Our actions are, to a great extent, the result of the way we see the world, its perceived meanings, our shared values and the way we, as a society, communicate. Over the last few hundred years this world-view has been deeply influenced by our respect for the power of technical and scientific knowledge, analysis, control, prediction and progress. In this, science has played a significant role suggesting that not only nature but society and human behavior can, in some way, be objectified into various domains for study and analysis.
But what may work well for machines is not always so successful when it comes to individuals and society. For we have come to see our modern world in terms of a series of problems – cancer, environmental degradation, drugs, urban crime, inflation and the like. In turn, each problem demands a solution – war on drugs, medical shots and magic bullets, etc.
But the lessons of chaos theory, to take one example, suggest that in many situations analysis has its limits, as do prediction and control. Seeing the word in terms of “problems” means that we are always externalizing things, pushing them away from us and believing that we – the analyst and planner – are able to rise above the situations in which we are immersed. And each time we perceive what we take to be a problem we immediately react by looking for a solution, which is again applied externally, objectively at, or to, the problem. The result is the exertion of a degree of violence leading to what David Bohm referred to as “fragmentation”. Indeed, the solutions we impose on the world around us often have unforeseen results that sometimes create even more serious situations than the problem we set out to “solve.”
It is for this reason Peat has been suggesting an alternative approach, or way of thinking and seeing, he calls Gentle Action(c). Gentle Action(c) begins from the realization that we are all inexorably a part of the one word, actors with responsibilities, values and obligations. Since an objective “problem” no longer lies outside us, in some external and objective domain, what is now required is an action that arises out of the whole of the situation and is not fragmented or separated from it. Such an action need not be violent but could, for example, arise out of a very gentle, but highly intelligent “steering” of the system, in which each one of us assumes responsibility. (The analogy would be of a swimmer in the ocean who keeps afloat, not by splashing around, but by making minimal movements of the arms and legs that are in harmony with the movements of the water.)
Source: F. David Peat