Episode #29 Imagineering: ReWeaving the Human Fabric with Miki Kashtan
Practical visionary Miki Kashtan has devoted her life to the exploration and practice of non violent communication: to finding ways in which choice can become a central part of human existence.
Central to her work is developing the capacity to set aside the patriarchal wounds of separation, scarcity and powerlessness and to choose instead, connection, flow and the ability to meet the needs of the whole of the web of life.
In this two-part podcast, she lays out the baselines of choice, of the ways we can think and feel and be beyond the confines of our patriarchal system, ahead of part 2, where we explore the futures we could reach if we all committed to choice and change
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: [00:00:12.48] My guest this week is the first person I’ve met on this journey who not only has a clear vision of the future, but also of the many varied pathways we could use to get there and of the mindsets, the ways of being, the ways of reprogramming our entire core operating system that will lift us out of the current ways of thinking and being so that we can become something new.
Miki Kashtan describes herself as a practical visionary, working for a world that works for all. On the way to this, she was in the Israeli army. She has APHC in sociology from UC Berkeley. She’s written several books, all of which I think are absolutely essential reading for those of you interested in making the world a better and more flourishing place. I will link to them in the show notes. But if you’re looking for one to start off with, then reweaving the human fabric is definitely the place to start. Along with that, Miki was co-founder of the Bay Area NVC – that’s nonviolent communication – and at the time of recording, she was staying in Glasgow, which is my home city in Scotland. She lives and breathes non-violent communication and usually we have a clear start to the podcasts. But I hit record and we started talking and I didn’t want to edit any of it out because this feels like a huge step to where we need to go. So with a slightly ragged start, people of the podcast, please welcome Miki Kashtan.
So there is so much of what I think you can talk about that I really suspect it’s going to be longer than a single hour. But if we’ve only got a single hour, then what really matters is your visions of the future. I’ve done podcasts with a lot of people. And they’re all very good at describing the problem of now and ideas of what would be nice to be different. You’re the first person I’ve come across who’s got actual ideas of how the future could be. And if we only have one hour, then those really matter. But I would like to give a bit of time for context for a bit of your biography and a bit of each of the books, because we have to have a new narrative and we have to understand the tools of reweaving our human fabric. You sent the script and you sent the application that you put into the competition. I’m on day three of a migraine so my brain slightly foggy. I may not get all the words in the right order. So, each of those would be a podcast in their own right. And I got the impression from you that you have another two sets of ideas of how the future could be, which is amazing.
Miki: [00:04:23.96] Let me clarify, the picture of the future is one picture. I have three pathways to get there from here.
Manda: [00:04:34.18] Right. So, we need to look at those pathways because that’s what we need is the roadmaps. We need a vision of where we could be and we need the road maps from here to there.
Miki: [00:04:43.01] I actually believe we can’t have roadmaps, because road maps are linear. And then we are right back smack in the centre of patriarchal, ‘let’s predict and control.’
Manda: [00:04:54.74] Okay. Yes, I hear you. But let’s we need to find another metaphor then. But we need to have a sense that it is possible to get from where we are to where we need to be. And some concept of the tools that we would need to get there.
Miki: [00:05:06.54] Yeah, it’s three possible pathways.
Manda: [00:05:08.86] Okay. Pathways works.
Miki: [00:05:10.57] Stories of possibility. There is a term that a friend of mine coined. I don’t think it’s caught Imagineering.
Manda: [00:05:21.41] Oh that’s lovely. Let’s make it catch. Okay.So that’s the title.
Miki: [00:05:24.80] The person who coined this term is someone you may want to talk with. Also, Tom Atlee.
Manda: [00:05:32.85] Right. That’s the title of the podcast: Imagineering. Reweaving the human fabric with Miki Kashtan.
Manda: [00:05:41.90] Okay. So, Miki Kashtan, welcome so much to the accidental Godes podcast. It is such an honor and and a joy to have you here because there’s so much of what you’re doing and being and have written that we need to understand for our journey towards conscious evolution. So. Normally we we go into ‘how are you in lockdown?’ but actually let’s leave that to one side where towards the end of lockdown, it is what it is. And I think it’s more interesting for our context to get a sense of how you came to be one of the leading lights, as I understand it, in nonviolent communication and all that entails.
