The Renaissance and Enrichment of the FolkCommons
A Resource for Common Folk
Dr Les Spencer
Updated 24 July 2019
A sequel to this paper:
Practical action, basic wisdoms and competences about ‘how to live’ are held in common among common folk. This practical wisdom may be termed the folkCommons.
This paper is a consciousness raising resource for Common Folk towards a renaissance, enriching, and extending of the archaic wisdom of the FolkCommons. Such consciousness rising is vital for continuance of life on this our only planet home. The paper contains details of practical wise acts and processes that have worked well in the past in living well with each other and with nature. A compelling 50,000 year old story embodying practical wisdom for our days concerns the inevitable folly of a mum obsessively collecting grubs beyond her capacity to ever use while forgetting to teach her young son about compassion leading to her inevitable death at the hand of her son. ‘Collecting grubs’ equates with compassionless obsessive preoccupation with amassing more and more money
Jim Penman has studied social systems in decline (Penman, 2016; Penman, 2016). This paper explores the dynamic emergence of new social systems within a system in decline or collapse. It explores practical wise action that is functionally attuned to withstand the withering ways of the current epoch in decline as it seeks by any means to maintain its structure and process. What processes could learn from the dynamics of decline, and enable reconstituting towards a thriving earth and thriving people to continue inexorably through time, to establish and sustain a caring and humane global intercultural synthesis? How to create and further a biology of love – away from homo agressans and towards homo amans (Maturana, Verden-Zöller, et al., 1996)? This action research, marginal to academic power and control, melds inter-disciplinary studies in history, psycho-biology, neuroscience and clinical sociology with folk practical wisdom without enclosing or detracting from the folkCommons.
We are living in a time when the practical wisdom of the folkCommons is subject to massive enclosure and massive attack. Common folk are having increasing restrictions placed upon their freedoms and actions. In the face of this there is a groundswell of action by common folk taking practical action to counter these forces. This action is not oppositional and not based upon power. Rather, action among common folk is towards increasing connecting and relating and taking collaborative action together in providing mutual help to each other towards better worlds in ways that are hardly noticed by the dominant system. This practical wisdom tends to be little in evidence in a 21 Century world society where there is relentless grinding busyness for mere survival, pervasive turmoil, disillusionment, dislocation, disconnection, and uncertainty; where people are suicidal, and paranoid. Or people spending the majority of their life ‘killing’ people on computer games. We live in a sick and sick-making society.
Aristotle discussed practical wisdom in his writings (Aristotle, 1980, p.154). ‘Phronasis’ is a Greek word for a type of wisdom or intelligence; more specifically it is a type of wisdom relevant to practical things, requiring an ability to discern how or why to act virtuously and encourage practical virtue and excellence of character in others.
In the past the term ‘the commons’ was used to refer to land around UK villages that was held in common by the folk of the village; the village commons was a common resource used communally by the villagers. They grazed their animals on the commons. Children played there. Then in the Thirteenth Century came what was called the enclosure of the commons. Wealthy landowners were allocated the commons and thereafter the village folk had to give much of their product and labour for the right to use the enclosed land.
To expand on the psychological aspects of the folkCommons and quoting Postle’s writings on the richness of everyday relations:
The psyCommons is a name for the universe of rapport – of relationship between people – through which we common folk navigate daily life. It describes the beliefs, the preconceptions, and especially the learning from life experience that we all bring to bear on our own particular corner of the human condition. To name these commonsense capacities ‘the psyCommons’ is to honour the multitudinous occasions of insight, affect, and defect that we common folk bring to daily life: in parenting and growing up, caring for the aged, the disabled, and the demented; persisting with the love that brings flourishing and success, supporting neighbours visited by calamity, joining friends and family in celebrations of life thresholds (Postle, 2000).
The folkCommons embraces many sub-domain commons - aspects experienced in common by common folk such as the personal, the interpersonal; the relational, the psychological, the emotional, the familial, the communal, the social, the societal, the cultural, the intercultural, and the environmental. These various ‘commons’ are a rich resource of ‘ordinary wisdom’ and also, more controversially, ‘shared power’ among the common folk. Other examples of the commons are the air we breathe, the radio spectrum, the oceans and the land we occupy – all these are commons, or ‘common pool resources’. As value, they are the common wealth of the common man; they belong to us and we belong to them. The psyCommons (psychological and emotional wisdom held in common) is one of these commons (the others are discussed later).
Over the centuries a common stock of practical wisdom, proverbs, ways of living, competences and the like has been held within the folkCommons. Older folk would pass these on to the next generations. This common stock was complemented by sub-domain specific practical wisdom, experience, competence, and ways within the above sub-domains. Typically, these folkCommons wisdoms were passed on to younger ones on the run in everyday life contexts as various contexts presented themselves. The passing on was woven into everyday life. ‘Look how rough you have made your bed. Remember, as you make your bed, so shall you lie in it.’ Later, ‘You have been lying there doing nothing for ages. Remember, a rolling stone gathers no moss.’ ‘Remember, the early bird gets the worm.’
Although some common resource systems have been known to collapse due to overuse (the so called ‘tragedy of the commons’), the folkCommons is enlarged, enriched and spread through use.
In this paper the term 'grassroots' is used in the sense of 'the common folk'. Often the folk involved have never engaged in socio-cultural action before - have never been on a committee, exercised any problem solving effectiveness or dreamt that they could have an effect; the grassroots are discovering that collaborative relational action can be very potent.
The grassroots mutual help wellbeing action (we help ourselves) being described differs in many respects from service delivery (we do things for you) used by traditional Government Organisations, Non-Government Organisations (NGO), and Community Based Organisations (CBO), both voluntary and non-voluntary.
In the 1940s onwards a number of catalytic nodal people were the pioneers of therapeutic community practice that proved to be very potent in reconnecting people to wellness. Maxwell Jones and Thomas Main were evolving therapeutic community in the UK and in so doing, enriching the folkCommons. Harry Wilmer and Dennie Briggs were evolving similar processes in the USA. For over 800 years in Geel in Belgium there was the continuing therapeutic community influence of a young Irish woman called Dymphna who has been made a Saint (ATI, 2016). In Australia, Neville Yeomans was a pioneer in therapeutic community - founding and directing Fraser House Therapeutic Community in 1959 (Spencer, 2013a; Spencer, 2013b; Spencer, 2017; Spencer 2019). Yeomans was Australia’s first Director of Community Mental Health and first Director of Community Health both roles based in NSW in the late 1960s (Radio TC International, 2006). Yeomans was a charismatic orchestrator enabler in supporting people on the margins to be able till his death in 2000. This paper draws extensively upon Yeomans life work as a folkCommons catalyst.
From small beginnings in the 1940's, Therapeutic Community processes continue to be evolving in the UK, Europe, and America. Therapeutic Community inspired community based grassroots wellbeing action strengthening the folkCommons is taking place within Australia and spreading throughout the SE Asia Oceania Australasia Region. In each of these places catalytic nodal people have been a major stimulus for action starting and being sustained. William Gouldner, in his 1970 book, The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology, writes of the potency of one catalytic nodal person:
The embodied and socialized individual is both the most empirically obvious human system, and the most complex and highly integrated of all human systems; as a system, he is far more integrated than any known ‘social system’. In his embodiment, the biological, psychological, social, and cultural all conjoin. And a single creative individual, open to the needs of other and the opportunities of his time, can be a nucleus of spreading hope and accomplishment.
In the 1960-80s in Sydney, Australia some folk on the margins linked to Fraser House began evolving, celebrating, and enriching the psyCommons alongside the other differing commons (Spencer, 2013a; Spencer, 2013b; Spencer, 2017). In the Australasia region the action has community of a particular kind at its core. A ground-swell of people are cooperating in taking their own responsibility to resolve a massive range of cultural wellbeing issues. In the past these issues have fallen to governments to resolve because no other entity had the capacity to have an impact. Service delivery is pervasive in society. Mutual-help is largely invisible.
Their self-help and mutual-help within support groups was not against anything – rather it was pervasively supporting the psyCommons – ‘pervasive’ in that every aspect of action was densely woven together towards common folk having better lives while enriching the folkCommons. Anthropologist Margaret Mead found Fraser House the most total therapeutic community she had ever been to (Spencer, 2013a, p. 5, 268-272).
Most wellbeing issues revolve around what we do or do not do as we go about our lives; that is, our culture. A very small proportion of loss of wellbeing relates to the action of germs, viruses, and chance occurrence. Some wellbeing loss is attributable to business decision-makers (pollution, environmental degradation, and the like).
