About Conscious Politics
ConsciousPolitics.org endeavors to offer promising, plausible, and psychologically sound approaches to difficult issues in global politics - violence, terrorism, war, weapons of mass destruction and ethnopolitical conflict.
"The problems that we have created as a result of the level of thinking that we have done thus far cannot be solved at the same level of thinking at which we created them. " Albert Einstein
Conscious Politics emphasizes the use of ...
Political Intelligence, an extension of Daniel Goleman’s groundbreaking concept, Emotional Intelligence (1995)
Post Partisan, transcendent approaches beyond dualism and right/left thinking
Win-win, positive sum strategies for optimal, mutual benefit
Tension Reduction as an organizing principle
Enduring Security, sustainable strategies that produce stability
Conscious Politics presents ideas for a new, sustainable, survivable, post-partisan and post-military paradigm. We are currently operating from a lethal, escalatory paradigm which does not contain the seeds of its own resolution. The increasing lethality of weaponry and technology, and availability to nonstate actors now render this paradigm unsurvivable.
The current military paradigm is characterized by a widespread, tightly held, hegemonic, widely accepted belief that it is universally true that the best or only way to solve problems is by domination and control with the use of primarily coercive policies – including various pressures, threats, sanctions, deterrence, isolation, punishments, intimidation, humiliation intended to get the Other to do what we want.
This approach was tempered by the concept of “Soft power,” coined by Joseph Nye at Harvard in the 1980s. It is the use of attraction and co-option to persuade and appeal. Soft power emphasizes the use of carrots over sticks and uses culture and political values to produce our desired outcomes by getting them to want what we want.
Soft power has been criticized s as being insufficient, evolving to the concept of “Smart Power,” defined by CSIS as "an approach that underscores the necessity of a strong military, but also invests heavily in alliances, partnerships, and institutions of all levels to expand American influence and establish legitimacy of American action."
These may work partially or temporarily, but are not sustainable and likely to produce unintended consequences.
For all, Hard Power, Soft Power and Smart Power, the goal remains persuading the other to do what we want – without questioning the rightness or superiority of what we are trying to get them to do, without awareness of the dynamics of asymmetric power, or the possibility of more creative, sustainable win-win, non zero sum, or positive sum strategies.
Wise Power™ for Cheaper, Deeper Security
We propose a deeper and higher approach, I call Wise Power™ which capable of producing cheaper, deeper security by analyzing the underlying conflict, going beyond the level of symptoms to address the system that produces them, a higher order process known as “second order change.”
It considers that people prefer to get their needs met by decent means and resort to devious means when decent means are thwarted. Wise Power addresses
Addresses basic human needs, including non-negotiable, vital needs for freedom, dignity, identity and self-determination
Identifies legitimate goals and explores creative ways to satisfy them
Addresses just grievances that will fester and fuel conflict unless recognized
Recognizes tension reduction as an organizing principle
Best Case Scenario
For any given conflict, we can use scientific, creative, multidisciplinary, counter-intuitive, thinking to consciously design pragmatic optimal outcomes for the maximum number of people on all sides. Conscious Politics wishes to provide a forum for constructive ways of thinking about current events based on all social sciences, including political psychology, general systems theory, conflict transformation, and depth psychology, including knowledge of human development, attachment, trauma, identity, the Other, fear, envy, humiliation, splitting of the psyche, psychological projection, and gender. This approach is deeply informed by practice in clinical psychology, applying a healing, therapeutic consciousness to the political realm.
Liberation from Retaliation
Our goal is to apply relevant bodies of knowledge to transcend destructive cycles. Principles, knowledge and techniques from psychotherapy and family therapy and organizational development can be applied, as well as knowledge from anthropology, sociology, history, economics, political science and so on.
Even with the best of intentions, conventional ways of responding to problems often provoke escalating cycles of violence and retaliation. Common sense, being right, righteous and reasonable usually makes things worse. Given the ease of escalation creating a dynamic that pulls for retaliation, we assert the need for a conscious, informed, deliberate approach, specifically designed to reverse cycles of violence.
Consciousness: Introducing the Law of Intended Consequences
While "the law of unintended consequences," also called “blowback” is considered inevitable, from a psychological perspective, negative unintended consequences are a result of psychological ignorance, false assumptions about the adversary’s psychology, failures to take the perspective of the Other, to account for potential reactions, and so on. To a great extent they can be predicted and prevented. We can say that the practice of psychotherapy, and Conscious Politics is based on the Law of Intended Consequences, which is a matter of Consciousness.
