Episode #30 Imagineering: Weaving a Flourishing Future with Miki Kashtan
In this second of two episodes, practical visionary, Miki Kashtan, lays out her visions of a flourishing, generative future based on providing for the needs of all – the human and More-Than-Human world. And how to get there..
Miki, co-founder of the Bay Area NVC and adept nonviolent communication practitioner, lays out the pathways she believes could take us towards a future where everyone flourishes. If we explore the flows of life – of need and resource, of how we interact, then we can begin to heal the patriarchal wounds of separation, scarcity and powerlessness and move into a world where mutual care and trust lead us to a state of community, empowerment and provision.
Miki Kashtan & Michael Nagler: Reweaving Our Human Fabric: Working Together to Create a Nonviolent Future
James Gilligan: Violence: Reflections on a National Pandemic
Alice Miller: For your own Good
Walter Wink: Powers that Be
Rebecca Solnit: Paradise Made in Hell
Martin Parker (editor) Miki has a chapter in this: Life after Covid-19 – the other side of Crisis
Marija Gimbutas: The Balts
Article on the disempowerment of our ancestors
Manda: [00:02:12.06] Miki, welcome back to Accidental Gods for the second time. Thank you so much for agreeing to do a second call because this feels like a huge, huge turning point in our journey as Accidental Gods into understanding where we’ve been and where we might go. So where we really hooked into last time, was that our economic system is absolutely predicated on scarcity and that the wounding of our system is that scarcity, our separation from ourselves, from the more than human world and each other and our powerlessness. So what I’d like to do now, because I know that you have cncepts of where we might go that are more developed than anybody else that I’ve ever heard. I would like us to look in this podcast at the potential places we could move to if we were able to heal those wounds of scarcity, separation and powerlessness. And then some of the ways that we might get there. So over to you.
Miki: [00:03:21.80] Great. So I want to start by saying that I’m in the process of writing a series of blog posts about what the coronavirus is making possible. I know it’s a big calamity, but the globality of the situation and the lockdown and the pause and a variety of things are creating a kind of crisis that allows us to see certain things that otherwise we might not see, both individually and collectively.
So it’s a very ambitious series of nine or 10 posts. I’m now working on the fourth. The second one is talking about that we are now able to see that the market economy is not able to attend to needs. That became absolutely clear from the fact that in order to care for needs in this kind of extreme situation. Governments and communities are the only entities that are able to do it. And it’s not like I particularly think that governments are great at it, but governments at least can. The market is unable to care for needs because needs don’t exist in the market. The fact that I have a need gives me no power. I only have power when I actually have resources that I could exchange with someone so that I can get what I need to attend to my own needs. And that is not a radical statement. Every economist would agree with me that what counts in the market is not the need itself. It’s what they call ‘effective demand’. Effective demand is my capacity to command attention to my needs. Because I can pay for them or I can give something for them. So the exchange economy eliminates the power of needs.
And so then needs become a liability rather than what they are, which is the life force living within us, moving towards whatever is next. That’s what needs are when we are born. If we have not been damaged in utero, we are born with the expectation that making our needs known is enough.
We are expecting and assuming that when an adult or someone else around us will hear our expression of need, hear or see or intuit, they will come to us and give it. And there is a high degree of that that does happen, or else none of us would survive infancy. But it is not the normal thing that happens sooner or later. In the societies that we live in, we are told that what we want is not OK.
And so jump forward, who knows how long or far into a world of the future in the world of the future – need to have power. And we actually all know that that is so. Because we all know that movement of the heart, when you see another’s need. We know it. We feel it. It continues suppressed underneath, under the cracks. It’s there.
Manda: [00:07:02.87] And it came out during the lockdown.
Miki: [00:07:04.89] Exactly. We know the power of solidarity. We are beings that are responsive to need. I mentioned last time, Genevieve Vaughan with the ‘maternal gift economy’. And if you think about what the quintessential quality of mothering is, it’s an awareness of an orienting towards another’s needs.
Miki: [00:07:32.74] This, she claims, and I agree with her, is what is unique about our species, this capacity to orient in this way. It’s not like other animals are not able to do it, but they do it primarily in relation to the young. And we can do it in relation to each other as adults. And we do. You know, if I give you and listeners a tiny exercise of thinking over time when you gave someone something with zero expectation to get anything back. You just gave it out of pure sheer generosity, the experience that people have. If I say to a group of people and I ask them to close their eyes, everybody gets a smile on their face. It’s an experience of pleasure. Why would it be pleasure if we are the selfish creatures that modern economics frames us to be? So this is one of them main ingredients of the world of the future. Needs are proclaimed, celebrated, engaged with, listen to, elaborated, inquired into and put on the table.