As a reaction to societal pressures, a very large proportion of wellbeing issues is self-imposed or imposed on others - substance abuse, domestic violence, becoming insane, committing crime, poor eating habits and life styles, polluting, causing soil erosion and so on. It is trivially true that if people stopped behaviours like the ones mentioned, most wellbeing issues, currently costing billions, would be solved without costing a cent. But it's not that simple.
Across Northern Australia influences are being generated that are placing the impetus for nurturing cultural action for wellbeing back at the place it breaks down - with local people as they go about their lives. It is a lateral and bottom-up action. Small groups engage in action and keep using practices that work for them. Others become involved and initiatives, starting 'at the bottom', work their way 'out' and 'up' to include more of the wider community.
Different communities can vary markedly as to what constitutes their wellbeing culture. Bottom-up grassroots cultural wellbeing action is about the local community exploring and making consensual decisions about what they need and want for their own wellbeing; taking the necessary steps themselves to attain their wellbeing and deciding themselves when they have not got it. Only they know this. Increasingly the people involved are saying "We do not want outsiders trying to provide our wellbeing or deciding our wellbeing for us".
Because 'Grassroots community cultural nurturing wellbeing action' is a long expression, the term 'Action' will be used from here on. The Mutual Help Action taking place involves people recognising contexts of possibility and taking the opportunity to do something for themselves and others. In most cases it is the women who are taking the initiative. It involves acts celebrating diversity. It revolves around cultural healing and intercultural reconciliation.
Action expands links among individuals and families and turns strangers into friends. It builds 'communing' communities. It permeates through everyday life. It 'villages' the city. These features have multiple benefits including the removal of anomie, loneliness, powerlessness, identity issues etc.
Initiatives are involving people in acting together to take back ability over their own lives. Experts are used as resource people and not as power brokers and decision-makers. Nurturing culture involves ways of joint action that continually spreads and enriches the wellbeing competence base throughout the local community. People are engaged in passing on diverse wellbeing micro-experiences, for example, in providing community based family and individual support. Wellbeing-competence is refined and passed on in natural settings as well as during specific structured contexts; for example, the intercultural family centre previously explored in Rapid Creek – Darwin (Laceweb, 1994b), Far North Queensland Intercultural Diversionary Services, South Sea Islander initiatives and Vietnamese Helping Hand health and training activities.
Increasingly people are being intuitively appropriate in their responses to each other. There are acts that are perfect for the moment, which also contain the seed of realistic generalisable policy.
This Action is taking place without an over-reliance on funding. At times, many people come together for specific events, celebrations and healing actions. (An example was the UNHCR funded Asia Pacific Small Island Coastal and Estuarine Waters People Gathering Celebration in NE Australia in Far North Queensland in 1994 (Laceweb, 1994c). As well, throughout every day, grassroots people are involved in myriads of significant trivial wellbeing acts. People act together to support each other at appropriate times. Most actions do not rely on money.
Action combines the structured and the general, the formal and the informal. It creatively and positively uses community grapevines. It has a self-sustaining energy. Specific and general programs evolve out of action. In all of this, Action is generative. It is a dynamic expanding process that continually subjects Action to review. Evaluation processes proceed in tandem with Action. Programs and actions that 'work' are passed on to others, consensually validated and adopted as policy at the local level. Action is simultaneously addressing everything undermining wellbeing. It is both pervasively holistic and detailed within its holism. Action is focused on all the inter-related issues involved - simultaneously working on impediments to, for example, economic, socio-emotional and environmental wellbeing. Because of the multifaceted nature of nurturing Action, it tends to have simultaneous multiple positive consequences.
Action has three concurrent themes. The major theme is generating and nurturing wellbeing. This is closely followed by preventing impediments to wellbeing, and curing those affected by impediments. Action is focused on increasing wellbeing, sustaining prevention, and decreasing the need to cure.
Another feature is that it starts with action based on consensually valid local knowledge. It commences with self-starters who have an 'outcome' focus (compared to an 'input' focus). These people start by doing things and demonstrating to others that things can be done. They get others involved who follow and extend their example. This is fundamentally different to what happens in traditional top-down expert driven processes. Experts (often with 'input' focus) tend to hold strings of planning meetings and exploratory conferences, conduct research and feasibility studies and then hold more conferences to discuss the research and explore what might be done.
In Australia, along with self-help and mutual-help groups, many ways were evolved whereby marginal folk were supported by a few catalytic folk in collaborating together in mutually supporting each other in tapping into, utilising, enriching, and extending the folkCommons while rarely recognising they were doing this, as well enriching, and extending their connecting and relating within expanding family, friend, acquaintance networks. Sixty Seven examples of the richness and scope of their endeavours are outlined below:
o Aboriginal, Islander, and resonant others sharing Wellbeing Ways in street, neighbourhood, residential, and campout gathering celebrations
o Adapting Keyline to Urban Environments (Yeomans, P.A. 1971a; Yeomans, P.A. 1971b; Yeomans, P. A. and Murray Valley Development League, 1974)
o Bio-psycho-social Action Research Study Group (1985-1990)
o Bio-psycho-social History Action Research Study Group
o Brainstorming Possible Futures
o Bush Campouts
o Celebration Gatherings
o Commencing Community Mental Health and Community Health in Australia and Australia’s first Community Mental Health Centre in Paddington, NSW
o Community Dances, Dinners, Markets, Newsletters, and Wellbeing Micro-projects
o Creating colloidal charcoal alongside collecting exquisite examples of soil life (biota) from the Yeomans’ Farms, bio-dynamic farms and small pockets magnificent soils in Far North Queensland Rainforest, and using these in evolving superb soils from subsoil clays – thriving nature
o Community Psychiatry Research Study Group and extensive Archive (1962-1967)
o Compiling Timelines of Common Folk Wellbeing action (Laceweb, 1993b, search for ‘Timeline Contents’)
o Connexion publishing the Aboriginal Human Relations Newsletter (Aboriginal Human Relations Newsletter Working Group, 1971a; Aboriginal Human Relations Newsletter Working Group, 1971b)
o Contributing to First Nations’ Newsletter in Canada (Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2000a; Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2000b)
o Domiciliary Care Support Groups using Folk Community owned and supported Kombi van
o Events Showcasing Intercultural Artistry
o Evolving grassroots folkCommons-based competence and capacity in psycho-social rapid response during man-made and natural emergencies throughout the Australasia, Oceania, SE Asia Region (Laceweb, 2004)
o Evolving a Dispersed Urban Wellbeing Community (Laceweb, 1992a;
o Evolving a Dispersed Rural Wellbeing Community (Laceweb, 1994a)
o Evolving an extensive psyCommons and folkCommons Archive with over 200 E-books, papers, monographs, and other media and with mirror sites overseas (Laceweb, 1990)
o Evolving Enabling Environments (Royal College of Psychiatry, 2019)
o Extending the margins of qualitative method including indigenous methodologies (Smith, 1999), connoisseurship (Eisner, 1991) Contemplation (Pelz, 1974, Pelz, 1975) and warm data (Bateson 2019)
o Healing Group Processes for Event Enablers (Laceweb, 1997)
o Evolving a Natural Living Processes Lexicon (Laceweb 2002)
o Evolving and enacting Hypothetical Roleplays. (Laceweb 1989)
o Evolving Thriving Earth and People Treaty and Guiding Principles (Laceweb, 2015a; Laceweb, 2015b)
o Field days on Keyline Farms with over 1,200 attending including the Governor General of Australia
o Futures Think-tanks
o Global Governance Model Projects (Carlson & Yeomans, 1975; Yeomans, 1974; Yeomans & Spencer, 1998).
o Gatherings & Celebrations
o Going on international meet-ups with indigenous people overseas exploring global futures and best locations to commence futures action research – deemed to be the Australia Top End
o Groups collaborating in searching for fitting sites and enabling environments for gatherings, celebrations and festivals
o Groups supporting the Arts – e.g., Sydney Opera House Support Group
o Growers Markets – great places to network and find support
o Healing Arts Festivals
o Holding the Paddington Festival for the first time in 1969 to commence Paddington Bazaar, the iconic community market in Sydney (Mangold, 1993, p. 4-11) surrounding Australia’s first community mental health centre founded by Neville Yeomans, Australia’s first director of community mental health (Laceweb, 2013, p. 522-526)
o Human Potential Experiential Intensives (Natural Living Processes and Natural Learning Processes)
o Identifying and making use of Indigenous healing plants and essential oils
o Indigenous Gatherings – e.g., Small Island Coastal and Estuarine People Gathering Celebration, Lake Tinaroo, Queensland - funded by UNHRC, Geneva; Indigenous Gatherings on Developing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Drug and Substance Abuse Therapeutic Communities – One gathering funded by National Campaign Against Drug Abuse and others by Jessie Street Foundation
o Indigenous Relational Mediating Gathering - Lake Tinaroo, Queensland in 1993 (Laceweb, 1992c).
