from the long standing “dominator paradigm” on which modern cultures are based to a “”Gaian paradigm” that reveals that Gaia (the physical life on Earth and Life on Earth) are a unit that evolves as a unit.  Like the Galileo, the Newtonian, and the Darwinian discoveries, Gaia can change not only our world view but also the way we live.
I see this happening in many fronte.   CSAs, food-coops, Learning Communities, CoHousing, Peer Lending, local scripts, EcoVillages, Credit Unions, and many other social innovations are creating the cells for a positive future.  Probably the key now is creating cooperative leaning communities.  To start young people off in cooperative settings. One good example of this is Riane Eisler’s “Partnership Way” in the schools.  Another is the C0-Intelligence Inst.and there are many more.   
No one of us can make the needed change  But we can build the foundation.
You are one of those important builders.  Keep up your good works.
Bill Ellis

Hi Bill,
Thanks for your encouragement. We do what we can. Again, you point to the same kind of promising movements that Brian points to, and I agree that’s the right direction to point. 
While Brian talks about returning to a ‘band / tribal’ cultural paradigm, you speak of a Gaian cultural paradigm. I think those turn out to be equivalent. Band and tribal cultures always had a close connection with their environment, and a spiritual kind of respect for nature and its forces. 
And if the Gaian model includes a vision of society organized like ecosystems, then localization / bioregionalism would provide those ‘social ecosystems’. It’s a powerful model. All the reasons that make natural ecosystems desirable, apply as well to a decentralized democratic society. In particular, we get parallel evolution in each autonomous local region. Breakthroughs in one society can then spread globally. The Open Source movement provides a closely related metaphor for this kind parallelism.
I think you are being too pessimistic regarding human nature, and the depth of conditioning, when you place your hope in raising a new generation in ‘cooperative settings’. I realize that our social conditioning can seem very deep, and ‘changing people’s minds’ can seem impossible at times. But I’ve seen many kinds of evidence that the conditioning is really only skin deep. It just takes the right kind of ‘shock’ / ’emotional experience’ to shift people into a radically different frame of mind, for ‘liberation’ to echo through the consciousness.
One kind of evidence is what can happen in a post-revolutionary context. When Allende came to power for example, I saw a newsreel of the crowds cheering his victory. There were tears in their eyes, and they were radiating hope. Suddenly there was a real possibility of social transformation, and the people didn’t need a reeducation program to ready them for participation. And then we can look at Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua under the Sandinistas. People are ready when the opportunity arises.
Another kind of evidence is what can happen with the right kind of dialog. When they held a Wisdom Council in Ashland, with no agenda and a handful of randomly chosen people, the participants came out of the council all fired up about “We the People”. They had experienced, in microcosm, the possibility of people solving their problems together, on a completely non-factional basis. This is so foreign to our experience, that it is the kind of ‘shock’ that can change our thinking. 
The council participants, spontaneously from the experience, had glimpsed a vision of how democracy could operate –  people simply getting together and solving their problems together. To actually ‘feel’ that participatory democracy can work is a rather radical ‘feeling’ to have. The participants could have earned a PhD in democratic theory, and probably wouldn’t have gotten that ‘feeling’. 
The point I’m trying to make is that ‘reeducation’ of the kind we need can happen in an instant, under the right circumstances with the right ‘shock’. As I said earlier, our ‘promising movements’ provide the fertile soil, but we’re missing the right ‘seed’ for transformation to germinate.
I believe that the Ashland Wisdom Council provides a proof-of-concept of an appropriate seed, a ‘We the People shock’, an experience of the possibility of inclusive community democracy. That is the missing element, in my view. 
The Transition Town people, who are typical and central in our universe of ‘promising movements’, are coming on like one more activist initiative, seeking to convert people to their cause. They are selling an economic agenda, one that makes sense, like so many other things make sense. They soon reach a barrier in each community. A large percentage of the population simply isn’t prepared to put the Transition agenda at the top of their ‘must participate’ list. And yet, the Transition vision is the needed vision we are talking about, Gaian consciousness and all.
My belief is that a Wisdom Council, in a community with an active Transition Town movement, including random participants both in and not in the movement, could have a powerful effect, could provide the appropriate ‘shock’ to start bringing the community together. It might not work, and it might work differently in different cases, but I think it’s a very promising ‘line of research’ in the quest for social transformation.
From: “Brian Hill” 
Date: 13 September 2009 10:33:33 IST
To: “Richard K. Moore” <•••@••.•••>
Subject: FW: [toeslist] “This is not some kind of radical right-wing group”- Senator Jim DeMint,

