Addressing the Elephant in the Room: 3 questions about the systems we're in, and the ones we want

TAU The Alternative UK Public Seen by 56

To kick off this theme, we'd like you to put yourself on the map. Answer these three questions in the comment space below:

  • Who are you and what do you do?

  • What is your complaint about the current system?

  • How can you describe the new system arising?

See these YouTube interviews (39 of them, but almost all are around 5-6 minutes) from participants in our first Elephant session, to get a feel for the answers


Ben Stollery Mon 2 Mar 2020 11:33PM

Briefly, I'm Ben, live in Totnes, Devon; a life-long activist particularly on democratic and environmental issues. Latterly involved in Extinction Rebellion but prior to that the WDM (now Global Justice Now), Positive Money, and Occupy. I studied Economics for Transition at Schumacher College and have been enthused by the developments in new economics, distributed organising and the grassroots movements in Spain, the US and Rojava, Kurdistan, and wonder if something like them could happen in the UK.

My complaint about the current system would be it's complete denial of its unsustainability on a finite planet (and its lack of ambition for the human soul!). We're heading rapidly for the cliff edge (maybe already over it) and the system's wilful denial of this and insistence that we continue with 'business as usual' is perverse.

Where do I see the new system in operation? Off the top of my head...

  • in the way Extinction Rebellion welcomes all the emotions acknowledging that they need to call for the new in a way that acknowledges their humanity

  • the Atmos project in Totnes, the first (I believe) community development of a brown-field site, featuring a mix of business units, affordable housing and community spaces

  • many transition groups - building eco/affordable housing, tending community fruit trees etc etc

  • the 'Flatpack' values-based local politics in Frome spreading across the country

  • the prioritising local suppliers policy of Preston council and their commitment to Cooperatives

  • all the new economy projects listed on NEF's 'Let's Change The Rules' site - https://letschangetherules.org/

  • the innovations in Barcelona local government and the whole Municipalist movement...

How can you describe the new system arising?

Dougald Hine (formerly of Dark Mountain) and a proponent of Deep Adaptation raised some interesting prospects recently - that maybe the turning might arise from an unlikely source - like the mental health crises amongst the young. I need to unpick this but something arising from an unexpected quarter (a la the MeToo movement) seems plausible somehow. In the throws of the Coronavirus spreading, I wonder if something like that might be the gateway to a shift. Like the climate crises, it's affecting (or will probably do so) the whole planet, it could well force us to (if temporarily) focus more on the local, and perhaps through that put us more in touch with what's important and remind us that we don't need lots of extraneous things to live quite happily.

XR has achieved a real shift in the public discourse and more, and I hope it can be the catalyst for more change. To do so I think it needs to morph into a truly mass movement utilising some of the techniques of the movements I've mentioned above. I hope it does so and I am working to help bring that about. If not, perhaps another movement will arise that will secure enough support.


Bret A Warshawsky Tue 3 Mar 2020 11:26AM

Thanks for sharing Ben, and aho. Also, thanks for the info on Deep Adaptation, I'll look into that, as mental health reformation (and my personal experiences) is a mission of mine, that I have a lot to offer the world through.


The Alternative UK Tue 3 Mar 2020 6:43PM

I've often wondered what the boundary is between mental health and social health? Aren't so many of the feelings of personal dys-functionality arising from a society / economy that was not designed with complex human beings in mind?


Bret A Warshawsky Tue 3 Mar 2020 10:59PM

Part of my personal message and story is that (semantics matter) mental health/illness is a misnomer -- there's no such thing as mental illness-- only dis-eases that manifest in various ways-- but holistically and synergistically speaking-- racing thoughts, hearing voices, depression, psychosis are simply not 'mental' illnesses, they are bodily dis-eases with a multitude of potential causes from physical to emotional, etc etc as we all know. It never helps to pathologize an experience (whereas classifying for better response can be meaningful) and that is the number one systemic issue for me. There is something happening, an event, experiences (whether joy, anger, depression, etc etc) and our goto response is to pathologize compared to acknowledging -- when we acknowledge, we respond.. when we pathologize we create a false dichotomy of health/illness, which leads to many many slippery slopes and dead ends.

Ultimately, yes of course, there really is no boundary between me and society, between mental and social health.. there is dynamic interplay between apparently separate parts, it's all one 'holomovement' and the boundaries while real are created-- we must come to realize we are the creators of boundaries, the drawer's of lines, and we can erase them and play with them more creatively and to our benefit. I am not saying boundaries are unreal, just that they are not really what we think they are (externally, objectively, logically, etc real).

Some thoughts... I know I didn't fully respond to the question.


