Two excerpts from EMERGENCY: Co-creating a Healthy New World, an unfinished manuscript
by Michael Lucas Monterey
©2006, 2011 Michael Lucas Monterey
All rights reserved.
Printing or reproduction of this unfinished, pre-publication draft is permitted for review, comment, and nonprofit use by the primary recipient for the good of all living beings; and, without written permission of the author, all other uses or reproductions of this document, in part or whole, are forbidden by law. However, the author hopes you are inspired to discuss the content with friends and kindred spirits. I also welcome collaboration, assistance and suggestions for revision, expansion, strategic planning, etc. May the two pieces offered below serve us and all future generations very well.
Essentials of Sustainable Community Building
Community is a relationship of relationships, whether we call a community a tribe, clan, or a nation. If the nature and quality of our relationships are deficient, then the general quality of life suffers in proportion to our lack of harmony, communion, and unity. In general, the smaller the community, the more vulnerable it is to disunity, disharmony, divisive conflict, and negative attitudes.
Most of us moderns have forgotten how to be members of a thriving agrarian community, a village. We are much further removed from being fully functional members of a tribe of multi-talented, self-reliant artisans, hunter-gatherers living in primal, direct relationship with nature. Yet, to survive and thrive, we need to refresh our memories, fast.
Many of you know that most of the ancient prophecies of all the ancient spiritual cultures have been fulfilled, presaging the end of the current world game and a difficult transition to a new world, with a greener, very positive, new paradigm. Part of the process — the emergency of transition from an ecocidal socioeconomic paradigm back to a biocentric, sustainable sociocultural paradigm — requires deep, extensive learning and retraining of our minds and our patterns of communication, behavior, and group interaction. If we are to survive and thrive, we need to learn how to be communal pioneers.
Diana Leaf Christian, editor of Communities Magazine and author of Intentional Communities and her latest book Creating a Life Together - Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages, has lived in, studied and helped build intentional communities for decades. Her book is an ideal primer for founders and founders-to-be.
Only 10% of intentional communities succeed. Christian shows how the other 90% fail before they begin. Here are a few key highlights on community building fundamentals, essentials, ways and means:
Before making an offer on a property or planning physical facilities and shelters, learn about about local zoning, financing, housing policy and land trusts.
Decide what kind of legal-financial vehicle[s] will work best for what the group and each member wants to do. Make sure that all present and future members will be legally protected and feel emotionally secure about fully committed participation.
As well as possible, explore all the potentials and limits of members' ability and willingness to make contributions of money, time and labor.
Discover what everyone really thinks is acceptable and unacceptable in daily life and for the mid-term and long-term.
Before getting legal and official, decide on a reasonable escape clause and a viable Exit Strategy for members who either must or want to drop out.
Christian lists six preliminary necessities, the essential basics of a successful community development process:
1. Identify your community vision and create vision documents.
2. Choose a fair, appropriately participatory decision-making process. If you choose the consensus model, get trained in it.
3. Make clear agreements, in writing, especially for choosing the legal entity for owning land and facilities in common.
4. Learn good communication and group process skills, make clear communication and effective conflict resolution a top priority.
5. Choose co-founders and new members for emotional maturity.
6. Learn whatever head skills and heart skills you need to make it work.
Christian and the hundreds of intentional community members and leaders interviewed by her and many other researchers, leave no shadow of doubt about the necessities and difficulties. Hard evidence and experience show that creating a new community is not an American Dream for dabblers and adventurers, nor simply an interesting amusement for impetuous adolescents or the weak minded.
Hotheads, sociopaths, narcissistic neurotics, and perpetual adolescents with borderline personality disorders may find few if any communities to put up with them; and, yet, the high failure rate may be partly due to groups that fail to screen for psychological wellness, ethical integrity, and emotional maturity. The vast majority of cases prove the prime importance and positive power of a transcendent communal vision or mission, and unanimous devotion to it.
"It takes enormous amounts of time to pull off a project of this magnitude. Even if you meet weekly, you'll still need people to work on various committees that work and/or meet between scheduled meetings — gathering information, calling officials, crunching the numbers, drafting proposals, and so on — for at least a year, or even two years or longer."
