social

Working Class Consciousness

Pattern ID: 
751
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
12
Steve Zeltzer
Labor Video Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The need for a global consciousness, solidarity and collaboration among working people in every country of the world is a critical task for confronting the economic, political and social challenges the working class faces. The deepening contradictions of imperialism with it's war in Iraq and the need to militarize Asia and the rest of the world are opportunities for bringing working people together.

Context: 

The man made failure of the most recent catastrophe in the US Gulf Coast is an example of the need of working people to take control of their lives and society.

Discussion: 

One important tool in this process of international working class globalization is not only by joint collective action by workers throughout the world but through the use of film, art and media technology to bring working people together.

The training of workers in every industry and every country for this work is the task ahead and the success of this project requires that this be an international campaign based on the grassroots of struggle in collaboration both with regional, national and international labor. The Labortech and Labor Media conferences www.labortech2004.org in many countries of the world have been important in training and building these international links. They have taken place in Vancouver, BC, Moscow, Russia, Seoul, Korea and many cities in the United States.

In the US and Europe and growing parts of Asia, these resources are readily available but at the same time workers in every country of the world must have the means and ability to concretely link up internationally. The developments of LaborNets in Japan, Korea, Austria, Germany, Turkey, Denmark and the US have been a growing vehicle for developing labor festivals and labor technology conferences.

LaborFests or Labor Media Conferences have been held in Japan, Korea, the US, Russia. This past November, a LaborFest was held in Buenos Aries and one is planned this coming October in El Alto, Bolivia and in April-May 2006 in Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey.

These festivals which could be held in every city of the world provide a venue and concrete means for linking through film, music and culture the collective experiences and consciousness of workers throughout the world. The rebellions of workers in Latin America, the fight against capitalist globalization have been a theme that expose the commonality of all the attacks the working class faces.

The important need to use media both tv and radio to link workers around the world is also growing. The same economic policies such as deregulation, caualization, privatization and de-unionization are at work in every country of the world.

The failure of the workers in the United States to begin to challenge the basic assaults that they face is of course the responsibility of the corporate unionists who control the resources and apparatus of the trade unions. The failure to provide a concrete alternative program and agenda is a major impediment to any form of national and international fightback. The need for an international collaboration is also connected to develop the means for the international working class to take control of their destiny. Airline workers world wide, longshore workers, medical workers, teachers, public workers, telecommunication workers are faced with the exact same type of attacks yet they have been hobbled by a lack of international collaboration and collective joint action.

The experience of the Liverpool Dockers strike in 1995 that led to the formation of an international labor action in solidarity as well as a web based international solidarity campaign was crucial in building international support.
http://www.labournet.net/sept97/sfpress1.html

This was carried on in 1997 when the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions KCTU and their supporters established an international web page in support of their general strike. The web page in Korean and English became a critical tool in building direct support action for workers around the world as well as an information portal on the struggle and a way for unions and workers worldwide to show their solidarity on the web.

The Korean union federation KCTU has been the most active national union federation in the world to seek collective cultural action and direct labor action to defend it's interests. It has recently called for a national strike against casualization and temporary work on November 23, 2005 and international action by workers throughout the world would be an important step in building this collective action about an issue that effects and harms working people worldwide.

The KCTU also hosts and organizes a yearly festival in November 12 in commemoration of the death of labor organizer Chun Taeil to not only have a mass mobilization but a national 8 hour cultural media art celebration. This even which is held at the Korean Broadcasting Company Stadium brings together the experiences of the working class through a cultural and theatrical production that is choreographed to the minute over 8 hours. Such a festival could and should be held in every country that ties together the song, poetry, music and art of struggle. The power of this collective expression is an important element in breaking down the corporatized isolation, marginalization of workers and humanity as well as the commodification of music, art and cultural expressions for profit of the multi-nationals.

The growing privatization of the internet and the threat to censorship and control of the internet has been growing. In the Liverpool dockers strike, the shipping corporations tried to stop information from being posted. In Korea, the government sought to pressurize www.nodong.net, the Geman government this year raided the internet servers of the German labornet www.labournet.de. Most recently the Canadian Telus Corporation prevented million of users from accessing the labor web pages of the Canadian Telecom Union TWU. (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/01/business/worldbusiness/01telus.html?pa...)

This censorship does not only come from corporate and anti-union media and technology corporations.
In the UK, the Executive Council of the FBU banned members from using the public website of an opposition grouping opposing labor management collaboration and "partnerships". (http://www.labournet.net/sept97/sfpress1.html)

The international collective voices of working people have the power to overcome the different languages, cultures and borders that presently exist. In fact, this is crucial for a new renaissance of collective self consciousness that is vital for the transformation of the present dynamics. The future reorganization of the world economy into one controlled by the working class requires the use of these tools now to build this collective and democratic power.

The use of the internet as not only a communication tool but broadcasting tool is relatively at an early stage. A 24 hour labor video and radio channel in all the languages of the world is realizable with the expansion of the internet and this is now happening with a 24 hour labor radio channel in Korea at www.nodong.org International collaboration in action and on a cultural level must be linked with the use of communication technology and a labor media strategy that focuses on how these technologies can empower the working class and farmers as well as how they can confront the global propaganda blitz by capitalist media against the interests of the people.

Solution: 

The international collective voices of working people have the power to overcome the different languages, cultures and borders that presently exist. In fact, this is crucial for a new renaissance of collective self consciousness that is vital for the transformation of the present dynamics. The future reorganization of the world economy into one controlled by the working class requires the use of these tools now to build this collective and democratic power. The need to defend democratic communication rights and protections is fundamental to defend media and democratic communication and education and direct action are necessary to accomplish this work.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Global consciousness, solidarity, and collaboration among working people around the world are critical for addressing the challenges that the working class faces. One important tool in addition to collective action is the use of film, art, and media technology. The training of workers for this work requires an international campaign in collaboration with labor at all levels. The need to defend communication rights and protections is fundamental, as is education and direct action.

Pattern status: 
Released

Memory and Responsibility

Pattern ID: 
405
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
11
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Although the evils of the past continue to haunt us in the present, society is often unable — or unwilling — to deal with historical injustice. Thus, although specific incidents of invasion, slavery, apartheid and genocide may appear to be receding into the irretrievable past, they are never altogether absent from humankind's collective memories. As Robert Putnam states, "Networks of civic engagement embody past success at collaboration which can serve as a cultural template for future collaboration" (2000). Unfortunately these cultural "templates" encode past collaborative evils of the past, as well, and these are recycled all too regularly. Can humankind escape this cycle?

Context: 

Societies are the sum total of their past events. The events of the past that have not been successfully reconciled haunt the present. Projects that endeavor to help address social problems may be well served by examining historical memory and reconsidering how to respond appropriately.

Discussion: 

Our memory of the past must guide the responsibility we accept in the present for the future. Without this linkage over time I could steal your belongings with no guilt or responsibility. Of course this has happened on a large scale throughout history. One group will murder, displace or enslave another and enjoy the fruits of their sins for lifetimes. Each passing day tends to legitimize — but never really erase — the misdeeds of history.

