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Page history last edited by Stella 11 years, 9 months ago

Towards a "WE" Paradigm

Or a real and deep integration / transcendence of the I, WE and THEM paradigm.



Article in progress - Stella Jan 2010

(connected to the PeopleCare article)


Permaculture is quite clearly a design science that was conceived and works best from a "We Paradigm", and various of the design tools exist in order to remind us to focus our designs in a framework of collective and global benefit (eg. Motivation of Design, the Directives, the very Vision of PermaCulture, etc.), not simply because this is more ethical but because, quite directly, from this perspective evolve much better designs (in all aspects, but especially those that concern their sustainability longer-term).


"Thinking globally and acting locally" is very important for any permaculture design (all should have this perspective, however small the local), but for this to hold, the thinking should be a very well informed understanding of how things work on a global level, and this is something which we are continuously discovering (and is our responsability keeping up to date: we are not going to design the future very well by using out-dated maps).


It is understandable (and quite predictable), that in a very individualistic era and civilization like ours (in the "developed north", which however is very busy expanding it's ways of thinking as 'progress' all over the globe), that permaculture is interpreted / sold as yet another product, fashion or technique to increase the comfort, wellbeing and surroundings of the individual (or family or tribe: am using 'collective' on a global scale because that is the stage of civilization being ushered in now) *


* see We are the World, below.


The more the theory and practice of permaculture is transmitted by people still rooted in the "Me Paradigm", the more this attitude and focus becomes ingrained, and the more the practice (and the quality of designs) diverges from the original purpose (and inherent capability) of this science.




We are the World

(see lyrics to the song, below)

We are entering a Globa or Planetary Phase of development or civilization, and is worth noting that infact many people (amongst them a significant number of permaculture designers) seem to be calling for (or confusing progress with) a kind of 'going back' to earlier models of complexity.      This is also, to some extent, happening within the Transition Movement,  even if this is actually a good example of a progression to a Second Tier type of PermaCulture.


Ken Wilber discusses this phenomenon at length, ably arguing  that it actually is not in anyone's interests that we encourage any sliding back of evolution to earlier types of civilization: romantic as it may sound, each comes with the very opressive limitations we have struggled to overcome, so any real progress will be onwards to integrating / incorporating all the benefits of each stage of civilization, but transcending these forms).    


The excellent PC principle of accelerating natural succession would be very useful to apply here, but it needs some good 'maps' of where the arrow of evolution might be pointing and how..


Wilber & Co. argue that the next step to a planetary civilization requires enough people maturing past a 'centauric mind' (ref.1, ref.2, ref.3), development of which is however held back by the conventions of our age (to which most permaculture designers also aspire to).


At this point in history, the most radical, pervasive, and earth-shaking transformation would occur simply if everybody truly evolved to a mature, rational, and responsible ego, capable of freely participating in the open exchange of mutual self-esteem...  Ken Wilber


Basically what Wilber (and others) confirm is a quite common-sense (=to be found in many people's intuition, at 'street-level') idea that moving on to a saner world will require some big maturity step for humanity.  


Only they go into a lot of detail about what that step consists of: ie. they map the natural succession. 

It would be interesting to apply our design knowledge (eg. of using the with-nature not against and accellerating natural succession principles) to these models.   Here I refer to the post-centauric steps as the "We Paradigm" (how it maps onto the simpler Covey model - see below).


The "We paradigm" is one where the spirtual truism "we are all One" is lived by on a daily basis, that is implicit in how we live our lives, in the work we do.   ((Note that this is VERY different from being a 'do-gooder', a much more common trait that on the surface can be confused with it - & that mostly stems from a condition generally recognized as co-dependency, rampant in the west))


Some people (and notably amongst them, many great permaculture pioneers in the 2/3 world, + a few in the west) seem to just work at the "We" level, without ever mentioning - or indeed even thinking perhaps - that they are being in any way particularly 'spiritual'.  


Their work is inspired, they think big, and they are often - interestingly - accused of arrogance / having 'big egoes' by people who don't know them well (and/or who have 'small ego' problems themselves, so can't understand them) when infact their motivations stem from the deepest (but very practical) compassion. 


All of that (inspiration, thinking big, planet-sized egos, deep compassion) gives them tremendous conviction and authority, which others (further down in the maturity development or succession) often deeply resent and almost invariaby mis-interpret (but always according to their own mental-framework, so the reactions are very useful for mapping where people are ready to move: if the issue is not avoided evolution can be un-blocked there).


Many these days seem to talk a lot about and work a lot at spirituality (with a myriad of 'spiritual practices', whose essence is basically to get to that "we are all One" by experience)**, yet act and think basically from an individualistic*** level most of the time, creating big life-contradictions that are difficult to climb out of, emotionally or practically - as well as confusing and low-quality designs, generally.


