Before the break we looked at the dominant world view of today’s power-elites and an alternative world view that relates the survival of our societies to their connection to a functioning ecological base. Duh.

This opposing world view is so sensible and understandable that you’d think that any sane and intelligent member of society – and especially those highly-educated and nurtured members of the power-elites – would adopt it as the basis for their policies and decisions.

But of course they don’t. Why not? Because – unlike any of us – they’re cowards? And/or deeply corrupt and dishonest? Many of them, probably, but there is another explanation that we need to be aware of and think about before we cast the first stone.

The more likely explanation for the failure of our power-elites to adopt and act upon an ecologically-based world view is that their unexamined mental maps, their “Theories of Action” stop them learning how to do so.

These are not just ideological issues. We all have world views, mental models, “Theories of Action”, that can stop us from learning how to tackle complex issues and when you start coming to VIGDEOC network meetings they will be the first things you’ll talk about, explore, evaluate.

Of course, not all world views, mental models, get in your way. Without them we couldn’t get through a normal day at home or at work or with our friends. They are what enable us to fit in, feel comfortable, have confidence that we’re doing the right thing, that people will trust and respect us.

So where do those theories and mental models come from?

Think who or what has shaped – and is shaping – the way you think? Parents, teachers, friends, films, books, plays, newspapers, blogs, radio and TV, sports people, neighbours.

We all have them. You don’t have to be an intellectual. Jenni Diski the British writer tells this story of teaching in a tough London girls’ school.

Most of the pupils were planning to get married or pregnant as soon as they left school, and they were worried about Ms.Diski’s future. One day, a sixteen year-old asked ‘Miss’ :

‘How old are you?’
‘Why aren’t you married?’
‘I don’t want to get married.’
The rest of the class joined in.

At least have a baby, miss. Because it’ll look after you when you’re old.’
‘At least get engaged, miss, and get a ring. Then you’ve got something to sell.

Those girls – and millions like them – had such powerful “Theories of Action” that nothing said by their teachers, had any relevance to their mental models of the real world, and the Theories of Action that shaped their behaviours and actions.

Or think for a moment about sports. If you spent your formative years playing American Football, Ice-Hockey and Basketball, your world-view would be very different to contemporaries brought up on soccer, hurling, cricket, tennis and even rugby.

Which brings me to the film about the South African team’s victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup: INVICTUS. Did you see it?  Why INVICTUS? Yes, its the poem that President Mandela recommends to the team captain, François Pienaar as a guiding philosophy that sustained him through 27 years of harsh imprisonment.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

And ends

I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul

Powerful stuff. And we see Pienaar inspired by words that had sustained Mandela to lead his team of underdogs to victory in the competition – and in the process seemed to create a joyously united nation out of the bitter embers of the apartheid system.

But noble sentiments, goodwill and sporting success can take you only so far. Fifteen years later, South Africa is falling apart: economically, socially, culturally, ecologically. No doubt, Mandela and his successors have done some good things. However the Theories of Action they brought to the vast array of problems and opportunities they inherited have not enabled them to transform the fortunes of the vast majority of their fellow-citizens.

Whatever they may say about justice and change and however sincerely they say it, they, and every other democratically elected leader in the world today operates within something similar to the mental models that John McMurtry outlined.

Often, like Mandela, their mental models operate alongside a quasi-spiritual view of their role in the world. Yet, in another part of INVICTUS we see Mandela making a speech that almost explicitly endorses the dominant power-elite world view that:

  • Each country is first and foremost a competitor in the global market and should act according to its own interests.
  • All states have a right to use all resources within their reach.
  • Governments should encourage trans-national companies to play a full part in all national and international decisions affecting global trade and development.
  • Permanent economic growth is desirable and necessary, with no inherent environmental or human limits to the conversion of life into saleable commodities.

Remember that Mandela was a brilliant lawyer and had spent thousands of days in mutual-education classes with his fellow-inmates during his 27 years in prison. If, after all that, even a great man and a good leader like Mandela shares the same world-view as the rest of the global power elites, we have to start by trying to understand the limitations of our own Theories of Action before we can co-create Viable, Innovative and Gaian Democracies, Enterprises, Organisations and Communities.



  1. […] our daily decisions on our “theories of action.” Roy Madron writes a bit about that at his blog. Posted by Ted on February 11th, […]

  2. 2
    David Chester Says:

    The chances are that after Obama things will be worse that at present due to the inability of politicians to really understand about macroeconomics and jobs and also because of the National debt which is growing so fast that soon its interest will swallow most of the tax that is collected.

    About jobs there are two comments here. If the government borrows money in order to run national projects and thereby create jobs, the money must come from some other kind of investment for which the requirement for jobs will decrease. Thus the claim of creating jobs is a (Keynesian) myth and the benefit to the community in terms of economic recovery is nil. All that happens is that money is spent in a different way and calls for more interet comming from the tax-payer.

    The other thing about jobs is that there are too few of them due to the low demand for consumer goods which is caused by an absence of money (a circular arguement) and also because of the comparatively high cost of goods. This cost comes from the manufacturing process being based on the employment of land, labor and durable capital goods. The cost of using the last two items is unlikely to be reduced, both are not very flexible variables but the price of using land is. It has been grossly inflated by the land owners and speculators with the help of the banks (and unfortunately too the government), so that much land is held out of use whilst the competition for the rest results in a hich price or cost for its access and use. The banks claim that as the price of land falls, mortgage holders will foreclose and that this will cause the banks to go bankrupt. But until land prices do drop significantly, the demand for goods will remain low and no new jobs will result.

    If you try to calculate the money lost by 10% of the working population being out of work for 5 years the approximate result is 100 trillion Dollars. This should be compared with what the banks would loose if 50% of mortgages between 2002 and 2010 were suddenly foreclosed. In this case the total is much less about 10 trillion Dollars. Consequently if I had to take an overview (as Obama shorely should be doing) it is better for the price of land to be lowered.

    This could be introduced slowly by taxing land values in the manner prescribed by Henry George more than 130 years ago. If the tax were gradually taken off incomes and placed on land it would give the speculators time to put their money into investment in actual capital goods and not into land for which we should all have equal rights. Thus land value taxation is able to increase demand in two ways, more personal income and less cost of products. Having cheeper land will allow more of it to be available and entepreneurs will be able to afford the chances to use more of it in a productive manner.


  3. 3

    Hello Roy! … Congratulations on your new, “festive” blog! Isn’t it wonderful that we can avoid the mainstream press – and provide each other with information directly? I would love to link with you … My blog is: Cheers, Kathleen

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