The current political and social upheaval across the globe signify that a major paradigm shift is under way. It has become very clear that we are living in accelerated times. Could one of the major issues be that we have come to rely upon a political system that is not capable of handling subtlety, or ambiguity? Instead, two-party politics and ‘yes’/’no’ questions, like the UK referendum, tend to result in simplistic binary decisions unsuited to the complexity of modern day life. We now have to come to realize that Democracy is not without flaw, as Winston Churchill said:
‘Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.’
Rather than treating democracy as a ‘sacred cow’ or religion, it is much better that we come to see it is a process that must continue to evolve and adapt in order to address the needs of the day. At the heart of democratic principles should be a sense of mutual respect and a desire to cooperate in a way that is best for all, not just a ‘winner takes all’ competition where the prize goes to those who shout the loudest. But is the world finally ready to embrace this perennial wisdom?
We are not going to be able to address major issues on the planet divided
Our current system, where often 51% are winners and 49% are losers, leaves almost half the population feeling that their voice is not represented. Meanwhile the winning side often feels a public mandate to assert their agenda without regard to the losing side. Some people call this style of governing the tyranny of the majority. This mentality is fine for a sporting event, but is it an appropriate way to govern? Perhaps, instead, we will have to begin to acknowledge a responsibility to make sure that ALL voices are heard, not just those of the majority, while collectively caring for each other, our natural resources, and the planet at large. The lives of ordinary people are not a game…but politics often treats them as such, encouraging narcissistic, ego-driven and sociopathic personality types to seek office, lured by the ‘rewards’ of apparent power.
Addressing truly global problems like climate change, nuclear contamination, polluted oceans, proliferation of war, and more will not be solved so long as a significant amount of people (49%) oppose the solutions needed. We are in a moment where we are being called to engage in a dialogue that invokes mutual respect for the needs of all parties, not just the few, or even the many, but the ALL .
Non-Violent Communication (NVC), also known as Compassionate Communication is a communication process that focuses on empathy and honest self-expression. It is a well tested and effective tool for achieving this expression of cooperation. If it were widely applied in the arena of oppositional, competitive politics, it would potentially be transformative.
All that has been integrated into NVC has been known for centuries about consciousness, language, communication skills, and use of power that enable us to maintain a perspective of empathy for ourselves and others, even under trying conditions. — Marshall B. Rosenberg, Phd
There’s Another Way
The world is not black and white, so we should not govern it that way. Recent social discontent in the European Union, starting with Greece and including issues that drove the ‘leave’ result in the recent UK referendum are complex. However, increasing wealth inequality- a seeming design function of the current economic paradigm- is a predominant factor. When the ‘healthy’ working of the markets, banking systems, and governments produce as a side effect, the disenfranchisement of huge numbers of people, it was only a matter of time before the ‘losers’ of the current system became a discontented majority.
The movement towards globalization that favors the freedom of capital over the needs of people has marginalised the voices of many. When policies are made by individuals who are disconnected from the people and places they are governing, the result will always be social upheaval. And, eventually, if these frustrations are not addressed, the elite will be overthrown.
The two-party system that is dominant around much of the world is failing. The likely Presidential candidates in the US are the least popular and least trusted in recent history. In Australia, Liberal and Labour are seen as being cut from the same cloth. In the UK, moderate conservatives and Blarite Labour policies are hard to distinguish. What if your views and needs are not represented by either party, but instead fall somewhere else outside of these ‘one size fits all’ containers?
Our binary approach of winner/loser is childish and ineffective at meeting the needs of our increasingly interconnected global society.
The Two Party System is a Scam
There is also much to be learnt from earlier systems of democractic decision-making. In America, the Haudenosaunee were the indigenous forbearers who influenced Benjamin Franklin and the Founding Fathers. They understood the importance of a council which allowed diverse perspectives to be heard and incorporated into a shared vision of moving forward as a society. You can learn more about The Great Law of Peace of the Haudenosaunee here.
If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies. -Desmond Tutu
Can Haters Become Lovers?
Hate is an unpleasant human expression that can be suppressed or expressed, but with the proper tools it can be transmuted and evolved into shared understanding. We see so many news outlets that are ready to simplify social upheaval as racism, or xenophobia, or mob rule, without doing proper analyses and looking at the bigger picture. Very often hatred is the result of a need that isn’t being met, born of fear, or a deep wound, but it is also an expression of passion even though it is destructive. In America we are seeing a great example of this playing out with the candidacy of Donald Trump. In Europe, we see it with the fear around the Migrant crisis and Brexit.
What fear, deep wound, and passion is being expressed in these popular xenophobic movements? What needs are not being met? What economic or environmental conditions are fueling the social instability? Diversity is usually celebrated when everyone has food, shelter, abundance and basic needs taken care of. Racism usually flourishes when scarcity, economic inequality and fear are prevalent. The news media, feeding on the black/white, binary, good/bad oversimplification perpetuates the divide, the ignorance, and the fear.
