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The Ethics of IOPS

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"The most fatal error that ever happened in the world was the separation of political and ethical science"
-- Percy Bysshe Shelley

I've been meaning to write this piece for some time and was in part spurred into doing it by something IOPS member Peter-Lach Newinsky wrote on the EARTH forums a while back:

"IOPS also has an ethics that motivates its core values and vision. That ethics (all ultimately 'spiritual' if you think about it) should be discussed and made more explicit, I reckon, because it's what motivates all of us in the end."

While there are quite a lot of specific commitments outlined on the mission and vision statements that new members check a box to say they agree with, like Peter I think that these more specific commitments ultimately derive from a more concise shared ethical foundation. If this ethical foundation were to be spelled out some more, it could perhaps broaden our appeal significantly without compromising on any of our commitments.

My own personal preference would be for IOPS to think of itself as a broadly (but not shallowly!) focused libertarian socialist "umbrella" type organisation, with the potential to welcome, appeal to and unite many diverse activist groups struggling to make an impact within such an atomised society as ours (as well as many more people not currently engaged in activism at all) under a shared ethical framework (such as is outlined here, though I hope other members will contribute their own suggestions). I worry that we have not so far been explicit enough here, and that perhaps non-members sharing our ethics will instead mistake us for yet another narrowly focused effort providing yet another set of inflexible solutions to social problems. You may disagree though, and that is fine - I am posting this in part to gauge the feelings of other IOPS members.

When new members first join IOPS they are asked to check a box saying that they agree to the IOPS organisational description. I think it is useful at this point to identify three broad tiers of IOPS organisational commitments:

1 - ethical values: what fundamental value principles is IOPS based upon?
 
2 - organisational principles: what "rules of thumb" then suggest themselves given the IOPS ethics?  

3 - institutions: what forms of organization could consistently incorporate these "rules of thumb"?

Our founding documents at the moment read as a sort of "laundry list" of jumbled ethical values and organisational principles (and one or two suggested "institutions" e.g. workers and consumers councils). They do not really identify which of many statements are more foundational than others and which ethical values lead to which organisational principles. There is not much said about institutions or alternative political/economic/cultural/kinship models in the founding documents - this is left more to discussions amongst the members. This last point is as it should be, I think, but the other points could do with addressing.

So now I'd like to try and sketch out what an ethical basis for IOPS could constitute and which of our founding statements I see as more foundational than others. Nothing said here is intended to be definitive and I hope people will have their own take on IOPS ethics and discuss this in the comments. But I'll take a stab at it anyway.

I said earlier that I see IOPS as a broad libertarian (or anti-authoritarian) organisation. What is meant by "freedom" though? John Stuart Mill in his famous essay On Liberty gave a definition I rather like:

"The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good, in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it."

I contend that if we really think it through, we can derive more or less the entire IOPS founding documents from the implications of the above statement by Mill. Let me give examples from each of the different IOPS "spheres":  

Economics:

Let's first take the example of IOPS' stance on property rights. Pro-capitalist "libertarians" confuse the issue (I think...) by identifying freedom as the freedom of a property owning elite to do whatever they wish with their property, regardless of its impacts upon the capacity of others to pursue their own good in their own way. They are ignoring Mill's very important caveat about the effects of their freedoms upon others. What about the IOPS position then? In our founding documents it is stated that:

"No individuals or groups own productive assets such as natural resources, factories, etc., so ownership doesn’t affect anyone’s decision making influence or share of income."

I suggest that the above is an example of an organisational principle which follows on from a more foundational ethical principle - the idea that as a proto- libertarian socialist movement we strive towards a society characterised by greater aggregate freedom (as Mill defines it). As Noam Chomsky has pointed out in his book Profit over People:

"There are no rights of property, only rights to property that is, rights of persons with property. Perhaps I have a right to my car, but my car has no rights. The right to property also differs from others in that one person's possession of property deprives another of that right: if I own my car, you do not; but in a just and free society, my freedom of speech would not limit yours."

The individual may require a certain amount of non-productive personal property in order to pursue their own good in their own way, but when private property rights are extended to ownership of "productive assets" this can deprive many others of these same rights. We (IOPS) want to avoid this, so our economics is socialist - we reject the private ownership of productive assets. People's self-actualisation is our aim, but beyond a certain base level this is not actually helped by material acquisition and may in fact be harmed by it, as Oscar Wilde has pointed out in The Soul of Man Under Socialism:

"For the recognition of private property has really harmed Individualism, and obscured it, by confusing a man with what he possesses. It has led Individualism entirely astray. It has made gain not growth its aim. So that man thought that the important thing was to have, and did not know that the important thing is to be. The true perfection of man lies not in what man has, but in what man is. Private property has crushed true Individualism, and set up an Individualism that is false. It has debarred one part of the community [the poor] from being individual by starving them. It has debarred the other part of the community [the rich] from being individual by putting them on the wrong road [materialism], and encumbering them.”

I'd also argue that our principle of economic justice, that "there is no payment according to property, bargaining power, or the value of personal output" but rather there is payment for effort and sacrifice at socially valued work, should be seen as an additional founding ethical principle. To the extent that we wish to emphasise it as a membership condition it is an important ethical difference between IOPS members and, say, market socialists.  

Politics:

Similarly our political organizational principle of self-management - to "convey to all citizens a self managing say in legislative decisions proportionate to effects on them" is seen to result from people's right to self-determination - "pursuing our own good in our own way", because the individual is an end in him or herself and not a means to another's ends - and the right to object when people "deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it" in proportion to the degree that this happens.

Likewise, an organisational principle like IOPS "seeks to incorporate seeds of the future in its present projects" (and our commitment to prefigurative politics in general) makes perfect sense for an organisation striving towards a free society, since as Bakunin (for example) argued, one does not expect to liberate a people by first enslaving them, since:

"All dictatorship has no objective other than self-perpetuation ... slavery is all it can generate and instill in the people who suffer it. Freedom can be created only by freedom"

Kinship:

You can more or less "derive" our feminist kinship principles from Mill's conception of individual freedom and self-determination - which of course should apply equally to women and men - as Mill himself went on to do, very radically for his time, with his essay The Subjugation of Women, which opens with the decleration that:

"The legal subordination of one sex to another — is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a system of perfect equality, admitting no power and privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other."

And, of course, one can substitute the word "sex" above for the word "race", "sexuality", "religion", etc.  

Culture/Community:

  As an example of the cultural life IOPS ethics might imply, take the following from our vision statement:

"IOPS seeks a new cultural and commuinity system that ensures that people can have multiple cultural and social identities, including providing the space and resources necessary for people to positively express their identities, while recognizing as well that which identity is most important to any particular person at any particular time will depend on that person’s situation and assessments."

Again, one could see that as an application of "pursuing our own good in our own way" to the notion of being enabled to pusue the development of diverse cultural spaces within our society. In today's capitalist world the demand for such "public goods" goes greatly under-supplied: markets merely minimise transaction costs for individual consumption, not collective consumption, and production for profit creates major biases towards both extensive waste (such as forms of "planned obsolescence" meaning essentially the same commodities are needlessly resold many times over, perhaps at great environmental cost) and harmful acts of psychological manipulation.

I would argue that there is nothing natural or inevitable about the domination of our public spaces by leering corporate billboards, or indeed the entire existence of a multi-billion dollar advertising "industry" which squanders the time and talents of many creative individuals upon acts of crass manipulation and deception. What if our public spaces weren't sold to the highest bidder? What message would you deliver to the world with your own billboard - would it be something more worthy than: Mcdonalds is better than Burger King; Pepsi is better than Coke; nobody will like/respect you if you don't buy commodity X; or anything similarly vile/ inane? What would a diverse public space created by its participants be like? What messages would it choose to share?  

Ecology:

Here I think we can identify an additional foundational ethical principle as the idea that "We do not inherit the planet from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children" and so we ought to explicitly take into account their right to a future life not to be fatally compromised by any unwise decisions we might make today (whilst you might argue that Mill's "others" could refer to unborn future generations this isn't by any means obvious and probably ought to be spelled out explicitly given what is at stake). This idea is referred to in the founding documents as the precautionary principle and Robin Hahnel has recently given a very nice, concise discussion of it in his latest book Of the People, By the People (and also in Green Economics) :

"WHEREAS the natural environment provides valuable services both as the source of resources and as sinks to process wastes,

WHEREAS the regenerative capacity of different components of the natural environment and ecosystems contained therein are limited,

WHEREAS ecosystems are complex, contain self-reinforcing feedback dynamics that can accelerate their decline, and often have thresholds that are difficult to pinpoint,

WHEREAS passing important environmental thresholds can be irreversible,

WE, the present generation, now understand that while striving to meet our economic needs fairly, democratically and efficiently, we must not impair the ability of future generations to meet their particular needs and continue to progress.

IN PARTICULAR, WE, the present generation, understand that inter-generational equity requires leaving future generations conditions at least as favourable as those we enjoy. These conditions include what have been commonly called produced,human and natural capital, ecosystem sink services and technical knowledge.

SINCE the degree to which different kinds of capital and sink services can or cannot be substituted for one another is uncertain, and SINCE some changes are irreversible, WE, the present generation, also understand that inter-generational equity requires us to apply the precautionary principle with regard to what is an adequate for some favourable part of overall conditions that we allow to deteriorate.

THEREFORE, the burden of proof must lie with those among us who argue that a natural resource or sink service that we permit to deteriorate on our watch, is fully and adequately substituted for by some other component of the inheritance we bequeath our heirs."

Internationalism:

Finally, the notion that "we do not inherit the planet from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children" also has particular relevance to international relations, given the ongoing and perhaps escalating danger of nuclear war. We are still to answer the question that Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell put to us in 1955:

"Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?"

Given that the United States (with the help of my country, I should add) has recently announced, via its invasion of Iraq, that without a credible nuclear deterrant you run the risk of being bombed back to the stone age, there is the very real danger of an escalating nuclear arms race in the Middle East and the above question being given the wrong answer. It isn't just me worrying about this either - the late Robert McNamara (who of all people had some insight into the dangers of nuclear war!) was worried too, writing back in 2005 that :

"If the United States continues its current nuclear stance, over time, substantial proliferation of nuclear weapons will almost surely follow. Some, or all, of such nations as Egypt, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Taiwan will very likely initiate nuclear weapons programs, increasing both the risk of use of the weapons and the diversion of weapons and fissile materials into the hands of rogue states or terrorists."

_________________________________________________

 

So all in all we have three foundational "ethical values": Mill's notion of individual freedom and our right to self-actualization, the idea of planetary stewardship embodied in the ecological "precautionary principle" (as well as some notion of international/inter-generational equity/solidarity) and our notion of economic justice as remuneration for effort and sacrifice, not property or output. I'd see everything else in our founding documents as basically elaborations upon those three founding ethical principles. Necessary elaborations - I don't mean to imply otherwise - I just think it's nice to develop a sense of where our full body of commitments are coming from and useful for when we are trying to briefly explain the core of IOPS to somebody new. If you disagree with me, think I missed something important, or have a different notion of the ethics underlying IOPS, go ahead and say so in the comments below! Hopefully you'll be able to go deeper than I have here.

I'd like to end by giving my more personal take on IOPS. What do I see as its ultimate aim? I'd say the point is to try and get closer to a world in which everyone is empowered develop their potentialities as human beings, where everyone is able to most fully realise their gifts, where each of is is able to become the best version of ourselves.

Taking this as the ultimate goal of an ideal society, I judge 21st century capitalism to be a fundamentally anti-human system, and would go as far as to call it an insult to human dignity. To me it seems that the extent to which we realise the best versions of ourselves is more in spite of this system than because of it. I refuse to believe that it is the pinnacle of humanity's socio-economic development, as commentators like Francis Fukuyama have (in)famously implied. My refusal to accept that "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds" is grounded in what Erich Fromm called faith in mankind:

"The faith in others has its culmination in the faith in mankind. In the western world this faith was expressed in religious term in the Judeo-Christian religion, and in secular language it has found its strongest expression in the progressive political and social ideas of the last 150 years. Like the faith in the child it is based on the idea that the potentialities of man are such that given the proper conditions they will be capable of building a social order governed by the principles of equality, justice and love. Man has not yet achieved the building of such an order, and therefore the conviction that he can requires faith. But like all rational faith this, too, is not wishful thinking but based upon the evidence of past achievements of the human race and on the inner experience of each individual, on his own experience of reason and love."

The present social order is governed more by inequality, injustice and hate (or at least, by fear and greed, as Robin Hahnel likes to say of capitalism). Building a society governed by equality, justice and love where we each and all become the best versions of ourselves will require a great deal of productive striving to actualise, and it is my hope that IOPS will give some significant help here, once it is made clearer that this is what it seeks to do.

Discussion 95 Comments

  • Lambert Meertens 4th Feb 2013

    I hope that we can do better than basing our ethics on this statement by Mills.

