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CBHP comprises an open access (online) resource for the sharing of ideas on the interactions between individuals and communities including their physical, psychological, socioeconomic, cultural and political environment. Topics center on biological and existential conditions and their interaction(s) with modifiable factors, such as parenting, education and policy with a special emphasis on (mental) health defined as a product of the interactions between individual and collective. The emphasis of CBHP is on clarifying ‘integration’ as a process leading to health.
To fill a unique niche for sharing of practical information about integration and integrative processes.
To afford an international platform for meaningful interdisciplinary collaboration to promote understanding of (mental) health in its broadest sense.
To connect conventional and evidence-based complementary understandings and approaches to overall wellness.
To promote understanding and collaboration between conventional and integrative audiences, including physicians, researchers, educators, and policy makers.
CBHP a project for the "commons"!
If we are to create a more egalitarian and inclusive society for all humankind, we shall have to abandon the idea that Western society and culture are so ‘enlightened’ and stop behaving as if we are entitled to impose our values on others while simultaneously treating their cultures, histories and achievements with disdain.[ii] Current Global crises should cause us to reflect upon how neglect, ridicule and oppression of other, non-Western societies and cultures has contributed to the current state of affairs. An inclusive society is one that invites, inspires and seeks to empower outsiders to join, not one that imposes its own narrow (self-serving) conditions for inclusion. It is one that actively engages with the ideas, beliefs, worldviews and practices of others, listening, learning and working together to establish mutually acceptable goals that benefit the health and wellbeing of all.
The deep divisions and conflicts characterising debate and responses to current global crises reveal a great deal of uncertainty. This uncertainty may, to some extent, reflect the ‘Western’ legacy of knowledge and wisdom traditions. These traditions include both the legacy of Christianity with its claims about human nature and purpose and its morality and Enlightenment values, specifically ideas about the relationship of individuals to society, human rights etc., as well as our scientific traditions, all of which profoundly shape our understanding of the world and ourselves. And we should not discount the influence of (primarily) Western imperialism (the oppression and persecution of non-Western peoples and the fact that such crimes are profoundly at odds with the professed aims of the dominant faith, Christianity, or — more recently — ‘democracy’).[iii]
In the West, particularly Europe and the US, we pride ourselves on having achieved a certain level of ‘democracy’ and ‘liberty’ through the embrace of secular values.[iv] But these achievements come at a cost — an inability to conclusively resolve some very profound and important differences or even to acknowledge the necessity of doing so. Under the guise of ‘tolerance’ we behave as if all beliefs and worldviews are equally ‘valid’ and ‘legitimate’ while at the same time suppressing beliefs that we perceive as intolerant (e.g. some forms of Islam, racist speech, misogyny). This suppression of ideas, beliefs and actions that we view as antithetical to our enlightened ‘tolerant’ and ‘democratic’ values supplaces efforts to reconcile our differences within a broader universalist framework. It also undermines solidarity, by emphasising the ‘superiority’ of secular values without acknowledging the extent to which these are maintained by the state’s ability to use force to suppress conflict between groups with competing interests and claims to knowledge, authority and power.[v]
As a consequence, we are today more divided by our beliefs and ideologies than at any time in the past.[vi] This may in part explain the increase in apocalyptic ‘end of time’ beliefs, as many people become despondent about the chances of resolving our differences. The failure to acknowledge the seriousness of these differences is itself an obstacle to resolving societal and global crises that require not only a collective response, but also one guided by effective inspiring, empowering, understanding of the world, of ourselves and of how transformation actually works.
An integrated, holistic, empowering and inspiring understanding of human behaviour, of the global crisis and its possible solutions can and must emerge from the ‘commons’[vii] as a product of cooperation and solidarity between people from all walks of life, all disciplines and backgrounds, working together as equals to resolve our underlying differences, free of interference by governments and powerful institutions. We hold that it is possible and necessary to resolve deeper and more enduring uncertainty relating to existential and ethical questions that have led to a rift between ‘science’ and our ethical and spiritual traditions (religion, philosophy, law). We feel that the development of a ‘healthy’ society can only be achieved by resolving conflicts between scientific, spiritual and ethical worldviews (between what ‘is’ and what ‘ought to be’). This can be achieved, amongst others, by resolving the mind-body dualism that is at the root of conflicts about human nature and purpose.
There is, in our view, a growing need for “community-based” solutions to address individual, social, environmental and even global 'health' problems. Many of the solutions currently available to us in e.g. the area of health and wellbeing emphasise the individual as the fundamental building block of society. This emphasis detracts from any understanding of our myriad complex relationships, dependencies, emotional attachments, shared interests, collective actions, loves, solidarities etc. Following the Enlightenment, the rights of individuals and their relationship to the body politic became the focus of intense efforts at emancipation. This process has, arguably, led to extreme forms of individualism and ‘atomisation’ undermining social relations and causing a variety of social and societal problems. Our relationship to our own ‘communities’ is increasingly utilitarian rather than one inspired by passion, empathy or a sense of belonging. Social relations are increasingly mediated by the state, by technology and by economic activities and less and less by shared culture, beliefs, values and connections. We no longer celebrate the weather, the seasons, the phases of the moon. Each ‘social pillar’ worships at its own church. We lack a central organising principle around which everyone can rally.
Example: contemporary approaches to mental health focus on treating individuals even if the diagnosis applies to large groups of people, e.g. depression, PTSD & ADHD. These conditions are treated as if they are problems of individuals, rather than symptomatic of particular conditions and relationships in society. Consequently, debate is deeply divided over whether these conditions are truly ‘diseases’, or whether individuals experiencing these conditions, or who are held to be ‘suffering’ from them, are better helped by individual treatments such as medication or therapy, or whether considering the epidemic proportions of some of these conditions, the ‘problem’ needs to be addressed at the collective level, e.g. through policy changes, reorganisation of education or healthcare.
In the not too distant past, the health and wellbeing of the individual were not private affairs. When an individual fell ill or began displaying behavioural problems a healer might reach for a remedy that involved the patient’s relatives, the community, appeals to a spiritual realm or being that might intervene. Since health and spirituality were not strictly separate domains treatment might easily involve both a herbal remedy and some form of ‘moral’ disciplining. The basic idea in many of these traditions was to address a perceived ‘disharmony’ within a web of social and ‘spiritual’ relations that might also include animals, plants, rocks, water and the elements. Health and wellbeing were not only practical matters but also spiritual and ethical conditions.
In other words, in the past, boundaries separating individual and collective were by no means as sharply defined as they are today. Consequently, this also applies to health and wellbeing. The condition of individual and community, and that of community and environment were viewed as a whole: if an individual is sick, it is as if one organ or limb of the social body is afflicted. This way of understanding the world expresses, arguably, a deep-seated need of individuals, for connection, solidarity and support.
Since the Enlightenment, science and medicine have enabled significant improvements to our lives. This accomplishment owes much to the increased precision of measurement and quantification resulting from scientific instruments like microscopes and telescopes which allowed individual components to be examined in increasing detail. Arguably, this development continues today (e.g. the ‘Large Hadron Collider’ project in Luzern) but has led to a form of ‘myopia’ in some areas. The study of human behaviour is one of them.