Unfortunately, misremembering history, is institutionalized. It's important to understand the motivation and the implications of intentional (let alone unintentional!) misrepresentation of history. Thus in the United States, the enslavement of Africans and the devastation of Native American communities as well as the militaristic forays of recent years including saturation bombing of civilian Japanese populations in World War II to the catastrophic Viet Nam War to the recent illegal invasion of Iraq are generally downplayed and sugar-coated. According to these re-writers of history, Americans always proceed with the best of intentions, perhaps marked by an occasional yet guileless misstep. With ubiquitous misinformation how can the next generation fully understand their country — with its successes as well as its failures — and make wise decisions in the future? Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States serves as an important (though still vastly underutilized) counter-balance to these trends and could also serve as an excellent model for other countries and regions as well as for various economic, political, and religious ideologies.

What can/should people to be done to reconcile past sins and heal historical trauma? Although this question has rarely been addressed peacefully, thoughtfully and effectively throughout humankind's vast history, the large number of projects now in progress shows one hopeful sign of our era. According to Richard Falk, the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany, and directed against Jews primarily as well as against the Roma, Gays, and other groups, marked a central historical marker in this regard. Since that time, movements for redress of war crimes of Japan against China, redress for indigenous people throughout the world, and tribunals and commissions focusing on war crimes and other transgressions have been launched.

People are engaging in innovative projects that help people confront and understand and, hopefully, reconcile the present and future. Some of these examples include the courageous work of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo who publicly confront the abuse of power with photographs of "the disappeared" from Argentina's "dirty war" to seek justice and reconciliation with the past. Other examples to explore include the Seder ritual celebrated by Jews around the world, the post-war efforts in Germany to come to terms with their past, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission work in post-apartheid South Africa (and subsequently in many other regions), and the reparations efforts to help compensate African-Americans for the enslavement of their ancestors.

In 2000, the North Carolina General Assembly commissioned a report on an event that had been covered up for over 100 years — a violent revolt and coup in 1898 that was directed against blacks by white vigilantes in Wilmington, North Carolina. Unwilling to wait until the results of the (fixed) election took effect according to law, white supremacists seized city government, burned black-owned businesses and murdered 100 or more blacks in the streets and in their houses. According to John DeSantis, the draft report released in 2005 concluded that "the rioting and coup fully ended black participation in local government until the civil rights era, and was a catalyst for the development of Jim Crow laws in North Carolina" (2006). The report stated that, "Because Wilmington rioters were able to murder blacks in daylight and overthrow Republican government without penalty or federal intervention, everyone in the state, regardless of race, knew that the white supremacy campaign was victorious on all fronts" (DeSantis, 2006).

Not only did this event disenfranchise several generations of black families in the Wilmington area but it actually ushered in a wave of similar actions and intimidation all over the South and became a model for actions in other cities including Atlanta, Georgia in 2006. Interestingly, whites and blacks were both wary of bringing this ugly historical incident back to public visibility and awareness. But what to do with the knowledge that a large number of people were brutalized and murdered (which led to a decades-long denial of basic civil rights) by a large number of people whose great grandchildren are undoubtedly still living in the region. The fact that this historical information has been sequestered for so long, especially in a region of the country that is well-known for its interest in history shows the prevalence of selective historical memory — which in itself represents many challenges for an exercise such as this.

The function of collective memory should promote healing, to set up patterns of behavior that constructively parses history to avoid future problems and to teach each other through mistakes. The intent is not to blame or punish the descendants of people who perpetuated misdeeds both great and small — after all, who if anybody would be immune to that historical ensnarement — but to encourage people to reason together and strive for reconciliation. Ideally the descendants, especially those who have prospered since that time, would play a role in the design of mechanisms and policies to atone for and help reconcile and help redress the sins of the past especially for those who have suffered the most.

In another region and in another era, Veran Matic (2004) eloquently described the rationale why the B92 radio station he works for in Serbia, in the former Yugoslavia, keeps working the way they do.

"If we do not grasp our recent past, we will build our present and our future on false assumptions, beliefs and stereotypes

If we do not face the errors of our past we will again seek excuses for our present in the same place Milosevic sought them — the guilt of others, global conspiracy and so on, rather than in the weaknesses of the society. These weaknesses must be faced in order to understand reality

If we do not fully comprehend our reality, reform programs will be based on false premises

The problems of the repressed past will boomerang, like the permanent problem of lack of cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, or the problem of mafia and police links, or problems with the business elite who amassed their wealth through privileges granted by Milosevic.

Without a radical break with the past there will be no change in the cultural model under Milosevic, which has overwhelmed the entire society, from culture, through education, to the media.

Unless we face the past, we will never know what is good for us and what is bad for us

By not facing the past, we neglect our duty to the future, leaving new generations to pay our debts, just as our generations have paid for the repression of the past of World War II in our country. This gave rise to new vengeance forty years later

And, finally, without engagement we will be unable to demonstrate authentic belief and strong will to institute changes that should benefit every single individual."

"Forgetting" the past is not desirable, nor in reality is it really possible. Although Matic is speaking specifically about recent injustice in the former Yugoslavia, his message is universal. Through hard work by all concerned, healing historical wounds can be accomplished. Although it may seem impossible, those who have inherited the results of yesterday's actions must relive insofar as it can be done, the past sacrificing as necessary to set a more just course for the future.

The best outcome of this pattern, a valuable gift to our descendants, would be the attenuation or, better, the cessation of current practices of brutality, exploitation, impoverishment and oppression.

Solution: 

Think about and confront memory in creative, productive and sensitive ways. Cultivate and assume responsibility. Actively work to reconcile the trauma of the past to guide a better tomorrow.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Although the evils of the past continue to haunt us in the present, society is often unable or unwilling to deal with historical injustice. The function of Memory and Responsibility is to promote healing, to study history to avoid future problems. The intent is not to blame or punish but to encourage people to reason together and strive for reconciliation.

Pattern status: 
Released

Social Responsibility

Pattern ID: 
875
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
8
Stewart Dutfield
Marist College
Burl Humana
Kenneth Gillgren
Gillgren Communication Services, Inc.
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Things don’t get better by themselves. Without purposeful intervention, organizations of all kinds lose sight of their social responsibilities.

Context: 

Any organization that sees itself without social responsibility will change only in the face of financial penalty or purposeful intervention. Where social benefits form all or part of an organization’s purpose, this alone does not guarantee positive achievements. Any organization with a shared vision of social responsibility, whether a for-profit corporation or a not-for-profit group working for the public good, needs to deliver what it promises. A passion for principles drives the efforts of individuals and citizen groups to make corporations, professions and governments more responsive; the more open and accountable they are, the more responsive they will become.

Discussion: 

The striving for social responsibility takes many forms. Grameen Bank (www.grameen-info.org) and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, received the 2006 Nobel Prize for furthering peace and human rights by providing economic opportunities that conventional banks would not. Working Assets (www.workingassets.com) preassigns a portion of its revenues to activist causes. Socially responsible investing uses published criteria to recommend investment vehicles and to initiate stockholder actions in support of particular principles.

