Worldviews: Part I

[ Main Menu ]

 

 

Worldviews, Part I

To Worldviews, Part II

 

 

Date: Tue, 21 Jan 1997
From: Christine Massey
Subject: Elisabeth's message: new dimensions

     

    Down One

    Hi, and Happy New Year.

    1997 = hard work and "the fight between the personality (ego) andthe soul". A non- dualistic (integrated) view on this fight, is thatthe personality tries to see itself in a soul- perspective (i.e. we needto develop a strong ego, but not for selfish reasons).

    I am sorry for not having had time and capacity (as foreseen) to participate in the dialogue so far. However, I have glanced through the mail that hasbeen exchanged between the rest of you. I won't comment what others havealready commented. I only thought I could throw in ideas on what could bemissing, thus proving I am still "hanging in there". In readingyour comments, I am left with the question: what is after all the drivingforce behind human behavior; both for the current one (dualistic and nature-controlling), and for a possible future one? Can we "solve" orchange anything without seeing the Earth, life and humanity as part of alarger whole? Some say humans are humans with a spiritual dimension. Onemay even go further and say that we are spirits whit a (current) human experience.Which ever way, being on Earth forces us to relate to matter and the (earthly)limitations that it seems to imply. In that, maybe the idea is to bringa higher, or let us say more advanced (generous, loving, non-selfish, caring etc....) dimension to this mis-driven planet.

    I seems to me that issue of " values" has fallen out of the discussion. It would be very logical, however, to bring it in, since the current development trend in the global society only accounts for certain"values". The values that are priced by the ruling forces areall linear; it is about power, control, aggression, war, and growth. Thisis also reflected in the way "development" is measured, namelythrough growth in GNP. These values correspond to masculinity, and as suchthey are inserted and sustained by patriarchal forces, to use a good old term.

    In promoting sustainable development (SD), we are in fact talking about upgrading the value of feminine "values", both in men and women, of course. A dualistic approach will never do - the " balance"in the middle does not exist as a solution, that would be stagnation. This is for instance illustrated by the way the masculine society fight feminists and the independence of women. In a SD- model, we have to move one "stepout" of the oppositions and see things from a "higher" level.This would replace the two-dimensional or linear approach with a three-dimentional approach. It implies to see the Earth as part of Cosmic Whole, humans as part of nature, and the feminine as something inherited in the masculine,or the other way around. As long as men and women are seen as more or lessuni- polar individuals ( that, if they are lucky, may become whole withina heterosexual relationship), the world will remain polarized too. The humandimension in SD is, according to an non-dualistic approach, to make spiritand matter meet ("bring Heaven" to Earth). In order to do that,we have to develop as whole (bi- or non-polar as opposed to uni-polar),independent, conscious and responsible individuals. It requires that wemove from gendered men and women to men that accept the feminine valuesand dimensions within themselves, and women that also accept their masculinedimensions. Women must dear to be inventive, strong and angry, take responsibilityfor change and recognize their roles in society. Men have to not only thinkabout concurring and controlling women and nature, but share the "concern"of life with women.

    Can you fit this into the model??

    Love,

    Elisabeth


     

    Date: Sun, 19 Jan 1997
    From: Ann Dale
    Subject: Contribution from Elisabeth

       

      Up One

      Down One

      Elisabeth raises an important point about human nature and the centralityof values as central to the discussion. As mentioned, sustainable developmentis a normative concept, and thus, values are inherent to any discussion.I have faced this question before with my Norwegian colleagues when we hada wonderful discussion over another model, and we didn't know how to factorin soft variables such as love and reciprocity into what are usually seenas quantitative models. I believe it is meaningless, as per one of my committeemember's direction, to talk about sustainable development without addressingissues of power and control, that also impact on our perceptions of ourplace, that is, of human beings with respect to the planet. Are we a partof? or above? Is it possible to manage ecosystems or is this a fallacy,in reality, what we can manage are our impacts on the planet?

      When we talk about moving to feminist values, is feminism more inclusive,particularly with respect to other species, than humanism?

      I am delighted to hear from my more distant colleagues. A very HappyNew Year.

      Love, Ann

       


       

      Date: Thu, 6 Feb 1997
      From: Nina-Marie Lister
      Subject: Re: ideas for tossing around

         

        Up One

        Down One

        Hello everyone,

        Just wanted to offer my comments on David's (below).