The idea that human behaviour is entirely a product of the biological and psychological make-up of the individual constitutes an absurd negation of the extent to which our behaviour is shaped and responds to that of other people, social and cultural conditions and so on. In other words, beyond some very basic survival behaviours, much of human behaviour — art, music, poetry, to name but a few — is entirely incomprehensible without accounting for society and culture. And since we generally acknowledge the importance of such things as art, music and poetry etc. to health and wellbeing, it seems logical to ask what solutions to personal and societal crises might become available when we attempt look to a ‘holistic’ understanding?
Many aspects of health and wellbeing can only be understood in relation to the social body as a whole. Many aspects of health and wellbeing are possibly more easily addressed collectively than at the individual level. The isolation of the individual from the community and the environment under the influence of what seems like a latent mind-body dualism is an artificial condition that happens, in some instances, to coincide with powerful interests, such as those of the pharmaceutical industry, the medical health insurance industry and so on. This state of affairs is arguably both a consequence of and something that perpetuates liberal, Capitalist ideals of ‘rugged individualism’ and ‘privatised suffering’ that promote health as a marketable commodity and contrast sharply with holistic approaches to health and wellbeing in which individual, community and environment are viewed as an indivisible whole.
Education & the Reproduction of (patriarchal, Capitalist) Power
A holistic approach to health and wellbeing is one that accounts not only for individuals as distinct, sovereign beings, but also for the entire social body and environment (the ‘web’ of social relations). Sovereignty is just one aspect of what it means to be an individual since we are connected to other people and our environment through a complex and dynamic web of interactions and interdependencies. The idea of sovereignty is championed by liberalism, but it’s dysfunctionality is exposed when we consider how ‘every man for himself’ undermines empathy and solidarity. Clearly then, the ideal of sovereignty is in tension with ideals of human beings as a collaborative, socially sensitive, empathic and mutually dependent species.
Where should we look for the origins of our ideas and beliefs about our place in the world? Ontologically speaking, two possible approaches suggest themselves: we can look to the subjective source of our personal outlooks and behaviours, examining the uniquely personal circumstances and conditions that shape our outlook and psychological development, or, as the great political thinkers of our time have attempted, we can explore socio-economic, cultural and political conditions to examine how these shape social relations and promote perceptions and understandings particular to specific classes and locations in society.[viii]
Holism promotes the view that these distinct perspectives are in fact complementary and that a more effective understanding of individuals and society can only be achieved by understanding how each of these perspectives relates to the other. Let us begin by considering this question from the perspective of the individual.
A fallacy that arose during the early years of psychoanalysis is the idea that human beings arrive in the world without any experiences and memories. According to Freud, for instance, all our neuroses arise after birth, in the first five years of infancy through various tensions within the family group. We now understand that this is in fact complete nonsense: there is overwhelming evidence that infants are conscious and capable of cognition while in the womb and that their experiences during the first nine months of development have extensive influence throughout later life.
Awareness of the subjective life of the child, even at a very early age, is key to understanding some of the failures and successes of parenting and education, as well as to understanding how individuals respond to social and economic conditions and how these conditions shape our subjectivity. This, in turn, is key to understanding social, economic and political conditions themselves. In other words, subjectivity is not something external to the production of social and economic conditions but plays a key role in the production of individual values that determine how and to what extent individuals participate in the reproduction of those values in social and cultural life.
Education is a useful starting point for an inquiry into the relationship between subjectivity and the production of systemic conditions: it is a social enterprise comprising a range of choices and considerations for which we bear collective responsibility. Moreover, it is an enterprise involving beliefs, assumptions and ideals about human nature and purpose. It is in this sense remarkable that the child’s subjective life is often ignored in education. Insofar as education actually contributes to our understanding of the world, it is also a primary influence on the future. So, if we start off by treating children as if they have no subjective life and purpose of their own, — as if their consciousness is infinitely malleable to fit our purposes — this has important implications for our future!
Critics (e.g. Sir Ken Robinson) argue that modern education is an extension of the system of industrial production rather than a system designed to maximise the individual’s prospects of fulfilment. As such, we might argue that there is a significant conflict between the aims of educating individuals so they can participate in a system of production or educating them to be happy, healthy, fulfilled individuals. This conflict is implicit both in the way we teach children, and in the subject matter itself.
When education is directly instrumental to the reproduction of Capitalist values and power relations, the ability to ‘think critically’ becomes a liability,[ix] a disruptive influence — counterproductive, wasteful, heretical and a threat to the status quo. Authoritarian relationships such as those between ‘teachers’ and ‘pupils’ but also the authority vested in teaching materials, subjects and methods all serve to reproduce these power relations and values under the guise of improving the students ‘chances’ in life. Amongst others, we note limitations imposed on students beginning with the way education capitalises on their time, restricts movement, enforces discipline and rigid concentration, forces subjects upon them, and suppresses ‘innate’ forms of self-expression, curiosity, creativity, challenging, critical thought etc.
One way education systems have contributed to the current global crisis is by setting up young people to compete rather than encouraging them to work collaborate and solve problems collectively. A radical new pedagogy is needed if the desired outcome of health and wellbeing for all (instead of an elite few) is to be achieved from the ground up, through education.
Neglect of individuals subjective experiences and needs leads to increasing instances of psychological and spiritual crisis among individuals. This in turn has a huge impact on society (addiction, crime, overmedication, depression, alienation, overconsumption, speculation on financial markets, attention disorders, social empathy disorders, lack of solidarity, xenophobia, etc. etc.) The problems of individuals appear to correspond to global crises such as pollution, environmental destruction, war, fundamentalism, conflicts over human rights etc. etc. Education itself is increasingly part of the crisis, defunded, overregulated, authoritarian, politicised, tiered to serve elites, infiltrated and taken over by corporations. Current education systems simply do not equip individuals to deal with conditions in society, let alone to change those conditions.
Autonomy & Health
Increased autonomy of individuals and social groups is of course a threat to corporate interests as well as to strong ‘centralised’ government control. Transition to sustainable forms of energy use and production naturally also requires community-oriented solutions. And so we encounter a powerful conflict between individuals and groups seeking greater freedom and striving to respond to environmental crises, authoritarian government control and corporate violence.
Oil-based global market economy for mass consumption is not just threatening the climate and biodiversity — it perpetuates the legacy of colonialism, marginalizing sustainable and local non-commercial heritages as well as indigenous knowledge systems. Growing addiction to finite natural resources and professionalized knowledge promotes inequality and creates rootlessness, competition, vulnerability, meaninglessness, mental disorders and many other kinds of personal and societal problems. The medical industry benefits while public healthcare, organised by governments and paid for out of public funds, becomes more expensive and less effective. When these problems become a source of profit to corporations and a source of power for governments they becomes increasingly difficult to resolve: the ‘solutions’ become part of the problem.
As a product of patriarchy, Capitalism and Western culture and thought, this way of responding to the crises of individuals and society is in direct conflict with holistic, non-medical, complementary, peer supportive, community and lifestyle oriented understandings. It does not promote prevention, sharing, saving, collectivised, non-monetary, local, and/or sustainable solutions, democratic decisions by the community, or radical changes in the way power is exercised. It does not seek to empower and inspire and increase our autonomy.