Miki: [00:06:28.32] I think there’s two little bits about my childhood that I need to bring in here. I will be as brief as I can. One I don’t remember but is recorded by my mother. But it’s pivotal, which is that we walked into a store, a grocery store, and I asked her – I was five – I asked her, why do we have to pay? Why can’t we just take what we need? I don’t remember the incident. I don’t remember her answer. But I’m now 64, and there hasn’t been a single person that has been able to give me a compelling answer to that question, because I think there isn’t one. The reason why we have to pay is because we have created structures that separate us from life. And so that’s pivotal because it’s some part of me held on to this clarity.
I have a degree in math, I was a computer programmer for many years. Numbers and things like this are very easy for me. And I never understood economics. I just never understood it. It just made no sense to me. Then when I came to the United States from Israel, which was where I’m from, and decided to complete my degree, and go on to graduate school, pay it to get a PhD, I was trying to get credits in any way indeed possible. And I figured I would do an advanced placement test in economics and I would both get credit and understand something that I didn’t. So, I read Samuelson, which is the bible of macroeconomics. I did the test. I aced it, but I understood it no more than before.
And it took another fifteen years until the moment came when it just dawned on me like a lightning: ‘Economics is based on the premise of scarcity.’ It actually is in the definition, it’s not a radical thing to say that economics is based on scarcity. Economics is defined as the study of the allocation of scarce resources. And if you don’t accept the premise of scarcity, economics will never make sense.
So that’s one thread. It’s like I held on in some fashion, even though it went dormant for many years. I was also in the army, (everyone in Israel is drafted), and that took 10 years to recover from. And still there is a thread that held all the way through. That’s one piece.
The second piece is that I used to have two sisters. Now I have only one. Her name is Arnina, and she developed a way of looking at what happens to us when we’re socialized. That divides our needs into two clusters that are she holds like triangles. One is this security belonging, triangle, acceptance, all of those things. And the other is the freedom, authenticity, expression. And in the shortest version. The overwhelming majority of us accept the raw deal that says give up your freedom so that you can have belonging in the world that we have created because we can’t have both. And a very small minority of us think that’s a raw deal: we don’t want it. We’re willing to give up belonging and safety and acceptance in order to have our own freedom. And I belong to that tiny minority. So I think that that protects you in some ways from internalizing everything in your socialisation. You can maintain something within yourself. And I have a sense that these two strands connect with each other and have kept me in a place of kind of like underground visionary obstinacy. I was obstinately visionary.
Manda: [00:10:46.15] So can we explore unpick a little bit? The freedom/belonging dichotomy? Because I had never considered that as as part of the deal of our modern culture. Because in if we go back not very far in human evolution to the point where we were all forager hunters then freedom and belonging both existed. It wasn’t it wasn’t a dichotomy. But then neither did economics exist. And scarcity was a different concept.
Miki: [00:11:21.73] I think it’s much before modern life, although there are pockets of things that stay, but it’s it’s I think of it as the patriarchal turn. It emerges from calamity, which from my readings is either intense natural disasters or invasion that disrupt everything. They create a collective trauma that is larger than a group’s capacity to integrate and metabolize.
Manda: [00:11:54.46] So in the American continent or Australasia or or anywhere were the kind of Western Roman-Greek mindset was then distributed – even in Britain, we were invaded by the Romans and it was pretty calamitous. What do you see as the original wounding? Because there must have been physiological catastrophes that didn’t cause us wounding. And at some point, some of our forebears decided that separating ourselves/themselves from the soul of the earth was a good idea.
Miki: [00:12:31.04] I’m not a primary researcher. I’m only relying on things that I read from other people. There’s a theory that some people believe that makes sense to me that the Black Sea used to be a lake that was about 50 to 70 metres below sea level. And so on the hills surrounding it, people lived happily and peacefully. And then within a few years – not a few centuries, a few years – water seeped in. And so over the course of a few years, only the water rose, all this amount to become a connected sea. And it is theorized that this is what the story of the flooding is in the Bible. And it created so much disruption for so many people that this is the seed of the wound that created patriarchy both in Europe and in India and China. I can give you references later on.
You may have heard of Marija Gimbutas who documented the invasions from that region into Eastern and Western Europe right from the steps. And according to her research the entire continent of Europe was settled in peaceful agricultural coexistence, including cities. So, my understanding is it was more like commons and permaculture than anything that we now would recognise as agriculture. So if there was accumulation, it was collective. But then there were waves of migration and invasions that came from the east that preceded the Romans and the Greeks because they were three thousand years ago. Yes, yes. And just recently, there is that DNA bone research that demonstrates that spread that she documented only based on archaeological artefacts.
