Enable Sustainable Reform?

This blog is a copy of a final assignment written for the Money and Society MOOC online course I have been enjoying very much for the last few weeks. Because of the word length required, quite a lot of the detail is in the footnotes, sorry about that. I am very grateful to Jem Bendell and Matthew Slater for a great piece of learning. I heard about it through the Positive Money group, so thanks to them also.

Enable Sustainable Reforms: an Ethical Guild for Developers?

Missing from the Money and Society course is a Systems Perspective approach[i]. The course analyses ‘moneystuff’, offers information and ideas[ii]. Systems thinking brought a recommendation to the surface.

Systems thinking asks questions about underlying factors, for example, not what makes Fiat or Commodity the same or different, but why are they both called “money”?[iii] In the system, what is a part, and what is a container of parts? Can parts be expressed in different containers? System is personal, I am in it, so what I bring is not just about me, but also provides partial system information[iv]. A systems account takes holism as its start point, however unfocussed, as each individual aspect carries information. It is more like a hologram[v] than a flowchart. First, free association vignettes, then a search for connections and commonalities in the picture.


  1. In Michael Connelly’s crime fiction[vi], the detective Bosch has a credo: everybody counts or nobody counts. The stories tell how Bosch can only do the job, feel valued, when he works for the others, the least important, the forgotten. Without this valuing, everything flips to nothing, is meaningless.
  1. Some years ago, I queued behind a woman offering a cheque to pay for her purchase. The assistant declined, only cash or card, woman distressed, humiliated, assistant helpless. I paid for the goods with my card and accepted her cheque. Everyone happy, woman and I chatted. She was afraid of cards and going into debt, reluctant to change how she managed her life. She decided to ask her bank for a debit card, explained as ‘like a cheque’. She managed life well within limits she could choose. Knowing more would not have helped.
  1. Following links, I was on Ethereum[vii], thought I would get a “wallet” and learn something about crypto-currency. Click went to a “Security Warnings” list from “You are responsible…” to “SURE I UNDERSTAND AND AGREE”. As part of the 21st Century, I have entered sites, bank accounts and passport renewal, playtime apps, computer upgrades, and happily clicked “agree to Terms and Conditions”. Ethereum, transparent and detailed, scared me with my ignorance. I do not understand, I would not click. I did not want to spend the time it would take to learn its meanings.


The woman in the store stands as symbol for all Bosch’s others: me with limited time to learn among other commitments, the teenager with disability seeking independence, the lecturer in literature asking her kids to program her phone, anyone anywhere with inner self-image ‘not capable, don’t know’. We all count, and we are all capable of adapting, but adaptation is sometimes choice (me), sometimes according to previous experience and help available (woman). Guy Standing has identified loss of “time control”[viii]. It is easy to adapt and adopt when either I already know this system or I can easily learn it. The woman and I represent the inevitability of change, how we adapt and manage real limits. We want systems we can safely use, not always becoming well-informed users.


This is about autonomy, BOTH taking personal authority AND having trust in someone else’s. Monetary systems cannot return to ‘tally sticks’, nobody believes in the divine right of kings to issue them[ix]. Instead, we know we are dependent on imperfect others, and vulnerable to their goodwill, their human qualities[x]. Limits in our capabilities and capacity for education are real[xi]. Life chances are not equalized in exchange systems, however devised, but unfair practice can be minimized by an ethical protocol[xii]. I believe this means a restoration of “Commons”[xiii]. ‘Commons’ or not, an autonomous system requires a code of ethics, an infrastructure that maintains ethical direction, and a means by which failing system parts are corrected. From Ann Pettifor:

  1. a) Money is a social relationship: the promise to pay;
  2. b) there has to be a third party that upholds the promise;
  3. c) a system relying on promise is a claim on real resources (with limits and uncertainty) otherwise the supply is not valid[xiv]:

Money systems should be explicitly ethical, as banking is not[xv]. However, reform depends on perception[xvi] not just the quality of the proposal[xvii]. We can learn from history: advances in knowledge practice lead to the formation of guilds, or professional bodies[xviii]. New techno-systems will come[xix]. Let us have planned ethically informed change[xx], not a chaos echoing the old, just as likely to fail.

  1. The ethics of new proposals should be explicit.
  2. Individuals devising monetary systems or currencies should create a professional guild, characterized by transparency, statement of purpose, and ethical code of practice [With or without expertise everyone can choose their involvement and risk].
  3. There should be sanctions, educational and legal.


Books, journal articles, URLs to sites, articles and video are listed by author, editor or organization, alphabetically, not by item type. All weblinks accessed 14 March 2017.


Aronson, http://www.thinking.net/Systems_Thinking/OverviewSTarticle.pdf

Bendell, Jem, and Thomas H Greco. ‘Currencies of Transition Transforming Money to Unleash Sustainability’. In The Necessary Transition: The Journey to the Sustainable Enterprise Economy, n.d.

Bendell, J and M. Slater (2015) Money and Society, free course, www.iflas.info

Beuys, Joseph, ed. What Is Money?: A Discussion. Forest Row, England: Clairview Books, 2010.

Bollier, David, and Silke Helfrich, eds. The Wealth of the Commons: A World beyond Market and State /Ed. by David Bollier and Silke Helfrich. Amherst, Mass: Levellers Press, 2012.

Brock, Arthur, MetaCurrency Project, http://metacurrency.org/portfolio-item-tag/deep-wealth/, SourceTree Commons, http://sourcetreecommons.org/

CEPTR, http://ceptr.org/

Crawford, Elspeth [1] https://transitionalspace.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/love-hate-relationshipshistory-of-money/

Crawford, Elspeth [2] Making, Mistaking Reality, https://transitionalspace.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/makingmistakinginterchangedownload.pdf

Crawford, Elspeth [3] https://transitionalspace.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/twist-or-psychopathy/

Davies, Glyn. A History of Money: From Ancient Times to the Present Day. 3rd ed., With revisions. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2002.

Ethereum, https://www.ethereum.org/

Faraday, Michael (1839). Experimental Researches in Electricity, vols. i. and ii. Richard and John Edward Taylor.; vol. iii. Richard Taylor and William Francis, 1855

French, R. B., and P. Simpson. ‘The “Work Group”: Redressing the Balance in Bion’s Experiences in Groups’. Human Relations 63, no. 12 (1 December 2010): 1859–78. doi:10.1177/0018726710365091.

Hoggett, Paul. ‘Perverse Social Structures’. Journal of Psycho-Social Studies 4, no. 1 (June 2010): 57–64.

Fresco, Jacques, The Venus Project https://www.thevenusproject.com/

Greco, Thomas H, Beyond Money, Devoted to the liberation of money and credit, and the restoration of the commons, https://beyondmoney.net/


Gupta, Vinay [1], Ethereum, https://www.ethereum.org/

Gupta, Vinay [2], https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHFSvttMg6E and


Helfrich, Silke. ‘The Logic of the Commons & the Market: A Shorthand Comparsion of Their Core Beliefs’. In The Wealth of the Commons, n.d. http://wealthofthecommons.org/essay/logic-commons-market-shorthand-comparsion-their-core-beliefs

Hutton, Jean, John Bazalgette and Bruce Reed, Organisation-in-the-Mind https://www.grubbinstitute.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/034_Organisation-in-the-mind.pdf

Menzies, I. E. P, and London (GB) Tavistock Inst. of Human Relations (TIHR). The Functioning of Social Systems as a Defence against Anxiety: A Report on a Study of the Nursing Service of a General Hospital., 1984.

Money and Society MOOC, IFLAS, see Bendell and Slater

Ostrom, Elinor. The Future of the Commons: Beyond Market Failure and Government Regulation. Occasional Paper / IEA 148. London: Inst. of Economic Affairs, 2012.

Pettifor, A. Thinking Allowed – Money – how to break the power of the banks – @bbcradio4 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08gy87s

Roesch, Ulrich. We Are the Revolution!: Rudolf Steiner, Joseph Beuys and the Threefold Social Impulse. Forest Row: Temple Lodge Publishing, 2013.

