by Tom Atlee
Some people say Gandhi was about nonviolence. And he was.
But he is significant for something else that I believe is far more important:
He changed the game.
With no one’s permission, he reconfigured the playing field of colonialism to a higher Game in which everything the British did in their smaller, narrower game backfired on them. Prisons, guns, threats and bureaucracies of control not only ceased to work like they used to, but actually generated more power for Gandhi’s world-changing Game.
Gandhi’s Game involved, in his words, “experiments in Truth” — a search for Truth, a bigger Truth, a common inclusive Truth, a win-win Truth in every situation. The British — and even many of Gandhi’s compatriots — were not aligned to that Truth. They wanted victory, control, and righteousness. These things trapped them in their smaller game until, one by one, and sometimes wholesale, Gandhi’s commitment to Truth won their hearts and minds — and Shift happened.
Unfortunately he failed to create adequate social institutions that embodied, sustained, and empowered the Search for Truth by the whole of society. He depended on individuals seeing the light and being transformed. The miracle of his work is that so many people did transform — and continue to transform even to this day — inspired by his words, his life, his work. But in the end, what he left was an inspiring possibility, not an India or a world that was united, peaceful, just and sustainable.
Today’s world calls us, with increasing intensity, not just to carry on Gandhi’s work, but to carry it further. It isn’t a matter of doing nonviolence as he and Martin Luther King, Jr., did it. It is a matter of changing the game.
Which brings me to the current state of U.S. politics and governance. These games are desperately in need of changing. Several recent innovations offer us the possibility to actually accomplish that and the timing is ripe.
This possibility of this working rests on six understandings:
1. In the U.S. republic, laws and public policy are established and administered primarily by elected officials.
2. Those officials are overwhelmingly elected through the two-party system. 3. Special interests — especially moneyed interests — have effectively captured the two-party system — and thus the policy-making apparatus — for their own purposes.
4. Two-party polarization impedes natural alliances among those who favor the same policies and programs from different ideological perspectives.
5. If we could facilitate policy-option alliances outside of the two-party system — and those alliances could then powerfully organize either outside or inside that bipolar system — it would change the political game in the U.S.
6. If many of the most popular policy options in (5) were developed through thoughtful reflection and conversation among diverse citizens and stakeholders, the political game would be changed towards urgently needed collective wisdom.
An emerging powerful resource for (5) is the Interactive Voter Choice System — IVCS (see description and links at the end of this article). The IVCS helps citizens move beyond ideology and party affiliation altogether and focus entirely on generating alliances around policy options. It has real potential …
* to take over parties on behalf of the common good;
* to successfully support independent candidates;
* to create successful new parties grounded in common sense;
* to form parallel “shadow” government structures; and/or
* to dissolve the party system entirely.
In addition to IVCS, the various forms of citizen deliberative council — citizens juries, citizen assemblies, consensus conferences, citizen initiative reviews, etc. — see http://co-intelligence.org/CDCUsesAndPotency.html are powerful resources for generating the needed collective wisdom in (6). These proven forms of collective intelligence could be strategically integrated with the IVCS to provide wise policy options with potentially broad appeal, around which to organize.
These two elements — the Interactive Voter Choice System and citizen deliberative councils — developed well in an integrated way, would themselves thoroughly transform the games of politics and governance in the U.S. (and probably anywhere they were used). No more would broadly popular and sensible policy options (such as a single payer health care system) be considered “politically unrealistic.” No more would we see ordinary people voting against their individual and collective self-interest because spin doctors have manipulated their emotions with TV ads and biased punditry. We would finally be capable of engaging as a whole citizenry in collectively creating, considering, supporting and implementing sensible, popular policies and programs. Government would become an expression of public judgment and community wisdom, instead of public ignorance manipulated by special interests.
The achievement of this is entirely possible. But it won’t be easy. The existence of this possibility does not guarantee its realization. Unleashing the powerful synergies of (5) and (6) will require the relatively rapid and effective involvement of millions of people to avoid co-optation or subversion. The political context we are working in demands careful strategic thinking, design, planning, funding, development and promotion.