Manda: [00:15:07.44] That in pretty much one generation, people arrived, most of whom were young men. And within a generation, the children were theirs.
Miki: [00:15:16.12] So it becomes patriarchy because they had to separate the women from each other and take control of them in order to pass on to their progeny whatever they accumulated. I think it is impossible to imagine as much intensity – except the same things happened in the Americas, so we can imagine it because we have records of that.
Manda: [00:15:46.18] Yes. And Australia and New Zealand and everywhere where that ethic moved to. Gosh, I hadn’t expected us to be going into history. Thank you.
Miki: [00:15:57.78] So it’s just like one small sentence. And then we can go from there to liberation. Is that I see now patriarchy as having emerged from scarcity, functioning in separation and resulting in powerlessness. So if we want liberation, we need to go the other direction. We need to reclaim our power and capacity to choose: conscious choice. This is where nonviolence directly comes in. Because nonviolence is about choosing, irrespective of what the fight/flight/freeze system tells you to do.
Manda: [00:16:35.03] Can you say more about that? Because that sounds like the core of what you’re talking about. So, let’s go into that a bit more deeply.
Miki: [00:16:40.79] So the fight/flight/freeze mechanism is given by biology. We don’t choose it. It’s biologically given that in both my intuition and my reading of things, it appears to me that up until what I called another patriarchal turn, all living beings are designed to live in peace and harmony with their own life, in trust of life, except in moments of danger. And those are not all the time because you can’t survive constant danger. And then what patriarchy did is it made danger and fear semi permanent. So there is clear research that shows that now we are in low to medium grade activation of the fight/flight/freeze system all the time.
Manda: [00:17:44.73] Yes. We’ve talked a lot on this podcast with people about polyvagal theory.
Miki: [00:17:48.81] So that means that we will interpret danger in situations that aren’t if there’s even a term like this objectively dangerous: where our life is not in danger, but we react as if it is. And there are many reasons why we can get into how our socialization primes us for this, etc. But the reality is that by the time we reach adulthood, we are constantly ready to protect ourselves or fight or flee.
So nonviolence is about conscious choice. In order to have conscious choice, we need to be able to metabolize those feelings: feel them instead of act on them, feel them, breathe, metabolize and choose. And if you read accounts of people – I’ll give one that appears in Walter Winks ‘Powers that Be’. A woman highly trained in nonviolence wakes up in the middle of the night and there’s a man in her room with a knife about to assault her. And she recounts in that book thoughts that she had, she had quick thoughts that went in her head. And about the fourth or fifth of those thoughts was this thought: ‘My safety and the safety of this man are intertwined.’ That’s a thought that you are able to have when you’ve trained yourself in nonviolence deeply for years. You don’t have it just spontaneously, except if you’re an extremely rare person.
And based on that, she made this choice. She said, ‘What time do you have?’ Now, this is a very strategic choice because it subverts the script. And it also gets him to confusedly look at his watch, so his eyes move away from her and begin the de-trancing of his action.
Because you have to know that a man would only do that when he’s in some kind of a trance, He’s running script that dehumanizes her. And so he looks and he says, ‘It’s 2:00 a.m.’ She says, ‘Oh, that’s odd. Mine says 02:10. Are you sure?’ And continues to engage with him in normal, mundane, useless conversation, including ‘How did you get in? Did I leave a window open?’ Totally normal conversation.
When she’s sure that he’s out of the trance. She says, ‘Please leave.’ And he says, ‘I can’t. I have nowhere to go.’ Which means he has woken up to his life reality. Without losing a beat, she says, ‘OK. They’re sheets down the hall. There’s a bed downstairs. Make up your bed. Sleep in it. Leave in the morning. And I’m not going to call the police.’.
nd she sits up in bed shaking all night. But that’s non-violence at its deepest essence, subverting the fight/flight/freeze, automatic mechanism into conscious choice. This is how we reclaim our capacity to have power, even in the most extreme situations. Which doesn’t mean that that power will guarantee to protect us from dying. It only means that it gives us our humanity back to make choices from. Once we have enough of that power, we can reclaim togetherness as an antidote to separation. Once we have enough togetherness, we can reclaim flow as an antidote to scarcity. So it’s a trajectory.