In addition, vulnerable and marginalised groups with their unique perspectives and needs are increasingly alienated, deprived of power, ridiculed, their culture appropriated, their histories distorted to fit a hegemonic account that, among other things, relieves us of any ‘moral debt’ or responsibility for injustice and suffering and its consequences in terms of health, wellbeing and prospects.[x] Consider e.g. the many threats that Native American communities face since the election of Donald Trump: land appropriation, oil pipelines driven right across reservations, pollution of waterways, mining, nog payment of dues from extraction rights, etc. Or consider how African Americans hard won civil rights are being trampled by increasingly violent policing and how communities are being devastated by incarceration rates.[xi] Or how women’s rights and the rights of children are being eroded through the defunding of childcare and support, healthcare and abortion clinics, etc.[xii]
These policies are clearly, to some extent, deliberate, thoughtfully planned, and intended to undermine the social fabric, to create disparity, deprive people of security and health, to further undermine empathy and solidarity and destroy autonomy and the possibility of resistance. They obviously target minorities —migrant workers, refugees, Muslims, gay and transgender people — and vulnerable classes, notably women and children, people with disabilities, people with mental disorders, drug users, people with a criminal record (even for minor infractions), the homeless, people in debt etc.
We would do well to ask to what extent these policies are products of our academic traditions, science, medicine, psychology, sociology, physics, law, etc. Is the all too obvious Capitulation of some academics to neoliberal, anti-Islam, pro-Western ‘democracy’ rhetoric a consequence of the infiltration of academia and research institutes by corporate interests, or is it symptomatic of something, an ideology, a way of seeing and understanding the world, that infects knowledge and research itself? What role do academia, where elites are trained, play in the production of values and ideas? And what role does higher education play? Is it possible, e.g. that the narrow focus of some disciplines actually blinds researchers to everything outside their disciplinary field so that many of us are ultimately unable, on our own, to piece together a broader understanding of the world?
As Naomi Klein observes in “This Changes Everything”, the current global environmental crisis is — to some extent at least — a product of an 18th century scientific worldview in which nature was understood in ‘mechanical’ terms and the earth could be treated as a thing, without a soul, without meaning, that could be owned and used as we saw fit.[xiii]
This worldview has its ideological foundations in Christian theology (mankind as the custodian of a nature created specifically for our use, and God as a male deity, the creative principle transposed from uterus to penis). Thus, there is from inception an ideological foundation to the Western, Christian, Patriarchal, Industrialist, Capitalist and Neoliberal economic and political system of production and political control. However, this ideology gives rise to, what now appears to be a fractured, incomplete, contradictory and contested understanding of the world and our place in it. Nowhere are these divisions more evident than in our understanding of human ‘nature’ and behaviour itself.
The deep divisions that continually force upon us binary choices, e.g. mental health as a 'biomedical' problem or as a 'socio-cultural' phenomenon seem to originate in an ‘ideological’ fracture and the primary source of that fracture is, arguably, mind-body dualism. This may be one reason why we are having difficulty achieving a more 'unified' understanding of human behaviour. Mind-body dualism is not an ideology — it is not something we thoughtfully choose from among several possibilities: it is a description of how we experience ourselves and how we conceptualise the relationship between our subjective mind and body.
To put this claim into perspective: the entire edifice of Western, post-Enlightenment, Imperialist, patriarchal, hegemonic, authoritarian, Capitalist, neoliberal thought is grounded in mind-body dualism. Because we experience mind and body as categorically different and separate, other separations seem to make sense even if the result is a fractured and dysfunctional worldview. The ‘rugged individualism’ promoted by Ayn Rand, which portrays ‘each man as the master of his own destiny’ is nothing but a hollow fantasy: the achievements of wealthy and powerful elites would not be possible without the downtrodden working classes. None of us would be alive without the efforts of millions of our fellow human beings. The ‘rugged individual’ making it all on his own, fending of hostile natives and skinning his own alligators is long gone. And even he had a wife and children and neighbours.
In view of the above, a unified, integrated or holistic understanding of the world must expose the ways in which policy and corporate interests undermine our health and autonomy by ignoring the web of social relations and their practical and ethical significance. Resistance to the integration of knowledge on human behaviour, and specifically mental and societal wellness is, to some extent, motivated by political and economic interests.
The knowledge, insights, data, methodologies, tools and skills necessary to create an integrated and holistic understanding of every facet of human wellbeing may already exist and be available to us. What, then, is slowing down the process of integration and implementation? Consider some obstacles:
Powerful interest groups resist attempts to reconcile knowledge and insights due to political, economic and ethical implications, and
Due to ideological differences, that originate in beliefs, claims and untested assumptions about human nature and purpose, and
Due to disparities of power among competing disciplines, methodologies and sources of knowledge, in which different social groups have vested interests (e.g. 'folk medicine' vs. 'scientific medicine').
Attempts to address and resolve current Global crises are doomed to fail if they ignore the underlying ideological foundations from which people’s personal convictions and worldviews sprout and treat them as if they have no bearing on our social, political and economic choices. The fact is that human beings are more powerfully driven by ideas than by practical considerations. Each of us is motivated by what we perceive to be true or favourable to our interests and needs. Perception, or consciousness, is something that has largely been ignored by political philosophers who assumed that consciousness, particularly political consciousness, is itself a product of social and economic conditions. This approach largely discounted the individual as a locus of revolutionary transformation. The good news is that precisely because human behaviour is shaped so powerfully by ideas, things like education can radically transform society. CBHP seeks to promote such transformation through the production and promotion of integrated, holistic understanding and skills. This is not just a project to bring together disparate disciplines and methodologies but to resolve mind-body dualism and its legacy within them.
A space for the development of integrated and holistic frameworks
Community-Based Health & Peacemaking aims to provide space for the development of integrated and holistic understandings of human wellbeing by promoting critical, multidisciplinary dialogue exploring and attempting to resolve differences between competing discourses and worldviews.
The primary method for pursuing this aim is to bring together experts and thinkers from different areas, disciplines and with different skill sets and to invite them to participate in critical dialogue with the express aim of ...
mapping areas of difference, conflict and contradiction
identifying overlap, commonality and complementarity
exploring the impact of bias, language use, ideology etc.
identifying unique perspectives and limits of specific methods
identifying areas where more research is needed
exploring different techniques and methods for resolving conflict
We can, for example, explore whether differences and conflicts are truly 'areas of unresolved knowledge that need to be further explored' or whether differences are merely the result of different methodological approaches or different 'ideological premises', language use or political and or economic interests.
Secondly there is a growing branch of group processing, facilitation, problem solving, action learning etc. expertise promoting new solutions and creativity in crises situations and for sound decision making ways especially in work communities with many different kind of methods. Some of these methods come to us directly from indigenous traditions, others from more recent attempts to break through patriarchal molds and ways of doing things. But there is also a big question of how to implement these kinds of integrative approaches to peacemaking and to creation of life sustaining communities and networking where people cooperate on equal footing rather than on the basis of market oriented working conditions and formal identities/roles. What we are talking about here can be defined in terms of an ‘informal economy of ideas and methods’ that exists and evolves parallel to, but outside officially recognised, validated and legitimated institutions, research projects, discourse and methods.’ This informal economy includes ideas and methods of indigenous people and marginalised communities whose voices have never been included and taken seriously in the official, hegemonic, dominant cultural discourses of the West.
At least some of these ideas and methods can and should be adopted in education if we truly want to promote a healthy civil society that enables individuals to flourish. It is important to promote awareness of radically different forms of living and ways of being, such as those of indigenous cultures with living community heritages, so that we are not entirely dependent on rootless, untested, modern theories and applications.
