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Community development too, is a fight. It is a fight for the rights of local communities to make decisions about what affects them.
Struggle! Fight! But is it really so? Struggling and fighting are mechanics of organising and acting from the 20th century.
Struggling against something, or fighting for something suggest that the "something" is external to us. We are either moving away from something, or moving towards something.
The underlying premise of this approach to social justice and community development is that of control. The premise says that somebody or something has control. It says that we can take control over the outcomes of the actions we take.
This premise is rooted in the Cartesian1 worldview - a view in which the laws of nature (including those of human nature) can be discovered, manipulated and used to plan, with certainty, the future. It is a mechanistic worldview.
A Different Paradigm
The new and growing sciences of Chaos Theory and Complexity Theory are showing that the predictability and certainty of the Cartesian worldview cannot be maintained. None of us have any control over the ways of the world. As individuals we have no control over climate change. We have no control over social inequality. We don’t even have control over how we get through our day. We cannot predict with any certainty whether we will even get through the day.
There are two simple reasons that we do not have control. Interconnection and complexity. Some eastern and indigenous traditions of thought have known this for centuries and have lived their lives by the simple truths contained within. In western thought we are only just re-discovering the truths of interconnection and complexity.
Because of interconnection and complexity, the actions that I take where I am have an influence on future events, but then so too do the actions of hundreds and thousands of other people. Not only do we as humans influence future events, so too do the myriad of other sentient beings upon the Earth. So too does the fall of the rain, the ebbing and flowing of the tides, the blowing of winds or the movement of the earth below our feet.
Nor is there a final outcome. All outcomes are nothing but a moment in the ever-changing, ever-evolving, ever-emergent phenomenal world. None of us can say that we are responsible for a definite outcome. None of us can take credit. None of us is responsible. We are part of a system that is co-dependent, chaotic and emergent.
What Role Then?
If struggling and fighting is of little use, then what should we do in the face of injustice, inequity, environmental degradation, or oppression? An understanding of of interconnection and complexity helps to answer this. If everything is connected and complexity reigns, then that suggests that at the heart of the dynamics of change are relationships. The manner in which we come together, work together, and play together is as important, possibly moreso, than the work we do or the games we play.
As much as we need to develop and nourish our relationships we must also seek out our personal intentions. What are our intentions for each relationship? Are our intentions helpful? Are they unhelpful? For our helpful intentions, are our behaviours and actions in harmony with those intentions?
The keys then are not so much what we are struggling against, or what we are fighting for. The keys are between us and within us.
Note: None of the above should be read as fatalism, or as advocating inaction. There is much more that can be written about the efficacy of collective actions within an understanding of interconnection and complexity. Maybe a later blog will address this.
1. Cartesian derives from René Descarte, the 17th century French philosopher who inspired rationalism. His Latin name, Renatus Cartesius, gives us the form by which the worldview (or paradigm) is known – Cartesian. Together with Isaac Newton, Descartes formulated the mechanistic view of nature which became the paramount philosophical and scientific western paradigm for at least the next 200 years or more.