Christian says that the larger the group or the smaller its assets, the longer it will take. For a spiritually oriented/motivated community, the start-up process is more complex and the issues listed in the above prerequisites, are much more crucial to effective development.
All effects are results of causes, karma, contributing factors, and circumstances. Long term community members, observers and researchers have found that groups who established a strong spiritual foundation with a viable religious paradigm and shared daily practice are clearly more successful and durable than communities that lack a strong religious ethos and communal practice. Clearly, the stronger the communal ethos and the more effective the group practice, the better the results.
"A house divided against itself shall not stand" is an ancient and eternal truth. It easier to get over or around petty squabbles and conflicts that could devolve into terminal infections when members are committed to a Mission bigger, higher, and more important than egoic goals and desires. Unity of purpose sustains effectiveness. Selfish individualism and illusory independence are inherently sociopathic and intrinsically divisive. The best way to screen out the problem is a coherent, compelling, inspiring statement of your group's shared spiritual principles, values, ethics, and practices at the heart of your community charter. A personal profile questionnaire can be a very helpful tool for new groups, new recruits, new plans or major revisions of communal policy, and annual reality checks.
Communal failure can be extremely expensive, in terms of money, precious time, missed opportunities, emotional and legal consequences, etc. Successful community building can be more uplifting and enriching than anything else we could do.
Once the preliminaries have been accomplished and the prerequisites established, the ongoing effectiveness of your community and the new world will depend on another set of essentials. The seven essentials of sustainable social success.
Five of the basic factors affecting the fate of civilizations were revealed in Dr. Jared Diamond's best selling book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Those five crucial choices are:
1. environmental impact
2. climate change
3. neighboring allies and enemies
4. loss and gain of trading partners
5. society's responses to all the above
All collective choices, causes, and effects are interactive. All the factors relate to use of our brains, for better or worse. The failed empires of the past shared terminal defects, misconceptions, and misunderstandings in common, misuse of inner and outer resources and too many missed opportunities.
Insight revealed two prerequisites* that foster all other determinants of cultural health and longevity. Here are the seven essentials of sustainable success:
1.* A viable paradigm, a sane, life sustaining set of values and basic ideas
2.* Loving respect for nature and humanity, sustaining commitment to the joy and wellness of children, elders, great spiritual leaders and wise guardians
3. Green awareness and empathy, compassionate sensitivity to environmental conditions, fostering the best possible quality of life for all generations
4. Consciousness of climate change, with active commitment to eliminating or reducing its severity and rapidity
5. Sustainable peace, positive relations with neighbors, allies and enemies alike, fostering Win-Win strategies and dialogue
6. Thriving with ongoing upgrading of policies, laws, institutions, and enterprises that foster healthy innovation, resilience, and diversity, supporting positive dialogue and interaction with allies and competitors, minimizing hostility and harm
7. Positive responses to whatever challenges sustainably healthy success
We, the people, decide to rise or fall. With healthy values and abiding commitment to a lively culture and general well being, success can, has, and does grow out of near disaster.
Yet, without sane basic values and attitudes, how can we sustain effective concern for the wellness of children, elders, and humanity as a whole? Success depends on wise choices that depend on good values, attitudes, and ideas that depend on a healthy cultural paradigm, a biocentric sociolinguistic matrix. Ultimately, developing sustainable green communities is the only way humanity will ever enjoy either Heaven on Earth or a healthy new culture. For the sake of my children and all others, I wish us all the best of fortune and success.
However modernized, human being is essentially communal being and essentially spiritual. We are all psychophysically interdependent. The ancient functions and benefits of tribal council are central to the establishment, evolution, success, and sustainability of healthy community standards, ways, and means. Council is the most effective way to decide on issues of vital importance to a community and all its relations of all species.
The most effective, sustainable decisions made for community groups are made by consensus. Otherwise, majority rule tends to devolve into mob rule or, at the least, a psychic arena spawning divisive attitudes, contentious competition, or worse. Most of us can now agree that the overwhelming evidence proves that we need to establish and sustain an egalitarian society with built-in protections against devolutionary, divisive defects. Tribal council and consensus decision making for managing community affairs will permit and foster the best possible protection and conservation of cultural integrity and sustainability.