Manda: [00:21:41.89] OK. Choice. Togetherness. And flow.
Miki: [00:21:46.90] Which is what I’m holding as the most significant things at this time. And then on the individual level, the tools are to adopt all the soft qualities that patriarchy eschews: humility, tenderness, vulnerability, mourning, celebration. There are one or two more that I’m not remembering in the moment, but those are the key personal tools to move out of our devastating, wrenching complicity with patriarchy. And when I say patriarchy, it’s not about men and women. It’s like we have different script, but we are, all of us, fully scripted within patriarchy. Patriarchy is about either/or. It’s about control. It’s about scarcity, separation and powerlessness. It’s about right/wrong. All of these things that are like the air that we breathe.
his is why it’s so hard for the people that you talk with, for almost all of us to envision something else because we are actually within the system. So when activists are trying to dismantle patriarchy, they bring patriarchal tools to it. So an activist who says ‘This is not up for debate!’ which happens a lot – that is within the very thing that they’re trying to change. So it’s tragic. That’s another thing. The tragic lens: tenderness allows for the tragic lens. The tragic lens release as any of us from being wrong and bad.
Manda: [00:23:39.08] Tragic lens as in visual lens? Thing that you see through. Can you say more about that?
Miki: [00:23:44.57] When I am able to recognize that everything is systemically driven, that we are made to be what we are, that we are separated from our essential nature, that we are made to be obedient and numb – therefore, we can do atrocities. It’s not a character deficiency. It’s a response to things that have happened to that individual.
So Alice Miller comes to mind. I don’t know if you know the book ‘For your own Good’ that documents how violence and horror emerge from how we are raised as children. James Gilligan, who is alive, wrote a book called, ‘Violence: Our Deadly Epidemic and Its Causes’, and he was a chief psychiatrist in the Massachusetts prison system. He interviewed murderers and people in high security, people who have done the worst things. And his conclusion is that every act of violence is an attempt to create justice. So that helps you feel the tragedy of it, feel the tenderness of it. When I read Alice Miller’s book as a person who grew up in Israel, where the Holocaust is a daily diet, I felt compassion for 7-year-old Adolf Hitler for what was done to him: that was a peak moment in my life.
Manda: [00:25:30.90] So was it possible for you to frame the Holocaust as one man’s search for justice? Or then a systemic search for justice predicated on other people having similar experiences to his?
Miki: [00:25:46.04] I have not thought of this. I’m going to be doing thinking on my but, not on my feet. And I would first say that I think Hitler is a symptom. Not a cause.
Manda: [00:26:00.62] We could say the same for Trump and Johnson and Bolsonaro….
Miki: [00:26:02.83] So exactly what I was going to say: Donald Trump is a symptom, not a cause. He’s a symptom of different things. But he wouldn’t go anywhere – Hitler would be just another human being – if there wasn’t a systemic collective wound that he spoke in a way that gave people a sense of dignity.
Manda: [00:26:28.96] And certainty as well – there’s that sense that ‘I can tell you the future. And then your doubt is erased.’ And I think that is also very comforting.’
Miki: [00:26:37.21] There’s an experiment that was done almost inadvertently by a history teacher in Palo Alto. I think in the 70s it was called The Wave, where he simulated division and oppressive things and thinking in his class and it spread to the whole school. There was even a movie made about it. It’s fictional, but it’s based on a completely true story where everyone then got to see that almost everyone went along with it. It’s part obedience, part disconnection from our feelings, part humiliation, part a deep search for belonging and part avenging all the horrors that were done to us, all of that.
On the personal level, he (Hitler) was trying clearly to get justice for what happened to him. But see, even Adolf Hitler, the symbolic evil of all times… Here’s a story about him that not many people know: Hitler totally loved his mother. And she had cancer and died when he was about 19. And Hitler really loved the doctor that treated her, that doctor was Jewish. At a certain point, Hitler intervened to keep that doctor alive and referred to him as a Noble Jew. I mean, you could say that’s no big deal. That’s nothing. And it shows you that in the darkest place there is light. The Quakers say that I love so much: ‘there’s that of God in every human being.’ So somewhere in that encroached upon, shrivelled up soul of Adolf Hitler, there is a point where if anyone could touch that, there would be heart connection even with him.