There is passion underneath hatred, even if it is self-preservation, ignorance, and that passion can erupt in very destructive ways. How do we diffuse this? By listening, and educating each other, by becoming compassionate to our own needs as well as the needs of others. We are all connected by deep emotional experiences that often have no voice in this world. There is always common ground if we choose to meet there. This is essence of cooperation.
Social Harmony is Impossible When Individuals are Internally Conflicted
Psychology used to use the description multiple personalities as an illness until we recognized that all of us have many voices (perspectives) trying to express themselves within us depending on mood, or situation. Today we understand that illness as dissociative personality disorder. In other words, when we repress aspects of ourselves, our desires, needs, fears etc. without acknowledging them that is considered a form of mental illness. We are seeing this expressed externally in the world around us and politics is a great reflection of our internal conflict. What does it take to be present, listen, and acknowledge the perspective of those who we disagree with?
As with most things in the world, we are blinded by the cultural lens through which we see things. Once again we are called to start from within and disassemble our inner conflicts. By doing so we can begin to change our prevalent worldview from a debate-oriented competition where the winner takes all, into a council based system which allows for all voices to be heard and respected.
The act of witnessing opposing perspectives within ourselves and within community allows us to see deeper into the emotional needs these feelings/beliefs represent. Making a genuine connection from the heart is one of the most essential and powerful ways to diffuse conflict. This is where spirituality, and self-awareness meets the political process. Where non-violent communication, empathy, and cooperation can create a space of respectful discourse which is so badly needed in the world today.
The Evolution of Cooperation
Cooperation is a fundamental law of biological evolution. We are a species that has developed through biological evolution, and the result of billions of cells cooperating to optimize life. We are in a process biologically, socially, and politically of evolving towards ever more optimization. Not just for the human species, but when we have reframed our purpose and placed ourselves back in right relation with our inherent biology, optimitization for the biosphere as well. Let us not lose hope!
Though competition has hogged the spotlight due to the scientific misconceptions inherent in Darwinism, it pales in comparison to the power of cooperation. Dr. Bruce Lipton speaks of this extensively in his work. Cooperation is apparent in biological evolution from the smallest organisms all the way up to the most complex. Cooperation gives us the ability to work together towards a common goal and create mutually beneficial results. It is possible to set up scenarios that allow for win/win situations, sadly most of our current political structures are not set up to accommodate this.
Dictatorship/Monarchy/Oligarchy (1% rule the 99%). Democracy (51% rule the 49%). Consensus (100% we cooperate to create a future that is mutually beneficial for all of life)
The Cooperatist Movement
“The Cooperatist Movement’s mission is to create a movement of consensual cooperation for the betterment of mankind and the Earth. To provide structure, a forum and resources to aid in our conscious evolution using the Law of Cooperation as our directing principle.”
The Law of Cooperation as coined by Scott Malis is quite simple and states that “What cooperates the most, thrives the most.” The exploration into cooperation as a topic of study is fascinating.
War and slavery are considered the lowest forms of cooperation because they forced cooperation, yet there is no refuting the potentially creative (or destructive) power of large groups of people working towards a common purpose. The Cooperatist Movement seeks to develop a community of people promoting consensual cooperation towards goals that benefit all involved parties. It is possible to own less and share more to increase personal wealth and well-being!
Cooperation is an antidote to corporatist ideology which works toward private gain, often at the expense of the general public, or the environment. It is also valuable to individual and public health as depression and addiction are often rooted in a sense of isolation and disconnection. The values of cooperation can be applied internally to become less conflicted, externally with your family or community, and also beyond that to include cooperation with our environment.
This expression of living harmoniously is potentially the most beautiful thing that humans can strive towards. We have done a pretty good job at showing ugliness over the centuries with sparks of creative genus from individual artists. Now we are seeing that genius manifest collectively and in time we may understand our whole existence as a conscious act of creative beauty!
Back in the cave man days as humans were just forming, we were in very small clan type groups. Life was a struggle to survive, yet we did have a means of cooperating well together. Over time we formed bigger and bigger clans, tribes, and village communities. Alone we were weak, but as a hunting party we could take out the biggest of animals and we began to dominate. As we formed and cooperated more and more we began to civilize into larger societies, and things like agriculture began and soon after forms of industrial revolution. As millions of us began to cooperate we became cities or countries as vast societies and became a super species. The next step is a cooperative global society that considers the needs of all species and acts as a steward of this precious planet. -Scott Malis
Let’s make something extraordinary with our short time in this world. Perhaps if enough of us begin to embrace the principles of cooperation while developing the capacity to communicate and listen compassionately we could unlock a collective potential that could transform and heal our broken world.
We need a system that expresses more than just a binary black and white politics. We need something better than ‘Winner takes all’. We need representation for all people, all minorities, and all interests. We need a broad spectrum of engagement in all political decision making. We need decentralisation, a fairer distribution of wealth, and a truer reflection in society of the biological truth of cooperation. If we just stay stuck in Darwinian competition and a system that works for the few, whatever democracy we do have will be so in name only.
It may seem like an impossible dream or a John Lennon song, but we have unprecedented tools to make this real and we don’t need to imagine anymore. It is time to, as Gandhi stated, be the change we want to see in the world.