Bob Bollen Thu 5 Mar 2020 7:30PM

Hello Ben. Thanks for sharing - we said we’d talk - I’m sorry I’ve been busy!


Ben Stollery Fri 6 Mar 2020 12:53PM

Hi Bob, yes, me too! Around next week if any good to you.


Bret A Warshawsky Tue 3 Mar 2020 11:18AM

Good morning, my name is Bret Warshawsky, and I am a co-creator at the S7 Foundation (aka noomap) and Together (aka Infinite World Game). We are conscious evolutionary agents co-creating a UFO (Universal, United, and Unnameable Fractal Organism) which transcends & synergizes businesses, organizations, nonprofits, governments, religions, etc etc etc -- A whole systems reality innovation for spirit-motivated social action and passionate about sociotechnologies. My particular passions and path in our co-creativity revolve around my life's work of 'Spiritual Philanthropy' and Integral Wealth Flow, as well as mental health reformation, and regenerative/novel film production that integrates with massive music benefit concerts, innovation, philanthropy and comprehensive whole systems design. I like to consider my self a visionary troubadour, cryptopoet and new paradigms gonzo journalist. I am a relation builder, networker, netweaver, storyteller and futurist by nature, always ready to support others as and when I am able to. I have a solid trust network of resonant people, projects and initiatives. I am happy to help everyone here if I can, to connect to my network, my resources and my experiences and insight from sociotechnologies to new economics, from self organization to co-creation, and many related subjects. I am more generalist than specialist though 'living' new paradigms and related have become more of a specialty that past 7 years.

For me, the current system's status can be summed up with this Krishnamurti quote, "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." I see a profoundly unwell and dis-eased society from West to East, from North to South, and everywhere in between. We have now entered an extreme state of collective being (on a whole, I am not speaking about the minority of people and projects that are busting through) which measures health and success by the metrics of severely outdated social systems and concepts. The current system is lagging 50-100 years behind (which is the evolutionary norm really) the most cutting edge knowledge, information and innovations, whether that be spiritual, social, scientific, political, etc etc etc. My chief observation is that the nature of this overall system tends towards inertia, greed, inequality and the like. It is very simple to me, and borrowing from the currently overused Einstein quote, we as a civilization are predominately trying to solve our challenges from the same world views that created them, and that is now a deathtrap more than a fancy philosophical position. We are scared to embrace change, from the micro to the macro, and therefore embrace the familiar complacent and safe; that is my biggest complaint.

The new system arising therefore, for me, begins with the micro, it begins with each of us as a conscious agent, choosing to be the reality we want to see in the world. Our internal cause/will creates external effect/circumstances. The new system therefore promotes, nourishes and prioritizes supporting each individual to be it's greatest self, and understands in doing so, that the whole (the sum which is greater than its parts) - or the many wholes-- will self organize and co-create wonderful goods, products, services and a life support system that serves all. From the micro, a macro will fractally emerge out of the 'oneness' of each individual. This emerging and undivided wholeness is by its nature unpredictable and dynamic, we cannot control it, we can flow with it and surf the evolutionary impulse. The new system will be (and is already shaping up to be) nearly unrecognizable when fully arrived; it will be spiritually and technologically evolved to the point where it becomes experiential for people to be able to create the world they want to live in; with maximum freedom and minimal harm to anything or anyone. That is what we are capable of as expressions of consciousness, to create maximum joy and minimal suffering, for ALL. That to me is the new system arising.


The Alternative UK Tue 3 Mar 2020 6:45PM

Love that Bret. What kind of practices / tools do you need to 'become' the new system? Is it teachable?


Bob Bollen Thu 5 Mar 2020 7:35PM

Hello Bret. Good to meet you. I’m very interested to read your links and learn from you. Can you please explain what you mean by “pathologize an experience (whereas classifying for better response can be meaningful)“? Thanks a lot. Bob


Phil Green Thu 5 Mar 2020 5:16PM

Hi all, I'm Phil. I've lived in a small rural community in Kent for the last 40+ years.

I work on CASwiki, Community Action for Sustainability,

founded 2004. It contains info on the UK, but is worldwide. Part of Appropedia
which includes info re the majority world.

Unashamedly action and solutions orientated. My current focus is on climate action and community involvement / participatory democracy. A couple of examples of more specific stuff I'd love to have some input towards, kick start, amplify, or just somehow help out with:
1. the spread of carbon literacy
2. moving Towards a more democratic and climate friendly way of meeting housing need across England.

I have a wide variety of interests, play a lot of sport and sing with a community choir. These last two hugely benefit my quality of life.