Over the past 3-400 years (since the Enlightenment and certainly with the advent of the industrial revolution), indigenous, self-reliant communities and communities with a ‘natural’ socio-economic commonalities (working classes, indigenous communities, communities whose existence is closely tied to nature) have rapidly been displaced and replaced by ‘alienated’ communities (the precariat[xiv]) and specialist classes (people whose status is determined by expertise in a single area). These communities and classes do not satisfy human needs for belonging, self reliant heritage and 'original' mutual support and creativity. Moreover, indigenous peoples were experts in their localities of knowledge of biodiversity and its use skills for self sufficient livelihood options and maintenance of health. This type of locally and historically anchored knowledge is suppressed by ‘Enlightenment universalism’ and Capitalist professionalism with its strict delineation of disciplines and ‘specialised, compartmentalised knowledge’, and above all, with the insistence on the validity and legitimacy of only certain types of inquiry, knowledge and methods.[xv]
Indigenous, marginalised communities have by and large been left to their own devices when it comes to managing their sustenance and psychological and social problems. Historically, these societies possessed unique and quite successful knowledge and methods. These included a wide array of methods that have gradually been eliminated in most Western societies, including ‘rites’ and ‘ceremonies’ involving singing, symbolic acts, dance and a wide variety of healing methods in which physical, mental and ‘spiritual’ health, individual and community, are not sharply delineated and separated as in the West. Amongst others, these rituals maintained a community spirit and a sense of connection to nature. Many of these ancient community oriented methods might be adaptable to modern circumstances too - although 'modern' for the modern people - as shared experiences of mutual encounters is understood as important counterbalance to the shattered modern way of life.
Holism demands that we attempt to reconcile different experiences and findings and that we refuse to regard areas of knowledge and research as strictly, categorically separate. It also necessitates including the worldviews, belief systems and practices of indigenous and marginalised peoples, including those of marginalised and alienated classes living within ‘modern’, Westernised, urban and industrialised environments.
The emphasis of CBHP is not on promoting "ideological holism" but on reconciling disparate areas of knowledge and skill in areas currently characterised by a certain degree of dysfunctionality and entrenched or embattled positions. By rigorously employing methodological approaches proposed by e.g. Critical Discourse Analysis, General Semantics, Meta-analysis and E-Prime, we aim to expose 'false' conflicts and contradictions, open up and expose areas of complementarity and consensus and demonstrate practical results for individuals and society.
Conflicts and inconsistencies in areas of knowledge and practice are not merely attributable to ‘lack of insight’ but result from a) inauthenticity (e.g. the refusal to acknowledge bias, limitations, preferences, commitments etc.), or b) lack of integrity, (e.g. lack of rigour, failure to acknowledge conflicts and inconsistencies and/or to pursue inquiry and/or conclusions to their fullest possible extent.)
These problems of 'authenticity' and 'integrity' are of course by no means limited to academic, scientific and medical research, they are general problems of humanity that infuse all truth claims and beliefs about ourselves and the world, profoundly impacting every area of human endeavour, notably law, human rights, politics and economic activity. Two major determinants of authenticity and integrity are questions of responsibility (response-ability and moral responsibility) and power. In a society and economic system in which individual rights are strictly delineated questions of responsibility are paramount (who is responsible for what? who pays for what? who is accountable for what? etc.). These questions are closely related to rights and to the exercise of (political) power.
The development of integrated and holistic approaches is therefore not an enterprise that can be separated from questions about (political) power. In challenging the status quo and exposing flaws in the way we currently do things, holism challenges hegemonic forms of knowledge and exercises of power, it shifts the locus of power and authority from the center to everywhere.
One cannot pursue integration and holism in one area of expertise and ignore the lack thereof in all other areas. Neither can one 'pursue' knowledge as if it exists in a vacuum: insofar as knowledge = power, the pursuit of knowledge is itself something surrounded by, shaped by, and productive of power relations. We need to account for these power relations to understand why certain types of knowledge are considered more valid or important, why pursuit of knowledge in one area is considered more important or meaningful than pursuit of it in other areas, why certain types of knowledge or methods are taboo, who is allowed to pursue what types of knowledge, etc etc.
The pursuit of unified, integrated and holistic understanding of human behaviour and society that can guide us to more humane, more effective, empowering and inspiring policies is a truly universal project. It is also a profoundly ethical undertaking precisely because it enables us to resolve differences and conflicts that have and continue to cause untold misery and injustice. As such, this endeavour demands and can only be achieved by exercising a high degree of authenticity and integrity.
By enabling us to achieve a state in which science and ethics are reconciled and the misery and injustice inflicted by irrational and arbitrary systems of government and ideologies, and by including the voices of currently unrepresented peoples, this endeavour also helps us to redress the crimes of the past and to create a future worthy of all of humankind and respectful of mother nature herself.
Equally, if communities manage to master the ‘problem-solving skills’ needed to accomplish this integration, 'ownership' of the results can never again be appropriated by governments or private enterprises. Consider e.g. the way negotiations to end conflict almost always involve official representatives rather than the people who ultimately pay the price for conflict. This usurpation of popular power is an important factor in conflict to begin with. Why should those who caused the conflict to begin with be entrusted to create peace?! They ought to be in prison!
The results of a participatory process ought to be in community's or group's own control – and this awareness, in turn, should and probably will provide strong encouragement for individuals to act from empathy, solidarity, connection and love of others.
Hope for the Future:
At a time of crisis, what pulls people through, inspires us to work together and enables us to create radical, unimaginable breakthroughs is a common vision or understanding of where we can and should be heading, and how to get there. This ‘common vision’ has to emerge from ‘the commons’, but it needs an enduring ‘space’ of its own. As traditional alliances and communities have been destroyed by professionalisation and precarity, we need to form new bonds of solidarity that are strong enough and flexible enough to withstand the perils of rampant governmental and corporate interference, rapidly shifting technologies and despondency. Education, at a time of crisis, must orient itself to the crisis itself, rather than to status seeking, careerism, imaginary labour markets and failing economic and political policies. What we are calling for is a radical movement of public education and consciousness raising centered around a set of clear, simple, basic principles — broad, inclusive, open-ended and critical, but also, community-based and supportive. For such a movement to gain traction and endure education must itself become an ongoing process, recognised, valued and informing policy. We imagine a society not driven by economics, top-down political decisions or out of control disasters but by an autonomic, creative process of inquiry and discovery dedicated to happiness and wellbeing.
CBHP ultimately aims to bring together experts and people concerned about and interested in solutions to the current disintegrated and dysfunctional models of human behaviour and society that are, in our view, the de facto source of a great deal of failure and/or ineffectiveness in public policy.
Here we present at least two examples: refugees and drug policy.
(1) The number of refugees looks set to increase significantly in the future. This is not only due to climate change but also to local and international conflicts, many of which have something to do with resources (water, mineral rights, timber, mining, damming, hunting etc.) as well as human rights conflicts. Both these problems can be traced to policy and particularly to political interference by corporations, the world bank, IMF etc. And these problems are closely linked.
International conflicts are increasingly about transnational issues. This is one reason why conflicts are difficult to confine and why international effort is needed to address some aspects (arms embargo, boycott, tariff systems, financial transparency etc. In addition, governments are increasingly confronted with problems that can only be resolved at an international level, such as climate change. The conflict in Syria began as a popular uprising triggered by governmental inefficiency and corruption in the face of drought and crop failure, but quickly became an international conflict as Western powers, notably the US and Israel attempted to use the uprising to overthrow the Assad regime. Then they were forced to intervene to stem the flow of refugees trying to escape the fighting and to stop the conflict from spilling over to other countries.