    In general I am not enamoured of utilitarianism, whether that of Mills or of other philosophers. Ethical aspects that I find essential – allowing emotional and social connections between people to flourish, fostering a sense of community, of shared destiny and shared responsibility, of care for each other – would seem not to be readily reducible to Mill's rather narrow view of liberty. In most cases, people who get into conflict with those in power for exercising one of the fundamental liberties, the freedom of speech, are not speaking up in pursuit of their own good, but to protest injustice to their fellow human beings. (I know that Mill strongly defended free speech as essential to progress, but I don't see "progress" as a value in itself, and I don't agree with defending free speech by reducing it to the pursuit of one's own interest.) It is not clear to me that Ayn Rand would have an issue with endorsing this specific statement by Mill, but her views on ethics are quite alien to what IOPS stands for.

    I agree with the general idea, though, that we develop a shared understanding of a common ethical basis for our vision and program.

    • David Jones 5th Feb 2013

      Hi Lambert, if you think we can do better that's great, 'cos a big part of the reason I wrote this was to try and get feedback from other members on developing a shared ethical framework. Is there some sort of statement or principle you would suggest instead of or in addition to Mill's?

      I think perhaps I should have included something about emapathy being a fundamental motivator of human actions - Mill's statement about freedom doesn't necessarily incorporate that.

      Mill's take on utilitarianism might though - if others are unhappy then given our empathy we will be too, and so we will go to great pains to develop a society "allowing emotional and social connections between people to flourish, fostering a sense of community, of shared destiny and shared responsibility, of care for each other". Here's a passage form his essay on Utilitarianism that suggests he had in mind that society as something emerging from adopting "the happiness morality":

      "Now, society between human beings, except in the relation of master and slave, is manifestly impossible on any other footing than that the interests of all are to be consulted. Society between equals can only exist on the understanding that the interests of all are to be regarded equally. And since in all states of civilisation, every person, except an absolute monarch, has equals, every one is obliged to live on these terms with somebody; and in every age some advance is made towards a state in which it will be impossible to live permanently on other terms with anybody. In this way people grow up unable to conceive as possible to them a state of total disregard of other people’s interests. They are under a necessity of conceiving themselves as at least abstaining from all the grosser injuries, and (if only for their own protection) living in a state of constant protest against them. They are also familiar with the fact of co-operating with others and proposing to themselves a collective, not an individual interest as the aim (at least for the time being) of their actions. So long as they are co-operating, their ends are identified with those of others; there is at least a temporary feeling that the interests of others are their own interests. Not only does all strengthening of social ties, and all healthy growth of society, give to each individual a stronger personal interest in practically consulting the welfare of others; it also leads him to identify his feelings more and more with their good, or at least with an even greater degree of practical consideration for it. He comes, as though instinctively, to be conscious of himself as a being who of course pays regard to others. The good of others becomes to him a thing naturally and necessarily to be attended to, like any of the physical conditions of our existence. Now, whatever amount of this feeling a person has, he is urged by the strongest motives both of interest and of sympathy to demonstrate it, and to the utmost of his power encourage it in others; and even if he has none of it himself, he is as greatly interested as any one else that others should have it. Consequently the smallest germs of the feeling are laid hold of and nourished by the contagion of sympathy and the influences of education; and a complete web of corroborative association is woven round it, by the powerful agency of the external sanctions.

      "This mode of conceiving ourselves and human life, as civilisation goes on, is felt to be more and more natural. Every step in political improvement renders it more so, by removing the sources of opposition of interest, and levelling those inequalities of legal privilege between individuals or classes, owing to which there are large portions of mankind whose happiness it is still practicable to disregard. In an improving state of the human mind, the influences are constantly on the increase, which tend to generate in each individual a feeling of unity with all the rest; which, if perfect, would make him never think of, or desire, any beneficial condition for himself, in the benefits of which they are not included. If we now suppose this feeling of unity to be taught as a religion, and the whole force of education, of institutions, and of opinion, directed, as it once was in the case of religion, to make every person grow up from infancy surrounded on all sides both by the profession and the practice of it, I think that no one, who can realise this conception, will feel any misgiving about the sufficiency of the ultimate sanction for the Happiness morality."

      I'm not really arguing for utilitarianism one way or the other, just trying to give some sense of what Mill was trying to do with it - i.e the hope was its adoption as a moral principle could lead to a society characterised by greater equity, diversity, solidarity and self-management, like IOPS desires.

      Alternative suggestions for IOPS ethics welcome :-)

    • David Jones 5th Feb 2013

      Something shorter! Also shows what Mill had in mind:

      "To do as one would be done by, and to love one's neighbour as oneself, constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality."

      But perhaps it misses something important?

    • 5th Feb 2013

      (im not sure if my messages are going through so im reaching out to you this way, sorry for the possible inconvenience)

      I thought your latest blog on foundational ethics to be SUPERB!

      That many people, most people, will be interested in an organization with the core principles you have assembled is the secret that those in power do not want us to know. they want us to believe we are all separate, and have nothing in common. quite the opposite!

      I am interested in what you think of this statement:
      http://www.newdemocracyworld.org/This%20I%20Believe.pdf

      We in People for Democratic Revolution have gotten roughly 75% of the people who have read it to sign their name in support of it. About 500 signatures. Just regular, totally working class people on the streets of Boston and surrounding towns. Standing with a smile and a 2ft by 3ft poster board printed at a copy center. the intent was to make a statement that people could 'rally' around, so by the types of people and the numbers of people we could show everyone who it is that is interested in a truly egalitarian society (most people).

      Like music to my ears, your article. I will be sending it far and wide. Thank you so much for your thoughtful insights and approach. Forgive me if I am sending you this link twice, I think you will really enjoy this, as it builds on what you have laid out here and with the same method (I believe):
      http://www.newdemocracyworld.org/revolution/Thinking.pdf

      PEACE to you and all! Thank you,
      -Abe

    • David Jones 5th Feb 2013

      Thank you for the kind words :-)

      " they want us to believe we are all separate, and have nothing in common. quite the opposite!"

      Yes, exactly. That is why I playfully used the tower of Babel as the picture for this blog - if we can find a common language to speak (what Thich Nhat Hanh, mentioned below, calls "a global ethic") I believe we can work together to build something really great.

      I gave your petition a look. I like the idea of standing on the street with it, getting people to realise that we mostly agree on what is important. Like you say, conventional politics encourages us to obsess over unimportant differences, whilst leaving all the important areas of agreement off the negotiating table. The words "revolution" and the maxim "from each... to each" may scare some people off, due to associations with the Soviet Union (which is a particular problem in the US I think...) - though linking the latter back to the Bible is a neat trick!

      I'll try to take a look at the longer pdf you linked too...

    • 5th Feb 2013

      Hello David,

      Specifically, the reference to the Bible is about placing the phrase before Marx, to show that it is indeed an idea on it's own.

      Thanks for the conversation, I really enjoy it and feel progress is being made towards real changes to society (no joke, I really do!)

      I think you will really enjoy Thinking About Revolution.

      Be well, -Abe

    • 5th Feb 2013

      It is about the idea of self, then. If Mill's idea of self can encompass the idea that there is in fact no individual self, that we are all connected in a feedback system of immense (infinite maybe) complexity, then Ayn Rand would probably disagree with Mill. what do you think?

      As for this article's ideas, fantastic!
      I and others in People for Democratic Revolution have been collecting signatures of support for a statement of 'core' beliefs. So, far, of regular working class people on the streets of Boston and surrounding towns, we have gotten almost 500 signatures. Of the people who stop to read our sign-board with the statement, roughly 75% have signed it. to understand the significance of this, check out the statement:
      http://www.newdemocracyworld.org/This%20I%20Believe.pdf

      -Peace, Abe

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 4th Feb 2013

    Many thanks for this thought-provoking blog, David, much appreciated. Will come back when I have more time. Too much happening at the moment.

  • LedSuit ' 5th Feb 2013

    Onya David. Enjoyed reading it. Good to read these kind of summations. Helps me order the jumbled mess floating around my mind. I think the real goal is to win a world where we can become the best version of ourselves. I kind of see it as being able to wake up with a smile on one's face and being able to explore whatever creative possibilities take our fancy. It's winning a world that gives us back TIME that has been taken from us. Time's the real price of things. Time to do all those things we are unable now, some of which Lambert points out.

    I'm not worried about the Mills quote. Just a snippet that doesn't really give his utilitarianism away. I've had a quote of John Cages floating around my wallet for some 25 years and I haven't listened to any of his music or really no much about him at all other than that he don't like improvised music that much. Dickhead. I probably have heard 4' 33". Numerous times!!

    I further doubt that Ayn Rand would have given a rats arse about anyone else's pursuit of freedom. Don't think she would have had any qualms about stepping on a few toes or necks to attain her own! Haven't read much about her other than a few snippets here and there.

    Really like the Fromm. Gotta read me some of that.

    Hey Peter, can I replace the word 'spiritual' with 'natural'? :) Shunryu Suzuki used to use the phrase 'natural way'. Kinda like it better.

    Can't resist. Did anyone get Tarantino's australian accent in Django. Took me by surprise. Borrowed it from John Jarratt I reckon. Hilarious. Sorry David, I digress too far! :)

    • LedSuit ' 5th Feb 2013

      David. I know you are familiar with Mills. Wasn't implying you weren't. I'm the one who is not familiar with Mills.

    • David Jones 5th Feb 2013

      Yeah... I think TIME gets to the core of it. So many people, spending so much time doing things they don't at all believe in. An increasingly regimented existence of meetings, schedules, alarm clocks. The sense of guilt/unease one feels for simply existing, being "lazy", not continually busying oneself with something. The sense that our lives are being stolen from us to shore up a system we increasingly despise. Peak oppression. Peak alienation. Time to take our time back!

  • Kuan Phillips 5th Feb 2013

    Excellent article David. Keep up the good work.

  • 5th Feb 2013

    I will read your article and follow comments.

  • Marlo Pedroso 5th Feb 2013

    I appreciate you raising the issues of ethics, David. I agree that it's a very worthwhile pursuit and I think that Mill's has good and useful things to say on the subject.

    One concern is with libertarianism and the liberal Enlightenment's focus on individual rights. Obviously it has brought us great things. End of de facto slavery, women's and queer's rights, broader stabs at democracy, and many more. Part of that was, as Ken Wilbur talks about, due to the differentiation of science, ethics (religion, etc), and art (or in Plato's terms: Good, truth, and beauty).

    However, I believe we have gone too far with the ethics of individualism, to the point that we have lost touch with the ethics of solidarity, collectivism, and mutual aid. I think this is especially true in places like the US and UK, where individualism is rampant.

    This lends towards comments like James' (and I don't mean this to disagree entirely)ideal society being a place where: "[One can] wake up with a smile on one's face and being able to explore whatever creative possibilities take our fancy." Of course that should be part of an ideal society. But it doesn't necessarily speak to our interdependence and connection to each other. What about "wake up and help grow food, support the elders and children who rely on us, participate in making political decisions" and other matters that will be necessary to function.

    My heart/mind tells me that we aren't just alienated from our creative potential, but also from deeply connecting and collaborating with each other. This occurs in large part via the competitive, individualist way capitalism distorts human relationships. To move beyond that we need to develop an ethics that values individual difference and solidarity equally, with an emphasis on the later, since (I believe) it's what we lack the most in our contemporary culture.

    • David Jones 5th Feb 2013

      Thanks for the comment Marlo. I agree, especially with your last paragraph, and I think you and Lambert have identified something important missing from what I originally wrote. You reminded me of something Thich Nhat Hanh wrote (from the perspective of Buddhist ethics) in his book The World We Have : A Buddhist Approach To Peace And Ecology :

      "In modern life people think their bodies belong to them and they can do what they want to themselves. "We have the right to live our lives", they say. The law supports such a deceleration; that is one of the manifestations of individualism. But according to the teachings of the Buddha, your body is not yours. Your body belongs to your ancestors, your parents, and future generations. It also belongs to society and to the other living beings. All of them have come together – the trees, the clouds, the soil, everything – to bring about the presence of this body. Our bodies are like the Earth. And there is the Bodhisattva Earth Holder, holding everything together."

    • 5th Feb 2013

      True!

      The real attainment of what the individual wants requires collaboration with others, the whole society. If one is oppressed, then none are free. No man is an island.

      I believe that people are aware of this, to differing degrees, and to differing degrees of belief that we can all 'be free.'

      The values and ethics we need to develop are those that you stated. I believe that these values, are, for the most part, what people base their lives and actions on. There is such an intense effort, in every aspect of society, to attack our instincts to be communal. There are many undeniably intelligent and sophisticated ways that the ruling class attempt to divide us and kill our hopes for a better world.

      It is my belief that the values of most ordinary people (not the ruling class) are good values that need the support of a revolutionary organization to in order to bring their influence to every aspect of human life. Giving voice to and and supporting the positive values that people already have is the task of revolutionaries as I see it.