Slater, Matthew, Community Forge http://communityforge.net/en

Standing, Guy, http://www.guystanding.com/files/documents/Precariat_and_Class_Struggle_final_English.pdf

Sweeny (1977) The capital hill baby sitting coop, http://cda.morris.umn.edu/~kildegac/Courses/M&B/Sweeney%20&%20Sweeney.pdf

The Merchants of Doubt, documentary film, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3675568/

Waddell, Margot, and Tavistock Clinic. Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Development of Personality. London: Karnac, 2002.

Further reading and media:

Armstrong, David, and Robert French. Organization in the Mind: Psychoanalysis, Group Relations, and Organizational Consultancy: Occasional Papers 1989-2003. Tavistock Clinic Series. London ; New York: Karnac, 2005.

Bion, Wilfred R. Experiences in Groups, and Other Papers. London: Tavistock/Routledge, 1989.

Bollas, Christopher. The Christopher Bollas Reader. London ; New York: Routledge, 2011.

Coleridge, Greg, The Power Elite’s Ten Strategies Opposing Money Reform https://www.afsc.org/story/power-elite%E2%80%99s-10-strategies-opposing-monetary-reform

Ferguson, N (2008) The ascent of money , Penguin Books. Documentary: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-ascent-of-money

Four Horsemen, documentary film, https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=5fbvquHSPJU#t=1226

Hoggett, Paul. Politics, Identity, and Emotion. Boulder, London: Paradigm Publishers, 2009.

Maizels, Neil Is That Really What It Is! Capitalism un-emperored, http://www.academia.edu/28713577/Is_That_Really_What_It_Is_Capitalism_un-emperored

Rowbotham, Michael. The Grip of Death: A Study of Modern Money, Debt Slavery, and Destructive Economics. Charlbury, Oxfordshire : Concord, MA: Jon Carpenter ; Distributed by Paul and Co, 1998.

Pettifor, Ann. Just Money: Society Can Break the Despotic Power of Finance. Commonwealth Publishing., ///.

Solms, Mark, and Oliver Turnbull. The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of Subjective Experience. New York: Other Press, 2002.

Standing, Guy. The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. London, UK ; New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2014.

Standing, Guy. The Corruption of Capitalism: Why Rentiers Thrive and Work Does Not Pay. London: Biteback Publishing, 2016.

Zarlenga, Stephen. The Lost Science of Money: The Mythology of Money, the Story of Power. Valatie, NY: American Monetary Institute, 2002.

[i] Aronson: “The approach of systems thinking is fundamentally different from that of traditional forms of analysis. Traditional analysis focuses on the separating the individual pieces of what is being studied … Systems thinking, in contrast, focuses on how the thing being studied interacts with the other constituents of the system—a set of elements that interact to produce behavior—of which it is a part. This means that instead of isolating smaller and smaller parts of the system being studied, systems thinking works by expanding its view to take into account larger and larger numbers of interactions as an issue is being studied. This results in sometimes strikingly different conclusions …”

[ii] In Money and Society, assignment 1, I defined “moneystuff”, Crawford [1], as everything this course would be about. We got: Introduction, money as social technology, History, trust and backing properties, Problems/Impact, issues of mindsets, challenge to worldview, and Alternatives, old and new ideas. Gupta [1] and Bendell specifically state their belief that monetary systems should benefit all people; Slater, Community Forge website is purposefully aimed to help communities and transparent about its methods.

[iii] In a totally unrelated but analogous systemic process, in 1832 Michael Faraday began a series of experiments called “the Identities of Electricity” in which he asked – remember this is 1832 – Why do we think the spark from a cat’s fur and a thunderstorm and the jump of a frog’s leg etc. are all called “electricity”? Fast forward, his study of commonality led to the discovery of electrochemical theory, the production of steady current, Daniell’s production of the first chemical battery in1838, and many other developments in chemistry and physics.

[iv] I can ask: What would I consider the essential property of a monetary system, or of a currency? see CEPTR values levels, or Brock. Or, I can heed my feelings and more idle thoughts, and wonder what information these carry. See Crawford [2] “Use of Self”, and Hutton, et al.

[v] Hologram characteristics: because of interference between two beams of light, the hologram carries information about the illuminated object at every point it occupies, see http://www.holografia.wz.cz/holography/Characteristics_of_Holograms.php

In analogy, a system that consists of many parts, layers and levels, can show some information about each part at any point, depending on the perspective from which the view is obtained. In human systems, feelings and atmosphere offer perspectives on levels differing from that accessed by cognitive rationality.

[vi] see http://www.michaelconnelly.com/series/

[vii] links from Money and Society, lesson 4.25, Gupta [2], and Ethereum

[viii] Standing: “What are the crucial assets over which the precariat must struggle? … they are socio-economic security, control of time, quality space, knowledge (or education), financial knowledge and financial capital. All are unequally distributed, and in terms of control are becoming more so. One can even claim that many of them are more unequally distributed than income itself.”

[ix] Davies, and Money and Society, lesson 2.10 identify the tally system parts, but the overarching ‘protocol’ that makes it possible to accept the inherent risk of credit was the hegemonic belief that all kings had divine right. They could demand trust.

[x] For authors writing with reference to money and factors inherent in a holistic life, see Beuys, Roesch, Fresco. For depth psychology, Waddell may be a place to begin.

[xi] In a group/cultural phenomenon, as Money and Society, Davies, Gupta, show, each kind of money or currency fails in some respect. All relate to power (issuing and backing), all affect the group that uses them, in a complex feedback loop, people become like the money system they first devised and now are using. Analysis of this phenomenon, that helps us understand the growth of hegemony, is variously called ‘institutionalization’, ‘groupthink’, basic assumption process etc. See Menzies’ seminal paper in social understanding, French, Hoggett, and for an example from Money and Society course, see Sweeney.

[xii] Gupta [2] brings this to the fore this when he notes that Bitcoin is political.

[xiii] The most realistic ethical society I know of is a return to the idea of “Commons”, see e.g. Ostrom, Bollier, Greco, Helfrich.

[xiv] In a recent radio programme, Thinking Allowed – Money – how to break the power of the banks – @bbcradio4 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08gy87s

Ann Pettifor identified these three money properties. It seems to me that Money and Society analysis agrees with these properties, as I do. Consider ‘backing’ for example, or whether money is Commodity or Fiat. History has had chiefs and priests and kings, and law and judiciary play their part, as they always have, with sanctions that operate or not, as in ‘bailing out the banks’ and exporting of the credit risk where a promise cannot be kept.

[xv] NB “Ethical Banking” does not refer to having a code of ethics that governs ones own behavior and direction. It uses the word ‘ethical’ [wrongly?] to refer to particular types of investments and their impact on externals in the environment.

[xvi] see Waddell, Crawford [2], [3].

[xvii] for opposition and propaganda as well as simply mistaken perception, see Coleridge, and documentary film The Merchants of Doubt.

[xviii] The purpose of guild or professional body is usually ethical: the protection of both future knowledge and of those who use the expertise offered. Examples:1377 printers Guild of Stationers, https://printinghistory.org/timeline/ ; Doctors, 1832, revision 1855, British Medical Association. https://www.bma.org.uk/events/venue-hire/our-history All are in danger of institutionalization, becoming the establishment, see note x above, and suffer from politicians’ failures to represent needs of constituents even though they take oath to do so, etc. Ethics code and infrastructure should address this.

[xix] See Standing: “proficiens, a growing group who live as contractors, consultants, self-employed “businesses” and the like. They earn high incomes, but live on the edge of burn-out and constant exposure to immoral hazards, often breaking laws with abandon. Their numbers are growing, as is their influence on political discourse and popular imagery”? Do “proficiens”, often anti-authority personality types, need education regarding autonomy – independence within a system, and the nature of personal authority – inner recognition of rights, responsibility and ethics?

[xx] Consultancy on code can be available, free, should include “this code is to be re-visited in [insert time scale here] or when request for revisit is made by [proportion of guild members here] or [number of external referrals here], and other guards against institutionalization, note x above. Contact elspethcr@gmail.com.


