Aztec and Iroquois: Myth, Rituals and Political Models

November 11, 2013


Iroquois Longhouse

The unity of the Iroquois League comes about in a first step through Hiawatha’s repentance of his deeds, mediated by Deganawidah. In this experience he beholds the reflection of Deganawidah’s face in the water, believing it is his own. Struck by the beauty of its features, he realizes his shortcomings, particularly his cannibalistic habits, and consciously decides to repair all evil done. He will later embark on the odyssey of taking on the redemption of his people. This will require of him a great willingness for self-sacrifice, especially after the death of his wife and daughters at the hand of Atotarho’s magic. Read the rest of this entry »

Five Nations and Aztecs: Prefiguring Modern Political Models

November 5, 2013


The Five Nations  1The Modern Age began in the 15th – 16th centuries. This meant, among other things, the awakening of the scientific frame of mind so well represented in Europe by the achievements of the Renaissance. This was also the time that opened up the “discovery” and colonization of the New World. America did not experience the great change of consciousness in the way it occurred in Europe. Rather, the American genius prefigures the deeper essence of progressive and decadent modern political regimes. The two social alternatives that symbolize this watershed in North America gave birth to social structures and “social rituals.” Their nature differs diametrically.
Read the rest of this entry »

Citizen Deliberative Councils: Revolution for a New Democracy

October 27, 2013

Creating the capacity for public wisdom in twenty-first century America is no greater challenge that that faced by our country’s original Founders. But this is our task, our calling. We are the revolutionary founders of this new democracy, a democracy that will have an impact at least as great, and probably greater, than the impact their revolution had on the world almost 250 years ago.

—Tom Atlee (Empowering Public Wisdom: A Practical Vision of Citizen-Led Politics)

Multiracial Hands Making a Circle TogetherCitizen Deliberative Councils (see previous blog) convene a small group of very diverse citizens, a cross-section of all stakeholder groups, selected in a statistically significant random fashion; and they hold conversations and deliberations through tested methods of facilitation. Read the rest of this entry »

Putting “We The People” Back into Politics

October 8, 2013

Empowering Public WisdomA remarkable 2013 book has not received the attention it truly deserves: Tom Atlee’s Empowering Public Wisdom: A Practical Vision of Citizen-Led Politics. It offers great tips for a political paradigm shift.

We live in times of increasingly complex issues, now dubbed by experts “wicked problems,” which are difficult to encompass in their totality. And wicked problems, added to each other, spell out the conditions for systemic collapse. We need to take decisions that encompass the wisdom of the greatest variety of inputs. So, we could argue for more direct forms of democracy. But involving from thousands to millions of people in deliberation actually reduces the likelihood of wise outcomes because of difficulties in facilitating the process, offering equal access to information, gathering the results, and so forth. Read the rest of this entry »

Sekem: an Economy of Love in the Egyptian Desert

May 5, 2012

A Life and a Vision

Ibrahim Abouleish knew ever since finishing school, that he could do something for his country. “I will build factories where the people can work…. I will build workshops for women and girls…. I will build a large theater…” is what he wrote to his father after graduating from high school, just before leaving Egypt for Austria. (See book Sekem a Sustainable Community in the Egyptian Desert) The vision took him first to Europe to acquire a broad education, become a chemical engineer of high reputation and a doctor. When he finally returned to Egypt at age forty, he decided he was willing to sacrifice his past of success to start farming on marginal desert land, figuring that if it could be done there it could be replicated everywhere. Read the rest of this entry »

Building Bridges in the Middle East: the Work of Just Vision

July 25, 2011

Israel’s policy of aggression and annexation toward the West Bank is acknowledged not only by Palestinians but by a growing segment of the Israeli population who sees the present measures as an obstacle against medium and long term interests of all. An example: the wall built to protect Israel’s borders. Sections of it were planned inside Palestinian territories, not along the so-called “Green Line” of 1967. The village of Budrus would have been cut off from the rest of the West Bank, in fact even enclosed between two walls, and farmers would have seen part of their olive trees uprooted, and lost access to some of their land. The wall would have run close to their school and cemetery. Nonviolent resistance allowed it otherwise.

Beyond political concerns, nonviolent responses are creating a healthy response to the growing spiral of hate. Another paradigm needs to emerge. Otherwise more and more oppressive measures will rise. See anti-boycott laws just approved by the Knesset. Read the rest of this entry »

African Women for Peace: Liberia

June 3, 2011

I have finished viewing the 2008 documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell,  a powerful retelling of how women, armed of the sole desire for peace, ended the civil war in Liberia and brought to power the first woman president in Africa in 2005. A great message of hope in what appears to be a simple approach to turning the worse of conditions on their head; simple yes, but not easy. The difference between success and defeat lie in the internal resources tapped into; in qualities like forgiveness, hope and fierce and indomitable determination.

The women of Liberia, in a 2 and ½ year campaign have forced the armies of dictator Taylor and those of the opposing warlords to come to the peace table, and helped to send the tyrant to exile, set up an interim government, and hold free and fair elections.  Read the rest of this entry »

Conscious Living, Conscious Dying and Community Building

April 8, 2011

Counter to our mainstream culture that sees the end  of life as  tragic for all involved, the documentary The Most Excellent Dying of Jack Heckelman is about creating culture – moreover a it is an example of  a future culture, showing life can be lived fully to the last. I challenge anybody who sees this movie to find any trace of pessimism or moroseness.

“I have seldom seen a film that captures so sensitively, and with such honesty and hope the life of someone so loved and loving.” Jonathan Stedall (documentary film producer of the films of the lives of Ghandi, Jung, van der Post)

Read the rest of this entry »

A Story of Organizational Change 2: from Fifth City to ICA

March 7, 2011

The Institute for Cultural Affairs (ICA) was born in 1974, out of the previous Institute of Ecumenical Studies, continuing a pioneer approach to whole-systems curriculums and community development. It pioneered key ideas and practices for social change around the globe. In 1974 ICA counted 1400 adults on staff (and 600 children) of 23 nationalities. In the years immediately following there were coordinating centers in Chicago,  Brussels, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Bombay. We continue to illustrate the remarkable parallel paths between theory and practice pioneered by the Institute. Read the rest of this entry »

A Story of Organizational Change: from Ecumenical Institute to Fifth City

February 15, 2011

In 1954 the World Council of Churches met in Evanston, IL, and decided to create a center for the training of lay people in North America. Christian businessmen in Chicago founded the Evanston Institute of Ecumenical Studies.

At the same time a group of Christian students and staff of the University of Texas – called The Christian Faith and Life Community – started to research the relationship between faith and contemporary life. Under the direction of Dr. Joseph W. Matthews, the group designed a curriculum for students and laity. It acquired the name of Religious Studies I (RS-I). In 1962 the Ecumenical Institute appointed Dr. Matthews as as its new dean. He brought with him the seven families fromTexas who had carried a comprehensive life of Christian worship, study and service. Read the rest of this entry »