      Part of this effort was our (People for Democratic Revolution) crafting the statement "This I Believe", linked here:
      http://www.newdemocracyworld.org/This%20I%20Believe.pdf

      Of the regular working class people on the street corners of Boston and surrounding towns, roughly 75% of those who stopped to read it, signed it. We now have about 500 signatures, and are inspiring a lot of hope that 'you are not alone' in wanting a better world. Quite the opposite. We believe that this 3 to 1 ratio will continue as more people get a chance to read it. (Any ideas about how to get it around widely, let me know)

      Great to exchange ideas with you and everyone, and look forward to meeting you at the Lucy Parsons Book Center on Friday!
      -Abe

    • LedSuit ' 5th Feb 2013


      Hi Marlo,

      My idea of waking with a smile on ones face and pursuing creative possibilities is predicated on one living in a society that also possesses the qualities you suggest. The smile would be there because the society is such that it promotes it.

      I think what David alludes to below in the Thich Nhat Hanh quote isn't spiritual at all. It's natural. A natural way that most would hold true. Like the values that underpin Parecon for instance. Even Buddhism gave way from attaining individual enlightenment (Hinayana) to the concept of the Boddhisattva (Mahayana). I don't think that was a stroke of genius, or finally attending some deeper aspect of ourselves that we left unattended, but merely natural.

      The individualism of our society has far more to do with the processes of the nature of capitalism and markets, notions of competition, and all the other crap, too much to mention, rather than philosophical reflections on what freedom or liberty is. Most of the people who did reflect on these things were of the elite while the poor and downtrodden, not to mention all those living in far away and diverse cultures knew nothing of them, least of all because they couldn't read. It is no wonder why most socialist ideas for change are based on collectivism of some sort.

      So sometimes (I say sometimes) I don't take much from the GREAT philosophers, particularly in the west, because while they discussed things that were interesting and introduced many cool ideas, the underlying oppression, repression, patriarchal nature, and basic bullshit of society, ruled by the powerful and wealthy didn't change much. Hasn't changed much while recognising the battles and small advances that have been one along the way. That just came from the bloody hard work of nobodies, workers, pissed off women, and the like. Activists basically, saying we're not going to take it no more.

      This is why the Mill quote is just that. An isolated snippet used in order to develop or organise some thoughts. The rest of Mill's ideas or thinkers like him isn't implied in that short snippet. Just like quoting the odd Buddhist master doesn't carry with it the full implications of what is required to attain a state of equanimity and compassion, where with every sixtieth of a finger snap the right action, right speech, right thought is manifested. That apparently takes kalpas. Attaining enlightenment in one lifetime is an illusion.

      So basically I agree with you Marlo. My smile on one's face line and pursuing creative possibilities is really just a cute quip. Not a reflection of the individualism rampant in the developed world.

      I think what is important about what David has written isn't whether he has left something out, or if the quotes need elaborating, but that it is an attempt to bundle up what can sometimes be just a bunch of disconnected thoughts that are hard to collate and piece together in a concise way when confronted or asked. That can be extremely helpful for those of us that find that hard to do. Things like David's blog post are the type of things I print off and carry around with me so I can refer to them when I just can't get my own thoughts together.

      I also don't think what David wrote above is about Mill and what he wrote. It's more about David and how he feels.



    • LedSuit ' 5th Feb 2013

      By the by,what I wrote above isn't just for Marlo. It just started off that way. And I realize Marlo, you didn't entirely disagree and were making a good point. My comments above are meant in same spirit (nature?):).

    • David Jones 5th Feb 2013

      Thanks James, I think that's a helpful way of looking at it, and I'm chuffed you've found what I've written here helpful. So, it's not up to me to formulate The One True Ethics then? Phew, that's a relief ;-)

  • Marlo Pedroso 5th Feb 2013

    I love that quote and it's exactly what I mean. I think Buddhist ethicists have a tremendous amount of helpful things to say on this subject.

    I've recently read Hanh's 'Interbeing', where he discusses the 14 Hiep Tien precepts, which were developed during wartime, in his commitment to engaged Buddhism. I find them very compelling. Here's the list of the precepts: http://www.tonglen.oceandrop.org/Thich_Nhat_Hahn_14_Precepts.htm

    Also, Dalai Lama has written some great books on this subject including his book, 'Ethics for the New Millennium'.

    Lastly, I found this talk by Jodi Dean to be especially illuminating as to the limits of modern anarchism and liberal individualism in mounting a counter-force to capitalism.
    http://vimeo.com/27327373

    • David Jones 5th Feb 2013

      Thanks a lot for the links Marlo, I'll give them a look and get back to you :-)

    • David Jones 5th Feb 2013

      Okay, I'm back!

      I gave Hanh's precepts a read and liked them. I also gave Jodi Dean's talk a watch and was somewhat less keen. The electoral system and raising chickens (!) aren't strategies to change the current socio-economic system... okay, agreed. But I think she is then a little lazy in equating rejection of "the state"/"central planning" with "let's just do it ourselves in our local community", as if those are the only choices. She seems to buy into the "central planning or markets?" dichotomy, which I think is false (e.g. see parecon's proposals for "participatory planning"). I also found her prescriptions to be very vague - I'm not really left with much sense of how the post-revolutionary society she envisions would operate. I think "from each...to each" needs elaboration, for example.

      After that there were a few too many "red flags" for me, eg. at ~19:30:

      "Dictatorship of the proletariat, for Lenin, simply means
      the orgainisation of the state on behalf of and for the sake of the workers"

      of course it's always "on behalf of and for the sake of the workers" - but what about in practice? As in, for example, The Democratic People's Republic of Korea. As Bakunin put it (in Statism and Anarchy):

      "When the people are being beaten with a stick, they are not much happier if it is called "the People's Stick."

      Or this at ~45mins:

      "LuKacs thinks about the Leninist Party not in terms of some dogmatic, hierarchical scary organisation; but in fact a kind of responsive, not fully knowing, disciplined, adaptive organisation"

      Well, I must say, it scares me more than a little if some of the old Leninist "revolutionary vanguard" analysis is regaining traction as capitalism flounders. What do you make of this vid? (Chomsky discussing Lenin):

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nz11K1wUbrc .

      As someone who is a huge fan of Orwell's 1984 I also found her suggestion of the name The Party (with a capital "P") unintentionally amusing. To be brutally honest, I think some of the ideas/rhetoric she brings up are best left in the dustbin of history. I'm not suggesting Jodi would become an opportunistic dictator or anything... just suggesting that others mights hijack a movement embracing the strategies she suggests. I would give such movements a wide berth, personally...

    • David Jones 5th Feb 2013

      Hah, I wrote "red flags" above: as in alerting one to a danger, forgetting that it is also the symbol for socialist revolution! The irony passed me by at the time ;-)

    • Marlo Pedroso 5th Feb 2013

      David,

      Lot's here. And I'm glad Dean's talk raised some "red flags" (ha!). Also grateful to have thoughtful discussions.

      I actually plan on writing a fuller response to Dean's talk elsewhere. I must say, however, that I think there are a lot of good things in her talk, and you should not be so quick to dismiss her helpful points due to some disagreements (save the baby!). ;)

      I too have historically considered myself an anarcho-syndicalist, but these days I'm loosening up on labels and just going with human being who is ever growing and learning. It's like the 1st and 2nd precept.

      I'll post a link to my thoughts on Dean's talk.

      Last of all, I love your generous definition of "individualism" and Adam's generally optimism, esp regarding what "values" 3/4 of the population have. I agree that by your definition individualism is a positive development. But I still hold by my more pessimistic notion that this is not the way individualism is being defined and actualized in contemporary society.

      Still I think the greater challenge for our movement will be to set aside ego, pride, and hubris, and work together humbly, collaboratively, and with the larger interests of our communities and movement in mind. Even for a Lefty like me it's frustrating and hard to work in groups. There are so many power and control issues, so many cooks in the kitchen, so many people trying to prove their point, just to prove their point, so much ego. I feel like even the words humility and compromise make many Left libertarians cringe.

      But if you've have any experience raising kids in a family or living in community, you quickly realize that more often than not you don't get what you want, you have to give up you individual desires and sacrifice, and you have to be able to live with that for the harmony and well-being of the group. Will us meat and potatoes Americans and Brits ever come to accept that? Can we have a large, functioning, self-disciplined social movement if we don't (AKA a "Party" in Dean's terminology)? I doubt it.

      Okay, I'm tired. Long day of work. Off to watch Freaks and Geeks.

      Good night mates!

    • David Jones 6th Feb 2013

      "save the baby!"

      You're right of course, and I didn't mean to be overly critical. I found the forms of "modern anarchism and liberal individualism" Dean identified as rather caricatured/stereotyped, but then again, most stereotypes exist for a reason! I appreciated her talk as throwing down a gauntlet for "anarchists" everywhere: how are you going to coordinate the necessary large scale cooperation without degenerating into bureaucratic centralism?

      I think IOPS has some good ideas on how to answer this question. See for example this (long!) thread:

      http://www.iopsociety.org/forum/polity/how-make-decisions .

      "Even for a Lefty like me it's frustrating and hard to work in groups. There are so many power and control issues, so many cooks in the kitchen, so many people trying to prove their point, just to prove their point, so much ego. I feel like even the words humility and compromise make many Left libertarians cringe."

      I think that this is *important* and that IOPS could have used more humility and less ego at times (disclaimer: just my subjective opinion about some of what has occurred on this website thus far...) This society gets us into bad habits...

    • David Jones 5th Feb 2013

      One final thought, on "individualism". I do agree with your sentiment that in some sense individualism has "gone too far". But in another important sense, I think this isn't exactly the case. If "individualism" means the self-actualization of the individual - what I called becoming the best version of ourselves - then I don't think we can call this an age of individualism. Instead, we see individual development everywhere being subverted to institutional dictates (of governments, corporations,...)

      I also think it is very important (and I don't mean to imply you have suggested otherwise) to reserve a sphere of life for the sovereign individual. J.S. Mill (again! sorry!) has written a couple of expressions of this I found important. The first is from his Principles of Political Economy:

      "Whatever theory we adopt respecting the foundation of the social union, and under whatever political institutions we live, there is a circle around every individual human being which no government, be it that of one, of a few, or of the many, ought to be permitted to overstep: there is a part of the life of every person who has come to years of discretion, within which the individuality of that person ought to reign uncontrolled either by any other individual or by the public collectively. That there is, or ought to be, some space in human existence thus entrenched around, and sacred from authoritative intrusion, no one who professes the smallest regard to human freedom or dignity will call in question: the point to be determined is, where the limit should be placed; how large a province of human life this reserved territory should include.

      "I apprehend that it ought to include all that part which concerns only the life, whether inward or outward, of the individual, and does not affect the interests of others, or affects them only through the moral influence of example. With respect to the domain of the inward consciousness, the thoughts and feelings, and as much of external conduct as is personal only, involving no consequences, none at least of a painful or injurious kind, to other people: I hold that it is allowable in all, and in the more thoughtful and cultivated often a duty, to assert and promulgate, with all the force they are capable of, their opinion of what is good or bad, admirable or contemptible, but not to compel others to conform to that opinion; whether the force used is that of extra-legal coercion, or exerts itself by means of the law."

      The second expression is a fear I share with him about what may happen to individual identity when a communal ethic is allowed to get out of hand:

      "The question is, whether there would be asylum for individuality of character; whether public opinion would not be a tyrannical yoke; whether the absolute dependance of each on all, and surveillance of each by all, would not grind all down into a tame uniformity of thoughts, feelings and actions."

      My politics are (libertarian) socialist, but I'm personally quite an introverted soul who values a certain degree of autonomy. Like you said above "we need to develop an ethics that values individual difference and solidarity equally".

      As some of us here like to say: Solidiversity!

  • Zane Hannan 5th Feb 2013

    Great post, David! Love it.
    Will write more when I have time.
    Solidiversity!

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 5th Feb 2013

    Great dialogue happening here. Muchas gracias companeros. Some random thoughts, my quick two bits worth.

    Critique and outrage and utopian vision presuppose values (good/bad, right/wrong). The trad Left, especially in Marxist trad of 'scientific socialism', however, ignored this as 'empty moralising'. Big mistake, leaving 'values' to the right. IOPS could be aware of this and make anti-authoritarian, libertarian, socialist values more prominent. They appeal to many.

    Values/ethics/conscience are a product both of socialisation/culture AND inherent/natural. From primates onwards there seems to be a sense of 'fairness'. Human 'conscience' is not just a socialised 'super-ego' but the expression of 'original/true/higher/Buddha self'. (Call this 'natural' or 'divine spark' or 'spiritual', James, much of a muchness when 'spiritual' is deeper than New Age crystals and patchouli bullshit; there is a radical mystic tradition of extreme importance that is beyond all spiritualist wankery).

    On individualism: perhaps, in the west at least, the more deeply we individuate, the more collectivity we find. Are we perhaps becoming 'universal/collective individuals' or 'individuated collecttivists' (as early Marx foresaw BTW)even as we are momentarily stuck in individualist narcissism and isolated consumerism?

    (Being called to lunch, maybe more later).

    • LedSuit ' 6th Feb 2013

      Too true Peter. Much of a muchness really and I can take it or leave it, but sometimes the word does introduce fog for me rather than clarity. Much like post-modernism.