A new Paradigm for a new Monetary System [4]

Read Part 1 here, and Part 2 and Part 3.

Based on philosophical and psychological inquiry, part 1 referred to the philosophy of science in order to show the need for a new paradigm approach to a world problem: to think how “money” or a monetary system might be better planned to support life. Part 2, supposed three interlinked relationships within life as the foundation of this holistic approach [transcendent, rights, and exchange]. Then in part 3, a thought experiment began where “exchange” was left out, so that some notions of what “money” might mean without that aspect we are so accustomed to viewing could emerge. This “out of the box” thinking helps the realisation that the current paradigm (a hegemony in thought) allows exchange to dominate. This can be seen again, but each time a little differently, when the exchange aspect of life is paired with each of the others, but all three are not in combination. Leave out “transcendence” and inevitably, the view moves to conflicting aspects of sociology and psychology. The “elephant in the room” is that we talk about cultures, spirituality, the uncertainty of future, as if we were not in the experience. This is OK if we do not forget that there is a wider perspective, but when that perspective is forgotten, it can be observed that thinking tends to become reductionist, about short-term, immediate issues.


Politics tries to balance the needs of economy – seen as market – without which aims (even self-interested aims) for the well-being of all cannot be begun, nor rights advanced. The viewpoints shift from ‘left’ to ‘right’, neither seems to succeed.

If “exchange” is paired with “transcendence”, leaving out “rights”, observation from this view shows another familiar dichotomy, that between simplistic reductionism, and a more utopian idealism. The idea of “rights” gets dragged in to discussion, almost as an afterthought, again linear thinking as if either ‘left’ or ‘right’ had the answer, overwhelms more complex thoughtfulness. People are again in US and THEM mode, one group being thoughtless consumers, the other utopian idealists, depending which sort of US group one happens to be in at the time.


One aspect of life has become dominant, so that it is almost impossible to use the word “economics” as meaning life management, it refers primarily to “exchange”, trade, things with technical meaning like “balance of payments”.

In a more holistic view, considering disparate fields of inquiry, every discipline* has proposed a different theory of living that contains some truths. From each particular lens, a version appears, of three, sometimes four, drives, instincts, or needs, differently named, but similar in quality, to the threefold approach being used here. Finding correlations, or links, or even differing semantics, is welcome, a collaboration in understanding from a variety of perspectives. 

The foundation chosen here, although it refers to Beuys, an artist with a deep interest in economics and money, is a re-wording of discovery from the psychoanalysis of groups. Over the many years that psychoanalytic thinking (an experiential observational inquiry) has developed, it has left behind early cultural misapprehensions, it has found affirmation from the newer discipline of neuroscience, as well as from practical results in particular applications (therapy being just one of these). For psychoanalytic thinking, often called psychodynamics, one of the biggest problems now is that of expressing valid and useful findings in ordinary language, so the information can be used by all, rather than using the specific technical language that is just as hard to understand as the languages of physics or literary criticism, or any other depth inquiry.

The next part of this exploration of how to make change in a monetary system will use this basic understanding of human life and its motivations, applying it to economics, the idea of “money”.

return to  Part 1 here, or Part 2 or Part3.

*look up almost any discipline and search for “basic human” …: Cultural anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, Genetics, Evolutionary biology, Economics, Neurology, Philosophy


A new Paradigm for a new Monetary System [3]

Read Part 1 here, and Part 2,or go to Part 4

These produced questions, that are counter-intuitive to how we often consider money: First: Could we, creative people, conceive of a money system that is like life? [Life is a gift] Second: What would money as gift look like?

Before damning this as totally unrealistic, playing games, think instead about breaking the paradigm, gostarting from what is in life that is indeed a gift: the sunlight, the seeds that know how to grow, the seasons, and ourselves with myriad capabilities, including those of death and destruction. This post is about real, not a fantasy wish-list.

People created money as we think of it at present, and most of us think about it as something it is not!! It is not concrete stuff, it is an idea, an artifact of mind, that we use to represent necessary relationships.

Look back at the foundation diagram (in part 2), and take it apart from different venn1perspectives, remembering that it is a whole. Or, at least an attempt to represent something holistically.

Leave out the exchange part, that has become so dominant in recent history.

Surprisingly, historical research[i] into money creation suggests that it first emerged as a combination from the Transcendent and the Rights sectors, not using exchange at all! And, it allows me to think about children, dependents generally, as well as those bugbears of power and authority, both inner world perceptions and beliefs as well as the outer world effects. These are so evidently part of the necessary debate about money and its uses and abuses that somehow it feels like a good road to take. [Reflexive thought, inner awareness of feelings plus outer observations, evidence, combination to assess truth or prejudice. Keep going.]


This brings notions about holistic think methods – basically the well-known brainstorm process. Brainstorm “money as gift” or “life as gift” or just “what kind of money do we want”? What do you get? What did I get? Words like money is relationships between people, payment for service or product, trust, risk, not enough, root of all evil, work reward, many things to many people…

I also discovered that brainstorming alone is not a great idea, so looked at the record of an earlier brainstorm process with others, at a recent Positive Money Retreat a brainstorm about good or bad groups, produced the flip-chart below. It seems to me that the “bad” group represents pretty well how our society has sleepwalked its way to the monetary system we have at present, and the good group processes have been pretty much absent when it comes to designing what we want from money, or monetary system.


Using words from the ‘good’ group brainstorm – do they apply to money? Effective, common purpose, synergy, … why not use these alongside the other words that are more commonly used to describe the meaning and use of money.

Also, would the other parts of the diagram reveal interesting aspects of what we really want from “money for life”?

go to Part 4, or return to  Part 1 here, or Part 2.

[i] See Stephen Zarlenga, the New Science of Money

A new Paradigm for a new Monetary System [2]

read part [1] here

How do we set about creating a system that would represent life better? Inadequate as it is, the Venn diagram below helps me think about how we can stop seeing money as only a means of transaction between people, helps me start from something more whole in human experience. There are three interlinked relationships within our life, expressed in many different ways and differently divided by other writers[i]. However they are expressed, all agree that without each and without each in combination, the picture of life fails in some important respect. Joseph Beuys[ii] proposed a basic foundation that encompassed what he called the Spiritual Life, the Rights Life and the Economic Life. A little differently, I consider the life of the transcendent, rights, and exchange[iii]. Suppose a foundation could look like this:


If we said the need was for a money idea that covered life needs, human and world in which we live, then it is not utopia to say this is a final objective, but on the way there will be lesser aims, transitional shifts. Whatever these are, they need to be seen to be stages in heading towards a monetary system that might be uncertain but would even so be more genuinely reaching for real requirements than the present pseudo-science that is too frequently taught as economics[iv]. The direction in which proposed change takes us matters.

In brief:

Could we, creative people, conceive of a money system that is like life?

What would money as gift look like?

read Part 3 here, then part 4

or return to Part 1

[i] Interactions: see French, R. B., and P. Simpson. ‘The “Work Group”: Redressing the Balance in Bion’s Experiences in Groups’. Human Relations 63, no. 12 (1 December 2010): 1859–78; The Threefold Social Impulse: see Roesch, Ulrich. We Are the Revolution!: Rudolf Steiner, Joseph Beuys and the Threefold Social Impulse. Forest Row: Temple Lodge Publishing, 2013; add your own knowledge from whatever perspective e.g. ecology, religion, sociology, philosophy, etc.

[ii] Beuys, Joseph, ed. What Is Money?: A Discussion. Forest Row, England: Clairview Books, 2010.

[iii] This is roughly comparable to Wilfred Bion’s unconscious theory of group behaviours, pairing, dependency and fight/flight. see French and Simpson above for development of this idea as basic interactions.

[iv] References, many include:

Rowbotham, Michael. The Grip of Death: A Study of Modern Money, Debt Slavery, and Destructive Economics. Charlbury, Oxfordshire : Concord, MA: Jon Carpenter ; Distributed by Paul and Co, 1998.