Advocacy organizations pursue a wide variety of principles. The Saltwater Institute advocates five values: (a) family and community responsibility, (b) respect and appreciation for the natural world, (c) service and stewardship, (d) the necessity for work and productivity, and (e) an intentional commitment to goodness (www.saltwater.org/our_story/beliefs.htm). Scientists for Global Responsibility (www.sgr.org.uk) opt for openness, accountability, peace, social justice and environmental sustainability, while Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (www.cpsr.org) address technological problems in the light of technology-related principles.

Until the late 19th century, corporate charters in the United States confined a company to a specific purpose in the common good. For example, an 1823 act of the New York legislature incorporated the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company with a charter to build and maintain, with private investment, a canal between the Delaware and Hudson rivers and to charge regulated fees for the transport of coal and other goods. Any other activity by the corporation, such as setting up a bank, required an amendment to its charter (Whitford, 1905). A recent form of the socially-responsible corporate charter is the Community Interest Company ( www.cicregulator.gov.uk).

In 1970, the economist Milton Friedman wrote that "The social responsibility of business is to maximize its profits." Invoking the authority of Adam Smith to claim that society most benefits if everyone pursues selfish advantage, Friedman paved the way for some businesses to ignore the wider impacts of their pursuit of low costs, increasing sales, and big financial returns, and to consider themselves accountable only to owners and regulators. In turn, this gave rise to the tyranny of the financial bottom line; any attempt at purposeful social progress needs to overcome the myth that social progress takes place of its own accord.

Activism on behalf of principles other than self-interest or convenience is necessary to remind selfish businesses of their social responsibility, and to prevent other organizations from losing touch with theirs. This activism can take place outside the organization, in citizen groups and political platforms, or within the organization as the individual actions of the tempered radical (Meyerson, 1995) and in the form of changes to policy and governance. In these efforts, the struggle of advocacy is at least as important as the specific principles being advocated. Social responsibility does not depend upon any one principle of conduct.

To be socially responsible is to be accountable to a full range of interested parties for the achievement of clearly-stated goals. It calls for: (a) clear vision, values and strategy for a better future; (b) understanding and management of expectations; (c) actions compatible with vision and values; (d) monitoring of outcomes; (e) accountability for results; and (f) a culture and governance that makes this possible. A socially responsible organization acts on the basis of clear values, which may explicitly include measurable results, transparency and accountability (e.g. www.gfusa.org/about_us/values).

Any organization has internal and external stakeholders: customers and constituencies which both contribute to and benefit from the organization's work. For example, the Citizens Advice Bureau (2004) considers stakeholders to include potential and actual clients, volunteers, staff, partners, policy makers, and government bodies. No two of these customers of constituencies have the same expectations. A socially responsible organization makes itself accountable to stakeholders according to the unique expectations of each group, and always consistently with its values and strategy.

Accountability to stakeholders measures actual performance against predetermined goals. It does not simply describe what an organization has achieved in the past, but requires commitment to achievements in advance. To be accountable is to measure indicators of performance that affect stakeholders, and to make the results transparent—that is, to report outcomes to stakeholders as evidence that the organization is fulfilling its goals and enacting its values. One example is a set of performance indicators for microfinance institutions ( www.swwb.org/English/2000/performance_standards_in_microfinance.htm).

Any organization devoted to serving others is measured every time someone walks in or logs on—indeed, whenever anyone even drives past the building or happens upon the web site. A commitment to achieve social benefits does not absolve a not-for-profit from thinking of the people it serves as customers, and to consider its relations with them as marketing (Brinckerhoff, 2003). To clearly understand perspectives from outside the organization is a first step toward measuring and improving the organization's impact.

Social responsibility requires accountability, but for what and to whom? Several frameworks exist for measures of accountability. The Balanced Scorecard (Kaplan & Norton, 1992) suggests four linked categories: financial, customer, internal business, and innovation and learning. These categories are linked to strategy because improvement in any one will benefit all the others (except that no direct relationship is claimed between the first and the last). Epstein and Birchard (1999) propose three categories: financial, operational, and social.

A "stakeholder scorecard" (Epstein & Birchard, 1999, p. 96) uses the major stakeholders as categories of performance measures. This approach directly measures how the organization serves its stakeholders, and orients strategy towards those with an interest in the outcomes. Stakeholders may fall into predetermined categories, such as shareholders, customers, employees and communities (Epstein & Birchard, 1999); alternatively, they may simply appear as a list of specific categories of stakeholder most important to the organization.

No organization, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, is socially responsible simply by virtue of its intent to achieve social benefits. Action consistent with the organization's espoused values demands a culture—ethical assumptions, values, beliefs and behaviors—that pervades the organization from top to bottom. Without a culture of demonstrable consistency between espoused and practiced values, claims to social responsibility are at best window-dressing, and at worst a symptom of a demoralized, failing and unethical organization. By contrast, a culture of accountability makes an organization more effective and more sustainable; social responsibility demands nothing less.

Solution: 

Whether from without or within, advocate for principles to help for-profit corporations realize their social responsibility in addition to the responsibility they feel toward stockholders, and to spur not-for-profit organizations, government bodies, and professions to keep their social responsibility in view. One principle that applies everywhere is that of openness and accountability.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Having social benefits as part of an organization's mission, does not guarantee positive achievements. Any organization with a shared vision of Social Responsibility needs to deliver what it promises. Activism on behalf of principles other than self-interest or convenience is necessary to remind organizations of their Social Responsibility, and to prevent other organizations from losing touch with theirs.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Political Settings

Pattern ID: 
760
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
7
Jonathan Barker
University of Toronto
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The venues of political action are changing dramatically with the proliferation of new kinds of non-governmental organizations, the broadening coverage of the Internet, and the actions of governments to redefine and often reduce the scope of their direct interventions. We need concepts to describe these changes and assess their implications, both negative and positive, for democratic participation.

Context: 

Innovative political or social action fits into the existing field of popular and governmental activity. What political settings—as gatherings to inform, discuss, assert, dispute, debate, and decide important public matters—are available? What are their biases about who can participate, how matters are discussed, and what issues can be raised? Where do particular settings fit in the hierarchy of power? How do economic and cultural forces and physical threats influence the process? Will a new action create a new setting or alter an existing one? By asking questions like these, activists will better grasp the changes they are asking people to make, and researchers can analyze the changing shape and structure of political space over long or short spans of time. 