Manda: [00:28:45.00] I have another story very briefly triggered by that. One of them was a woman who in the Luftwaffe was their test pilot for dive bombers. And she was the only person most of the time who survived. Because being a test pilot for dive bombers is a fairly high-risk pursuit. But she was very, very good at it. And they had decided early on that every bomber should have the capacity to dive bomb because the Stukas had done so well at Dunkirk. But she was Jewish, and they all knew. And because she was the only person who could actually pull out of some of these dives and survive without pile-driving the plane into the ground, she was fine. And I thought that was another very interesting instance where everybody was capable of turning a completely blind eye to something that was otherwise very black and white. If there was a greater need within the system. So, systems are flexible until they’re not or inflexible until they’re not.
A friend of mine wrote her biography. Anyway, weapons of war are not quite where we’re at. But I did think it was a very interesting proof that exceptionalism happens. And a lot of the people around Hitler were gay and you were fine if you were in the inner circle and otherwise you were hanging off meat hooks in the forests.
Miki: [00:30:05.47] And you were asking me about how I got to nonviolent communication and all that. I would say that one of the things that attracted me about Marshall Rosenberg, who created nonviolent communication – is that he made it his business to test his discoveries by trying to apply them to Adolf Hitler. And he said that he probably spent more time than any other person trying to empathize with Hitler.
Manda: [00:30:37.32] And he must have been of the generation that was directly affected.
Miki: [00:30:41.13] I was once at a training with him and people asked him to do a Hitler role play. And so then he became Hitler and all the rest of us were invited to empathise with him. He chose the moment when Hitler was denied access to architecture school and was accusing Jews for that. And so Marshall Rosenberg – who has many, many people who directly experience love from him in his eyes, specifically – became Hitler in front of my eyes. That crazed look: he wasn’t role playing Hitler, it was clear that he studied Hitler so deeply that he could be him. He was Hitler. It was a profound moment for me of grasping the depths of what nonviolent communication makes possible. It can ultimately, in principle, bridge any gap. Most of us don’t have the actual capacity to do that, but the potentiality is there.
Manda: [00:31:57.60] I am looking into my own heart and thinking of the places where I don’t do this. I was deeply ignorant of nonviolent communications till I started reading your books ahead of this podcast. On the assumption that at least some of the listeners are as ignorant as I was, can you synthesize for us what Marshall Rosenberg put forth as the ground rules, if we like, or the base structure of nonviolent communication?
Miki: [00:32:25.32] I will start a step earlier, which is I would say is key. Everything that we do is based on an implicit theory about human nature. Most of us don’t articulate to ourselves what our theory of human nature is.
Manda: [00:32:48.05] When you say ‘we’, so you mean we within nonviolent communication or ‘we’ the human race?
Miki: [00:32:54.23] Every human being. We have a belief about what humans are like. And that belief, unless we question it, comes from what we’re taught. I think the seed of nonviolent communication is a different picture of human nature. And the belief is not like shifting from we are evil to we are good because that remains within the good/bad narrative, the either/or of patriarchal training. It’s shifting out of that narrative altogether. So we’re neither good nor bad. We are creatures who, like every living creature, are trying to meet our needs with the means that are available to us.
So everything that we do is an attempt to meet basic needs that we all have. So if we look back to James Gilligan who said that violence is an attempt to create justice: that’s the kind of move. You look at the action and you look back to find what the need is that could have led to that action? So that’s one of the core premises.
And if you accept that premise and you accept that in a natural state of choice, togetherness and flow, we are in the flow and the flow includes constant giving and receiving, constant giving and receiving all the time. When you are an absolute infant, it’s almost all receiving. Maternal giving is as an elemental aspect of humans, more so than any other animal, because the period of dependence is so long. So we are primed to receive without giving. Notice the absence of exchange there. And there are all kinds of giving and receiving. And then there is the giving without receiving that is the maternal giving – it doesn’t have to be mother but is the maternal giving. So, again, notice the contrast with patriarchal training that says exchange is everything. Giving without receiving is sacrifice, receiving without giving is parasitic?
So in the natural state, we are in flow of giving and receiving. We are constantly looking at what are the needs that are there? What are the resources that are there? What are the impacts that would happen if we move things around this way or that way? And we are continually adapting and readjusting where resources are flowing. I believe that this is how all life works. Not with conscious choice.