o Intensive exploring of awareness of awareness and awareness of moving as modes of bio-psycho-social transforming and tapping potential
o Intensives Exploring Human Potential and Peak Performance States (Laceweb, 2015c)
o Intergroup cooperating in practical action; e.g., Rapid Creek Project (Laceweb, 1994b)
o Linking with and between Alternative Movement students at Sydney University and University of NSW
o Linking with and between international African and East Asian Colombo Plan students at Sydney University and University of NSW
o Local Neighbourhood Markets
o Meetups around campfires
o Micro-Therapeutic Community Houses (Laceweb, 2013a, p.737-738)
o Monthly Gatherings – e.g., Healing Sunday in Bondi Junction Laceweb, 1992a)
o Multicultural Art, Dance, and Costume Exhibitions – e.g. accompanying commonfolk-evolved festivals including Watsons Bay Festival 1968; Paddington Festival, 1969; Centennial Park Festival, 1969; Cambelltown Festival, 1971; Aquarius Festival, 1973, and ConFest, 1976 (Spencer, 2013a, p, 529-542)
o Multicultural Festivals, e.g., Watsons Bay Festival, 1968; Centennial Park Festival, 1969,
o National and International action research seeking and evolving natural nurturer networks
o Recording Life Narratives towards Transforming Wellbeing (Spencer, 2013b)
o Relational Mediating between previously conflicted parties (Laceweb, 1992c)
o Seeking and finding Natural Nurturers and supporting their networking throughout Australasia, Oceania, SE Asia Region
o Sending Speaker to international Gatherings; examples – speaker to UN Rio Earth Summit Indigenous Platform in June 1992; Indigenous speaker to Conference on Small Island Nations, June, 1994, Speaker to the UN Indigenous Forum in Geneva; Observers sent to UNPO in The Hague (Unrepresented Nations and People Organisation)
o Sociogram Based Action Research on Natural Nurturer Networks (Laceweb, 2016)
o Somatic (Body) Approaches to Mind-body Transforming Action Research Group
o Suicide Watch Groups and commencing Australia’s first emergency phone service and voluntary peer to peer crisis callout unit in Sydney using a kombi van owned and operated by marginal folk
o Support for Bougainvillian, East Timorese, and West Papuan Survivors of Torture and Trauma (alongside perpetrators) Gatherings funded by the Jessie Street Foundation
o Theme Based Meet-ups
o Theme-based Networking with themes conducive to coherence
o Therapeutic Community within a Maximum Security Prison
o Therapeutic Community Outreach in a local council chamber
o Therapeutic Community within Public Hospitals
o Think-tank Collective on Governance and Law (Laceweb, 1992b)
o Quarterly Lunch and Catch-up
The above provides a feel for the pervasive scope and breadth and richness of practical action taken by common folk during the decades following the 1950s. A slogan was ‘we all have good and bad days’. Another was ‘we all have bits that work well.’ Small and large challenges were continually been given to those who could not do them and they were given massive support so they would learn by doing. Yeomans would never hesitate to pass on the most advanced skills and competences to very marginal people and had repeated success. One ‘notorious criminal’ experienced the transforming potency of Fraser House and then went on to be the action researcher for many years for the Acting Head of the Australian Institute of Criminology.
Some of these marginal people in Sydney, Australia became very interested in self-sufficiency and began reading about self-sufficiency of the common folk being the hallmark of Australia's early non-aboriginal pioneering and rural life. At the very first settlement, the Rum Corps assisted in the stripping of the cultural context of all inhabitants - Aboriginal, Irish, Anglo, and the like. These contexts it replaced with an invasive military culture. Issues impacting on wellbeing (health, housing, community services, etc) in the colonies became so massive that governments have become increasingly a main vehicle for delivering wellbeing related services. This has generated a system of top-down action delivered by thousands of experts in academic, government, and non-government bodies who, together with their administrative backup, sort out aspects of our lives for us. Behind these are even more thousands of bureaucrats who keep track of what all these experts are doing to us and for us.
Governments and their bureaucracies (alongside universities) have tended to fragment the world into narrow separate bits - agriculture, environment, family services, finance, forestry, health, housing, trade etc. They then fragment the sectors into programs.
Each government program area tends to jealously guard onerous apparent prerogatives as a 'dispenser of public funds'. Funds go to infrastructure or service delivery. Government funds do not go to the folkCommons engaged in mutual help. Few, if any, government inter-sector or inter-program funding arrangements exist. In this sectorised world, holistic action is very rare. One example of government fragmenting - a mother with an intervention order against a violent husband was required to use eleven different support agencies depending on the age of her five children (with spread of age from 1 to 14 years old) involved in an issue, and the particular issue she was facing. Each sector also imposes regulation that extends the enclosure of the folk commons and enshrines the pervasive use of service delivery. The effect of regulation is bound up in the colloquial term used, ‘red tape’. Regulation wraps, ties, limits, and restricts.
That the public at large never thinks much about social causes of dis-ease was discussed by Smelser (2015, 17.24 to 17.56) in the BBC Series, The Century of the Self in speaking about the United States public post Second World War, ’…..that they would in fact adapt to the reality about them. They never questioned the reality. They never questioned that Society might itself be a source of evil or something to which you could not adapt without compromise or without suffering, or without exploiting yourself in some way.’ With films like the Matrix some people are beginning to really question reality.
Folk commons wisdom and practical action waxes and wanes in addressing its own needs. The enclosure of, and imposition upon the folk commons by government and professionals also waxes and wanes. Over the past decade we have been living through imposed escalation of fear; a shift from the 150 year plus insurance principles for reducing uncertainty and fear through risk sharing and harm minimising, to a sustained promotion of fear, uncertainty, and risk aversion. This has been accompanied by associated massive tightening of legislation and regulation increasing controls over society at large restricting freedoms while expanding, imposing, and controlling the service delivery sector, with consequent encroachment upon and shutting down of the folkCommons. ‘No more pony rides at children’s fairs – because of public risk!’ Child fairs closing because of the claimed cost of public liability. Governments and Councils create sterile safe ‘nature play’ grounds for children - ‘play to order is not play’, from Huizinga’s book ‘Homo Ludens – A study of the Play-Element in Culture’ (1955). When I was a child we tolerated no interference by adults in our play. We loved windy days so we could hang on to the tops of trees for a ride. We knew how to move safely in dangerous places and had no broken bones. What would family services say to that?
Another process for enclosing the folkCommons in Australia was the imposition of a top down hierarchical governance on cooperatives which had local and lateral governance for 100 or more years. In the 1990s cooperative law imposed top down directors so four of seven cooperative members could control the organisation rather than the all the members having a say. Another area of shutdown was the long tradition of the mutual. Over fifty mutual life insurance societies had the life insurance law stripping their mutuality and turning them into limited liability top-down structures. The system has been enclosing the mutual commons.
Paradoxically, the perturbing, marginalising, and induction of fear among common folk is the very processes that has escalated consciousness-raising among some common folk – consciousness of the practical value of emotional, psychological, and other mutual-help drawing up the folkCommons, as well as the financial worth of mutual-help.
Dominant systems focus the common folk on the role of experts who do things for the common folk and impose upon them in ways that detaches folk from their wisdom culture held in common. Each aspect of life has its regulated professional people. Regarding the professional enclosing upon the folkCommons, the familial and communal aspect has professional people with academic degrees in community development, community services, family services, gynaecology, human services, midwifery, social work, and urban design. The social aspect has behavioural scientists, social ecologists, social workers, and sociologists. The environment has agronomists, biologists, ecologists, environmental scientists, and geologists. The expertise of these groups is recognised. What is being emphasized here is the commons of practical, creative, intuitive, and very relevant knowing, understandings, and practical wisdoms held in common by common folk that are being progressively enclosed by regulated professionals.
Every one of the commons mentioned above has been encroached upon by various professional groups that carve out their separate domains. The various commons are also enclosed by various associated restrictive government regulation. Imposition within the psyCommons and other sub-domain commons has had the effect of restricting the sense of agency (can do), and the use of agency by most of the common folk. ‘Oh, leave things for the professional people to do. They’ll do it properly.’
People of all ages have lost the richness of the old ways of life - where parents, grandparents, uncles and auntie, and older cousins would pass on the ways – hence the expression, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Madam Wan, an elderly Vietnamese woman said in a private conversation with the author in 2003 that this loss of how to carry out these generational roles in the Vietnamese countryside was the effect of one hundred years of war in that country. She also viewed that the ideas of finding and networking natural nurturers and passing on their competences to the common folk outlined in this paper was a way forward for Vietnam.
