9. & 10. Paradigms & Myth

direct mini-link to this page >> http://bit.ly/ParadigmMyth

9) How Paradigms Change

10) Designing with Myth

In her legendary article "Places to Intervene in a System", Dana Meadows argues that the best possible leverage point for change is The mindset or paradigm out of which the system arises.  That is, the story or narrative of our culture, which is a complex web of stories, 

In this chapter we propose that we can design that paradigm.  In fact we ARE constantly co-designing this, even as we passively act out the myths of our culture - usually created by the multinationals (like the very effective "american dream" story, which now - very conveniently - has sprouted a 'green' version).
Since these are big and small ongoing designs, we can learn to design them much more consciously and effectively, to be aligned with permaculture ethics.

This is how the Integral PermaCulture Academy (then called "NodoEspiral") launched its first full (year long) advanced permaculture course, back in April 2011.
We described the intention and importance of this training in terms of several powerful stories.

Vídeo de YouTube

Myths & stories can move entire cultures, and scientifically speaking, myths are just very complex models, since story is the most sophisticated form we have of containing lots of models & symbols in relationship.   

Stories are quite literally the very paths we move along in our lives - as individuals, as groups and as whole societies ... and paths, like stories, are often taken for granted, and so neglected (not thought of very consciously) as design structures.    And it is a huge mistake to ignore the stories we are living in, because most of them need drastic re-designing.

Here in this very last chapter of the new Integral Permaculture curriculum we've been collecting examples of masterful - and mistressful - myth-redesigners as well as reflections about this vast but usually neglected branch of truly holistic (integral) permacuture design.   >>> 

We aim in these two classes to learn to notice the patterns required for this important design skill, which have mostly been neglected & consequently missing in most permaculture circles to date.    

Why do we need to cultivate design skills in this area?   Because we are quite literally enslaved by complex webs of stories.  Yet the very same threads, re-weaved, can create a safety-net from which we can start re-design a very different world.

It can only be through our collective catastrophic lack of design ability in this realm (as permaculture designers) that we have watched multinationals (notably the media, it's primary vehicle for myth-designing) spin ever more powerful stories to keep the vast majority of us consuming on masse, effectively believing we are separate & powerless to change society.  

Yet during this time the permaculture fraternity propagated mainly green-versions of the same kind of mythology* by spreading myths like "all you need to do is be the change" and "all of the world's problems can all be solved in a garden", or indeed that permaculture "is a life-style".    And other subtle & not so subtle (but unconscious) ways of persuading that we can somehow consume our way to salvation.

* (Stafford Beer's iconic dictum, "the purpose of a system is what it does" should be emblazoned in the mind of every systems designer.  Although he never quite managed to get his larger systems working well & quite probably because he neglected the stories that deeply move people, underneath all types of formal organizational structures we set up)

Even the 'no belief required' permaculture dictum (that was a brave & undestandable
attempt at keeping permaculture 'scientific', or at least from being coopted by religious zeal of any kind) is in fact just another myth.

It implies that privileged white male middle-class university educated westerners (who founded permaculture) don't have beliefs, don't operate from a deeply rooted personal & cultural cosmology & don't hold their own set of mythologies precious.   And beliefs, cosmologies & mythologies that will automatically (and unconsciously) be transmitted through their teachings.

In fact the profound & unquestioned belief that it is some "other people" who operate from beliefs & mythologies is simply a prime indicator of privilege. 
It is very much - and demonstrably - a myth.

Only oppressed people can't afford to stay unconscious for very long about their beliefs & mythologies being just their own beliefs & mythologies: they are told often enough that they are 'wrong' because the privileged classes can (by various forms of coercion) impose their own myths as 'the truth', as 'the norm' (which often pass for the same thing).

So for those of us who are part of the most privileged on the planet
there is often  a great deal of confusion caused by the myths we don't even notice.
For example (just to highlight a few common ones) -

1) that 'civilized' people have less (or no?) mythology in our cultures than native peoples (see Ishmael by Daniel Quinn for a great story of this)
2) that science is somehow (magically?) not mythological, not itself part of a story, or that it contra-poses mythology or story-telling (which is, in fact, a very un-scientific thing to believe)

3) whether metaphysics is a science, pseudo-science or simply bad science (& today it is a confusing mixture of all three, cleverly mixed up in a deadly concoction which has proven very effective in the great arsenal of 'weapons of mass distraction')

4) the profound & unquestioned antrophocentrism that western mythology is based on is often very visible even in lots of permaculture designs, and permaculture designers ways of thinking (although anthropocentrism is logically contrary to our ethics, and we even give a lot of lip-service to being otherwise).

5) as is the profound colonialist patterns which are part of that same cosmology (eg. "the design starts when I arrive" / "now we're here we can finally civilize these people" ... whoever or whatever has actually been designing in the same system for eons before you were even born) ... we are designing with these myths into all we touch, without even realizing

6) and we constantly get terminally confused by the destructo-culture's great Public Relation's machinery ability to ridicule or demonize people, principles & terms that should by rights be  iconic for permaculture activists - because they are or represent some of the most 'dangerous' (to the destructo-culture) milestones in human progress.  Like 'radical', 'politically correct', 'feminism', amongst many others.   

