by Tom Atlee
This article was written in 1991. I have revised
it slightly in Sept. 1999, as it is still remarkably appropriate,
and may become even more so in the near future.
Fran Peavey, author of Heart Politics, tells a story from
India of a bird that lays its eggs in the stratosphere. The egg
plummets down, the embryo madly gestating into a raggedly little
birdlet who, at the last minute, mere yards above the rocks and
branch-spikes, breaks from of its shell and flits skyward toward
This time of transformation is a real edge-of-the-seat affair,
I visited Czechoslovakia in the spring of 1991 and was saddened
to discover how, even in the midst of mind-boggling social changes,
so much was stagnant. At the heart of the problem was a tenaciously
inert mind-set: a deep, alienated irresponsibility showing up
as apathy, fear, blame, inability to think critically or creatively,
and disassociation from one's heart and neighbors. These things
were apparently widespread, and took me by surprise.
But I recognized this syndrome as the brother of American alienation.
Ours arose from our techno-consumerist culture; theirs from totalitarianism.
Both systems are inimical to real selfhood and community. It hurt
to watch Czechoslovakia, bursting with possibility, walk out of
its cultural trap into ours. Little did Czechoslovakians suspect
that freedom of choice, the pursuit of happiness, affluence and
other exalted aspects of our society easily become - as ideology
became in their world - strings through which to manipulate a
As I began to put together programs for Czechoslovakia (my favorite
being called "recovery from totality" ),
my awareness of our common fate grew. We may be ahead of them
in resources and they ahead of us on the curve of transformation,
but we are both heading toward a moment of truth -- a realization
of interdependence -- upon which all cultures are converging.
It is a good time to think hard about how to do politics appropriately.
A POLITICS OF ENABLEMENT 
In the ideal world, authority and power would be used
to enable people, in context with others, to build their
lives and evolve (like helping a community start its own
to restrain destructive forces long enough for positive
forces to prevail (like taxing gasoline to finance public transportation)
to ensure that the interests of all involved are spoken
for, including the voiceless (the immigrants, the unborn
future, the plants and animals, etc.)
To the extent we use our authority this way, we will live our
future culture while we build it.
We live in a culture where authority and power are seldom used
this way, but rather
- to serve the interests of the few (like the corporate subsidies)
- to increase dependence (like welfare)
- to release destructive forces with inadequate regard to consequences
(like nuclear power)
- to suppress destructive forces without nurturing positive
forces to transform them (as in prisons)
- to suppress creativity, uniqueness and aliveness that resist
pressures to conform (as in most schools).
In our society, power is used to manipulate the public to think
that their interests are served by the same things that serve
the elites. Our mass-consumer economy, electoral politics, technological
wizardry and media environment are all dedicated toward this end.
These things make people feel they are supporting their own interests
when they support the elites with their purchases, votes, flag-waving,
So when we advocate policies like environmental protection that
serve the larger society but undermine elite control, we are called
"special interest groups." Over the long haul, that
will change and is changing. In the meantime, we'll often have
to act like special interest groups and fight as if we were.
This exemplifies a characteristic of politics during a transition
from old to new: We'll have to do things in old ways to buy time
and space in which to do (and learn to do) things in new ways.
Step by step, we can replace adversarial/power-over methods with
Neither "purity" nor "realpolitik" are appropriate
for this journey. It is more useful to see this as a search for
balances appropriate to circumstances and evolution
in the direction of sustainability.
A SPECTRUM OF POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT
In general, politics is anything that influences the activities
of the larger society in one direction or another.
Political phenomena fall into a spectrum (see chart after this
paragraph) not unlike the rainbow of visible light. Although the
different bands of this spectrum are depicted as distinct, they
blend into each other just like yellow blends into green.
Band 0-A - APOLITICS
Consumer - "Politics is someone else's
business. I'm just trying to live my life. I'm not interested
Characteristics: Isolation, search for personal security,
addictions, opinions nonexistent or implanted from media, manipulated,
"cocooning" (escaping into customized personal world),
fear of authority and catastrophe, denial
Anti-political variant: Political disillusion results
in sublimation of political energies into non-political personal,
community, group, or cosmic realms, sometimes very idealistic.