Big corporations have vested interests both in perpetuating investment in arms and security technology and in resources like oil — it has been suggested that the projected route of a gas pipeline through Syria is a factor in Western interference. All of this is unfolding in the face of serious geopolitical and climatic changes.
Climate change increases disparity between populations. The resulting conflicts are portrayed by the media as local (religious, ethnic) conflicts but the truth is that these conflicts are rooted in political and economic policies that are increasingly global in scale and nature. Real power is increasingly concentrated in multinational corporations that manage oil exploration, refining and transport, or water distribution, from a distance, dictating to governments and bribing officials to manage dissent and unrest among local populations.
Which parties are represented in conflict resolution, crisis management and/or peace initiatives determines the outcome of negotiations – and may also intensify conflict. The winners are increasingly those appointed by big business. Genuine crisis management should be egalitarian and inclusive, and guarantee ordinary people equal right to representation — something that is hardly possible when the other parties at the table, or behind the curtains, are big corporations or authoritarian governments.
In this threatening atmosphere migrants and refugees face increasing nationalism and xenophobia instead of inclusive community-oriented solutions. The influx of migrants and refugees puts pressure on public services and aggravates tensions already present in society due to the way services are organised around ever diminishing funds and ever more restrictive policies favourable to and dictated by private for-profit institutions.
This atmosphere destroys social empathy and solidarity, deprives people of power and the ability to organise and challenge policy or to democratise the means of production etc. It increasingly infringes on basic human rights, rewriting the rules of society in ways that favour authoritarianism, lack of transparency and public oversight. And due to the ever increasing complexity of technology, it increasingly means that the entire system is beyond comprehension and out of control.
There are alternatives to this development, but as yet no clear ideological commitment with a comprehensive theoretical basis. This is not just because it is difficult to reach consensus (there was no consensus when Marx published Das Kapital) but also because the pace and direction of development is so unpredictable and because alternatives need to come from civil society, from the commons, and from a wide-scale, open ended involvement of all of us, rather than being imposed top-down by a technocracy.
We need space, time and freedom to explore, experiment and implement solutions. This is precisely where those seeking alternatives — intentional communities, but also researchers and activists in all areas — need, and might provide important solutions. What it also requires is openness, inclusiveness and collaboration on a hitherto unimaginable scale, across all disciplines and institutions, between academia and civil society, within government and so on. It means that society is going to have to make room for and provide protections and funding for diversity and experimentation. The following example illustrates how that might work out in practice.
(2) Consider e.g. the difference between three policy responses to drug use that appear to promote very different outcomes in terms of health and human rights:
Criminalisation (USA, Philippines, China > executions, imprisonment and rampant drug-use-related harm)
Medicalisation (Netherlands, Portugal ... no imprisonment, no rampant drug-use related harm) and
'Religious' use of 'drugs' in traditional, strictly controlled settings, e.g. peyote, ayahuasca, psilocybin, iboga (zero drug-use-related harm, many benefits).
There is at present little consensus on each of these three approaches to drug use and their consequences for individuals and society. Consequently, it is impossible to 'legitimately' extrapolate information explaining one from either of the others.
What differentiates 'drugs' from 'remedies', 'magical substances', 'sacraments' etc.?
Who is the ultimate authority on such matters?
Why is it that some "drug" use appears to result in "harm" while other forms are experienced as "benign", "legal", or even highly beneficial?
Is the outcome of drug use something that can be deduced from the nature of the drug itself?
Is the outcome of drug use something determined by type of user?
Or is it a result of the conditions in which drugs are used?
If so, how do different attitudes and policies impact the outcome?
We cannot conclusively answer these questions without a model capable of explaining ALL drug use related behaviour and outcomes. Without such a model our responses may remain inadequate, unjust, extremely aggravating (as when we wage "war on drugs" and accept "human, economic, political and environmental collateral damage" as inevitable). While some models, notably criminalisation appear to promote ignorance and dangerous drug use related behaviour, others seems to expose important insights about the relationship between psychoactive substances, consciousness, spirituality, healing and ethical awakening. An integrated model would yield many benefits in areas such as treatment, human rights, policy, understanding of spirituality and human wellbeing, education and so on.
Ideally, efforts to reconcile and integrate knowledge and skills in any area where there are important differences or conflicts should involve exposing and identifying the influence of beliefs, assumptions, preferences, ideological commitments, undeclared intentions, constructed identities, unconscious motives, perspectives and so on. It is probably a utopian pipe-dream to expect individuals to abandon long-cherished and deeply held convictions. At the same time, it is precisely an acknowledgment of these influences that enables us to compare experiences and identify common ground, as well as recognise how different perspectives complement each other. This is not just an ethical undertaking but also a rational approach to understanding and resolving conflict in any area.
The globalisation of various conflicts and crises requires a significant expansion of concepts of mutuality, solidarity and interdependency — one that includes other species, the environment and even traditional opponents and competitors. In a classical Marxist analysis, social inequality and injustice is a condition extending from immoral ownership and exercises of rights, authority and power. Different classes are thus viewed as having competing and irresolvable interests necessitating the kind of social struggle that often ends in violence.
Awareness of the subjective sources of human behaviour allows us to consider the fact that, despite extreme disparities of power, all humans actually have common interests grounded in our very nature and social relations. Inequality and injustice are, from this perspective, products of dysfunctional education and dysfunctional, unethical, erroneous socially and culturally embedded ideologies. Those desperately hoarding wealth and struggling for control are, from this perspective, either deluded or ‘mentally ill’ in the sense implied by Korzybski in Science and Sanity where he refers to a fundamental disconnection between our ‘map’ of the world and the real thing. In a broader sense this also refers to a disconnection between the individual and his or her own deepest needs.
The project we are proposing is in essence one of transformation through education. The aim is to accomplish a radical shift of consciousness that results in a thoroughly integrated understanding of ourselves, our world, and what is possible. Education can contribute to significantly to such a transformation by providing a foundation that empowers and inspire individuals to pursue this project independently.
As such we offer the following recommendations and request support for them:
Collaboration in the creation of this manifesto
Creation of a recurring event for those interested to meet and share
Setting up a publication (Journal of Holistic Studies?)
Creation of an online resource with an editorial staff
The creation of a ‘task force’ to approach governments and (academic) institutions with recommendations and to seek funding
Involvement of ‘intentional communities’ as potential loci for events and sources of ‘alternative, complementary and creative ideas and solutions’
Marx's theory of alienation describes the estrangement of people from aspects of their own being as a consequence of the stratification of social classes. Alienation from self is a consequence of fulfilling a mechanistic role that estranges a person from their humanity. The theoretical basis of alienation, within the capitalist mode of production, is that individuals lose the ability to determine life and destiny, when deprived of the right to think (conceive) of themselves as the director of their own actions; to determine the character of said actions; to define relationships with other people; and to own those items of value from goods and services, produced by their own labour. Even though the individual is autonomous and self-realized, as an economic entity, he or she is directed to goals and diverted to activities dictated by those with money and power for their own profit. Philosophically, Marx’ theory of Entfremdung relies upon Feuerbach’s, The Essence of Christianity (1841), in which the author argues that the idea of a supernatural god has alienated the natural characteristics of the human being. In the sense that we use it here, alienation refers not only to the estrangement in the Marxian sense, but also as a ‘spiritual’ condition (in the sense implied by Feuerbach) that results in ‘social alienation’ a condition characterised by a low degree of integration or common values and a high degree of separation between individuals, individuals groups, the community or work environment, other species and the natural world.