        > First, Ann suggested that we strive to employ a feminist or women's>perspective. After a couple of rounds of dialogue on this topic, I sensethat >we should not discuss this or any other precondition or 'proceduralformat' >(for want of a better term). To do so runs the risk of boggingdown the >process. Rather, we should use (i.e., not talk about, but employ)whatever >perspectives are important to us. To do otherwise would requirethat, in the >name of fairness, we approach each discussion topic froma northern vs. >southern perspective, a Catholic vs. Islamic perspective,developing nation >vs. industrialized nation, etc. This, I suggest, iscounterproductive as we >begin the Delphi project. We can do this withouttalking about it.

        I am not sure that I agree entirely with David: Certainly I believe thateach of us should be encouraged to bring (freely) our individual perspectivesto the dialogue, although I *do not* think it is at all counter-productiveto be explicit about the nature of that perspective. In fact, we shouldtalk about it-be specific. In my own experience, all too often our valuesare buried implicitly in the propositions and assumptions we make, and therefore,in the conclusions we draw. Most importantly, the overriding and predominant IMPLICIT perspective in much of what we hear, see and read is that of theWestern, logical-positivist a.k.a. that of "rational economic man";the rational scientist"; the white patriarchy- whatever label you ascribeto the paradigm that dominates our institutions and our governance.

        The point I am making is that an essential part of Ann's research, asI understand it, is to identify the barriers to as well as the change strategiesnecessary for SD. Certainly one of the major barriers to SD is the profoundand *implicit* entrenchment of the dominant Western-Industrial-Economic-Maleparadigm within the very heart of governance; the dominant paradigm of "goforth, seize power and conquer" that got us into trouble in the firstplace. Perhaps a key strategy for us (the group) in identifying these barriersand defining the change-strategies, is to be EXPLICIT about the perspectives we bring to the dialogue. For me, this is an exercise that forces us toexpose and identify power structures; it makes us aware of the ideologicalroots of our views and able to identify the power(less?)-sector to whichwe belong. Having said all this, I *do* agree with David that we must takecare to be explicit about our values but NOT to allow this to become anobstacle to meaningful dialogue. This is an experiment of sorts, so I amnot sure if I have contradicted myself!

        >A second idea, more of a concern actually, is what I call the tobaccolesson. >Long before there was scientific 'proof' of the damaging effectsof tobacco, >virtually everyone in the world knew the stuff was poisonous.How long was it? >Something like 20-30 years passed before scientistswere organized enough to >agree on this. I would be most disappointedif we, the Delphi group, could >only hand Ann a list of what we disagreeon, instead of constructive >suggestions for sustainable policy.

        I agree with David that a focus on the positive and constructive is certainlydesirable-especially when faced with the enormous scope of change neededfor SD. At the same time, I emphasize that we *do* need to note the majorideological or procedural points of disagreement within the group-this isa key part of identifying barriers to change (SD).

        >Third, I wonder if there is some reluctance to send messages to thislist >because of the diverse backgrounds of the participants. Alreadyit is apparent >that some people are prepared to communicate generalideas, while others cite >published papers, and use specific examples.The potential for >mis-communicating appears great. I suggest this shouldnot encumber anyone. >C'est la vie.

        Well said, David. That's life, let's not get hung up on it. Or betteryet, let's use our differences in approach to enrich rather than encumberus. After all, the essence of an adaptive and flexible framework for SD(as Ann and many of us advocate as key to dealing with change and uncertainty)is a plurality of means, tools, methods, and voices. (Diversity in complexprocesses!)

        >Fourth and finally for this message, I'm aware that e-mail is a formatof >communication that imposes severe restrictions upon the users. Theloss of >face-to-face secondary cues is quite limiting. For example,I suggested >earlier that we begin our discussions of sustainabilitywith an assumption >that one of our goals will be to work toward reducingthe total human >population on earth. John Middleton disagreed with thissuggestion, offering >an alternative view that I was an order of magnitudeoff in my estimate of a >reasonable carrying capacity of humans. My figurewas, if I recall correctly, >around 2 billion people. John Middleton,by extension, envisages a world with >20 billion people that is alsosustainable. If we had this brief exchange in >room with all of us present,this theme might have flourished instead of >dying, as a result of nodsof agreement, disagreement, or whatever.>

        >Perhaps a meeting in June will be very helpful to overcome this limitation.

