Author

Realizing a New World

A Commonwealth Movement

The New Revolution


Chapter Seventeen: Cooperative Commonwealth Culture


"The development of culture is a necessary condition for human development."

Erich Fromm, The Sane Society


      As the CCC enterprise began the independent stage 1 of its development, they found it necessary to create a new conception of a sane society, 2   based on the understanding that most current and historical cultures have been insane in the sense of being destructive of human life and fulfillment.

      The Outlook Oversight Committee began its deliberations on the values and structures of an enlightened, cooperative culture by agreeing on specific concepts:

    1. The American capitalist society is intrinsically insane: 3 destructive of human life and fulfillment.

    2. Living in and being conditioned by an insane society, ordinary Americans do not recognize their personal psychoses
      or the pathology of their leaders and
      the entire culture. 4

    3. The cooperative commonwealth community enterprise is being
      developed as a sub-culture within the American capitalist society.

    • CCC members have been and are being influenced by the pathology of the American capitalist society.

    • The CCC enterprise must gain expanding understanding of the negative effects of the American capitalist society on the world and on their sub-culture.

    • CCC members are responsible for ridding themselves, on an ongoing basis, of the negative effects of capitalist "infection."

  1. "There are universal criteria for mental health which are valid for the human race as such, and according to which the state of health of each society can be judged." 5

  2. We must work to gain an understanding of the normal as well as the pathological core elements common to the whole human race from the innumerable manifestations of human nature in different individuals and cultures, to recognize the laws inherent in human nature 6 and the inherent goals for its development and unfolding.

  3. The core passions and drives in humankind are definite and ascertainable, some of them conducive to health and happiness, others to sickness and unhappiness. No social order creates these fundamental elements but it determines which of the limited number of potential passions and drives are to become manifest, inhibited, or dominant.

"A new society is possible only if, in the process of developing it, a new human being also develops, or in more modest terms, if a fundamental change occurs in contemporary Man's character structure."

Erich Fromm, To Have Or To Be?

  1. Once we determine that freedom 7 and spontaneity are the objective goals to be attained by every human being, if such goals are not attained by the majority of members of any given society, Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachswe know that we're dealing with the phenomenon of socially patterned defect. Because the individual shares it with all the others in his class, he's not even aware of it as a defect. He feels secure in fitting in with the rest of the members of his society--as he knows them. Actually, his very defects, such as greed and corruption, are raised to virtues by his culture, and give him an enhanced feeling of achievement.

  2. We are creating a new cooperative culture:

    1. For the realization and fulfillment of all its members

    2. To enhance the mental health 8 of its members

    3. Which will contribute to human evolution 9

    4. That can be used as a touchstone to determine if a society is sane or not, contributory to human realization and fulfillment or not 10

  1. To serve as an Ideal for all empirical societies, the pattern of a Legal State and a conceptual realization of the Form, Justice

  2. For the realization of a new cooperative human type 11 diametrically opposite to the egomaniacal, capitalist personality 12

  3. Many of the personal characteristics that we desire in our members are fostered by our use of dialectical interchange: spontaneity, thoughtfulness, coordination, and harmony. 13

  4. Our creating a new kind of person in a new culture is, in part, in answer to our awareness of how people in the American capitalist society have become literally suicidal: allowing themselves to be destroyed by imperialist wars, economic terrorist looting, unemployment, loss of homes, and destruction of their minds. 14

  5. We're designing and implementing a new culture, not just because we want a better life for our present and future generations of members, but because, in the last analysis, we see it as absolutely essential that we reconstitute our interpersonal and economic-political relationship patterns because our very lives--and the life of global human existence--depend on it.

"The need for profound human change emerges not only as an ethical or religious demand, not only as a psychological demand arising from the pathogenic nature of our present social character, but also as a condition for the sheer survival of the human race. Right living is no longer only the fulfillment of an ethical or religious demand. For the first time in history the physical survival of the human race depends on a radical change of the human heart. However, a change of the human heart is possible only to the extent that drastic economic and social changes occur that give the human heart the chance for change and the courage and vision to achieve it." 15


Comparisons and Analyses of Conceptual Cultural Patterns

      The Outlook Oversight Committee studied and examined a number of conceptual cultural patterns (beyond those referenced in chapter twelve: Damanhur and Earthhaven) in deciding on the operating principles and structures for its expanded, independent community site.