From a holistic perspective the term ‘community’ is inclusive and refers not only to all the people within a given system (e.g. an economy) but, through our myriad connections and interdependencies, to all people on earth as well as to all species including plants and insects and even to the natural world, the elements and so on.
The term ‘community-based’ as we use it here acknowledges both the social dimensions of life and problems that arise there and the possibility of solutions that can only come from within a community. It also acknowledges the importance of social life as a source of emotional bonds, solidarity and mutual support.
Critical Discourse (thinking; analysis;)
Critical discourse, thinking and/or analysis comprises a set of principles and attitudes acknowledging the influence of a wide spectrum of limitations, biases, interests, ideological preferences, perspectives and so forth that shape perception and ideation. This awareness provides the motivation and right to challenge ideas and language use, to explore meanings, to attempt to uncover unconscious or concealed motives, to consider the interests of those involved as relevant to how ideas or arguments are formulated, to ‘think outside the box’, to experiment with new approaches and so on. Critical thinking also demands differentiating between what we know to be factual, and what we assume or believe. It requires an approach to truth and reality that differentiates between facts and their interpretations and recognises the power implicit in interpretation. Above all, it acknowledges and seeks to expose the effects of authority and power and how questions of responsibility are encapsulated in statements.
In the sense in which we use the term here, disease refers both to concepts of health and wellbeing and in a broader sense to social and cultural conditions that affect both the physical and mental health of individuals and the health of the community, or society as a whole. In addition, we look to Critical Discourse Analysis to further explore the concept of disease as an expression of specific experiences and beliefs, moral judgments and biases that facilitate ‘diagnosis’ and give rise to particular ‘causal’ explanations and assignments of responsibility.
Ethics refers here not only to a branch of philosophy or inquiry but to an intuitive awareness of ourselves, our feelings, emotions, unconscious drives and the role and influence of these things in society. In the sense used herein, ethics is juxtaposed to morality which refers to a set of social and culturally given normative behaviours.
From a holistic perspective the term health refers not only to the physical and mental state of individuals and to their ability to ‘function optimally’ as individuals but to their relationships to and situation in a social and ecological environment and to the way these relationships and situation(s) affect health. In addition, the term health is expanded to include not only physical and mental ‘ability to function’ but also such things as ‘happiness’, ‘wellbeing’, spirituality and ethics. Consider e.g. that a person can function perfectly well while doing work that is unhealthy or unethical. As such, health includes ideas about how individuals ‘ought’ to function, about what ‘is’ or ‘ought’ to be good, wholesome, healthy, moral etc. Consider also that ill health does not necessarily imply being unhappy. A frequent criticism levelled at the medical and mental health professions is that they lack a clear definition of wellbeing. Health is therefore currently more clearly defined in terms of what it is not than it terms of what it is, or ought to be. A holistic perspective, because it takes into account the many ways in which health and wellbeing are manifested through our relationships and in terms of what we can and should expect over the course of our lives yields a much broader understanding of ‘health’ that is predictive of certain problems and their possible solutions that cannot be effectively remedied at the level of the individual, e.g. the causes and consequences of industrial pollution or destruction of natural resources, mistreatment of animals, etc.
Holism refers here to a theoretical position or perspective acknowledging the connectedness and interdependency of everything. In practical terms it refers to a willingness to explore beyond perceived boundaries and to consider phenomena as ‘systemic’ and arising not from simple ‘mechanical’ interactions (this causes that) but from relatedness itself: e.g. people’s ‘subjective’ motives and perceptions are as important in understanding what they do as their visible, objectively measurable actions. This example suggest that mind-body dualism plays a significant role in discourse on holism with proponents taking the position that mind and body are not separate and distinct but form an indivisible ‘whole’. The binary categories are in this sense products of language and its relationship to the senses rather than independent, separate categories of reality.
Human behaviour as used herein refers both to the behaviour of individuals and to that of groups and ultimately whole societies. It also refers to the study of the causes of human behaviour, looking to genetics, neurology and neurochemistry, biology, the influence of social, economic, political and environmental conditions as well as cognition, consciousness, psychology, ethics and spirituality as the sources of ‘drives’ and ‘meaning-making’, our sense of right and wrong, empathy, perception, and so on. From a holistic perspective, the study of human behaviour in isolation makes little sense: humans are a social species, almost all of us live close to and interdependently with other members of our own species as well as other species and we connect to others cognitively and our relationships are experienced subjectively giving rise to an endless variety of behaviours. Attempts to understand human behaviour in isolation may yield practically useful data but in many areas the isolation is artificial and will inevitably result in incomplete understanding.
Human nature as it is used here refers to the existence of innate human qualities, faculties, behaviours and needs. Historically, thinking about human nature has been shaped profoundly by the idea that mind and body are not just different categories but actually separate phenomena. This has given rise to some pretty bizarre efforts to explain how the two function in relation to each other, notably belief in a soul, but also belief that the body and the entire material world are illusory. Speculation about human nature falls within the ambit of both biology and psychology with biologists looking to neurology, chemistry and genetics to explain some aspects of human behaviour and psychologists trying to understand our predispositions in terms of biographical details and subjective responses to our environment, family and so on. Historically, debate on human nature is linked to discussions about free will with some arguing that free will can only exist if human behaviour operates free of the ‘mechanistic’ influence of a deterministic material world, while others have argued against free will, based on the deterministic influence of genes, early psychological conditioning and so on. The question we are concerned with herein is whether and to what extent beliefs about human nature themselves play a significant role in how we understand ourselves and what we view as possible.
Ideological holism refers to a set of perceptions and actions that acknowledge the web of inter- and innerconnections and dependencies but still remain firmly entrenched in dualist behaviour. It is a stance, an ideological commitment to an ideal, but the extent to which it finds expression in our actions remains limited. Juxtaposed to ‘ideological holism’, holism refers to a set of awarenesses, experiences and practices that honour our connections and the inter- and innerconnectedness as an ethical foundation.
Informal economy of ideas
This idea refers to a set of ideas and behaviours that gain traction and validity in opposition to hegemonic directives, e.g. recourse to herbal remedies or homeopathy despite claims by medical authorities, researchers, pharmaceutical companies and so on that these are ineffective. It also refers to public discourses and opinions that exist alongside or challenge official accounts, including ‘conspiracy theory’. Although such discourses may lack supportive evidence, they are nonetheless important and valid expressions that have a significant impact on society.
Holism suggests the possibility and need for integration, both at the level of the subjective self and with regards to individuals, groups and nature and the environment. It also suggest the same need for uniting different perspectives and methods. In this sense integration refers to the possibility of expanding our explanatory models by comparing and reconciling different perspectives, each of them illuminating a ‘part of the puzzle’. In psychology for example, integration refers to the inclusion of unconscious factors through, e.g. the resolution of intrapsychic conflicts and tensions.
Integrity is not reduceable to moral uprightness or steadfastness. It has to do with authenticity — being true to ourselves — and it is the foundation for power and effectiveness. It is a way of being and acting that shapes who we are. Integrity resides in the ability to constitute ourselves as your word, to be true to our principles, and ultimately, be true to ourselves. However, in the sense used herein, integrity also refers to wholeness, to the way we are and function not only in relation to ourselves, but also in relation to others and ultimately even to all living beings, our environment and the natural world. Within this broader framing, integrity refers to a range of choices that determine how we live and how others live. When we throw garbage into the sea and it comes back to pollute us as microplastics, we are not in integrity. Integrity refers in this sense not just to where we stand in relation to others but also to how our actions play out over time, the extent to which we consider consequences, whether we honour our connections to others and so on.