        Again, I agree strongly here with David. I think I made a similar pointin my first posting: it is easy to be intimated by or to shrink away fromthe bold assertiveness of jargon-filled hard print staring you in the face-emotionless, clueless and otherwise devoid of the rich array of word-lesscommunication that goes on through voice and body language. In my view,it is even more anti-human if that "print" is terse, without personalniceties such as a salutation or a personal commentary here and there-althoughof course I recognize the realities of time constraint and the fact thatmany of us are forced to cut ourselves off when we have a mailbox of 25e-mails every day! I am simply noting that Marshall Macluhan was right:"the medium is the message". In fact, with e-mail, the mediumhas BECOME the message very quickly. I agree that we should try to get pastthat. Again, having said all this, I too am looking forward to a face-to-facemeeting in June!

        That's all for now.

        Cheers,

        Nina-Marie

         


         

        Date: Sat, 8 Feb 1997
        From: Laszlo Pinter

           

          Up One

          Down One

          Greetings. I think we can have a very legitimate and interesting discussionon sustainable development from many perspectives - gender, well-being,religious, whatever. I also think it is up to us - Ann? - to decide thedirection this discussion shall take. However, my feeling is that by lookingat the issues of sustainable development from any single perspective carriesthe risk of evolving into a discussion a lot more on the perspective itself- gender, North-South equity, system of governance or whatever else - thana discussion on sustainable development per se.

          Nevertheless, I agree with Nina-Marie that we all carry our pet perspectivethat is there even if we say it isn't, so I suggest that what we need isnot NO perspective in our discussion but an additional one. In a recentexercise on performance measurement in sd we came up with a number of principles,one of them called "holistic perspective". For one reason I likethis perspective better than any other because it puts - at least in words- the whole system in the focus, and because I think unsustainability isa systemic problem sd needs a systemic vision and solution. Let's say weall have our own pet perspectives and have this one that helps us peek outof the hole and see the rest of the world. If I am allowed to choose myown narrow pet perspective, I choose the one on cooperative vs. competitivebehavior b/w institutions, people, species etc.

          In glancing through the previous messages of others I noticed that Elisabeththought values fell out of the discussion. I think she made an importantpoint that I would like to add my thoughts to. My intuitive opinion is thatsocieties with an acceptable degree of sustainability have/had a multiplicityof values influencing their decisions and evolution. This may include currency,but in addition to that there is value - exchange value, spiritual valueetc. - in objects, animals, places, songs, relationships etc. Given thatthese values have organically evolved over time, they are embedded in aculture of symbolism, institutions, religion and so on, and they collectivelyinfluence the way people live. To really exaggerate one could say thesepeople are - intuitively - using in a sense "culturally embedded multi-criteriaanalysis" to determine what is beneficial to them and what is not.An efficient decision is only what is efficient from the cultural, spiritual,physical and fiscal perspective at the same time, or at least not contraryto any one of them. At the opposite end of the spectrum is a society wherevalue has been determined on monetary basis alone. Value is determined interms of tangibility, immediacy, and utility and it is limited to assetsthat fulfill these criteria. Of course, many values do not. In economicterms we are talking about the difficulty of valuing intangible or commonlyheld assets - groundwater, love, view, etc., and the discount rate problem,that is valuing the distant future at zero. Reflecting a grossly simplisticview of reality in its values and its measures of value, this society continuouslymaking "efficient" decisions but still losing ground and becoming"unsustainable" as externalization of the hidden - socio-economicor ecological - costs of its decisions to the future or other fellow citizensbecomes increasingly difficult.

          This last point is related to Figure 4, the decline in environmentalspace or footprint or socio-economic tolerance etc. on which to push theburden of economic development. In a short report last year I came up witha version of Figure 4 with a number of little, but over time (x axis) growingand increasingly overlapping squares in the circle intended to emphasizethat the dynamics of change is different region by region, but with thegrowth of regional economies there are increasing overlaps between impactzones and spheres of influence. I am not sure this would culminate in the"clash of civilizations" that Huntington talks about, but definitelyincreases the risk of conflicts.

          Best regards,

          Laszlo


           

          Date: 14 Feb 1997
          From: Dale S. Rothman
          Subject: some quick thoughts

             

            Up One

            Down One

            Hi,

            I was away for two weeks and I am off again for the weekend, so I wantedto jot down a few notes before I forgot them.