1. Commonwealth Communities
   Overview     Invitation

2. Concept of separatist communities
   Précis     Entire essay

3. Compare and Contrast (1 and 2)

4. Venus Project/Zeitgeist Hoax
    Vision      Overview
    Zeitgeist Précis
    Reality Check and Exposé

5. Walden Three Concept

6. Commonwealth Institute

7. A reactionary former student of Erich Fromm


      The examples we've selected above are merely several out of hundreds of concepts and small community groups which provide no real model for enlightened, cooperative communities.

      The Oversight Committee found it useful to examine an outline of cooperative community issues in assuring that they had addressed all relevant areas of concern.

      As we see in all the alternative concepts and studies above, what is touted as progressive thinking is anything but progressive. Most of their concepts and strategies remain withinMaccoby the capitalist system and the two-party swindle, not daring to think beyond these limits to creating new non-capitalist communities. Persons who develop these crippled theories are counterfeit progressives such as Bill Moyers or capitalist mandarins such as Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives, 16 Andrew Caughey of the Pittsburgh Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, or Michael Maccoby who forgot everything Erich Fromm ever taught him and wrote imbecilic books such as The Productive Narcissist, extolling capitalist predators.

Political, Economic, Educational, Intellectual, and Social Structures

      Throughout the novella we've examined the political, economic, educational, intellectual, and social structures instituted in the cooperative communities. These structures embody the values and procedures of the enterprise as well as exemplify the intellectual, social, and spiritual characteristics the enterprise seeks to develop within all its members. For example, many of the essential elements of the enterprise had already been decided on as delineated in the outline of educational areas of study and testing:

  • Critical thinking
  • Self-awareness (including self-development)
  • Critical consciousness (including world-awareness)
  • Skill achievement: specific skills for all three work categories: Overseer, Manager, Technician
  • Spiritual awareness
  • Mastery of dialectical interchange
  • Commitment to cooperative community
  • Commitment to commonwealth ecology
  • New interpersonal relations patterns

      The categories of work responsibility include Overseers, Managers, and Technicians, with every member of the enterprise rotating through these categories over time.


Cooperative Commonwealth Community Enterprise
Overseers Managers

Technicians

Oversight of the entire community

Management of Sections,
e.g. Food, Health Care

Completing tasks relative to specific skills,
e.g. auto service, food production


An Illustrative Dialectical Interchange

    Alicia Martin, facilitator for the Oversight Committee session, began the meeting. "In our last session we agreed to invite Ellen Green, an outstanding investigative journalist, to be an observer during this session. We asked Ellen to study our material on dialectical interchange so she'd understand the procedure we use for investigating issues and making decisions."

    Alicia paused as Ellen stood up, smiling at the group. Alicia and Ellen exchanged greetings.

      "I'd like to ask you," Jane Lansing said to Ellen, "what your response was to the material you read on dialectical interchange."

      "I was overwhelmed by the various factors and uses of dialectic. I'd read Plato's dialogues in college, but I never got any sense of there being anything very profound about the dialogue process. I now see that Plato considered dialectic as an entry point into higher knowledge." She paused, looking at the group again. "I don't see exactly how you can use dialectic as an investigative tool and as a method of decision-making, but I'm looking forward to observing your process this evening."

      Alicia asked Ellen, "Would you be interested in participating as well as observing this evening?"

      "Yes, certainly," Ellen replied.

      "Our first decision-point this evening, then," Alicia continued, "will be whether or not we think it advisable for Ellen to participate and ask questions as well as observe during this session."

      John Lansing spoke up immediately. "We have some very important decisions to make this evening, and I think it likely that an 'outsider' trying to participate in our interchange will slow down, perhaps hinder, our process."

      "It seems to me," Sophia Yates said, "just as likely that Ellen could assist our process by providing an 'external' perspective."

      There appeared to be no further desire for discussion, so Alicia said, "Anyone opposed to allowing Ellen to participate?"

      No on spoke. "All right," Alicia continued, "then we have consensus." She paused to look at Ellen. "Do you have any questions or comments so far?"

      "Yes," Ellen replied quickly, "John, why didn't you vote against my participation, since you thought it might be disruptive?"

    "I realized," John replied, "that Sophia was correct in saying that your participation was just as likely to assist as to hinder our process."

      "But did you really agree or were you just being agreeable for agreement's sake?"

      The group laughed heartily. "We're laughing," Alicia said to Ellen, "because John is not known for easy agreement. On the contrary, he's famous in our sessions for being very insistent on holding onto an opinion until he's convinced otherwise."