Band 0-B - SPECTATOR Politics
News-tracker - "Politics is a spectator
sport. The relevant questions are: Who's ahead and Where's the
Characteristics: Political gossip, stays informed through
media (usually with no search for alternative or clarifying info),
often doesn't vote even when partisan; political insight can
range from sophisticated to pedestrian; much talk, little action.
Cynical variant: Political disillusion results in degradation
of political energies into mere political critique, sarcasm,
and the bad-mouthing of politics in general, as exemplified by
Band 1 - ROUTINE Politics
Voter - "Politics is how our country
is run. We should all do our part."
Characteristics: Morality, conscientious voting, manners,
"upright citizen," respect for authority, often simplistic
thinking swayed by political imagery, formal democracy, patriotism,
doesn't make waves
Band 2 - POWER Politics
Activist, Politician, Lobbyist, Corporation -
"Politics is the struggle for power and influence. We fight
to make other people and the government do what we want them
to (to benefit ourselves, things we care about, or the general
Characteristics: Competition, controversy, violence, gamesmanship,
secrecy, us/them, win/lose, critical thinking, manipulation,
impact, heirarchy, righteousness, debate, domination, rebellion,
disrespect, black/white thinking, blame, search for leverage.
Band 3 - CO-OPERATIVE Politics
Community organizer, negotiator, facilitator, neighbor,
citizen - "Politics is public life, the shared
solving of problems. We come together to make things better and
to co-create our common future."
Characteristics: Discussion, common goals, organization,
mutual aid, listening, co-action, common security, win/win, conflict
resolution, mutual respect, fairness, citizen democracy, communities,
grassroots initiatives, tolerance of diversity.
Band 4 - HOLISTIC Politics
World Citizen, Socially-conscious Systems Thinker
or Engaged Buddhist, Deep Ecologist, Permaculturist -
"Politics is our conscious participation in the whole [system,
community, history, ecosystem, universe]. By increasing our consciousness
of -- and taking responsibility for -- our connections to each
other and our place in the whole, we can tap the wisdom of the
whole and play a constructive role in its evolution."
Characteristics: Integrity, compassion, dialogue, satyagraha
(truth force), service, solidarity with all life (including opponents),
ethical/ecological awareness, collective intelligence, honoring
the consciousness and aliveness of everyone and everything, creative
use of diversity.
Just as few real-world objects are pure green, few political activities
occupy only one band on the spectrum. Greenpeace, for example,
involves itself in virtually all bands: thrills for the apolitical,
experts for the dutiful, confrontation with the powerful, cooperative
projects for grassroots groups, and a vision of respect for all
life. Most of us concerned about the world live a bit in each
As transformational activists building a sustainable culture,
we are called to do more than advocate our agenda, as in Bands
1-3. We are called to raise the quality and quantity of political
engagement, per se.
One of our jobs is to enable people to move into higher bands
- enabling the apolitical to vote, the voter to lobby, the lobbyists
to come together in search of common ground, and everyone to see
the "big picture" and to act out of awareness of their
role in it. Another job is to introduce higher-band values (like
diversity) and techniques (like consensus process) to lower-band
realms (like corporations ).
Whenever we need to do lower-band actions we can learn to do
them from a higher-band awareness or lift them into a higher-band
mode. A boycott, for example, lifts consumption into the realm
of power politics. And global consciousness can inform our voting.
The spectrum of politics clarifies the actions of powerholders.
