New World Justice League

Justice League of America

Justice League of America (fanpop.com)

This is a crowd-funding proposal to support a series of encounter sessions between outstanding intellectual and cultural leaders, together with some leaders of tomorrow.

It may also evolve into a permanent institute with its own office/lab complex and attached jetport.

I love and admire the people listed below as possible candidates for these events, but I perceive that  our moral and intellectual leadership is in a crisis just as the rest of us are. We are stuck. I believe it’s because in some way we have become too alienated, too isolated, and too used to our grooves, as energetic as they may be. And it is only so much worse for our men and women of great depth and vision, atop their solitary mountaintops of genius. And I’m sure that to these penetrating minds, the converging crises facing life on this planet can seem pretty hopeless.

Like the superheroes in the Justice League comics, our public intellectuals and activists tend to be an individualistic lot with strong, independent personalities. What I find to be such a great metaphor in the comics is the way the superheroes argue and fight amongst themselves.

Furthermore, humans fail to communicate and cooperate at our full capacities because of addictive and narcissistic obsessions with our individual egos. We are all compulsive ego masturbators addicted to auto-stimulating the release of endogenous neurochemical cocktails. Ironically our most intelligent, creative, and charismatic individuals seem to suffer from this the most.

One thing we may need is some face time and some campfire time together. While the sages sit around a circle of their peers, the rest of us will gather in larger circles of our own peers around them.

Marc Edwards recently wrote in the Integral Leadership Review,

“…followership has been neglected as an essential quality of leaders at the executive level of management. The qualities of good followership, for example, of being able to listen, to provide and seek feedback, of loyalty and of signalling errors and anomalies have been undervalued at senior levels of executive leadership.” –, Leadership as Holarchy: leading/following in peer governance

One way in which I feel our intellectual leadership fails at followership and peership may be due more to their individualism than to their scheduling constraints– I don’t think they share enough common face-time with their own peers. I think we need a general assembly of our public mentors and intellectual innovators. I wouldn’t completely rule out locking batches of them up in 24 hour encounter marathons, Esalen style.

It is customary for third parties to host the odd forum of two or three such celebs now and then, but I think it is a failure of both leadership and followership that larger groups of our brightest and best don’t get together on their own initiative far more often. IMO this is one of the key obstacles to creating the critical mass and internal cohesion needed for a stronger, more confident, and more sustained mass movement. It is inevitable that we take certain cues from our mentors. Books, articles, emails, one-on-one interviews, and individual public lectures are necessary but not sufficient. The US Founders had to occasionally caucus together in common rooms at close quarters–or the US may ultimately have been still-born.

The people listed below are among our very best and brightest, and that means they are filling big shoes–shoes that in other generations were filled by people like Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, Thoreau,  Gandhi, MLK, Sojourner Truth, “Mother” Jones , or Eleanor Roosevelt .

Now things have come around to the point that our current  leaders are facing a kind of moment no less grave and momentous than that which prompted Ben Franklin to say “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Human culture has always evolved more rapidly than our anatomy. But even the rapid progress of our culture in the past few centuries has begun to fall behind the pace of changes and challenges we now face in our crowded societies and  our ravaged environment. Rather than rising to meet these challenges, our social institutions show signs of actually breaking down and becoming less effective. Increasing competition over land, water, food, and other resources is likely to favor increasingly authoritarian institutions. While technology offers solutions to resource problems in theory, in practice it also favors greater stratification of wealth and power. If recent trends continue we may be faced with a future of highly authoritarian corporate neofeudalism (privatized government).

As we congress with one another on the most human level possible we need to begin from a point of deeply troubling  confession. No matter how sincere and committed we have all been in our lives, the world has undergone increasing destruction on our watch. Our past, best efforts haven’t been good enough. Somehow we must up our game. Isn’t that clear yet? But none of us knows how to do that alone, using our old, familiar  moves. We must find something new in the synergy of our shared love, hope, fear and grief. Perhaps we can do as our forefathers once did, in the closing words of the United States Declaration of Independence, and “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

This is an initial list of suggested social and intellectual leaders who will be invited to attend these events.

 

This might take the form of a retreat center that would give the top 100 public intellectuals, activists, progressive leaders, etc. lots more face time with each other without a busy, crowded “conference” agenda.