Social Wise Action by Common Folk - Mutual-Help as a Complement to Service Delivery
One model of social action is to have Mutual-Help support groups complement the work of service delivery organisations of all kinds by:
o Providing small project and micro-project proof of what does not work, hence potentially saving waste of time and effort
o Typically, support groups commence because local folk already know what is missing in their lives and take immediate relevant action without doing all manner of research and effort before anything ever happens
o Typically, mutual-help is voluntary and self-funding, another reason action commences very quickly and relevant action is not skewed by distant experts imposing ‘one size fits’ all type action that is not fitting the specifics of the local context and leading to poor outcomes
o Mutual-help uses processes that have already been tested and found to work well and are based on mutual-help policy, where policy is ‘that which has worked in the past and can be used again or adapted to local cultural and context’ (hence policy of this kind works)
o At times of emergency where service delivery is stretched way beyond capacity, mutual-help by local and laterally linked locals conversant with the local contexts may well be the only action that will work. This was the experience in the 2009 Kinglake fire storm disaster in Victoria in 2009.
Given the foregoing, government, non-government, and community-based service delivery organisations often view self-help and mutual-help action as a very real threat of taking away their client-base.
While people may aspire to lessen public expenditure and obtain better value for the public dollar, there is a strong pressure towards putting self-preservation first if achieving the above goals appears personally detrimental to people associated with the service delivery policy or program delivery or oversight.
Traditional government and non-government wellbeing agencies may see grassroots commonfolk initiatives as a threat to their own funding.
If grassroots wellbeing action really starts to be effective on a larger scale, this may raise a fear of presupposed downsizing within sections of the bureaucracy and a similar fear within traditional wellbeing services.
Because of these perceived threats, the foregoing entities may mistakenly seek to undermine grassroots mutual-help and other resonant wellbeing initiatives. They may fail to see scope for multiple lateral integration between lateral/bottom-up and top down processes, or appreciate the scope for shifting from vertical integration to lateral integration.
The obvious claim from within the existing paradigm is that grassroots wellbeing action is 'unprofessional' - that it is not under the direction and control of professed experts. Also, that it is not organised 'properly' - in other words, that it is not 'top-down'. They do not have eyes to see the effectiveness of mutual help. That something is working outside of their service delivery framework is for them inconceivable.
Government and the Facilitating of Grassroots Action
Twenty five years ago a few federal government bureaucrats became interested in facilitating local and horizontal mutual help by common folk after they heard about a gathering facilitated by Grassroots Action in the Australian Far North tapping into, using and extending the folkCommons by exploring therapeutic community practice. The previous segment of this paper about mutual-help as a complement to service delivery has been adapted from a paper titled, ‘Government and the Facilitating of Grassroots Action’ prepared by grassroots folk for these few bureaucrats (Laceweb, 1993a). These few bureaucrats eventually realised that the federal government had no process within the strictly sectorised top-down service delivery framework for the holistic funding of folk local-lateral mutual help.
Additionally, these few top bureaucrats interested in supporting mutual help realised other bureaucrats and public service unions would strongly resist any setting up of funding of mutual help - a complementary, though profoundly different system. This form of funding would never be tolerated and would be rigorously resisted. These few bureaucrats wanted to bend all their rules to fund grassroots mutual-help. They then realised that bending all of their rules to provide such funding would inevitably lead to mutual help being squeezed back into fragmented sectorised top-down service delivery.
Twenty five years later after that meeting with the few bureaucrats and nothing has altered. Governments at all levels have no framework for facilitating grassroots mutual-help action. It does not fit their funding model or their administrative systems. Hence, common folk actions receive scant funding and such action is all the slower as a result.
One third of the 2019 Australian budget is for social security and welfare services – an amount of $191.8 billion. This is a key economic stimulus with a seven-fold multiplier effect generating Aus$1.34 trillion in funds flow circulating through the economy. This gargantuan churn is the main reason for the system. Millions of people have employment engaged in service delivery. In the year leading up to May 2019 around quarter of a million new federal government bureaucratic jobs were created in public administration and ‘safety’. To repeat, this massive churn system is its own reason for its existence. Actual success in doing anything about common folks’ woes would reduce this churn; this economic massive facticity. Success is not a necessary criterion.
Focus is placed on input, not output. Number of folk seen, rather than number of folk with issues resolved. The sustained denigration of people on unemployment benefits and welfare in the face of structural unemployment is an integral aspect of imposed fear and stress and socially induced mental illness, and stress produced physical illness ensuring the continuance of the ‘need’ and massive existence of service delivery alongside consumers for big pharmacy’s pills and capsules. The mess is an integral part of the system. What if more common folk began to realise the sustained toxicity maintenance of this system? There is ever increasing social control with no one in control.
Fifty years ago futurists came up with over 25 models of global governance. One of those models was selected as the worst. That worst model is the one we now have (Falk, 1975).
Exposing mutual help action to government funders’ gaze has to be seen in the context of government and non-government agencies’ history of attempting to coopt the best talent from mutual help networks to tap their competences, and simultaneously weaken or collapse mutual help action which they currently mistakenly perceive as a threat.
Experience has demonstrated that practical wisdom may be present and emerge from group contexts. When one person has ‘hit a brick wall’ others may be of immense value. Practical wisdom tends to emerge from within the collective’s life experience of what may be termed mental illness, extreme psycho-emotional stress and trauma.
This paper also identifies various commons as sources of commonly held wisdom – the psyCommons, the communal-Commons, the emotion-Commons, the socio-Commons, and the enviro-Commons. These various commons are a rich resource of ‘ordinary wisdom’ held in common by the common folk about engaging together in the communal life world, the social life world, and within wider societal chunks. The enviro-Commons is a rich resource of ‘ordinary wisdom’ held in common by the common folk engaging together in the natural life world. Often these forms of ordinary wisdom are hardly ever used or even recognised by the holders of these forms of wisdoms.
And, in parallel with the history of the enclosures of common land by power people in the UK and elsewhere, the psyCommons too has encroachment and enclosures.
In that hidden way that politics can be invisibly present in daily life, the psy-professions – psychiatry, psychology, psychoanalysis, psycho-therapy and counselling – have encroached upon and enclosed large junks of the psyCommons - the psychological and the emotional - and claiming it as their exclusive domain. They are the experts.
The transforming of universities to a business model has increased academia’s interest in linking academic research, training and legitimating of professionals, and expanding their links to service delivery as integral parts of the continuance of both their funding and their very survival, hence furthering the enclosure of the folkCommons.
The grassroots action in the 1960s and 1970s around Sydney Australia has been recognised in the UK as pioneering world best practice in mutual help and therapeutic community enriching the practical wisdom and wellbeing in all of its forms among the common folk – as in emotional wellbeing, and other forms of wellbeing including community, economic, emotional, environmental, family, habitat, physical, psychological, and social, wellbeing. A Collective of Self-help Groups (COSHG, 1980) was active in Melbourne, in Victoria Australia publishing a regular directory of 100s of associated groups.
These groups in NSW and Victoria typically had very tentative and humble beginnings. Each tended to concentrate on a particular theme such as mutual-help for single mums, for the disabled with mental issues, for at-risk youth, and the like. After a time, some of these had linked groups in many locations. Some expanded to extend support in various ways in everyday life. What worked in these groups is outlined in this paper. Members of a support group would from time to time attend different mutual help groups. Members of these support groups were all inter-connected such that processes and resources that worked well in one support group would be passed on to the others. ‘Try the process in your own contexts or adapt it to suit the circumstance’. They had this sense of ‘villaging’ the city – creating a village atmosphere where everyone knows each other; they all belong to the same ‘village’ (Mangold, 1993, p. 4-11).
Some of these groups had members who realised that mental strife and anguish and extreme stress and trauma had social origins – had onset from the social situations common folk found themselves within – or couldn’t find themselves within. So they set out to set up and realise their own micro-social-contexts of their own collective making. They set out to change their surroundings by changing themselves – their respective selves - changing how they were connecting and socially relating with themselves and others.
Linked to this NSW based 1960s and 1970s folk action, over that past two decades, new forms of social movement have been emerging in Australasia, Latin America, Oceania, and SE Asia (Spencer, 2019). These focus on personal connectivity, mutuality, and enriching social connecting and relating (rather than focusing on power). Influences are being generated that are placing the impetus for nurturing cultural action for wellbeing back at the place it breaks down - with local people as they go about their lives. It is a lateral and bottom-up action among common folk. Small groups engage in practical action and keep using practices that work for them. Others become involved and initiatives, starting 'at the bottom', work their way 'out' horizontally and 'up' to include more of the wider community.