            First, on complexity and sustainability, there is an interesting articleby Joseph Tainter "Complexity, Problem Solving, and Sustainable Societies"in the volume Getting Down to Earth (Costanza, Segura, and Martinez-Alier,eds.). In it, the author notes that 'diminishing returns to complexity inproblem solving limited the abilities of earlier societies to respond sustainablyto challengesm and will shape contemporary responses to global change'.He heavily emphasizes the role of energy and energy subsidies in supportthe ability of societies to support the increasingly complex nature of problemsolving.

            Second, on the issue of perspectives, I agree that this is an importantissue to acknowledge and to be explicit about, but at times I do find itto be a bit confusing. It is important to recognize differing perspectivesin order both to facilitate our ability to communicate and to allow us toview issues from different sides. However, we must be careful not to fallinto a trap of trying to categorize everything. It might be useful to thinkabout some agreed-upon, if not necessarily 'true' descriptions, of differentperspectives. For example, I am never quite clear on what different peoplemean by a feminine vs. a masculine perspective, nor do I think that I coulddefine what Nina-Marie refers to as 'the predominant IMPLICIT perspectivein much of what we hear, see and read is that of the Western, logical-positivista.k.a. that of "rational economic man"; the rational scientist";the white patriarchy', and even if I could, would others agree to my definition?I must say here that I have had trouble with labels for quite some time,although I do recognize their value at times and will use them myself.

            Third, on technology, I agree with much of Stephanie's comments. Technologyitself is not inherently good or bad, sustainable or unsustainable, butrather its use is. There can obviously be appropriate or inappropriate technologies,but this depends in large part on how it is used and how it is valued. Thisalso fits in with some of the earlier comments on power and control, whichobviously extends beyond the use of technology to the use and abuse of othersocial institutions.

            Fourth, on 'intangibles', of course these need to be considered in ourdiscussions of sustainability. A major question, though, is whether we shouldtry to squeeze them into the straitjackets of valuation that we use forother, more tangible elements. Note that I said should, not can; the latterought to come after the former, not before.

            Finally, on Stephanie's "very crass political perspective, peopleand economic interests have to see short-term economic opportunity and hopealong the path you are trying to lead them on, or they will resist."I just got sent a forum from 1994 in Human Ecology on the subject Can SelfishnessSave the Environment? I have yet to read through this, but I will reportback once I do.

            Later, Dale


             

            Date: Tue, 18 Feb 1997
            From: Ann Dale
            Subject: Summary to Date.18.2.97

               

              Up One

              Down One

              With respect to David Sims' comments on the perspectives we should orshould not bring to the dialogue, followed up by comments from Nina-marieLister concerning implicit and explicit beliefs and Lazlo's comments, Ithink we have to look at the overall problem context in which we are dealing.As Laszlo points out, Elisabeth has stated she believes that "valueshave fallen out of our discussion". Since sustainable development researchand as Trist refers to domains of interest is normative, then values areimplicitly brought to any table where this domain is under discussion. Whatis important is that we make them explicit, acknowledge and own them, andlook at what influence these values bring to bear on the nature of our discussions,our knowledge and most importantly, do they act as barriers against socialchange for sustainable development. As Laszlo rightly points out, and asindicated in my discussions on the dominant socio-economic paradigm, economicvalues have tended to be the norm, and values such as, intrinsic values,aesthetic values, love and reciprocity tend to be ignored, because theycannot be commodified. How civil is our society when we only value whatcan be commodified?

              When I suggested taking a feminist perspective on our dialogue, I shouldhave clarified why. Feminisim looks at the social construct of gender andthe power relationships as a result of that construct. Feminisim, therefore,does not apply only to women, but to men and women, and how they are oppressedthrough gender roles. Feminist critiques look at power relationships, dominanceand patriarchy, all of which I believe mitigate against the meaningful implementationof sustainable development, once again, as illustrated in the three models.The integrist model is one, hopefully, that transcends the dominant paradigmof dominance.

              One of my committee members, Frances Westley, a biodiversity expert whoteaches in the Faculty of Management at McGill, has suggested that my researchwill be meaningless if it does not a. address issues of power and controland b. develop transition strategies for moving towards the dynamic evolutionarytarget of sustainable development. As Stephanie Cairns pointed out, technologyhas an important role to play in contributing towards reducted environmentalimpacts, particularly with respect to the economic and ecological imperatives.Once again, however, values come into play. What we value as a society determinesthe role, and the size of the influence of technology on our society. Asall of us are aware, there are some proponents who believe that technologyhas the power to get us out of any human crisis. Others, believe that itis a question of values. I believe that the two are inextricably linked,we cannot divorce technology from values, and vice-versa, neither can weseparate values from our work in sustainable development.