Manda: [00:08:46.45] And we spoke last time, but I would like to just dig a little bit deeper into that about the needs beneath the needs. Because, in the world around us at the moment, a million people went into pubs last night because they felt they needed to go into the pub and drink. And I had conversations with the people who weren’t going into the pubs, whose partners had been sober and at home for three months, and they just lost them again. And these are utterly divergent needs. And it seems to me that if we had been able to address the needs beneath the needs, we might not need pubs at all. And that there’s a difference between what we think we need, particularly the dopamine driven needs that have been created by the advertising industries, and the actual needs that often are unmet by our current culture. Can we talk a little bit about that?
Miki: [00:09:44.53] Yes, I’ll tell you a story. My sister had once an introductory evening on non-violent communication where she said this very same thing that I said here at the previous conversation, that everything that we do is an attempt to meet needs. Just an introductory evening, two hours. The next day, she gets a call from a guy who was at the event and told her what happened on his way home. He took out a cigarette. I was about to light it and I said, ‘Wait a minute. Me taking out the cigarette is an attempt to meet a need. What needs am I trying to meet by lighting a cigarette?’ After two hours of an introductory event. And he thought about it. And he named to himself what the needs were, which I don’t think was part of the story as it came to me. And then came to the crucial moment and he said, ‘I have better ways to attend to those needs than to kill myself with tobacco smoke.’ And he quit smoking.
Manda: [00:10:46.42] That’s a powerful two-hour introduction.
Miki: [00:10:50.20] Yes. That’s an unusual occurrence. But that in principle is ther. Because what happens when you live in scarcity, separation and powerlessness – if we analyze what that does to our relationship with our needs – if I am in scarcity mode, I’m always afraid my needs are not going to be met. Then that makes me very attached to particular strategies. If I know a strategy that appears to me like it’s going to meet my needs, then I will be attached to it, because that’s one way I know that maybe my needs will be met. And if I let go of this, heaven forbid, what will happen. So that’s one thing that imposes itself.
Second one: separation. The overwhelming majority of our needs require other people to meet them. If we are separate, then we feel even more this existential fear. ‘Do I matter? Would anyone care enough to give me what I need?’ And if not, I cling attached to whatever strategy appears like I can.
And the third? The powerlessness. If I don’t have this, I am powerless to create something else that will care for my needs. So it’s almost like this three tiered thing is it all pushes us in the direction of attachment and addiction. So the process of asking myself, this simple question. ‘What’s really important to me right now?’ I know I want the cigarette, the bottle, the sex, whatever it is, I know that I want it. But what is really important in this moment? Why do I want this? If I have this, what will it give me? They’re all the same question, but they’re different entry ways. And it is a swift wake up call from autopilot. That question ‘Wwhat’s really important to me?’ That is one of the most liberating inner processes that I can use.
Manda: [00:13:04.73] So I have a question in that. So we’ve been talking a lot on this podcast about poly vagal theory. We have the sympathetic fight and flight, but we have also got the two branches of the parasympathetic. And on one of those is also triggered by our sense of being unsafe – a sense of danger or a sense of potential threat to life. And there’s a hierarchy of those. And under threat to life, it’s almost impossible to think because everything else – our our entire Amygdaloid system – is is moving towards fight or flight.
Next step down is the perception of danger in which i’ts slightly easier to think, but we’re still on high alert. And it seems to me that somehow with in where we’re heading as a society, we exist in this constant perception of danger because, as you said, we’ve got this kind of toxic feedback loop of scarcity, separation, and powerlessness that each feeds into the other. In order to bring ourselves to a point where we have the capacity to reflect and ask, ‘What do I need? What do we need as a culture?’ (Because it seems to me that if we’re in this cultural nervous breakdown at the moment, we need individually to reflect and we need culturally to reflect.) First of all, does this model sit with you? And second, do you have a concept of how individually and as a culture we can find the space to give ourselves the capacity of reflection that allows that degree of self-awareness? Or the other way around?
Miki: [00:14:53.08] So I want to first say a big caveat. I don’t believe that systemic change will happen from a large number of individuals changing their consciousness. I think that pathway is too slow.
Manda: [00:15:06.71] Okay. So how’s it going to happen?
Miki: [00:15:08.54] I don’t know, but I think I want to put that on on a backburner for a moment.
Manda: [00:15:13.37] Ok, that’s the entire premise of Accidental Gods. So we do need to get to that.
Miki: [00:15:18.86] So that said, essentially three places to practice. One is before some so-called danger or event happens. Second is within it. And third is after it. The easiest practice is after. And this is a practice that late colleague of mine called post-hearsel. You know, like you have a rehearsal for a show. It’s like a redo. Yeah. You revisit the situation, ask yourself all the reflective questions in the moment when you are not actually in danger. It’s over. You know, it’s over. And you ask yourself what you would have done if you had the awareness of what your needs are, what might be the needs of the other parties to the situation and what could be a path forward that would care for everyone?
That’s the integrative path. A path forwards that cares for everyone. And you just noted you might have role-played with a friend that gives you those practices. In my experience and in the experience of many that told me independently of each other a similar thing, that it feels physical. It feels like it’s rewiring the brain. So that’s one practice to see you do it rigorously, it rewires your brain.