In the early years of a new tribe or community, special healing councils may be needed for healing collective dysfunction. Individuals with deeply wounded psyches, chronic control dramas, manipulative-exploitive personality disorders, severe illnesses, and similar misfortunes need the help of a shaman or professional therapist as much as or more than they need the tribal council.
When a tribe member falls out of grace, the whole tribe falls as well. Due to the nature of modern social programming and non-indigenous group processes, modern council decision-making is vulnerable to meetingitis and long winded, narcissistic personalities.
Council is not to be abused nor used for trivial or selfish purposes. Real respect for all tribe members and all beings of all species is essential. Tribal council is a sacred cultural resource that must be protected, conserved, used with appropriate care and real gratitude.
The modern version of council typically ensures that all who wish to speak will feel heard. The modern council's purpose and process may be more about people wanting to speak, being acknowledged and validated, regardless of the meeting agenda or the needs of the people for whom the meeting was called.
In the ancient modes of tribal council, the talk continues only until no one wishes to speak about the topic or issue at hand. The ancient tribal council is usually attended by respected elders, possibly shamans and/or chiefs, and other trusted authorities, one usually acting as presiding moderator. The ancient mode is deeply structured — also more spontaneously intuitive — determined more by a consciously shared sense of great wisdom, revealed by spirit through the participants and the elders. The ancient tribal process respects each participant, yet insures that the wisdom essential to the required decision has been heard. The ancient council model fosters focus on the issues and the sacred presence of wisdom for co-creating the best possible result, fulfilling the purpose.
Without creating definite limits and constraints, the modern consensus council process permits extensive talking, listening, and thinking, regardless of the purpose and effectiveness of the process or decisions. The modern process suffers from the lack of ancient tribal cultural wisdom and an unfortunate deficiency of mutual trust and sensitivity.
The primal council process is based on the trust of and faith in the deep relationships of the participants — to each other and to the infinite environment of their ancient spiritual culture. Modern social programming and habit patterns have stripped many of us of the ability to possess or acquire the experiential knowledge, understanding, faith, attitudes, ways, and means of ancient tribal culture. Yet, adopting and integrating the ancient tribal spiritual ways in our council process — as much as possible — will produce the most positive results. A neo-primitive council policy is outlined below.
1. Whenever a meeting is needed, a Council is called and a meeting held. Preliminary purification rites are enacted for all participants. The meeting starts when whoever needs to participate is present. Everyone knows when that is so. The Council and a leading elder or shaman consecrate and bless a circular space or lodge, making offerings and prayers to spirits, elements, wisdoms, guides and guardians of all directions. Everyone sits together in the circle. The presiding elder or shaman blesses the Council specifically, states the purpose and basic protocol, then starts the session by placing a ceremonial object, such as a special stone or crystal or "talking stick" at the center of the circle.
2. The issue to be decided or actions to be considered are presented by the person concerned or appointed to speak first. The meeting may be called to suggest a solution for a single personal problem, to resolve conflicts, to plan a collective response to a crisis, or to consider a positive opportunity for the tribe, clan, or community.
3. A person with something to say picks up the talking stick and speaks, without interruption, while everyone else listens. When finished speaking, the speaker returns the talking stick to the center. If there is no talking stick the elder/shaman may call for speakers and responses. Any elder or the council moderator may intervene if a speaker goes off topic, talks far too much, seems to forget what the purpose of the session is or otherwise violates protocol.
4. At any point the shaman or an elder may tell a story of The People. Such a story carries wisdom relating to the issue or topics being considered.
5. The Council moderator lets the process continue until no one wishes to speak.
6. The Council's decision will be made when there is consensus. Decisions may be made in session or later, after giving people time to contemplate and seek wisdom. Difficult decisions on complex issues may involve a long process of dialog among all community members, possibly involving several Council sessions.