Somebody once asked me, can you define life? And I thought, ‘Are you kidding me? Can anyone define life?’ But then words came out of my mouth. I said, ‘Life is the constant rearranging of everything through an integration of all the volitions.’ And if you accept that everything has its own volition, that doesn’t look like human volition, everything alive has its own volition – then you can have theories about how far do you extend life? Do electrons have volition? Who knows? But I bet anything that viruses do.
So now if you come out of that, then the whole thing falls apart. The whole choice, togetherness and flow falls apart. And then you are stuck in a place where you can’t put your needs on the table because it’s too vulnerable.
So you put on the table principles and should and what is right and what is wrong and etc.. You can’t put impacts of you on the table because it’s too vulnerable. So you put blame and shame on the table. You can’t put what are true available resources on the table. So you put on the table principles of what’s fair, who deserves what, how do we control resources?
We are stuck in this place where we can’t easily flow all the time because of all these obstacles. The shoulds the blame, the shame, that deserve, the diagnosis, the control – all of that interferes with the natural flow. With togetherness and with choice. So essentially, you could say that nonviolent communication has different elements. One of them is a picture of reality. One of them is remedial tools for how to restore my core, restore ourselves to the possibility of flow. And one of them is blueprints for what if even whole societies could look like if you put needs at the center as a core organizing principle.
Manda: [00:38:03.90] So the remedial tools are about finding a way to put on the table again, the information that’s necessary to be able to be in the flow of giving and receiving.
And in detail, those tools would be?
Miki: [00:38:21.66] The first thing that I would want in a situation – especially if we are in in conflict already – I would want to establish something that we all are pointing to. Because a big part of conflict is that we have different pictures of reality and we even look at a different place and we assign different meaning to what we’re looking at. So if we can all look at the same place, that would be what in the practice template is called an observation. It is stunningly difficult to observe because we believe our stories. So there is spiritual discipline in disentangling information out of the stories in which we live. So that’s one piece that brings us together to look at the same thing.
The second piece is to identify the feelings, the actual raw feelings. And again, it’s very difficult to do because most of the things that we think of as feelings are actually still stories. So, for example, there’s a high, meaningful intensity to saying, ‘I feel betrayed.’ What is really going on when I say, ‘I feel betrayed?’ I’m actually saying, ‘You betrayed me.’ I’m saying something about a piece that is outside of me, whereas if I look inside, then I find that I’m living now in the narrative of betrayal. It’s a very potent narrative in all patriarchal societies. People die because somebody has a story of betrayal.
But what’s the actual feeling inside? Is it anger? Is it fear? Is it heart brokenness? If I look only inside, then I can give you much better information about the impact on me of what you did than if I tell you that I feel betrayed. You don’t actually learn anything when I tell you I feel betrayed because you’re just going to be defensive.
Manda: [00:40:24.88] So it requires a lot of self-awareness as an absolute baseline. It requires the spiritual work of letting our own dust settle to a point where we have a sense of our inner landscape so that we can identify what’s going on.
Miki: [00:40:40.54] And that’s only on the individual plane. I want to touch on the limitations of the individual plane in a moment. And then we want to know what are the needs that everyone involved has and be able to accurately identify our needs separately from what we think everybody else should be doing. What is the real need here? And it’s really difficult for people to develop need literacy. If feeling literacy is difficult, need literacy is even more difficult because we don’t have hardly any models.
So when I try to support people in developing that literacy, I offer them four basic needs to start from. If you don’t know what you need is, ask yourself if it’s one of these four? Is the need physical – is it physically basic? Is it physical sustenance, physical safety? That’s one set of needs.
If not that, is it in the arena of freedom? Not that? Is it in the arena of connection? Not that. Is it in the arena of meaning? And every human need that’s ever existed will be in one of those four basic groups. And that really helps. So I would say that if I say, ‘You betrayed me,’ it’s probably in the arena of connection. And some of it might be in the arena of meaning.
Manda: [00:42:15.05] And possibly also the arena of safety?
Miki: [00:42:17.39] It could actually be in all of them, which would explain why it’s such a potent story. And then once all the needs are on the table, we need to know what is going on in terms of how are we going to address this? And so, we need to know what’s actually wanted in order to address this? And this is where the resources will start moving from place to place. I can’t weave the story of betrayal all the way to request because there’s so much unpacking that would need to be done. At the end of the individual piece, there would need to be actual requests that are concrete on the material plane that involve me and/or the other person mobilizing resources to attend to the needs that have been named. This is why you will find almost every person who studied nonviolent communication, talking about Observations, Feelings, Needs and Requests. And that’s a practice template. And for me, there’s a real concern about divorcing the practice template from the deeper meaning within which it operates and making it the rule.