this might be real grass roots

—–Original Message—–
From: •••@••.••• On Behalf
Of Trent Schroyer
Sent: Sunday, September 13, 2009 1:15 AM
Subject: [toeslist] “This is not some kind of radical right-wing group”-
Senator Jim DeMint,

The New York Times
September 13, 2009
Thousands Rally in Capital to Protest Big Government

I don’t think so, Brian. All these right-wing events, from gun-toting to tea parties and disruptions, all focus on ‘Socialist Obama’, which is exactly what he’s not. The effect is to frighten liberals into thinking that ‘defending Obama’ is the main priority, rather than looking critically at his actions themselves. It’s all too convenient, too useful, and too seemingly spontaneous, to be real. I think it’s pretty clear that it’s orchestrated, and it’s very effective for its purpose. It also provides ‘plausible deniability’ for Obama re/what we get as policies. “It wasn’t my fault; it was those Republicans”. 
It’s all choreography. It’s the same kind of tactics that have been used by the CIA in the ‘colored revolutions’. ‘Manufactured spontaneous uprisings’. For those actually participating, they usually feel it’s all genuine. They have found an outlet for their genuine feelings, and they don’t question too much how that outlet came into being. 

From: H 
Date: 14 September 2009 01:58:05 IST
To: Richard Moore <•••@••.•••>

Today (Sunday) I covered (as a reporter) the 60 year anniversary celebration of the local (village) Church of the Nazarene and got talking to a visiting thelogian after the main program. I am not a religious person but I am curious about what happens within all kinds of communities, including religious ones.
I learned that the early Christian church (0-400AD) went through the same kind of challenges we face today, from poverty to wealthy decadence, and back around again.
I do believe that our aquisitive nature and opportunism tends to come in between good intentions and their goals, so we have to learn the same lessons over and over again. We are like insects attracted to the light, only to find a scorching lightbulb at the center of our obsession.
Right now we are at the apex of the “Mammon” cycle, choosing to forget all the lessons about the downside of gambling, and using more and more energy trying to get dollars from other people without having to put in a lot of productive effort in the process.
In order to break this destructive cycle there needs to be a fundamental change in contemporary values and mindset. That’s the shift in the collective unconscious I have been writing about.
There will, no doubt, be early nodes erupting in different places, as you have alluded to, but from there on the phenomenon will be somewhat similar to what happens in still liguid water, just as it freezes, forming a web of ice crytals that latch on to each other: The water world has suddenly changed.

Hi H,
I like your metaphor and I hope you don’t mind me sharing it with cyberjournal. This question always comes up, Which comes first, personal transformation or social transformation? It’s much like the chicken-and-egg question, and I think the answer’s the same: neither comes first, they both evolve together, they are two sides of the same thing. 
Your crystallization metaphor captures that unity-of-two. At the same time as the ‘idea of ice’ spreads, ‘becoming ice’ spreads along with it. What we are really talking about is cultural transformation. A culture includes both how a society operates, and what understanding people have about their society. Cultures change as a whole, operation and understanding together. 
From: Rich Winkel 
Date: 2 September 2009 14:45:53 IST
To: Richard Moore <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: Wash Post: Taliban winning in Afghanistan

Isn’t it more accurate to say that the people who finance the taliban
are winning?  I’m talking about wall street and its associated criminal
organizations of course…
Did you notice the taliban commander who deserted to iran and spilled the
beans on the fact that his commander was working for the cia?  He was
killed a few days later.  It was on alex jones site.

Hi Rich,
Thanks for the info. Makes sense. The real game, apart from the opium trade, is to destabilize Pakistan, build bases around Russia, keep the ‘war on terror’ bubbling along, and continue piling up US debts to the banks.