              At a recent meeting in Toronto, of which Nina-marie was part, we discussedwith one of our colleagues the role of culture in sustainable development.We came up with a model where memory, that is history of a culture, imagination determine the place that technology plays in a culture. In those cultures,where technology is revered as the highest good, then it begins to subsume"memory" and "imagination", and in those cultures where history/memory and imagination are valued, then it may assume a more balanced place. Perhaps that is where the paradox lies, are we victims of our own progress, or can we begin to meaningfully debate and "manage"the role and nature of the technology we need to move towards more sustainable societies. And once again, I think we have to link this discussion backto questions of carrying capacity, "caring capacity" (Elisabeth) and limits of the biosphere. There is some explanatory power here that Ithink we need to tease out.

              With respect to Stephanie's question about the "infamous" Figure4, I think the ESR (Hill) has a key role to play here, as does the exciting concepts of industrial ecology, and this, perhaps is the link between natural and human systems with values. Instead of regarding the earth as an infinite source of sinks for our wastes, if we adopted the principle that natural systems produce virutally no waste, then we could move to redesigning our production systems to produce virtually no waste. For example, Germany has mandated its car manufacturers the responsibility of taking back their products at the end of their life-cycle. What you see is immediate redesign for recycling effects, hopefully, followed by fundamental redesign. What other principles from nature are applicable here (Shealagh, Laszlo, Frank Cosway, any thoughtshere?)

              With respect to some of the comments Dale raised about feminine versus masculine perspectives, as mentioned earlier, feminism for me is a transcendant concept. It does not deny difference, but rather looks for the commonalities of the human condition, perhaps humanism, although I have problems with the anthropocentric dominance of humanism, perhaps, the human conditiontranscends this? Masculine and feminine, therefore, apply to sex roles,whereas feminism applies to gender, a social construct that is culturally determined. As some of you know, I became a feminist precisely because oflabels, and the seminar I gave at the Women's Conference, was entitled BeyondLabels. I have found labels to be similar to name-calling when I was a little girl, hurtful and not very constructive. And yet, when we make the labels explicit, and maybe, we all carry an implicit classification scheme of labelsin our head, then we can begin to examine them in the light of current realityand they lose their power.

              I apologize for the length of this message, but I am sitting here withthe sun pouring in my window, four degree weather, and indications of springaround the corner. I am trying for a delicate balance between guiding thisprocess and letting the dynamic process of the "wonderfu llness"of all of you evolve. I am excited by where we are going, even if we don'tknow where we are going, or where we will end up, but we are on an excitingvoyage of discovery.

              [...]

              Ann


               

               

              Date: Wed, 5 Mar 1997
              From: Nina-Marie Lister
              Subject: Re: Further Reflections on a Definition

                 

                Up One

                Down One

                Greetings,

                I am intrigued by what I perceive as a creative tension in our dialoguethus far. It seems that we iterate (quite respectfully) between the imperativesof concept and substance; definition and action; theory and practice-inmany of our discussions, whether on values, labels, definition or operationalissues. This in itself isn't new, as it seems to characterise every discussionI have ever had on SD or even decision-making in any context. But this tensionI think is a good thing. It probably forces us to come to grips with whatis perhaps a fundamental barrier to SD: the dualist nature of our institutionalbureaucracy-made up of polarised camps of "thinkers" and "doers",among many others.

                I am encouraged though, because each one of us, regardless of our owncomfort zones, seems to recognise that building a framework for SD is anexercise in compound vision-something Henry Regier once referred to as "polyocularvision". (Ok, close-up images of house flies come in here.) Anyway,it seems that we have a general point of agreement that multiple perspectivesare required to grasp the full range of imperatives and ensuing values thatwill be essential naviagte the uncertainty and complexity in SD. Laszlosaid he likes the term "holistic perspective" because it bringsthe whole system into focus, and "because unsustainability is a systemicproblem". I agree in principle, although the term "holism"is often used to mean precisely the opposite of "reductionism",in which the whole becomes "more important" than the parts. Clearly,in this case "a "holisitic perspective" doesn't really advanceour debate-we just end up falling back into the binary, or hierarchicallydualist thinking that characterises unsustainability. Rather, we might adopta "systemic" perspective that recognises both reductionist andholistic perspectives as valid. Similarly, David Orr (1992) uses "creativepostmodernism" to articulate the need for multiple perspectives ofpast and present to navigate issues of SD. Also, Funtowicz and Ravetz (1990,1991, 1993, 1994) have long advocated the "multiplicity of legitimateperspectives" in dealing with any issues of uncertainty and complexity.I guess what is most interesting to me about this is that we are moving"beyond the paradigm" here. We are no longer discussing "duelingparadigms", or even something that is "multi-paradigmatic".Indeed it seems to me that we recognise collectively the need for SD framework(s?)that transcend the whole notion of the paradigm!