The ownership of most media, for example, and the dependence of
election campaigns on money, allows elites to keep people either
apathetic (since they can't win), dutifully compliant (as in patriotic),
or engrossed in issue-battles which, even if won, wouldn't change
the destructive system. For example, fighting for federally-enforced
higher car mileage maintains dependence on cars, centralized power
and government-subsidized highways and parking lots. An alternative
approach -- taxes on gas and low-mileage cars, with the revenues
used to subsidize public transportation and car-free city planning
and community development -- helps transform the whole transportation
Powerholders sometimes introduce low-band elements (provocateurs,
apathy, consumerist obsessions) into higher-band activities in
an effort to disrupt them. If we are aware of this and stay grounded
in Bands 3 and 4, our activities will be harder to disrupt. For
example, the efforts of an agent provocateur trying to create
dissention in a deep dialogue (a process to tap group intelligence)
could simply become grist for the process-conscious mill of the
dialogue. To succeed at this requires a high level of group consciousness
(For another version of the spectrum of politics, see "Transformational Politics (draft
THE STRUGGLE FOR POWER
The struggle for power is at the heart of American politics. Power-over
is the governing principle of centralized government and management.
Whoever is in charge, or whoever exerts the most pressure, gets
their way. Individuals and interest groups battle for leverage.
Bits of cooperative activity creep in - like alliances, compromises,
political deals, protocols - if only to prevent the whole thing
from tearing itself apart.
Into this fray we must go because that's what's available.
But let's not accept this status quo. Most government programs
establish dependence or privilege or otherwise reinforce the power-over,
adversarial system. We need to realize that depending on the power-over
machinery of government to achieve our ends (e.g., empowering
federal agencies to police polluters) is reinforcing the old unsustainable
system. To the extent we want to facilitate transformation, we
need to ask ourselves: In what ways do these proposals move
our culture through the transition and in what ways do they root
us more firmly in the old power-over ways of doing things?
In many cases (like controlling pollution), we have to depend
at least in part on power-over, adversarial solutions, because
the power balance in our society is so skewed. But we needn't
do it from the old mindset, because we're mad as hell or can't
envision any better approach. We can do it because we've consciously
decided it's a tactical necessity in our strategy for building
a non-adversarial, decentralized, sustainable society. From
a strategic perspective, we want to increase the amount of participation
and imagination (compared to the amount of domination, control
and resistance) in any solution. We also want to not merely solve
problems but move in the direction of a sustainable society.
Ways we might use government power appropriately and strategically
creating conditions for transformation (e.g., subsidizing
citizen Study Circles like they do in Sweden, or training people
in deep dialogue and consensus processes)
making social power more equitable (e.g., establishing
citizen boards to monitor corporate policy, as Ralph Nader has
proposed in his Concord
enabling people to act more sustainably (e.g., subsidizing
the transition to organic farming)
restraining the destructiveness of powerholders and short-sighted
citizens - especially where it may be irreversible (as in
species extinction and nuclear holocaust), or where it will buy
time (as in slowing global warming, or feeding starving people
while population-control and sustainable agriculture programs
TRANSFORMING POWER STRUGGLES
While we are engaged in this realm of power struggle, we can experiment
with upper-band approaches to power, both for our own experience
and to find out which ones can facilitate transformation within
the existing system - and of the system itself.
For example, we can promote the use of power in the service
of values, not interests. A Green Party candidate, for example,
might make it clear that her purpose is not to serve her constituency
or the powerholders, but to build a society that will support
the welfare of people for thousands of years - and that people
should only vote for her if they share that value.
Many people will say that's not good politics, meaning that it
won't get you elected. We should look carefully at what we want
to do with the power of an office, if it's not to further our
values. Should we use candidacies to change the terms of electoral
debates toward a discussion of values - or to win? What effect
would each option have on the transition?
We can experiment with enabling the bad guys to do the right
things. What would help Muxxup, Inc., stop polluting? In many
bad companies there are good people who, with help from us, could
create good effects. When we attack their company directly, they
may be disabled from allying with us because they'd be betraying
their company. But if we are publicly ask the company (or privately
ask the insider allies) what we can do to help them reduce their
pollution, such people would probably be empowered to make a difference
Even if we did what we were going to do anyway (take the company
to court, demonstrate in front of their factory) we can benefit
from not being adversarial. "We believe Muxxup contains basically
good people who need this demonstration to help them stop polluting.
We're offering them our help." We might even admit: "We
haven't been as active as we could in cleaning up our environment,
and we thank Muxxup for getting us involved."
To my knowledge no one has done anything like this. I wonder how
Muxxup's PR people would handle it...
