Some thoughts about strategy in the context of an ecologically benign organisation, prompted by looking at the attempts of a group in XR to produce and update a strategy document.
A strategy, in the sense of a document that is produced by one sub-group within an organisation to guide the direction and actions of the whole organisation over a period of time, is usually the a product of an organisation which has a centralised command and control structure. A hierarchical organisation in which the central node (the 'top' of a hierarchy) sets a direction and constraints on the actions of its component parts.
This is not how organisms in nature, in an eco-system, in Gaia, work.
An organism or organisation at any level that exists in harmony with its surroundings and the eco-system of which it is a part, rather than having a strategic direction (however mutable that might be), develops a series of feedback mechanisms that interact with its context providing information about the state of the wider system and moderating the behaviour of the entity so as to maximise stability and coherence of the whole system.
A hierarchical organisation is by definition structured as an entity separate from and thus in opposition or competition with its environment. It is defined as differentiated from its context and seeks to operate more or less autonomously to serve its own ends, its own strategic direction. This is the normal arrangement in a industrial-capitalist society for all types of human organisations from the Bowls Club to a major corporation.
To use a technical term these entities are hetreotelic with respect to their context - the word comes from the Greek hetero meaning different and telos meaning goal. Hetreotelic behaviour is behaviour which although it may, partly at least, satisfy the requirements of the individual unit, does not (necessarily) satisfy those of the larger unit of which it is a part. Thus for example companies are hetreotelic to the wider society of which they are a part. This is structurally locked in to modern civilisation and we see it in all of the ills that currently beset us.
The converse of hetreotelic is homeotelic - same goal - behaviour which serves to maintain the critical order of the whole, meaning ultimately the whole Gaian hierarchy. In a homeotelic system - which is the natural order of things in a stable fully functioning ecosystems the ultimate goal of all components is to act so as to maintain and enhance the stability of the whole system - the web of life if you like. Remember in this that human activities and structures are ultimately components of the ecosystem just as is an ant-hill or a bee hive.
Homeotelic behaviour may be purely co-operative, serving at the same time the immediate interests of the constituent parts as well as the interests of the whole system. It may also be competitive, serving the interests of the whole at the expense of other less well differentiated and adaptive parts which fall victim to such competition. Thus succession is allowed where it contributes to increasing, maintaining or restoring the stability of the whole system. Elements which are no longer well adapted to the whole system can be supplanted to allow the whole to continue.
Thus an ecosystem maintains a dynamic response to changing conditions that always seeks to maintain the integrity of the whole. In extremis this may even extend to expelling from the system components which have become hetreotelic to the whole - hence the 6th great extinction which will have the effect of eliminating the disruptive element that has sought to destroy the Gaian unity.
In such a system there is no concept of an independent strategy for any functioning component, all have congruency between their own continued existence and that of the whole system. But at the same time all components at every level can be said to act independently within the constraints of the overarching implied and shared strategy of maintaining the integrity of the whole web of interacting elements.
Thus vernacular man (another useful term from Goldsmith) in vernacular society structures his behaviours and actions to operate within the ecological context. Life is thus maintained and potential is maximised. There is a homeotelic relationship to the system of which he is a part. In such a society all activity in every part, and every part of every part, from the culture of thought to the cells in your body, serves this (usually unstated) goal.
If XR is seeking to move today's human community/society/civilisation towards a stable relationship with the ecosystem of which it is part - ultimately the whole Gaian system - then it can not achieve this aim by using hetreotelic behaviour.
XR's internal structures and organisation must mimic that of the homeotelic entity which it seeks to become. This means that there is no need for any centralised strategy other than to promote homeotelic behaviour.
In practice that means that decisions about action and direction of movement are taken at every level and the 'strategy' is an emergent property of the actions of individuals and affinity groups who are themselves acting in homeotelically to restore and promote the stability of the whole world system and all within it.
As noted above this does mean acting competitively with respect to entities that are disrupting the system - in particular the entities and organisations of industrial capitalism - and acting cooperatively with those also seeking in their own way to disrupt and destroy those entities.
We must resist the temptation to introduce central coordination - we will be much stronger and more effective by having no command and control structures, by fighting a guerrilla campaign and not engaging the enemy on his own terms but on ours (and those entities acting to destroy the stability of Gaia are an enemy, lets be clear about that).
The individual people within those enemy entities may not themselves be the target of our actions, but they need to understand that by acting in connivance with our enemy they place themselves at risk whereas if they act with us to destroy the enemy forces from within then they are heroes. Recruit a policeman today.
In order for such a system to function there must be good secure, resilient and redundant communication channels between the component parts - the nervous system of the organism. Note that the presence of a nervous system, a system of communication channels, does not imply or require a central coordinating mind. Even in the human organism almost all behaviour and action is not mediated by a mind - the conscious mind usually (some say invariably) lags behind action, serving merely (but importantly) to store and make available the details of actions and reactions after they occur. Your mind is not in control of you, your whole being is.
In terms of XR the components which need to communicate with each other are essentially the affinity groups and local groups and within those the individual members. This does not require a strategy of coordination, it requires a web, or mesh, or net of communication channels
In summary firstly let us acknowledge the work that has been put in to producing the strategy document. I am certain that those involved in writing it have found the thinking needed really useful, and that is valuable for them. Those who read it may also take things relevant to them away from it - not in the sense of proscriptions for what should be done, but in the way of thinking about the problems we face. In this sense it can be a useful document.
What XR does not need is a corporate strategy document. Our strength and power will come from self-organisation and being flexible, unpredictable and different (or at least different to the conventional industrial-capitial structures that stand in our way) - the organisation is more like an eco-system which has no central command, just elements working towards a common goal.
The only overarching goals need be:
- XR acts to promote the stability and functioning of the entire mesh of eco-systems of which humans are a part.
- XR seeks to make itself redundant by restoring the natural balance of all parts of our ecosystem.
The strategy then is an emergent property of the actions of individuals and groups within XR.
The organisation consists of individuals, affinity groups and local groups connected by a flexible web of communication channels.
Each entity (individuals, affinity and local groups) decides how best to act in their particular time and circumstances and cooperates using any appropriate communication channel with other entities to act together in furthering the overarching goal.
For me that is all that needs to be said.