Discussion: 

Political settings are the basic physical units of collective political action. Each instance of a political setting has its own unique location in space and time. Many recur on a regular basis. Meetings and demonstrations are common types of political setting. Here are two recent examples from reports about political change in Venezuela. One is a small-scale political setting, a barrio meeting; the other describes two large-scale, competing political marches:

The Meeting
Nidia Lopez stood on one side of the brick built shack. It was like one of the thousands that made up the barrio of Andres Bello. The barrios, or slums, are where the majority of the Venezuelan population lives. Thirty people looked at Nidia. Some of them stood outside in the mud. The building was too small to fit them all.
Nidia spoke and her voice was clear and loud. She said, "There are 23 families living on the street in this barrio. In eight years what has this government done for them? In three years what has this Committee done for them? They need help now! What are we going to do for them now?"
The "we" that Nidia was talking about was the Urban Land Committee for the Andres Bello barrio. The Urban Land Committees...exist everywhere there are barrios in Venezuela and barrios are everywhere in Venezuela.
When barrio problems are discussed...the most common suggestion is to get organized. At the Andres Bello meeting, barrio resident Hector Madera said, “When the people of our barrio have a problem they mustn’t rely on the media, or go and whisper in the ear of a friend in a Chavista party, we need to organize ourselves.”
Nidia Lopez felt the best way the Andres Bello CTU could help the 23 homeless families was to take the appeal to the President. Everybody else in the meeting argued it was more important that organization happen first.
The families should...discuss with each other about what they wanted. They should also talk with the owner of the mansion. Only then should they approach the government for assistance if they still needed it.
Madera said the barrios needed to organize together, "When organized we can involve the people from nearby barrios, like Chapellin, and get their support. We will help them and them us. Together we solve our problems ourselves. We can march together."
( Source: Entitled to Democracy:Venezuela’s Urban Land Committees and Participatory Democracy. Saturday, Feb 11, 2006. By Alex Holland – Venezuelanalysis.com)

The Marches
Venezuelans celebrated International Worker’s Day yesterday with two large marches that wound through the streets of Caracas. One in support of the Chavez-led "Bolivarian Revolution," and the other with the opposition. This marks the sixth year in a row that Venezuelan workers have held separate marches on May 1st.
The opposition march was led by the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV) which, according to the Venezuelan daily El Universal, called for the participants to march for increased salaries, back-pay, a dignified social security system, and freedom for CTV President Carlos Ortega, who was sentenced last year to 16 years in prison for his role in the two-month 2002-3 oil industry shut down.
"Things are turbulent. With this government everything is turbulent," yelled 15 year- CTV veteran, Israel Masa, from the opposition march. "That’s why we are marching -- to demand transparency in the next elections, because we in the opposition know that we are the majority and that we are the true democrats."
The pro-government march was led by the National Workers Union (UNT) and officially entitled, the "Bolivarian March Against Imperialism and Free Trade Agreements," highlighting the international importance of today’s celebrations, and calling attention to the recent motives for Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Community of Andean Nations.
"This demonstration is a struggle against imperialism and the conspiratorial plans of US imperialism against Venezuela," announced Venezuelan National Assembly Representative Dario Vivas ...at the start of the march. "The people of Venezuela are ready to do whatever necessary to guarantee our liberty."
(Source: Opposition and Chavez Supporters March Separately for Mayday in Venezuela, Tuesday, May 02, 2006. By Michael Fox - Venezuelanalysis.com)

As these two examples show, the respective contexts -- social structure, rules of entry and action, physical layout, and cultural expectations -- heavily influence the quality of participation and the content of decisions and messages. “Political setting” is a particularly useful concept for describing political action in context, the venues of face-to-face political communication that are the building-blocks of public political life. They encompass all occasions in which issues and needs of general importance to a community or a society are discussed, contested, and decided. They may be open and democratic, but very often they explicitly or implicitly bar certain groups, certain perspectives, and certain issues. It is important to investigate how they filter participants and ideas.

Although many of meetings and debates that seek to influence community-wide matters take place in government institutions, an increasing proportion occur in voluntary associations, social movement groupings, and invitation-only meetings. Internet discussions demonstrate the growing importance of virtual political settings and raise questions about how they differ from face-to-face meetings and how uneven access to computers affects political outcomes. The rules and culture of each setting influence the quality of communication, deliberation, and decision-making it embodies. Are they open or secret? Which voices do they amplify or exclude? What about women, poor people, people of low status, different cultures and religions? What is their impact?

The idea of political setting draws upon ecological psychology’s concept of "behavior settings," but it puts the focus on activity that aims to influence public policy. It opens the door into exploration of the evolving pattern language exemplified in the face-to-face political actions from below that are emerging in meetings and demonstrations around the world with all their limitations as well as their strengths.

Solution: 

Seeing and analyzing popular politics through the lens of political settings promises to generate a useful and realistic view of the political resources available for popular action and of the obstacles that such action faces.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Political action venues are changing with the proliferation of new kinds of nongovernmental organizations, the broadening reach of the Internet, and the actions of governments. Political Settings are the basic units of collective political action.The idea of political settings opens the door to exploration of evolving civic intelligence exemplified by political actions from below.

Pattern status: 
Released

Global Citizenship

Pattern ID: 
866
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
6
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Lori Blewett
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Rights and responsibilities as narrowly defined by citizenship in a particular nation-state can result in an us-against-them mind-set, leading to biased interpretations of information, and even paranoia and hostility to other countries. This understanding can also be used to deny the reality or meaning of oppression and suffering in other countries and to eschew responsibility for helping to redress these problems. Citizenship also determines access to health care, education, and other rights —rights that arguably should be universal. A narrow interpretation of citizenship implicitly cedes power to national governments whose defense of national interest can sometimes be used against its own citizens who have no legal access to a ‘‘higher authority,’’ and can restrict the participation of citizens in global affairs and problem solving.

Context: 

In the waning years of the twentieth century, people worldwide increasingly began to notice the world outside their own. At the same time nation-states, facing the new realities of economic globalization, seemed to be losing their ability—as well as their interest —in promoting the welfare of their own citizens and the natural world. As John Urry (1999) stated, ‘‘More generally, global money markets, world travel, the Internet, globally recognized brands, globally organized corporations, the Rio Earth summit, ‘global celebrities’ living as global citizens and so on, all speak of modes of social experience which transcend each nation-state and its constitution of the national citizen.’’ Global climate change, natural resource depletion, economic inequity, and other vast problems that humankind now faces can be added to that list.

Discussion: 

Citizenship is generally described as the formal relationship, usually codified in law, of a person (the citizen) and a state and often is delineated in terms of rights and responsibilities. Its site has shifted from the Greek city-state, where the idea first took hold, to the modern nation-state, whose birth is linked to the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which established the convention that countries and its citizens do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

Many nationalist political movements —the eighteenth-century American Revolution through the twentieth-century Palestinian Liberation struggle —emphasize national identity and citizenship to assert their right to self-determination and political autonomy from oppressive colonial states. But history is also rife with examples of nationalism used to oppress and remove minority, and sometimes majority, populations. At the same time, the liberal concept of citizenship based on a shared national identity offers the promise of overcoming religious and ethnic divisions. From the perspective of economically disadvantaged and oppressed subpopulations, however, the promise of inclusivity and shared interests has fallen flat.

The transnational realm of global capital in a free-market world, requires global civic response. As national laws are superseded by international treaties and trade agreements, individuals’ rights and obligations become governed by global institutions —the reality that citizens of debt-ridden nations are well aware of. The question is not whether we are global citizens. The question is what form our citizenship will take. What are our rights and responsibilities toward global governing institutions and structures. Should governing bodies be directly elected by the governed? How will the rights of the weakest be protected from the strongest in the global polity? What counts as a right? What responsibilities do global citizens have to one another?

We need to ask what types of globalization are empowering to individuals and define and construct ones likely to lead to collective problem solving. Currently there are few opportunities for people to help address shared problems. Unfortunately this lack of opportunity comes at time when many problems are global in nature and require global thinking and acting. In addition to preventing people (and their ideas and other resources) from contributing to the general welfare, narrow versions of citizenship are used to establish arbitrary categories of deservedness. Our narrow version of citizenship makes it less likely that global solutions that work for everybody are developed. The opposite, in fact, is more likely: that collective dilemmas are ‘‘resolved’’ in ways that are relatively bad for everybody—or nearly everybody.