Jackson, Andrew, Ben Dyson, and Herman E. Daly. Modernising Money: Why Our Monetary System Is Broken and How It Can Be Fixed. London: Positive Money, 2014.

Ivo Mosley, and Positive Money websites.

Ressentiment – unjust suffering

Ressentiment is an effect of detriment that is unjustly suffered, by an individual or group, or by labeling a person as ‘group’ (like black, or disabled, or mentally ill) and thus denying their own experience of how they do and do not belong. Anyone who thinks they, and not the sufferer, can decide on the quality of “detriment” is not able to learn the nature of what is suffered. The sufferer, as well as experiencing damage, however tiny that damage may seem, also suffers RESSENTIMENT (coined by Nietzche, no less).

This is cousin to the better known resentment. They are both affects, or feelings, arising from human emotional process. We think we know ‘resentment’ – the angry feeling a person or group has when it feels it has been wronged. This feeling is directed towards the source of the wrong, or the injustice. The sufferer of wrong may not be able to get redress, or revenge, but they do know they deserve better. They can voice something, even if they cannot act, and their sense of self is valid. This happened, I experienced it.

Ressentiment arises when people react to a perceived injustice by repressing their feelings of resentment and revenge. The feelings, the facts, can be inarticulate, the person can be without the verbal capability to own knowledge of what is happening (too young, too shocked, too oppressed, too bullied…). The repression occurs because of the impotence of those not only holding, but also unable to express their feelings openly, out of fear of the powerful, the authority of the oppressor. They remain passive and powerless… an abiding affect … a lasting mental attitude … ressentiment … becomes a pronounced dimension of social suffering  … that is lived experience of domination and repression and the feelings of humiliation, despair, shame and resentment … that are hidden injuries internalised because they cannot be expressed.

Well, quite. What is damaged is the core of the self. Later, even much later after changes in society may have happened, how is such a person (or people within a social suffering group) to know if they can now trust their own feeling or perception of the context that others believe – rightly – has changed? It is a nameless constellation of ??? something feeling ??? not right. NOT RIGHT. Damaged. The self’s capacity to repair has also been damaged (that follows if you can’t trust self feelings).

The politics, the authority, culture and  context change. Thank goodness it sometimes does. Then, if a sufferer is told that ‘it is all right now’ or ‘get over yourself’, insult is added to injury. How can people trust themselves to express the previously nameless and inexpressible?

Try to imagine how you would re-establish a validity in your soul, in yourself. Maybe anger and tilting at any windmill in sight helps, I do not know. I do know one thing that helps:

Acknowledge damage is done.

It is present, in the present, activated by a word or act. Compassion honours this reality.

To imagine how to re-establish validity, first see what people do. Observe, try not to think.

Get curious about what is it that is happening. Are those parts of a person that have been denied, that have had no voice with which to speak finding space? Or are they being shut down …again?

Can parts that have ‘felt they feel what they should not’ and ‘not felt what they feel they should’ reverse their enfolding into experience? (think child abuse, brutalised soldiering, victim of domestic violence, groups experiencing discriminatory treatment, etc.)

First, see what people do. Let yourself see, and be touched by what is then felt.

What is ‘culture’? How does it change?

When teaching about the possibility of change (especially being realistic about changing strong opinions and prejudice) Thompson: Promoting Equality had a very useful concept – PCS – which stands for personal – cultural – structural. Roughly speaking, if the interaction was ‘personal’ there was some probability of change, each of us could have influence; if it was ‘cultural’, change would be possible but less likely; and if ‘structural’, then change can happen, but the probability is low and change in this arena seems slow. (Internet, communication and social media may be making a difference here, we have more contact with different parts in a system.)

We feel hopeful when we think that we can act – whether on our own or on others’ behalf.

We feel despairing when we think our actions are useless, that they have no effect.

Another wise book Bessel Van der Kolk: The Body Keeps the Score shows over and over that being able to act, in some way, physically or psychologically, enables us to come through difficult circumstances, but NOT being able to act where the power of the circumstance is overwhelming, is traumatic. At the time of trauma, the difference between “can” and “can’t” has effect , then later, when circumstances have changed, the outsider sees “won’t” that is actually “can’t”.  The effect lasts.

This is one of the messages from Black: Psychopathic Cultures and Toxic Empires, that the effects within cultures and structural institutions last. History repeats, long after the initial lurch to destructiveness. It seems to be “can’t” rather than “won’t” that ties the actions of politicians and decision makers.

What would allow a change from “can’t” to “can” and then to “will”?

As one thing known is that future cannot be planned and controlled (though the notion that it could be is one of the toxic cultures that ruins planning of all kinds) the question is more “What will increase the probability of the change we want?”

Where does any one ordinary person have the greatest effect? First, within self, often neglected as the space for action towards change (who is this for?). Second, within their own sphere whatever that sphere is as related to this change (understand your role and your power here, means see how others see you). Third, look what just happened, where did the ripple from this go, how did it spread beyond oneself.

However small this seems to be, this shifts despair into hope, and that is a big change.

From here, the process becomes “can”, and the what, becomes where one works. Push the boundaries there, influence as one can. Remember, memo to me: others may see me differently from the way I see myself, so I take what they say – not as gospel but as information, feedback about what is going on in the holosphere that is a h**l of a lot bigger than I am.


Economy – Change towards Human Rights

This post, like my last one, was also written in response to many detailed thoughts on Positive Money.

I believe we want, and need, a systemic structural change towards Human Rights.

Possibly you do too. Let’s start with that horrible accusatory saying “Get a Life”, not saying it to you who are making contributions, but to ask you what it implies about the way people function, doing whatever it is that they do. How is ‘get a life’ relevant to all the detailed discussion about savings, taxes, hoarding, circulating, interest, etc.?

What is meant by telling someone to ‘get a life’ is often something like “what are you spending your time and energy on that for? Is it actually what you need to be doing? Even though it is important, even though we all know that attention here has to be spent, sometime”.

The thread here on Positive Money is referring to “people” the public, the bankers, the great unwashed, government, [name your group here], AS IF they made their decisions about savings and interest and which bank to use ON RATIONAL GROUNDS. AS IF they even attended to this sort of thing when they make their decisions, instead of just taking a bit of notice temporarily, and doing what a friend suggests. As well as there being differing aspects to the detail, I think this is one underlying reason why we can’t ever agree. The focus is neither on what really happens, nor on what needs to be done. Our viewpoints are too various.

Do not get me wrong, “rational” is very important in the proper place, a definite part of creating change. It is needed if someone wants to design a better structural system within which all those people and groups end up functioning in whatever rational/irrational way they will function whether you like it or not. I do not think Positive Money contributions are thinking enough about the kind of structural system that allows the variety to work in the same direction, including those who are not convinced at all, the people elected to create changes. Here in the Positive Money forum the intention is to debate ways forward. It seems that first we should be accurate about where we are, and then see what is most likely to come next. My point is that hardly anyone (except the posters on this thread and the financial industry and media) pays any attention to the detail of these financial matters, not because they are inattentive, nor because they are unaware, but because their attention is on other things – they are living a life.

Real life:

Thirty years ago I needed a new bank as I had moved to a different job, different city. Picked the branch of a High Street bank in walking distance from the new job. Paid attention, did the transfer etc. Now, same bank account, most of my financial matters go via that, the bank is a subsidiary of someone else, the branch doesn’t exist, I wouldn’t want it anyway as I am not in that job any more, but whether I like their policies, overdraft charges, online systems (that I happen to use more than any other of their functions) savings accounts, credit cards, I am at the moment not going to change. I did have savings and credit cards at a different institution but they became the same, so I got another place I can funnel stuff towards (Ha Ha this is not the tale of large quantities of stuff) No real change. Even if I knew how, the effort, the trouble, the numbers of entities that would have to be informed… the small %increase in my £££ dosh is not how I want to spend my time, so I don’t. None of this is foolish, It just doesn’t deserve my detailed attention. IMO any other “High Street bank” would have been similar, and would have morphed forward with my needs in similar ways.

Don’t others also function like this? Am I odd?

