This piece, written in the dire days immediately following 9/11/2001, has nonetheless very strong suggestions for us today and tomorrow.

Grassroots Solutions
The people, not central authorities, have answers
by Win Wenger, Ph.D.

The great historian and theorist, Arnold Toynbee, whose descriptions (A Study of History, Oxford U. Press) of the patterns of history were, I believe, pretty well on target, observed that declining and falling civilizations tend to attempt to solve their problems through central agencies and authorities.

The fact that declining civilizations fail to solve their problems, which Toynbee attributed to other causes, might very well be attributed instead to that very tendency to try to work through central arrangements.

In rising civilizations, people on their own, at "grass roots" level, take on the problems and issues. People are enough in communication to imitate each other's successes and avoid each other's failures, but for the most part are working free of central direction, and usually aren't the people who had been expected to be the source of the answer.

It also seems intuitively correct that people who work with what they have, including themselves, on the problems, are more likely to find effective solutions than either the central authorities or all the masses of people standing around waiting for their direction or for resources which are controlled by someone else.

Gentlepersons, we are certainly "grass roots" from the perspective of the main players and decision-makers of our society. This is not an invitation to go off half-cocked, nor to do anything angry or destructive instead of healing and constructive. (Let us not become "like them!") And at this juncture this country and all of us have to speak with one voice on certain matters, certain actions. But what we can and should do, I will address in a moment.

I give some credence to Jordan's King Abdullah (one of America's most supportive friends in the Middle East), interviewed by CNN [2001]. His belief was that, had the Israeli-Palestinian peace process a year ago successfully culminated when it was so close to doing so, the madmen simply would not have been available to perpetrate Black Tuesday. Such festering situations give extremists and madmen the upper hand in their local settings and feed worse things yet to come.

The terrible loss of living human beings is matched by another terrible loss. We in America have now lost a significant portion of our freedom, as will become increasingly evident in these next few days, months, and years. Every one of us is affected. The problems we don't solve eventually come home to devour us. We've stacked quite a few unsolved problems out there.

How far have we, how far have you, gotten by assuming each major national and world problem was a matter to be handled only by our proper authorities and leaders? Not in this instance to blame our leaders:  on the Israeli-Palestine thing our leaders made their greatest, sincerest and most concerted effort, and failed. Now things there are such that over the next year or so the best we can hope for are —

  1. that we can patch enough holding-action diplomacy together to prevent full outbreak of another full-scale Arab-Israeli war; and

  2. that the Gulf-War-like patterns we are now moving into won't generate more enemies than we succeed in punishing.
Matters there are too inflamed for now for the suggested answers we've talked about here for years and offered in our Solutions. Such as:
  • Giving tax breaks to corporate enterprises which to a substantial extent are jointly owned by the ethnic groups involved, making this the basis of a program to economically develop the whole region ... so that the more powerful interests of each side increasingly find their own well-being defined in terms of the well-being of the other side.

  • And a similar Israeli-Egypt arrangement to develop the Negev, to consolidate the now-strained peace between those two countries.

  • And a similar Israeli-Jordanian arrangement to develop the Jordan River Valley.

  • And the proposed double-whammy for the Golan Heights:  relocate the headquarters of a major UN agency there, and incentivize joint Israeli-Syrian-owned development of those heights.
Things will now have to settle down for years before such measures could be undertaken. Yet even this year, there were a few grassroots efforts by some other people, though by none of us here, which may bring peace dividends later on — for example, the summer camps here that brought together youth from both Israel and Palestine, which became almost a love-fest.

But what DO we have to work with, where WE can make a meaningful positive difference? And should we?

These and many other ideas, and the many various specific creativity techniques and methods we enjoy for generating them, are what you and I have to work with.

All along, and right now, these and many other potentially great answers could be gotten into public discussion, if your eyes didn't roll up and glaze over every time someone mentions a world problem. ...Or if you didn't recite your old, long-ago-pat answers at each other when an issue does come up that catches your reflexes.

Gentlepersons, you not only have wonderful brains which nature invested half-a-billion years developing toward perfection, you have at your disposal the world's finest techniques for getting at what those brains can come up with. Our "responsible leaders" don't even have use of the earlier, first generation of techniques for creatively solving problems, and never hear potentially great answers because people aren't meaningfully discussing them, so the problems continue.

Gentlepersons, you may take the luxury, but we no longer have the luxury, of rolling glazed eyes away from the major problems, or of wallowing comfortably in our fixed opinions instead of turning to our perceptions.

Gentlepersons, I respectfully request of you that you consult your own ImageStreaming and/or other faculties on the issue of whether and how we should.....how YOU should......take on and address some of these matters, and report back.

In sober regard,
Win Wenger

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