There are two useful avenues for people to explore to make headway toward realizing this pattern. The first is to assume the role and responsibilities without seeking permission from an authoritative source; obtaining permission would of course be impossible given that no authoritative source exists that can bestow such a designation. Assuming this role means thinking—and acting—globally, adopting the perspective that the world is densely interconnected, its general health is important, and well-intentioned and well-informed citizens can play a positive role. The second is to actively work toward some formal recognition of global citizenship by, for example, helping to define and develop the intellectual and administrative scaffolding that does not currently exist. Both of these paths could be undertaken individually or through working with existing or new organizations that work in these areas.

When Diogenes, the Greek philosopher, stated that he was a citizen of the world, he was refusing, according to Martha Nussbaum (1994), ‘‘to be defined simply by his local origins and group memberships, associations central to the self-image of a conventional Greek male; he insisted on defining himself in terms of more universal aspirations and concerns.’’ But to some scholars, the nation-state is the rightful and permanent wellspring of citizenship, and alternative conceptualizations, however tentative and speculative, are damned as heretical. Michael Walzer (2002), for example, finds it difficult to contemplate the idea since ‘‘no one has ever offered me [world] citizenship, or described the naturalization process, or enlisted me in the world’s institutional structures, or given me an account of its decision procedures ( I hope they are democratic), or provided me with a list of the benefits and obligations of citizenship, or shown me the world’s calendar and the common celebrations and commemorations of its citizens.’’ As an ironic and unintended side effect of this critique, Walzer provided a useful (if overly formal) laundry list of practical objectives that proponents of global citizenship need to consider.

Ann Florini (2005) builds a case that the Internet may help create a global consciousness analogous to the nationalist consciousness that the printed word helped inspire. The printing press led to a reconciliation of regional differences and a cheaper and faster way to reach constituencies that were too remote for effective collaboration. This then played a strong role in the development of the nation-state and, hence, nation-state-based citizenship. In similar fashion, Florini surmises that a new global consciousness could help usher in broader, more inclusive notions of citizenship. And although these are more likely to be dynamic, idiosyncratic, and short-lived, new Web sites are springing into existence every day. The Internet makes it easier to learn about foreign perspectives, and although they can be as hidebound as their domestic counterparts, they help reveal the immense diversity of viewpoints on earth as well as the universality of concerns facing people everywhere.

Are there examples of de facto global citizenship? Organizations like ‘‘No person is illegal’’ and the ‘‘Without Borders’’ groups are getting closer to that ideal. Are there practical experiments that could be done now? The growth of universal declarations, supporting human rights, for example, helps explain why the time might be fairly ripe for thinking like this. The concept of global citizenship currently lacks the administrative and legalistic trappings of national citizenship. Nevertheless, from Diogenes to the present day, the pursuit and adoption of global citizenship, however demeaned and underinstitutionalized it is at present, continues to provide a compelling vision to millions of people around the world— people who are officially noted as belonging to individual, specific countries. The bottom line, however, for everybody interested in these issues is that people must think beyond the borders of the countries in which they hold citizenship.

As with other patterns in this category, the journey toward the goal will be incremental, perennial, lurching, and met by setbacks as well as successes. There are tasks for many people with a wide variety of roles and responsibilities; professionals like lawyers, think tank and NGO staff, government officials, and academics can engage with the public on these issues in addition to their more specialized and technical concerns. There are hosts of organizations and projects in which people can engage. Communication with people in other countries is especially important because this helps ensure that people realize that people in other countries are not abstract nonpersons. This, of course, represents a major hurdle: many people because of poverty, language barriers, or other reasons cannot easily engage with people outside their region.

Solution: 

Martha Nussbaum, in her 1994 discussion on the Stoics in ‘‘Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism,’’ refers to the fact that each of us dwells, in effect, in two communities: the local community of our birth and the community of human argument and aspiration that ‘‘is truly great and truly common, in which we look neither to this corner nor to that, but measure the boundaries of our nation by the sun’’ (Seneca, De Otio).

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Citizenship is the formal relationship between a person and a country and often is described in terms of rights and responsibilities. The idea has shifted over time, from Greek city-state to modern nation-state. Citizenship often determines access to health care, education, and other rights that arguably should be universal. The journey towards global citizenship will be incremental, perennial, lurching, and will be met by setbacks as well as successes.

Pattern status: 
Released

Health as a Universal Right

Pattern ID: 
870
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
5
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The crisis in health care worldwide has reached catastrophic proportions. Each day 9,000 people die from AIDS and 11,000 children die from malnutrition. Over one billion people have no access to clean water and half the people in the world live on under $2 (US) per day. The worsening conditions of the world's impoverished people provide almost ideal conditions for the cultivation of disease, including those that could reach epidemic or pandemic proportions. In addition, a somewhat invisible epidemic of depression and other mental illnesses are taking a heavy toll on people throughout the developing world.

Context: 

The economic divisions between people have become astronomical — and they are still widening. Within this context, the majority of people are literally living from one day to the next. Understandably, the health of these people is severely compromised. People everywhere and in all walks of life have cause for alarm.

Discussion: 

Environmental changes are adding additional strains to the already imperiled lives of the world's poorest people. "Droughts will worsen. We will see deforestation, forest fires, a loss of diversity, and degradation of the environment" according to Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization" (Stevenson, 2006). Not surprisingly, the poorest — and hence most vulnerable — people are often the first victims of the severely declining standards of health in much of the developing world. As Paul Epstein of Harvard Medical School said, "Today climate instability and the exhaustion of resources (forests, soils, water, biodiversity), together with the growing inequity and deepening poverty, are resulting in the emergence, resurgence and redistribution of infectious disease, stalking humans, plants and animals. The conditions are not sustainable, and the mounting social and economic costs are creating convergent agendas among members of civil society, international institutions and the economic sector."

Why are things different today? For one thing the sheer number of people on the planet seems to be approaching the limits to the world's capacities. Unfortunately the trends are all heading in the wrong direction. Furthermore people everywhere are more tightly connected. It is no longer true that we live in isolated communities. The tight connections, although remote, give rise to "causes" (although diffuse and multiple) that are often far away from the person who ultimately falls ill.

Clearly humankind has a moral obligation to establish health as a human right. That is a reasonable first step. More importantly, humankind has the obligation to act forcefully and diligently as if it actually believed that health was an inalienable human right. However, as Garrett and Rosenstein report, global health as an issue is "not only for do-gooders." They go on to say that, "A self-interest component to the global health debate has clearly emerged — thankfully, because purely altruistic efforts often fall short of international support and sustainability. The interconnected nature of the world makes ignorance of issues such as deadly infectious diseases not only immoral, but self-destructive."

Health must not, however, be viewed solely as providing medical care after disaster or disease strikes. While it's true that a pill or injection can save a life, the person whose life has just been saved will soon find him or herself back in an environment that leads inexorably to poor health, compromised ability to work gainfully, and a diminished life-span. Nor is health something that can be attained solely through research. A focus on "the cure" for this disease or that disease is a typically a type of welfare program for western researchers. It's a search for a magic" silver bullet" or technocratic approach that, while often very important, will be only effective in conjunction with other approaches.