I started by thinking of the comic books “Justice League” and “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and extending that intuitive or instinctive approach of calling upon heroes to calling upon our present day progressive heroes and thought leaders to join forces.

Of course they already see themselves (wrongly) as being in joined forces but for that to be true and actually work they need to hang out more. Crossing paths at a conference or interview doesn’t really get them in sync.

Probably what we need is a college that can give all these people an office/lab complex and paid seats on an “institute” for saving the world. There might be an attached jetport as well.

There might also be continuous retreat “pools” that people can join and leave at will, or scheduled events over a course of years. The entire project would be not-for-profit and the funding target will allow scholarships to each public event.

There will be three main tiers of funding–institutional, organizational, and individual. The higher tiers get more input in selecting the participants, venues, and schedules. Lower tiers get to nominate “pioneers” and attend the events.

Poor Richard

 

Related:

Deceler8: A peer-driven retreat to declutter & refocus yourself

Science of the Commons?

English: ARDX - Arduino Experimentation Kit (I...

ARDX – Arduino Experimentation Kit (Inside the box) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We progressives and activists often do a better job at describing problems than crafting solutions. The best way to get at solutions is a rigorous program of empirical experimentation. The contemporary dialog on the commons gives us some hypotheses to work with (although they are mostly old fare), but that’s about as far as it goes. Even when people act together and implement various ideas (collectives, coops, ecovillages, etc), a decade or two later that group or project may be gone, leaving very little for us to analyze as to the reasons for its failure. Or it may still be going strong but we may have little real understanding of why.

Does it replicate?

Throwing down the gauntlet

Throwing spaghetti at the wall is an experiment, but what we need are longitudinal studies and comprehensive programs of progressive, coherent, controlled experimentation.

I also suggest the discourse on the commons should center on in vivo and in situ cases rather than on theories or principles. When we look at cases we see things we like and dislike, even if we may not know why. Theories and principles can help us explain what we like and don’t like, but seldom help us recognize it. The problem with reinventing the wheel ex nihilo is that you might end up with a better wheel or a worse one. A better approach is to start with a sample of existing wheels and try to understand the advantages and flaws of each.

If the current commons movement really represents something new, it should philosophize less and say more about how it is going to create a scientific framework for its program.

Information Technology

One step in that direction involves information technology. I am imagining an information system of commons practice and research. The P2P collaborative economy, free culture, and new commons movements are creating a lot of digital content. Most is in discursive and narrative form that is time consuming to read. Among this volume of content are case studies in a variety of formats (many very informal), business plans, proposals, and presumably many legal documents (charters, agreements, etc.).

I am imagining a semantic ontology according to which the key ideas and data of this content could be parsed and tagged to form a distributed database using open linked-data structures. This would help transition the collective knowledge base of the research, activist, and social entrepreneur communities into a machine-readable, semantically linked, searchable form.

Much of the digital content of interest is already in “wiki” form. The P2P Foundation Wiki is an excellent searchable resource, and perhaps the semantic wiki extensions for the wiki engine could eventually be applied. “A semantic wiki is a wiki that has an underlying model of the knowledge described in its pages. Regular, or syntactic, wikis have structured text and untyped hyperlinks. Semantic wikis, on the other hand, provide the ability to capture or identify information about the data within pages, and the relationships between pages, in ways that can be queried or exported like a database.” (Wikipedia/Semantic_wiki)

A fringe benefit of creating such data structures for existing content would be to provide common templates for future content creation and data collection.

Moving Forward

The “old ways” often had utility, but as a result of eons of trial and error which seldom had much more than temporal correlation with the prevailing philosophies, ideologies, myths, and intellectual fashions of the times. “Creating those attractors authentic to a population’s readiness” (Bruce Kunkle) is a good idea as well as a well-turned phrase. So I don’t mean to dismiss the importance of rhetoric and public relations, but if we are to have something truly worthy of communicating we need for the science and engineering (R&D) to keep pace with the philosophy and rhetoric.

A new science of the commons needs to go beyond the old narratives of economics, sociology, and even traditional ecology. I highly recommend the following topics:

We don’t have eons to muck around any more. I say this respectfully as a commoner, communitarian, conservationist, and all-around activist who has been mucking around for decades.

Poor Richard

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