Creating Disorder and the Capacity to Renew

What does stability mean?  How do you provide for it?  If you are student of ecology you see patterns of disturbance Leopold A land ethic.pngeverywhere.   Stability comes from dancing through the inevitable disturbance.  Functional integrity comes from a position of accepting change and maintaining the capacity to renew, and renew, and renew again.

I’ve crawled over the pick-up-sticks of 2000 hectares of Mountain Beech wind-throw caused by some wild wind whipping over the main divide and down the dogleg course of the Poulter River before it meets the Waimakariri.  Seen the burst of life with bush lawyer, supplejack and two metre tall beech saplings that had two years before been bonsai in the shade.   There *is* stability here!  It is the stability we get from that capacity to renew.

I’ve woken to the sound of a forest podocarp giant fall not 300 metres from our camp on a wet night without a breath of wind.  Not a sigh.  A thousand square metres of thrashed undergrowth and dismemberment.  Glorious chaos amidst the human silence – standing atop the horizontal trunk, in awe.

We live within patterns of flux where the merest straw collapses the house of cards we delude ourselves will be forever.  Was it some straining tiny root finally letting go?

In neither of these disturbance events were we present.  We studied them after they had happened.  We learn a little more about the flux of the ecosystem, but did not presume to model the next wind-throw or that last stretched and weakened root.  We cannot know where and when and how bad.  We cannot know on that day the battle for succession has already commenced what struggling sapling will make it to the canopy decades hence; which of the 70,000 per ha will become the 2,500 left standing at the end, or what will topple them next.

We cannot evacuate Kaikoura a day before the midnight quake.

It is our particular and oh so Modern arrogance to believe we can predict complexity.  It is the big delusion of the men in suits.    And because they believe they can control, they design the world as a factory with human and natural cogs obediently turning, and they destroy the very capacities of renewal – of foresight, diversity of thought, robustness, adaptability, knowledge flows and cooperative wisdom – upon which our world and our very species depends.


wessels-reading-the-forestTom Wessels writes beautifully about how to read the landscapes of change around us.   And the change and diversity and surprise and unpredictability is a beautiful thing.  It creates chaos and beauty, mystery and dance.   Better that than the ordering of marching lines, following some idiot over the edge of the next abyss.

I know it’s a theme I keep referring to – that the world is far more defined by complex and interconnected functional verbs than a world reduced to a few structural nouns – let’s call them resources to create the illusion that we have any idea what we are doing.

Within that reality of complexity, you cannot control stability by marching in some predetermined, never-to-be-varied path.  That is rigidity.  That will always fail.  You have to learn to dance. Tom Robbins understands.

tom-robbing-what-is-stabilityAnd yet we live and think within a false materialist and reductionist view as if the world in all its complexity – its geology, meteorology, ecology and sociology, to name a few – is better represented by some metaphor of a certain and controllable machine.

Technocratic delusion.  Obsessive and baseless belief wrapped up as order and the blesséd rigid and the often insufferable pretentiousness of the expert.  They are blind to Alfred North Whitehead’s Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness – confusing an abstract belief with a real concrete thing.

Many applied STEM (and economics) subjects do not deeply question their metaphysics because they claim ‘objectivity’, and metaphysics is apparently beneath them.  They are right in a way; their metaphysics is the very base of everything they do, buried deep within their own minds.  So best not look unless your belief be shaken.  From Whitehead’s fallacy flows a torrent of nonsense and the danger of our world slipping into a totalitarian functionally obedient hierarchical state – the most fragile and stupid of things.

The geologist cannot think like that.  Nor the meteorologists.  Nor the ecologists.  Nor the peterson-political-positioningsociologists.  They better understand the home within which we live because the systems they observe are so defined by change and thresholds you can only examine after the event.  They understand the ‘eco’, the home.  The public health professional responding to the outbreak which came from who knows where.  The educationalists who know that a child can go many ways in life, irreducible to nonsense assumption of ‘rational choice’ and educational achievement of some rigid and baseless standard.  He can count, so he should be ok then.  They want to build capacities in children to live in a society and a world.  The government think you do that by building obedience and standardised order.

Those that live within the complexity of life understand that the world is largely uncertain and uncontrollable, and so they focus on resilience and do their very best to avoid the worst of order, uniformity and control.