Complaint: pass

new system:
- we become better at sharing the learning, including recognising and valuing learning which tends to be more inclusive
we manage to do more 'future democracy', communities become better at self governance, as citizens it becomes more normal and natural to take part in community self governance
- it becomes more the norm that co-design is seen as an essential part of co-creation
- we become better at sharing more generally
- as a movement we become more successful at showing all the positives we have to gain from the kind of changes needed, so's the conversations aren't dominated just by what we have to give up.
- governance and government becomes explicitly about the wellbeing of all, both current and future generations. With wellbeing being inclusive of environment, social and economic wellbeing


Bob Bollen Thu 5 Mar 2020 7:28PM

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Bob Bollen. In my paid working life I was electronics engineer, software engineer and project manager. Now I spend much of my time promoting and organising respectful discussions on big issues, and bottom up decision making with Talk Shop www.talkshopuk.org .

I’m also doing all I can to learn more about the ways of thinking embedded in Systems Thinking, and the related tools and methods appropriate for the multiple crises in which we find ourselves. I want to find ways to share that learning to the widest possible audience - in accessible and useful forms - because I believe that that will be crucial for our survival as a species.

What is your complaint about the current system?

The dominant collective purpose of the world (spread originally by the UK, USA and Europe) that personal worth is measured according to wealth, self-fulfilment and consumption; driven by the advertising industry, which is itself driven by the self-reinforcing behaviour that is known as economic growth, is leading us towards civilisational collapse. This collapse can be viewed as a vortex of political collapses leading to economic collapses, leading to further political collapses, with increasingly frequent, damaging ecological and societal events accelerating the vortex.

It may not be too late, so we need to focus our intelligence and energies into the highest leverage activities we can each find.

At each collapse there will be tipping points where the force of our ideas and preparedness has the possibility of causing a transition to a fairer, more equal and sustainable world.

We need to anticipate possible collapses, and consider what we wish we had done in advance.

How can you describe the new system arising?

I believe that the concept of Emergence is a valuable way of looking at this. Emergence is one example of a behaviour that Systems Thinkers call an ‘archetype’. They see instances of Emergence across different disciplines eg Ecology (the social organisation of ants, termites), Cognition, Economics & Society (the growth of language, the rise of the internet). These instances appear over vastly different timescales and physical extent.

Emergence of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem

A good example of emergence is the wide variety of life forms that appeared as the corals in the Great Barrier Reef started to form. The main driving force was a relatively sudden rise in the sea level which created a shallow underwater shelf where sunlight could penetrate. (In relation to the text above - we might see this rise as a tipping point.) Incoming ocean currents brought life and nutrients and dissolved calcium.

One animal species - the Coral Polyps - arrived on these currents and found an ideal situation for growth because the shallow water meant that plenty of energy from the sun could reach the sea floor to which it attached itself. These polyps joined in a mutually beneficial relationship with several different microscopic plants to convert sunlight into food & energy. And the energy allowed the corals to extract calcium from the water to build their limestone structures. And so we see an emergence of these new and wonderful limestone structures - so very different from the plants and animals that cooperated to build them. And each different species of Coral Polyps created its own distinctively shaped structure.

And that wasn’t the end of it. Many other plants, animals and fish found the coral structures ideal sites to grow, and to feed and mate. By chance also, the nearby mangrove swamps along the shoreline - also recently arrived as the result of sea-level change - with their network of underwater roots, became a wonderful playground for young fish spawned on the coral reefs to grow without being eaten by larger predators, who couldn’t swim between the roots.

So, we can see that a single change - the rise of the sea level - creating a new environment where something new and unexpected could come into existence: the corals. And then this new limestone infrastructure created the environment for an energetic explosion of many new forms of life, with each species exchanging matter and energy and DNA with each other to form a wonderful new ecosystem.

Emergence of the New System

Many commentators assert that we are in the middle of a 40, 50, 60 .... year transition to a different society.

Might we be witnessing a new emergence similar to that of the Great Barrier Reef, where we’ve seen a number of technological changes that have enabled the internet to emerge, allowing much more peer to peer contact around the world and through society, analogous to the formation of the reef?

And we’re all aware of many emerging cooperative organisations in areas such as food production, community workshops, cycle delivery, sharing platforms and the like - all appearing to be peripheral to the current market economy - yet striving to link up into a beautiful ecosystem; just like the way the many vibrant plants and creatures of the reef share matter, DNA and energy.

So what will take the role of the mangrove roots, protecting these small yet vibrant entities from their larger predators, so that they can grow to maturity and start to form a new and wonderful ecosystem?

And will ‘the water have to rise more’ before some of this can really start to happen?

We really have no idea how soon, or how far away this might be, nor the hardship we may have to endure on the way there.