Among the programs that would support this are the following:
* a “Manhattan Project” to develop the functionality,
interface, and evolvability of IVCS to addictive,
viral potential before it is even launched
* expanded transpartisan and “we the people” initiatives
* efforts to catalyze strategically transformational and
consciously evolutionary philanthropy (e.g.,
* intensified research on how to invoke a legitimate
“voice of the whole”
* developing more sophisticated networked systems
for collective learning — integrating approaches like
wikis, open space technology, communities of practice
and other sources of collective intelligence
* more research and conferences aimed at shifting
the “story-field” in which we live (e.g.,
• various electoral reform proposals (e.g.,
http://bit.ly/dpVQjl or http://bit.ly/btnUsB for
broad visions and http://www.fairvote.org/,
http://bit.ly/9WlkKI for current campaigns)
* reigniting and organizing the energies invoked
and then dissipated by “the Obama phenomenon”
The failure of Obama to adequately serve the aspirations of those who put him in office, and the manipulation of legitimate public frustration, anger and pain in the 2010 mid-term election, have generated a crisis in American governance and politics. This crisis will merge with and shape the mounting environmental, economic, and social crises in the U.S. and the world, shaking existing institutions and beliefs to their roots.
We are rapidly moving beyond confidence that we can successfully create change by electing the right people. Soon we may move beyond confidence that we can successfully create change by arguing about issues. We may soon wake up to the fact that the machinery into which we are pushing those candidates and those issues is seriously broken — or has been re-engineered to produce something very different from what we thought it was all about…
In such times, radical change becomes more possible — for better and for worse. This is not a time for denial or spectatorism — neither pessimistic cynicism and disengaged critique, nor passive optimism and hope-for-the-best. It is a time to take seriously the fact that all of us are co-creating whatever happens next; we are all implicated in the future, and we are all in it together.
It is a time to realize that our chance to create major change is now — exactly because the foundations of our dysfunctional systems are shaking so disturbingly…
It is often said in some circles that “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” I suggest it is time to stop waiting and to start waking up to ourselves as the profound evolutionary force that we actually are — whether we know it or not — and to roll up our conscious evolutionary sleeves and start co-creating our future with strategic smarts, evolutionary wisdom and the kind of commitment the Seventh Generation after us will celebrate — the way we celebrate the brave souls who crafted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.
I see those of us called to such efforts as the impetus for our century’s evolutionary leap, driven by our century’s dire challenges, energized by our century’s unprecedented opportunities and possibilities.
We are not the source of this leap. Evolution — the creative drive towards more elegant and functional complexity — is having its way with us. It is presenting us with the momentous choice of proceeding consciously and actively or obliviously and passively. The consequences of that choice are becoming increasingly clear.
If we intentionally and wisely transform our social systems, cultures, technologies and collective consciousness, we will not only survive long into the future. We will be a new part of the evolutionary story that has become conscious of itself.
MORE ON THE INTERACTIVE VOTER CHOICE SYSTEM (IVCS)
The Interactive Voter Choice System is an online forum, social networking and political organizing website innovated by political scientist, web entrepreneur, former electoral candidate, and university professor, Nancy Bordier.
Three detailed articles:
A prototype of the IVCS website is at Reinventing Democracy.us.
The participatory social-networking capacity of the Interactive Voter Choice System shifts voters’ allegiance and attention from parties, ideologies, and political categories to the actual policies they want to see implemented. The system then helps them ally with others who want to see those policies implemented, regardless of their diverse political beliefs or reasons for favoring those policies. In the process, IVCS gives rise to an empowering, collectively intelligent,* evolving, self-organizing political ecosystem which can enable citizens to do the following:
1. clarify and push for policies they want, creating their own personal “platforms”
2. network with others to form coalitions or ad hoc lobbying groups to push preferred policies
3. field candidates outside of the party system to promote the policies they want
4. create new political parties
5. work within existing parties to shape their platforms and performance
6. hold elected representatives accountable for their performance on favored policies
7. create parallel “shadow government” structures and policies
8. take over political parties and dissolve them
and, through all of the above, to
9. ultimately move our politics beyond party politics and ideologies altogether.
Imagine a politics where one hardly ever hears “liberal” or “conservative” or even “transpartisan”, but only discussion of the issues. Imagine a politics where grassroots organizing is finally on a level playing field — or even favorable playing field — with the big money players. Imagine the already-surveyed popular preferences — like single payer health care and ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — readily becoming the official policy of our government.
I honestly think IVCS is one of the most important emerging forms of political leverage we have available. Of course it can only do its job if it is well-funded for software development, viral promotion, and political strategizing so it can launch with strong popular appeal, participation, and well-thought-out security safeguards to prevent its marginalization, subversion or co-optation. If that happens soon enough, the chances are extremely high that it will have a decisive positive impact on the critical watershed 2012 election every election after that. It could be a total game-changer.