Informal Networks and New Social Movements


Posted Sept 2000. Updated August, 2014.

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A Comparison between the Laceweb and Latin American Social Movements


The Latin American experience

Perhaps a place to start is the shantytowns on the outskirts of São Paulo in Brazil. These were 'home' to a social movement that Rowan Ireland, a Melbourne sociologist had been researching in the late eighties. Central to that social movement's aims were to improve their habitat.

Ireland writes of his returning to investigate the social movement ten years later (Ireland, R., 1998) 1. The first part of his article paints a very gloomy picture. 'I had lost sight of my social movement. I would find myself recording only happenings of chaos, breakdown and anomic disintegration'. He describes conditions as 'pathetic'.

The destitute people were consumed with survival from one day to the next. They were surrounded by despair and criminal violence. The destitute were so concerned with sheer survival that there was no energy for any 'social movement'. In contrast to ongoing academic writing of how social movements operate, Ireland describes his 'movement' as, 'a nightmare story.'

Ireland had been regularly travelling backwards and forwards by train along the 55 kilometres between the out-lying shantytowns and São Paulo. While so travelling he had been engrossed in his academic reflections as to what could have killed the social movement he had been studying.

Then there is this delightful moment in the train where Ireland suddenly looks up and sees his social movement. He is surrounded by it. Instead of it being dead as he thought, it is very much alive and well in this public space of the workers' train. He had been blind to what was surrounding him. Now before him he suddenly sees a profusion of zest and community, avid conversations and debates, orators talking on all manner of subjects, the repartee of hecklers and the belly laughs of the audiences.

There were also poets, musicians, jugglers and other buskers - beggars banquets and a thriving paupers' market extending even to coals-roasted peanuts from the kerosene tin. Here on the Shantytown train, alive and well, Ireland finds ongoing 'invention' and 'structuration' - change potential bubbling within everyday socio-cultural life. It was his social movement, but in a different form. Perhaps this form had existed all along and he like other theorists just hadn't seen it. Among the human energy on the train all manner of happenings and ideas were being passed on as stories - fragments of subjective experience were being melded for the possibilities of enriching life.

In the mainstream traditions of Kingdoms, people of the court were 'courtly', the gentry were 'gentle' men, people of politics were 'polite' and the peasants who had shifted to the new industrial towns were expected to be 'civil'. On the shantytown train there was none of this - it was vibrant and avid sociability. It had a celebratory quality. The train was not stopping at their station in life.

What had prevented him seeing all of this before? He had been travelling on this train for days on end. New forms of movements were emerging and they were not where theorists were looking. These movements were not taking the familiar form, and hence they had gone un-noticed by social theorists. Some, including Ireland, had resigned themselves to the demise of some social movements.

However, suggests Ireland, social movements are alive and well in new forms - in unexpected public places like the train. Ireland then paints a contrast to the zombies receiving a one-way flow of massaged information from the establishment. Rather, across the lines of fragmentation of the poor, the 'astonishing sociability of Brazilians appears to flourish just when it is assumed dead on the mean streets'.

In introducing these 'behaviour on trains' insights, Ireland refers to Evers' writings on new social movements in Latin America. From Evers - 'By creating spaces for the experience of more collective social relations, of a less market-oriented consciousness, of less alienated expressions of culture and of different basic values and assumptions, these movements represent a constant injection of an alien element within the social body of peripheral capitalism (italics added) (Evers, 1985) 2.

Like Ireland, Evers also seeks to identify aspects of new social movements in Latin America. He suggests firstly, that "political power' as a central category of social science is too limiting a conception for the understanding of new social movements.' Rather, 'their potential is mainly not one of power, but of renewing socio-cultural and socio-psychic patterns of everyday social relations penetrating the micro-structure of society'.

To express it in different words, 'the transformatory potential within new social movements is not political, but socio-cultural. Any focus on power relations would miss this shift!

Evers identifies this shift from preoccupation with 'power' in the Latin American context. 'It is my impression that the 'new' element within new social movements consists precisely in creating bits of social practice in which power is not central; and that we will not come to understand this potential as long as we look upon it from the viewpoint of power apriori.' New social movements are evolving relations other than 'power relations' and 'market relations'.

According to Evers, characteristics of these new social movements include:

·         a relatively small number of participants

·         non-bureaucratic and even informal structures

·         collective decision making

·         relatively little social distance between members and leadership

·         a rather untheoretical immediate way of perceiving and presenting the social aims of the movement

·         use of forms of cultural expression like music, theatre, dance, etc. for propagating their aims.

The foregoing traits are perceived by some to indicate the 'weak, pre-political nature of these groupings'. Evers also suggests that the 'innovative capacity of these movements appears less in their political potential than in their ability to create and experiment with different forms of social relations in everyday life'.

The dominant culture has the base of it's power embedded in modes of perception and orientations, as well as beliefs and values that are generally operating below awareness on the socio-cultural and socio-physical level of everyday life (Kuhn, T., 1962) 3. The new social movements are a significant danger to dominant systems, says Evers, precisely because of their potential to undermine this very base. The new social movements tend to put into question the 'unconscious automatism of obedience' within mainstream at the socio-cultural and psycho-socio-physical levels.

While this 'danger' could be in the long term, it is this potential to produce change, 'rooted in the everyday practice and in the corresponding basic orientations at the very foundations of dominant society', which may prove to be the source of the most profound change potential of these new movements. They may turn out to be more political in their consequences than movements in direct political confrontation with the dominant system.

A second key aspect of these new social movements according to Evers is that the direction of the creative process is:

·         'necessarily open,

·         embryonic,

·         discontinuous, and

·         plagued by contradictions',

and therefore he suggests, 'difficult to perceive'.

When looked at from the dominant framework, little that's 'new' would be perceived. The new social movements will appear:

·         weak

·         implausible

·         fragmented

·         disorganised

·         discontinuous

·         crippled, and

·         contradictory

To get a sense for these new social movements we have to first adapt our senses to the almost imperceptible nature of these elements, 'knowing we are looking for something that is as yet predominantly represented by it's felt absence'. We will not, says Evers, be able to understand the logic of the bits and pieces of new social practices except from deep within the frameworks of these new social movements (italics added).

The third key aspect for Evers is that as yet, the subjects being procreated within these new social movements 'cannot be thought of as social entities or individuals in their wholeness, but rather as fragments of subjectivity cutting through the consciousness and practice of individuals and organisations.'

This differs from the Marxian notion of social subjects being born into and then having an apriori objective existence in the form of a 'social under-class'. Within this view, members of the under-class are subjectively constituted as products of this objective reality. In contrast, within these new social movements suggests Evers', there will never be anything else but a 'rudimentary subject-coming-in-to-being, struggling with correspondingly imperfect structures in the making'.

Evers describes these new Latin American social movements as being against not a specific form of political power, but against the 'centrality of the power criterion itself'. 'The question of the reappropriation of society from the state has become thinkable'.

Note that the primary orientation is still 'against' something. The focus is on 'obstacles' that are to be 'resisted' and 'overcome'. (In contrast, the Laceweb is not 'against' anything - as discussed later).

'New social movements are not taking a stance against the organisational and auxiliary functions of the state, but against it's expression of domination (my italics)'. New social movements aim to 'preclude things from happening', which is also a prime criterion of power structures.

'Moving beyond mere 'cultural expression' within new social movements towards being a 'political presence', is seen by many as a sign of growing consciousness within new social movements. These people may not see that this shift can mean a decrease in socio-cultural potential, and ultimately a loss of political effectiveness.

Evers sees only two alternatives for these new social movements, 'oppose the dominant system', or 'to try to uphold an identity of it's own, at the price of remaining weak, inefficient and plagued by contradictions'. A third position is the 'precarious combination of both alternatives'.

For Evers it is 'precisely the non-market elements within social relations that are being reappraised; and so is human expression in all its aspects except buying power.' 'Significantly, within these movements, precapitalist and even pre-mercantile elements and values reappear - in that sense, the 'new' within these movements is also archaic.'

The essence of new social movements for Evers is their 'capacity to generate germs of a new social subjectivity - new as much in content as in self consciousness'. This new social subjectivity is experiencing 'inter-subjective being' not 'subjected being'. Rather than having the State internalised, they are generating and experiencing states (experiences) of their own making. In addressing the twin themes of 'emancipation' and 'self determination', the new subjectivities of these new social movements are simultaneous the 'most advanced and the oldest'.

A few other observations: It would be audacious to say that diverse new social movements are embryonic aspects of a common social utopia. They remain diverse and local - attempting to meet local needs. Evers sees the possibility of political parties emerging that are servants, not masters of these new social movements. This would exclude the party being 'in control'. New Latin American social movements seem to have 'leaders' and a specific 'structure'.


Comparing the Laceweb and the New Latin American Social Movements


The Laceweb is an evolving social movement originating in Australia in the early Nineteen sixties and spreading throughout the SE Asia. Oceania, Australasia Region. Indigenous and small minority natural nurturers and healers are linking in informal networks. A glimpse into the healing ways may be found at Living and By the Way.

The Laceweb was energised by Dr Neville Yeomans and others. Laceweb energy emerged from Yeomans social pioneering work in Fraser House, Australia's first therapeutic community (1959-68) and from a series of community festivals leading up to the Aquarius Festival and ConFest.

Like the new Latin American movements, the Laceweb's transformatory potential is at the psycho-socio-cultural level.

To adapt Evers, the Laceweb focuses on healing socio-cultural and socio-psychic patterns of everyday social relations penetrating the microstructure of local communities. It is spreading among disadvantaged indigenous and 'micro-minority' people (a termed used in some global forums).

Another similarity is that for many, the Laceweb appears 'weak, implausible, fragmented, disorganised, discontinuous, crippled and contradictory.' That it may appear this way to mainstream people is a strength.

The Movement may be ignored as inconsequential by those who may otherwise seek to harm. Laceweb people tend to be continually on the guard for people who want to come in and rectify the supposed weaknesses. There is little scope for intrusion by elements who may seek to transform the Laceweb towards mainstream ways.

Typically, any attempt to do this is rejected. If dysfunctional energy does manage to transform, it typically relates to only a very small part of the network, and the other parts of the Laceweb sever working ties with this transformed part. Put simply, it ceases to be Laceweb.

Another factor in the forming of the Laceweb is that it has been spreading among healers and natural nurturers within the most marginalised of people in the SE Asia, Oceania, Australasia region - the disadvantaged indigenous and micro-minority people.

The only people with other backgrounds who have been linked into the movement are healers who are fully resonant with Laceweb ways. Typically, non-resonant people are not in the least bit interested. This minimises interference from people who would attempt to subvert the Laceweb way.

Like Ireland's poor people of São Paulo, a majority of people linked with the Laceweb are consumed with survival from one day to the next. The Laceweb, as 'local action', is local healers going about their everyday life using practical wisdom based on local knowings - nothing special - though this 'nothing special' may have the potential to change the world. At another level it is vitally special.

And every now and then they may have an opportunity to pass on a story or two. Laceweb 'stuff' does not take them away from the other parts of their life. It is their life. The Laceweb is simultaneously very, very fragile and very very strong. It is very thin on the ground.

In some small remote communities there may be a few 'Laceweb' people and paradoxically, the Laceweb as 'social movement' is typically not their scene. The other locals may not know them as 'Laceweb' people. These other locals are not resonant, so they do not know and are not told. Even the local Laceweb people may not see themselves as 'Laceweb' people.

Laceweb people generally live in 'contested geographies'. There are issues of land rights and conflict over resources, eg, mines, dams, forests and fishing. Multinationals seek cooperation with national governments to the detriment and potential destruction of the local indigenous/micro-minority people.

These disadvantaged people face issues of communal survivability in the physical, psycho-social and cultural senses. Diverse cultures face issues of their survive-ability as cultural groups (both dispersed and compact) and as territorial groups in relation to cultural regions, environments, and relationship to place. There is also the loss of 'habitat' for hunter gathers and swidden gardeners (the short-term use of relocated small gardens). With all the above, they daily face the economics of survivability as individuals and communities.

Within the indigenous/micro-minority communities in the Region there may be energy resisting the forces creating the issues outlined above. However, within the Laceweb social movement it is 'healing' that is the central focus and potential for social transformation, not 'power' or 'resistance'.

The Laceweb's also operates at the socio-cultural level. Laceweb action is for healing - quality living, psycho-social wellbeing (being well), friendship, celebrating and nourishing in all it's forms. As well, it is for a culture (as in 'way of life') that meets the needs of the locals. Note that this is very 'Yin' in focus.

Evers suggests that the Latin American movements are against the state's expression of domination. The Laceweb is not 'against' anything' - there is no 'Yang' element. It does not want to 'preclude', or 'resist', or 'attack'. This appears to be a big difference between the Laceweb and the new Latin American social movements.

Healing is the ultimate subversive act. There is nothing so subversive as healing to 'warriors' within an aggressive type of system, as it threatens their value system.

Laceweb 'Yin healing' is all the more subversive for its subtleness. The quiet and unobtrusive Yin healing within the Laceweb Yin 'equality reality' is typically not noticed, or if noticed is dismissed as weak, contradictory, and irrational by the 'warrior' system.

Even if Yin healers 'don't give a damn for politics', their healing may be profoundly subversive and in the medium to long term (perhaps hundreds of years) may have major consequences for political change.

The view that appears prevalent within the Laceweb is that country-based governments, at national, state or local levels, are not relevant to the movement's actions. No evidence has been found that the Laceweb movement as 'movement' has ever accepted government funding.

Yang activists in social movements (i.e., non Laceweb) in the Region fighting the status quo, are also warriors. Healing equally threatens their value system. They also dismiss healing as weak and ineffectual. Yang activists may become interested in the subversive consequences of healing if they do perceive this, but not the healing per se - its just not 'their thing'.

People within the Laceweb typically do not see themselves as in any way political. They are healers and enablers of others' healing. Those within the Laceweb who do take the macro view of the Laceweb, typically see any wider transformative potential of the movement as possibly happening in a few hundred years time. Some fully recognise the considerable potential of the Laceweb as a long term political change agent, and that this potential lies in the possibility of producing change rooted in healing everyday behaviour and action.

'Evers speaks of 'looking for something that is as yet predominantly represented by its felt absence'. While this was applying to what the new social movements aspire towards, it also applies to Laceweb as 'social movement', where most of the taken-for-granted about what comprises a 'social movement' is absent:

·         no 'organisation' to 'belong to'

·         no 'leaders' - though everyone is a leader at the local level

·         no 'members' - the relating is not as 'member belonging to'

·         no top down 'control'

·         no fixed agenda

·         no meetings

·         no 'linearity', that is, neither 'top down' nor 'bottom up'

·         no 'hierarchy'

·         no language of 'resistance'

·         no solidarity among people - though solidarity among network links

·         no legal structures for the movement, though there is humane integral lore

·         no constitution and rules

·         no markers of structure - e.g. titles, positions, roles, the 'centre' or the 'top'

·         no branch structures

·         no 'positions' for people to hold

·         no 'movement name' - though some differing names in different places

·         no one represents (re-presents) anyone else

·         no signification - no banners, logos, emblems, political chants and the like

·         no one knows everyone in the 'movement' or their whereabouts

·         no, or little knowledge of the wider 'movement' by most of those 'involved'

·         no knowledge of being 'part of a movement' for most, though they are actively involved

·         no knowledge of the history of the movement by most involved

·         no aspect is certain - that is, everything is pervasively tentative

Note each of the above gives hints of possible differences between the Laceweb and the new Latin American social movements. Further details of the new Latin social movements would be needed before detailed comparisons could be made.

Other points of possible difference are that within the Laceweb:

·         people only have a few links with others, though rumours may travel fast (akin to neural networks)

·         there is extensive use of 'organic' metaphors, e.g., nodes, emergent qualities, constrained random-ness, organic unfolding, growth

·         local people address local needs - there is little energy for 'the wider movement' within the Laceweb and little energy is required - just tell a few stories now and then

·         it is pervasively self help

·         using enablers to support healing and networking

·         there is extensive use of networking

·         the evolving of an extensive folklore on healing ways and storytelling

·         the extensive use of healing storytelling and psycho-socially transformative storytelling, including stories on how to use these storytelling ways.

A feature of the Laceweb is 'passing on a mountain trail' networking. In this the Laceweb is very resonant with 'sitting on the train' networks mentioned by Ireland. That is, they are embedded within and between local communities and involve socio-cultural action and interaction in micro-aspects of community life.

In respect to the Latin American idea of 'fragments of subjectivity' being linked rather than 'whole people', this also tends to apply to the Laceweb in some senses. Often the people to whom healing stories are passed are hardly known. Laceweb linking operates on a 'need-to-know' basis. Many of the people involved want a very low profile. Put bluntly, some healers are wanted dead by Governments in the areas they live in. As stated, healing may be the ultimate subversive act.

Someone else revealing a Laceweb person's details to another person without that person's permission would mean that the link with the betrayer would be severed permanently. This limited knowing of who is involved is not a weakness. It is a strength. It is isomorphic with neural networks where only four adjacent connections are typically activated as things fly along the neural pathways. No one can find out the 'member list' in order to undermine the movement. The list does not exist. No one knows more than a few of the others involved. This pattern has a long history.

Laceweb action hones directly in on enabling locals to engage in self help towards their own healing of their wellbeing. Within the Laceweb it is 'rumours and values' that are linked rather than the non local people. There may be only the most tenuous link between people 'as people'. Rumours and values may be linked through action. People may pass on to others what has worked at their local level in healing some aspect of their local wellbeing.

Rather than Evers' suggestion of 'rudimentary subjects-coming-in-to-being, within the Laceweb, integrating identity towards well-being tends to play a part in all action. Many Laceweb people are traumatised. However other Laceweb people from extremely remote places may be 'really together' people. Their integrity, articulateness, profound caring and wisdom may be far and away from any notions of 'rudimentary'. Paraphrasing Collingwood, 'Knowing yourself means knowing what you can do; and nobody knows what he can do until he tries' (Collingwood, 1946) 4. Healing action integrates identity as well as psycho-socio-physical being. Mad and bad Fraser House people, while still integrating their lives towards functionality were often described as been highly skilled in group wellbeing processes as a consequence of their Fraser House experiences.

Stories of this healing may reach others as 'rumour', as 'inherently tentative', as having 'doubtful accuracy', with the inevitable tag, 'if you want to, check this out yourself'.

'Healing ways' may arrive as accounts of micro-experiences - little bits of behaviour. Rumours may be carried within stories, and stories may be carried within rumours. Typically, the original 'source' of a rumour does not arrive with the rumour and is undiscoverable, and that this is the case, is of little account.

The rumour may, and typically does, cross ethnic and cultural boundaries. It may arrive with little of other people's 'culture' attached. Any remnants of 'culture' that are attached may, and typically are, removed in the local adapting and testing. Rumours may be modified and changed both in their testing and in their passing on. Rumours may have a malleable life of their own and may return to their source unrecognisable and exquisitely relevant and enriched for the same, and or differing needs.

Rumours may travel with values attached or embedded. Values may be enriched along the way. Some action values may be:

·         loving

·         caring

·         nurturing

·         being humane

·         being well

·         relating

·         playing

·         dancing

·         singing

·         music making

·         drumming

·         celebrating

·         peacehealing

·         as well as respecting and celebrating diversity.

The rumours values networking may be both morphous (having form) and amorphous (without form) in some respects, contexts, times and places. For example, in 1994 the rumours values network took tangible form at a Gathering in Far North Queensland funded by the United Nations and seeding funding by Down to Earth, the body which energises ConFest - the Conference Festival linked to Fraser House. During this Gathering morphous networking through both amorphous and morphous healing storytelling abounded.

The German word 'schein' is apropos - as in 'appearance' (Refer Pelz, W. 1974, pages 88-9, 115) 5. Some sparkle may attract 'like people' who like what they see, hear and feel. Appearance may reveal, as Jesus did with parables and metaphors. Those unlike will not like, and for them, appearances may deceive rather than reveal, so that the rumour, ideas and action may be not noticed, or dismissed as making no sense (nonsense) and/or irrelevant.

'And Jesus concluded, 'Listen then if you have ears!' When Jesus was alone, some of those who had heard him came to him with the twelve disciples and asked him to explain the parables.'

Jesus said to these that they had been given the secrets. Others on the outside would hear the parables and look at them and not see, and listen and not hear 5a.

This also has some resonance with the Latin American movements. For example, Jesus spoke of becoming 'fishers of men'. In today’s terms he was talking about net-working with resonant people - on workers trains or in Tikopia mountain pathways.

The Laceweb movement has created public spaces for itself by spreading in rural and remote regions where space for healing possibilities may be readily available. Typically, the Laceweb goes out of its way not to attract attention to itself. That the Laceweb is difficult to perceive is a blessing. Those who are resonant with the Laceweb tend to be able to readily perceive it. Warriors may be looking directly at the Laceweb and not see it.

The Laceweb also seems to differ in respect of a number of the characteristics of new Latin American social movements:

While the Latin American movements tend to have a relatively small number of participants, the Laceweb has a considerable number of participants. However, there is only a small number at any one location and people typically only know up to four links between these small groups.

While the Latin American movements tend to have non-bureaucratic and even informal structures, the Laceweb is informal throughout; it is neither top-down nor bottom up - rather, it's a flat local and laterally linked functional matrix or network. Large segments may have no sense of being in any way in a 'social movement' or 'structure'.

While the Latin American movements tend to have collective decision making, the Laceweb has both individual and consensual collective decision making among local people at the local level or actions emerge out of individual and shared energy rather than decision processes.

While the Latin American movements tend to have relatively little social distance between members and leadership, the Laceweb has no leaders, or rather, everyone involved is a leader. Typically, there is no social distance between active people at the local level. People from one locality tend to only know up to four sequential links in the network with increasing social distance between the more remote links. Beyond that, social distance is total - they just don't know others in the network at all! No one is a 'member' and there is no leadership of the movement. While local people may take the lead in healing action, they are not leaders 'over' anyone.

For Evers, Latin American movements tend to have a rather untheoretical immediate way of perceiving and presenting the social aims of the movement. The Laceweb focuses on taking action to heal local needs and consensually validating what works. What works may informally become local 'policy', defined as, 'that which works'. What works may be passed on as 'rumour' for others to check.

There is little focus on 'grand theory' or macro 'aims'. The Laceweb follows the action research model. Any theory that does emerge comes from action that works. For the Laceweb, 'theory' tends to take the original form of the Greek 'theorein' meaning 'gazing', 'focusing', 'looking', and 'perceiving' with and without 'intention', 'extension' and 'interest', as in the original Latin, 'inter-esse', meaning to enter into the essence, or god-energy (Pelz, 1974, p.71) 5. Also refer the concept Surrender and Catch below.

In this sense theory is always tentative - continually being re-vised as the shared social-life-world unfolds - action research being prompted/guided by local wisdom about 'what is missing in our well-being' and received rumours about what has worked for others. The theorein gazer is the factor of the facts. And 'how is the gazing, factoring and the facting limiting the gazing, the knowing and the knowable' is ever present as both a caution and a challenge. Put another way, in what ways are our ways of knowing limiting our knowing?

The Laceweb way is 'action' not 'talk about action', and 'experience' rather than 'talking about experience'. Stories tell of action that worked or possibilities for action, not ideas and theories. Receiving rumours as stories may be profoundly healing.

While the Latin American movements tend to use forms of cultural expression like music, theatre, dance, etc. for propagating their aims, the Laceweb uses all aspects of local cultural expression for local healing - cultural healing action.

As for Evers' two alternative courses of action, namely, 'oppose the dominant system' or 'try to uphold an identity of its own, at the price of remaining weak, inefficient and plagued by contradictions', the Laceweb takes a different course (italics added). 'Try' implies failure. The Laceweb is spreading intentionally in rural and remote places - away from mainstream negating energies.

From deep within its own Zen-like logic, the Laceweb's weakness is its strength. 'Inefficiency' is a mainstream 'quantitative' concept that has little relevance. Seeming contradictions typically come from perceiving from the single logical level. The Laceweb is both simple and complex and operates at a number of logical levels (refer Bateson, G., 1972) 6. From Laceweb's multiple perspectives, seeming contradictions and paradoxes may disappear.

Evers' comment that the 'new' within these movements is also archaic very much applies to the Laceweb. It is reported that very old indigenous people often say that some Laceweb happening is 'the old way' (Yeomans, 1992).

The Laceweb is in no way promoting a common social utopia. Laceweb action is always locals taking action to meet local needs. Action is continually evolving an ever-widening pool of 'ways that work'. These are passed on and consensually validated by action of other locals. Local utopias (to redefine the term away from 'impractical' or 'impossible abstract ideal' to mean 'achievable excellence in meeting locals' wellbeing needs and aspirations') are being experiential and inter-subjectively constructed as everyday lived experience. Action carries possibilities in peacehealing towards evolving varied utopias which respect and celebrate their individual and respective diversities.

Laceweb is integrative social movement - cogent ethical intuitive ethos in action - 'cogent' meaning having the power to convince or prove; and 'ethos' meaning the fundamental and distinctive character, energy or spirit of a social group, culture, community, etc. Its cogency comes from emotional experience - heart more than or rather than head - palpable - 'this feels right!'

Within the Laceweb are evolving emotional wellbeing norms - 'norm' derived from the Latin word meaning carpenter's square, hence meaning model or standard; the average behaviour or performance for a group'

Nurturers, healers and others within this humane mutualistic and 'spiritual' movement are recognising a need for, and are evolving a set of values that can inform - a strategy of change as a complement to an intuitive humanely facilitatory ethos. The central feature of the normative endeavour rests on an acceptance of human solidarity and all its implications, especially a shared responsibility to seek equity and dignity for every person on the planet without regard to matters of national identity or territorial boundary.

One aspect is developing experimental creative communities as International Normative Model Areas (Inma). It is this very solidarity which is the function of the Inmas of the globe to expand and synthesise. Some integral value systems of Inma are:

·         V1 - peacefulness

·         V2 - ecological quality

·         V3 - economic well-being

·         V4 - social and political justice

Consciousness raising and the reconstituting potency of humane integral action is fostering change by mutation rather than a series of increments. Thus peacefulness and harmony with both humans and nature (the biosphere) is dominant over economic and political values. The cultural mutation in that sense is primary, the economic and political secondary. On consciousness raising refer Realising Human Potential.

However from the aboriginal point of view, V3 and V4 may be somewhat primary over V1 and V2, thus their mutation is both through the technological and humane era at the same time. V2 is of particular relevance to the Inma. The so called 'Human Environment Revolution' is a growing ethos of alternative persons and youth in Australia. Part of its ethic may be stated thus: 'Not until there is health and harmony in all our landscapes can there be humanity and common sense in the society of man' (Yeomans, P. A., 1976, 1971) 7.

Their concern is with people cooperating with the amenity of Nature rather than in opposition to it. Laceweb people are energised towards building 'an environment of humanity and healthy balance as a demonstration of living' and the only way to solve 'the problems of the sick landscape or the inhumanity of society'. Their sociohealing is an affirmation of the wholeness of planet and the solidarity of the human species.


Since the ConFest conference festival started at Cotter River in 1976 just outside Australia's National Capital Canberra it has embodied many aspects of Laceweb way as outlined above. Dr Jim Cairns was a prime energiser of ConFest. He was the Deputy Prime Minister in the Whitlam Government and passionately interested in folk action to explore social futures.

ConFest survives to this day held twice a year. Over 300 workshops and events happen with the same verve as Ireland found on the shantytown train in Brazil. During ConFest poets mingle with musicians, jugglers, fire-twirlers and other artists. People engage in all manner of discourse. 1000 people may dance to 50 drummers. And all of this is self organising.