Another approach would be to creatively personalize the powerholders
and our relationship to them. 
Gandhi used this approach. He steadfastly refused to treat people
as if they were their roles; even in very trying circumstances
he would treat them as real human beings. He once challenged a
judge who was trying him for sedition, saying that if the judge
believed the laws were just, he must give Gandhi the maximum penalty
and, if he thought the laws unjust, he must step down from his
judgeship since he could not in good conscience do his job.
There are undoubtedly many powerholders who are immune to being
treated as real human beings, or who keep themselves too insulated
to reach. But some will be affected. It is always worth the experiment.
Gandhi won some powerful converts with his principled humanity.
I know of one project, the Nuclear
Dialogue Project (in the US, their address was 145 Witherspoon
St., Princeton, NJ 08542) in which small groups of citizens "adopted"
nuclear policy-makers, studied their histories and writings, and
started years-long written and in-person communications with them,
concerned human-to-concerned human.
In a very real sense, we are all in the same boat. As Betsy Rose
sings: "We all came here on different ships, but we're in
the same boat now." This understanding underlies the
higher bands of politics. We are challenged to apply that understanding
to Band 3 politics, to transcend adversarialness and attempt to
transform ourselves even as we transform the struggle for power.
We shouldn't wait to be elected to act like a government. In Czechoslovakia
the dissidents became the government almost overnight, and found
it much harder to be wise leaders than wise critics ("Havel's
Choice," Vanity Fair, Aug. 1991). If we are serious
about transforming this culture, we need to assume the mantle
of leadership before it is given to us.
This could mean creating shadow governments that go beyond think-tank
policy recommendations. They would have no institutional power,
but would try to model how institutional power could be better
used than it currently is. They would actually do scenario studies
to see what resistances and resources would be involved in putting
positive policies into practice, and what they would do to deal
with such contingencies if they were in charge.
When the USSR came apart or Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait or massacres
occured in American high schools or small countries, these shadow
politicians could have been there with proposals and comments
about how their past policy recommendations would have changed
things. This would simultaneously benefit those working in the
shadow governments (as preparation and learning) and introduce
the public to alternatives. Perhaps they'd be impressed enough
to vote some of those involved into office.
At the very least, it would show we were serious.
We might even begin to build real Band 3 and 4 quasi-governments
among ourselves in our bioregions, communities and networks, laying
the foundations of tomorrow's decentralized, sustainable civil
society. One interesting approach is sortition, Ernest Callenbach's
and Michael Phillip's proposal for a legislature chosen by random
lottery (A Citizen Legislature, Clear Glass, 1985; or New
Age Journal, July 1984, p. 47). There are abundant Band 3
and 4 ideas for governance crying out for intelligent trial (see
the imagineering tale "The story
of Pat and Pat, the view from the year 2019" for a broad
One effort to generate a holistic form of Band 3 cooperative politics
is Frances Moore Lappé's work with the Center
for Living Democracy (RR#1 Black Fox Road, Brattleboro, VT
05301,  254-1234). My conceptualization of Band 3 on the
chart is derived from her definition of public life. She goes
on to say that public and private are complementary dimensions
of our individual lives. We each have a deep personal need to
share in the creation of a common future and thus to participate
in a public life that makes sense to us. 
(See the article Living Democracy
for more on this approach.)
In citizen democracy, self-interest encompasses everything we
care about, and power is power-with, the enabling quality of relationships.
Politics involves people gathering together so as to pursue their
self-interests more effectively than they could alone.
The archetypical American Band 3 tradition is the New England
Town Meeting. A few more recent approaches include
Swedish Study Circles, a ubiquitous (in Sweden) form
of grassroots self-education and discussion being promoted in
the US by the Study Circles Resource Center, Route 169, Box 203,
Pomfret, CT 06258.
Principled negotiation in which the conflict is seen
as a shared problem, and the adversaries as colleagues in solving
it (see Getting to Yes, by William Ury and Roger Fisher).
Mediated dialogues, in which both sides are called
upon to communicate each other's positions, to clarify their
differences, and to search for common ground (Search for Common
Ground, 205 Mass. Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20036).