Now, when you talked about ground rules, I was worried that people will think, okay, now I have to talk a certain way, which a lot of people think it is. It isn’t. It’s about redirecting your attention to what’s necessary to patch up the foundational disconnection that we live in.
Manda: [00:44:00.22] Right. And so even just trying to do that: Observation, Needs, Feelings, Requests, trying to process that through – I am so aware of, for instance, coming up against an internal narrative that says, ‘Needing stuff is bad.’ That neediness is the ultimate sin in my internal dialectic. And so, we talked to the beginning about the wounds of patriarchy: powerlessness, scarcity, separation. And I’m wondering what I can do as an individual, and then what we can do as a collective.
How can I best step outside? Because we know that no problem is solved from the mindset that created it. And yet we are so embedded in this. It is the water. We are the fish swimming in the water of this culture. I’d like to name it something that wasn’t so gendered, but I would call it free market neo liberalism, but it goes way back. It’s Roman and it’s construct. And therefore, it’s from the Greek. And therefore, it’s probably Persian. And it is that construct of separation and loss and lack. And even thinking about the flow of resources I’m hit with internal narratives of ‘Yes, but what happens if there is no harvester this year? And we don’t have enough food? And I need to step out of that. So I’m very curious as to how we step out of that?
Miki: [00:45:29.30] First of all, there is a story that came out recently that contradicts the Lord of the Flies.
Manda: [00:45:37.52] Yes, I wrote that. Yes. The man who went to find the boys. It was wonderful.
Miki: [00:45:44.15] I didn’t actually read it. I just know that the bottom line is they collaborated.
Manda: [00:45:48.80] Yes, they got lost. It was a bunch of young lads who description what sounded like a horrendous Catholic school. They just decided to go off on a boat because they couldn’t be arsed to stay in class one day. And it got caught in a current and they ended up for, I think many years. I think it was a decade on an island. And eventually they were found. But in those ten years, they had set up a system whereby everybody collaborated. If they ended up having any kind of conflict, the two people in conflict – I think there were five of them, so this isn’t a big tribe – moved to opposite ends of the island (not a big island) until they had calmed down. And then they came back and they reconnected. But the thing that struck me in most in that is they were not white. They were all, as far as I could tell, from the photographs of First Nations of Australia. And I think that their embeddedness in our wounds was probably less. I think it would have been very interesting if we could replicate that experiment with five white boys.
Miki: [00:46:53.72] Oh, there’s so much to say about everything. Fundamentally. I think that when we are in actual disaster, people more often than not collaborator. There is a book called ‘Paradise Made in Hell’, by Rebecca Solnit. We don’t need to read the book. We know it. We have experienced it. We’ve seen it. There’s a fire. People come together. I think that finitude. Is a reality of life, scarcity is a relationship with that finitude.
Manda: [00:47:31.61] Can you define finitude for us?
Miki: [00:47:33.17] Things are finite. But scarcity is a relationship that is imposed on top of that. It’s a relationship that influences how we relate to each other, not just how we relate to the thing. So what we can do as individuals is to surround ourselves with enough support to be able to disentangle from the narrative. And it will require a lot of support because there is internal obstacles and there’s obstacles around you. People will want to push you back into the narrative because once you step out of the narrative, it threatens their narrative.
Manda: [00:48:18.56] And people die to maintain narratives. That’s a given.
Miki: [00:48:22.08] As an individual, it takes a tremendous amount of effort. If you create a community, for example, or a society, this is where that global governance thing comes in. When you have actual collective agreements about how to do things that are practical, within capacity, simple, concrete and not rules, then less is required of each individual.
Manda: [00:48:50.57] So the collective responsibility is that sense of carrying the responsibility of the world that many people hold becomes less because we can trust the collective to do that?
Miki: [00:49:01.67] But we need to do we need to anchor it in concrete agreements because principles alone are not enough to counter the narrative that fight/flight/freeze and all of that.
Manda: [00:49:13.67] I have an internal model of head-mind, heart-mind, body-mind and the body-mind is the instinctual mind, which is the fight/flight/freeze. And what we are trying to do is operate our head-minds to open our heart-minds so that we can act from there rather than from our instinctual gut-mind.