** (It might be worth mentioning that the 'regular practicing' of 'spiritual practice' very possibly encourages the opposite to the intention - ie. experiencing of "we are all One / I am the World", etc. - by re-enforcing  - on a daily basis - the deeper message / idea that this "One-ness" is a difficult experience to get to or maintain.  Maybe it actually isn't, when that expectation or perception isn't present - and our daily lives and work are actually coherent that general "we are One" direction)


*** Note that the co-dependent mentality is quintessentially individualistic: doing things out of a sense of guilt, to make myself 'feel better' / more comfortable, to give myself importance, a sense of purpose, to get approval, etc. .. is very far from acting within the We paradigm.


I am very aware that this all leaves a lot to be desired in terms of an elegant summary of the psychological landscapes we are navigating as a society, humanity or permaculture network: they are just sketchy observations designed to serve as provocative sign-posts for reflexion and hopefully dialogue, as monologue is an extreemly limited (and limiting) form of communication or learning.   


This is in itself better understood as an ongoing passionate dialogue with all the material presented in this wiki, amongst others, so there is incorporated a wish to avoid re-hashing the (brilliant) work of others whose work this builds upon - eg. below are some notes on the models of psychological natural successions by two pioneers who have themselves integrated and summarised many others: Wiber and Covey.


Note that I am also in no way suggesting that there are 'wrong' phases of being or wishing in any way to blame the victims of a system that is (very effectively it seems) set on halting or delaying natural successions, on an emotional level as well as on a physical level: eg. our agricultural system.  But I am suggesting that it is in all of our interests to get accurate maps of natural successions and see how we can design to accellerate ALL of them.


An integral approach acknowledges that all views have a degree of truth, but some views are more true than others, more evolved, more developed, more adequate.  And so let's get that part out of the way right now: homophobia in any form, as far as I can tell, stems from a lower level of human development — but it is a level, it exists, and one has to make room in one's awareness for those lower levels as well, just as one has to include third grade in any school curriculum.  Just don't, you know, put those people in charge of anything important.  Ken Wilber



The Four Quadrant /Holonic Evolution Model


According to Ken Wilber's 4Quadrants model (basic AUDIO here), much of what purports to be 'new paradigm' still  has an essentially entirely 'them'/objectifying focus and as such is entirely faithful to the essence (strength and weakness) of old industrial thinking (which we are applying in great part to the new 'Gaia' talk, effectively holding back evolution, he argues). 

It  recognizes that for the whole to evolve successfully there are important development (natural succession) steps in all 4 quadrants or dimensions - which are (being) skipped at our peril.



"Our capacity to see and change the world co-evolves with our capacity to see and change ourselves."

(Robert Quinn) 


Here are some practical strategies, techniques and models that possibly help us to integrate the current deficiencies typical of the posmodernist age (which have also reduced much of permaculture to a monodimensional science in these respects).







Some Natural Succession Maps

for emotional development


Stephen Covey, in his book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" essentially traces this 'natural succession' map of human maturity, very similar in shape and essence to the natural successions identified in many ecosystems

(tending toward maximum complexity, fertility and equilibrium).


As such, as with the permaculture principle, athough the natural tendency is always towards the climax phase, ignorance / working against of the nature of each or any phase can lead to delaying this succession (the bad news), just as understanding / working with the nature of each phase can lead to accellerating the natural succession (the good news).


Covey stresses the importance of tracing accurate maps (= that can be confirmed against individual and collective experience), so, regardless of the origins or histories of this model, it is essentially only useful as an experiencial, practical model.


This is what Wilber would call 'a map of the cartographer' (I quadrant) which can quite easily be seen to affect the other 3 quadrants (Behavioural, Social and Cultural).


The model literally talks in terms of 3 great paradigms that we emotionally evolve through, but where we can also become 'stuck' or regress to if we haven't internalized fully the habits of those stages.


1) The Dependence phase (infant) is characterized by paradigm of "You": you take care of me, you make me happy, you disappoint me, etc.   Dependent people need others to achieve what they want.   The interesting thing in terms of how this maps onto permacuture is that "Taking full responsability for our lives" (directive 1) is step 1 out of the dependency phase.


2) The Independence phase (adolescent) is characterized by the "I" paradigm: I can do it, I am responsible, I can decide, etc.  Independent people can achieve what they want through their own efforts. This maps onto permacuture in that "Cooperation" (directive 2) is step 2 out of the independance phase.


3) The Interdependance phase (adult) is characterized by the "We" paradigm: We can do it, we can cooperate, we can join our talents and abilities and create something larger together, etc.  Interdependent people cobine their efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest achievements.