Hell, the local dustman gets that things will surprise you!  So revere those at the sharp end of life, the artist, the poet, those that shine a mirror and question the status quo.  Those that feel.  Those that dare to be different.  Those that dare to *be*.

This is my particular beef; that those that hold the most sway in how our world is overexploited and abused are the least equipped to understand that world – the dull financiers, corporate psychopaths, narrow and shortsighted technocrats, doctrinaire economists of rigid mechanical belief.   And I cannot understand for the life of me how they hold their apparent appeal as worthy governors of our planet and community home.

They do not get that we need to revel in the guaranteed disorder and rebuild the capacities to renew.  Your standards and reduction of life to measured and ordered things will eventually kill us all.   Trust the poet economists and the musician financiers; those that have some semblance of a soul.

Insist they read Tom Robbins.
Chris Perley





Posted in Thought Pieces | Leave a comment

What Kind of Times are These?

I drove home from the Otaki Gorge this afternoon. Stopped on the one lane suspension bridge thirty metres over the gorge.  Wanted to just sit there, in the car.  Own it.  Just breathe it in.  But a car was behind me so I drove on … through the beauty of the Tararuas on my right and then the Ruahines on my left, driving north through another gorge with the windmills starkly white against the green hills and nimbus clouds – almost purple.

The cricket hadn’t started so I listened to random iPod tracks. And then Adrienne Rich came on, reading What Kind of Times are These.  And so you push repeat … and repeat.

Addrienne Rich What Kind of times are these.jpg

Chris Perley


Posted in Thought Pieces | 1 Comment

Reframing our Water as a Commons

I’m reblogging this because the current (Spring) sprinkler ban by Hastings District Council has once again raised the whole issue of why – oh for heaven’s sake why – we give our water – *our* water – away to an outside water bottling plant, rationalised with all the empty rhetoric and clichés like “this is simply the market allocating resources,” or “investment, jobs and GDP.” Such ordinary thinking. Such ignorance of our wider world.

Some are now calling for ignoring the sprinkler ban in order to highlight our discontent. It has certainly raised the issue and kept it in the public eye – and hopefully it will make the councillors responsible realise that they need to demonstrate thinking beyond merely the wording of the regulations and ‘resource management plans’. We are not happy with your financial deal maker thinking on this issue Mr National Party politician, though for most it will be enough to make a vocal stand, and keep our sprinklers off.

Chris Perley's Blog

This article was published in the Hawke’s Bay Today following the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s (HBRC) decision to allow an overseas water bottling plant to take water from the high quality aquifer that lies beneath the cities of Hasting and Napier.  Within New Zealand law the is no single ‘owner’ of this ‘resource’, in part because indigenous Maori are opposed to making something that is essential to our being into a mere economic ‘resource’.  Ko au te whenua, Ko te whenua ko au (I am the land, and the land is me).  This is not a view shared only by Maori.  It is a view of most if not all indigenous thinking, including the thinking of the European tribes before the Scientific Revolution and the rise of a world where dis-integration and analysis of parts became the order of the day.

This wisdom is now alien to most of our policy makers…

View original post 1,017 more words

Posted in Thought Pieces | Leave a comment

A Forest Flows

Have to repost. The whole idea of a mechanical world is destroying us, and it is a wrong view. It doesn’t have to be this way. It cannot continue to be this way. There are ways of seeing that are so much more beautiful and meaningful than being integrated and subsumed into the Borg Collective.

Chris Perley's Blog

Forest dawnI am a forester; in the old sense of the word. I want to reclaim the name, to give it again the sense of guardianship of a people and a place which is spatial, structural, dynamic, and timeless; a guardianship which sees our short stay here as one step along a path, which sustains a place of function that gives of multiple values, and shifts in shape and form through four dimensions … and others of the mind. A forester used to be far more than an agronomist. They were verderers (responsible for the green), guardians of the forest common, and common law, and the rights and responsibilities of commoners, and with equal status to the Sheriff.

I want to reclaim that word ‘forest’, to take it back to the French forêt – even beyond. A forest was vert (green) and venison (meat), game, hunt, wolf, prey, browse, graze…

View original post 1,103 more words

Posted in Thought Pieces | Leave a comment

Can Neoliberalism and Social Democracy be Compatible?

