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Growing up governance: maturing from dependence to co-creation

Globally we have cultivated cultures of dependence where the majority is ruled by single leaders who have the power to make decisions affecting every aspect of life. The relationship of people to leaders has been somewhat like that of children whose choices to those in relation to authority are either compliance or rebellion.

This dependence on external authority is similar to that of dependence on a parent or a God who is expected to see all, know all and invest all in the well-being of his or her dependents. The notion of an omnipotent sole leader, a savior, who can make everything okay is a seductive one that humans have been courting for millennia. It has been and still is a long and arduous process of disillusionment and growing up. We are gradually awakening to the price of relinquishing our autonomy for the comfort of dependence on others who claim to know the truth and to have the power to fix the painful realities we are co-creating.

The hierarchical pyramid structure of leadership we have adopted is one that creates the very injustices it claims to protect. The notion of power and privilege on the basis of knowledge or material resources, even its most benevolent form fosters envy, fear, blame, shame, greed, alienation, dependence and abuse. It generates dynamics of victim, persecutor and savior on the one hand or co-dependent power relations on the other. Political, financial and religious leaders, parents and educators often lead by methods of control and impose particular ideologies and rules as self-evident truths. In the name of responsible leadership, systems have been severely abused not only by the leaders but by people who, for the comfort of dependence, choose to relinquish their own authority for themselves and the environment to others.

Our hierarchical, governing systems are generally comprised of people representing a narrow spectrum of disciplines. They are strangled by limited perspectives, obsolete laws, bureaucracies and special interests groups. Their rigid structures make them resistant to change. Rather than leading societal wellness, the rigidities mean that these systems are often the greatest obstacle to the healthy evolution of our societies.

In the face of new information and global crises in almost every sphere of life, the disillusionment with this old form of leadership and followership is growing. People are outraged at governments’ cynical use of resources for the short term economic benefit of a few. They are increasingly unwilling to relinquish their basic rights as they did in the past for the illusory comfort of dependence.

People all over the world are saying no to those in power who are abusing their roles and damaging the lives of many. Global revolutions are spreading. Saying no is an important part of the process, but when an alternative has not been clearly articulated, one oppressive regime will likely be replaced either by chaos or by another oppressive regime.

Mature citizenship involves far more than saying yes or no at the ballot box or in street revolutions. It involves actively participating in creating new pathways in the shift beyond our current notions of hierarchical leadership structures. It means articulating healthy alternatives, and finding creative ways to ensure they are adopted by governments world-wide.

This is the movement to a more mature culture of public engagement and co-creative leadership that recognizes the complexities of the holographic eco-system of which we are part. While healthy alternatives are thriving in communities all over the world, they are still not integrated into the governing systems that continue to wreak devastation on people and planet.

With information technology, people are cultivating a more discerning approach to what they are told. They are exposed to different cultures and solutions. Despite attempts to withhold information and manipulate opinion through fear, hate, shame and indoctrination, a shift is happening. Local injustices can no longer be hidden. The limitations, injustices and corruptions of various economic, religious and political institutions are being revealed.

Social activist networks are creating increasing opportunities for sharing information, organizing and even for voting effectively on a global basis. The notion of boundaries of nations and countries is changing. There is an increasing call for international citizens to intervene in oppressive regimes, where people are unable to voice their dissent. People across the world are reaching out to each for the protection of other humans, animals and the planet despite the politics and even enmity between their governments.

There is a growing recognition that we have an opportunity and responsibility to move beyond the childlike mode of dependence on external authority and choose more inter-dependent and co-creative forms of governance. Any other path will only continue to deplete rather than enliven our collective resources. Many solutions for a healthy planet already exist. Many are rapidly emerging.

Our challenge is to break down the walls between governments and citizens and put caring and creativity towards local and global vitality as the core endeavor of citizens and formal leaders together. To do this we also have to break down the psychological walls that have encouraged us from childhood to outsource our authority, morality and responsibility for our own body and soul and for our shared environment and destiny to a multitude of experts working from fragmented perspectives. The transition required is not only one of external form of governance, but one that addresses the psychological experience of personal authority, external authority and mutual accountability.

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