Co-operative education, in which students collaborate
in their study, projects and even tests.
Transformational politics is always looking for the interests,
values and assumptions that underlie the surface drama of political
debate and struggle.
Hidden behind the embattled positions of Band 2 adversaries
are their interests -- what they're trying to protect or
accomplish. Those interests are, in turn, rooted in their values
-- what they consider important, right and good. And those values
are rooted in their assumptions about life -- what they
consider to be real or true.
All these have political significance. For example:
- Opponents will often discover a basis for agreement when
they move from defending their positions to satisfying their
- People with diverse interests and positions can often work
together if they share values.
- The "paradigm shift" required for human survival
involves changing our deepest assumptions about life -- from
assuming separateness to assuming connectedness and wholeness.
Bringing values to the foreground is a major task of transitional
politics. One approach is to advocate holistic values like sustainability.
Perhaps a more holistic approach would be to help people clarify
what their values are, to help them see the impact of their lives
(or of some company or policy) out in the world, and then to help
them explore how that impact fits (or doesn't fit) with their
values. Transformation happens when they decide to change either
their impact or their values. Of course, this is best done in
dialogue with others.
I saw an excellent video of a high school teacher asking his students
who should be punished for the Holocaust. They struggled back
and forth (Hitler? SS soldiers? Holocaust administrators? The
German people?), arguing with each other, fine-tuning their own
sense of ethics and responsibility. There is no answer to these
questions, only a certain deadness or sensitivity to the issues
This personal act of values/impact clarification is what I call
holistic responsibility. You could call it taking the world personally.
I and many of you are trying to become more vegetarian, more organic,
more simple and self-reliant in our lifestyles. I, for one, don't
do this out of guilt or political correctness. I do it in an effort
to reduce the dissonance I feel between my values and my impact.
Pure harmony between them is impossible. Our culture demands compromise
if we want to stay alive and/or make a real contribution. Once
again, it is a matter of balance and direction. We do the best
And we stay conscious. That's the hard part - not sliding into
denial or righteousness or ignorance This is important because
everything we do (or don't) is contributing to what happens
next. All of us are full participants, inevitably. To the
extent we can be aware of our role, making conscious choices about
it, and staying aware of what's happening, we can co-navigate
toward a sustainable society.
Of course our political action, service, spirituality, voting,
being informed, etc. -- or lack of them -- are as much a part
of our role as our organic-ness and self-reliance. It's all a
DEEP DIALOGUE: LEARNING, EVOLUTION, AND GROUP INTELLIGENCE
In exploring resources for my Czechoslovakian "recovery from
totality" project, I talked with a friend, Jeff Groethe,
who taught peer counselling at the Berkeley Free Clinic. I discovered
he also was on the advisory board of an organizational development
firm which tries to enable organizations to become learning
The idea entranced me and I explored further. Jeff told me that
a key tool for them was "dialogue" - which I called,
earlier in this article, "deep dialogue," and which
he described as a process for accessing group intelligence.
I had experienced this phenomenon (if not Jeff's process) during
the Great Peace March across the US in 1986. In a smelly fertilizer
factory east of Denver, with no place to sit and with rain and
hail clattering on the roof, dozens of marchers took turns sharing
(through a portable PA system) their thoughts and feelings about
whether we should march all together or strung out in an undisciplined
line. There were hundreds of us, we were wet and tired, and this
was the most passionately divisive issue among us. But by the
time the rain stopped, we all knew we'd walk together in the cities
and spread out in the countryside. There had been no vote - indeed,
not even a decision. That's just where the talking took us. The
group came to a point where it knew.
Quantum physicist David Bohm, creator of dialogue process, tells
of a North American tribe of hunter-gatherers who met in a circle
from time to time. "They just talked and talked and talked,
apparently to no purpose. They made no decisions. There was no
leader. Everybody could participate... The meeting went on, until
it finally seemed to stop for no reason at all and the group dispersed.
Yet after that, everybody seemed to know what to do, because they
understood each other so well." 