Used here to refer to certain ideas about the individual, free will and sovereignty and their derivatives in political and economic theory.
Morality refers here to a set of socially and culturally accepted norms concerning right and wrong that are generally understood as representing a) the greatest possible common good and representative of what the greatest number of individuals would choose, under ideal conditions. Morality differs from ethics in that ethics seeks to establish universal principles of right and wrong, whereas morality functions perfectly well within groups, as long as everyone in the group (ideally) agrees. So, for instance, headhunting was accepted practice amongst certain tribes and even opposing sides in a war accepted the practice as morally permissible, whereas early missionaries approached it as morally unacceptable. Ethics, ideally, seeks to establish a ‘universal’ foundation from which to judge both perspectives free of the morally normative and culturally limited perspectives of different parties.
Some critics have argued that the concept of ‘nature’ as something distinct from ourselves is relatively modern, characteristic of religious conceptions that place the creator deity outside and above nature and establish human beings as ‘custodians’ of the natural world and its resources and superior to it because we possess properties e.g. a ‘soul’ that is not of earthly origin.
Nature as ‘Thing’
The idea of nature as a thing derives from, amongst others, the interpretation of Christian creation theology (which establishes humans as custodians of nature) into a ‘rational theology’ for the industrial age in which we begin to interpret the natural world in mechanistic terms. From then on, all notions of the earth and nature, and even other living species as possessing a soul and/or purpose of their own begin to be ridiculed and abandoned. All processes and behaviour, including human behaviour, can be interpreted in terms of their mechanics and functionality, rather than in terms of their ‘subjective meaning’.
A political and economic philosophy expounded by the ‘Milton Friedman’ school of economics that advocates privatisation and free markets as a way to ‘liberate’ creative potential, competitiveness, and engagement in economic activity. The collateral damage caused by neoliberal policies is usually denied or belittled as being consistent with ‘Darwinian’ evolutionary principles of ‘survival of the fittest’ (actually a misinterpretation of Darwin’s theories). Aside from its advocates amongst elites, Neoliberalism appeals to the public by claiming to elevate individual rights over those of the state and its institutions, thereby ignoring the fact that the state is supposed to mediate the health, wellbeing and rights of all, something it cannot do while simultaneously protecting the rights of individuals to appropriate what should rightfully belong to all.
Privatised suffering is the notion that individual health is the individual’s sole responsibility and that individuals should not therefore draw on public funds for their health. During the 1980s and ‘90s as some Western European countries began advocating for the privatisation of health care, arguments surfaced about making individuals more responsible for their health e.g. smokers and people who were obese paying higher premiums for health insurance. These arguments appeal to people who believe their health care is too expensive because of others who behave irresponsibly and incur risk that ‘society’ then has to pay for. The problems with this argumentation are too many to discuss in full, however, it is clearly true that some individuals do behave irresponsibly with respect to their own health and safety, yet it is questionable whether we would actually be better off as a society by making the costs of insurance proportionate to behaviour rather than income, amongst others because healthcare is not merely a practical institution but also an ethical one promoting empathy, cooperation and mutual support.
The term responsibility encompasses both questions of a moral nature and questions about free will, consciousness and situation (response-ability). Its importance herein relates to questions about the extents to which individuals, groups or society as a whole can take responsibility and the extents to which responsibility is attributed through a process of interpretation, with a special emphasis on the notion that the process of interpretation itself leads to empowerment, inspiration, collaboration and ability to take response-ability, thus opening up new possibilities. In addition, we note that questions of responsibility have a significant impact on the way individuals, groups and societies as a whole understand and behave, a factor that contributes to the emergence of problems and crises, as well as to solutions.
Rugged individualism is a reference to representations of the individual as ‘master of their own destiny’. This ideal image is a product of Hollywood movies (John Wayne) and is influential, particularly in the US, amongst advocates against government interference who believe that individuals should be free to decide how and where they want to live. This ideal conflicts sharply with the realities of life under Capitalism and in complex highly interdependent modern societies where there is neither space nor resources for individuals to ‘survive on their own merits’.
Social empathy deficit (disorder)
Social (societal) empathy deficit disorder is a play on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ever increasing number of obsession with acronyms, but refers to a real condition of both individuals and society and culture. Critics have argued that even if empathy is hard wired, people may not act on it unless they are equipped with certain kinds of experiences and insights that shape their sensitivity towards others. The role of sociocultural variables in influencing psychopathology is now accepted, and it is possible to argue for certain pathogenic cultural factors that explain the aetiology of what we might describe as a societal empathy deficit disorder. This disorder is characterised by an absence of empathic response to distress and an impaired sensitivity to moral transgressions, including a lack of awareness of the extended consequences of actions for ourselves and others. This condition affects individuals and sociocultural institutions in different ways. The important point though, is that sociocultural institutions play an important role in mediating empathy and awareness as well as in enabling certain types of behaviour. This has important implications for understanding what to do about this disorder. For example, research has exposed significant amount of SEDD among stockbrokers: the brokers are exposed to significant amounts of stress and reward themselves with cocaine thus becoming ‘victims’ while at the same time becoming increasingly desensitised to the consequences of their actions from which they are in most cases far removed, thus taking big risks that can have potentially devastating consequences on society.
Sovereignty is the full right and power of a person or governing body over him/her or itself, without any interference from outside sources or bodies. During the Age of Enlightenment, the idea of sovereignty gained both legal and moral force as the main Western description of the meaning and power of a State. In particular, the "Social contract" as a mechanism for establishing sovereignty was suggested. The idea of the sovereignty of the individual refers to an ideal balance between that individuals rights (liberty, autonomy, freedom of speech and thought etc.) and the rights of others. For example, Mill’s ‘Harm Principle’ proposes separating the rights of the individual from those of society, with the individual more or less free to do as he or she wishes as long as they do not harm anyone else’s right to do the same. Above all, sovereignty is premised on the idea that human beings are rational and capable of exercising prudent self-government when conditions permit.
The commons refers to the cultural and natural resources that would, under ideal circumstances, be accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. It also refers to the idea that all these things are, ultimately, our common heritage (even if they are sometimes privately owned, e.g. a historical estate or private land, still the earth belongs to humanity). Commons can also be understood as natural resources that groups of people (communities, user groups) manage for individual and collective benefit. Characteristically, this involves a variety of informal norms and values (social practice) employed for a governance mechanism. The idea of a ‘commons’ is increasingly gaining traction as resistance to privatisation of public resources, e.g. public transport, water and nature reserves, parks, forests, seas, etc., all things that cannot be privately owned without first taking them out of public ownership or that are better managed collectively.
In the language of Landmark Education, ‘transformation is the creation of a realm of entirely new possibility, unhindered by limitations of the past’. Transformation is juxtaposed to ‘change’ which is conceived as an incremental process. Transformation is more of a radical ‘state’ or ‘paradigmatic’ change in that it occurs through abandonment or resolution of something from the past, a way of thinking or behaving that was limiting and preventing us from seeing or creating a vastly wider range of possibilities. Typically, in Landmark Education, transformation occurs firstly in the realm of language, through examination of the narrative(s) we use to explain why something ‘is’ the way we ‘experience’ it. Analysis allows us to reclaim responsibility for the way we ‘interpret’ what we experience and that in turn allows us to take responsibility for the outcome of the interpretation in terms of our behaviour.