Thispractice of after expands the range of options that are available to you in the moment because what happens under conditions of fight and flight is that the range of options available to us almost collapses. It’s like there’s just two options. But if your body and brain begin to become aware that there are other options, they will over time become more available in the moment. So that’s options for action.
The second is that ‘before’ and that one changes what we perceive as danger. So I’m not a neuroscientist, but I have talked with some and it seems like there’s some validity to this way of framing it. I think of trauma as a nervous system predisposition to interpret certain things as danger, as threat. Because from my understanding, we’re born with only three things coded as danger: loud, immediate noises, creepy crawly sensations on the skin, and falling from a high place.
Manda: [00:18:15.97] Not cold or hunger.
Miki: [00:18:17.56] No, not danger in that way, because we are relationally connected, so we will ask for something and it will be given to us, apparently.
If that is the case, then everything else that we code as danger is learned. And if it’s learned, it means that it involves even the minutest minimal neocortex evaluation: danger or not danger. Oh, it’s danger, let’s move to the limbic system. You know, it’s not hijacked. I don’t believe in this theory of hijacking. I think it is control that passes logically and biologically. Hey, limbic system. You’re the best suited to deal with danger. So we’re stepping out of the way. It’s yours now.
Manda: [00:19:02.68] That’s a very slow process.
Miki: [00:19:04.03] No, it’s not. It’s a split second. Just. ‘Danger/Not danger.’ Before any further evaluation. And if it get codes as danger. Poof. Limbic system. Split. Split. Split second.
Manda: [00:19:16.45] Ok. We’ll discuss the neuroscience of that another time. Yes. Okay.
Miki: [00:19:19.60] And then if we are able to do some work ahead of time, if we know that a difficult situation is coming and we imagine what might happen and we think about the other people and what they might do and how we might react, we are going to soften the coding of that as danger and we are going to come into a situation less likely to interpret it as danger.
The third practice is practicing in the moment. That is the most difficult. And people give up on changing their fight flight freeze reactions because it’s almost impossible to change them in the moment. And if you don’t think about that before and the after, you think there’s nothing you can do.
Manda: [00:20:08.74] Because in the moment your amygdala is actually working so much faster than your cerebral cortex.
Miki: [00:20:14.38] Yeah If over time, through practice, you can train yourself to breathe. You can train yourself to move in certain ways that will de-trance you. Last time we talked about the woman who woke to find a man in her bedroom. (last podcast) So that man was in a trance. OK. So when she asks him. What time it is, I mentioned it. He has to look elsewhere. Just the change of physical motion already breaks the trance. So if we can remember to do that. For example, I read once in a book. If you’re angry, sit down. Because the anger is like you want to stand up and scream. But if you sit down, you change something already.
Sometimes things are very simple. I have an inkling that we actually have more choice than we tell ourselves. And here’s an imaginary story. You just got really triggered about something and you’re sitting in your home in this trigger and upset and all of that. There’s a knock on the door and it’s your neighbor. ‘Please come help me out. My son fell into a well.’ Instantly you’re not triggered. You go help your neighbor. Meaning something within you recognizes that there’s is the possibility of exiting that circuit. And if that possibility exists for a neighbor whose son fell into a well, then that possibility can be cultivated. And I may or may not know what the practice is, but knowing that it’s humanly possible is an essential ingredient. This is a big part of how I trained myself is by recognizing that something is possible. And if it’s possible, there’s no reason not to be able to learn to do it.
Manda: [00:22:10.89] I’d really like to to expand more deeply on this vision of a future where our needs are recognized to be interconnected and are met. Because leaving aside whether a critical mass works or not., my feeling is that we have more chance of reaching a future if we can feel how it would feel. So can can you build us a more of a word picture of how this future feels and looks and works.
Miki: [00:22:43.68] I was mentioning last time that the infrastructure is already in place. We just have to pull money out of it. So, for example, if you look at food, we can record patterns of consumption that will allow us to know where food needs to go and have some idea of how much food to grow. Now, with that in mind, let’s say there is a food center. What used to be a supermarket is now a food center. And you go to the food center and there is a certain amount of whatever you want, that you can take no questions asked, because that’s a baseline that is available for everyone. You just take it if that is not enough for you.
If you want more, you go to another place where all the people who want more go to and then you work it out. You work it out on the basis of need. If there is enough, if let’s say there is more for 10 people and 10 people go there and the 10 people just take whatever they want. If there is less than you work out, what are the real needs underneath and where does it make sense to transfer what is available? It’s not like you will always get what you want, but you will always somehow be part of figuring it out if there isn’t enough.
Manda: [00:24:13.12] And these are presumably local community centers. So that you know the people that you’re negotiating with, they’re not the strangers who turned up from a nearby city that you’ve never seen.
Miki: [00:24:22.93] It depends on the thing. There may be things that are not available locally where they would need to come from another place. So they’re there. I think people are super afraid of negotiating things based on need because of how habituated we are to our needs not counting. If we have money, then we don’t have to prove to anyone what our need is.