Some folk within these movements are reconnecting with the practices and processes evolved in the 1960s and 1970s around Sydney, Australia. Collectively, this movement already has massive movement and momentum with outreach to over 178 countries. Everything tends to happen quietly in ways that are hardly noticed by mainstream commentators. Links into this movement can be made if you know what to look for. This paper is resonant with these traditions of practice.
These 1960s and 1970s support groups commenced out of a felt need that things were missing in their lives. These things were recognised by their felt absence. Rather than having experts doing things for them all the time, they did feel a need to take back ownership and agency over their own lives. They felt a desire for engaging in mutual help with other folk relating to both the personal and interpersonal aspects of their lives together. They wanted to sort out their own heads and their own hearts; have a better say in how they felt; ways to stop their racing thoughts and jitteriness; ways to stop mental strife, extreme stress and trauma.
Folk in some groups recognised that they all had very similar experiences of living hard on the mean streets on society’s margins, and that this common experience, now being shared with similar marginalised others had some particular advantages. Their cooperating together sharing their own respective life experiences in peer-to-peer support groups and networks was ideally fitted to exploring their own alternatives to the existing social system, as they were folk who, in common, had had the existing social system ‘knocked out of them’. Consequently, they were less bound to it and bound by it. They were perhaps the very best people to explore possible futures.
Those from these backgrounds living hard on the extreme margins of society - those in the back wards of psychiatric hospitals and those in prison that authority will not give a day of parole to, have hardly any socialising effects of society left in them. Their very problematic socialising has been fragmented and messed with by their marginalisation. In the 1960s and 1970s folk with these backgrounds began, with the support of their peers, ‘making their minds over’, and making themselves over in their collective new socialising of themselves with others of their own making (Spencer, 2013a; Spencer, 2013b; Spencer, 2017). The dis-integrated were taking steps to commence their own re-integrating. The fragmented were defragging themselves. The dis-connected were re-connecting. The abandoned were evolving friends, acquaintances and nurturing networks within relating community.
Those who sensed they were an insubstantial ‘nobody from nowhere’ were becoming ‘a somebody of substance from somewhere’ – from a place where significant things were happening. Where everything had been meaningless, now there was significant meaning of their own collective making.
Where there had been no norms, now there were emerging sensible norms that they were evolving together, and that they shared and collectively valued. Where they had been folk who were mere shadows and isolates, now they were valued friends and acquaintances with whom they are in regular contact.
They were collectively realising all of this transforming in a two-fold sense. Firstly, ‘realising’ as in make real. They were ongoingly making their transforming experience of their life real – as in actual. Secondly, and simultaneously, they were realising – as in understanding - making sense of their sensing of the difference coming into their life.
These folk from the margins began to clearly see things about society that ‘normal’ people could not see. The marginals began to sense that ‘normal’ people had been socialised to have the automatism of compliance and obedience; to never recognise that society is socially constructed by the few to laud it over the many; to never question or recognise the ways that society has been socially constructed. They recognised that standard psychiatric and criminal incarceration process strips inmates of their clothes and other possessions immediately upon arrival – inmates leave the outside reality, stripped at multiple levels, and go into ‘another condition’ - stripped to nakedness; stripped of the dignity; stripped of all of their possessions, their self identity, their self worth, the self respect, their self identity - in becoming just a number; and impotent making stripping of their agency – their ‘can do’. Others decide everything they can and cannot do (Goffman, 1961).
In Academia, participants tend to Look At Things As They Are (there is even an expression for this - latata) and not as they could be.
Marginal people began to notice things and comprehend things that were beyond the limits of ‘normal’ comprehension. Whenever these common folk of the margins would attempt to share insights with normal ‘non-comprehenders’ these conventionally normal would assume that they were being presented with a sham; that these no-longer-marginals were speaking nonsense. Those who had reached the limits of their comprehending never realised that this was what had happened. They dismissed these marginal folk with - They talk no sense – nonsense. What would they know? On comprehending and reaching one’s limits in comprehending, Martin Heidegger wrote:
To the common comprehension, the incomprehension is never an occasion to stop and look at its own powers of comprehension, still less to notice their limitations. To common comprehension, what is incomprehensible remains merely offensive – proof enough to such comprehension which is convinced it was born comprehending everything, that it is now being imposed upon with a sham. The one thing of which sound common sense is least capable is acknowledgement and respect (1968, p. 76-77).
In these 1960’s and 1970s support groups, some began sensing the importance of what they were collectively doing. This strange novel engaging may be contagious. What if other people in other places began doing what we are doing? What if they began cooperating together?
Some began evolving tentative micro-models of practice for local communities. Others documented a timeline of significant happenings that they had been involved in (Laceweb, 1993b; Laceweb, 1994a). A few thought on an even bigger scale to be exploring regional and even global futures.
They found that when the gathered together they could more clearly sense what was missing in their lives. They began taking action to tentatively implement new ways of being together. They began sharing ‘what worked well’ with folk in other groups and networks. Some began exploring the nature of this networking – noticing functional advantages in differing structural forms – the dispersed network, the integrated network, and long thin networks (Laceweb, 2016). A number of these thin networks would at times all link into the same person termed a nodal person who would receive news from the associated thin networks and pass them on to all of the others. This form of network becomes significant in parts of the world where security becomes an issue.
Folk involved in these thin networks typically only know a few on either side of them in the chain so if some outsiders seek to do harm, only a few are at risk, not everyone in the network. In some places militias want people to remain mentally ill so they remain in overwhelmed states and are more easily controlled. In these contexts, healers who can restore peoples mental functioning are at risk of harassment or worse from militias. The person at the end of a thin network that linked to the nodal person was also significant as if link with that person is lost, the link to that particular thin chain is lost.
The Australian mutual help groups of the 1960s and 1970s while addressing mental strife, extreme stress, and trauma, were also addressing important issues and enriching people’s lives in specific relevant areas. They began differentiating into having differing associated themes, functions, and foci. For example, single mums were providing each other friendship and companionship.
They were helping each other find safe places to meet and stay as well as finding suitable accommodation, making referrals to resources that they had found useful – all manner of practical help.
Other groups provided a very relevant and practical set of enrichments to the quality of life; for example, addressing the particular needs of the homeless, the disabled, ex-prisoners, ex-combatants, struggling artists, at-risk youth, newly arrived refugees, the long-term unemployed and people who have just left criminal and psychiatric incarceration. These functions and foci in turn had the effect of integrating and interconnecting people as they began adding to their repertoires of who they are and what they can do and are doing.
Folk found places where they could gather at minimal or no cost. They funded their own coming together - creating their own funding through pooling their often meagre resources and energising mutual help social enterprise. Increasingly, people who have accumulated funds, and sense the potency of the folk commons are coming forward with funding that does not skew action back to mainstream service delivery. In contrast, to fragmented sectorised frameworks, common-folk mutual-help grassroots wellbeing action is holistic in a manner that is at the same time both pervasive and detailed.
The mutual help group Mingles was a group of groups – where folk in all of the other mutual support groups could meet at Mingles gatherings and celebrations.
Neville Yeomans, while pioneering Therapeutic Community within Australia was also a futurist exploring Epochal Change. He wrote the following on epochal change:
The take off point for the next cultural synthesis, typically occurs in a marginal culture. Such a culture suffers dedifferentiation of its loyalty and value system to the previous civilization. It develops a relatively anarchical value orientation system. Its social institutions dedifferentiate and power slips away from them. This power moves into lower level, newer, smaller and more radical systems within the society. Uncertainty increases and with it rumour. Also an epidemic of experimental organizations develop. Many die away but those most functionally attuned to future trends survive and grow (1971a; 1971b; 1971c).
Yeomans was talking about social institutions in a marginal culture during a declining epoch having a common withdrawal of loyalty to the old system. With the words, ‘those most functionally attuned to future trends survive and grow’, Yeomans was hinting at his own aspirations.
Below is a list detailing the functions and foci of many Support Groups within which Yeomans was a catalytic influence:
Examples of Local Self-help Groups and Mutual-Help Groups from the 1960s Onwards
There is considerable overlap, crossover and replicating in the types of functions and foci in the following groups. This is a self organising aspect emerging from the interests and felt needs of the people in the respective groups. Typically group names reflected their interests and foci.
