Offerings for a New Paradigm Politics

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I was recently in a symposium exploring what was needed for a “new paradigm politics”. The organizers hoped to engage attendees in outlining a new global Constitution. I was given a keynote opportunity to inspire them. I drafted several approaches to what I might say. I offer two of them here for their possible lasting value. I never actually shared the first one, and I fear the second was shared to quickly to be understood by most listeners. Both of them are grounded in a fundamental, dynamic polarity of wholeness: unity and connection dancing with diversity and separation. I share them here for your inspiration and reflection.


My comment: While I’m not sure that the creation of a global Constitution is what is most needed now, I tried writing an inspirational message for those working on it, centered in the kinds of holistic dynamics that inform my wise democracy work. When I tried to practice presenting it aloud to myself, it fell flat. It is one thing to write such an evocative declaration while imagining myself proclaiming it out loud. It is something else entirely to actually speak it with the evocative passion its tone and topic richly deserve. So I didn’t deliver it to them in the conference. But I’m giving it to you quietly below:

We live in two great realities of wholeness – our unity and our separateness.

We have lost ourselves in separateness – into competition, isolation, alienation, specialization, ideology….

So we face a great challenge to reconnect to our sense of unity, harmony and love – and to the reality of interconnectedness and interdependence.

But in the process we are also called to not waste the gifts of our separateness, our uniqueness, our individuality, our diversity. We see things differently and that is a resource. We have different capacities, and that is a resource. We have different life energies, passions and callings, and that is a resource.

On the road to unity and connection we can mistake our differences for a failure to be united and thus arrive at the dead end of conformity and reductive compromises.

But wholeness LOVES diversities and polarities. Our challenge in being whole is not to pick one side of every polarity, but to USE the dance of polarities and differences to enrich life, insight and evolution.

The gift of our consciousness is choice – not shallow picking among false alternatives that someone else has given us, but the co-creation of choiceful experiences and cultures – our deepening collective awareness discovering unprecedented emergent options vital for healthy aliveness of the whole. Our highest choices are co-created blessings that never existed before but now play out on common ground so deep that it has existed forever.

So our mission is to create a politics that performs this miracle in every situation, using all the “co-s” we can manage – co-creativity, co-intelligence, co-operation, coalitions… and all the “inter-s” – interdependence, interaction, interplay, interbeing… hand in hand with the positive “cons” – all the consciousness, conversation, connection, and concern we can manage… spiced up with a good measure of conflicts, interests. collapse and transformation… for we must remember that they, too, are part of the dynamic Whole.

And under it all, let’s not forget our thoroughly intertwingled kinship with everyone, everything, every time – kinship that embeds us in and as the Family of Life.

We need to envision and practice a new paradigm of holistic politics that brilliantly tackles and transmutes diversity and disturbance into evolving understanding and capacity, resonance and relationship, aliveness and possibility.

If we were to envision a new paradigm Constitution for Life, we would want in it…

  • not just conflict resolution, but conflict transformation
  • not just tolerance but appreciation
  • not just problem-solving but regeneration
  • not just decisions but ongoing, life-enhancing, narrative-transforming, evolutionary choice-creating systems of change and of changing systems.

This calling is a high one. We don’t want to just cope with change as it happens to us. I think we are called to BE EVOLUTION – to be the evolutionary process becoming conscious of itself in its special human forms right here on Earth.

Yes, we need enlightened leaders, but even more than that we need wise, leaderful groups and communities.

Of course we need love – and lots of it – AND we need wise cultures and activities that make Love visible, embodied, powerful, and embedded everywhere and at every level in our cultures, politics, governance, economics and more.

So what do we need to declare? What do we need to nurture? What do we need to build? And perhaps most importantly, what do we need to learn and share?

So I wonder now: from our evolving understanding of these things, what might we offer the world in a visionary global Constitution that constitutes a new paradigm of holistic politics and governance?

This is not a task for the faint at heart or a time for failure of vision. It is a high communal calling for all of us in all our diversity and fullness, with all the collective wisdom we can muster. Let us seek high clarity together for the sake of tomorrow, starting now.


