Nora Bateson – There are some buzz words I think are worth questioning (the Ecology of Systems Thinking group on Facebook)

A good conversation opener and good responses (you have to join the open group to see I think) – and you all might want to join the Ecology of Systems Thinking and all the other groups:


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There are some buzz words I think are worth questioning. The change-making world is prone to glomming onto words that are rather empty. I like to be careful with these words.

1. Trust — What is trust? I mostly see the word used when it is referring to something which is *not* there…When I walk across a room, I do not trust my feet to get me there– I just go. But when my ankle is sprained, then I notice how I used to trust my body. Do I really mean integrity? I need know that if you are not there for me, the choices you make are made with integrity.

2. Grief– A feeling that is only possible in its complexity. The term grief and the making-a-thing-of-it is a dangerous reductionism of the confusion, gratitude, love and joy that are also present in grief. The sorrow that is felt in these confusing times for the loss of biodiversity and democracy, and the enormous ache of knowing of some fraction of the pain caused by exploitation and extraction — is i think perhaps closer to a sense of betrayal. The systems that were supposed to offer structure within which it was possible to be a good person turned out to be traps within which it is only possible to be linked to the horror. Is the grief of witnessing a the breakdown of existing systems a sign of privilege? Are we mourning or recognizing that we’ve been duped by a lying, cheating, no good system?

3. Collective intelligence: This is not necessarily a good thing. There is nothing inherently good about collective intelligence. It can go either way. Remember that Nazi Germany was made possible through collective intelligence. Weinstein got away with sexual abuse for decades because of the collective intelligence of those around him keeping their mouths shut, capitalism, and racism are all products of collective intelligence. Beware.

4. Collaboration. If it is not mutual learning, collaboration can be very mechanistic. You do your thing, I will do mine…. that is not collaboration that leads to anything new. That is mechanism. Fine for military— not useful for finding new ways of living on this earth together. Improvisation is much more useful– I find.

5. Emergence. Ya…. don’t forget that emergency is also emergence. Mostly in emergency situations the romance of *emergence* wears off in a rush, and there are only binaries left. Emergence is not always lovely.

6. Mind-set. What the heck is this? There is nothing set. Only a vast interlinking abductive process— that is never static. Where is the edge of mind?