For compassionate council sessions, we can emulate the millennial wisdom lineages of both the East and West. Succeeding in this noble endeavor will be an accomplishment more important than the founding of the USA. Accomplishing this Mission means healing centuries of injury and saving humanity from a fate worse than extinction. Succeeding will put our green community government in league with the most durable ancient governments — the governments of the Hopi, the Bhutanese and, among many others, the six nations of the Haudenosaunee. Let their own words inspire you:
"The Haudenosaunee, or Six Nations Iriquois Confederacy, is among the most ancient continuously operating governments in the world. Long before the arrival of European peoples in North America, our people met in council to enact principles of peaceful co-existence among nations, in recognition of the right of the peoples to a continued and uninterrupted existence. European peoples left our council fires and journeyed forth into the world to spread principles of justice and democracy which they learned from us and which have had profound effects upon the evolution of the modern world.
... "Brothers and Sisters: When the Europeans first invaded our lands, they found a world filled with bountiful gifts of creation... Everywhere the game was plentiful, and sometimes the birds darkened the sky like great clouds, so great were there numbers. Our country teemed with elk and deer, bear and moose, and we were a happy and prosperous people in those times.
... "Brothers and Sisters... (note: ten subsequent paragraphs cataloging modern civilization's psychopathic atrocities and ecocidal catastrophes are omitted here)
... "Brothers and Sisters: We cannot adequately express our feelings of horror and repulsion as we view the policies of industry and [modern] government in North America, which threaten to destroy all life. Our forefathers predicted that the European way of life would bring a Spiritual imbalance to the world, that the Earth would grow old as a result of the imbalance. Now it is before all the world to see — the life producing forces are being reversed, and the life-potential is leaving this land. Only a people whose minds are twisted beyond an ability to perceive truth could act in ways which threaten the future generations of humanity.
... "Brothers and Sisters: We point out to you the Spiritual Path of Right and Reason. We bring to your thought and minds that right-minded human beings seek to promote above all else the life of all things. We direct to your minds that peace is not merely the absence of war, but the constant effort to maintain harmonious existence between all peoples, from individual to individual and between humans and the other beings of this planet. We point out to you that a Spiritual Consciousness is the Path to Survival of Humankind. We who walk about on Mother Earth occupy this place for only a short time. It is our duty as human beings to preserve the life that is here for the benefit of the future generations yet unborn.
... "Brothers and Sisters: The Haudenosaunee are determined to take whatever actions we can to halt the destruction of Mother Earth. In our territories, we continue to carry out our function as spiritual caretakers of the land. In this role as caretakers we cannot, and will not, stand idly by while the future of the coming generations is being systematically destroyed. We recognize that the fight is a long one and that we cannot hope to win it alone. To win, to secure the future, we must join hands with like-minded people and create a strength through unity. We commemorate two hundred years of injustice and the destruction of the world with these words." – Haudenosaunee Declaration of the Iriquois Nations
In considering the above, please remember that, 400 years ago, the European invaders had no experience with democratic government other than the ones they found functioning here. The governments of the Iriquois and their kindred cultures excelled the ancient Greek experiments with democracy and the mutant governments of today.
The Chinese term "Dao Dë" (as in Tao Te Ching) means the Way of "Reason & Virtue" or greatness & compassionate wisdom, the right use of life. Clearly, the Founding Fathers of the government of the USA failed to fully appreciate and faithfully copy the superior, fully functional system of the Iriquois Confederacy. If they had, we would not have an environmental crisis, nor a health care crisis, an energy crisis, or a Middle East crisis. If we had an equally effective, nonprofit government, we would suffer no unwinnable wars against crime, drugs, and terrorism that guarantee more government corruption, organized crime, more terrorism, illegal drugs for high profits, resource wars, and ecocide.
The Haudenosaunee Confederacy of early America's six civilized nations used the consensus decision making process for managing its affairs. So, they suffered no winner take all insanity, nor mob rule or virulent corruption, nor pandemic poverty. Yet, healthy government does not come natural to us, or else the instinct went extinct. We must learn it and work to sustain it.
With the help and advice of the Center for Nonviolent Communication, the Iriquois nations, the Hopi, the Bhutanese, and other people of sustainable spiritual cultures, we can succeed and set an example for resolving all unnecessary crises and worldly conflicts. Otherwise, in doing so, at least we will enjoy the superior quality of life possible with great sanity and cooperative harmony.