Savings accounts – people pay some attention at different times for different “necessities” from needing to think ahead for the school fees, to the holiday, to greater or lesser quantities, for more or less desperate needs. I have never met anyone who even spends more than a very small proportion of their time assessing the best way to amass/keep/increase the savings. Their view of ‘best’ is personally variable, but more to my point is that once the decision is made, their attention goes off to somewhere else entirely. How they will judge the school? Where they will go for the holiday? What to get for Mum’s birthday?… the amount of money saved can be a constraint, but the how it was saved is no longer what is attended to.

Same story re someone I knew who belonged to a “shares and investment club”. None of them paid more attention to the movement of shares than they felt it warranted, they were more interested in what they were doing it for, thinking of their children, their life styles, the next golf game, whatever.

Now, corporations and banks KNOW this about how people pay attention only sporadically, and they know they are more often irrational than rational in making decisions. Why else in the past twenty years would the ‘fashion’ for great offers for new accounts have developed? Why do current adverts e.g. for ‘apps’ say “more you-time”? Were the offers and apps there to create jobs for media finance editors, who play the field as if it were the racing pages? No, they exist because people will NOT be paying attention, they exist to appeal to a feel-good factor. Even where individuals are finance savvy, there will be a time lag between when the offer runs out, and when the money is moved, even a charge for moving. Similarly “great new offers” from corporations e.g. Virgin Media, etc. before the regular rate kicks in. Many people, like me, simply can’t be bothered, though I am glad when an organization like ”Which” pays attention to this time lag practice/get the consumers in, rather than acting as the finance pages do to give ‘best account for this week’ comparisons.

Hence if we accept that ‘get a life’ implies that most of the time we use our money in a tacit knowledge space, seldom in an attention space, how can Positive Money contribute its perspective effectively?

  • First we agree that the present international money system is abysmally failing.
  • Second, although there are places in which proposals for the creation of a different money system are put forward (here and elsewhere), local communities where something such as ‘scrip’ has started fail when they interact with the wider system, as they must do from time to time, for some kinds of commodities.
  • Third, not only can we in Positive Money not agree which proposal is best, others, including quite well informed politicians, say we can’t create change that way, that practicality in the present is the only option.
  • Fourth, the international community can’t even get together effectively to deal with environmental destruction, climate change, or devastating wars, displaced civilians. What hope that they will ever reach agreement about that thing that is their currency … money?

Oops. Round in another circle. Negative. Ooops.

Think laterally, out of the box.

The world has dealt with structural change before. We do not need detail …yet… we need the reason for changing the structure, world-wide.

“Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”

“Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law”

Yes – from the United Nations – http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#atop

Whether or not countries have managed to fulfil their obligations, they have frequently managed to put some of the changes needed into their statute books. I am thinking of the Civil Rights laws, the Gender Equality Laws, and the antiracism, anti-discriminatory practice laws. These exist under different names in different countries, cultural practice may well have a long way to go, but where the law exists, so too does redress, however limited its teeth. [If you should be thinking West – good, other – not so good, google recent reports from Ferguson, Missouri, or closer to home, Yarl’s Wood detention Centre, or Women’s Rights Legislation in Pakistan.]

Sometimes, legislation follows cultural change, but often it may be the other way round.

It is salutary to realize that the UN declaration does not directly consider any monetary system. There is no “right” to an economics that would outlaw financial exploitation or usury. The nearest I could find were open to interpretation:

Article 22.

  • Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 25.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  • (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 28.

  • Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

[I could, maybe will, write another post on Article 25 (1 and 2). This is where “dependence”, an essential of human experience, is rooted.]

That Human Rights are protected by the Rule of Law is a structural change.

Could we start by campaigning strongly for the principles in Article 25, A Rights Economics Act. What about the following?

  • Law that capped the cost of an adequate home in relation to average salary, hence would limit the rise in house price or rent (Switzerland example)
  • Law that entitled all to minimum allowance – without means testing
  • Law against exploitation (offends dignity) that could be against Usury: the lending, or practice of lending, money at an exorbitant amount or rate of interest, especially in excess of the legal rate. That would mean setting a legal rate.
  • Law against making money from money – there are economists who can express this properly – the use of return on investment to make further, secondary even tertiary investment in money rather than return it to the productive economy of infrastructure, goods and services (drains the organization and resources of each State).

What laws can you suggest that make Article 25 a reality within which no-one need pay (much) attention?

What economic practices at the moment mean that Article 25 can only be adhered to by continual offsetting adjustments being required, to the detriment of all?

At the moment our Laws and practice concerning economy are akin to saying we will not have a law against slavery, or we will not have a law against corporal punishment of children, but oh yes, we deplore nasty bad treatment of individuals and every time that happens we will see if the individual complains enough for us to pay attention. Or maybe they died.

Back to the beginning of this long post:

Most of the time, living a life, we do not want to have to pay attention. We want the STRUCTURE of our society to be the kind of framework that allows us to do that.

Examine every regulation on banking, taxes, property, social security, etc. to see how it stands up for or against Article 25.

Campaign for Law in Economy that furthers Human Rights.

Money: Do we have to have a debt system?

I follow a group from UK called Positive Money. Sometimes I agree with them, sometimes I do agree with the way they are asking questions about the way money / economy works. Or, I agree with some of the questions. However, I feel that like many others within a hegemony of thought, that it is hard to get outside the status quo to ask the questions more relevant to all those who are not in the positions of power – for example it is notable that within the Positive Money debates, so far I have heard from only three women, including me.

So I spent most of yesterday trying to think out how I could engage, stay within focus and at the same time open up a different angle. And to some it will be obvious that I was writing with Bion’s basic assumption groups in mind. [and of course I have not yet done a post on that – you will have to google.] What I did with them, is down to me. This is what I came up with:

To further Positive Money thinking

I am very much in support of Positive Money ideas, but have problems with aspects of the reasoning in its various videos, blogs and threads of conversation. Although worried in a minor way that we might be considered utopians, I am more concerned that the contributions to the debate can become (or are becoming) encapsulated within a theory of monetary exchange and rational argument concerning it, as though the answer was already known and has only to convince others. This is to the detriment of seeing how lives are really lived and how the best of Positive Money thought can indeed be furthered and taken on board by all, be they individuals, communities, governments.

Read on so that hopefully what I mean becomes clearer.

First – the Market Dimension
By the “money exchange” I include barter and saving, or any ‘token of value’ as this is how people operate. The miserly hoarder is bartering his pile for something he values, security, feeling of triumph, whatever. And so on, there is not a requirement that any exchange is rational, nor any judgment that the irrational is somehow a poor bargain. Did I buy an American doll outfit for my grand-daughter that cost more dollars than my own jacket? Yes I did, and the hours of play she has spent say that on this occasion at least, I used my money well, but not rationally. Thinking also of Arabian souks or Chinese streets, “money exchange” could be seen as operating within a “Market Dimension” one aspect of life.

We all live in such a Money Market of one kind or another. The system is transactional, something of value X is exchanged for something of value Y, and either it is even, or some other value Z is owed by one party to the other. Then, if we stay in this dimension, we notice, indeed know, that X, Y and Z fluctuate, as well as knowing that their supposed value has only sometimes got a relation to intrinsic worth. We also know that quantitative value changes frequently, and might be bargained to change to our advantage. [My grand-daughter might show that she loves me, as well as the American doll, so the worth of that plastic outfit changes for me, but be the same as it always was for others.] The changes of value are multiply determined by factors outside the original transaction.

A phrase (here taken out of its context) pushed me into writing this essay: they’re free to spend LESS on booze, holidays, clothes or whatever. This too popular notion of freedom to choose A or B according to a quantitative balance, is just NOT how people live. Quantity transaction cannot show how people choose between options in multiply constrained contexts, nor can it show present versus future, nor does it show how a past decision is now affected by factors quite randomly beyond the rationality of the original decision. For example, choosing a holiday, is that an inessential? It isn’t if you are carer for a disabled family member, and you are exhausted, and the other members of the family, all in work, club together to send not just you but also one of your sisters on a holiday. If you do not get a rest, they know both mum and dad will be needing care next. Etc. Think of real people, real examples. There are not only multiple determinants of choice, there are also many delimiters of choice. Some choices are simply not available in a transactional balance. Life does not provide free choice except in its most trivial matters.