When, for eg. -
  • Radical just means going to the roots of things (eg. social injustice) - but somehow has been twisted to suggesting some kind of madness
  • Politically correct just means staying true to policy (whatever policy you live by) - and got twisted into meaning exactly the opposite
  • & Feminism is simply about women & men having the same rights - but now even some feminists avoid the term when they can since the massive amounts of emotional garbage that was attached to the word by the media practically succeeded in slowing the movement in its tracks (yet another victory for the DC).

These are all examples of carefully installed mythologies.
And myths can be re-designed.  
We have to learn how to do this effectively, and fast.   We're way behind already.

The campaigns to 're-claim' important terms are important for this reason: words are very powerful, just as stories are powerful, and terms with big stories behind them are doubly powerful.   

They shape the way we think, they condition the things we see and don't see, and so determine, totally, what we do or don't do.

Article by Stella, May 2013
Co-Founder & Coordinator 
of the Integral Permaculture Academy

This chapter is being designed!  
Do send your comments and ideas via our FB Group 

Creative Resistance

Re-designing stories can start very powerfully just by re-defining terms, helping us see things from a different angle and HUMOR is a great way to do this.    

So resistance can be a LOT of fun!  But always requires courage (like any form of resistance).

Here are some examples of creative resistance:

The Love Police

'Weird hobby!'

 Couple gain hordes of fans after picketing pro-life abortion clinic protests with witty inappropriate signs

A couple have gained thousands of fans after they 'counter-protested' anti-abortion pickets with bizarre slogans like 'Bring back Crystal Pepsi' and 'Who farted?'.

Grayson and Tina Haver Currin came up with the idea in March to break the ice with pro-lifers outside an abortion clinic near their home in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Since then the photographs of their surreal placards have gone viral - prompting dozens of other pro-choice activists to join them every Saturday morning.

Read more in the.dailymail     search more articles & photos here

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

Since their first appearance in San Francisco on Easter Sunday in 1979, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have used the power of parody to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency, and guilt. Today, The Sisters are a global collective of queer performance artists devoted to promoting human rights, respect for diversity, and spiritual enlightenment. An Order of many faiths and spiritual beliefs, The Sisters are unified by an irreverent wit and a dedication to promulgating universal joy.

The gay community has been very creative at redesigning myths, probably precisely because they are an oppressed group who is particularly badly served by the destructo-myths.  So they directed their enormous creativity & great sense of humor to re-storying. 

This is another example hitting at the public mythology spread by deadly prejudice about 'the horror' of men having 'unnatural' sex together:

How Gay Guys REALLY Have S*x!

Some artful resistance however is not designed to be funny but, on the contrary, to create a space for us to feel the tremendous pain in humans' destructive behavior - that we are usually encouraged to numb-down (with consumerism, entertainment, drugs of all kinds).   

This 'bringing our conscience to the surface' is one of the artist's role in a healthy society - and precisely why artists are (yet another) oppressed group in ours.

Earth Song

by Michael Jackson
was very popular in some countries but not released (banned) in the US

StopGender Violence 

'Flash-Mob' in Madrid

Vídeo de YouTube

Campaign 25 November: International Day for stopping violence against women.   
This very graphic performance was repeated in many cities in Spain.

The Beehive Design Collective

The Beehive Design Collective is a wildly motivated, all-volunteer, activist arts collective dedicated to “cross-pollinating the grassroots” by creating collaborative, anti-copyright images for use as educational and organizing tools. We work as word-to-image translators of complex global stories, shared with us through conversations with affected communities.

Article here

And satire has always been an art-form and an activism path 

... here are more examples

No Billionaire Left Behind

No Billionaire Left Behind: Satirical Activism in America Paperback
by Angelique Haugerud

Banksy Street Art

Banksy is a pseudonymous United Kingdom-based, graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter.

click picture for more images


His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine dark humour with graffiti executed in a distinctive stencilling technique. Such artistic works of political and social commentary have been featured on streets, walls, and bridges of cities throughout the world.

Continue reading in Wikipedia

There's a dialogue related to this page in the Integral Permaculture FB group (click icon to go there)

There's a dialogue in our FB group about this subject (click icon to go there)

Important Articles

by Dana Meadows, who did a lot of work on systems and how to change paradigms

& all of the work on designing for Collective Intelligence, Class 1.5, is of course crucial

Article: Aboriginal legend on palm-tree origin confirmed by scientific study.

"The concordance of the findings of a scientific study and an ancient myth is a striking example of how traditional ecological knowledge can inform and enhance scientific research.

"It suggests that Aboriginal oral traditions may have endured for up to 30,000 years, and lends further weight to the idea that some Aboriginal myths pertaining to gigantic animals may be authentic records of extinct megafauna."