      But leaving that aside, regarding collective individuals or individuated collectivists you may have a point. In terms of the radical mystic tradition it is likely that you can't have one without the other. Interdependence. Two sides of the coin. Like wisdom and compassion. Light and warmth. But because they both cannot exist without each other they are not of independent existence and so therefore empty. Dependent origination. BAM. The sound of one hand clapping. It all just falls away. But the trick is you can't just do it. You have to practice. The long hard road to the little red cushion. IOPS in interim. The cushion could be the convention. We finally get to the starting line. Then comes the hard work. The practice. Don't get distracted. I mean, we have 'a' "spiritual path" that Suzuki Roshi called the natural way. What is it. The four noble truths. The truth of suffering. The truth of the path that leads to suffering. The truth of the cessation of suffering and the truth of the path that leads to the cessation of suffering. NOW I know what "spiritual" means. There is a path and things to do. I would suggest that IOPS is doing the same thing. We recognize suffering in the world and we recognize that there is a path or paths that could lead to the end of it (well hopefully most of the horrific stuff and most in general). The difference is that IOPS is accentuating our collective nature. The need to come together on the path. Help one another to forge a better future free from the suffering we see today. The Buddhist path works ion the self to realize the non-self so that one can then help others attain the same state. Their true nature. One becomes a Bodhisattva. One doesn't try to remove all the thorns that have taken over the Earth and cause so much suffering, one realizes the non-self and the illusion of such things, their emptiness, so one is free to help others along the path, Like putting on some leather shoes so one can walk across all the thorns and then showing others how to make their own. But it would be nice to remove the thorns. To me that is what activist groups do. IOPS, anti-capitalists, environmentalists, libertarian Socialists, anarchists, socialists etc. All trying to help remove the thorns and give our children (too late for me) back the TIME that has been stolen so they can smile and pursue creative possibilities.

      The individualist narcissism and isolated consumerism is grasping at a major level. The capitalist leviathan has created a monster of such proportions that we ARE stuck. The need to scale back, to simplify is to realize the impermanence of all the shit. Shit on a stick. That's enlightenment. The naked lunch. To realize what you're are really eating and to see it for what it really is. A fleeting temptress. A dream. An illusion and not the least bit good for ya. Basically bullshit. I'm not sure if Harry Frankfurt would agree, but who gives a shit.

      Just trying to get to the nuts and bolts of the path most of us here seem to be on. To aid in alleviating suffering. Or as much as possible for future generations. Our children. To create a space for them to grow into not compete for. That includes both sides of the coin. For each to be able to pursue there own path of creative possibilities(diversity) while collectively building a future that can promote and sustain that (solidarity). So the path needs a sound foundation (ethics) and strong organisational tools and structure for all the necessary hard work. The practice. The path.

      But it truly is a long hard road to the little red cushion.

    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 6th Feb 2013

      James, amigo, 'too true', too bloody true. I reckon this is one of those rare print-off texts, a merging of IOPS with notions of an engaged Buddhism that is inspiring. Maybe Marlo, you and I can found the IOPS covert revolutionary Zen faction. (I've got a black cushion myself and haven't used it for ages. Too friggin lazy. Maybe I should try a red cushion, or cover half of mine in red and make it anarcho-syndicalist. Anyway your text could be our Mission Statement). So, good bloody on ya.

      Yep, 'all trying to help remove the thorns...', sincere leftists often Bodhisattvas without knowing it, unknowingly more 'enlightened' (whatever that means) than the withdrawn hermit looking at his/her navel and pretending to be of 'higher consciousness' and 'spiritually developed' and all the rest of the bullshit.

      Just en passant, once tried to something vaguely similar for radical theory, using the Four Noble Truths, for what it's worth:



      http://peterlachnewinsky.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/the-four-noble-truths-of-spiritual-social-ecology/

    • David Jones 7th Feb 2013

      Peter, I read your blog above, just wondered if could unpack this paragraph a bit:

      "This paradox also relates to all scientific endeavours and their tacitly assumed splits between observer and observed. Scientists never seem to understand they are the cosmos they are peering at through their telescopes. Their complex mathematical theories and models of the universe are models of their own minds. The universe is the mind in its explicated aspect. The mind is the universe in its implicated aspect. Like scientists we are all a little like cats chasing our own tails pretending the tails are separate from us, that natural laws, mysterious dark energy, black holes, liberation, ‘God’ are somehow ‘out there’."

      As one of those evil "reductionist" scientists I'm always curious about how people see us (and how we see ourselves). There are different ways I try to come at this. I think those who practice "reductionism" deeply enough understand its limitations. For example, Richard Feynman uses the analogy of chess, says that there is a hell of a difference between knowing the rules and being a grandmaster, and that there are plenty of worthy things not amenable to the scientific method e.g.

      "We must, incidentally, make it clear from the beginning that if a thing is not a science it is not necessarily bad. For example, love is not a science. So if something is said not to be a science that does not mean that there is something wrong with it, it just means that it is not a science."

      Is your beef here with people who seek to apply the scientific method to every area of life an/or think it is the only/best method for everyone/thing?

      Re scientists peering through their telescopes, Carl Sagan says "we are a way for the Cosmos to know itself", which I like. I'm not sure what you mean by "Their complex mathematical theories and models of the universe are models of their own minds." Could you elaborate? I'm inclined towards the view Wittgenstein outlines in the Tractatus - that human language and scientific theory constitute a kind of one-to-one mapping between symbols/logic in our minds and objects/relationships in the "real world". In that sense, perhaps the world is both "outside" and "inside" at the same time?

    • David Jones 7th Feb 2013

      like our mind is a pair of parallel mirrors, reflecting the Cosmos back to itself infinitely...

    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 8th Feb 2013

      David, many thanks for taking the time to read the blog. Don't think I want to hog any more space here and distract further from the ethics topic. The stuff above relates more to epistemology, subject/object, self/world. The Sagan quote and your last line echoes what I was saying in the paragraph you quoted. Maybe I'll write more about this epistemological/mystical (non-dual) stuff to you personally rather than here. In the meantime, here's a little poem by Alan Watts:

      Birdle Burble

      I went out of my mind and then came to my senses
      By meeting a magpie who mixed up his tenses,
      Who muddled distinctions of nouns and of verbs,
      And insisted that logic is bad for the birds.
      With a poo-wee cluck and a chit, chit-chit;
      The grammar and meaning don't matter a bit.

      The stars in their courses have no destination;
      The train of events will arrive at no station;
      The inmost and ultimate Self of us all
      Is dancing on nothing and having a ball.
      So with chat for chit and tat for tit,
      This will be that, and that will be It!

    • David Jones 10th Feb 2013

      Okay. Perhaps there should be a "Zen and radical (no bullshit) mysticism" spin-off thread some time?! You mentioned further up "a radical mystic tradition of extreme importance" and I'd be interested in hearing more. For instance, I recently read some of Gerrard Winstanley's writings and his example shows that you can reach some very radical conclusions about society from a mystical Christian perspective.

      If anyone else is curious, this is the book I read:

      http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/17480 .

      It's really interesting - we had our own "libertarian communist" tradition here in the UK, 200 years before the likes of Kropotkin :-)

    • LedSuit ' 10th Feb 2013

      Was just finishing Newspeak by Media Lens and as in their last book and can be found in some of their Alerts, Buddhist ethics, notions play a part. The last chapter took me back to when I was practising Tonglen etc.

      They also mentioned Matthieu Ricard, who became the Dalai Lama's interpreter. There i s a great book entitled The Monk and the Philosopher: East Meets West in a Father Son Dialogue. Matthieu's father is Jean-Francois Revel, a philosopher and writer. Really interesting stuff. Perhaps the book that eventually fed my sceptical, "indivdual" self enough to send me off the path (among other things!).

      However I do like the idea of starting a thread around the idea Peter mentioned to explore things.

      I'll end on a controversial note, that to a certain degree, capitalism and those who run the world would not be overly concerned about people, "individually" following some "spiritual" path. In some ways it takes away the focus from people of the need to remove the thorns covering the planet. It takes considerable time and effort to attain the states that someone like Thich Nhat Hanh has attained. Not all of us can sustain such "individual" efforts. So unless such pursuits are coupled with equally valid and determined collective pursuits to remove the thorns, the current system can easily absorb and even welcome people following paths to some sort of "spiritual" awakening. In some ways the Buddhist path could be seen as a selfish path. Hidden away in three or ten year retreats to attain states of compassion, while the rest of the world suffers.

    • David Jones 10th Feb 2013

      True, but what I like about Thich Nhat Hanh is that he has responded to this tendency with his notion of Engaged Buddhism, for example:

      "In Vietnam, during the war, there was a lot of destruction, and there were people who thought that the practice could only be in the temple. But when bombs were falling and people were dying, you could not ignore the fact. We wanted to practice in such a way that we could be of help at the same time, so we brought the meditation out of the meditation hall. We tried to preserve our meditation while helping people—the wounded, the refugees, the dying—and we learned that it is still possible, while you help these people, while you resettle refugees, while you care for the wounded who are victims, to maintain your practice of mindful breathing, mindful walking."

      Leather gloves to remove the thorns, rather than leather shoes to walk on them?!

    • LedSuit ' 11th Feb 2013

      Yep, you're right, he along with many others of all"spiritual" persuasions. There was a Buddhist nun, Vicki McKenzie, born in your homeland, wrote Cave in the Snow, 12 years of isolation. Came out and has been quite vocal about the patriarchal nature of Buddhism.

      Yeah, leather gloves, and maybe some shoes, walking along side non-believers and whoever else to remove or at least lessen the amount of suffering going around.

      We can learn from what these people write, but just like finding time to become engaged in activism, if one is serious about some "spiritual" Path, then time has to be spent on that endeavor as well. Time becomes even harder to find. As the Dalai Lame has said, the East tends to pull people into a spiritual path, while the West has a tendency to direct one away from it.

    • LedSuit ' 11th Feb 2013

      Excuse me, I didn't mean to write Dalai LamE. Although I had a little chuckle when I was reading for typos. It WAS a typo.

    • David Jones 11th Feb 2013

      Ah yes, the book about Tenzin Palmo, came across her a little while back:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKoIK6pQMzY .

      So, seems like nobody has The Answer...

      lol at the typo - you're coming back as a slug now James ;-)

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 5th Feb 2013

    Here's a quick go, as David did in his blog, at asking what ethical values are behind, or presupposed in, the core IOPS values/commitments (and the counter-values in brackets):

    1. Self-management/participatory democracy: dignity; freedom as autonomous self-activity (anti-heteronomy, anti-hierarchy, anti-domination)

    2. Social justic/equality: fairness; decency; solidarity; compassion; empathy (anti-injustice, inequality, hierarchy)

    3. Internationalism: solidarity; world brother- and sisterhood; universality; cosmopolitinism; empathy; compassion; fairness; decency (anti-nationalism/tribalism/parochialism, xenophobia)

    4. Gender/sexual/racial equality, intercommunalism: as for Internationalism above; fairness; love of diversity; multiculturalism (anti-sexism, anti-racism, xenophobia)

    5. Ecological stewardship: identity as interdependence/Inter-being (Hanh); ecological embeddedness; Mother Earth; humility; wisdom; compassion; love of diversity/'joyous cosmology' (Watts); responsibility
    (anti-Earth rape, anti-separation of society and 'environment', anti-technological hubris/reductionist 'instrumental reason').

    Maybe an IOPS suffused with, radiating, propagating common (beyond-Left) values like dignity, decency, fairness, freedom, compassion might go a long way to becoming something very attractive to lots of people?

    With an ethical emphasis there might always also be a danger of becoming cloy and self-righteous and if pushed too far and done without a sense of humour and self-irony and awareness of ambivalence/contradiction and of us all being hopelessly flawed sinners... but still...probably better than not being aware of (or suppressing) what's ultimately driving one deep down there in the recesses of the soul/spirit/body when one is against the industrial-capitalist system, and owning it. Ah have spoke, o brethren, amen.

    • David Jones 6th Feb 2013

      I would consider adding something about humility in the context of a greater willingness to compromise over non-essential issues (it then needs be made clear what is "non-essential" of course...) in light of what Marlo has written further up:

      "Still I think the greater challenge for our movement will be to set aside ego, pride, and hubris, and work together humbly, collaboratively, and with the larger interests of our communities and movement in mind. Even for a Lefty like me it's frustrating and hard to work in groups. There are so many power and control issues, so many cooks in the kitchen, so many people trying to prove their point, just to prove their point, so much ego. I feel like even the words humility and compromise make many Left libertarians cringe."

      y'know,as in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb_qHP7VaZE

      "Splitter!" :-)

  • Dave Jones 5th Feb 2013

    Lots of interesting food for thought. James's comment about "natural" and how that relates back to human-nature has me wondering if these ethics point us back to a very basic split with Nature herself? Which then goes on to affect our social relations ( family, production, culture,etc.).

    I believe Joel Kovel does a great job pinpointing the way this split is manifested and reproduced by the exchange-value/ use-value split. Perhaps a Participatory Economy/Society could start a healing process.

    I also appreciate David's awareness of the problems inherent in an excess of unity. The last century should be a stark warning about collective mind.