                If we use Ann's revised and expanded SD "definition from first principles",and our collectively-modified Figure 4 as a contextual illustration, thenwe are bound to expose the underlying structures of power; to tease outthe buried values; and to peel back the veils of assumptions that concealunsustainable decision-making. (Certainly our debate on values and the useof labels was a step in that direction.) By doing this, we are engagingin what is a good example of a feminist methodology-emanicaptory criticaltheory. At the very least, we are tapping into the essential politics ofempowerment that are crucial if we are to put forth a *meaningful* frameworkfor SD.

                The reason I mention this, is that I wished to illustrate another meansby which our discussion can be enriched through a feminist perspective,among others. Ann has carefully articulated why she advocates using a feministperspective, by noting that: "Feminisim looks at the social constructof gender and the power relationships as a result of that construct. Feminisim,therefore, does not apply only to women, but to men and women, and how theyare oppressed through gender roles." This is a critical point. Feministresearch methodologies have much to add to the tool box we can draw uponin creating our framework: precisely by offering a critical perspectiveof the dominant paradigm, and in so doing, facilitating empowerment withinit and emancipation from it at the same time.

                As an example of expanding our perspectives, I like very much Stephanie'sself-professed "politically incorrect" suggestion (and highlyastute perspective I thought) that the SD framework might be enhanced andenriched by insights from industrial ecology. Yet another means of gettingpast the dualism in unsustainable thinking-let us embrace those new directionsin human creativity that may add to our tool box and get us on the pathtowards SD. There are many recent innovations in technology that have resultedfrom perceptive, systems thinkers who have looked to the ultimate modelfor sustainability-the biosphere-and have used "nature as teacher".(For theorists, complex systems theory has provided plenty of lessons forecosystem ecology; for practitioners, wetland ecology has given us the modelfor Todd's "living machine" and solar aquatics etc. etc.) Of course,I still advocate debate on the role of technology in any of the 3 imperativesfor SD that Ann has raised.

                Simply put, I do believe that if we combine, for example, the most elegantof industrial ecology with some of Elisabeth's "caring capacity"we will fare well in our quest for SD framework(s).

                Cheers,

                Nina-Marie

                 


                 

                Date: Wed, 19 Mar 1997
                From: Ann Dale
                Subject: Odds and Sodds

                   

                  Up One

                  Down One

                  I feel rather lonely, without a lot of dialogue going on right now. Itis hard to gauge silence electronically, whereas in a face-to-face meeting,one can judge from body language disinterest, boredom, or just in the caseof us Easterners, profound depression because of the snow. Regardless, Ithought I would post some interesting material I have recently read on themeaning of dialogue.

                  I was reminded of Elisabeth's message when I read this. "What doesdialogue require of people? Those who engage in dialogue must come to itwith humility, love, faith and hope-a formidable list of characteristics,but one that exemplifies a relational, rather than technique, perspective."(Dixon 1996) Freire (1970) wrote that "Love is at the same time thefoundation of dialogue and dialogue itself." In an address to the TeilhardCentre for the Future of Man, Stafford Beer (1981) stated "Having begunwith much talk of models, in what I consider was a proper analysis of ourphenomenological milieu, I have brought together a different model, wovenfrom threads of ancient and modern Western philosophy, from ancient Easternphilosophy, and yogic practice, from new scientific insights in physics,mathematics and neurophysiology, and from the intuitive, religious and aestheticunderstanding of the right-hand brain. I have not yet said what seems tome to be a model of. The best answer that I can give is that it is a modelof love."

                  Freire goes on to say "Faith in man[kind] is an a priori requirementfor dialogue; the 'dialogical man' believes in other men even before hemeets them face to face. . .Without this faith in man, dialogue is a farcewhich inevitably degenerates into paternalistic manipulation."

                  My question is, how do you re-integrate what are seen as "soft"concepts such as love, reciprocity, and relationships into harder conceptssuch as knowledge, systems, analysis, critical thought, that is, the wholeparadigm of rational versus irrational, objective versus subjective, whichfor me, is such an artifical construct. PERHAPS CATERINA WOULD LIKE TO COMMENTHERE.