Second – the Dimension of Dependence and Support
This is affected by money, as nearly everything is, but cannot be adequately addressed by a transactional or quantitative discussion.  As suggested in the purposely chosen carer example above, dependence and support are huge delimiters of choice. This dimension also illustrates how who owes whom what can shift momentarily or over time. Example, parent cares for child, both age, child cares for parent, further aging, grandparent helps care for grandchild, then grandchild becomes carer. Not always, not every way of living a life, but a fluctuating dependent /support /care system. We are ALL, whether we acknowledge it or not, in dependent systems. They are not just about childhood, illness or old age. Whether we live in urban or rural areas, whether we heed it with awareness or not, we live in inter-dependence with each other’s skills, work and behaviour.

Considering parenting a human baby as an example we all know: Parent cares for child, child smiles at parent. Both are enriched by something quite other than money, or any other form of bartered value system. The interaction is transformational, rather than transactional. We are all so used to everyday transformational interactions, that we almost forget how important they are, the good, the not so good, and the bad. In the not so good, a parent might care for a child hoping to feel good, so that she will feel like a good parent. At an extreme, this parent requires that the child makes her feel good. This is exploiting the child, and what might have been a transformational exchange has degenerated to become a transaction. Car eis bargained or is emotional blackmail. We can ask if there such a thing as a ‘pure’ transformational interaction where the care is unconditional, a gift? This is a different debate. It is enough to consider here that most of us will have millions of experiences that lie somewhere in between, in an ordinary life, an intermingling of transaction and transformational exchange.

What the dependence/support system has to do with economics, is that it says clearly
•    the quantity in the exchange may be necessary but it is not sufficient, the QUALITY has also to be considered
•    the quality of the dependence support system is a strong delimiter of choice in economic decision-making
•    poor quality leads to exploitation. For example, slavery and serfdom have high co-dependence between master and servant, but very low quality. It would seem that many loans to poorer countries, grossly mis-identified as ‘aid’ have the same low quality and are in fact forms of exploitation.

Any discussion of economics has to ask reflective questions of itself that take in from the beginning its effects on the qualitative dependence /support interactions, asking: How does this money production, control of supply etc support better quality of interaction? Will the quality of interaction be enabled or disabled (for example, how would aid to other countries be given?). Very few national or international discussions start from the plight of those who are disempowered, the disadvantaged groups, the women, the disabled. Ask the question: Who is this for? Is it for the person in control (the exploitative parent) or the person with whom we interact and on whom we depend for qualitative satisfaction?

[To me, the ‘Who is it for?’ question stops most debate about details like QE from further development.
if it is not for the people with whom we interact, we have become encapsulated in an already failed system.]

Third – The Dimension of Future, or Leadership
Transaction and transformation are both part of economic systems of thought, so also is transition. [Note also that economics is a system of thought, it is not food or shelter or other need.] Evidence, both historic and current, abounds to demonstrate that the current loan/debt/money system is failing abysmally, whether considered from the perspective of corporate world, nations, individuals or planet. It is ironic that the one that was not thought about until relatively recently, the planet, is the one that will take all the rest to extinction if we do not change the way we live on it. This third dimension has one obvious difficulty, we do not know what the future will bring. Therefore, what we can know is that we certainly do not need hero leadership, the narcissistic, I know and you follow, way of leading. We have had more than enough of that already. I do applaud the way Positive Money has worked to engage UK elected representatives, and has set up local groups.

We need unlikely leaders (see an Open University course on this). Positive Money could lessen its tendency to encapsulated thought (aka isolated economic dimension) by seeking the views of unlikely people, those who are poor, those who are disadvantaged, possibly ill-educated in standard qualifications, those who know a lot more than we tend to think. Why, for example, do so many voters in UK from typical lower income backgrounds, support conservative fiscal austerity or UKIP isolationist policy? They are not ‘just stupid’, turkeys voting for Christmas, or selfish racists. This seems to me to be a labeling assumption. Could they instead have responded to some aspirational hope that has been tapped by the appeals to austerity or nationhood? Is it because their lives are already austere? I do not think that we know, but could we not find out? These are the same kinds of places where Credit Unions once flourished, and probably Christmas clubs still do.

There is nothing wrong with detailed discussion of the market system of transaction and commerce, such as Positive Money is engaged in, provided that we know we are operating in a system that is not closed, and that concentration on this theory as transaction only will put people off engaging with it.

“I know it is not about me.” Dependency on others, and qualitative transformation, affects transactional market choices whether made rationally or irrationally. None of us are informed enough to grasp all our need for what the planet provide, and can continue to provide, as well as our needs in relationships with each other, but we know that this dimension is as real as the transactional. Then, we also know that the dynamics of time affect both, economic reality is three dimensional, contains transaction, transformation and transition no matter which is in the foreground.

The effects of dynamic transition, change to a different system, is where leadership lies. Given the way governments of the present are embroiled in holding on to the debt money system, we do need to continue to contact our representatives, but we also need to spread different kinds of knowledge. Bill Still’s documentary [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qIhDdST27g] shows us past as well as a possible future. It does not show us how to act with regard to our own money now.

With regard to the future, and leadership, I have to move to the personal, asking questions that show what I need to know, and hoping others will respond similarly.

Conclusion – up for debate
Positive Money and the Still documentary have already shown me the difference between a commercial bank and a national government owned bank. Could someone start exploring and informing us of the differences between mutual societies (if there are any left) building societies, co-operatives etc. Could a bank like that of Dakota State (see still documentary) start up where I live and would it cope with my money needs (which happen to be multiple online management and foreign exchange, all on a teacher’s pension.) Can you help individuals show by their use of institutions, that hey care where they put their money, that they care how their money is handled? Also, has anyone analyzed the current interaction between Greece and the Eurozone with regard to closeness to Positive Money suggestions or indeed irrelevance? What is the role of micro-finance institutions? How would the ethics of Islamic banking support or not the perspective of Positive Money?

We should of course be interacting with the Green Party and other green organizations, particularly the transitional groups.

I personally want to see an approach that acknowledges these three dimensions of everyday life that I have very briefly addressed, and that reflects on how each of these is enabled, or not, by the details of the discussion. I write because I have felt too much discussion within the ivory tower of theory has taken place and I have felt confused rather than informed by it.

Am I wrong to ask this? No, I need to feel that I am enabled, helped to make personal decisions, however constrained they may be, and helped to become part of a movement towards something better. For Positive Money ideas to develop well and make a good change in the UK and hopefully in the world, it needs to feel less that it is providing an answer if only people would listen, and more like a community that seeks wider perspectives. Acknowledge how interdependent we all are, and how leadership might be found in unlikely places. Wonder what questions have not yet been asked.

Thanks for reading.

Can I do better?

I began this blog with enthusiasm. However that did not match the results. My other blog has had some serious thought on it, but not a lot. I know and still want, that blog to be my story for myself and others who are interested – a kind of Diary of the family and friends and the communities and places where we live. Many of those family and friends know well that I am often serious, some would say too serious.

This blog began with good intentions, to enable me to sort out my thinking and my knowledge, regarding our emotional world, our communities and cultures, our politics and government, our good and bad ways of being. I wanted to create some focus and learn to express better my views on why it seems to be so difficult to create a more wholesome and fairer world. It is enough to say that most agree that the current inequalities and distress of many is utterly dire, and that is just talking of the humans, without looking at the mess being made of ecological systems that are irreplaceable.

So today I thought that maybe I could do better.

Can I do better?

How? I still like its name: transitional space. But I do not like that I have used it so seldom. I do not like the reason for this – that writing for it seems too complicated.

I will treat it more like a ‘serious diary’. See how that goes, at the least it may help my mindfulness.


This is my scribble of thought over breakfast

So – what has come to mind today?

