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Are We Still Children Playing In Pandora's Box?

Jan 9, 2008
From Chapter V:

Barbara: Hazel, in managing the decline of the industrial society, what do you see us managing ourselves toward?

Hazel: Basically toward what I'm calling the emerging countereconomy, which is, for example, these fifty million Americans who are already participating in some form of cooperative enterprise. All it is is a reconfiguration of the modes of production and distribution. It's just like ancient Rome, where all of the transportation lines got too extenuated.

It doesn't mean to say that people will no longer be provisioned, and that there will be no more innovation. All that will still go on. It's just that the palaces will crumble, and the overgrowth of centralized structures will devolve. What's so interesting is that the most irrelevant places in the world right now are Washington, London, Paris, New York, Canberra. The nation-state control level is being superceded on the global level, and pulled back to reality on the local level.

Jean: There are no great central places anymore!

Barbara: You could see it happening with Jimmy Carter, who looked very powerful until he got to Washington. And suddenly, it's almost as though the complexities are diminishing him. He looks less and less powerful as he settles into the White House. I call it the "principle of rising impotence." The higher you go, the more structured-in you become. You are forced to maintain the existing system rather than evolve it.

Hazel: Because you are climbing into a dead coral reef! The life has migrated out of it.

Jean: Carter's great claim to the presidency was that he did not know the coral reef, and that he would bring fresh life.

Barbara: But he's ended up appointing denizens of the old coral reef to his cabinet!

Hazel: There is such a basic contradiction there. And then there was the rationalization that, "Well, we'll have all the new voices in the undersecretaryships." I've been asked several times what role I would play. They wanted me to be a member of the transition group and all of that. I've been saying an emphatic no! I'm not going to climb onto the dead coral reef and tie my hands behind my back.

Basically, the question is: Can it slide down gracefully without hurting too many? But it isn't really a decline! The life is all going somewhere else; it's migrating.

Jean: You know, every era has its dominant forms. We're moving now from Homo-politicus and Homo-economicus to . . . where? Maybe it's back to Homo-religiosis in the root meaning -- "religio," meaning "to bind."

Barbara: Union; to bind back together.

Jean: Back together, and back into the cosmos.

Hazel: Again, it's this molecule-making image that had been forgotten when we got into the all-looking-at-the-dictator mode. Now we're finally going back to learning how to nucleate, to self-organize.

Jean: The power is moving to the countermodels.

Hazel: It certainly isn't Washington, which is inhabited largely by Neanderthals.

Jean: No, not even Neanderthals! If they were Neanderthals they would at least be sensitive, but they're not; they're pterodactyls! But smart pterodactyls!

Hazel: Oh yes, they're not dumb.

Jean: But are they really as bad as the impression I got from my experience down there?

Hazel: Well, maybe yours was pretty bad, but I think it's generally true.

Jean: Does that mean that to become a member of Congress is automatically to --

Hazel: Well, look at the experience you have to go through to become a member of Congress. You've got to lie; you've got to deny your inner nature; you've got to be infatuated with power.

Jean: The education of a brontosaurus!

Hazel: Richard Nixon was the manifestation of the process you have to go through in order to become president. The problem is that anyone with a reasonably evolved consciousness has to wonder if they can put themselves into a pterodactyl suit!


Hazel: The networking that's going on between social-change people right now . . . thank God the people in Washington don't know about it! There was a conference on networking in Canada recently that I was invited to, but I was very suspicious about it. It was a bunch of typical academic hucksters -- I thought, with my orientation -- and they were going to impale this phenomenon: networking! And they were going to map it, and they were going to give it form, and go to the National Science Foundation and get grants. The people who network were going to be guinea pigs; they were going to eavesdrop on the network. However, the beautiful thing about social-change networking is that they can't do that; all you have to do is regroup, change the name of the group, alter the telephone numbers, and go on as before. But they were going to intercept the chain of command, find out who the leaders are, find out the location where all of the subversive activity is going on . . . It's wonderful! They've got all the wrong images! Besides, there's really a subversive in every family: it's either the wife or the children. There is no chain of command; it's all autonomously self-actualizing human beings with the same image in their heads. It's self-organizing activity.

The metaphor that I think is important for the kind of culture that's emerging from this Logos is the metaphor of self-organization. We know that we're self-organizing systems. We know many instances of human culture that have been self-organizing, and that have had magnificently complex structures of behavior mediation and regulation, and that have been in perfect balance with their ecosystems. So we have all of those models of self-organization. All we don't know how to do -- and maybe we never will -- is to organize ourselves with this level of what Jean would call prosthetic types of technology. Not that we want to throw away the knowledge stock, or degrade it, but we do want to assert our own innate ability to self-organize, and to redress that imbalance.

One example of this is that we do want to restore the balance in regulating human behavior. If you have viable psychic structures of sanctions, regulations, and ways of mediating behavior, you don't need whips, guns, prisons, police forces, and all the rest of it.

(Reprinted with permission from the three co-authors, Hazel Henderson, Jean Houston and Barbara Marx Hubbard, to run excerpts from their book The Power of Yin).
About the Author
The Power of Yin by evolutionary economist Hazel Henderson; Human Potential Movement founder Jean Houston; and social innovator Barbara Marx Hubbard, is an empowering invitation to help evolve the human community. Visit The Power of Yin
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