A Work Against Nature
When threatened, we are naturally gripped by powerful emotional forces including fear, rage, hatred, envy, humiliation, guilt, a sense of moral violation and moral outrage. Acting out of these understandable emotions, and a sense of being right and justified usually makes things worse. When afraid, we regress and become more concrete and can lose higher-level brain functions. We become more attached to our ingroup, more hostile towards the outgroup, and are more likely to choose charismatic leaders who promise to protect us. This is described by a body of research known as “Terror Management Theory” as well as many other theories.
Carl Jung, father of analytical psychology stated that consciousness is a work against nature, an "opus contra naturum." Conscious Politics embodies this work against nature, against the path of unconsciousness, impulsiveness, emotions, instinctive reactions, and ego-based responses.
The Nine Dot Problem
Our guiding metaphor is the Nine Dot Problem. The goal is to connect the nine dots with four straight lines without picking up your pen from the paper. It is best to try to solve this problem now before looking at the solution.
Most people struggle for a long time, and after much frustration conclude that it is impossible. Many experience the same futility about war, the nuclear threat, terrorism, and ethnic conflicts. Like the nine dot problem, they seem impossible to resolve. A common answer is that we haven't tried hard enough, so it's necessary to do more of the same -- more show of force, retaliation, "sending a message", using threats and coercion, building new weapons systems, stirring up more fear. No matter how hard we try, it seems impossible to solve the problem.
What prevents us from seeing a solution is that we limit ourselves by thinking in old ways that don't work. When they fail, we say it's impossible, or blame the parties. We are so boxed into our usual ways of operating that we don't realize where we can look for a solution.
In the book Change: The Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution, (Watzlawick, P.,Weakland, J., & Fish, R. (1974) W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, New York, the nature of change is elaborated.
“Almost everybody who first tries to solve this problem introduces as part of his problem-solving an assumption which makes the solution impossible. The assumption is that the dots compose a square and that the solution must be found within that square, a self-imposed condition which the instructions do not contain. His failure does not lie in the impossibility of the task, but in his attempted solution. Having now created the problem, it does not matter in the least which combination of four lines he now tries, and in what order, he always finishes with at least one unconnected dot. This means that he can run through the totality of first-order change possibilities existing within the square, but will never solve the task. The solution is a second-order change which consists in leaving the field and which cannot be contained within itself....” (p.25)
“Very few people manage to solve the nine dot problem by themselves. Those who fail and give up are usually surprised at the unexpected simplicity of the solution. The analogy between this and many real-life situations is obvious. We have all found ourselves caught in comparable boxes, and it did not matter whether we tried to find the solution calmly and logically or, as is more likely, ended up running around frantically in circles. But, as mentioned already, it is only from inside the box, in the first-order change perspective, that the solution appears as a surprising flash of enlightenment beyond our control. In the second-order change perspective it is a simple change from one set of premises to another of the same logical type. The one set includes the rule that the task must be solved within the (assumed) square; the other does not. In other words, the solution I found as a result of examining the assumptions about the dots, not the dots themselves. Or, to make the same statement in more philosophical terms, it obviously makes a difference whether we consider ourselves as pawns in a game whose rules we call reality or as players of the game who know that the rules are “real” only to the extent that we have created or accepted them, and that we can change them.” (p. 25 – 26.)
A Solution to the Nine - Dot Problem
Second Order Change
Most approaches we use, such as sanctions, deterrence, counter-terrorism, all forms of coercion and violent force, represent first order thinking. First-order change occurs within a system, but the system itself remains unchanged.
In second order change, the system itself and the nature of the relationships are transformed. For example, arms reductions negotiations are first-order approaches, locked into a framework of assumptions about enmity and militarism. All words and actions attempt to control the symptom without transforming the system, often interpreted in an environment of mistrust.
By contrast, a friendly visit to China with ping-pong diplomacy, a joint space venture, and Gorbachev’s unilateral initiative to withdraw from the nuclear arms race that ended the 50 year Cold War represent second order approaches, since both alter the basic nature of the relationship and all of the assumptions about that relationship. It allows for new and different interactions to occur.
The material on this website represents second order thinking.
The Human Psyche
The fragile situation in the world today has come about by the workings of the human psyche. Automatic responses are "inside the box" and make the situation worse. Psychological processes that are very basic to our nature, especially the ways in which human beings create enemies are at the heart of global threats to security. By coming to understand these processes, we will be more able to transcend them.
The results of our behaviors are challenging us to go beyond them, to be conscious. By going "outside the box" of our limitations, by expanding our frame of reference, we can reach a place where workable solutions may be generated. We can act consciously, carefully and deliberately to make choices that will enhance the quality of life on this planet.
We are living at the most dangerous time in history, with global weapons trade, terrorism, ethnopolitical conflict, increasing access to fissile materials and weapons of mass destruction, and environmental degradation. The stakes are as high as they can possibly be. Exquisite consciousness is required In order to transcend such dangers.