Synergy Between Part and Whole – going deeper …
This is an edited version of the video on this page.
Part of the reason for talking about this is the tension people often feel between individual and community and the argument over whether the individual is sovereign or subject to the community. Individual sovereignty is attractive but if we can’t take care of the whole community then everybody in it suffers. So both sides have tremendous arguments to support them.
However, from a wise democracy perspective, these arguments are two pieces of a larger truth. The fact is that the sovereignty of an individual only works to the extent that they are aligned with the well-being of the whole. Otherwise, their self-centered actions will degrade the whole and they and what they love will go down the tubes with everything else. We see this a lot in Western society at the moment and all around the world.
On the other hand, if we only support the larger community and society at the expense of individuals, we also lose out. After all, we value individuals because we are all individuals. We know what it’s like to be oppressed and to be suffering, and we don’t want to see that happening to anybody.
From a wise democracy perspective there’s also the factor that if we suppress the people we don’t like, we are losing their voices, we are losing their perspectives, we are losing their pieces of the whole that we are trying to comprehend and deal with. The more people are silenced, suppressed, imprisoned, marginalized and pulled out of the society’s conversations, the less we have access to understanding that piece of the puzzle that they see and that they can contribute to solving.
So we are interested in how we can put all the pieces together so that the parts are supporting the whole, and the whole is supporting the parts. People can do tremendous service to enable a whole society, a whole community, a whole family, or the whole world to function well. And well-functioning wholes like a whole community or family can support the individuals in it. And healthy environments and ecosystems support the entities within them, and we can help those environments and ecosystems be healthy.
So we’re looking at how do we support synergistic factors so that the whole is supporting the parts and the parts are supporting the whole. That goes for any match of wholes and parts. In holistic theory the important concept holons notes that we are all wholes – each of us being a whole entity in our own right – and we are also part of greater wholes. Thus we are all holons. I am part of a community, I am part of an ecosystem, I am part of a society, I am part of this project to create these patterns – and I am also, myself, a whole. I have my own integrity and I am made up of a whole pile of cells, organs, psychological forces and elements in my psyche, etc. So we are all both of these, part and whole; we are holons. Indeed, everything is! To look at the world through that lens, through what would be called a holonic perspective, is to sense there can be synergies all up and down the holonarchy from the smallest entities in the universe to the largest entities in universe.
We who want to create a wise democracy are interested in that inquiry and that perspective because there’s a sense in which wise democracy involves the wholes and parts seeking synergy and mutual support at all the different levels. So how do we go about doing that?
There’s a way in which caring for any whole or any part involves caring for both of them, and supporting them in their efforts to support each other. So we seek to nurture whole communities and environments. And when we say “whole” we mean complete, healthy, wholesome, high integrity, and whatever other manifestations of wholeness there may be.
Whole communities and environments enhance whatever entities are living within them. So we look at what individuals can do to enhance their communities and environments, and try and support and nurture that. And we try to educate people, to help people understand that there’s a larger community and a larger environment there that they are part of.
Margaret Thatcher is famous for saying, “there is no such thing as society; there are only individuals.” Well, that’s a form of blindness. The fact is, there is a society, and that whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not just a bunch of marbles in a jar. It’s an organism and there are things that are characteristic of it, including its ability to serve its parts. It is not true that we are a bunch of totally separate units.
So we wise democrats are looking at the synergies between all these levels and between all these entities and trying to support more of that.