This model of a cycle of wise democracy came to me in the wee morning hours the day of my presentation at the symposium mentioned above. Unfortunately, the brief time I had to develop and share it was not sufficient for it to be understood and discussed. Perhaps in print it here it will be more useful.

It depicts a circle or cycle going
Unity and Common Ground
Generative Interaction
the Emergence and Evolution of Wisdom
Action towards Lived Experience
back to
Unity and Common Ground.

Here’s what’s going on in it:

From a Wise Democracy perspective, Unity/Common Ground and Diversity are two dimensions of Wholeness – two interdependent, interacting polarities that are dynamic facts of life, as reflected in the Taoist yin-yang symbol and in the palpably evolving complexity of Reality.

Our Unity or Common Ground can come in many different forms, for example:

  • Quantum / Non-Dual / Spiritual Unity
  • Shared Humanity / Kinship
  • Interdependence (Ecological, Economic, etc.)
  • Our Shared Situation or Aspiration
  • Some Big Picture Reality we all share
  • Shared Understanding(s).

Wise democracy engagements seek to ground people in some form of common ground – often their shared situation or our shared humanity and the shared process or experience they’ll all be going through. It’s a place to stand while creatively addressing diversity. Some people wish to ground even deeper in esoteric or spiritual universality, which is fine among like-minded folks, but may not be appropriate or usable in pluralistic democratic cultures.

In the wise democracy vision, we ideally include both a diversity of citizens (of a place) and a full range of stakeholders (involved in the situation). The term “stakeholder” is sometimes misunderstood to mean just the powerful players. But I – and many practitioners – use the term to mean ALL the types of people involved in a situation – those with power, those affected, those with relevant knowledge or resources, etc. We want “the whole system in the room”. So there’s a bias here towards inclusion and equitable consideration, in demographics AND in terms of all the other relevant ways people can be diverse.

Notably the Wise Democracy pattern “Using Diversity and Disturbance Creatively” is a fundamental intention and resource here. The disturbance can come from our diversity (e.g., conflict, misunderstanding, different ways of thinking and communicating, past trauma, etc.) and/or from the situation or problem we’re struggling with or deliberating about.

This moves us into the Generative Interaction facet of the wise democracy cycle, where we handle the diversity and disturbance creatively. Certain dialogic and deliberative processes have been created to do that, and we use them. We help participants gain greater understanding about what’s going on in the situation they’re dealing with, not only through their conversation with each other, but also through briefings, exercises, healing activities, etc. – all of which are part of the Generative Interaction section of this model.

Through such processes we hope and expect for new insights, relationships, possibilities, and alignments to emerge which we can then apply to the situation. If we’ve done our work well, we will have taken into account what needed to be taken into account for long-term broad benefit – which is our standard for collective wisdom.

Our collective wisdom then becomes a basis for (a) new manifestations of unity and common ground – shared understandings, aspirations, relationships, etc., as well as (b) a basis for collective Action towards new Lived Experience, which is the next part of the model. Action can include implementing recommendations, but it can also – or alternatively – involve promoting the new understandings and alignments and/or facilitating the more enlightened, engaged self-organization of those involved. In these ways, we live together into a new reality we have co-created.

Ideally, actions of various kinds would be reviewed, generating new common ground understandings about what might need to be added or changed to more effectively address the situation, perhaps even going around the cycle again. It is a circle because the collective wisdom aspect of wise democracy is an iterative, ongoing process. We never arrive at some final ultimate wisdom. Our world and our understandings of it are always evolving, so we are on a constant adventure of discovery and emergence.

The whole cycle I’ve called Fostering Healthy Evolving Wholeness. The work of moving with people around the cycle I call “The Prime Directive”evoking and engaging the wisdom and resourcefulness of the whole on behalf of the whole.

Wise democracy theory and patterns offer useful resources for doing that work.

I hope it all proves useful and interesting.


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Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute, POB 493, Eugene, OR 97440

Evoking and engaging the wisdom and resourcefulness of the whole on behalf of the whole

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