The lightbulb experience for my own change from muddle of giving getting having regretting forgetting etc etc to a simple live in the present BEING who I am happened a long time ago, and has to be re-done over and over, as I believe it does for everyone. It is a serious piece of thinking, it embarrasses me, it comes from Wilfred Bion‘s psychoanlaytic work where he made a comment that [from my memory] said that the learning from psychoanalysis was incomplete without attending to thinking from the philosophy of science, and likewise, vice versa, that philosophy was incomplete without the insights of psychoanalysis.

WOW (as my grandsons say).

In other words, the trouble with thinking, is that we only have our mind to think with, so thinking about thinking is going to be ??? what??? Certainly not true. Certainly not accurate. etc. We all know there will always be subjectivity and whatever bias it brings. Ways of thinking, attitudes or states of mind, affect all our disciplines, not just scientific thought or psychoanalysis. BUT SOME PEOPLE MANAGE TO DISCUSS THE IMPLICATION FOR HUMANS AND THE WORLD BETTER THAN OTHERS.





One reason this mattered so much to me was that at the time I was doing a PhD in history of science, studying the thought of Michael Faraday. And I discovered that Faraday himself, in 1854, among all his many many scientific breakthroughs, had reflected on and later published his own version of THINKING ABOUT THINKING. He call ed it “On Mental Education” a title from which I took the words I have often used since: Emotional Education. I have had little enough regard from various sources too busy with other kinds of education, if I had followed Faraday and called it “mental” I think I would have been a bit mental myself. But my words carried their own dilemma of perception – most people think it is something to do with therapy, or worse touchy-feely ways of engaging, or better, helping children and some adults with self-esteem and confidence.

Emotional Education is about THOUGHT and the nature of our thinking process, whether that is then applied to science (Faraday) or poetry or farming or childhood troubles or anything else that people engage in. I want to see it applied to politics and governance.

Now, we also have discovery from neuroscience that tells us about mind.

I keep trying to catch up. I do not seem to get anywhere, never mind ahead.

Emotional Education is related to a more popular notion, that of Emotional Intelligence. there are many criticisms of EI – some on the wikipedia page. I dislike that it is mainly used as a something to HAVE or NOT HAVE as a something similar to the other kinds of intelligence. It is commodified – as in “leadership Quality”. Emotional Education is about Learning, and more particularly, following BION, it is Learning from Experience.

The next post will have to clarify the distinction I learned in my Faraday study days about kinds of thought: what is at least partially true, and can be trusted as a basis for acting, including making possible theories? and what is a “Lie”, Bion’s word, a prejudice, a dead end for progress, the kind of thought that leads to stultification, even when it sounds good at the time?




Convention on the Rights of the Child

Rights, and Responsibilities,  go together. Whose right, whose responsibility, what kind of relationship between the people who exercise them, or ask for them?

This post is actually a straight copy of a lecture I used to give ten years ago when I was a teacher trainer. Ignore the references to Ed.2 etc, they are all outdated, but the substance is not. I hope. Also, some of the diagrams have not transferred properly to the blog – I’ll try to get around to fixing them but not just now. I have put it up here after writing a post about Responsibility and Rights on my other blog.



Themes: Social Justice and the Curriculum – Responding to Difference and Diversity -Putting Children at the Heart of Education



Concepts of Equality, Opportunity and Inclusion have already been introduced in the Education 2 lecture series. All of these social context issues rest on a complexity of personal, cultural, and institutional (or structural) interactions.  They are all dynamic processes, which is another way of saying that each one of us is within the processes which change us and which we change.  Critical thinking about meaning and consequence is an ongoing matter.  This lecture will challenge you to take your creative thinking further.

The basic principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child considers rights in terms of PROVISION, PROTECTION and PARTICIPATION, and treats these as interlinked concepts which do not stand alone. Everyone agrees in principle that education and classrooms should MODEL human rights, or to put it another way, we are sure that no individual, child or adult, should experience a violation of their rights while being educated, within a classroom or elsewhere. Without ignoring the meanings of provision and protection, this lecture will concentrate on the meaning and impact of a child’s right to PARTICIPATE, and how difficult it can be within our present cultures and structures to understand and ensure this right.  Without it, it is much harder to be certain that our actions to provide or protect are good ones, as the nature of being a child is that each has only one childhood.  The effects of inadequate provision or faulty protection will not be visible unless the participation of children is genuine.

We look at these rights, in this lecture, for the children we work with. The lecture is focussed on our issues in our classrooms, where all of the rights of children are from time to time endangered or violated. We are not comparing West with East or with Third World or with anywhere else supposedly worse or better than ourselves. On the contrary, we are working from the position that all humans in the world are in a process of development trying to understand what is meant by “provision, protection and participation”.  Cultures have evolved differently, and are different, and of interest, but, for now, we concentrate on our education, here in Scotland.


CRC – History, Reality, Myths

The rights of the child, summarised, are to: provision, protection and participation. History shows a change in society’s views on children. In 1924, the Declaration on the Rights of the Child, was simply a statement.  The rights listed then were to:

  • The means for normal material and spiritual development
  • To be fed/helped/reclaimed/sheltered and succoured (note ‘reclaimed’ – children stray, adults rescue )
  • To be first to receive relief in times of stress
  • To be put in a position to earn livelihood protected from exploitation
  • To be brought up in the consciousness that its best qualities are to be used in the service of its fellow men (sic)

There is no mention of participation here. In 1979, the international year of the child began the move from a mere statement of rights to making them part of international law and ratification by member states. In 1989, the UN, stated the current Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 2001 this has been ratified by all but two of the UN member states, which are Somalia and USA.

(“Ratify” means that the convention becomes legally binding in the country and the country will bring its legislation into compliance with it in “a reasonable time”. See these and other details on http://www.unicef.org/crc/)

To repeat, the rights of the child are to provision, protection and participation, and it is important to recognise what each of these means in detail: provision of needs, what needs?; protection from harm, what kinds of harm?; and participation in what, and how?. The last, participation, represents a major change from 1924, but each is now seen differently.

In Scotland, at several levels we have examples of how the CRC and its changes are being incorporated in the structure of our society and in education. To illustrate this, the document Improving Our Schools, has the following incorporated:

  • School Development Plans required to include a statement of the mechanisms that are in place within the school to allow children and young people to participate in decision making processes and discussions about matters affecting the school
  • Schools and Local Authorities are encouraged to identify further ways in which young people can be involved actively and constructively in the education process
  • (see CRC art. 12)

As another example, the GTC (General Teaching Council for Scotland) policy statement on the accreditation and review of courses specifically refers to the CRC:

  • is appropriate coverage given to the rights of the child ?
  • do professional studies reflect the spirit and philosophy of CRC?

(see article 29)

The Scottish Office Competences for beginning teachers are almost all relevant, eg consider:

3.3 demonstrate a working knowledge of his or her contractual, pastoral and legal responsibilities

3.9 demonstrate an understanding of international, national and local guidelines on child protection and teachers’ roles and responsibilities in this area

4.7 value and promote equality of opportunity and fairness and adopt non-discriminatory practices, in respect of age, disability, gender, race or religion

From the CRC (articles 2,3,12,19,28,29), the concerns of education are as follows:

in all actions/matters concerning the child:

  • children are to be protected from any form of discrimination
  • the best interests of the child to be a primary consideration
  • the child has a right to  express views freely
  • the child’s views are to be given due weight
  • the child is to be given protection from abuse, neglect, maltreatment
  • school discipline is to be consistent with human dignity
  • the aims of education are

development of personality, talent, ability

respect for human rights, cultural identity, natural environment, parents

preparation for responsible life in a free society

Now, when these are closely considered, and compared with statements sometimes made in the practice of education, we find contradictions This is where you are asked to think critically in order to successfully challenge these views, which may sound valid, because they contain partially true elements, but which are actually myths.  Consider the following myths:

  • children cannot have rights until they are capable of exercising responsibilities
  • children are not competent to participate in decision making
  • rights for children threaten the stability and harmony of normal family life
  • the imposition of rights takes away children’s opportunities for childhood

To disprove these, it may help to think about where you intend to draw lines above or below which children are supposedly capable or incapable.  Who is deciding about these lines?  Also ask if “rights” are in a competition of some kind, as if when one group, “children” are given rights, those of another group, say adults, have their human rights infringed or reduced.  It may help if you spot rivalry of rights, as then you can sense that these arguments are missing the needs of collaboration and relationship between humans.  The rights of all have to be sought and worked for, in the kind of relationships which enable each to act and exercise their rightful capacity for responsibility and development.