      "But this idea of complete, one hundred percent agreement--what you call consensus," Ellen said, "seems unrealistic. How do you achieve unanimity all the time? Oh, and one other question: Why do you ask for anyone to speak up who disagrees, instead of simply taking a vote?"

      "We don't vote on issues in the sense that groups usually take votes," Alicia answered. "Ordinarily, voting means that a person gives his bare consent or dissent, his approval or disapproval of an issue or a person. We approach all issues with the purpose of achieving complete unanimity. Persons retain their opinion on an issue as long as they're still convinced it's the correct point of view. But our opinions must be based on evidence, not just on bull-headed insistence on the right to disagree for disagreement's sake."

      "For example," John continued, "after I voiced my opinion tonight I then realized that Sophia's surmise was just as valid as mine. I didn't have any evidence that you, Ellen, would be disruptive. So I agreed to give this a try."

The Internet Voting Issue

      "Our Oversight Committee taskforce has recommended that we use Internet voting for some of our everyday issues," Alicia said.

      "You've seen the sample poll the taskforce has constructed as an illustration. What questions or comments do you have about this decision-point?"

      "I suggest that a full explication of the issue be included with the poll," Axiothea Phlius said. "The explication should include any evidence for or against the issue, and any possible positive or negative effects that might accrue. For example, would Internet decision-making lead to indifference and failure to inform ourselves on the issues presented? And anyone should be able to add to this explication at will."

      "Excellent," Alicia remarked.

      "We'll need to select criteria with which to determine those issues that don't require face-to-face interchange and those that do," Francis Sinclair said.

      Ellen joined in. "What about university studies on Internet decision-making?"

      "We don't find that studies in the capitalist society," Lasthenia Mantinea said, "have any real relevance or use for us. Their mind-set is entirely different. For example, in a society based on competitiveness and egocentrism, voting becomes a way of asserting one's irrational 'right' to disagree for disagreement's sake."

      After discussion had ended, consensus was reached that the CCC enterprise would try Internet voting on an experimental basis for three months, after which the committee taskforce would report the findings.

      "Didn't some of you oppose trying this experiment?" Ellen asked the group. "Some of you voiced possible negative outcomes of this procedure."

      "We haven't tried it before so we have no real evidence," Jane Lansing said. "It's possible outcome of saving us time and effort by allowing decision-making independent of face-to-face meetings makes it worth trying."

      Ellen asked the group, "Don't you sometimes feel you're too compliant, too agreeable? I think people outside your communities might feel that you are fitting-in too much."

      "We never compromise on an opinion we believe has good evidence for it," Elizabeth Collins said. "When there's equally good evidence for and against an issue, we sometimes find it useful to agree unanimously to study the issue further. We don't have the need to find our identity in being an unreasonable dissenter for the sake of dissent. We find our fulfillment in our cooperative communities that allow all of us to make our individual contributions for the good of all."

      "It seems to me that it would be easy to become complaisant," Ellen said, "since you've developed such an outstanding model of a cooperative community, perhaps resting on your laurels and becoming self-satisfied."

      Stephen Farely replied. "We see our accomplishments as only a beginning. Our communities will allow us to move toward complete human fulfillment, a new beginning, not an end.


"Building such a society means taking the next step, it means the end of 'humanoid' history, the phase in which man has not yet become fully human. It does not mean the 'end of days,' the 'completion,' the state of perfect harmony in which no conflicts or problems confront man. . . When he has overcome the primitive state of human sacrifice, be it in the ritualistic form of the human sacrifices of the Aztecs or in the secular form of war, when he has been able to regulate his relationship with nature reasonably instead of blindly, when things have truly become his servants rather than his idols, he will be confronted with the truly human conflicts and problems, he will have to be adventurous, courageous, imaginative, capable of suffering and of joy, but his powers will be in the service of life, not in the service of death. The new phase of human history, if it comes to pass, will be a new beginning, not an end."

Erich Fromm, "The Present Human Condition," The Dogma of Christ





Notes:

1 As explored in chapter fourteen.

2 The CCC enterprise found Erich Fromm's ideas exceptionally useful, especially those expressed in The Sane Society, To Have Or To Be?, Escape From Freedom, The Revolution of Hope, and The Art of Loving.

3 "We find then that the countries in Europe which are among the most democratic, peaceful and prosperous ones, and the United States, the most prosperous country in the world, show the most severe symptoms of mental disturbance." Erich Fromm, The Sane Society, p. 10. These studies involved analysis of data on the incidence of suicide, homicide, and alcoholism.

