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Peggy Holman: Engaging Emergence; Moving Towards Order From Chaos-- Interview Transcript

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Rob: So you say you just put your toe in the water?

Peggy: Yeah, I got an invitation,oh, I'd say about a month ago from one of the organizers of this occupycafe.org, which has seen itself as a place for conversations that begin to shift the conversation from "what we don't want" to "what do we want", and in the process, creating spaces for people who are looking for a way to get involved but aren't necessarily interested in camping on the streets; to find a place to see how they might step in and get involved in some way. And one aspect of that is really beginning to think about, "So what is this movement about, in terms of what do we want to create more of?"

Rob: That's been interesting, because in the beginning, the first couple of months, I think it was a very conscious decision not to make clear statements about demands or goals. That the Movement was just forming, and there were no specific leaders, and what has come out of it, I think Horizontal Democracy that uses the General Assembly to get Democratic consensus, or if there is any.  And that's a really different thing, that I think particularly old people over 30 are having a very hard time with this idea that the movement can evolve in a general sense, perhaps, of what is wanted, without specific defined goals or demands, and without any particular readers. How does that match with your model?

Peggy: It actually makes a great deal of sense. As a matter of fact, one of the things that we've been talking about is, "What does leadership look like in a leaderless movement?" And, one of the places I go with that is, when you look at it through the lens of self-organization or this idea of emergence. The principle that probably the scientists talk about the most when they talk about emergence--the way they put it is, "No one's in charge," which looks an awful lot like what's going on with the Occupy Movement.

Rob: When you say that about the scientists, and you mentioned that earlier, that there's a popular definition of emergence, then there's a scientific version of emergence. Where does science talk about emergence, and how does it appear within science?

Peggy: The whole movement to understand the nature of complexity and self-organization and, in a sense, evolution itself, is an emergent process. And so whether it's chaos theory, which has been helpful in understanding weather patterns, or complexity theory, which is getting use from everything from software writing software, to robots making decisions to understanding the social life of bees and ants, and how those kinds of collective animals work. Those are some of the--So, the applications of the sciences around complexity, of which emergence is one, are telling us things: of everything from biology to evolution to social sciences to physics. So, our capabilities with computers are enabling us to see more complex patterns, which is part of the reason that that shift is happening and it actually--the way it shows up, because my interest in it has to do with what it means for how we as human beings organize to get stuff done. So when you look at it through the lens of society, of our culture and social systems, I come back to this prevailing notion of the idea that "no one is in charge," and the scientists will point [to] everything from how bees or ants or traffic flows work. And for me, the language of it is really telling, because it comes from essentially a hierarchical thinking mindset, because as you say, "No one is in charge," you can just as easily say, "Everyone is in charge." That's more along the model of thinking in terms of how things get done horizontally. I think that one of the major transitions that we're in, and Occupy again is a great model of this--is we're moving from our principle organizing metaphor as hierarchy, and think in terms of pack animals, to an organizing metaphor around networks, and there you can think more in terms of flocks of birds, or ants or bees, or animals that work in the collective.

   And interestingly enough for me the notion of no one in charge or everyone in charge, are both a little off the mark. Because in truth, what happens is, we don't know exactly what interactions amongst people are going to make the biggest difference. And as a result of that, what I think is actually the most useful take on this idea of network as an organizing principle for how leadership emerges, I think of it more as situational leadership. and so a great activating insight out of that. is the idea of inviting people to take responsibility for what they love as an act of service. And for me that is kind of the heart of a shift that I think we're undergoing, and that people, particularly those under 30, understand a lot better. And our technology, because it enables us to connect so well, supports us in doing in a way that a generation ago it wasn't possible to even consider, because we didn't have the means to connect so easily.

Rob: Why do the under 30s understand this idea of dealing  with love as an act of service better than people over 30?

Peggy: I think because the technologies of connection affirm and support that notion of individual expression in a way that, perhaps those of us over 30, didn't necessarily get the same kinds of messages. I think it tends to be a more cooperative--in a way it almost sounds like a contradiction to say, that taking responsibility for what you love leads to more cooperation, because on the surface it sounds like it would lead to more selfishness. You know, if each of us is off doing our own thing, don't you end up with more chaos?

   And the interesting thing that happens, is when people get that invitation, and particularly those of us that who may have been raised more in a follow-instructions-kind-of-world--when we actually start paying attention to that invitation and ask ourselves, "So, what do I care about? What matters to me?" One, that in and of itself can be profound and liberating act; that in the process when people do that, what I've observed over and over is that they dive deeper than their ego to the deeper parts of themselves. And in the process of doing that, because when we're operating out of that place of deep connection to ourselves, interestingly enough, what I found is that it means that we're drawing from the deeper stream of our common humanity. And as such, we tend to zero in on ways of being and things that we do, that do connect with others in a profoundly powerful way. And as a result, as people pursue what matters to them, and discover the others that care about similar things, we feel left alone, we found our partners, and we begin to be connected not just more to ourselves and others, but to our sense of a larger social body. And in that spirit of connection, our differences become a source of creative tension for breakthrough ideas that nobody could have come up with on their own.

Rob: This reminds me a little bit of Jungian psychology, with the collective consciousness and archetypal characteristics, what have you. Reconnecting at the source, almost.

Peggy: Interesting. That's not a lens that I have looked at it through, but as you say that, I can certainly see that kind of a connection with it.

Rob: And I find that a lot of the ideas that are emerged have been looked at before from different perspectives in the past too, and it makes sense. What you're talking about is a way for people to connect with each other at a deeper level, and why shouldn't that have been described? And it's probably been described mythically too. *(inaudible) 19:16 ...that whole world, how ancient cultures and even primitive cultures have understood, because let's face it, if you get an indigenous cultures there's a connection there that I think is also very powerful where people, perhaps much more reflectively, go to the place you're describing that our new technology have brought young people to today. What do you think?

Peggy: I think you're onto something and I want to actually take it--part of the reason I got into this, was that it struck me as a birthright to be able to interact with people who are different than ourselves, and actually have that be creative and productive. And so I really started exploring this, looking for how to make it as accessible as possible for people to reach out, whether it's family members who have a gone a different way or are more conservative.

   I talked to many people who have come to the city, and have left brothers and sisters and parents behind, who live a more conservative lifestyle, and long to connect or reconnect. And I look at Occupy in terms of one of the phrases that of course has resonated, is this idea of "we're the 99%," and in truth and practice, what  I've observed is that it seems to be principally a progressive movement at this point, and one of my hopes is, because I see people inventing, like the general assembly and mic check--they're inventing really useful process for convening and being in conversation, and I hope to see more reaching out to people with different points of view, because I think there is potential to not just be 99%, but to find room for all as an ultimate destination. And in the process of doing that, that we actually begin to development capacity to interact with people that we disagree with, and recognize that deeper human connection and need for some of the basic human things, like the desire to contribute, and all wanting a good education for our children, and a healthy productive life.

Rob: That's interesting, because a Pew poll just came out that had a directly inverse relationship whether a person is democrat or republican. Sixty percent are democrats, support OWS, Occupy Wall Street overall and 21% oppose, whereas for republicans 59% oppose and 21% support. So, it's a challenge, but I would certainly hope that there could be a way to bridge that chasm.

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Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

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