                  (To once again avoid the trap of dualism, I do not reject ofjectivityas a desirable goal, I believe, however, that one can only attain some degreeof objectivity, by recognizing one's very subjectivity and all that entails.)

                  I was reminded of our discussions around perspectives when I read this"Dialogue is an affirmation of the intellectual capability of not onlythe individual but also the collective. It acknowledges that everyone isblind to his or her own tacit assumptions and needs the help of others tosee them. It acknowledges that each person, no matter how smart or capable,sees the world from a perspective and that there are other legitimate perspectivesthat could inform that view." I then thought back to my arguments forthe use of a feminist perspective, and believe I was falling into the trapof something I have argued against, dualism, that this perspective is betterthan other perspectives. And yet, dialogue means the bringing together ofmultiple perspectives that inform thought, it is indeed our ability to makethose perspectives explicit, that means we are engaging in possibly newthought, for "meaning is co-created in the act of dialogue, it cannotbe known ahead of time what meaning will emerge." (Dixon 1996)

                  I then fell into David Bohm's work on Dialogue, edited by Lee Nichol.Some of his musings: "recognizing the power of these assumptions andattending to their "virus-like" nature may lead to a new understandingof the fragmentary and self-destructive nature of many of our thought processes.. .a very considerable degree of attention is required to keep track ofthe subtle implications of one's own assumptive/reactive tendencies, whilealso sensing similar patterns in the group as a whole. . .the essentialdifficulty here is that we automatically assume that our representationsare true pictures of reality, rather than relative guides for action thatare based on reflective, unexamined memories. . .in actuality, the wholeworld is shades emerging into one. But we select certain things and separatethem from others-for convenience at first. Later we give this separationgreat importance. . . he suggests that what is occurring is in fact a paradox,not a problem. As a paradox has no discernible solution, a new approachis required, namely, sustained attention to the paradox itself, rather thana determined attempt to eradicate the "problem".

                  Perhaps some of the above, particularly with respect to a relationalperspective leads into answers for question 5. How can the concept of developmentreplace growth as necessary for sustainable employment, social mobilityand technical advance? SALLY LERNER MAY HAVE SOME THOUGHTS ON THIS PARTOF THE QUESTION. Is there a link, or new narrative for social change thatcan be made between development and progress?

                  Have a great day, Ann


                   

                  Date: Thu, 8 May 1997
                  From: Arja Vainio-Mattila
                  Subject: a contribution

                     

                    Up One

                    Down One

                    Dear list participants,

                    The term has ended, the papers are graded and for a brief moment thereis an illusion that time is my own! I have been lurking on the list, enthusiasticallylapping up thoughts posted up by some of you. The following are my disparateperspectives on some of the issues that have been brought up.

                    First, I'd like to return to Ann's "Odds and Sodds" reflections(19/3). I am in complete agreement with the perspective that dualisms areartificial and not particularly helpful concepts, especially in the contextwhere sustainability is some kind of end state of being (unless they existas part of some kind of larger framework of diversity). So the first stepto integrating values such as love, critical thought etc. has to be notseeing them as representative of different positions on the spectrum ofsoft vs hard (heart vs mind, female vs male etc). The trap, as I see it,is not so much dualism itself but ending to justify one end of the spectrumin terms of the other. For example, critical thought is seldom (never?)in a position where it has to be justified in terms of passion, which oftenhas a role in discourse only if its contribution is "critical".Qualitative research methods are regarded valid only if they can be justifiedin quantitative terms. Emotions are allowed if they are "rational"etc.

                    I am not sure about not rejecting objectivity as a desirable goal. Ithink I'd like to, after all it is only another perspective. My goal issustainability, and I am not sure to what extent that is objective. AndI most definetely think that some perspectives are better than other; someperspectives are, from my purely objective vantage point, inherently unsustainable(for example, homophobic patriarchal modernism). Maybe some of you wouldlike to comment further on this "objectivity".

