The specifics in this essay are not intended to be a checklist or an instruction to use everything here in all circumstances. After all, that is impossible: not only is this material not comprehensive, but its subject matter (wholeness) is infinite in both scope and nuance. And so this essay is rather intended to point to the deeper essence of wise democracy, an essence which has many manifestations which can and should be applied with sensitivity and discernment in specific circumstances and with greater sophistication as our understanding of it develops. All the aspects mentioned here can be considered windows on that whole unarticulable essence, about which we can develop greater understanding as we view it through those diverse windows and relate it to what we experience in the real world.
For example, I often advocate the use of councils called “mini-publics” or “citizen deliberative councils” – randomly selected microcosms of a community who are exposed to a full spectrum of information and guided by powerful questions and processes in their deliberations about a public issue in search of a deeper shared understanding of what makes sense to do about it, which they share with the broader public, elected officials, and governing agencies. This approach does not explicitly tap transpersonal Ultimates nor does it include everyone in the “whole” community, nor may it particularly tap synergies among the participants or explicitly use systems thinking or complexity theory. But it is a powerful tool for wise democracy, nevertheless.
As a contrast, I am also involved in explorations of collaborative multi-sector, multi-stakeholder, multi-scale networks as an emerging form of governance (which include and transcend government as we know it). This approach tracks a very different perspective on “the whole” than the reflective microcosms of a community mentioned above. Here diverse players are actually doing work in every facet of a public issue or domain and, through collaboration, attempting to use their diversity to increase the effectiveness and wisdom of their impact. Again, given our inclusive participatory bias, this, too, can be embraced as a form of wise democracy, with decisions being made by those most impacted or involved.
And then there is an international movement called We-Space that seeks to call forth collective wisdom from deeply authentic inquiry among spiritually aware and attuned people in group settings. Clearly this is a potential source of holistic wisdom and capacity, but what is its best place in the whole vision?
These are just three examples of radically different approaches that seek – usually implicitly and in their own unique ways – to evoke and engage the wisdom and resourcefulness of the whole on behalf of the whole. None of them covers all the ground described above. But what would be possible if more of us were engaged in developing more ways to weave these and other innovations into participatory cultures capable of continually evolving towards greater wisdom?
That’s what this work is all about.
The term “prime directive” is most associated with the Star Trek TV and film series. There, the Prime Directive basically forbids interference with alien civilizations. I imagine it derives from medicine’s Hippocratic Oath – “First, do no harm.” The wise democracy prime directive is more about maximizing positive effect than minimizing negative effects – and is “prime” in the sense that it is the fundamental moral logic underlying the entire project.