Participation in an CRC curriculum (3-D curriculum)

Remember that earlier lectures have talked about models of curriculum.  Consider again the Equity Rights model, in a diagram which you have seen before:


Social and Political Effects


Equity                  Participation








Life Chances


QUESTION: Are Human Rights enabled in this “institution”?

Opportunity, empowerment, democracy, freedom from discrimination or harassment?

This kind of curriculum can be realised through a holistic 3-D approach to teaching which attends to both pedagogic need and cognitive development while at the same time it promotes equitable attitudes.  Think of three ‘d’s Difference, Development, Democracy and also Decide to DO something about Deficit Thinking and Discrimination.

Ways to create the 3-D approach:

  1. Shift focus from teaching to deep-learning, if and only if learners play a responsible part in their learning process – see personal differences in a developmental, not deficit way
  2. The culture or ‘atmosphere’, the mood and emotional feel of the environment respects difference and works to understand conflict – e.g. it is OK to make mistakes when learning, trying is valued as well as outcome etc., though in the social justice sense, the outcome aimed for is an inclusive space
  3. Learning is embedded in its context – learning of what is happening in context is needed – see the societal structure to which the topic relates, thematic work
  4. Each of Personal, Cultural, Structural affect the learning space and the emotional responses to these are respected and thought about in a holding way (“Holding” means that anxiety is neither ignored nor allowed to be overwhelming)

It is claimed that such a 3-D or Participative curriculum provides

  • Pedagogic Development – children are active thinkers in their own lives
  • Equitable Access – the variety of different views are heard
  • Empowerment and life chances within democracy
  • Child Protection – children can find adults who act on their behalf

No one argues with these ideals, yet still we find schools and classrooms where the model is the assimilative one, and the question which underlies the work being attempted is: Does the Individual Fit into our System? This model can also be called the “Deficit” model, or the “Medical” model – something is wrong with these individuals and it needs fixing, via compensatory programmes (which may be good in themselves, but do not counter their hidden deficit message).  At extremes, fuelling the myths, there is a message being given that it is wrong to be a child, to not know things, and that education is fixing people to fit them for adulthood.


Remember also this quotation, which should bring all teachers some humility, as humanness is beyond what is provided by education.


Dear teacher,

I am the survivor of a concentration camp.  My eyes saw what no man should witness:

Gas chambers built by learned engineers.  Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses.  Women and babies shot and burned by high school graduates. So I am suspicious of education. My request is:  help your students become human.  Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Reichmans. Reading, writing, arithmetic are only important if they serve to make our children more human.


Source: Siraj-Blatchford, Iram (1994) The Early Years: Laying the Foundations for Racial Equality, Trentham Books  pp 61 -62.

Anxieties and Containing Anxiety


It is part of our experience that good intentions are not carried forward fully into the practice of schools. Indeed there are many anecdotes of teachers who decide, once they are ‘experienced’, to ignore all that college theoretical stuff; we are at the front line and have to be practical – so forget the theories and ideas about individual rights – people have to learn to fit in…etc


The next part of this lecture addresses the reasons why this is a prevalent experience, and why generations of educators have still not managed to create genuinely participative experiences within educational establishments. The predominant factor is emotional, and depends on how we as humans are involved in emotional processes in order to survive.  Part of our adaptive inheritance is the way in which our mental systems respond to the environment, and to the ANXIETY which is aroused. Teachers’ anxiety is often of the “pig in the middle’ variety – lots of pressure on them from above and lots of responsibilities, conscientiousness and becoming exhausted or disillusioned.

Anxiety is an adaptive emotion, beginning unconsciously and existing whether or not we have conscious awareness of it. It is a rehearsal for danger, ensuring our survival. A little anxiety helps focus the mind, and our action, in touch with reality, and we learn. For example, we can see a picture of a child who has been parted from its mother, moving towards mother, and each of them is learning from and about the other, empathically, and about the reality they are in.

Too much anxiety paralyses us, like rabbits in the headlights.  At this point reflect situations which make you anxious , so that as you read, you connect with the feeling level of what we are talking about.  What happens to humans is sometimes comparable to a visible freeze of this kind.


Survival adaptations for a self who cannot hold conflict or anxiety in feelings are such that personal security or identity is maintained through the giving up of parts of a more complex self, and finding compartments (unconsciously defended) within which it feels safe enough to function. This is called SPLITTING of the emotional spaces. The kinds of split make different states of mind, which surface as attitudes to others and to the current context. There are a lot of possible consequences. A common one is the physical ‘sore tummy’ which one has at the same time as ‘carrying on’, ‘pulling oneself together’. etc. Another consequence may be vulnerability to a real illness.  Other consequences are non-physical, too many to detail here, but talking with others will bring more examples. (I am making reference here to what is known as Object Relations Theory. To follow up some of the modern thinking about the unconscious, which are reasonably accessible to teachers, try Salzberger-Wittenberg, Henry et al. 1983; Waddell 1998).

The effect I want to discuss here is the way in which splitting creates “autopilot” thought – a kind of thought which has actually switched off from the present and is relying on habits, or what has happened before.  In autopilot, we may look as if we are thinking, and say the words as if we are thinking, etc. but actually we are:

  • getting rid of anxiety
  • doing the bit we can do
  • doing what we have done before, as we have always done
  • doing what someone else has told us to do, either now or long past
  • just responding to the stick or carrot ie external motivators, not principles
  • not reflecting, so the state of mind is “don’t be aware, don’t think, its not emotionally safe “

And, of course the last may or may not be true – because we are not actually looking at the situation, we actually have no idea if it is safe or not!  In other words, we can’t possibly be considering a 3-d curriculum or any kind of deep learning.  This is the process which leads to Myths and rigid views of US and THEM.  It leads to the emergence of “Powerful and Powerless”, the loss of space to think/reflect, the loss of community space to become aware of others and self with others, the loss of communication space where others might help us. And so we get denials, compartments, deficits, and discriminations. It also seems that it is impossible to become organised well enough to function better, as there are too many things to attend to, and there is often a dissociation of action from responsibility or rights.  Principles and values are too difficult. AND there is a lot of stress – more anxiety, and more splitting.

The counteractive process is called EMOTIONAL HOLDING. It is easy to describe, less easy to enact in difficult relationships, but always possible to work at.  It is not a solution, as it is a way of being, not a way to find an answer.

Being and Doing

Holding is a process one tries to become aware of doing as best one can. It works at the three levels of person, culture and structure:

  • personal – become aware of anxiety and conflict in feelings, let it happen, and see that “it is not so bad” to have a feeling which one can think about. Learn to see what, how, when one jumps into autopilot, and what a difference it makes
  • cultural – appreciate difference and diversity, become aware of ones own culture and attitudes, think about others’ attitudes and what changes attitudes, identity can evolve
  • structural – see institutional roles, responsibilities, rights, resources, constraints, and work so that they are used for empowerment not power, facilitation not control

To enable this emotional level for oneself as a teacher, and thus also for the pupils or students one is responsible to (not ‘for’ in a participative environment) it helps to make time to become aware and reflect, and this helps keep ones thinking in the ‘holding’ anxiety area, out of the ‘splitting’ area.  Then principles, theory and practice do indeed hold together.  The UN Convention on the rights of the child has to be worked at to make it happen. Be aware of childrens’ rights.

All Children are entitled to

Provision of needs

Protection from harm , which includes unfair discrimination

Participation – in all decisions and actions which concern them.







Salzberger-Wittenberg, I., G. Henry, et al. (1983). The Emotional Experience of Learning and Teaching. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Development of the Personality, Duckworth.


Elspeth Crawford, May 2001