Each paradigm incorporates but also transcends the previous one, literally creating a very different world-view and actual experience.  In reality most person can observe themselves slipping in and out of each of these 3 paradigms in different situations, but a mature 'Citizen' phase would correspond to a person who is decidedly 'locked' into the dinamic maintenance of the interdependence phase in all situations.  Something which is quite rare but also probably quite necessary in order to do truly effective permaculture: have integrated both directives 1 and 2 with living the Ethics (& / toward the Vision).



The Left (Interior) Quadrants

by Ken Wilber


these can only be known by RELATIONSHIP: they cannot be observed as 'surfaces' but engaged with: action-learning and relationship skills are essential, as well as correct 'placing' or relationship with the Right (Exterior) Quadrants sought.


Permaculture is a design science, based on observation, that integrates all human activities into a whole system based on natural patterning and ecology. In a word, Permaculture=Relationship.

Penny Livingston


It is interesting to observe that this idea of holons and of 'holistic' as an 'inner-outer' sinchronicity is very coherent with what we know is needed in order to make a good permaculture designer.


Although observation is emphasized as crucially important, it is meaningless without design (finding optimal relationships between all elements) and design is meaningless without action (putting in practice the design) + the following evaluation, observation, redisign and implementatioin which should follow, in a continuous and dynamic improvement / dynamic self-regulation of the design.


All design is clearly an interactive, relationship-based activity - from the relationship between elements to the relationships between the people and the designer as critical elements in the design, the relationships in time and with available resources and all energies entering and affecting the system - including all the types of elements: social, invisible, site and energy elements.


Wilber's 4 quadrant model is somewhat reminiscent of the 4 types of elements diagram which is supposed to remind us that a good design has to take all aspects into account.


The 'Abstract' and 'Social' quadrants (just like the 'Lower and Upper Left' quadrants of the Wilber model) are normally the 'forgotten' or most difficult to integrate parts (in this very concrete-literal, objectifying culture we live in).


And infact what often marks the difference between an excellent (truly sustainable) design from just a good or average one, in terms of permaculture.





Charter for Compassion


Talk by Karen Armstrong

on winning the TED prize - very good summary of the ideas behind the Charter and how all religions have incorporated the idea of aspiring towards the "We" paradigm as the ultimate in enlightenment.


The Charter:

A call to bring the world together…


The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.


It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.


We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.


We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.




A Course in Miracles


Adding this might at first seem like taking a walk on the wild side .. but in terms of pattern it's very interesting to note that this "We" theme repeats as crucially important on many (seemingly very) different levels.


The Course in Miracles (a kind of super-distilled modern version of western Christian wisdom) goes a little further in explaining the reason behind the necessity of compassion ..  and what it teaches, essentially, is that "there is no such thing as a 'them' ".


The Course consistently and repeatedly affirms that 'there is only one of us here' and that infact 'the original sin' is nothing but an error of perception that caused the illusion of separation.


The whole course is a re-education of the mind designed to drop - or evolve past - this illusion.

As such it is an experiencial (action-learning) course.  


It is often mistaken as a theology but by it's own axioms it can't be one:

"A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary.

It is this experience toward which the course is directed.

Here alone consistency becomes possible because here alone uncertainty ends."


So as well as the 'We' theme here we see repeated the idea that this is knowledge that can be reached only through personal lived experience (experimentation).  The same reoccurring theme offered by the other models.


Here is a link to an audio about "The Voice" that 'dictated' the course.





We are the World Lyrics

Song, 1985, see Wikipedia Reference


There comes a time

When we head a certain call

When the world must come together as one

There are people dying

And it's time to lend a hand to life

The greatest gift of all

We can't go on

Pretending day by day

That someone, somewhere will soon make a change

We are all a part of

God's great big family

And the truth, you know love is all we need


We are the world

We are the children

We are the ones who make a brighter day

So let's start giving

There's a choice we're making

We're saving our own lives

It's true we'll make a better day

Just you and me

Send them your heart

So they'll know that someone cares

And their lives will be stronger and free

As God has shown us by turning stone to bread

So we all must lend a helping hand


We are the world

We are the children

We are the ones who make a brighter day

So let's start giving

There's a choice we're making

We're saving our own lives

It's true we'll make a better day

Just you and me

When you're down and out

There seems no hope at all

But if you just believe

There's no way we can fall

Well, well, well, well, let us realize

That a change will only come

When we stand together as one


We are the world

We are the children

We are the ones who make a brighter day

So let's start giving

There's a choice we're making

We're saving our own lives

It's true we'll make a better day

Just you and me





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