Where does Social Democracy finish and Neoliberalism start?  Can both co-exist at the margin between the two?  Some argue that they are on a continuum.   I’m not at all convinced.  That seems a Third Way argument, heartless mechanical Neoliberalism with some Dorian Grey inspired make-up to hide the hidden beast beneath.

There are activities that both Labour and National governments have done in New Zealand since 1984 that are clearly in the social democrat camp – social liberalisations and inclusions relating to identity, the rights of children, gender, victimless pursuits, etc.  Generally less so for the Nats of course, especially since they’ve decided that large Mega-corporates are their very special friends – both as funders and key clients at the expense of the planet and the future of our people.

The special interest of selfishness.jpgBut I don’t think we will not see serious reframings such as the recognition of rights of nature and communities, or the duties thereto by more powerful interests, or the control of corporate influence in politics, while the neoliberal/corporate nexus remains at the policy levers.  They have far too much at stake in pleading in the interests of selfishness and greed.

There is no question that particular liberal, loosely ‘social democracy’ projects can be promulgated under a Neoliberal ‘Third Way’ framework, but the threats being created by the Neoliberal agenda to our foundations of social and planetary function far outweighs such window dressing.

Where I think there is a clear distinction between Neoliberalism and Social Democracy is in the dominant assumptions underpinning policy.  And I think they are incompatible.  They are on very different continua – one dominated by the metaphor of a machine where people have their meaning reduced to a dollar, there to serve the economy as measured by GDP; the other by the metaphor of interconnectedness and constantly shifting system where individuals, communities and place are all moral patients and the economy is there to serve them.  To be a social democrat requires an appreciation of the reality of society, and of the deeper Economy serves the people.jpgconnections and interdependencies of people to other people, and to the places on this planet whole to which they belong and on which they depend.

Neoliberalism has no appreciation of those connections, even to the point of framing everything as ‘resources’ or cogs within a controllable and predictable factory model of life, rather than a functioning and inherently complex and adaptive integrated system where resilience to shocks and adaptability are fundamental capacities.  Their respective metaphysics are more than incompatible – they are also incommensurable to the point where they cannot talk with each other in the same language.

State Communism came from the same mechanical and essentially autocratic stable as Neoliberalism; with the same destructive and dehumanising factory standards.  Their lack of resilience was manifest.  Our current dominant model is no less so.  An adaptive empowered and resilient Social Democracy, and any workable future Complex adaptive system.jpgpolitical movement, cannot coexist with such meaningless mechanical ‘dys’-connected views of people and place.

How did we get here?  We shifted in 1984 from a far deeper understanding of what makes up a history as a colony, a nation, a community, a person and an economy to one dominated by assumptions that we are all part of a machine of selfish individuals, utility maximising, equally powerless, competitive, a world defined as ‘resources’ allocated best by an ‘unfettered’ market; completely devoid of any understanding of humanity.  All the breadth and depth of life was expunged by a religious creed masquerading as a science because it had complex maths to cover its incredible (and I do mean *not* credible) assumptions.   And so we empower the power-hungry, the selfish, the colonisers and the antcolonycoopextractors; and we disempower the nation, the community, cooperation, and the creative potential of both individuals and our economy.

Of course, because so many scientists and humanities minds – which the public sector used to have in spades – refuted this incredibly simplistic view of the world, they had to be expunged, silenced.  And so amidst their claims of freedom and liberalisation, Neoliberalism shut down thought, and difference, and art, in favour of their standardised construct of the world.  Freedom is lost while they drown out the voices of freedom using large megaphones screaming “Freedom!”  And they unleashed the Hyenas of Commerce upon the world.neoliberalism-and-freedom

We became inhuman and inhumane, and designed all sorts of public organisations in the image of a certain, controllable, quantitative machine – standardisation, jobs defined by outputs, schools as factories, corporate-style hierarchies and autocracies, people as cogs, loss of thinking, dialogue, compassion and cooperation, the assumption that the worst ‘rational’ and short-term self interest would magically create a better world.