  • Alex of... 6th Feb 2013

    thanks david. you post this at an interesting moment for me, where i am currently writing a kind of mission statement based on my own views and as they relate to IOPS. i've been having some regular local meetings which inspire me to do so as there is consensus that we should better define our purpose as a group. if we wish to expand membership and take actions, then it only makes sense we are able to articulate a reason to convene, and actions taken should reflect that foundation.

    i'm not so sure one would view IOPS as "narrowly focused" and "inflexible" on first glance so much as a bit "nebulous" as one of my local members put it. as i've seen in other comments and felt myself, it's like someone asks you, "so what does your IOPS group do?" "well, we meet to share values toward making a better world and later there will be an international convention to determine the organization's pursuits." "hey, sounds cool. let me know how that turns out." ok, it doesn't have to be that simplistic, but people tend to join organizations because there IS a more specific goal like achieving 350, passing legislation that rejects corporate personhood, working with homeless youth to provide shelter and job assistance, etc. perhaps there IS something to be made a little more explicit.

    as for your personal preference toward uniting diverse activist groups to overcome the atomization of what are related efforts, it probably doesn't come as a surprise to you that i agree. i've yapped about that here and there since i signed up for this experiment, as have some others, often referring to it as a network. i've used the term umbrella before, too, but in retrospect, i think that sounds a bit top down and presumptuous, whereas i'd rather form more horizontally and thankful. point being, yes, there are many groups organizing toward specific goals that fall within various aspects of the IOPS principles as they are, or desirable principles for humanity, but are having minimal effect against the incredibly organized consolidated powers that dominate, as there is a lack of broad solidarity in these efforts. i liked the way another of my local members put this back to me "could IOPS act as a connective tissue?" ahh! the power of collaboration… what a great term, "connective tissue". that is absolutely what i'm looking to create.

    i believe the idea of "connective tissue" is implied in the IOPS mission, but not well defined. and further, it seems required to agree with all aspects of the mission/vision as they already are… or don't join. i have a little softer approach. for example, i've been attending a group based on getting money out of politics. members range from anarchists to democrats, but there's no judgement or requirements but to seek ways to support each other in different tactics. i believe in substantial institutional reconstruction and building local models, but i fully support positive reforms to the current institutions in the immediate. i view those as steps that should be empowering, not ends, toward further social change. when a member is surprised that Obama is pushing the Trans Pacific Partnership, then we can just talk a bit about that, and in diversity, some truths start to reveal and opinions start to shift. we're there on some basic ethics with a desire to not see democracy sold to the highest bidder, and the further one travels down that path there are natural outcomes like local decision making and market abolition. i just have to wonder how effective IOPS can be if it puts too much up at the gate, rather than encouraging a process. i really couldn't be much more against the concept of recruitment. building relationships is where it's at to me. of course i can focus on my own ideas locally, but i would like IOPS to take care to not come across as a new Party seeking joiners. this simply does not match up with the 21st century movement, and leaves IOPS as one more organization atomized as well.

    in my own mission outline, i've approached it as first starting with some fundamental values, a snapshot of the current global problems, the elements of dominant culture and institutions, acknowledgment that our current systems do not meet the fundamental values so justifying the need for replacements, and then possible paths forward, (particularly through networking existing groups and using small accomplishments to build solidarity and momentum). this differs from the IOPS mission in that i want to start first with something simple that many could agree, build a case for systemic change, and then a path forward to grow our connective tissue. i believe the IOPS commitments assume more specific conclusions to have already been drawn, offering joining as the primary path forward. maybe that's a narrow interpretation, and i'm not advocating IOPS adopt my concept either. i have of course, found a handful of cool cats to discuss this locally because of IOPS. so to that extent, IOPS has worked. however, to go beyond coffee shop revolutionaries i believe we need a pretty solid raison d'être, and i'm inclined toward connecting social movements through fundamental values, to put it one way.

    i've rambled enough. i know i just honed in on a bit of your initial premise and not the broader content. hope this has some value. i'll be working more on my little mission statement to share with my local group for feedback. as it is, it's not entirely intended as something public.. more the basis of to formulate. i'm sure the reactions will spur many changes. i'll share the initial premise, which i guess could be my answer to your number 1 - ethical values. it's the simplest breakdown i could think of to start.

    Human culture should aim to maximize quality of life. Our individual actions and the social institutions we create should have two fundamental elements at heart:
    • Human equality
    • Ecological balance

    and lots of wonderful comments otherwise. i'll try to get back for some of them more specifically, such as naturalness ;)

    peace and solidiversity

    • David Jones 6th Feb 2013

      Interesting points...I like the notion of IOPS as "connective tissue" and as a way of building relationships with other groups - and through dialogue potentially facilitating the development of a more radical consciousness in those groups. People that may not initially feel ready to embrace the "revolutionary" aspects of IOPS may start to warm up to them after engaging in such a dialogue.

      There was a bit of back-and-forth between me and Mark Evans a while back that touched on this idea (sort of...) dunno if you would find that discussion interesting/relevant? See the comments following this blog:

      http://www.iopsociety.org/blog/communication-in-a-participatory-organisation-society .

    • Alex of... 10th Feb 2013

      yes, interesting and relevant and some things to say, whether here or there, but as i recently got a message about zsocial plans toward faceleft, i will pause, as the general concept is fairly similar to what we are in part talking about. i have a slightly different approach but, as this is being pursued, it warrants some serious thought. the best place to do so or in what manner is open but i made a couple comments thus far on Michael's blog on Zsocial.

      don't know who all is on Zsocial now, but in case you are not familiar with the faceleft proposal...

      http://www.zsocial.org/articles/106 .

  • Alex of... 6th Feb 2013

    also, in regards to spiritual essence, ethics and unity.. check out a recent forum topic

    http://www.iopsociety.org/forum/non-members-forum/what-is-the-spiritual-essence-that-unites-youus-equality-love .

    just be sure to ignore my weirdo comments and take in the relevance otherwise ;)

  • jocelyn chaplin 6th Feb 2013

    Totally brilliant article and discussion. Loads to say...never enough time.... but first I do also find Mills a bit limited. Alex's (last but one post)defining core values for IOPS of human equality and ecological balance, seem to be a better starting point. So any situation we are in we can refer to these basics however complex and multilayerd. This gives us an ethical framework. But both can also provide what some call a spiritual connection as well.

    The word 'spiritual' is of course deeply problematic. One dictionary definition simply calls it 'the non physical aspects of a person concerned with profound thoughts and emotions'. That may be enough for many. But ....as Peter Brooke put it in an interview a few years ago ' I believe there is an invisible world around us that is real. And we don't need organised religion to connect with it.' Most humans for millenia have had in some way connected to this invisible world.Some Anarchists are into Magic. Many socialists are into the liberal wings of existing religions with their excellent values of community and justice. But both are important....will post more later.

    • Alex of... 10th Feb 2013

      phew! i am wanting to say so many things to what was previously said, and then keep coming back to find more inspiring comments. i'm trying to keep some order to that, and this is generally an inspiring dialogue.

      thanks for your kind words on my exploration. it was, yes, my attempt to start with a premise that could encompass many beliefs through fundamental importance. i'm not sure what could morally, spiritually, or pragmatically dispute those basic ideals without being disingenuous or brainwashed, though i'm sure there is a better way to say it.

      i've thought that a majority of notable social movements of the past have tended to revolve around human rights. the ecological movement is kind of new, as we know it, and often referred to as sustainability. i didn't, as sustainability has come up due to threat of human existence itself by our lack of balance. for some that might mean allocation of resources, which is real, but to me is also our inability to listen to trees in our dominant culture of domination. it is quite intertwined, yet not necessary to hold absolutes. our challenges are fundamental but we don't have to be fundamentalists. i cannot comprehend human equality without a spiritual sense of my place as a child of the earth and grandchild of the stars, but i don't demand this of others either. practically, i seek common ground. spiritually, i am who i am.

    • Alex of... 10th Feb 2013

      oh, i forgot to mention... science taught me about my deeper relationship with stars...

    • David Jones 10th Feb 2013

      I'm glad you added that Alex.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iE9dEAx5Sgw . :-)

      It worries me that much of the ecology movement identifies itself as "anti-science" / sees science as part of a program to dominate "nature" (I find this attitude in Derrick Jensen's writings, for instance, and I think it is over-simplistic / mis-identifying the problem). But I think that scientists themselves are also to blame here - they should do more to critically engage with the way technology is being applied today and should develop more understanding of their "assignable curiosity" (Jeff Schmidt) - their actual role within a capitalist society.

      I could say a lot more about all that... perhaps in another blog some time? ;-)

  • Caragh - 6th Feb 2013

    David- thank you for this.

    A world where every individual feel valuable, and at the same time feels no need to be 'exceptional' in order to be valuable would be wonderful.

    Some strange quotes :

    'We are like sparrows fluttering and jabbering around a seemingly indifferent prowling cat; we know that the cat is stronger and therefore we forget that we have wings, and too often we fall in with the cat's plans for us, afraid and therefore unable to use the wings that could have saved us by bearing us aloft if only for a little distance, not the boundless leagues we had been hoping for and insisting on, but enough to make a crucial difference between life and death. '

    ' In making reality, even the most violent, emerge to the visible, it makes the real substance disappear. It is like the Myth of Eurydice : when Orpheus turns around to look at her, she vanishes and returns to hell. That is why, the more exponential the marketing of images is growing the more fantastically grows the indifference towards the real world. Finally, the real world becomes a useless function, a collection of phantom shapes and ghost events. We are not far from the silhouettes on the walls of the cave of Plato. .......

    ....There is a deep misunderstanding of the process of meaning. Most images and photographs today reflect the misery and the violence of human condition. But all this affects us less and less, just because it is over signified. In order for the meaning, for the message to affect us, the image has to exist on its own, to impose its original language. In order for the real to be transferred to our imagination, or our imagination transferred to the real, it must be a counter-transference upon the image, and this countertransference has to be resoluted, worked through (in terms of psychoanalysis). Today we see misery and violence becoming a leitmotiv of publicity just by the way of images. Toscani for example is reintegrating sex and Aids, war and death into fashion. And why not ? Jubilating ad-images are no less obscene than the pessimistic ones) But at one condition to show the violence of publicity itself, the violence of fashion, the violence of the medium. What actually publishers are not able even to try to do. However, fashion and high society are themselves a kind of spectacle of death. The world's misery is quite so visible, quite so transparent in the line and the face of any top-model as on the skeletal body of an african boy. The same cruelty is to be perceived everywhere, if one only knows how to look at it.'(transcribed interview - it is supposed to have flatlandish vibes)

    Today I was talking with some people about the effects of an economy which was aiming for zero growth, and how it would disorient so many as suddenly being aspirant would probably change its meaning.

    Ethics are interesting, not least of all because the idea of them is so tied up with fundamentalism. Interestingly though, I think it really is possible to contribute to society in a meaningful and fulfilling way on an individual level, while groups and society functions well. For me, this can happen if there is perspective. Other people are the most interesting filters we will probably ever manage to encounter.

    I would also say on time- that being sensible about time might require borrowing some geologists spectacles every now and then - kalpas is quite an idea to process without the spectacle of volcanoes :)

    • David Jones 6th Feb 2013

      "A world where every individual feel valuable, and at the same time feels no need to be 'exceptional' in order to be valuable would be wonderful."

      :-) You reminded me of a newspaper feature I read years ago - it was an interview with a young Buddhist nun (I think?) and I remember nothing else about it except that she said something like Buddhism helped her to understand that it was just fine for a person to be "ordinary". I've kept the memory of that comment years later, because it was so alien to the prevailing "western" aspirational notions of personal worth I was used to (from school, and everywhere else...)

      I really like the first "strange quote" about the sparrows and the cat. I was getting at something like that with the banner for my wordpress blog - "we forget that we have wings".

      I don't think there is any inherent conflict between individual fulfillment and community wellbeing - in fact the former can be found in the latter. In the present society individuals are incentivised to behave in socially harmful ways, but we can realign individual incentives with the social good - if we can spread our wings :-)

    • David Jones 6th Feb 2013

      Something I like, from Erich Fromm, about the harm that this society does to our sense of self:

      "Since modern man experiences himself both as the seller and as the commodity to be sold on the market, his self-esteem depends on conditions beyond his control. If he is "successful," he is valuable; if he is not, he is worthless. The degree of insecurity which results from this orientation can hardly be overestimated. If one feels that one’s own value is not constituted primarily by the human qualities one possesses, but by one’s success on a competitive market with ever-changing conditions, one’s self-esteem is bound to be shaky and in constant need of confirmation by others. Hence, one is driven to strive relentlessly for success, and any setback is a severe threat to one’s self-esteem; helplessness, insecurity, and inferiority feelings result. If the vicissitudes of the market are the judges of one’s value, the sense of dignity and pride is destroyed.

      "But the problem is not only that of self-evaluation and self-esteem, but of one's experience of oneself as an independent entity, of one's identity with oneself. As we shall see later, the mature and productive individual derives his feeling of identity from the experience of himself as the agent who is one with his powers; this feeling of self can be briefly expressed as "I am what I do." In the marketing orientation man experiences his powers as commodities alienated from him. He is not one with them but they are masked from him because what matters is not his self-realization in the process of using them but his success in the process of selling them. Both his powers and what they create become estranged, something different from himself, something for others to judge and use; thus his feeling of identity becomes as shakyas his self-esteem; it is constituted by the sum total of roles one can play: "I am as you desire me.""