In contrast to a ‘belief system’ worldview refers to the final product of the individuals personal beliefs and perceptions in combination with those provided by society and culture, including religious beliefs. Worldview is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the whole of the individual's or society's knowledge and point of view. A worldview can include natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics. Worldviews are often taken to operate at a conscious level, directly accessible to articulation and discussion, as opposed to existing at a deeper, pre-conscious level. However, core worldview beliefs are often deeply rooted, and so are only rarely reflected on by individuals, and are brought to the surface only through critical reflection and attention to the subject’s own feelings, ideological commitments and interests and how these shape their experiences, perceptions and behaviour. E.g. Augustine’s interpretation of “Original Sin” constructs human beings as sinners from inception, an idea that has had extensive implications well beyond religious practice, shaping attitudes toward individuals in jurisprudence, mental health and many other areas. In other words, “Original Sin” has profoundly shaped the worldview of Western society by implying that human beings are somehow flawed from inception.
[i] Kai Vaara & Daniel Waterman. Learn more about us athttps://www.cbhp.nl
[ii] Consider e.g. the way Australian aboriginal culture has been treated as ‘primitive’ because it lacked ‘development’ or ‘progress’ both of which are Enlightenment ideals. Perhaps aboriginal culture did not ‘develop’ in a way we recognise or value, or perhaps it was much more in harmony with its environment so that it did not need to ‘develop’ as we have had to do to keep abreast of the misery and disasters we have been creating? What is the point of development? Survival, or happiness? Do we have to choose between them?
[iii] A fact that seems to escape the likes of Sam Harris and his ilk who use every opportunity to argue for the supremacy of Western ‘rationalism’ and ‘tolerance’ and the backwardness of Islam. In their pursuit of this argument they seldom mention the crimes of Imperialism and Colonialism or the impact of Capitalism, corruption and Western interference, as if these things are entirely irrelevant to understanding the present state of e.g. women’s rights, economic conditions, or perceptions of the West. In an article titled “Why I don’t criticise Israel” Harris is recorded as stating his opposition to “a state organized around a religion.” He then provides an exemption for Israel, arguing “that the rest of the world has shown itself eager to murder the Jews at almost every opportunity. So, if there were going to be a state organized around protecting members of a single religion, it certainly should be a Jewish state.” The problems with this type of reasoning are too complex to explore here, but it basically entails a simplified historical interpretation to justify the indefensible. The argument that ‘the world is eager to murder Jews’ omits mention of all other minorities that have been persecuted and murdered (should they all have a right to homelands of their own, and would this end the murdering?) or the social, economic and political conditions that enable persecution and genocide. This facile reasoning displaces any attempt to contextualise ‘Islamic extremism’ and the result is an impoverished understanding that relieves the West of any responsibility for the conditions Western powers supposedly aim to redress through war. (Harris, 2014). "Why Don’t I Criticize Israel?".
[iv] Secular values are values supposedly expressive of human faculties such as logic, empathy, reason or moral intuition, and not derived from supernatural revelation or guidance — generally believed to be the source of ethics in many religions. The idea that secular ethics can reveal ‘objective moral truth’ is based on the assumption that moral truth can be determined on the basis of consensus. Thus, if a majority within a given group agree something is ‘true’ or ‘right’ then it is so. There are some serious problems with this kind of reasoning even though it can yield satisfactory solutions — at least for the majority. The problem is that it easily confuses ‘might’ for ‘right’ and obscures questions of power and authority concerning how popular perception and opinion are shaped. In addition, which facts are included in the argument and how are they interpreted, by whom, with what interests in mind, etc.?
[v] One example of this is the way states regulate medicine and healing. Consider e.g. recent efforts by states to regulate ‘alternative medicine’ such as homeopathy or the sale of herbal remedies. In this instance, the state proscribes and legitimises certain types of medicine and healing, thus curtailing the sovereignty and religious freedom of citizens to choose what goes into their bodies or to live according to their values and beliefs.
[vii]Wikipedia refers to the commons as “the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural [...] resources [that] are held in common, not owned privately [and] resources that groups of people (communities, user groups) manage for individual and collective benefit. Characteristically, this involves a variety of informal norms and values (social practice) employed for a governance mechanism. [ref] Basu, Soutrik; Jongerden, Joost; Ruivenkamp, Guido (17 March 2017). "Development of the drought tolerant variety Sahbhagi Dhan: exploring the concepts commons and community building". International Journal of the Commons. 11 (1): 144. doi:10.18352/ijc.673. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
[viii] Of course evolutionary psychology, genetics and so on offer alternative approaches to human behaviour but the distinction we are making is the classical ‘nature versus nurture’ one, namely that human behaviour can be approached from two opposite directions, just as one can observe a box from inside or outside, except that in the case of e.g. gene expression which occurs inside distinct biological units, the individual can hardly be said to exercise much control. The individual, as an entity, exists at the intersection between biology, consciousness, culture and environment. This is precisely why mind-body dualism is in some respects completely inadequate in understanding human behaviour.
[ix] Sir Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms. Published on Oct 14, 2010.
[x] This is the subject of Dr. Gabor Maté’s book “In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts” exploring addiction among Native Americans as a historical and cultural legacy of genocide and cultural marginalisation.
[xi] Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow.
[xii] Margaret Atwood’s novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” offers a frightening and prophetic glimpse into the future of a United States in the grip of an authoritarian, patriarchal fundamentalism for which present developments seem a precursor. The denial of women’s rights to healthcare and abortion is a direct attack on society designed to undermine the very fabric of democracy and autonomy that has painstakingly been won in the face of a powerful, patriarchal, staunchly right-wing, white, male, wealthy, elite.
[xiii] Claudia von Werlhof argues that patriarchy, years before the 18th century, began to view nature as dead matter that can be exploited - together with the housewifization of women and exploitation of first nations. As von Werlhof puts it, patriarchy is in itself a negation of the real power of women; “patriarchy is neither in itself nor of its own an order of society, culture, or civilization. [...] it cannot exist or cannot have its own reality [...] Patriarchy literally means "the father is the beginning", "father origin" or "father uterus", because the Greek word arché, which is part of the words "patriarchy" and "matriarchy", originally means "beginning, origin, uterus". [...] Patriarchy as such remains a [...] Utopia, the project of a society that wants to be absolutely without a mother and independent of nature, cut off from its inter-connectedness with all other forms of being.” (Von Werlhof, (n.d.) Patriarchy as Negation of Matriarchy. http://www.second-congress-matriarchal-studies.com/werlhof.html
[xiv] In sociology and economics, the precariat is a social class [experiencing] precarity, which is a condition of existence without predictability or security, [often, but not always] affecting material or psychological welfare. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precariat
[xv] A good example of the invalidation of specific types of inquiry, knowledge and methods is the suppression of non-ordinary states of consciousness, e.g. those achieved with the aid of psychotropic plants and substances. During the 1960’s, psychedelic drug use resulted in a heated conflict between those who viewed these substances as tools for exploring consciousness with therapeutic possibilities and those who viewed them as a threat to mental health and to society. What was really happening was that psychedelics and the debates they led to challenged the hegemonic notion that only one state of consciousness is valid (the one affirming the ‘consensual reality’ of the dominant culture).