Prisoner of a Heartless Ideology: Part II – Barry Oshry

Prisoner of a Heartless Ideology: Part II

Barry Oshry

Writer, Thought Leader, Presenter

It can be illuminating to strip nations of the ideological baggage of freedom and totalitarianism, and to see them instead in terms of the interplay between Power and Love. I intend this not in the sentimental meaning of these terms, but rather as the fundamental processes that drive all human systems, from families to organizations, to communities and, in this case, nations.[1]

Power is the drive of human systems (nations) to individuate, that is, for the system parts – individuals and groups – to function independently of one another, to go their separate ways.  And, as the parts go their separate ways, they tend to differentiate, they become more different from one another. The Power state of systems is characterized by freedom, energy, competition, variety, innovation, and growth.

Love is the drive of systems (nations) to integrate, for the parts to come together as interacting components of an integrated whole. And, as the parts come together in common effort, they tend to homogenize, developing more commonality with one another. The Love state of systems is characterized by togetherness, cooperation, uniformity, oneness of purpose.

Nations survive by developing a balance between Power and Love processes, and what differentiates one nation from another is the balance and intensity with which these processes are expressed.

Systems self-destruct when one process totally drives out the other.

Anarchy develops when Power completely drives out Love. The welfare of the parts supersedes the welfare of the system. Parts lose their commonality with one another. Competition devolves into warfare and internal struggles for survival. The system as a whole dis-integrates.

Totalitarianism develops when Love completely drives out Power. Freedom is suppressed in the service of cooperation. Difference is suppressed in the service of uniformity. Individuality, entrepreneurism, and innovation are suppressed, as is the human spirit. The systems collapses under its own weight.

Ideological struggles. Warfare develops as humans attach values to the neutral processes of Power and Love, seeing one as the good and the other as evil.

The advocates of Power champion Power as freedom and liberty, and they see Love as all that crushes freedom and liberty.

The advocates of Love champion Love as equality, community, and unity, and they see Power as all that destroys equality, community, and unity.

Both advocates are correct in one respect. Power and Love have their creative and destructive properties. Power can and has destroyed community, equality, and unity. (See the hollowed-out cities, the growing inequality, and divisiveness in the US and other western societies.) And Love can and has crushed freedom and liberty. (See the history of communist nations.)

No system is pain free. Even in balanced societies – systems of Love and Power – Power both liberates individuals and groups and it weakens and destroys community and leads to inequality and divisiveness.

And Love both creates equality and mutuality and #it suppresses freedom and independence.

So, for example, both the US and Scandinavian countries are balanced systems; Scandinavian countries are weighted more on Love, resulting in less inequality at a cost of some freedom; the US is weighted more on Power, resulting in more freedom at the cost of inequality and divisiveness.

That complexity of system life is just how it is.

Advocates tend to stress the creative aspect of Love or Power while denying or ignoring the destructive consequences.

It is paradoxical that, in their ideological purity, prisoners of heartless ideologies insist on destroying the very processes that are essential to system balance and survival.

[1]For those unfamiliar with my work on whole system processes, see Barry Oshry, Context Context Context,Axminster, U.K., Triarchy Press, 2018