    • David Jones 6th Feb 2013

      He is Rousseau's "civilized man, constantly beside himself, knows only how to live in the opinion of others and from their judgment alone derives the sentiment of his own existence."

    • Alex of... 8th Feb 2013

      thanks Caragh for more inspirations, and David sparks...

      part of my recent mission exploration includes some words on the relationship of institution and culture. it's a basic recognition that social institutions have influence in shaping culture, yet culture, in it's multicultural layers, has other independent drivers that influence institutions (often ethical in nature, sometimes fearful). while a dominant culture maintains control largely through institutions, it does not necessarily represent the majority. and even if it does, it is not morally legitimate if it comes through exploitation of a minority or at all.

      the existence of a dominant culture implies that we are in cultural competition, which i suggest is fine as long as the goal isn't domination! our dominant culture is premised on individualistic competition. and while its proponents might insist that maximizes quality of life for the whole, it's about as credible as some "liberal" post American civil war justifications that slavery was the "necessary transition to civilization" for the "Negro". but hey, whatever helps you sleep at night in a multi-million dollar estate while children starve to death.

      there existed an interesting tradition, as part of relationship and economics, amongst the pre-colonial inhabitants of my region known as Potlatch. in this practice of redistribution, status is demonstrated by who can give away the most. while i'm not big on status, it beats the hell out of competition as a means of accumulation, especially when celebrated with food and dance. feeling and being valuable most certainly does not have to be about competition, but perhaps there is an inherent element of competition in humanity, currently misplaced, that could use some transformation.

      well, other thoughts but sleepy time now.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potlatch .

    • David Jones 8th Feb 2013

      Alex, re "in this practice of redistribution, status is demonstrated by who can give away the most. ... perhaps there is an inherent element of competition in humanity, currently misplaced, that could use some transformation."

      I'm reading this book at the moment and what you write (reconnecting to some of the practices of "gift economies" like the Potlatch's, that is) is one of the main themes, so you might like it:

      http://sacred-economics.com/ .

      (you can download an ebook from his site)

    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 8th Feb 2013

      Alex, David, re potlatch and the ethics of a different, moral economy, maybe an interesting quote about the Zapotec women traders of Juchitan in the Mexican state of Oaxaca where most men are peasants, fishermen, craftsmen and wage labourers white women are traders and food growers (from Bennholdt-Thomsen and Mies, 'The Subsistence Perspective', 1996):

      "Women do not engage in trade or crafts to accumulate wealth or to have others work for a wage; their aim is to guarantee a living and, above all, to gain respect within the community and among other women. It is part of the reciprocity principle that prices are not fixed but vary with the degree of social obligation - according to whether a favour has to be returned, or whether one is expected in the future.

      Surpluses are consumed collectively at great 'festivals of merit.' They are called this because material things are expended at them in order to gain something immaterial: respect and prestige. These festivals of merit, which are an essential part of the network of reciprocity, also keep the local economy going. Spending on clothes, food and drink, jewellery, music and presents reaches almost incraedible levels. The social mechanisms of prestige economics and reciprocity here give the market a special character. [...]

      Altogether, the women's or tradeswomen's economy - all women being traders in Juchitan - remains subsistence-oriented. Subsistence production counts as real social work; the separation between private and public spheres of production does not apply [...] The woman is not an object but a subject of events. [...]

      To be able to procure food by careful management is an important element in women's self-esteem and in the respect shown to them. [...] The big employers or monopolies have not been able to find their feet in Juchitan, nor, for example, is there any real supermarket there...."

      Maybe 'reciprocity' and 'subsistence' and 'food sovereignty' are important values that many movements in the global South are fighting for (e.g. EZLN in Mexico, Nayakrishi Andolon in Bangla Desh, Navadanya and KKRS in India, MST in Brazil, AbM and LPM in South Africa, Via Campesina, all with MILIIONS of members) and that should be added/integrated into IOPS values? Would also like to see a dialogue between Parecon and such radical, anti-hierarchical, eco-feminist subsistence perspectives from the Majority World... Just a thought.

      (BTW we're talking a bit about subsistence and simpler living and the limits to growth, aka climate chaos, over at the EARTH project if anyone's interested in joining us. It's based on some questions to the left posed by IOPS member Ted Trainer.)

    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 8th Feb 2013

      Third line should be 'while', not 'white' women, of course.

  • LedSuit ' 7th Feb 2013

    Here's something from a muso,

    "When a composer feel a responsibility to make rather than accept, he eliminates from the area of possibility all of those events that do not suggest this at that point in time vogue for profundity. For he takes himself seriously, wishes to be considered great, and he thereby diminishes his love and increases his fear and concern about what people will think. There are many serious problems confronting such an individual. He must do it better, more impressively, more beautifully, etc. than anybody else. And what,precisely, does this, this beautiful profound object, this masterpiece, have to do with Life? It has this to do with Life: that it is separate from it. Now we see it and now we don't. When we see it we feel better, and when we are away from it, we don't feel so good." John Cage 1952

    Been hangin' in me wallet for 25 years. Saw it when a friend was doin' a talk on Cagey at College. Haven't read anything else of his.

    Here's another. Bit shorter.

    Do you know what you are?
    You are what you is
    You is what you am
    (A cow don't make ham . . . )
    You ain't what you're not
    So see what you got
    You are what you is
    An' that's all it 'tis Frank Zappa 1980-81

  • 7th Feb 2013

    Hi David, I finished reading your article. But I cannot provide feedback. I prefer to think about inadequacy of basic documents when I face a practical situation in which what I have already learned from it is not enough. Nevertheless, I keep in mind that there is an article (your article) in our side that wants to put some ethical principles as foundation.

  • Will Henry Lapinel 9th Feb 2013

    Excellent article, David. I support the idea of adding the ethical element to clarify and strengthen our IOPS principles. I agree with Marlo about individualism though - I just don't like that word, because I so strongly associate it with the reigning western antisocial outlook, "I'm out for #1 and uck everybody else." I don't like JS Mill either. I admit I only have a scanty understanding of him from a horrible college ethics class. But thank you for this. I know there have been discussions about changing the founding documents; I think we'll need something more simple and powerful than what we have now, if we're going to have mass appeal.

    • David Jones 9th Feb 2013

      Yeah...personally I like Mill's writings, but he perhaps had a blind spot for power dynamics. I have the impression that Mill's ethics (and classical economics in general) will uncritically assume the existence of independent, self-sufficient individuals, and only then go on to consider how these pre-existing sovereign "atoms" interact with one another to configure a society (by making contracts, entering into exchanges and what have you). Maybe that was a tenable picture in the pre-capitalist world of cottage industries, artisans, family farms etc. - the historical context in which classical liberal ideas arose; but it became problematic when transplanted into 19th century contexts where landless workers were largely at the mercy of employers and so bargaining power was very unequal. In fairness, I think Mill came to realise this later on in his life, hence his growing interest in socialism (he'd begun a book about it when he died - today a fragment called "Chapters on Socialism").

      If I wrote this again, I'd most likely acknowledge that we can't "cheat" by assuming the prior existence of sovereign individuals - as Mill perhaps implicitly does. Rather, for the individual members of a community to each and all become "the best version of themselves" requires that they cooperate to co-create a desired network of reciprocal social (and ecological) relations. I think that this network, whatever form it takes, must still respect Mill's "circle around every individual human being which no government, be it that of one, of a few, or of the many, ought to be permitted to overstep." But it can also enlarge our concept of self-identity in the way that Marlo suggested to encompass the dimensions of "inter-being" that Thich Nhat Hanh writes about. So that rather that rejecting the insights and achievements of classical liberalism wholesale, we build upon them to expand our freedoms still further.

      As far as "individualism" goes... it may be another one of those words that has been rendered unusable by political warfare (to which we might add anarchism, socialism, capitalism even? anyway, the list is quite long...). But I think the notion of the "sovereign individual" was a revolutionary idea at the time, and that classical liberalism provided a historically necessary counter-argument to dogmas like the divine right of kings. Only later did it become perverted into a body of dogma justifying capitalist exploitation. It's interesting how ideas that begin as challenges to the old orthodoxy end up being adopted and debased by a new orthodoxy - it seems to have happened that way with Christianity, individualism, socialism?

      So yeah... as Marlo said: "save the baby!"

  • Dave Jones 9th Feb 2013

    Alex. you write that you think we should "start first with something simple that many could join" , which goes right to Will Henry's point about "mass appeal". I think the old reform vs revolution tension is real and can't be avoided and I come down on the side of maintaining a radical, anti-capitalist value as a beginning point of entry into our organization. If this is "recruitment", so be it.

    The radical discourse, though sometimes a bit lonely, is a necessary countervailing force to the dominant, liberal, hegemonic ideology. Someone has to be out here in left field imagining out of the box responses and making good arguments for their ethical value. There are plenty of progressive, activist organizations with non-threatening discourses where we can go and interject ourselves to try to bring change. I could list a hundred easy. That in itself tells us something about the messages power is perfectly comfortable with and those it isn't.

  • LedSuit ' 9th Feb 2013

    I like what Dave wrote. I'm not sure if that is what Alex and Will were implying-non-threatening discourse-, I doubt it, but I agree that a radical discourse-or dare I say it Dave, narrative, while it can be a lonely place, is absolutely necessary to shake people out of the comfort zone and make connections with a deeper analysis and need for systemic change. Ideological resistance helps lead to structural/institutional change. Power is comfortable with less and can actually accommodate a fair bit! Radical discourse can be connected to the most inane discussions and issues. Everything can be road towards it. It can be exhausting though but there isn't much time to rest I guess.

    Again, I'd like to say something about individualism.

    What are we really talking about here? David used a little quote from a well known western thinker and then elaborated on it. The quote was about freedom. Freedom from and freedom to. In essence I had no problem, having never read J.S.Mill in understanding what he meant. I got no implication beyond what I felt the quote was used for and the rest of the blog, utilizing other quotes that got less attention, helped to fill in details.

    An audience member at a musical concert can be heard yelling at security asking people to get back in their sits,

    "Take off your uniforms man. Take off your uniforms before you drop in too late man." Applause is heard.

    Response from artist.

    "Everyone in this room is wearing a uniform and don't kid yourself".

    A pithy exchange perhaps. But one can see how easy it would be to get lost in an argument, debate, discussion about what exactly a uniform is and what the hell dropping in too late means. Some people think they are individuals without noticing the uniform they are wearing coz it's a little less obvious. The artist while unperturbed by trivial matters was a unique individual pursuing creative possibilities.

    The idea, I think is that individualism just cannot exist without the collective. Individualism of the type that people seem to worry about or dislike a little here, is I think, merely the type that Peter Lach-Newinsky described as individualist narcissism and isolated consumerism. That sort of individualism exists and prevails because it is necessary for the current economic paradigm to prevail. Our current society feeds this notion/ideology that most of us see as destructive and counter to the need for a communalism and collective striving that would allow the thriving of individual freedom that further reinforces diversity and solidarity.

    The freedom David is talking about ,using a quote from a favoured thinker is not that, nor was it implied in those few words. In the same sense that putting a smile on ones face and pursuing creative possibilities is not a reflection of, nor implies the promotion of individualism as described by Peter.

    The idea is to get back time. Time for our children. Time to be free from suffering. Waking up in the morning and smiling because there is far less to worry about because collectively we have all pitched in as best we can to build a future that allows everyone to pursue things that bring them happiness. Not rampant grasping. A space for our children to grow into not compete for.

    to find the time to balance life with the necessary things, the simple things, the needed things, with all the other possibilities that if pursued won't impinge on the right of others to pursue their individual desires, everyone fully aware that, if one wishes to pursue the Buddhist theme, that unless one is a Buddha and fully enlightened (if'n one believes this is at all possible!!!), we have to practice constantly, stay on the path and not be distracted or we could fall back and find ourselves in the place from whence we have just extracted ourselves.

    Collectivism, working together, communalism or whatever, I think, is a natural urge, a natural desire. As is ecological concern. We FEEL it. A necessary one. Building strong ecological ties, kinship ties, cultural ties and collective consciousness is without doubt necessary for survival.

    A whole group of peoples, of different cultures, speaking different languages, shipped across the Atlantic and deposited in a strange land, denied their freedom from and freedom to, repressed and oppressed beyond what is imaginable by me, their ancestral stories and histories denied, had to rebuild all that in order to just survive. In order to regain a collective and sense of self. This was done slowly and in complex ways that, to jump to recent times and pithily offer only a few musical examples have brought the world the blues, jazz and rap. Stories. 'His' story, 'My' story, history and myst(o)ry to paraphrase Sun Ra (a great example of the individual and collective as two sides of the same coin). Unique stories, culture and consciousness born out of a horrid existence, to win back dignity for themselves whilst immersed within the most undignified environment, was for slaves, the only way to find the time and place stolen from them to pursue creative possibilities. Because to be individually creative, within the collective is the opposite of destruction. It's an urge a need. I feel the ethics underpinning it all to be similarly natural. Much of our society now is not. One could make an argument that it is but I would bet my life on it they wouldn't be FEELING it. Like the old black women that Miles Davis saw crying in the front row whilst he was playing a blues. Memories a strong.