I heard that in the state of Oregon, there was a ballot initiative to pass socialized health care, which in the US you cannot use the term socialized healthcare. You have to call it single payer. It’s ridiculous. And the people who put the ballot initiative out worked out the details, including thinking what to do when there’s procedures or substances for which there isn’t enough to everyone. And they worked out algorithms for how to allocate them based on need. And they were criticized for rationing health care as if healthcare isn’t rationed now. It’s just that now it’s rationed by money to your ability to pay.
Manda: [00:25:40.81] That doesn’t count. Isn’t that interesting? You know, we are hypnotized into the the neoliberal system. But equally, I know that in Brazil, where they had experiments and participatory budgeting, then the vote was to increase the taxes because the people who were voting understood that they could decide how to allocate the money that was pooled. Which is what government at its most basic is.
We elect from amongst us a group of people to organize the distribution of our money in a way that benefits everybody. And if that’s what governments actually did, instead of being wholly corrupt, nepotistic kleptocracies, then nobody would have any problem with governance. So I would imagine in our future we have a form of governance that is designed such that it does exactly what it says on the tin? It it allocates the resources that are common in a way that is to the benefit of everyone.
Miki: [00:26:46.93] So I am glad you’re making a distinction between governance and government. Because government is a form of governance, but it is only one particular form. Governance is a function that is necessary for every entity of humans to work out how they’re going to run their affairs.
Manda: [00:27:06.73] So in our ideal future or a version of an ideal future, how do you see governance?
I see it working. And and I actually worked out that piece. I have fully worked out model of global governance, which I will share in the show notes of your happy for me to do that.
Miki: [00:27:25.66] I’m super happy for you to do that. That has basically three components. One component is for routine, normal, everyday type decisions that most us as much as possible are decided as locally as possible. And right now, this would be almost impossible because the resources necessary for people to live and thrive are not locally based. We are all dependent on large institutions that are far away for the very basic means of our subsistence. If you re-localized things, then for neighborhood to make decisions about things is not an empty proposition. It’s a real thing. And then every decision that involves, let’s say, two neighborhoods or five neighborhoods will be decided by people elected unanimously. It is possible this is part of the deal. It’s possible to make unanimous decisions. It’s possible to make unanimous elections, open unanimous elections. The mechanisms exist. Consensus is not so hard to come by when you have people who have a common problem to solve that really affects them. They have a stake in the matter and where they have the authority to implement that decision. It’s much easier to collaborate on this than to collaborate on abstract ideas. That’s when we fight.
Manda: [00:29:01.75] Can I ask a question? Just from personal experience – I live in a collective of two. There’s me and my wife and we have a home which we have in common. And I’m guessing probably are our ways of discussing or sorting issues are are not as good as they could be. We try our hardest. And for a lot of our home, the walls are white. Because my version of the colors I would like to live in and her version of the colors she’d like to live in are are radically different. I have a keynote, which is ‘clarity’ and I can’t remember what Faith’s keynote was, but to me it translated as ‘muddy’, which is not what she said. And therefore, we end up with white because there is no consensus. And that’s with two of us. I’m guessing if it were a survival issue, we’d probably come to product consensus quicker. But how do we reach consensus among large groups of people where there are radically different internal modalities?
Miki: [00:30:03.63] So you actually reach consensus and the consensus is white.
Manda: [00:30:08.20] I’m not sure either US loves white, though.
Miki: [00:30:10.27] Yeah, but the point is not that people get what their preferences. The point is that you can come up with a solution that everyone is willing to accept. Shifting from preference to willingness. Is a world of difference. In other words, and similarly, this is one of the core principles of this future world, as I call it, the principle of willingness. And it basically says only that gets done for which there is someone who is willing to do it and not necessarily joyfully ecstatic about it. You know, there’s all these programs that promise you, ‘Tap into your life’s passion and then you will find a way to make that your profession!’ Or whatever. And every time I see something like this, I ask myself, and who is going to collect the garbage? If you haven’t solved the garbage problem, then you are essentially recreating a class society of masters and slaves where some people do the dirty work so that other people can pursue their passion. So that’s the solution to this is I am assuming that there will never be enough people who will want to collect the garbage every day of their life as their work enough to collect all the garbage of everyone. But I am completely convinced that there will always be enough people who are willing from time to time to collect garbage.It doesn’t have to be everyone.Just enough people who are willing to do it from time to time will take care of the garbage problem. Then there are no garbage collectors. There’s garbage collection that happens on a rotation basis by those who are willing.
So I’m not talking about a utopia. I’m not talking about Nirvana. I’m not talking about a heaven in which every everything you just put your feet up and everything is as you want it. I’m talking about the real possibility of working out solutions that everybody recognizes that given all the needs that are on the table, giving the resources that we have available, given the impacts that we know are going to happen if we do it this way or that way. This is the best solution for all of us.
