We arrive at a certain time and place, and we enter into a stream of history that is already flowing, obscuring the contingent origins of historical fact. It all seems so solid and given. This therefore makes it hard to see just how we can impact history in a meaningful way. But there was a time when it was not so, when any given cherished truism that lends stability to our world was unknown to all human beings.
When the Greeks established the foundations of Western Civiliization, Socrates, Aristotle and Plato were not working from established texts; they were part of a dialog that was still new and vibrant. Aristotle so captured and extended that dialog and the episteme they were embedded in that it became the foundation for what followed. Medieval thought condensed this and the teachings of the rabbi Jesus into a dogma suitable for impiralists to build upon, but their work in its day was deeply anarchistic. Punishable by death if not cloaked well enough.
These prophetic voices made a novel declaration and invited others to share and extend their visions. We imagine that these and all prophets drew from the archetypal myths that had been handed down through oral traditions from generations before. People were able to adjust oral tradition in each generation to reflect changes in language and material culture. Storytellers and historians were able to provide a kind of collective wisdom over time for an evolving culture. In our time, the machinery of oppression has moved decisively into the linguistic domains, and the powers of the state hegemonic. It is no longer sufficient to articulate such a prophetic vision, and transform a band of followers; it is necessary to act with collective leadership and passion; to weave a network; to build a coalition of the willing
The pace of change has accelerated, increasing our desire to expand the scale and scope of our collective capacities and work. We have never really moved beyond the level of an original collective intelligence as embodied in actual physical small working teams. All past institutional scaling has been pyramidal organizations of small teams, and has been regulated by different kinds of scarcity. We understand that this kind of control system and structure is incapable of generating the range and diversity of responses that are necessary for emergence of collective wisdom and consciousness.
As we move beyond hierarchical power based relationships, we begin to organize based on declared interests and purposes. We invite others to share in our declarations, and to collaborate on shared goals. Seems simple enough until we find that our declarations aren't always taken up by others. I can declare what I will do and do it, but if I intend to achieve large scale change then I will need an attractive invitation and declaration that others will want to join in on.
Our Declaration of Independence needed to be defended from an empire's claim of sovereignty vested in a monarchy to make it stick. This brings up the question of authority. Who has the authority to make such declarations of political sovereignty? What is clear is that the American system of government is founded on individual and collective sovereignty. The actual form of government and the law follow after. Anarchy and our inalieanble rights as living beings are the only just foundations for the rule of law. We must choose what law we will abide by for it to be just.
Fields and Open Stewardship
When initially declaring a field, talking about fields and their institutional norms, practices and authority is an unneeded complexity. We simply begin and allow the structure for fields and institutions to evolve naturally as needed. But we are not at the beginning, even if we may think we are inventing something entirely new, we will likely find that others have been there before us. They probably developed their own language and structures; they may be embedded in other cultures with different histories and concerns. Even if we discover them we will have a task of learning and translation just to have any basis of comparison. These cultures may develop into dogmatic institutions where political power and influence now narrows the scope of inquiry making them closed to further serious inquiry.
To keep the inquiry open to innovation, to new contributions and maintain the supporting institutions as living collective enterprises, we will need the right priniciples, processes and leadership in these institutions. By declaring Open Stewardship (OS) as a Field of inquiry in its own right we are making a place to do the work common to all living collectives and their leadership. Clearly the principles and processes that support open institutions are deep concerns for OS and all such institutions. We clearly cannot just declare some defining principles and processes and be done with it. We instead create an invitation to the work and allow processes that lead to effective open leadership to emerge. It won't remain open just because we declare it so in naming it. We will need to work on it, and even fight for it.