    I don't think they had to think much about it. Black culture and consciousness was built, constructed, developed unconsciously, but with urgency and vigor, because without it survival would have been most likely impossible. But out of strong communal ties, kinship ties, cultural ties and egalitarian economic systems comes the ability to pursue individual likes. That is what the Wilde quote pointed to which tended to get ignored. It implies regaining our children's right to time and a smile.

    Without time and volcano's, smiling can be hard. Well, down right impossible. I like it when my children smile.

    • LedSuit ' 9th Feb 2013

      I meant, "An audience member at a musical concert can be heard yelling at security asking people to get back in their sEAts,

  • David Jones 10th Feb 2013

    Thanks for that James. Can't really disagree with anything you've written above. I sort of got myself diverted off into defending J.S. Mill's "legacy", not really sure how that happened, hah.

    I love your notion of (the desirable forms of...) "collectivism" and "individualism" as mutually reinforcing tendencies, rather than as being somehow mutually antagonistic. I think this notion is perhaps the most substantive thing to have come out of the discussion? Solidiversity!

    So, um, what about the "ignored" quotes folks? Any thoughts?

  • Will Henry Lapinel 10th Feb 2013

    Interesting points, all. I must admit, my emotional response to individualism and Mill is kind of a gut feeling. It's probably a result of political warfare, as you say David. But I also think sociology uses the term individualism, juxtaposed with collectivism, to describe cultural tendencies, where people of the most highly developed countries display individualist tendencies and third world people display collectivist tendencies (wish I had a link here). Read about that while writing a paper for another BS class on intercultural communication. So I think that's another part of my reaction - I just don't like the way we treat each other in the "developed" west, where human empathy and cooperation are suppressed in favor of individual excellence and superior performance, etc.

    The "ignored" quotes are great!

    I like the thoughts that James shared on the naturalness of these principles.

    I think I might send this blog to my libertarian (US version) friend, who likes philosophy.

    • David Jones 10th Feb 2013

      I don't think the pursuit of "individual excellence and superior performance" is the problem per se, or that this necessarily conflicts with "human empathy and cooperation"(incidentally "the right" always want to imply there IS such a conflict/trade-off, for the opposite reasons to you!) I think the problem is more that we live in a society structured such that MY pursuit of individual excellence comes at the expense of YOURS and so only a fraction of us are really able to develop our gifts. This needn't be the case of course - an institution like balanced job complexes from parecon (for instance) could ensure that everyone gets the opportunity to realise "individual excellence and superior performance", rather than just a select few.

    • Will Henry Lapinel 11th Feb 2013

      Not mutually exclusive - point taken. I'll have to mull that one over for a while, haha.

  • Dave Jones 10th Feb 2013

    I believe "..comes at the expense of" is a key point, David. Capitalist ideology forever stresses the fact that accumulation isn't a "zero-sum game", that the "rising tide lifts all boats", and yet history shows that too often the yacht never even sees the dinghys it runs over. In Hobbesian fashion, each is pitted against all in a competitive frenzy- the job market, retailers squeezing out their competitors, students vying for limited spots... This social-neo-Darwinism is practically a religion where I exist- as though bloodsport was the only way for innovation or creativity to be fostered!

    Marx tried to tackle the individual/collectivity duality with this famous dictum: "Where the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all." Pretty sweet.

    • LedSuit ' 11th Feb 2013

      So true and so friggin' frustrating Dave,

      "as though bloodsport was the only way for innovation or creativity to be fostered!"

      Yep, without the baseball bats innovation and creativity would desert us and we would all just kind of wither away in boredom and drown in some kind of drab grayness.

  • Marlo Pedroso 11th Feb 2013

    Wow! Grateful this conversation has continued and inspired so much lively dialogue. I must admit life got in the way (not to mentioned over 2 feet of snow!) so I haven't been following the thread closely.

    I wanted to add something that I've been thinking a lot about, and that I think is related. I've been thinking about two important sphere of my life: Left politics & spirituality. I've been thinking more and more about the relationship between the two and how at their core (and most ideal forms) they are both attempts at addressing suffering. Politics, to grossly generalize, deals primarily with the exterior realms, that is distribution of resources and power and so forth, while spirituality deals primarily with interior realms, ethics, values, love, and so forth.

    I've been thinking about this relationship Left politics and spirituality in terms of what the intersections are, whether or not they can support each other, how we can create more dialogue between the two.

    Anyway, I'm reaching towards wanting to bring more integration to what I feel have been polarized spheres historically. I think of the image of the Left atheist, who believes solely in a materialist conception of history, who sees religion as the opium of the masses or as an oppressive historical force. Simultaneously, I see the image of spiritual practitioner as individually focused, a monk in the cave or monastery, attending only to their development, without addressing the injustices in the world.

    Obviously these are both inaccurate depictions that create limited caricatures of both sides, yet I think they have a basis in truth that leaves a powerful residue that shapes our attitudes and actions.

    I look forward to creating avenues for discussion for those who, like David, think that for the Left to ignore these interior issues and matters is to empower other political and cultural forces who are not aligned to our politics. To take on these issues as important and worth discussing is to strengthen our capacities and process.

    I recently heard someone paraphrasing Teilhard de Chardin in saying that as our awareness grows so do our feelings of responsibility. In my experience developing my capacities for greater internal and external awareness has increasing my sense of having a greater responsibility to alleviate suffering in the world.

    For those interest in continuing this discussion, perhaps we can create another thread. Let me know if you'd like to do that.

    In solidarity -Marlo

    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 11th Feb 2013

      Marlo, I think you've again hit the nail on the head re Left/spirituality and I for one would be extremely interested in such a thread. (To get James there we might have to call spirituality something else though, maybe 'dharma', 'non-dual theory and practice', 'radical metaphysics', No Bullshit Mysticism for the Masses...)

    • LedSuit ' 12th Feb 2013

      Finally read your piece Peter.

      "Liberation is simultaneously personal and collective or it is not liberation"

      "The universe is the mind in its explicated aspect. The mind is the universe in its implicated aspect"

      Reminded me of Sogyal Rinpoche talking of David Bohm and his implicate explicate order.

      You've got me going through all these old Buddhist books trying to remember things I've forgotten. When I finished reading your piece I remembered a little anecdote (couldn't find it so from memory) when a student asked her teacher, why if the Buddha is all omnipotent and omniscient etc why doesn't he just wake everyone up from the sleep of delusion? The master looked at her and responded,

      "Who's asleep?"

      It's fucking boring until it's not!!



    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 12th Feb 2013

      Great answer. Kaa!

      Here's another one from Hoshin in the great tradition:

      'The Zen Master Hoshin lived in China for many years. Then he returned to the north-eastern part of Japan, where he taught his disciples. When he was getting very old, he told them a story he had heard in China. This is the story:

      One year on the twenty-fifth of December, Tokufu, who was very old, said to his disciples: “I am not going to be alive next year so you should treat me well this year.”

      The pupils thought he was joking, but since he was a great-hearted teacher each of them in turn treated him to a feast on succeeding days of the departing year.

      On the eve of the new year, Tokufu concluded: “You have been good to me. I shall leave tomorrow afternoon when the snow has stopped.”

      The disciples laughed, thinking he was ageing and talking nonsense since the night was clear and without snow. But at midnight snow began to fall, and the next day they did not find their teacher about. They went to the meditation hall. There he had passed on.

      Hoshin who related this story, told his disciples: “It is not necessary for a Zen Master to predict his passing, but if he really wishes to do so, he can.”

      “Can you?” someone asked.

      “Yes,” answered Hoshin. “I will show you what I can do seven days from now.”

      None of the disciples believed him, and most of them had even forgotten the conversation when Hoshin called them together.

      “Seven days ago,” he remarked, “I said I was going to leave you. It is customary to write a farewell poem, but I am neither a poet nor a calligrapher. Let one of you inscribe my last words.”

      His followers thought he was joking, but one of them started to write.

      “Are you ready?” Hoshin asked.

      “Yes sir” replied the writer.

      Then Hoshin dictated:

      I came from brilliancy
      And return to brilliancy
      What is this?

      This line was written one line short of the customary four, so the disciple said: “Master, we are one line short.”

      Hoshin, with the roar of a conquering lion, shouted “Kaa!” and was gone.'

    • LedSuit ' 12th Feb 2013

      PS: I don't mind what ya call it really. I'll have me fun!!

    • Marlo Pedroso 12th Feb 2013

      I'll try to get something up and running when I get a longer moment.

      It's hard to find good words for "spirituality", as words are often pointing to experiences beyond words, or at least beyond quotidian words. This is why poets are so much better at illustrating the spiritual.

    • David Jones 12th Feb 2013

      "The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
      The name that can be named is not the eternal name
      The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
      The named is the mother of myriad things"

      "There are indeed things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical."

      "What can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence."

    • LedSuit ' 13th Feb 2013

      The crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe.

    • David Jones 14th Feb 2013

      One last one!

      "The reason for a fish trap is the fish. When the fish is caught the fish may be ignored. The reason for the rabbit snare is the rabbit. When the rabbit is caught the snare may be ignored. The reason for language is an idea to be expressed. When the idea is expressed, the language may be ignored. But where shall I find a man to ignore language, with whom I may be able to converse?"

      which to me echoes Wittgenstein's:

      "My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognises them as nonsensical, when he has used them - as steps - to climb up beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.) He must transcend these propositions , and then he will see the world aright."

  • jocelyn chaplin 11th Feb 2013

    Exactly James. It's such an insult to creativity. Watch any small child absorbed alone with a paint brush and you would know that creativity doesn't only come from competition. It may appear in a school setting AFTER they've done it. But the act itself comes from what...instincts, a primary creative principle of nature, the unconscious?? When I paint a picture I'm in a completely 'other' space. When it's finished and I have to show or sell it, in our present culture, then, in comes competition, fear, hierarchies of..... am I better than or worse than etc. etc. This endless comparison is in the very air we breathe. But not just in the West as Will pointed out when questioning some people's dodgy assumptions about other cultures. Individual aspirational competition seems to have gone global.

    Alex wondered whether competitiveness is inherent? Can it be transformed? Getting status from reciprocal trading (see above)is certainly better than getting it from a fist fight. But don't we need to get away from status all together? As Caragh said.'It would be great to live in a world where every individual was valuable but no one NEEDED (my caps)to be exceptional'.As David quoted the nun saying 'It's ok to be ordinary.' Now this sounds really scary. But being ordinary or even equal is not about being the same as anyone else. Hierarchy is the problem not difference.

    Perhaps it's not such a bad thing that so many people have pushed individual potential so far over the last 60 or so years, helped maybe too much, by my own profession of psychotherapy. Now many are turning to nature, sustainablity and to the collective in reaction to over individualism. But hopefully loads of people are now wiser about their own stuff as well as about our shared human psychologies. There is certainly a lot more discussion of it about.Perhaps it's easier for most of us to have more equal relationships both individually and in groups when we feel fed, loved and safe, when our egos are a little bit dissolved, when we have a strong pro equality ethics and perhaps some kind of 'spiritual' attunement, as well as scientific understanding of nature, and of others, human and non human (who then actually no longer stay 'other'.) A fluid, relatively ego less, ethics responding spontaneously to the equalising or balancing need of the moment feels more 21st Century to me. But to live it, those egos of ours need a lot of dissolving. Then we can have equality from within, not imposed by an external ethical system. Obey no authority other than your own deepest intuition.

    • David Jones 12th Feb 2013

      "...helped maybe too much, by my own profession of psychotherapy."

      Another interesting topic! A while ago I came across Martin Luther King Jr's speech to the American Psychological Association in 1967. I'm sure you're familiar with it and his critique, but I'll just post an excerpt here for anyone else who isn't:

      "There are certain technical words in every academic discipline which soon become stereotypes and even clichés. Every academic discipline has its technical nomenclature. You who are in the field of psychology have given us a great word. It is the word maladjusted. This word is probably used more than any other word in psychology. It is a good word; certainly it is good that in dealing with what the word implies you are declaring that destructive maladjustment should be destroyed. You are saying that all must seek the well-adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities.

      "But on the other hand, I am sure that we will recognize that there are some things in our society, some things in our world, to which we should never be adjusted. There are some things concerning which we must always be maladjusted if we are to be people of good will. We must never adjust ourselves to racial discrimination and racial segregation. We must never adjust ourselves to religious bigotry. We must never adjust ourselves to economic conditions that take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. We must never adjust ourselves to the madness of militarism, and the self-defeating effects of physical violence.

      "Thus, it may well be that our world is in dire need of a new organization, The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. Men and women should be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day, could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, ‘Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream’; or as maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln, who in the midst of his vacillations finally came to see that this nation could not survive half slave and half free; or as maladjusted as Thomas Jefferson, who in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery, could scratch across the pages of history, words lifted to cosmic proportions, ‘We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. And that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ And through such creative maladjustment, we may be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man, into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice."