Extreme and persistent poverty is the primary cause of ill-health and premature death around the world. If people weren't in desperate poverty, if they earned an adequate living, the incidence of disease would plummet. Especially today health is linked to poverty. This poverty is not confined to individuals, but covers large sections of the world's rural areas, towns and cities and, indeed, entire countries. If, for example, a person enters the hospital in many parts of the world he or she is likely to find infection, unsanitary conditions and a scarcity of drugs, bandages, surgical equipment and other vital medical supplies.

Paul Farmer is one the most articulate and hardest-hitting advocate for health care for all of the world's inhabitants, especially those who are the poorest and most vulnerable. He identifies structural inequalities that often originate in the first world as sources of great of the misery that now exists in the third. The "roots" of the problem are likely to lead further upstream than exposure to a microbe in polluted water to a bank in London, an energy company in Houston, or a government office in Washington, D.C. As part of his work and study, Farmer traveled to prisons in the former Soviet Union and to Chiapas, Haiti, and other marginalized locations around the world to work with people in need of medical care and to witness firsthand how health conditions were being met — or not met — around the world. In his book, Pathologies of Power (2003), he proposes a "new agenda" for health and human rights" that includes the following five facets:

• Make Health and Healing the Symbolic Core of the Agenda
• Make Provision of Services Central to the Agenda
• Establish New Research Agendas
• Achieve Independence from Powerful Governments and Bureaucracies
• Secure More Resources for Health and Human Rights

Farmer's "new agenda" is comprehensive, holistic and ambitious. At the same time, it seems that anything less would be insufficient. NGOs and philanthropists, no matter how well-heeled, will not be able to do this work by themselves. The multi-pronged approach resembles the Open Research and Action Network pattern — but writ very large. He is not unrealistic about the chances for success. He lists a number of significant challenges to this agenda including the possibility that increasing the involvement of NGOs will help hasten, "the withdrawal of states from the basic business of providing housing, education, and medical resources usually means further erosion of the social and economic rights of the poor."

The "new agenda" would take a mammoth effort that would integrate direct care, research, and popular mobilization. Ultimately Farmer's recommendations could provide an umbrella for many types of efforts. Health care professionals could take Sabbaticals in developing countries to assist with health care. Religious people could put renewed vigor into projects to alleviate human suffering. The 400+ billionaires in the US (and everybody) could follow the lead of Bill Gates and others and donate substantial amounts of their amassed riches to the effort. At the same time, the rest of us could agitate for health-related initiatives including cheaper drugs from multi-national pharmacuetical companies and authentic foreign aid that wasn't based on arms or oil.

Garrett and Rosenstein (2005) point out that, "with very few exceptions, the disease amplifiers in the world today are manmade and therefore humanly controllable. ... exotic animal markets, unclean urban water supplies, lack of proper sewage systems, and unstable, conflict-ridded environments provide excellent breeding grounds for infectious diseases to spread and wreak havoc on vulnerable populations. Yet it would be short sided to think of infectious disease as a problem for solely the poor and powerless. These diseases do not discriminate; they are undeterred by state borders, party affiliation, or socioeconomic status. With air travel and human migration on the rise, so too is the possibility that deadly microbes can and will circumnavigate the globe with speed and precision."

Solution: 

Humankind is faced with the massive problem of declining public health. To be successful it will need to redirect its resources from activities that exacerbate the crisis to ones that overcome it. Ideologies, however dear, as well as ingrained habits and pursuit of short-term "self-interest" are likely to defeat any grand initiatives such as this. Regardless of whether that suspicion reflects cynicism or just realism is irrelevant: we must persevere.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The worldwide health care crisis is profound. Each day 9,000 people die from AIDS and 11,000 children die from malnutrition. We need to redirect our resources from activities that exacerbate the crisis to ones that overcome it. Ideologies, ingrained habits, and pursuit of short-term "self-interest" work against the establishment of Health as a Universal Right.

Pattern status: 
Released

Social Dominance Attenuation

Pattern ID: 
830
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
4
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Social dominance is arguably at the heart of many — if not most — of humankind's most shameful enterprises. It is embodied in ideology, economics, policy, education, the media, social perception and interactions, culture, and, even, our technological artifacts. In general the less-dominant group will have fewer opportunities for advancement, have poorer health and shorter life-spans, smaller incomes, higher likelihood of being incarcerated and live under more violent conditions than people do in more-dominant groups. Society as a whole too suffers from high level of inequality: the more equal the distribution of assets, the more economic growth the society will have (Dugan, 2004; World Bank, 2004). Political violence is also tied to social inequality (Gurr, 1971). At its most extreme, social dominance encourages oppression and wars, genocide, mob violence, and environmental destruction.

Context: 

This pattern pertains to any society, region, or organization where social dominance is entrenched; in other words, virtually everywhere.

Discussion: 

As humans evolved our species unwittingly took on characteristics that have persisted for centuries. Over the millennia, some aspects of our genetic makeup, as well as some psychological and cultural characteristics were encouraged while others were halted or slowed. As we all know, these basic changes generally came about hundreds of thousands of years ago when humans lived in small numbers and clung together in small bands for survival. That situation, once the norm, is now present only in the rarest of circumstances. We have been bred for a time and place that existed eons ago, an era that could only be recreated through pandemics, global war, massive climate change, or some combination.

One consequence of this is the myriad institutional structures that perpetuate dominance of one group over others. The authors of a recent book on social dominance (Sidaneous and Pratto, 1999) make the case that our social psychology seems to propel us naturally towards oppression. Unfortunately at least for those of us who believe that racism and other insidious "isms" would make excellent candidates for the dustbins of history, there are several factors that help keep social dominance in vogue. The first is that there does seem to be a measurable propensity ("generalized ethnocentrism") that shows up in some percentage of any population for strong group identification; people in this group believe that their group is superior to others and that they must stick together. When in positions of power they generally promote laws and attitudes that favor their group over others. They will also encourage and cleave to a variety of "legitimizing myths," such as social Darwinism ("survival of the fittest"), manifest destiny, "clash of civilizations" (Huntington, 1993) and a myriad of racial, gender, and ethnic stereotypes, as "social frames" that help perpetuate social dominance. The second is that racial (and other) stereotypes are easily and readily (and subconsciously) learned, generally at an early age before advanced cognitive abilities come into play that could question the accuracy and the value of the stereotypes. Third, the stereotyping "trigger" is effortlessly and (again) subconsciously activated when "appropriate," thus making these people the hapless targets of manipulative politicians and others who can specifically reach out to these people with tailored messages. Finally, unfortunately, there is some evidence that people in dominated groups, due to a combination of factors, will in many cases, adopt characteristics that are specified by the stereotype thus helping unconsciously to reinforce the stereotype ("behavioral asymmetry"). All of these factors, then, help support, at least indirectly, the maintenance of institutions that operate under a variety of processes, mechanisms, and biases that serve to maintain the machinery of social dominance.