Name Used Functions, Fields, and Foci
Adten Celebration Gatherings and Festivals; using these Gatherings for theme-based networking;
Community Bush campouts;
Cultural healing artistry
Evolving community during preparing the above gathering celebrations;
Help in evolving and running local-lateral cooperatives and social enterprises and caring supportive mutualism in everyday life;
Networked self-help and mutual-help
Spontaneous drama and theatre arts
Akame Alternatives to Criminal and Psychiatric Incarceration;
Cultural Healing Action;
Grandmother and Me (Islander culture);
Healing Storytelling; Youth and Adolescent Support;
Stopping Youth/Adolescent Civil and Criminal Law Breaking;
Bush Mechanics & Archaic Renaissance;
Tinkerers Sharing old competences and creations;
Creativity; Re-purposing of available resources; frugality.
Business Letting go stress; relational mediating;
Psychiatric Intercultural relating (especially establishing
Study Group relationships in SE Asia); Peer-to-peer networking;
Cadres Alternative Dispute Resolution
Therapeutic & Relational Mediating
Care Free Energising folk festivals, gatherings, celebrations, and artistry;
Committee Community therapy; Craft meetups
Chums Caring and Helping Unmarried Mothers:
Experiencing Sharing Help
Life Narrative Recording and Competence Inventory;
Shelters, safe places and accommodation
Coda Disability Action and the Arts
Connexion Common Interest Networking
Community Approaches to Stopping Addictions
Intercultural Healing Action
Intercultural Humane Legal Processes
Intercultural Social Networks
Life Narrative Recording
Linking to Global Governance
Natural Nurturer Networking
Reconciling and Accepting
Cultural Healing All forms of Artistry for resolving conflict and reconciling
Artistry conflicted people:
Alternatives to Criminal and Psychiatric Incarceration;
Cultural and intercultural rituals;
Drama, spontaneous theatre;
Hypothetical Realplay for re-integrating individuals, families, communities, and villages;
Reconciling villages in dispute and reconciling former combatants;
Peacehealing; Somatic (body) therapies;
Structured and semi-structured experiences.
Danzacts Alternatives to Prisons
Cultural Healing Action
Combatant’s Return to Civilian Life
Healing Dance, Drama and the Arts
Healing Festivals and Camp-Outs
Doula Collectives Support for pregnant women
Support for women seeking to become pregnant;
Eesos Emergence of Natural Phenomena;
Enabling Emergence of Natural Phenomena;
Enabling Emergence in Self-Organizing Systems;
Identifying and Using System Free Energy;
Intercultural Interfacing and Intercultural Mediating.
Family Nexus Economic Habitat & Environmental support;
Integrated Local Area Planning and Action by Locals;
Life Narrative Recording; Nurturing Wellbeing Socio-Emotionally
Funpo Youth Action, spontaneity, and play;
Youth Employment and Skilling;
Youth Healing Festivals;
Youth Sport Dance Art and Culture.
Fostering Emergent Properties
Inter-Cultural Normative Model Areas,
Eco-Villages & Eco-Habitat
Ecology and social ecology
Fast-tracking nature, e.g., turning subsoils into magnificent topsoils; purposefully adding and combining materials to shortcut what may take nature a 1000 years to create and having worms and other life forms blend it all together and turn it into magnificent soil in a few weeks
Forest gardens; Greencare
Inter-community cooperating; e.g. surface water flow;
Local Energy Transfer Systems (Lets);
Massively Expanding Soil Biota Populations
Oasifying Deserts and Arid Areas
Processes for evolving folk with a Big Picture Focus and meta-processes perceiving competences (metaprocesses are processes for engaging with process);
Regenerating Degraded Broad Acre
Thriving Communities & Farming
Thriving New Soil Generating
Using Topography and Social Topography;
Culturally Appropriate Peaceful Nationalism ;
Enhancing Community Cooperation and Friendliness, Locality, and Mutual Support;
Multinational Life Food Producing and Consuming;
Producing and Distributing Documents, Papers, Communications Photos, Stickers, Films and other Cultural and Artistic Materials and Productions;
Self-Respect; Life Food Producing and Consuming.
Assisting other Bodies with Similar Aims
Survivors Environmental restorative action (which led to a Royal Commission);
Support for Cancer Sufferers
Support for folk who were not made aware of the dangers in working at the Maralinga Atomic Bomb Test Site in South Australia.
Matters Home, Street and Rural Mediation Therapy and Mediation;
Mediation Therapy; Mediating as Alternative to Adversarial Law;
Mingles Celebrating and Re-Creating
Evolving and Sustaining New Friendships;
Intercultural linkups and networking
Life Narrative Recording
Linking new arrivals – refugees, overseas students, and young travellers;
Parties and Gatherings
Gatherings where participants in all of the other support groups could meet up and form friendships and networks.
Employment and Skilling; Income Security
Natural Learning Processes; Natural Living Processes
Total Care Celebratory Festivals
Folk supported Community Mental Wellness
Examples of Local Regional and Global Mutual-help Groups
Name Used Functions, Fields, and Foci
Entreaties Intercultural Enabling
Exploring Intercultural Humane Values;
Extegrity Intra-State Cultural Keyline
Providing extegrity as in ‘extensive integrity’
Fostering Caring Partnerships between Prior Conflicted Peoples;
Funding Support for Civil Society Re-Constituting;
Mentoring Social Ecology on Inma Projects;
Supporting Grassroots Community after Societal Collapse;
Support for Reconstituting Local Grassroots Community;
Survivors of Torture and Trauma (Natural/Man-Made).
Nexus Groups Common Interest Networking
Community Approaches to Stopping Addictions
Intercultural Healing Action
Intercultural Humane Legal Processes
Intercultural Social Networks
Life Narrative Recording
Linking to Global Governance
Natural Nurturer Networking
Reconciling and Accepting
Un-Inma Alternatives to Criminal and Psychiatric Incarcerating;
Assimilating, integrating and healing perpetrators and supporting their re-entry into the community;
Cultural Healing Action
Cultural Keyline - social topography and the ‘lay of the land’ in communities
Enriching competence in governance of the local, regional and global commons;
Enriching the generational roles of grandparents, parents, uncles and aunties, nieces and nephews, babies, children and adolescences; and natural nurturers;
Networking local natural nurturers and indigenous/small minority healers following man-made and natural disasters;
Quick Response Healing Teams;
Rapid Assessment of Psychosocial needs following disasters;
Rapid Response healing teams following disasters;
Supporting Torture and Trauma Survivors;
International Therapeutic Community.
Derivations of the Words and Terms in the Names
Each of the names in the above list has significance. Neville had checked on the derivations of the words and terms in the names:
Adten Australian Down to Earth Network (DTE - Down to Earth)
Akame ‘Aka’ is Torres Strait Islander for Grandmother; hence the connotation is ‘me and my (wise) grandmother’
` Bush Mechanics, Bush mechanics are in the self sufficiency tradition of Tinkerers the early Colonial days where items are creatively
Business Post the Second World War, some saw psychiatric
Psychiatric insights being applied to many areas of society (ref). e
Study Group Yeomans set up the Business Psychiatric Study Group in Sydney in 1968 (ref)
Cadres From Latin ‘quadrum’, a square; meaning ‘a function’ or scheme’; the ADR connotes ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’
Care Free Care Free indicating firstly, that participants were free
Committee of care and secondly, that they freely extended care to others
Chums Colloquial for good friends
Caring and Helping Unmarried Mums
Coda From Latin ‘cauda’ meaning ‘tail’; an adjunct to the close of a composition; CoDA Latin ‘co’ from ‘cum’, meaning ‘with’, and DA connoting Disability Action
Connexion From Latin ‘connectere’ – to join, link, unite, associate, closely relate, coherent, having the power of connecting; link to Old English ‘connexity’ meaning simultaneously being inter-dependent, inter-related, inter-woven, and inter-connected; also links to ‘Keypoint’ as themes conducive to coherence.
Cultural Healing Evolving hundreds of years ago in the Pacific Islands
Artistry and spreading though SE Asia – all forms of artistry is used for reconciling those in conflict and healing communities
Danzacts Connoting ‘dance acts’; combatant’s return to civilian life (in working with a member of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) and other Bougainville and West Papuan traumatized refugees in 2001, dance was rated the most useful in the healing ways we explored); Therapeutic Community.
Doula Collectives The old term for the women supporting all aspects of childbirth
Entreaties From Old French ‘entraiter’ – to ask earnestly; the word ‘treaties’ is embedded
Eesos Enabling emergence in self-organizing systems
Extegrity Connoting ‘extensive integrity’. It is possible that Neville knew of the term ‘tensegrity’ connoting ‘integrity through tension’ and used this to derive ‘extegrity’.
Family Nexus Nexus meaning a form of connection; a connected group; the centre of something (historical, law) – hence strengthening family, extended family, and inter-family connexion
Funpo At Yungaburra where Funpo started it stood for the ‘Fun Post Office’; all the children of the little town were exchanging letters with each other gratis by sending them to Funpo. It also stands for Friends of UNPO, the Unrepresented Nations and People Organization in The Hague.
INMA ‘Inma’ is a special word for the Central Australian Aborigines. Neville had obtained their permission to use it. It has many meanings including ‘oneness’, ‘a coming together’, and ‘being together’. In Ma connotes ‘in ma’ – ‘in the mother’ and has similar connotation to the word ‘matrix’.
The Torres Strait Island word ‘Ini’ also means, ‘being together’; INMA also stood for International/ Intercultural Normative Model Areas (Yeomans, 1974)
Keyline From father’s Keyline
Mediation Matters As in mediating being significant, and in relating to mediating
Mingles Mingle: to mix together, to blend with, to associate
Nelps A play on ‘help’; NLP or Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or Neville’s terms for NLP, namely, ‘Natural Learning Processes’, and ‘Natural Living Processes’
Total Care ‘Total’ in the sense that every aspect of action is towards caring for wellness
Un-Inma Unique (Indigenous) Networks/ Unique Nurturers - International/Intercultural/Interpersonal Normative Model Areas
Psychosocial Self Help Groups
Psychosocial Self Help Groups has been evolving through involvement of people with life experiences that may be termed as mental illness, extreme stress, and/or psycho-social trauma, and embodying a shared concern for people experiencing an emotional, personal, family, communal or human relations crisis. These are the common folk who are likely to become the consumers of welfare and mental health services. Some of us are or have been patients; some of us have worked with such persons; and some of us have been both.
We are working outside of hospitals and institutions; we intend to remain outside and to help others to stay out. We reject the idea that clients and patients are different kinds of human beings to those who try to help them. In the face of all of the claims of the psyProfessionals we recognise only that a human being in a state of personal and social crisis may need and benefit from the help of his or her fellow humans. We reject the idea that ‘being well’ or ‘working’ is the same as ‘being normal’ or behaving as you are expected to behave (being good). We recognise only that when a person’s behaviour is intolerable to other people, it is usually because their situation is intolerable to them.
So we must not simply ask them to change their behaviour; we must help them to change the situation. We recognise that the consumers should have the right to choose this treatment if s/he wants to. We reject the idea that an emotional crisis is simply a ‘disease’ to be ‘treated’ with medicines, handouts, or punishments in isolation from the social situation that brought it about.
We recognise that ‘treatment’ can only relieve distressing symptoms. Psychiatry typically does not address a client’s social context. To enter for a moment the world of a ‘psychiatric patient’ - the treatment does not alter at all the often distorting, disconnecting, disempowering, disintegrating, intolerably infuriating, exhausting, confusingly entangled, pathologically alienating, meaninglessly imposing, mad-making, bad-making societal mess that patients are returning to after a psychiatric visit; such that non-compliant common folk are continually loosing it.
Hence in the 1960s and 1970s some former psychiatric and prison inmates together decided to completely loose it by stepping out of the mess into alternative enclaves of their own making that were sensibly fabulous – the stuff of fables – communal paradise with gardens of Eden.
A Group called ‘Self Help Groups’ is a community-based self help organisation stimulating community concern and action towards personal and human relations self help. Self Help Groups is also like a ‘seed bank collective’ that has begun seeding other self help groups that are networking and sharing ways that work. Self Help Groups is also a source of potential resource people and a repository of ways that work towards better futures – refer Attachment A.
With this philosophy, Self Help Groups never accepts funding that would harm its commitment to enriching the various commons. Similarly Self Help Groups remain unincorporated so that action can be maximally free of imposition of ways encroaching upon or enclosing the various commons.
People of Self Help Groups see the idea of Self Help Groups as mutual help. We have formed ourselves into a collective, to come to know ourselves and one another and to increase our understanding of human relationships and emotional crisis, and sharing healing ways that work - where ‘healing’ means ‘making whole’.
There are some professional workers and ex-professionals who have been helping Self Help Groups - doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, lawyers, priests, teachers, politicians, and the like who have valuable experience and knowledge to bring to use. However, they work according to the Self Help Groups psyCommons and wider folkCommons philosophy and reject the one sided patient/doctor type of relationship.
We recognise that folk `freak' (that is, behave incomprehensibly and so on). Some freakouts have very positive aspects - increased perception, sensitivity, and insight; but there are often negative sides - fear, confusion, disconnection, isolation, and alienation. At such times people need the support of others. Self Help Groups is where such support may be found.
Action taking place in the folkCommons is currently on the margins and hardly noticed. It involves folk recognising contexts of possibility and inherent human potential, and taking the opportunity to do something for themselves and others. In most cases it is the women who are taking the initiative. It involves acts celebrating diversity. It revolves around cultural healing and intercultural reconciling. Action expands links among individuals and families and turns strangers into friends. It builds 'communing' communities. It permeates through everyday life; it 'villages' the city.
These features have multiple benefits including the removal of anomie, loneliness, powerlessness, identity issues etc. Initiatives are involving people in acting together to take back ability over their own lives. Experts are used as resource people and not as power brokers and decision-makers.
Nurturing culture – as in our ways of living together - involves ways of joint action that continually spreads and enriches the wellbeing competence base in the folkCommons throughout the local community at the grassroots level.
Common folk are engaged in passing on diverse wellbeing micro-experiences, for example, in providing community-based family and individual support.
If grassroots community wellbeing nurturing action continues its exponential growth, the potential to lower the present cost involved in service delivery is immense.
The role of governments, for large sections of the wellbeing agenda, has scope to change from 'deliverer of services' to that of 'non-compromising facilitator of local cultural nurturing action' - self help and mutual help. This grassroots nurturing cultural action for wellbeing could be a micro-model for an alternative wellbeing delivery through mutual help process running parallel to service delivery, not only for Australia, but also for the rest of the world.
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A letter sent by a Patient at Fraser House who was the President of the Patients Parliamentary Committee
The Psychiatric Centre Cox Road
As your relative or friend is now a patient at Fraser House, it is now our common purpose to do what we can towards the restoration of full mental health.
We invite you to come as often as you can to the groups, the function of which are to enable all of us to find out the reasons why the breakdown has taken place, so that we can all assist.
There are in the hospital a number of committees, because it is believed that the patients and their relatives and friends can do most towards solving each other’s problems.
Groups are held at 9:30 A.M. each morning and at 6:30 P.M. each evening. Tuesday and Thursday groups are set aside for parents and relatives of the patients and Friday morning for general business.
If you would like a group from here to call on you to advise or help you in any way, to indicate what Hospital Benefits or social services are available, to explain the groups to you, or to be of any other assistance you have only to ask and a group of patients will be at your service.
Will you please write to me if there is anything we can do or any information we can give.
If you are in distress about anything, would you ring Fraser House, phone 880 281 and ask the charge nurse to give me your message.
Patients’ Parliamentary Committee.
(Spencer 2013a, p. 409-410)
Sample Document from the 1970s from Connexion Detailing Support Frameworks
Often a group of common folk with felt need to improve their lives start a support group. While a Self Help Group typically has some self-starters, they may after a while find advantages in setting up an organising structure and or support structure. For example, some members prefer differing times for support groups so a communicating and coordinating process tends to emerge. Members of support groups then may begin passing aspects over to a local and lateral set of governance committees that are set up progressively by the members. After a time this governance process tends to modify the original administrative process and structure.
Members may begin sharing lived life experience in the various Self Help Groups governance committees while evolving democratic self-governance together. In this, they are having a say in evolving their social reality together with other members. They are all playing a part together in evolving and constituting (making) of their social reality of their own collective communal making.
And in doing this they are reconstituting their self - the lived life experience of who they are – their self identity and their self agency (can do), and their sense of self worth. The structures and process of these governance committees are continually being added to and finetuned.
Members typically go out of their way to maintain everything in a tentative transitional state – a culture of continual exploring, evolving, and improving so that that which is fitting survives – the survival of the fitting.
Governance processes are pervasively relationally formed and reformed through relational conversing. Governance Committees formalize the social structure of the members’ sub-community change as members co-constitute their new evolving social reality together.
Members are encouraged to have balance between committee work and self-healing where ‘healing’ means ‘making whole’. There is also an element of self-healing in being immersed in the socialising and sorting out about how to live and work well with others within the committee work.
There tends to be an offering of jobs to people who cannot do them with ample support so they do achieve competence by life experience.
Participants are encouraged to recognize and respect their own needs and those of others. This is a reason why the committee work is called the ‘re-socializing activity’.