                    And as I pontificate, a short aside to John's concern about the realworld implementation vs. conceptual reformulation. And apologies to Johnbecause I do apprceiate the point he is making. However, I have just beenreading, and tremendously enjoying, a book by bell hooks called "Teachingto transgress". (Something I am committed to do forever after!). Inthe book she describes an incident where she is part of a discussion groupon feminsit critique of black male leaders. At the end a participant commentedon how "she was not interested in all this theory and rhetoric, allthis talk, that she was more interested in action, in doing something, thatshe was just "tired" of all the talk." bell hooks was disturbedby this response because "in the world I live in daily, there are fewoccasions when black women or women of colour thinkers come together todebate rigorusly issues of race, gender, class, and sexuality. Therefore,I did not know where she was coming from when she suggested that the discussionwe were having was common, so common as to be something we could dispensewith or do without." I think that the discussion taking place withinthis group is very rare and I would love to see it continue in the abstractspace of conceptualization. I for one seldom have an opportunity to engagein dialogue at this level. The "real" world that I live in isso concerned with logistics of every day existence.

                    Finally, I want to revisit Nina-Marie Lister's guiding principles. Iwould like to add something that relates to flexibility and adaptability.I think that the capacity of institutions to change, and be transformative(in fact model transformativeness by their existensce) is a key to addressingwhat to me is one of the key issues in sustainablilty: the location of power.The reverence we have for old institutions (physical, social and cultural)entrenches power and doesn't allow for diversity, adaptability etc to emerge.

                    Well, I guess this is where I am on this May day.

                    Make it a great day! Arja

                     


                     

                    Date: Thu, 8 May 1997
                    From: Nina-Marie Lister
                    Subject: A reponse to dualism

                       

                      Up One

                      Down One

                      Hello everyone,

                      I want to offer a response to Ann's last posting and a clarificationof my comments on dualism and diversity in my posting of 22 April.

                      First, thanks are due to Ann for pointing out the conflicts in the languageI used for one of my off-the-cuff points made in beginning a reconciliationframework. Ann says:

                      >I agree with much of Nina-Marie's "Reconciliation framework"with the >exception of the comments on dualism. I agree that the conceptof nested >holons is very much a part of the rich tapestry of diversity,as well as >hierarchical arrangements. Dualism, however, is a human construct.Its >pervasiveness and persistence on modern thought, even in emergentsocial >movements, is a dominant influence . I believe that this uniquely>EuroAmerican view underpins anthropocentrism, androcentrism, >enthnocentrism,racism and sexism. All of these "isms" in turn shape the >thickness,determine the colour, and the flexibility of the lens we all use >tounderstand the world we live in and our relationship with other species.

                      To refresh everone's memory (and to save you digging through the postings!)here is what Ann was referring to:

                      >[NML] * Dualisms alone are not "bad things"; in fact dualismsare part of the >rich tapestry of diversity. It is the hierarchical assignmentof these >dualisms that has resulted in many of our socio-cultural pathologies.>Instead, we need to remove the constraints imposed by the hierarchies,and >see the diversity of human characterstics.

                      In light of Ann's comments with which I agree, I think I should clarifywhat I meant in the above paragraph. I didn't intend to suggest the humanconstruct of "dualisms" in the mechanistic Descartesian sense(actually, I didn't know enough to to do so). What I meant to refer to wasthe concept of difference, of diversity in ecological and social and culturalsystems that is fundamental to sustainability, at least in any meaningfulsense.

                      Certainly the dominant Eurocentric paradigm has resulted in unprecedentedhomogeneity of ecosystems, landscapes, cultures, religions, language etc.,and even worse, further marginalised those differences through entrenchingthe "isms" Ann refers to. For this reason, I think it is all themore important to celebrate difference, uniqueness, specialness and diversityas integral to sustainability. This is in keeping with breaking down whatShiva (1993) calls "monocultures of the mind". For example, muchof feminism has necessarily focused on similarlities between the sexes andgenders in an effort to break down the hierarchical dualism. But in a reconciliationframework, I see a powerful opportunity to celebrate those differences,rather than eradicate or ignore difference and diversity. Let me be clearthat this does NOT mean ignoring the power realtionships that fall out fromthe differnces in conventioanl western thought-in fact, it REQUIRES theexplicit recognition of the implicit power implications. The trick to celebrationfrom my point of view, is to embrace (rather than fear) difference by understandingthe impacts of power/power dynamics and the the core values associated withdifference and diversity. (More about this later.) In light of Ann's commentsthough, I think my using the term "dualism" is confusing and misleading- it's the wrong choice of term, I agree. Let us re-phrase this point then,to reflect diference and diversity.

                      I hope that is a little clearer.

                      More later,

                      Nina-Marie

                       


                       

                      To Worldviews, Part II

                      [back to top]