"People form democracies because a political
democracy is the only form of governance that has
the potential to incorporate the values that have
sustained our species — allowing that government to
become an “organic extension” of our species’ will to
survive in a social context".
The connection between an advanced form of democratic process and social sustainability came to me by a rather long and circuitous route. When I was in Viet Nam, ’68-’69, I began making notes for a more effective form of democratic process. But it was not until late 2007 that the connection began to take form.
At that time, I had invited a group of interested and untrained friends to participate in an exploratory team process that would prove or disprove the functionality of a rudimentary “Schematic,” (p. 133). As a professional holistic life coach I wanted to improve the reliability of this instrument so that it could be used by typical clients to help them with their self-discovery process. It was also my intention to use it to test relationships as being “sustainable” or not. As their project, the team had chosen to discover the causes of disappointment in relationships and to learn how to avoid disappointment and to create joy in their relationships.
Over a period of several weeks, we worked the Schematic backwards from disappointment, a measurable outcome, that we listed in Column #6. We moved on to Column #7, to list the erroneous expectations that would produce disappointment in a relationship. Because expectations are outcomes of beliefs and assumptions, we listed those in Column #8. Examining assumptions took a lot of processing from all of us to ferret out our unconscious assumptions involving relationships. Because I was observing the team-process, I did not interfere or make suggestions until the team became stuck and looked to me for help.
We had made good progress one evening defining the content of the columns, up to the point of discovering the values that support meaningful and purposeful relationships. As it was getting late, and being stymied to discover the values that were missing from Column #9 of my rudimentary Schematic, we ended the session and socialized for a bit in the kitchen before leaving for our homes.
An “Ah-ha!” Moment. As I walked from the kitchen into the living room, I had an astonishing “Ah -ha!” moment. The result was the awareness of four values that would work perfectly in the Column #10. The team had agreed earlier that Life is the ultimate value for everyone, but it was only in that “Ah-ha!” moment that I appreciated the primary value that makes life meaningful is our quality of life. Further, we must experience growth of our innate potential to make it possible for us to enjoy a continuing improvement in the quality of our life. Because we are social creatures and always compare ourselves to others, we also value equality — to grow into our potential to improve the quality of our life as any other person would or could.
The next week the team began using Life, quality of life, growth, and equality as the criteria for examining what sustainable relationships would look like. Many insights began to bubble up to the surface of our discussion about how these values affect our relationships. It became evident to us that the values had the appearance of being universal to all people; and had been throughout human history. It seemed apparent to us that these “core values” were probably innate to the DNA of our species from the earliest of times.
We discovered that the values were very accurate in determining and defining the sustainability of personal relationships. We wondered if they were also applicable to the sustainability of social institutions and organizations in their relationship to the individual. In the back of my mind I had been wondering if these values could be instrumental to make democratic governments more humane and sensitive to the public's needs. And, could these values be used to validate the design and then measure the effectiveness of social programs?
As the weeks passed, an undercurrent of dis-ease had developed in the team. Not too oddly, team members had begun assessing their own personal relationships using these values. Some members had begun to express anxiety whenever the team discussed the sustainability of intimate relationships. When asked in a gentle way, three of the members disclosed that their intimate relationships did not provide them with an improving quality of life, or that they were being held back from growing into their potential compared to the circumstances of others. Being sensitive to their plight, the team decided not to continue as we could not go forward with ease and grace involving this topic.
Next, the team chose to examine another topic — education. Again, and far more quickly, the team came to the conclusion that education in America was not fulfilling the four core values for students or the nation; and, that it was too large a project for us to design a workable, sustaining educational system at any level. With some reluctance the team came to the conclusion that we had explored all of the possibilities our small experimental exploratory team could provide at the time.
Eventual Conclusions —
First, the “proof of concept” trial was a success. A team of untrained local citizens can produce meaningful discoveries about social sustainability even when using a rudimentary form of the Schematic.
Second, all human behavior seems to be motivated by four core values
— Life, Quality of Life, Growth, and Equality.
Third, these four values have acted as the criteria for decision-making in all human activities from the earliest of times.
Fourth, these values have provided the motivation for our species to sustain itself for 200'000 years, or more, and have been the motivators for human progress.