For most people, the word dialogue means a discussion. For David
Bohm a discussion involves bouncing ideas back and forth. Dialogue,
he says, is different. In dialogue "people are no
longer primarily in opposition, nor can they be said to be interacting,
rather they are participating in this pool of common meaning,
which is capable of constant development and change."  Dialogue is the process through which
a group gains access to a level of intelligence unavailable to
I am fascinated by the significance of being able to achieve this
level of group connection predictably. 
Does this open a door to a culture capable of conscious learning
and evolution? It is hard to imagine a more fitting tool for
Band 4 holistic politics.
Related to this new form of dialogue is the practice of strategic
questioning, developed by Fran Peavey. The archetypical strategic
question was, "Why is the emperor wearing no clothes?"
It implied other potent questions like, "Why have we not
talked about this before?" and "Shouldn't we do something
about our emperor? - and about ourselves?" The purpose of
a strategic question is allow for a shift in the significance
of a situation so that options for change can emerge. It assumes
that the answers for any society or individual reside within them,
and its purpose is to elicit such answers rather than to provide
NEW PARADIGM POLITICS
Holistic politics, together with higher forms of cooperative politics,
constitute a new paradigm politics. It is one facet of
our culture's megatrend away from the mechanistic worldview (ref:
Fritjof Capra's The Turning Point, Marilyn Ferguson's The
Aquarian Conspiracy, and John Naisbitt's Megatrends).
Looking at politics in terms of transformation, sustainability,
enablement, holistic responsibility, dialogue, values, etc., lifts
politics out of a linear, mechanical world of forms and forces,
entities and quantities...and recreates it in a universe of relationship,
wholeness, process, quality...and no boundaries.
In the mechanical paradigm it is almost as if everything is contained
in - and defined by - boxes, structures, boundaries. Ideas are
contained in categories, objects in forms, people in skins, countries
in their borders. Each is defined by what's inside and outside
its box and what that box looks like.
The new paradigm is not so interested in boxes and their boundaries,
but rather in the center/heart/spirit/essence of things, and in
the relationships between them, and in the larger contexts and
dynamics in which they live and which their lives embody.
For example, the old paradigm sees humans as bodies and personalities
to be decorated, manipulated, defended or attacked. Its politics
specializes in such things. The new paradigm, from which our new
politics is evolving, sees us in terms of the personal creativity,
meaning, and identity which arise from within - in a dynamic,
mutually-defining dance with the world around us. The new paradigm
says that this heart-to-heart dance is who we really are, and
what the world is. Its politics, of course, embodies that
A politics rooted in such principles is transformative because
its focus on creative relationship (rather than on forms)
frees it from the dynamics of attack and defense and makes it
more naturally adaptable - freely responding to and participating
in change. Like protoplasm and spirit, this politics can create
and abandon forms, as necessary, while it, the creative force,
survives them all. That very fact, of course, is what makes it
Additionally, this new paradigm offers a way out of the the territorialism
that bedevils traditional political activism. Here's a scenario
familiar to activists:
The monthly meeting of Local Folks for Peace is in progress. A
woman has just suggested that they ought to address environmental
and economic issues. A man replies, "If we try to fix everything,
we'll succeed at nothing. We'll lose our focus. Let's stick to
peace, OK?!" An argument ensues - the woman insisting that
the environment and justice are related to peace, and the man
responding sarcastically that "so is everything else, so
why don't we just do everything at once!"
A young man, new to the group, stands up and says: "Wait
a minute. You're both right. And I think there's a way we can
address other issues without losing our identity. Why don't we
think of ourselves as peace-centered activists. Our central concern
is stopping wars, resolving conflicts and the other dimensions
of peacemaking. But we're all deeply sensitive people and peacemaking
shouldn't limit our concern. I think of peacemaking as my special
way of addressing any issue. And I view other issues as avenues
for advancing the cause of peace. For example, our military is
vulnerable as one of America's worst polluters. The Pentagon budget
could be used to build schools and houses and repair the environment.