There is a story that I love of where this woman that I know did a processa using the decision-making process that I created of working out with a bank branch, their seating arrangements. They had to reconfigure the seating arrangements. And she was from the regional office and her boss told her. ‘This is gonna be a goat rodeo if you’re going to try to involve them in this. Don’t do it. Just decide and tell them.’ And she said, ‘No, I’m going to get to do it with them.’.
She told them, ‘Here are the non negotiables. I would like you to present proposals that address these non negotiables. And these are some of the other needs that I think we have. And what other needs do you think collected the needs from everyone?’ People submitted proposals, then everybody got together. They evaluated the proposals relative to the set of criteria that they had created. And one proposal clearly was the best one. And that proposal had a senior person who had been in the bank for twenty years, taking himself out of an office with a closed door into a cubicle, saying, ‘This is the best for everyone.’.
I was in a company where a salesman gave back one third of his commission of a big contract because he saw the collaborative process that went into deciding how to work with the contract. And when I wrote an article for The New York Times and included this piece, the editor asked me to take it out and I said, ‘Why? It’s true.’ She said, ‘It’s over the top.’ And that’s when I understood that the media reinforces this homo economicus version of humanity because that’s over the top. But if he stole money from the company, that would not be over the top.
Manda: [00:34:28.78] Or even just hung onto all of his commission. The fear underlying that is huge. But on the other hand, on a recent podcast with Della Duncan, we were discussing a proposal put forward by the Post Growth Institute of a way of adjusting our current economic system so that every business is ‘Not for Profit.’ I am reading the book behind that at the moment and I haven’t found any holes in it yet. It’s one of the few ways I have seen of taking the current system and adjusting it that doesn’t require total rewiring, revamp, crash the system and start again. This is ‘We have the current system. We just change it so there isn’t a profit motive.’.
Everybody has a lower pay rate and an upper pay rate with a very narrow ratio within the company. And anything that you make beyond that, beyond obvious operating costs, goes into your local community.And you can you can all have a say in where it goes and what happens to it, but it’s being spread and taking away that profit motive. I’m sure your editor at The New York Times would also ask you to take it out. But I have another question, which is, did you take it out? Or did she take it out?
Miki: [00:35:48.92] There were complexities. She says, you know, if it’s true, then get proof. And this was already several years after I was no longer with that company. I didn’t have the contact and it was not possible to go and track it.
Manda: [00:36:03.41] What he could’ve done was put it in and go. ‘This happened. I have been asked to get proof, if you, the reader, can prove this, please let me know and we’ll have a second article. You’re using the crowdsourcing capacity of The New York Times. Never mind.
Miki: [00:36:22.92] She would not have let it in. She would not have let it in. And, you know, she is the one with the power. And it was a difficult choice because I thought even a partial, powerful story about collaboration is better than none.
Manda: [00:36:37.95] Because they have the power to just not run the article at all.
Miki: [00:36:37.95] So governance. We were at governance. I want to press the point just a little bit more, which is there. There’s an illusion that we have, an unconscious illusion that if we just fight long enough, then our preference will win the day. That illusion is within the world of separation. If we take seriously that here’s what’s important to all of us and we’re looking for a solution that works, works for all of us, that we all can sign onto. Those conditions create sufficient constraints for powerful creative breakthroughs to come to emerge. And I’ve seen that happen time and again. In many situations.
Manda: [00:37:35.73] So how would it work? You’ve got an election coming up in the US. If you were to design the electoral process, what would you do?
Miki: [00:37:43.44] I would not have elections.
Manda: [00:37:45.34] Ok. So how would it look instead if we were to wave a wand and go, clearly this doesn’t work. How would it be better?
Miki: [00:37:53.49] So in the ultimate global governance model that I would envision, it’s all local to global meaning. Decisions are made locally. Those things that require coordination with other regions are done at a different level by people selected from within the local circle. And this goes on concentrically. However, if you are going to an upper level circle, you’re still a member of your local circle. So you’ll remain accountable to your neighbourhood even if you end up being part of the Global Circle.
Manda: [00:38:32.40] And as I remember from reading your document. If you get kicked out at any level, you’re kicked out of all of them. So that helps you to stay honest.
Miki: [00:38:43.08] Yes, there is complete local accountability. And so that is for decisions that are just about coordination. Then there’s a second mechanism when there are decisions that require, study and learning of information where it’s not apparent what the resources are. It’s not apparent what the impacts are. It’s not apparent what the needs are. You need to actually investigate and learn this. Those can be done through a process called sortition, which is basically selecting a random sample of people from the affected population and trusting that decision to them.
Manda: [00:39:23.40] This is how the Citizens Assembly is proposed by XR would work.
Miki: [00:39:27.45] Exactly. And then there’s also a third process, which is multi-stakeholder circles, which is particularly suited for situations that are low trust situations and/or require specific forms of expertise, because in a sortition, people come into the process, ask themselves not as their roles. So they may have information that comes from their role, but it’s not their role. It’s their being, their body that is in the circle. But in a multi-stakeholder circle, you come in as your role.
