Friday, August 12, 2016


This post refers to an essay from “The Next System Project,” which publishes essays responding to the economic and environmental crisis of the world.  So far this essay is the one that really speaks to me.  In fact, I’ve often expressed the same ideas, but this is coherent and convincing.

One proposition adds a new-to-me concept: a nested holarchy of bioregions.  Holarchy is a new term for me.  “The basic organizational frame is a nested holarchy of bioregions that are substantially self-reliant in meeting most of their needs through their own labor and environmental resources.”  One of my continuing interests has been the village of Valier, nested in the county of Pondera, nested in the bioregion of grain growing “Golden Triangle,” nested in the high prairie, nested in the state of Montana, and so on.  

But also once I was part of the nested holarchy of small independent religious fellowships in the bioregion of the NW district of the denomination.  And earlier I was part of the nested holarchy of Montana bronze sculpture as part of the regional Cowboy Artists of America.  Is that right?

A holon is something that is simultaneously a whole and a part, like a seed contains a tree but then a tree contains a seed. “The word was coined by Arthur Koestler” who “was compelled by two observations in proposing the notion of the holon. The first observation was . . . that complex systems evolve from simple systems much more rapidly when there are stable intermediate forms present in that evolutionary process than if they are not present.”  Cowboy Artists of American was proof of this, creating an intermediate form, until the growth of auctions, galleries, publishers, and historical societies invested in “cowboy” art took hold.

(2)  “The second observation was . . . that, although it is easy to identify sub-wholes or parts, wholes and parts in an absolute sense do not exist anywhere. Koestler proposed the word holon to describe the hybrid nature of sub-wholes and parts within in vivo systems. From this perspective, holons exist simultaneously as self-contained wholes in relation to their sub-ordinate parts, and dependent parts when considered from the inverse direction.”  I suppose the UUA is an illustration, each congregation independent and voluntary, as are the members of the congregations.

“Koestler also says holons are autonomous, self-reliant units that possess a degree of independence and handle contingencies without asking higher authorities for instructions.”

Two organizational national mega-structures in the US are education and Christian denominations in the US.  Martin Marty, a prof emeritus at the U of Chicago Div School, and a favorite source of wisdom for the nation, wrote in his last “Sightings” post about the appalling vacuum at the heart of necessary understanding of both religion and citizenship.  (  In one of those terrifying surveys, it was revealed once again that basic citizenship concepts simply don’t exist, even in the minds of certified educated people.  This is what I mean by the emptying of diplomas that once indicated skills and knowledge.  They have become basically prerequisites for employment by corporations.  This is why parents and students DEMAND A’s merely for attendance and a minimum of compliance.  Greed.

Something similar has happened to churches where the cost of maintaining a building and staff including a minister demands that the congregation be popular enough to attract “critical mass” to the pews.  Reduced to pandering, whatever their message was intended to be is aborted.

Corporations, in the name of research and development, pour a LOT of money into colleges and universities, even state universities.  Part of this is through sports coliseums, part is through expensive labs and technical equipment, even cyclotrons.  They endow buildings named for them.  As a first reform, I would legally separate corporations from universities, that is, prevent gifts of money, esp. for sports coliseums, and forbid overlapping board memberships.  It will never happen.

David Korten is two years older than myself and was born less than an hour’s drive north of my birthplace (PDX) in Longview, WA, an idealistically founded community as indicated by its name.  This means that WWII is foundational in his awareness of the world, the same as in mine, and that after the war he believed in the corporate flowering of America.  (I did not.  My father worked for a cooperative and was committed to that ideology.)  Both Korten and I are appalled that it has all come to this — so quickly!  So recently!

Korten uses the word “sacred” quite a lot, but differently than I do.  To him it seems to mark those concepts that should be inviolable because they are logically vital to living systems.  That is, he’s still in the Harvard intellectual mold to some extent: propositional thinking, logic, evidence, science, etc.  

When I say “sacred” I don’t mean untouchable or privileged.  I mean you can feel it literally.  I mean it’s holistic, a whole person phenomenon.  And yet there is convergence between Korten’s “sacred” and mine.  A nested holarchy maybe.

Another place we converge is the awareness of systems failure causing individual anguish.  In my answer to the boy Will — who was crying at the HIV clinic because he, who had already been deeply abused by being raped, infected with HIV, and then had an eye cut out by someone trying to punish him for being infected, was now being treated with rough impatience and contempt by the clinic personnel.  ( — I suggested that our whole medical system has been reorganized so as to maximize profit and lock out complaints.  The HIV/AIDS clinic itself is a bone thrown to “lesser” people for political expediency.  This idealogical explanation of mine was no comfort to the boy — his friend’s arms around him helped some — but it certainly suggests that corporate/governmental expediency is far from victimless, and that our universal social callousness is only meant to keep from knowing that a little one-eyed boy is crying.  Of course, Will is black.

I am not.  But to get an appointment with a doctor, I must tell the scheduler what my affliction is because she has a little list on her desk that tells her how much time to allot me: so-much for cancer, so much for pneumonia.  Unless I label the diagnosis myself, she will balk because the doc will run late.  I have no idea who made that list or how they know how much time with the doc I need.  Even then, the doc will try to get me to agree to see his nurse who will decide whether I should see the doctor.

Will’s problem is more serious.  He can only stay alive by taking meds he can only get by being obedient in that clinic.  (There’s an armed guard.)  The meds are subsidized because they are terrifically expensive, much more than in other countries.  Meds for other countries are also sometimes subsidized by the US in order to keep them obedient.  Big pharma is one of the most potent global corporations and it has the governments by the balls — Viagra for old rich men of various colors.

The great value of the David Korten model is that he comes out of the heart of MBA territory and shifts their terms from money to a living planet.  He has recognized that defining our Gross National Product (my mother used to say “heavy on the GROSS”) in a way that includes disaster and tragedy (because it forces expenditure) is a Suicide Culture.  Likewise with the constant exploitation of resources that cannot be replaced — not just coal and oil, but also the exotic trace minerals that make handheld electronic devices possible.

Korten has been out in the world and does not think in a bubble as so many do, as the small HighLine Montana towns do — refusing to admit that county, state nor federal agencies have anything to do with them and so tolerating their evolution towards increased domination.  Locals deny global weather change, deny the accumulation of toxic molecules, deny the loss of soil fertility, and deny that money is a fantasy.  Even better, Korten can explain his ideas in an intelligible way with a minimum of jargon.

Either read online or download a PDF.

No comments: