Visioning Exercises: Popular, and Often Misleading

Lady Gaga

Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by them, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted by the past…” –Gramsci’s “founder of the theory of praxis”

The subject of “visioning” keeps coming up at meetings of already “right-thinking” group of people—which is to say (quietly), “lefties”. who generally think “right like me”. Such people remain capable of appreciating implications of Stephen Colbert’s point blank admonition to President GW Bush, that “Reality has a well-known liberal bias”. As well, such people could demonstrate themselves to be at least as “unbiased”, at least as “fair and balanced” as Fox News [sic], if the group’s members chose to use (waste?) their time doing so. But, when they get around “visioning exercises”, they seemingly lose their critical insights and go GA-GA like Lady GA-GA at an IPad Opening Day.

If i were to go in for visioning exercises—which I don’t, whether because I can’t or won’t escapes me–here’s what I’d write…My vision is that enough people have allowed and helped each other learn how to learn [sic] our collective ways out of our current problems to make it sensible to speak of our efforts then in terms of first-person, plural pronouns. Among other things, such a vision would entail helping each other through personal, interpersonal, and institutional challenges that would inevitably accompany letting go of the now clearly false comfort provided by essentially every previously formalized belief system, from Jesus to Mohammed to Buddha to the Almighty Dollar, so-called free-markets, and rampant individualism; and then, unfettered by past systems that could not have anticipated the conjuncture of challenges we have created for our planet, switching over to learning how to engage in “future responsive social learning”, which among other things would allows us to learn our ways forward into the future, instead of backing into the future on the basis of some old “holy” person’s claims about how to apply thousand-year-old stories to guide us in backing up. Maybe we’ll be able to do all this before the North Pole floats down the Mississippi River some hot sunny day in December, amidst denier parties run by a relocated eco-refugee named Santa Claus!

But I am reluctant to go in for visioning exercises, because in my own experience such exercises almost always proceed on the basis of (to borrow my favorite of George W Bush’s malapropisms) “misunderestimating” the capacity of the opposition, and particularly those elements of the opposition who always already possess systematically asymmetric advantages in access to power and resources.

Instead, I would prefer that we undertake this work by starting where we see ourselves as being now, as ourselves, then developing concrete, practical ways for working around constraints associated with such systematic asymmetries whenever and wherever we anticipate encountering them, whether such working entails undertaking to change the collectively experienced external world or the personal internal world—and leaving as much time, flexibility (institutional, organizational and interpersonal), and resources to allow us to learn more about who we are and what we are up to, so that we can adjust such working along the way toward realizing our then vision, even if it differs from what we originally envisioned.

letcherPS: So much of what I’ve written here comes from teacher-to-me, Don Michael, that I would feel remiss were I not to acknowledge him.

Robert A. Letcher, PhD

Robert A. Letcher, Ph.D describes himself as “an academic with a disability instead of a portfolio, a writer, and a Qigong practitioner who tries to help people learn”.

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