David Suzuki is quite right when he gives the example of planetary destruction of slow cycling natural systems as economically rational – and therefore nothing short of rationalised insanity; brain damage.  It is rational within Neoliberal constructs to liquidate and reinvest in more liquidation, to discount virtues and duties as well as the future until you have a large McMansion on a hill and all else is gone.  And any claims that constructing ‘externalities’ will prevent that i-only-exist-when-you-need-somethinghappening are rubbish.

You cannot know what you need in the future if you are looking at your feet through short-sighted lens.  You cannot price those consequences because you cannot measure the impact over distant time and space, and you cannot even conceive of the many meaningful things – the loss of a butterfly in flight.  You cannot measure because the framing as a set of resources is false: forests, fisheries, water, soils – not to mention our climate – are far more than mere static sets of resources; they function, they interact, they flow, they dance; they are far more verbs than nouns; murmurations, not bricks.

The neoliberal creed of Treasury is blind to what is our home (eco), and so have absolutely no idea how to manage it (eco-nomics).  They certainly don’t understand the importance of ethos, compassion, spirit, motivation, changing behaviour in the public, small enterprise vs. large, public vs. private complexities, or the environment.

maslow-classic-economic-theory-based-as-it-is-on-an-inadequate-theory-of-human-motivation-could-be-abraham-maslow-121068That is the greatest distinction I would make between Social Democrats and Neoliberals.  Neoliberals have no sophisticated view of either people or society (how it actually works), or the environment (how it actually works).  They have no ecology.  They have no sociology.  They have no psychology.  They have no history.  They have no philosophy.  They have modelling and mathematics … and false assumptions.

They presume a society and a planet are a collection of disconnected reducible quantitative and measurable things, and therefore you can make it work by emphasising the presumed mechanical nature of things. And so a multitude of negative consequences ensues because – patently – the world (people and planet) are *not* a certain controllable, reducible machine – they are embedded socio-ecological complex adaptive systems within which there are lives that have meaning.

With that view the outcome follows – a bigger ‘economy’ measured in dollars as a collective rather than with any reference to the meaning and life of one soul.  The presumption is that the cog will rise with the collective machine.  I cannot imagine a more dystopian view of life.corporate-capitalism-is-not-democracy

Until we sort those roots, and dig them out, we’ll be dominated in our policy making by Neoliberal madness.  It doesn’t matter if we liberalise the expression of particular identity differences if life is reduced to a meaningless struggle up the hierarchy.  That doesn’t mean they care.  It is far more about maintaining control than creating a future where life is meaningful and resilience to the uncertainties we face.

I don’t think we will have social justice or any form of social democracy until Neoliberalism is expunged from Treasury, and the public sector restored to something where the mad ideas of the corporate/neoliberal nexus are exposed to the glare of the real world.  They are that incompatible.  They are positioned that far distant on incommensurable continua.

There can never be a Third Way.  We can have a resilient meaningful Social Democracy, or  we can continue to head down the path to a dystopian Corporatocracy.

And if it isn’t climate change that gets us, it will be something else.


Posted in Thought Pieces | Leave a comment

Principles of Truth, Open Dialogue and Compassion …. and Trump

when-science-becomes-politicisedThe Guardian’s Oliver Milman has written that Trump is to scrap Nasa climate research in crackdown on ‘politicized science’.  It is an ironic title.  His politicised science framed as cracking down on politicised science.  Orwellian.  Corporate science is truth.  My science is truth.  Tell me what I want to hear.

This seems so incredibly crass and ignorant that it needs confirmation.  Is this rumour, speculation, or for real?  Trump ‘choosing’ his science is a complete shift from the Elizabethan public service code – “I want your free and frank advice without fear or favour.”

If it is true, it represents the loss of a fundamental social institution (kaupapa is a far better word – the principles, connections and processes of how we engage and act etc.).  In this case, the principle that we make the best decisions by being informed instead of surrounding ourselves with those who are far more interested in currying favour or presenting the world as it seems through their eyes.  The quiet road to Hitler’s bunker anyone?   A return to the Court of Henry VIII and massive social upheaval and debt?   (Lucky they had the Channel.)