4 "What is so deceptive about the state of mind of the members of a society is the 'consensual validation' of their concepts. It is naively assumed that the fact that the majority of people share certain ideas or feelings proves the validity of these ideas and feelings. Nothing is further from the truth. Consensual validation as such has no bearing whatsoever on reason or mental health. Just as there is a 'folie a deux' there is a 'folie a millions.' The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane." Erich Fromm, The Sane Society. pp. 14,15

5 Erich Fromm, The Sane Society, p. 12

6 This analysis of human nature, though developed by a socialist group, contains a number of important details.

7 "Freedom is not a constant attribute which we either 'have' or 'have not.' In fact, there is no such thing as 'freedom' except as a word and an abstract concept. There is only one reality: the act of freeing ourselves in the process of making choices. In this process the degree of our capacity to make choices varies with each act, with our practice of life." Erich Fromm, The Heart of Man, Its Genius for Good and Evil

8 "Mental health is characterized by the ability to love and to create, by the emergence from incestuous ties to clan and soil, by a sense of identity based on one's experience of self as the subject and agent of one's powers, by the grasp of reality inside and outside of ourselves, that is, by the development of objectivity and reason." Ibid., p. 69

9 "Man . . . for hundreds of thousands of years, has had all the organic equipment for maturity; his brain, bodily co-ordination, physical strength have not changed in all that time. His evolution depended entirely on his ability to transmit knowledge to future generations, and thus to accumulate it. Human evolution is the result of cultural development, and not of an organic change." Ibid., p. 69

10 In his book Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud stated his erroneous view that an individual can be determined sane or not by using the criterion of his culture and that a culture has no such standard against which it can be judged sane or insane.

"In the neurosis of an individual we can use as a starting point the contrast presented to us between the patient and his environment which we assume to be 'normal.' No such background as this would be available for any society similarly affected; it would have to be supplied in some other way."
The fictional model of cooperative commonwealth communities we're developing can be used as a touchstone and an Ideal to determine if a "real" culture is sane or insane, productive of human fulfillment or not.

11 I am using the word "type" in a very specific manner, referring to "the general form, character, or structure distinguishing a particular kind, group, or class of beings or objects; hence, a pattern or model after which something is made." [Oxford English Dictionary]

12 "To be an egoist refers not only to my behavior but to my character. It means: that I want everything for myself; that possessing, not sharing, gives me pleasure; that I must become greedy because if my aim is having, I am more the more I have; that I must feel antagonistic toward all others: my customers whom I want to deceive, my competitors whom I want to destroy, my workers whom I want to exploit. I can never be satisfied, because there is no end to my wishes; I must be envious of those who have more and afraid of those who have less." Erich Fromm, To Have Or To Be?

13 "In contrast are those who approach a situation by preparing nothing in advance, not bolstering themselves up in any way. Instead, they respond spontaneously and productively; they forget about themselves, about the knowledge, the positions they have. Their egos do not stand in their own way, and it is precisely for this reason that they can fully respond to the other person and that person's ideas. They give birth to new ideas, because they are not holding onto anything. While the having persons rely on what they have, the being persons rely on the fact that they are, that they are alive and that something new will be born if only they have the courage to let go and to respond. They come fully alive in the conversation, because they do not stifle themselves by anxious concern with what they have. Their own aliveness is infectious and often helps the other person to transcend his or her egocentricity. Thus the conversation ceases to be an exchange of commodities (information, knowledge, status) and becomes a dialogue in which it does not matter any more who is right."Erich Fromm, To Have Or To Be?

14 "While in our private life nobody except a mad person would remain passive in view of a threat to our total existence, those who are in charge of public affairs do practically nothing, and those who have entrusted their fate to them let them continue to do nothing.

"How is it possible that the strongest of all instincts, that for survival, seems to have ceased to motivate us? One of the most obvious explanations is that the leaders undertake many actions that make it possible for them to pretend they are doing something effective to avoid a catastrophe: endless conferences, resolutions, disarmament talks, all give the impression that the problems are recognized and something is being done to resolve them. Yet nothing of real importance happens; but both the leaders and the led anesthetize their consciences and their wish for survival by giving the appearance of knowing the road and marching in the right direction." Erich Fromm, To Have or To Be?

15 Erich Fromm, To Have Or To Be?

16 In his Project on Defense Alternatives study titled "Operation Enduring Freedom: Why a Higher Rate of Civilian Bombing Casualties," Carl Conetta tried to pretend that civilian deaths in Afghanistan have been as small as 1,300.