William Raspberry - Robert Theobald: Resilient Communities

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William Raspberry -- Washington Post -- 01/01/1999 quotes Robert Theobald:

" I suppose what I'm saying is not that we shouldn't try to be prudent, as individuals and as a society, but two other things: First, we must break the pattern that has us thinking that the government or big buusiness or some cadre of experts is going to solve every problem with no particular effort from us. Most of the experts are wrong most of the time, and we're simply going to have to use our own best judgement. Second, that we know far, far less than we think we know, and that means we're going to have to get used to livng with uncertainty..."

Robert's got a pretty interesting idea to connect communities of resilience. Here's part of his efforts:


-- Critt Jarvis (critt@critt.com), January 01, 1999


Margaret Wheatley's "Leading Through the Unknowns of Y2K"


Her other stuff:


(Meg, the mosquito won't go away!)

-- Critt Jarvis (critt@critt.com), January 01, 1999.

There's an interesting Canadian angle to Robert Theobald. He was asked in 1995 to do a followup series of lectures (after having contributed in the 1960s) to be broadcast nationally on the CBC as part of the widely acclaimed Massey Lecture series. I found out about the proposed lectures a few months before they were due. The best part of this discovery was the fact that he had posted most of his lecture notes on the Internet and he was inviting participation from around the world in helping to add local credence to his observations of various communities. His efforts created a grassroots response in Canada that can still be seen today (if you look hard enough).

At the time, Mr. Theobald was arguing for a complete reworking of the existing economic and power structures in favour of more local representation and community self-sufficiency. He argued that the economic and political systems are broken, that economics are out of touch with reality, and that political disenfranchisement is the result of stuctural flaws in its relation to real communities. I haven't looked into the 'Resilient Communities' site above, but I suspect that it's along the same lines as his lecture notes.

It was the first time I had heard of anything like it and I was hooked from the start. Occasionally I checked on his site to find out how his work was progressing and I was eagerly anticipating the week- long one-hour lectures on the radio.

And then, the unheard-of happened: The CBC canceled the Massey Lectures for that year. They claimed that Robert Theobald's work did not meet Massey Lectures' academic standards. I suspect that the motives for suppressing the broadcast of this work was motivated by a fear of upsetting the powers that Mr. Theobald's ideas challenged.

For a quick look at some of the ideas he came up with for the Massey lectures, please see:


While the public record of Robert Theobald's efforts have not been completely erased, I must say that this was truly an awakening for me of the power of the broadcast media to limit the scope of public discussion to topics that are palatable to the holders of power. It wasn't long after this episode that I got rid of my television for good.

With respect to Y2K, I believe the lesson here is that we can't expect the media, whatever their affiliation, to weaken the structures of power with Y2K threats, especially if they seek to motivate J.Q. Public into some kind of action. The range of public discourse we can expect to find will always protect the broadcaster and its major supporters. In the case of the news media, they feel they must continue to promote our dependency on technologically vulnerable institutions if they are to survive. For this reason, I'm not surprised to find a distinct lack of broadcasts and news reports relating unqualified fears of Y2K vulnerability. I suspect they'll be denying and hedging on the scope of the problem right up to the end.

-- Jeff Wilson (notan@emailaddress.com), January 04, 1999.

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