Manda: [00:40:03.72] So I am CEO of a return regenerative farming co-op, say, as opposed to just being me. Yeah.
Miki: [00:40:13.08] I have this dream in which you give me CEOs of energy corporations, climate scientists, climate activists, a random sample of frontline communities and a smattering of whatever else, put them in a room and let me facilitate them. And the charge is to come up with a list of policy recommendations that you are all willing to endorse. Give me that. We instantly change the world.
Manda: [00:40:46.80] Why has that not happened yet, Miki? Because there’s so many ways it could have done. I mean, COP 26 was supposed to be in Glasgow in October and it’s going to be next October, November, whatever. And they’re that group of people. If you were able to walk in there and go, let’s make this happen.
Miki: [00:41:01.86] I would if they let me facilitate, I’m quite confident that I could facilitate something different from what they’ve done. By the way, Paris was based on a process from the global south, a collaborative process, very rigorous collaborative process. The name just escapes me, but I read about it. I was trying to understand how it was that every single country signed on it. And there was a process native to South Africa that was used within the Paris accord that resulted in the global climate accord. I wish I remembered, but I’m having a senior moment. It’ll come back. Look at the process. It’s an actual process that is used in the global south.
Manda: [00:41:54.50] Ok. So we what we need is for Glasgow to use it. Because the problem with Paris is that everybody’s signed up to it. Nobody’s actually doing it.
Miki: [00:42:04.74] Yes. That’s a separate issue from the issue of we can make decisions that all of us agree to. It’s possible. We don’t have to fight. We don’t have to have parties. You know, look at there are local experiments. I don’t know if you’ve heard of what is happening in Frome.
Manda: [00:42:29.37] Yes! The flatpack democracy. But the listeners might not have. So if you’d like to describe it, that would be fantastic.
Miki: [00:42:34.57] A group of citizens decided that party politics is not a way to run a town. That the way to run a town is to solve practical problems that affect everyone with as much involvement every from everyone as possible. Not through positions and platforms, but through looking at each at each situation. And gradually, over some years, they came to the point where the entire city council is based on local independent people that are elected because they are committed to supporting the town in solving whatever problems it has. One of those things that is one of the secrets that I don’t know if people know is that their meetings are facilitated. They have outside facilitators working at their meetings. So that helps because then there is a process that holds everyone towards decisions that work for everyone.
Manda: [00:43:37.47] And the basis on which they were elected, as I understand it, is that they said, ‘We come from a wide variety of political viewpoints. (They were the local transition group.) But these are the principles by which we will make decisions. And that was their pitch on being elected was, ‘This is how we will go about making decisions. We can’t promise you what we’ll do because we don’t know what problems will come up. But these principles will be used in my decisions.’ And this is the facilitation. I mean, it sounded once I began to get my head around nonviolent communication, that those are the principles that they were essentially using. And it’s worked. I think there are 18 places on the town council. First time they got nine. So it was just a balance. And four years later, when the elections were held again, they swept the board. And we need that at every town in the UK.
Miki: [00:44:27.97] I want to lift up what you said. The key is process, not position. You can start from whatever the positions are. If you have good process, you will reach the most practical possible solution to the problem that affects everyone. You just need to include in the process those who are impacted, those who have specific relevant information or expertise to offer, and those who hold keys to resources that if they are not convinced, they won’t release the resources. This is why when we designed the global governance system, we designed it in part on the basis of a principle that says it has to work for the most powerful and the least powerful.
Manda: [00:45:20.62] And in the end, it has to eradicate those opposing power structures. Everybody has to come to a point where power is more equitable. Surely that that in the end is the point.
Miki: [00:45:34.93] Yes, but you don’t go to decide that. You start with where you are. You start with where you are. And this is where we talked about, you know, like, how do we actually get from here to there? Yes. So I told you, I’ve worked out two and a half scenarios. I want to I want to describe all three of them before we end this. One of them is this global governance.
And it’s kind of like a boot bootstrap. In this in this form. You will need some connections, but it’s not too hard to get connections to the people who are kind of like our moral authority. There is a group called The Elders that there are a number of people who, when they say something, people follow, people listen. You know, Desmond Tutu…
Manda: [00:46:31.48] Jimmy Carter is not many of them, though, mind you, we’re trying to put together something called Live Earth, which is like live aid, but for the earth and we’re trying to think of who we could invite. So: the Pope, the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu. But beyond that, finding people who have the authority and the voice and who are considered neutral enough that enough people will listen to them is quite hard, actually, because I’m suggesting Greta Thunberg and I am told that I just lost the entire polarity of one side of a political culture war. They will not turn up if she’s there. So an interesting process. Anyway, carry on. I don’t want to get caught in this rabbit hole.
Miki: [00:47:05.08] So you work this out and get a group of people and they issue a call for a global sortition. And the global sortition has the task of naming the top five problems that have to be solved to fight. And then for each of these problems, you summon the correct multi-stakeholder group. And that group issues recommendations to all the world’s governments. The moral authority of that is overwhelming. If you get the resources together to initiate this process.
Manda: [00:47:49.24] This might be the single most important thing that we could do if we were invited to do this now? How would we find a group that the Chinese and the Russians and the Brazilians and America and Britain and France and Germany – the 173 nations in the world – would listen to? Can you stretch your head around such a group?
Miki: [00:48:11.51] So remember, there are three phases. First, there is the call for the sortition. It’s just the call for a sortition, just enough for governments to give their census data. That’s not too hard to get. Then you get a sortition§: 5000 people from around the world. And their task is to decide what are the five most pressing problems. Now, imagine 5000 people all agree on this. These are the five most top problems.
Manda: [00:48:44.86] And we have the psycho-technologies to bring 5000 people to a unanimous agreement.
Miki: [00:48:53.17] Not difficult. Then for each problem, you summon the people who are clear stakeholders. So if China, Brazil and the U.S. are stakeholders, they will each send representatives. So they will be part of solving the problem. It’s just that they won’t be alone in solving the problem. Right now they are alone in solving the problem. They think they own the world. But they will be required to sit together with those who are impacted by the choices they make with those who have expertise that they may not have. And to sit together and work it out.
Once they work it out. The moral authority of that is based already on it being an organic thing that emerges from process. It’s not imposed on anyone. Can’t be right. So that’s one scenario, that’s a linear scenario.
The other scenario is fictional. I worked it out as a plausible thing, not as a thing that will happen. And it amazes me that essentially what I worked out had a Greta Thunberg in it before she reached the map. Except that mine was a girl in Nigeria who created an animated video clip that depicted basically apocalypse, and then invited all the world’s children to come together and work it out, saying, ‘You know, we can’t wait for adults. They’re not going to solve it for us.’.
And she created a plan. And the plan is very simple is to first map the whole world into eco regions, which are not quite the same as bio regions, because it also includes human activity. So an eco-region has a kind of cohesion within it that makes sense both biologically and culturally and socially. So you work out at the North America has been mapped into ecoregions the rest of the world. Last I look, I checked hasn’t.
Manda: [00:51:25.84] But it’s possible. So we can do that.
Miki: [00:51:27.71] Second task is to take an inventory with each within each of the eco regions of what are the local needs. And what are the local resources. The third part is to work out a plan in which first you localize the resources to address the local needs first, because right now we live in a world where things are grown here and go elsewhere first before they come back here to be eaten. So you cancel out needs and resources locally and then you have a picture essentially of what each region needs from other regions. And what each region can give to other regions.
Manda: [00:52:21.21] Of the surplus available
Miki: [00:52:22.73] And in this story, there was initially a breakdown when the high school kids of the global north kept not getting it that the global south was not actually going to be available to continue to sustain their current lifestyle. And the global south high schoolers went, ‘Yipee! We don’t have to sustain the global north anymore at cost to ourselves.’ So they created a plan that sustained themselves and not the global north and the thing almost broke down in this imaginary story until a Palestinian girl and an Israeli girl worked it out, figuring out that you cannot solve one trauma by creating another, that you have to create transitional plans that care for the scarcity and fear of the privileged. You cannot impose too much because if you impose too much, things break down. Nazi Germany is a reaction to too much imposition in Versailles. In part, not only, but in part. And once they figured out all of this, they went on a strike, which again, goes back to Greta. I just wasn’t on the scale that I had envisioned.
Miki: [00:53:38.22] The strike was very simple. We’re not going back to school until you accept our plan. And this is a movement for the hundred percent, not the 99 percent. Every single one of you, including the CEOs, including heads of states that have been torturing people, everyone is part of the plan. And after a week, the world joined them and that was the transition.
So that’s the second scenario. And it was almost made into a movie, but things fell apart, as they tend to when you’re doing visionary stuff.
And the third started from a radio program. It’s not fully worked out, but it’s a radio program where listeners are invited to call in to solve local problems. And and so you do essentially ad hoc citizen councils and you solve a problem, you bring it to the city council, solve another problem, you bring into the city council. Then another town hears about it and it moves around until it catches the whole world. But I didn’t work out the transition.
Manda: [00:54:58.41] Now since I was happening in Rojava, though.
Miki: [00:55:01.05] Yes. Rojava is the best thing happening in the world right now, as far as I know.
Manda: [00:55:06.63] But that’s why everybody seems to want to bomb it to pieces. Yes. Yes. We can talk about that in another podcast, because I’m quite aware of the time. OK. I’m already thinking people that I can put you in touch with that might be able to make some of these happen. Because there are people who want to help and don’t know what to do. And there are people who have the ideas and need help with those with power to make them happen. Because as you said, if you could get to COP 26 in Glasgow and they gave you the capacity to facilitate, then the world would be a different place.