Dr Neville Yeomans and others energised Mingles as a mutual help collective in the late 1960s in Sydney NSW, Mingles has emerged in Cairns in the Far North of Australia in the 1970's and again in the 1990s. Mingles emerged in Melbourne in the mid 1990s and is again emerging at the Easter ConFest in 2007.


Surrender and Catch

To conclude with Ireland - how did he suddenly see his social movement on that particular train trip when on so many other trips he had missed it completely? Ireland (1) refers in the title of his article to 'Invention' and 'Happening'. Wolff (1976) 8 refers to the word 'invention' coming from invenire, to 'come upon' and suggests 'catch' as a synonym for 'invention' in his work 'Surrender and Catch'. A synonym for 'surrender' in one of the senses Wolff uses it is 'total experience' in 'total involvement' - being 'undifferentiatedly and indistinguishably involved in the occasion and in myself, my act, or state, my object or partner'.

Wolff refers to Tolstoy’s writing of the character Levin being with his beloved Kitty in Anna Karenina:

'Then for the first time, he clearly understood...that he was not simply close to her, but that he could not tell where he ended and she began'.

Wolff uses this quote in making the point that 'in surrender as in love, differentiation between subject, act and object disappear - an example of the suspension of even essential categories among our received notions'.

So how was it that Ireland did see his social movement on the train? Perhaps Wolff's notion of 'surrender and catch' is apropos. Both Ireland and his fellow train travellers were all 'inventing' as in 'coming upon'.

Some people touched by new/archaic forms of social movement may well experience 'surrender and catch' - the merging with the emerging emoting. For others this would be unthinkable and unfeelable.


In 1981 Marilyn Ferguson wrote:


The proliferation of small groups and networks arising all over the world operate much like the coalitional networks in the human brain. Just a few cells can set up a resonant effect in the brain, ordering the activity of the whole; these co-operating individuals can help create the coherence and order to crystallize a wider transformation.


Movements, networks, and publications are gathering people around the world in common cause, trafficking in transformative ideas, spreading messages of hope without the sanction of any government. Transformation has no country (Ferguson, 1982. P449).


Laceweb Networking for wellness is fully coherent with the emerging social phenomenon that Marilyn Ferguson was writing about over 30 years ago.


Laceweb Way Links


A glimpse into Laceweb healing ways may be found at Living and By the Way.



Bateson, G., 1972. Steps to an Ecology of Mind. New York: Ballantine Books.

Collingwood, R. G., 1946 The Idea of History: Theory and Practice. New York: Oxford University Press1957, p.10

Conversation with Dr. Neville Yeomans, Nov, 1992.

Evers, T., 1985. Identity: The Hidden Side of New Social Movements in Latin America in Slater, D. (Ed.), 1985. New Social Movements and the State in Latin America. Amsterdam: CEDLA Workshop Papers, p 43-71.

Ferguson, Marilyn. The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980s. Los Angeles: J. P. Tarcher, 1980.

Ireland, R., 1998. Globalised São Paulo as Invention and Happening: Lessons on a Train. In Houston C., Kurasawa, F. & Watson, A. (eds.), 1998 Imagined Places: The Politics of Making Space. Melbourne: La Trobe University.

Kuhn, T.S.,1962 The Structure of Scientific Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

New Testament - Mark Ch. 4, v. 9-10.

Pelz, W., 1974. The Scope of Understanding in Sociology - Towards a More Radical Orientation in the Social and Humanistic Sciences. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Wolff, K. H., 1976 Surrender and Catch - Experience and Inquiry Today in Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science. Cohen, R. S. & Wartofsky (Eds.) Boston: D. Reidel Publishing.

Yeomans P. A. 1976. The Australian Keyline Plan for the Enrichment of Human Settlements. United Nations Conference, Habitat Forum, Canada.

Yeomans P. A. 1971. The City Forest: The Keyline Plan for the Human Environment Revolution.. Keyline Publishing.

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