Militarism is the blood brother of sexism and the enforcer of
"When we join, for example, with environmental- and justice-centered
activists to advocate using funds from the military budget for
meeting human and environmental needs, we are all working for
peace. They have not lost their focus; and we have not lost ours.
Not only are all these issues connected, but we can and should
use those connections to create peace - at the same contributing
our peacemaking perspective to those other causes. As far as I
can see, the whole problem doesn't have to be a problem at all."
We share with all peoples of the world the challenge of seeding
and cultivating a profoundly democratic, creative political culture.
Luckily, intelligently, we are in the midst of creating such a
politics, one that is actually a way of life. Even now we are
evolving politics out of the so-called "halls of power"
into our hearts, our homes, our communities and our vast, alive,
interconnected world. We just need to do more of it, more consciously,
with flexibility and a healthy respect for our own mistakes.
If you are interested in seeding communities of concern, dialogue
and cultural transformation - or if you know of more activities
like those described in this article - let me know.
1 "Totality" is a Czechoslovakian
term for the totalitarian culture which includes the above-described
mindset as well as authoritarian institutions and a set of assumptions
designed to replace individual experience and conscience. Vaclav
Havel, former dissident leader and president of the Czech Republic,
wrote extensively about totality in his essays, pointing out its
presence in the West, too: "Our task is to resist the anonymous,
impersonal and inhuman power of ideologies, systems, bureaucracy,
artificial languages - whether in the form of consumption, advertising,
repression, technology or cliché, all of which are the
blood brothers of fanaticism and the wellspring of totalitarian
thought." (Politics and Conscience)
2 Enablement and many other facets
of this article have economic and social implications. James Robertson
proposed in New Options (12/26/89) a multi-level global
economy, with each level designed "to enable its component
sub-economies to be more self-reliant and more conserving."
David C. Korten applies enablement to international development
in In Context #28.
3 The Achilles Heel of the politics
of enablement is many people's unwillingness to participate. They
want to have someone else envision, decide and manage things.
They don't want to be bothered. A large part of the problem is
that powerholders don't want people to participate, so the society
is designed to distract and channel people rather than to encourage
creative participation. This is already changing in the business
world. And there are many schools and communities that are working
on cooperative, participatory modes. These we can and should help,
in order to build a population ready and able to participate in
4 Discussions of power bring up class,
race, gender and other issues of oppression and privilege. While
it is true that the use of power (including violence) by oppressed
people has a certain greater legitimacy than the use of power
by oppressors, it is also true that the shadow side of power politics
degrades all involved regardless of who uses the power -- and
that both oppressor and oppressed are dehumanized by oppressive
systems. I see intrinsic value in all efforts to move beyond oppressive
systems and the use of "power-over."
5 Corporations are particularly
good for this. Since international trade is in such flux, companies
will try anything to give them an edge. Advanced band 3 and 4
organizational techniques have had a better reception in the business
world than among activists.
6 This is one facet of heart politics
- politics motivated by our sense of connection to people and
shaped by their thoughts, feelings and needs. See Heart Politics,
by Fran Peavey (New Society
Publishers, 1985). One of many forms of activism inspired by Fran
is The Listening Project (c/o RSVP, 1901 Hannah Branch Rd., Burnsville,
NC 28714) which sponsors door-to-door canvasses not for fundraising
or advocacy but to bring to life the concerns of the people of
a community by actively listening to them. Heart politics occupies
the border between Bands 3 and 4.
7 This need has often been frustrated,
warped or buried by our culture. See footnote 2.
8 On Dialogue, David Bohm, David
Bohm Seminars, PO Box 1452, Ojai, CA 93023, p. 11.
9 David Bohm in The Fifth Discipline:
The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, by Peter
M. Senge, Doubleday, 1990, p. 241. Also see "Transforming
the culture through dialogue," Utne Reader Mar/Apr
91, pp. 82-83; and On Dialogue, David Bohm Seminars, PO
Box 1452, Ojai, CA 93023.
10 This state is akin to the state
of "real community" described by M. Scott Peck in The
Different Drum, Simon and Schuster 1987. He describes a way
to achieve that state predictably, as well. The two methods appear