Jane Jacob’s Dark Age Ahead warns of this loss of fundamentals.  I think we have lost so many since the rise of Neoliberalism and the mega-corporates.  The world has become a good place for con artists.  Our judiciary, academia, independent science (i.e. untainted by money and power), and public intellectuals are the last bastions.  The public service is long gone.  Many departments and councils have become toxic autocracies of nightmare action.  And there are those that are after those bastions.  They represent inconvenient truths if your focus is some variant of totalitarian command and control rather than life and lives with action-without-visionmeaning into the future beyond.
Is Trump one of them?  Are the corporates so short sighted that they do not see the potential disasters they are unfurling that will eventually engulf themselves?  Actually, the second is easy.  They are the least wise.  

Jacobs was interested in why otherwise successful civilisations have failed because of – in her analysis – the breakdown in fundamental institutions.  From there, the unravelling begins – interconnected, deeply social such that any attempt to measure it within quantitative ‘resource’ based models completely misses the point.  You lose your kaupapa – your connections and treatment of truth and others – and you can very easily lose the meaning of life.  

Our blind neoliberals again, with their empty eyes shining bright with deluded faith, and trancelike enigmatic smiles reflecting nothing except the screen.
Jacobs sums up the danger thus: “Losers are confronted with such radical jolts in circumstances that their institutions cannot adapt adequately, become irrelevant, and are dropped” (p. 20).  The jolt – or a series of incremental dismantlings – leads at some point to a cascade effect – cascade-effect-chronic-fatiwhich to understand you need a little systems background – the complex adaptive systems of socio-ecological things.  The straw that breaks the camels back, the threshold over the edge of which the unravelling begins, the ball that flips out of the bowl to some new attractor point and system state that absolutely no one can predict with any certainty.  Likely the closest one to predict that new state (if they survive) will have been considered slightly batty.
Jacobs writes specifically about the vulnerability of democracies when certain types of people get into power ….
“powerful persons and groups that find it in their interest to prevent adaptive corrections have many ways of thwarting self-organising stabilisers — through deliberately contrived subsidies and monopolies, for example.” (p. 21)
And by suppressing these “self-organising stabilisers” in our society, we risk it all.  I really don’t think the technocrats get this.  They don’t get the critical importance of key social institutions in the functioning of our people and our land – good science without the never-be-afraid-to-raise-your-voicetaint of big money and narrow goals; open dialogue; channeling a corporate money, money, money message of meritocracy and other myths; reforming the public sector into a corporate autocratic functionary state for the reward of group-think and train-scheduling technocracy, where conceptual thinking is banned.

We have, since  the 1980s and the “Revolt of the Elite”, changed our institutions away from truth and open dialogue, and compassion for others and the earth.  And it is those institutions, those principles, that kaupapa of truth and open dialogue and compassion, that are fundamental to our future success or failure.  

None of them will you find in an economist’s model.  None of them will be relevant within the technocratic quantitatively obsessed minds who cannot see the world through wider senses.  We presume such people are wise only because we have been brainwashed to see wealth and an expensive suit as symbols of wisdom and merit.  Look to the other side.

But the onus is really on us, not them.  To never stop may-your-choices-reflect-your-hopesspeaking on the side of truth and compassion.  To think for ourselves and never be afraid of seeing things differently.  To make choices based on our hopes, never our fears.

And that has relevance for whom we choose to govern.  Do they care?  Do they dialogue?   Do they tell the truth or hide behind glibness and spin?   Do they love the machinations of deals and “gotcha!” moments.  Do they reflect our hopes?   Do they, in any way, work on our fears?

Search into their hearts.  If they do not have hearts, then look for those who do.   They are the future we deserve.

Chris Perley



Posted in Thought Pieces | 1 Comment

The Trumps of History

In the 20s, the Weimar republic – post WW I Germany – had hyperinflation; wheelbarrows of money, widespread penury.  The Allies had imposed vengeful and immoral reparations.  Most people suffered.  Suffering creates resentment.  Resentment wants a target.  It wants to hear that it was someone else’s fault.   Who did this to us?

The IMF was here.jpg

That target might become the Establishment, and most of the Establishment have a sense that that is a possibility.  So they work to become an ally of the resentful, lest they turn their attention on themselves. They cause much of the misery, and wrap it in myth.