      Basically, the critique is that mainstream psychotherapy tends to focus more on helping people adjust themselves to an oppressive reality, rather than on empowering them to take actions to transform that reality (Barbara Ehrenreich has a similar critique of the "self-help" industry in Smile or Die, I think - though I haven't read it yet).

      I wonder, as a radical psychotherapist, have you had any interesting experiences trying out the latter (transformative rather than conformative) approach, Jocelyn?

    • jocelyn chaplin 14th Feb 2013

      Great quote.David.Loads of connections.I was involved in anti psychiatry stuff at Occupy St Pauls London last year delighting in all the creative malajustment. While also giving support when it was asked for. Living in an insane world creates massive psychological distress. But people supported each other at Occupy beautifully with so much love....most of the time...except when egos came in too much.
      DIVINE MADNESS I'm also thinking also about radical mystisism (probably a much better word than spirituality) that involves a kind of divine madness that laughs at the petty hierarchies and power stuggles even in oneself.

      In the heady days of RD Laing and 60's optimism we believed that therapy would disolve all the defenses, ego stuff etc. to reveal the kind of inner core of our being that Wilheim Reich talks of...a core that is essentially loving but rationally angry around injustice etc. Great faith in human nature. I think of Che Guavara's comment that true revolutionary action comes from love.

      Rumi always challenges my over emphasis on words.

      Those who don't feel this love
      pulling them like a river.........
      those who don't want to change
      Let them sleep

      This love is beyond the study of theology
      that old trickery and hypocrisy
      If you want to improve your mind that way
      sleep on

      I've given up on my brain
      I've torn the cloth to shreds
      and thrown it away

      If you're not completely naked'
      wrap your beautiful robe of words
      around you
      and sleep.

      Jelaluddin Rumi (1207 - 1273)


    • David Jones 15th Feb 2013

      Thanks Jocelyn. I'll look into Rumi. Peter is also a fan, I think :-)

      Maybe you'd consider writing a blog about you experiences at Occupy? If you get time? I'd be interested and I'm sure other people would too. For example, one of my friends from Southampton (who is also an IOPS member) started this group recently:

      http://www.facebook.com/groups/105772072924446/ .

    • jocelyn chaplin 17th Feb 2013

      Great that Southampton Activists are looking at emotional stuff. I would join if it was London. And yes I will put a post up on my blog about Occupy this week.

  • jocelyn chaplin 11th Feb 2013

    Just wanted to add that the idea of zero growth as a goal is the economic counterpart to the equalising paradigm in social relations etc. It would be a great start.

  • Alex of... 13th Feb 2013

    arg! so much here. the tangents here could really split off into multiple related dialogues. if i don't get back to much as it is. it's because i'll be spending more of my 'free' time toward a speaking event to be hosted by our seattle group. coming back to that…

    starting in part with, a response by David to my "relationship with stars" comment - thanks for the Sagan clip! i read Cosmos when i was twelve or something, and remember something about his ruminations on the possibility of sentient gaseous life forms on Jupiter. Sagan had a way of capturing the imagination and ability to speak to the larger audience, and with, what i feel, a spiritual sense. honestly, i don't know how one could not feel more spiritual when coming to grips with the enormity of the universe, its unity and possibilities. knowing how small we are, yet all formed out of the same energy, that time is relative (holy shit), only makes me feel more connected to something even more amazing than can ever be said, as some Zen thinkers may go about it. as he mentions superstition, that should not be confused with spirituality, more akin to religion, which creates defensiveness when exposed to something bigger than us or what was believed. there's that whole Plato's cave again.

    Marlo mentioned the image of the "left atheist." over and over i see that debate of science vs god get played out, as if science and atheism are the same, or that rejection of deities means all perception must be based on testable sets of evidence. it goes the same as to see that individualism and collectivism don't need to be at odds. competition and collaboration can be the same. and our "natural" ethical foundation we can draw from what is positive in our different views toward collective vision, rather than checking a box. and even be exceptional by being ordinary.

    “What if the point of life has nothing to do with the creation of an ever-expanding region of control? What if the point is not to keep at bay all those people, beings, objects and emotions that we so needlessly fear? What if the point instead is to let go of that control? What if the point of life, the primary reason for existence, is to lie naked with your lover in a shady grove of trees?"

    definitely agree with non-status, Jocelyn. some things on my mind when mentioning competition ranged from gravity and dark matter competing, yet collaborating, to hold and create the universe, to organic life forms competing to evolve, sometimes violently (so inherent in creation, yet not meaning we must limit ourselves as social Darwinists), or scientific pursuits, and more personally, my past in martial arts. other things too and not expanding at the moment on all of that. but i was thinking now about the painting analogy and my time spent teaching kids Karate in an after school program. i shared a couple anecdotes sometime back on a blog by James on confidence, and discussing with David as well regarding "social conditioning," amongst other things. both those come to mind right now, too, but i'll share something else.

    i had a student with some prior experience, was bigger than most other kids, who i was told to watch out for as he's a bit of a bully. sure enough, he was a show off and tried to rub it in other's faces. so i first just challenged him to do more than he could already and acted a bit surprised that he couldn't, just to humble things a bit. i had an assistant instructor, and on some days we would split into groups to work on "forms", so after a few classes with this student i asked him to work a few students on the first form (or kata). basically, i said "you know this right? ok, i expect them to learn this." i asked him to teach, with the expectation i won't hear back about conflict. i asked the other students if it was okay, and to let me know if there were problems (to make that short). guess what? no problems, girls and boys all told me he did great. this was all within a few weeks, and a few weeks later the after school coordinator told me that she was approach this boy's school teacher and parents asking what happened, as he was now doing more school work, acting more polite and offering to help other students. this was the "problem child" haha. well, its my feeling that in his own fears he used his ability to find his sense of power by creating fear and doubts for others. i gave him another option to use ability to help others, and apparently it was more rewarding. he had friends not fear, empowerment not power… and senses of value in others increased.

    well heck. i meant to say something simpler yet i think i'm only half way to the point and must take care of a couple things before bed. was going to connect this with our speaking event, david's comments on anti-science ecology, dave's comments about radicalism or james' on shaken it up, something peter said…

    and i'll say as i have said many times before (and in regards to Caragh's comment "Other people are the most interesting filters we will probably ever manage to encounter", those kids taught me more about life and myself than i could possibly have offered them.

    "1. Empowerment. Empowering direct action aims to transform the structures of domination and control and to radically change the way power is conceived of and operates. We say that domination, control, and violence represent only one sort of power. But another type of power exists as well: power-from-within, empowerment, our ability to create, to imagine, to feel, to make choices. When we act together in an empowered way, we develop collective power. Through personal and collective empowerment, we can fight against, dismantle, and transform the systems of domination that perpetuate oppression. Empowerment implies courage. The more we can move beyond fear, the less control the system has over us. Courage can be found through individual faith — not necessarily in a God or religious tradition, but faith in human capacities for change or in nature’s infinite creativity."

    • David Jones 13th Feb 2013

      "i don't know how one could not feel more spiritual when coming to grips with the enormity of the universe..."

      Sure, here's one of my favorite Feynman quotes:

      “It is a great adventure to contemplate the universe, beyond man, to contemplate what it would be like without man, as it was in a great part of its long history and as it is in a great majority of places. When this objective view is finally attained, and the mystery and majesty of matter are fully appreciated, to then turn the objective eye back on man viewed as matter, to view life as part of this universal mystery of greatest depth, is to sense an experience which is very rare and exciting. It usually ends in laughter and a delight at the futility of trying to understand what this atom and the universe is, this thing – atoms with curiosity – that looks at itself and wonders why it wonders. Well, these scientific views end in awe and mystery, lost at the edge of uncertainty, but they appear to be so deep and so impressive that the theory that it is all arranged as a stage to watch man’s struggle for good and evil seems inadequate.

      "Some will tell me that I have just described a religious experience. Very well, you may call it what you will. Then, in that language I would say that the young man's religious experience is of such a kind that he finds the religion of his church inadequate to describe, to encompass that kind of experience. The God of the church isn't big enough.”

      Maybe another kind of God is big enough though?

      Cool story - I think that's an example of the kind of thing I was asking Jocelyn about further up: "transformative rather than conformative"; transforming a network of social relations and the role someone has within it, rather than just getting them to behave "properly" i.e. according to some rules imposed from on high. Hence IOPS seeks new institutions...

      I guess the world will go on turning if we leave some of the many loose threads here hanging ;-) Or else, if people like, there are ideas for follow up threads...

    • Alex of... 13th Feb 2013

      or maybe the smallest of Gods just happens to weave a pretty impressive web? the important thing is that my God can beat up your God, of course ;)

      hey, you're the quote master! is there a David Jones quote wiki you keep these on? we return again to Feynman :) - i was hinting at something along these lines in part of an anecdote on Jocelyn's forum thread:

      "...i don't really believe that anyone is not spiritual, the way i see it, but like soul, these words carry baggage, and we sometimes pack bags. my friend didn't learn her natural tendencies anymore than humanity has learned to seek the meaning of life in numerous ways from the dawn of whatever marks being human, by our current label. we're on a journey, as a manifestation of all energy, contemplating itself, asking what is both the right and wrong question."

      though, i'm may be enjoying Feynman's version a bit more at the moment. so excuse some of my skipped words above, awkward sentences… i guess my paintings are not "perfect" ;) …or is that what's perfect about our paintings? or more-so both the diversity and similarity of difference? the individual and the non-individual. creation. hmm, i just remembered when my highschool Judo instructor used to shake his head chuckling at the motto written on the gym wall "practice makes perfect." he'd repeat it a couple times in a slightly mocking tone, then affirmatively replace with "practice makes better." he also had a cover of a science magazine he had put up on his wall at home that said "Who is God?" he would repeat that a couple times too in a similar tone, and just laugh, without following up with words. always put a smile on my face.. somehow seems relevant.

      i like the point about transformation. i could maybe just kick the student out of class and tell the rest to just ignore him, adding "hey, you'll meet a lot of jerks out there.. and don't fight unless you have no other choice." i have a feeling the boy had heard "no" plenty of times, but it just didn't mean a whole lot compared to the sense of power he was getting. i hope he continued to find this new sense of power as part of the collective whole. it can be hard, when the current structures aren't very supportive, and apparently harder once one has massive amounts of dominant power. that is, as inclusive as i seek, i doubt Donald Trump will find our ideals much appealing.

      on the hand, maybe we should send out an invitation to the wealthiest of the world! -an appeal to find a more rewarding sense of power, urging investing the majority of material wealth into non-hierarchical social institutions. rough sell?

    • David Jones 14th Feb 2013

      Quote master eh? Why thank you. Well, if you like that Feynman quote, to me it is quite reminiscent of Chuang Tzu's story of Ocean and River:

      "It was the time of autumn floods. Every stream poured into the river, which swelled in its turbid course. The banks receded so far from one another that it was impossible when looking across the river to tell a cow from a horse. Then the river laughed for joy that all the beauty of the earth was gathered to itself. Flowing downstream it journeyed east, until it reached the ocean. There, looking eastwards and seeing no limit to the waves, its face dropped. And as it gazed over the expanse, the river sighed and said to the ocean, A vulgar proverb says that he who has heard but part of the truth thinks no one equal to himself. And such a one am I.

      "To which the ocean replied, You cannot speak of ocean to a frog living in a well—a creature of a narrow sphere. You cannot speak of ice to a summer insect—a creature of a season. You cannot speak of the unvarying way to a pedagogue: his scope is too restricted. But now that you have emerged from your narrow sphere and have seen the great ocean, you know your own insignificance, and I can speak to you of great principles.

      " There is no body of water beneath the skies that is greater than the ocean. All streams pour into it without cease, yet it does not overflow. It is constantly being drained off, yet it is never empty. Spring and autumn bring no change; floods and droughts are equally unknown. And thus it is immeasurably superior to mere rivers and brooks. However, I would not venture to boast on this account, for I get my shape from the universe, my vital power from balance of forces, positive and negative. In the universe I am but as a small stone or a small tree on a vast mountain. And conscious thus of my own insignificance, what is there of which I can boast?"

    • David Jones 14th Feb 2013

      As far as appeals to the elite go, I'd say they are not entirely wasted. Some of them are beginning to catch on that if they continue on the current course they are only buying themselves the privilege of being the last to starve, as Jared Diamond said of the Greenland Norse chiefs. Some of them are so heavily invested in their own self-justifying mythology (e.g. Donald Trump I'd assume, for example) that they will never get it. We shouldn't expect too much / allocate too much time to "speaking truth to power". Keep in mind these words of Frederick Douglass:

      "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."

    • jocelyn chaplin 17th Feb 2013

      Love your last line 'faith in ......nature's infinite creativity'.Can this faith be nurtured with poetry and rituals to excite and commit people as much as faith in God does?

  • Alex of... 13th Feb 2013

    funny. i said "empowerment not power" and just re-read.
    i could say "empowerment not domination"
    i suppose it's more about that baggage of words. it's not by dictionary definition, but empowerment feels more enabling, where the word power by itself sounds like accumulation. maybe that's just me ;)

  • harries islam 23rd Mar 2014

    Does it ensure that people must obtain their just rewards?