We spoke at the start about not having metaphysical belief systems. But my understanding of the Heart Math Institute work is that when we are coming from heart-space, if we are in heart coherence, that has an energetic impact on those around us. And a group of people in heart coherence is a much bigger. There’s a kind of square root law that happens wherever you have enough people working in heart coherence, it can have a far wider effect. This is probably nothing to do with nonviolence, but it I’m just trying to hook things into a narrative that makes sense to me.
Miki: [00:50:19.76] It has everything to do with nonviolence. Because one of the essential ingredients of nonviolence is aligning means with ends. When you align means with ends, when you live individually and collectively, the vision of a future then what you radiate to other people around you is a visionary alternative does exist contrary to what everybody has said. A Visionary alternative does exist. And that both inspires and threatens at times. But it definitely has energetic wavelengths and it’s completely, for me, aligned with what the Heart Math Institute says.
Manda: [00:51:07.30] Okay. So I am quite shocked to what the time is. I thought it was considerably less than that. I have a suggestion, which is that definitely if you’re up for it, I would really like to record a second podcast where we explore that vision of a different future in-depth. And then the many different ways that we might get there predicated on all that we’ve been talking about so far. But I wonder, as a taster for people, if you could in the last few minutes, sketch out the broad-brush vision, one vision of a future that is different to the futures that our current culture is as broad brushing for us. Does that make sense?
Miki: [00:51:48.65] First of all, I would like to invite you and all listeners to imagine the entire absence of money and exchange.
Manda: [00:51:58.24] That’ll do. I’m happy with that.
Miki: [00:52:01.07] And we now have a technology in place that can move everything from everywhere to everywhere. What now drives it is profit and profit and money. If we can use the entire same technology and drive it with need rather than profit, that will dramatically reduce unnecessary consumption.
Because for the last hundred and so years since the advertising industry started, there is a huge force that is designed to constantly increase our felt sense of need. One of the amazing beauties of the coronavirus lockdown is that all those people who can’t stay home. (there is a big bracket. Not everyone is in lockdown. All the people who are actually working with things and with bodies are either still working and exposed or out of the out of work. Lockdown is affecting only certain segments of the population.) But still, for those segments, you’ll learn that you don’t need everything that you needed. I hear that from people spontaneously. So it’s possible to dramatically reduce consumption without reducing quality of life at all, in fact, increasing it. So if you if you start moving things around based on needs and based on willingness rather than based on exchange and profit, the baseline of everything becomes different. That’s that’s one piece of it.
Miki: [00:53:49.89] The other piece of it is decision making. Where is decision making happening? And it’s possible, entirely possible, to push decision making as far into the most local as possible. And that increases power. That increases people’s capacity to attend to their needs with each other rather than having to rely on distant institutions. So that’s a second piece.
The principle of willingness is one of the most radical principles that I am aware of, because it basically means if no one is willing to do something, it won’t happen. No one will be forced to do it. And then the reality is exposed. And then we can re prioritize collectively. Is this really necessary? And if it’s really necessary, can we find someone who is willing? And if not, what are we going to do? Can we find a creative solution that doesn’t require somebody to do something they’re not willing to do? The entire set of problems becomes different. And it’s a ‘we’ based set of problems rather than an ‘I’ based set of problems.
Manda: [00:55:02.82] And if we’d had this conversation six months ago, the the tenor of it, I think, or the tenor of the way that it lands would have been different. But we’ve seen in the three months of lock-down in the U.K., exactly as you said, that consumption was much less and the willingness to help people out was huge. So we have seen in action a very small experiment of this.
Miki: [00:55:27.24] Exactly. Three times as many people volunteered for the NHS within days as they were looking for at all.
Manda: [00:55:37.60] Yeah. Interesting. So that’s an hour. Amazingly. It’s passed faster than I thought possible. Time is very flexible. Why don’t we call it a day for now and say thank you so much to Miki Kashtan. And then we’ll do Part Two sometime very soon and have a really close look, not only at a world in which we work with needs instead of profit and willingness instead of coercion, but also how we might get there from where we are now, which is the really interesting. I would like at the end of the next podcast is that we leave listeners with a felt sense of how they can move in the world in a ways that would bring this forward. So let’s leave that for now. Thank you very much.
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