But there is still resentment.  A sense of a deeply unfair world.  A lack of hope that things will ever get better.  The Establishment must protect themselves by refocusing that resentment on to others, to those outside of society – outside the sense of ‘nation’ of those who suffer.

You can manufacture that idea of Nationhood, of ‘folk’. You can embellish the myths of foundation and destiny.  A Great Nation that can be great again.  Having an enemy is always good.  Wave lots of flags.  Put on parades.  If you can, go to war; Orwell’s constant state of war in his 1984.  Using such Nationalism to hold the people in check is always popular.  Argentina goes to war over the Falklands when the Junta gets a bit wobbly. Invade Iraq – Operation Iraqi Freedom (nothing to do with internal politics or oil of course).  Turn it into really bad movies.

Another tactic is scapegoating *within* society.  Divide.  Set the divisions apart from the Nation and Folk.  Make it the fault of some ‘other’ part of society that you like to think is not part of *your* society – those outside yourselves – those with whom you do not identify.  Separate them from the idea of ‘nation’.  Depersonalise.  Reduce them to ‘resources’ or ‘costs’.  Those that are poor or sick, wrapped up in the myths that they deserve it because they are inferior.  Those with different ethnicity or over the political border stones someone defined in our minds. Those in the towns and cities, or those in the country.  Those over the river.  Those who dare to be different and shine a spotlight on the truth through art.  Those that worship differently.

And one of the best tactics as the Ring to Rule them All is developing a cult of leadership; a ‘Leader’ synonymous with ‘going forward’ and other vile clichés – with making your lives better.  Surround the leader, Das Fuhrer, in a mystique of destiny and belonging and hope – because people call out for hope and belonging.  Because we are social before we are rational, and reaction against a symptom is so much more satisfying and adrenaline pumping than actually considering, let along identifying and addressing, what is the root cause.  Thinking is hard, and one of the first things the Establishment attempts to control.

Build a cult of Nation, Divide, and Lead.  And so you get Stalin, Mussolini, Tojo and people named Adolph, and Donald, and our very own John.

There is a very great problem with this recurring theme of the subjugation and ‘othering’ of people and place.  At some point, someone decides to invade a metaphorical Poland, the unraveling begins after a brief spurt of triumph, and you end up in a bunker or strung up from a lamppost in Milan.

It is a far better strategy in the long run to simply care about people, now and into the future.  And to shine a light on the delusions of entitlement the Establishment can foment in their own minds.

Chris Perley


Posted in Thought Pieces | 5 Comments

The Art of Space – Realising the Potential of our Lands and CityScapes

I am struck by the similarities we face when we look at land and cityscapes.  Patterns, connections, things that do many things at once, that mean this as well as that.  You have to hold a few ideas simultaneously in your head to get the best out of land.  To see it in different lights.  To see potential for more than one thing.  To see meanings in multiples.  To see the shapes and patterns and connections and shifting relationships.  Contingent.  Conditional.

Multifunctional Landscape.jpgThis is how water shifts.  This is where stock move; where they sit at night, how they graze along the ridges and spurs, and then the bottomlands, leaving the south faces until last.  This is how the pasture composition changes, and where the woody plants appear as the forest tries to come back.  This is where it is mostly wet, or mostly dry.  This is where the trees do well and the grass does poorly, or where the grass does well and the animals keep returning.  Pattern laid on pattern, connection on connection; soil, moisture, climate, a type of animal, grazing, pasture composition, woody vegetation.  Functioning dominates.  Flow.  This is not a flat factory of a mere few variables.

Bring them all together and you get the rich warp and weft of potential.  Do we – honestly, *do* we? – make a habit of seeing this potential?  Or are we too wrapped up in the myopia and analysis of things through a narrow lens many see as superior – as more ‘objective’, as more ‘factual’?  Objectifying people and place; *dys*connecting, *dys*functioning; narrowing meaning to some branch of technology and industry.  Make it all the same.  Look through one lens of grass production, or traffic volume, or drainage rates.

The world cannot be known by that approach, nor the potential realised.  This place is where people could sit all day and listen to the hum of insects and the morning call of blackbirds.  This is a place where in order to understand it, you have to be in it; to belong, to connect.  This is where the space is cold and windy in the easterly, or hot beyond tolerance in the Northwest.  This is a place where you could sit and watch the world go by, stretch out on the grass with a coffee and a book, a place to play music in the shade.  This is where you can find your muse, and a poem.  This place, created this way, could make this city come alive, or this farm sing far far more than a single note.