Once the holistic model that Sidaneous and Pratto propose (possibly with modifications) is well understood, it should be possible to run society's social domination machine’s "in reverse." Along these lines, it's important to note that according to many people who study this field, approaches to attenuating social dominance will require widespread, multi-sectoral actions that include integrated legislative, economic, and educational efforts among (and across) dominant and non-dominant groups. Here is a list of approaches that can be undertaken — keeping in mind thatarticulation between these approaches will be critical if any a junction of social dominance is to be sustained over time.

  • Role-reversal exercises (examples include "Walk a Mile in their shoes" where state legislators “became” welfare recipients for a day and an event in Wisconsin where youths in disadvantaged neighborhoods interrogated judges and police officers in a mock courtroom situation.
  • Additional research. Identify, for example, "markers” or other classification schemes that “sort” people into two groups and see how the "markers" are used implicitly or explicitly in policy, the media, etc. etc.
  • Development and promulgation of social frames like "love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek, human family, equal opportunity, and multiculturalism help characterize the theme.
  • Fighting local discrimination in, for example, education or public service.)
  • Moving beyond tokenism. There is evidence that hiring one or two people from a less-dominant group can actually backfire.
  • Childhood education. Children need multicultural education and familiarity with different cultures and groups. Seeing a diverse society at an early age and not growing up with active stereotyping is good.
  • Lawsuits as a tool to fight social dominance by business and government.
  • “Disciplining” the media by fighting stereotypes solidarity networks. Establishing networks of people from diverse communities to inform each other, advocate and Religious connection. Remind people of their religion’s commitment to human rights and brotherhood and would with in the church for social change.

 

According to Sidaneous and Pratto, "Arbitrary-set divisions" (those divisions devised by cultures themselves according to their own decisions like caste, religion, and race, unlike divisions shared by all cultures, basically gender and age, upon which to discriminate) "largely only occur in societies in which people are able to generate and sustain an economic surplus." These societies employ division of labor that, apparently, leads to various forms of arbitrary-set based social dominance techniques and institutions. One of the most difficult challenges of such a society is checking the power of its most powerful members.

While many people would argue (myself included) that some degree of social dominance will probably always occur in society, there are also many people (myself included) who believe that a meaningful attenuation in social dominance is not only possible but necessary. Fighting against social dominance will always be an uphill battle: the forces that will rally against your campaign are, by definition, powerful and well-financed, and cozy with the media, government, and other elites. They will also have a ready supply of slogans handy to bring their minions into the fray. Sometimes trumping our own "intrinsic nature" to favor "our own, ' and, even, going against what may seem like "our own best interest" (maximizing short-term gain at another's expense) is the best long-range approach. And approaches that are actually win-win should be accompanied with public education that pre-empts the inevitable claim that the approach is discriminatory.

Although social dominance may be intrinsic to humankind, there are some grounds for hope. Some countries, Sweden, for example, have more-or-less eliminated social dominance based on gender. Studies relating to health care in Japan, New Zealand, Denmark and Sweden, also show that proper health care can be reached for all of a nation's citizens even if some social inequality still exists within that society.

Solution: 

Serious, ongoing and engaged commitment to social non-dominance is the core to "solving" the problems of social dominance. A society that genuinely wants to reduce its own inequity is obviously more likely to actually adopt new policies and perspectives over the long haul than one who begrudges every dime spend on schools for poor people or health care for the elderly and the foreign-born. Understanding how the “machines” of social dominance function provides important clues for the development of a counter machine.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Social dominance is at the heart of many of humankind's most shameful enterprises. It is sustained through ideology, economics, policy, education, the media, social perception and interactions, culture, and technology. Understanding how social dominance is maintained can provide important clues as to how it can be countered.

Pattern status: 
Released

The Good Life

Pattern ID: 
776
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
3
Gary Chapman
University of Texas at Austin
Version: 
2
Problem: 

"What is the good life?" An answer to that question has so many variations today that the competition between answers can often paralyze the imaginations of people who want to implement positive social change. How can one break through the noise and violence of such competition and begin moving global society in a positive and deliberate direction?

Context: 

People who hope for a better world feel the need for a shared vision of the "good life," a vision that is flexible enough for innumerable individual circumstances but comprehensive enough to unite people in optimistic, deliberate, progressive social change. Ideally, this shared vision of the "good life" should promote and sustain conviviality and solidarity among people, as well as feelings of individual effectiveness, self-worth and purpose. A shared vision of the "good life" is never complete, but is always adapting; it should be "in harmony with the human condition," which means that it encompasses suffering, loss and conflict as well as pleasures, reverence and common goals of improvement. An emergent framework for the modern "good life" is based on some form of humanism, particularly pragmatic or civic humanism, but with room for a spiritual dimension of the mind that does not seek domination over the minds of others. Finally, the environmental crises of the planet require a broad vision of a "good life" that can harmonize human aspirations with natural limits. And all of this needs to be an ongoing and open-ended "conversation," best suited to small geographic groups, such as towns and neighborhoods, that can craft and then live an identity that reflects their vision of a "good life."

Discussion: 

Ever since people first began to understand the implications of the time-limits of the human life, there has been speculation on what constitutes the best use of this time, a human lifespan -- in other words, what is the "good life?"

Throughout human history and even today, the answer to this question, for most people, is provided by God and by ritual. That is, the fundamental guide for how to live life is religion expressed through ritual, not only the formal rituals of religious practice but the small daily rituals of an existence permeated with conventions derived from religious guidance. For billions of people today, this is so ingrained in their psyches that doubt about what constitutes the "good life" is absent -- or else a personal secret.

But there is are many other meanings attached to the phrase "the good life." Aristotle argued that the good life is the "bios theoretikos," the contemplative life, in which the aristos, the "best man," spends his life contemplating the order of the cosmos and his place in it. This was transformed by Christianity into the life of the cloister, in which monks and nuns were meant to spend their lives contemplating the wonder of God's work. But it was also embedded into the practice of philosophy in the Western tradition, both metaphysical and otherwise, so that there is still today a strong Aristotelian association between the "good life" and the life of the mind.

It was in Renassiance Italy that Western thinkers first ventured a potential break between the idea of the "good life" and religion, by suggesting that the best example of a good life was a man of "virtu," or the earthly qualities of courage, deliberate action and command -- someone who would be remembered in history, rather than rewarded in heaven. Machiavelli derided Christianity as a belief of meekness and submission, while he advocated a robust republican humanism that celebrated worldly success and the ability to turn one's life into a kind of work of art, not unlike the famous works of art of his time.

The great break of modernity, the separation of modern thinking with that of the past, is the idea that the "good life" is a matter of individual choice -- "the pursuit of happiness," as the U.S. Declaration of Independence puts it. English rationalists, Marxian communists and even conservative thinkers like Edmund Burke all shared this premise: the goal of life is happiness and self-fulfillment.

Thus it has been the explosion of interpretations of the path to happiness that has produced so many competing conceptions of the good life. For many people today, the phrase "the good life" conjures up fantasies of unlimited wealth, leisure and luxury. This has certainly been the interpretation of marketers in a consumerist economy like our own.