So just before we close. I would like a thought experiment of what would it take within the next six months if you and I were given free rein to do what we need to do, what would be the order of activity? And of connecting people…what would be The first 10 acts in order to bring together what we need to happen and we can pick from all three of those scenarios or some plan.
Miki: [00:56:20.59] I confess that I would like to stop advertising, but I don’t think we would have the power to do that.
That would be an impact of something else that we did rather than a primary action.
Manda: [00:56:31.59] I think I think the thing to do is to bring people together to work out their problems with good process. So one of the key things would be to create what a colleague of mine and I called facilitation camps, training large numbers of people to be able to support others. That will become a bottleneck very quickly if we actually move to collaborative processes. You’ll need people who can lead them because they’ve done our collaboration. muscles are atrophied. After 7000 years, they’re atrophied.
Can we do that online, given that a lot of people are still in semi lockdown? Is that something that we could set up as an online process or do you need to be in the room?
Miki: [00:57:16.27] Yes, there is an online process. So I will give you the resource for people who want to learn and serve – that exists. Yeah, I’ll send you the link.
Manda: [00:57:29.44] Brilliant. And then I’m thinking of our government and the apparent lack of emotional intelligence. They don’t want to be facilitated because they don’t either don’t know facilitation is possible or they don’t believe it would make a difference. I’m imagining contacting my MP who happens to be chair of the Environment Committee, who’s gone through an extraordinary journey in the last 10 years. I sat in a room and listened to him saying basically that climate change wasn’t happening 10 years ago. And this week he wrote a letter to the chancellor going, ‘There is no time. We have to act. We have to be aiming for zero carbon by 2030 in line with our Paris agreements’. Which is not enough. But it’s an astonishing journey. And I’m imagining writing to him and saying, ‘Look, we are offering help with facilitation at COP 26. You are deeply involved in the making COP 26 happen. How can we bring facilitation into the room? And he wouldn’t take it seriously because he doesn’t know what it is and he doesn’t know what it can do. So how do we open up to the people who currently hold the reins of power the sense that there are other ways of doing things that could work.
Miki: [00:58:44.85] I think if we could get one group somewhere to be willing to be filmed while being facilitated. And you show what is possible and shared that, then that opens doors.
Manda: [00:58:59.72] That’s my next task then. We can we can make this happen. That’s doable, especially in this world where everybody’s living online at the moment. Those who are not involved in essential services. And you’re writing these 10 blog posts, which I imagine will become another book when they’re all done, because that sounds like a book.
Miki: [00:59:22.73] One of them is actually in a book. One of them became a chapter in a book that is coming out in Bristol University Press called Life After Covid 19. That’s coming out in about a month, I think.
Manda: [00:59:38.46] Ok. So we can link to that and then we can link to you to the place where the other blogs are up. Is there anything in closing? Is there anything else that it would be useful for everybody to know?
Miki: [00:59:53.47] Yes. Something that people can do individually. Starting right now is to train themselves to give without receiving. And to receive without giving. And the second one is harder. But any time I refuse to receive, I block the flow. If I can think of it like this, let’s restore the flow.
Manda: [01:00:17.46] Okay. Give without receiving. Receive without giving. And you’re right that’s a change in mindset. It’s nothing more than that. But it’s huge. Right. Miki, thank you so much. That gives everybody enough to change the whole world.
So that’s it for another week. And now we do have a sense of what we need to do and where we need to go. I will be exploring the ways that we could bring together the 5000 people chosen by sortition. But in the meantime, give without receiving, received without giving. See how that changes your world.
And so enormous, thanks to Miki for offering the pathways to change, for her capacity to envision the future in ways that are different. And for the ability to share it with such clarity. For those who want to learn more, I will put as many links as I possibly can in the show notes, which are on the podcast page of our website, which is Accidental Gods.Life. And there will be a transcript there of this podcast and all the previous podcasts.
You may also like these recent podcasts
How can we reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide, build living soil from the chaos of industrial farming, while growing healthy nutritious food and restoring our devastated ecosystems? Regenerative farming has so many of the answers and this week we speak to the host of the FarmGate podcast, Ffinlo Costain. Two parts – this is Part One
How can we build a progressive political movement that spans the world and that will take us to where we need to be: a future we can be proud of and towards which all of us will want to work? Taking politics, activism, progressive ideals with Jeremy Gilbert, Professor of Cultural and Political Theory at the University of East London
How can we embrace our humanity and use it in service to the earth and all that lives? How can we bring the best of ourselves to the best of the Web of Life in full understanding of the chaos of the moment, with full and open hearts? Deena Metzger, elder, wisdom-keeper, poet and visionary, has given her life to finding answers – and shares them here.
STAY IN TOUCH
For a regular supply of ideas about humanity's next evolutionary step, insights into the thinking behind some of the podcasts, early updates on the guests we'll be having on the show - AND a free Water visualisation that will guide you through a deep immersion in water connection...sign up here.
(NB: This is a free newsletter - it's not joining up to the Membership! That's a nice, subtle pink button on the 'Join Us' page...)