Phenomena like this strike people as significant yet lack rational explanation, so many dismiss them as “just a coincidence”. Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychologist, invented the term synchronicity in the 1920s to explain meaningful coincidences. His rationale was that the world is interconnected at a deep level, and he gave this common ground the Latin name unus mundus (one world). In the same decade the discoveries of the leading quantum physicists proved that he was right. Our experience is superficially of differences between things, yet there is an underlying context of unity connecting everything.
The X Files became a popular cult tv show in the 1990s, and what we most remember from it is it's signature notion that `the truth is out there'. The truth is usually hidden. People claim to have found it, but usually only a portion of the human race ends up agreeing with them. Facts often turn out to be a matter of opinion when you examine them closely. Right & wrong are categories in our minds, but we usually aren't sure if things are right or wrong. This alerts us to the fact that traditional dichotomies are best relativised by a 3rd category – partial truth. Group psychodynamics can be handled with finesse by using a 3rd alternative!
Perception is reality. This observation has currency in popular culture because the way people see the world structures their personal reality. What about impersonal reality then? Social reality is structured via consensus. Physical reality is out there, but we all see it differently even when agreeing on the main features. When I was a kid everyone referred to an account they didn't believe as “a likely story”, sarcasm being popular back then. So you can imagine my surprise when I looked up the meaning of myth in the Encyclopedia Brittannica & found the original meaning was “a likely story”. Myths have been guiding beliefs for human societies throughout history, despite many believing they aren't true. Truth seems irrelevant.
That movie The Matrix a decade ago, how many of you realised when you saw it that it was a metaphor for our collective reality? We live in a matrix of shared beliefs that define our view of reality. As we grow up we get the matrix indoctrinated into our heads, first by parents, then by school and friends, and later as adults by the media and culture. Something is only real to us if the matrix allows it to be. Unless or until you escape!
So if you want to get good at group psychodynamics you have to be able to finesse the difficulties most people have when it comes to the interface of belief and reality. The best way forward is to advocate the both/and approach. This terminology entered culture in the '70s from computer logic. A binary switch is either on or off, but signals can be combined via a both/and gate. Rather than exclusion of alternatives, we get inclusion. When people come at you with a fervent belief, denial alienates them. Better to include them in your world-view by neither agreeing nor disagreeing, but instead acknowledging that there may be some truth in their view. Be sophisticated & reserve judgment. You can always make your mind up later.
Civilisation has been ruled by binary thinking for the past couple of millennia. Culture therefore frequently confronts us with false dichotomies. People have been getting brainwashed into thinking things are either right or wrong for so long we assume it's normal. We must admit from now on that there's a 3rd category in real life: things that are partly right and partly wrong - plus things that we cannot actually determine the truth value of. Every time you see a polarity, think of a 3rd alternative that relates it to our common context. If you triangulate the polarity you can show people that the world is not as simple as they thought.
The philosophy of dualism has immense tradition across cultures due to its survival value – you either correctly identify a looming predator or you don't. Escape or die. But the world is not really black & white. It is coloured. Even in monochrome there are shades of grey, and it is normal to distinguish between the different shades. In politics the drama comes from assertions about the nature of reality – claims that things are like this produce opponents who say they're actually like that. Priorities seem either right or wrong, but when it comes to producing a consensus – which is normally the only way people in groups can achieve group success – then the details of any proposal must be agreed. The devil is always in the details, so success only comes when you arm-wrestle the devil! This is the practical consequence of triangulating polarities. Negotiating agreement relates the polarised camps to the common ground and the compromise can be formulated in that context.
I've been telling people for decades that the difference between Labour & National is that whereas Labour people are normally brain-dead, National people are normally both brain-dead and morally corrupt. The current National govt is the first I've seen for 40 years that so far seems an exception to this rule, but wait & see – the 2nd term may reveal their true colours, huh? I realised at age 21 that both parties were wrong, so there had to be a 3rd alternative, which my generation of rebels would produce. Didn't happen! Well, we eventually got the Greens. They proved to be smart enough to identify themselves as neither left nor right, but in front, which I immediately knew was my stance, so I joined them & did what it took to get them into parliament. Too bad they turned out to be really just another bunch of mainstreamers.
But hey, there's a natural polarity between the Greens (party members) and the greens (all who self-identify as green but don't want to join the party). The latter have always vastly outnumbered the former. Triangulate that polarity and you have the path forward! Once you start exploring the motivations of each group, you find out why the branding only works for some. Brands are a key to group psychodynamics – each brand activates a different value psychology (in both adherents and observers).
Just as the greens are a tribe, the Occupy movement is the genesis of a new tribe. If it gells. Coming together brings a crash course in group psychodynamics – polarizing of views is a transitional phase so folks first focus on differences, then focus on common ground (both/and) to unite the movement. People divide themselves naturally into bodies of opinion, but always remember that divide & rule is the traditional strategy of social control systems. The powers that be always exploit that natural tendency. The people only prevail when they get their act together! It's natural for groups to select leaders and for males to compete to be group leaders – but leadership aspiration often arises from the hero syndrome & ego, which are incidental to group success. That comes when people pull together naturally and operate as a team. Leaders also become targets for other groups, which means it's better to have several or change them often. Hard to hit a moving target, right?!
Occupy is a protest movement – against what? Exploitation, corruption, the social control system (Federal Reserve, Wall St, Bilderbergers, fascism) but members ought to brainstorm their own answers. Ultimately the movement ought to be for an alternative – brainstorm that next!! Not all rich folk are enemy: Soros is a good guy, in my opinion. Very important to have compassion & goodwill, do reconciliation to enable working together - spirituality ought to be part of political action. Remember that good & evil is a polarity; most people doing wrong are not evil, merely bad! Business as usual trades goods but socialises bads: they need to pay their true costs. Enforce that feedback to triangulate the economy and make business more ethical.
If the Occupy tribe manages to transcend protest & grievance and gell into a real alternative political movement aimed at solving the problems they are complaining about, I'll be willing to help. You can represent the 99% effectively if you make that transition real - but doing so will require marketing. Marketing works in politics just like in the economy: tell the right story to the people, find the frame that intersects with their world-view, then infect them with your ideavirus.
(written for Occupy Auckland 31/10/11)