On the other hand, for large numbers of people, the "good life" means simplicity and even austerity, an escape from the stress and bustle of urban life, pure air and water, the conviviality of a small rural community and good health. This is a model promoted by a series of books written in the 1930s by Scott and Helen Nearing, who moved to a farm in Vermont in 1932 and then published "The Good Life," a book about "simple, frugal and purposeful living," which was followed by more books and national speaking tours. The Good Life Center, a modern example of the Nearings' work, is still in operation in Harborside, Maine. Elements of this interpretation of the good life are now found in the "Slow Food" movement of southern Europe (and in some groups in the U.S.), and its spin-off in Italy, the Slow Cities (Slow Cittá) movement. This trend has even acquired a label: "downshifting."

The challenge of the current situation in the modern world is to develop the vision of a "good life" that is not anti-technological nor anti-spiritual, but which is serious about the limits of the global enviroment and critical of the emptiness, anomie and hectic "busy-ness" of consumerism. But cities are not going away -- they're growing, around the world -- so we need models of the "good life" that embrace urban living; indeed, population density is likely to be a necessity in the future.

There is an emerging concept of what might be called "reverent humanism," borrowing terms from philosophers Paul Woodruff (Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue) and Luc Ferry (What Is the Good Life?). This proposes a blend of rational and practical humanism with an appreciation of the transcendent, whether it be beauty, the law, or the ineffable spirit of human perseverance. Such a worldview depends on the support of a social context, a community of equals engaged in open-ended dialog that rejects absolute knowledge -- a modernized version of the res publica, the ideal of the Italian Renaissance. The inspiring ideas of the "Slow Food" movement bring in the pleasures of good food, drink, conviviality and ecological balance, while globalization and communications technologies -- especially the Internet -- make possible a sharing of innovations and the development of an appreciation for diversity and peace.

Solution: 

A revitalization of the idea of the "good life" should reinvigorate the ancient appeal of civic humanism, or "reverent humanism," that can embrace human potential, limits to consumerism but yet technological innovation, diversity and transcendence. The development of such an ideal should be a project -- explicit or implicit -- among groups dedicated to progressive social change. And "living the change you want" should become an essential part of the mission of all such groups.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

People who hope for a better world feel the need for a shared vision of The Good Life. The environmental crises of the planet require a broad vision of a good life that harmonizes human aspirations and natural limits. A framework for the modern good life should be based on some form of humanism with room for a spiritual dimension that does not seek domination.

Pattern status: 
Released

The Commons

Pattern ID: 
453
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
2
David Bollier
Author
Version: 
2
Problem: 

One of the biggest problems in contemporary life is the unchecked growth of market values as a way to govern resources and ourselves. This is resulting in the privatization and commodification or "enclosure" of the commons. Resources that morally or legally belong to everyone are increasingly coming under the control of markets. Not only does enclosure result in higher prices and the need to ask for permission to use something previously available to all, it shifts ownership and control to private companies. The market efficiencies that businesses seek can be illusory, however, because they often depend upon unacknowledged subsidies from the commons (for example, discount access to public resources) and the displacement of costs onto the commons (pollution, social disruption, harm to future generations). Enclosure does not add value in the aggregate; it merely privatizes value at the expense of the common wealth.

Context: 

"The commons" is a useful term for contemporary political discourse because it provides a new lexicon for re-situating market activity in a social and political context. It helps us identify resources that should not be alienated for market use, but should remain non-propertized and "owned" (in a civic or democratic sense) by everyone. Our culture has no serious vocabulary for contextualizing "the free market" in a social framework; it assumes that it is a universal, ahistorical force of nature. The commons helps rectify this conceptual problem by offering a rich, countervailing template to the market paradigm, one that can speak about the economic and legal aspects of a commons as intelligibly as its social and personal aspects.

Discussion: 

The commons insists that certain things should not be alienated that is, sold and converted into money. Thus, it is inappropriate to express the value of a worker's life or an endangered species as a dollar sum, in a cost-benefit analysis. It may be morally repugnant to sell off the "naming rights" of public institutions much as it is considered unacceptable to allow people to sell their bodies, babies, ova or genes. The commons gives us a language for talking about extra-market values and their importance. The commons, for example, allows us to talk about the human necessities of life food, water, fuel, medicine that may otherwise be seen as market commodities alone. The commons allows us to talk about the need for open, non-propertized spaces available to all; if too much of that space for example, scientific knowledge, musical works, cultural symbols is "locked up" through copyrights, patents or contracts, it can greatly impede future creativity and progress. We are already seeing the effects of such enclosure in medical research as a result of overly broad patents on "upstream" research. By contrast, when information and creativity are non-propertized and non-monetized as we see most frequently on the Internet the resulting collaborations and exchanges generate a huge surplus value that can be enjoyed by everyone, and not be privatized. This is one reason there is such an epic struggle underway on the Internet non-market modes of creativity and production are frequently more efficient in a strict economic sense, compared to conventional "real world" markets. There is a cornucopia of the commons, not a tragedy, as economists otherwise claim. Despite the different ways in which commons and market create value, the two do not necessarily operate in separate and distinct spheres, but are interdependent. The point is to strike an appropriate balance between the two so that the value-creating capacities of each can be optimized. There are a wide variety of effective commons-management models that belie the tragedy of the commons metaphor invoked by Garrett Hardin in his famous 1968 essay. While Hardin was talking about an open access regime in which no one owns or manages a shared resource, an actual commons has specific rules and social norms for preventing over-use, excluding outsiders, and managing the resource in long-term, sustainable ways. Increasingly, the Internet is the host for countless self-organized commons such as free and open source software, social networking communities, Wikipedia, Craigslist, and websites for sharing photos, videos and other creative works. One useful tool in creating these commons are Creative Commons licenses, which enable ordinary people to freely share their creative works while retaining copyrights for commercial purposes. The public library and the land trust are familiar, highly effective types of commons. More people are starting to realize that public spaces like parks, community gardens, farmers' markets and festivals are also important to the economic and social health of a community. There is a dawning awareness that commons-based infrastructure like wireless Internet access is a great way to use a public resource, the airwaves, to help people connect with each other. There are many other types of legal and institutional solutions for managing the commons, although most are not mentally grouped with other legal or institutional models as commons solutions. It is time for more people to see the kinship of these solutions and their holistic advantages over so-called free market.

Solution: 

Using "the commons" as a new discourse helps us re-frame the terms of discussion for many issues and declare our personal stake in protecting shared public resources. It helps draw new linkages among disparate market enclosures, and in this sense, helps fragmented public-interest constituencies develop a new, shared language. At the same time the discourse of the commons validates a number of specific governance models — civic institutions, stakeholder trusts, legal mechanisms, social customs and norms — that can help us protect and manage our common assets effectively. The emerging commons sector won't replace corporations or markets, but it will complement and temper them. In so doing, it will provide benefits corporations can't supply: healthy ecosystems, economic security, stronger communities and a participatory culture. And it will curb the corporate invasion of realms that we hold dear — nature, our minds, our food and our democracy.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The human genome, seeds, and groundwater should belong to everybody —not corporations. The public library, community garden, farmer's market, and land trust are familiar and highly effective local Commons. The emerging commons sector provides benefits that corporations can’t provide such as healthy ecosystems, economic security, stronger communities and a participatory culture.

Pattern status: 
Released
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