The artist notices shapes and patterns.png

I am struck by why it is we give such importance to the technocratic view, the quantitative view, when there are so many questions and ideas the analytical mind cannot begin to imagine.  Can we please bring the artists back into our lives before we devolve into the Borg Collective?

We need the artists to see, we need those who can keep many opposing views in their mind at once; this is a stream, and an ecosystem, and a playground, and a place to learn, and a swimming hole, and a beautiful thing if we add this here and hang a rope from that tree there – and, yes, it is also (but never only) a drain.  What would the technocrat see?

Street Lamp copy 2.jpeg

A lamppost in Hastings, from a different perspective – Photo Sarah Cates

We need the artist to see the vision of future possibilities, new solutions to old problems, to raise questions that the administrator could never imagine.  Because without asking the right questions, the answers are meaningless.

We need those who can pause, and find a thing, and shift their gaze to another position because they know, somehow, that this position will reveal something new, something beautiful.

If we want to realise the potential in our forests and farms and our cityscapes we need the minds of artists to see the vision, see the potential, and ask the questions.  Technocrats have a role in realising that potential – but we ought not have the person who sees only a drain, or a milk factory, or a traffic flow, or an expenditure account, ever determine our direction in life.

They will not realise our potential.

Chris Perley



Bundy, Peter P. 1999 Finding the Forest.  Excerpt

Posted in Thought Pieces | 2 Comments

Is the Banality of Evil Back Again?

Reading about Hannah Arendt, who wrote about the Banality of Evil and the Eichmann trial. He was everybody’s functionary. Think the postal clerk with no moral concern for the purpose of his office – just act as part of the ‘machinery of pursuing’.  OK, I’m obsessed with her findings; that evil can flourish through non-thought.

eichmann_in_jerusalem_book_coverBecause I saw it happen in my years working for the public service – we went from an ethos of public service and a clear purpose outcome-focus (though we never used the word ‘outcome’) with engagement expected within the professionals (you were expected to think, and we had some incredible characters who could express!)

….. to a machine of transactional relationships – instruct & obey – job descriptions of tasks – assumptions that this sort of autocratic hierarchy was ever going to be effective – the promotion of the B graders and C graders. I saw the least cooperative and the least motivated by any concept of a better world promoted.

And then I read what Eichmann said when he was interviewed in Argentina, ….

“Where would we end up if everyone would have his own thoughts?”¹

Riot police.jpgNaturally, I laughed. Such a small mind. Such a dangerous mind. Such an autocratic mind. A pure functionary. Scheduling trains without thought of the inhumanity of what he did … in the interests of obedience and a certain, mechanical, hierarchical world. Who would not reject this view?  It is not what a life should ever be.

It. Should. Never. Be.

And then I recalled an ex-colleague manager reporting to a friend that he was told by his CEO ….. in 2016! – our current oh-so-much-more-enlightened age than the age of state totalitarianism pre and post WW II …. this …

“You are not paid to have an opinion.”

And I thought, how similar is that statement to Eichmann’s.


Read the book!  Explore the idea!  Talk about it!

What a similar mind to Eichmann must he have to have said such a thing?

This banality of evil could happen again.  IS happening again.  It is happening in our public departments and in many mega-corporations.

hugo-boss-uniformInhumanity dressed up as “just doing my job.”

It just isn’t dressed in Hugo Boss designer SS uniforms with those lovely boots.

Chris Perley

1.  From Willem Sassen’s Interview with Eichmann in Argentina as quoted in the docudrama Eichmanns Ende.

Posted in Thought Pieces | 1 Comment

Have some Bliss

I remember studying ee cummings’ poems in high school.  He always spoke to me more You are Tired ee cummings.pngthan Shakespeare and the great British romantics.

Partly it was the interesting fact he went all lower case with his name. Rebel!

But he also left these beautiful autumn leaves floating quietly to the earth, shimmering in the wind and light, compelling you to watch and wonder, and feel a little quiet bliss.

Have some bliss.

Chris Perley

Posted in Thought Pieces | Leave a comment