Any person ‘hiding’ from their own change-work by being too busy in committee work may soon have other members pointing this out to them. If new members put themselves forward for elections too earlier in their involvement, others will notice this possibly as ‘being on a power trip’ or ‘avoiding personal change work’ and may challenge them about this, or raise the issue in support groups. The same thing would apply to a person seeking to serve on many committees.
Isolates learn to re-socialize and form relationships with other members and their friends. The Committee work requires acquiring and using a wide range of personal and interpersonal communicating skills.
Within time, a number of member-run committees and work groups can be set up that involve the members themselves being actively involved in collaborating, coming to common understandings, reaching consensus, making decisions and taking action on every aspect that normally would be the role of administration people. The committee process is eventually taking on aspects of all of the roles normally undertaken by an organisation’s administrating staff.
After a time members with involvement in the varying governance sub-committees, the governance committee, and the pilot committee, alongside their attending of support groups, are returning to everyday life after groups with finely honed practical skills in administering a complex organization. Collectively, these groups and committees are the ‘global’ self-governance of the Self Help Groups’ ‘global commons’. After a time this resocialising from engaging in the Governance Committee and the sub-groups evolves a core of folk with competence within the support groups.
A Holistic set of governance sub-groups grows to be a Governance Committee that provides wise counsel and Extegrity oversight on the work of all other committees. All members of all committees are members of the holistic Governance Group. Pilot Committee is a ‘Committee of Review’ of the Governance Group
A typical set of committees-groups:
Governance Group (A group of groups – similar to Mingles) – supported by Pilot Group
Sub Groups of the Governance Group:
o New Arrivals and Progress Group
o Committee for Locality-Based Transport
o Outpatients, Relatives and Friends Committee (works with the above committee)
o Socialising Community Group
o Natural Nurturer Networking Group
o Observing Ways that Work Group
o Life Narrative Research Group
o Domiciliary Care, Follow-up and Re-habilitating Group
o E-newsletter and Social Media Group
o Community Liaison Group
Role/Function of Groups
New Arrivals and Progress Group – This committee engages in initial sensing of a new members issues and contexts and monitors progress
Committee for Locality Based Transport –- This Committee arranges the matching up of members at support groups to maximize car-pooling and people travelling together for making friendship bonds.
Often people with very small family friendship networks and poor social skills become involved to provide experience in social interaction. This is a major process for extending functional family-friend networks among members.
Outpatients, Relatives and Friends Committee - This committee works closely with the above committee and takes wide action to increase the size, functionality, inter-connecting, and inter-relating of members’ family-friend networks and the networking between networks
Socialising Community Group – This committee works closely with all of the other committees in evolving opportunities for members to socialise in community contexts
Natural Nurturer Networking Group – This committee particular seeks out and identifies local natural nurturers among members and the local community and sets up contexts for natural nurturers to link up, network, and provide member support
Observing Ways that Work Group – This qualitative research group especially attends to identifying the natural emergence of new ways that work within support groups and in wider contexts.
These ways that work may be repeated or adapted to differing contexts. Members of this Group typically are the ones who write up notes on ways that work and have this available as a Support Group Handbook that is handed out to any new member. This handbook may also include other bits of useful information including meeting times and places. Because things are always evolving, typically handbooks become out of date and are rewritten and reissued from time to time.
Life Narrative Research Group – Experience has shown value in having one or more members supporting a person to record their life story – re-connecting
Domiciliary Care, Follow-up and Re-habilitating Group – This group calls upon members and their families and friends to assist and resolve difficulties
E-Newsletter Group – This group gathers relevant useful information and arranges distribution
Community Liaison Group - This group’s function is to maintain lines of communication with all people and departments working in the field of social well-being and mental health so that groups affiliated with Self Help Groups may have first hand information on developments in this field and to facilitate the governance and to set policy for the Self Help Groups Organisation in preserving and enriching the psyCommons.
What are the Key Lines of Self Help Groups?
o Healing, and
o Community Caring
What are the General Priorities for Our Key Lines of Focus for Enabling Self-Heal/Self-Help?
We have so far identified the following thematic priorities and focus groups, as requiring attention. Typically, Self Help Groups start with focusing on present issues within the Group. Often this is more than enough to start with.
While typically commencing with one small support group, repeated experience has demonstrated the potential for one support group to replicate and for these groups to begin cooperating and collaborating together for mutual benefit.
After a time, networks of support groups may form, and networks may begin to form into a network of networks. Processes evolve to pass on news of practical ways that work in making lives better. Also other forms of groups may evolve to support this process. Experience of what works is detailed in what follows.
Please note that these priorities are indicative and that the following list does not pretend to be exhaustive.
Healing (making whole):
o Self-Help and mutual help for those with life experience of mental illness, psycho-emotional stress, or trauma
o Evolving and enriching self including self identity, self worth, and self agency
o Psycho social nurturing, re-habilitating, liaison, relational mediating, supporting folk to help themselves – self help
o Conflict preventing and negotiating, sacred and personal relational mediating, confidence-building, conflict resolving, healing festivals, community enabling, educating, and engaging in healing artistry
o Individual and community caring and celebratory cooperating
o Evolving, sharing, and adapting to local context bio-psycho-social processes that are working
o Embodying balancing, moving, breathing, and connecting to nature well
o Caring mediating
o Evolving Cultural Localities wherein people are connecting together connecting to place
o Developing local groups
o Context healing; home, street, and rural mediating
o Gaining agency and voice and engaging in speech acts
o Enabling self-help networks, and associating for self-heal/self help, healfests
o Gender equal opportunities and non discriminatory equitable practicing
o Independent, pluralist and humanely responsive media including ethical and capacity-competence training of writers, presenters, etc.
o Informing and educating on humanitarian rights to receive/give care and nurturing
o Community humane democracy - encouraging co-evolving open community-based grassroots caring self governance
o Evolving, sharing, and adapting to local context community-based bio-psycho-social processes that are working
o Community self caring through key point caring for natural environments
o People with Lived Experience of mental illness, trauma and psycho-emotional stress, including:
o Criminal Justice System survivors
What is Self Help Groups Doing?
Drawing on our basic philosophy of self help within mutual help, we of Self Help Groups have extended our coming together within support groups and are starting to work in the following areas:
a) Providing support in the areas of healing artistry, experiential learning, educating, and benevolent acting for those with life experience of mental illness, trauma, and psycho-emotional stress
b) Convening a range of groups. While typically a self help group commences with a support group, groups within Self Help Groups form a number of differing kinds of Governance Committees/Groups with varying roles outlined in Attachment A, including:
o New arrivals and progress Group
o Committee for locality-based transport
o Outpatients, Relatives and Friends Committee
o Socialising Community Group
o Natural Nurturer Networking Group
o Observing Ways that Work Group
o Life Narrative Research Group
o Domiciliary Care, Follow-up and Re-habilitating Group
o E-Newsletter and Social Media Group
o Community Liaison Group
c) Providing an internet and social media presence and phone linkup where we may be called upon for advice, information, or a sympathetic ear
d) Having a place open where people can drop in and talk etc.
e) Organising people willing to visit any folk in crisis at any time
f) Building up a network of people in the community who can accommodate and lend support to people in crisis for short periods
g) Researching and informing people about how to have changing states of being, resolving human relating issues, human rights, and humanitarian lore
h) Contacting sympathetic individuals and organisations who can be of use to people who come to Self Help Groups
i) Planning to obtain, operate, and maintain a mini-bus for mobile groups, emergency groups, and home visits
j) Providing a sympathetic E-magazine and social media for informing and educating
k) Raising the necessary funds from common folk of the psyCommons to finance the above work, the organisation was set up as (type of body) on (date)
Anyone who agrees with our aims is welcome to join us in putting them into practice. If you want to make any suggestions of ways to increase the effectiveness, fairness, openness, and humanity of our evolving process, please contact any of us that you like. If interested, please feel free to discuss with possible self help group partners. Perhaps you may then decide to form and/or broaden such partnerships and then consider discussing as to whether or not to jointly return a completed application to set up your own psycho-social support group to:
Attachment C Peach Blossom
The folk in town always said that the peach blossom family on the fringe of town had always been mad...generation after generation of them.....and some were bad....their kids were mad and bad as well...though having them on the fringe was okay as they tended to keep to themselves...rarely ever saw any of them...the other kids would not go near them accept when the peach blossom family’s peach tree near the road would begin to blossom...and these other kids were waiting to knock off the very sweet juicy peaches...so each season the local kids would take most of the sweet fruit off the tree near the road of the peach blossom family as their parents had done before them...enjoy the peaches then throw away the seed on the hard edge of the road...and none of the locals had ever been around the back of the beach blossom place...so no one knew what was there...and every spring the peach blossom family would look out upon thousands of peach trees down the gently sloping valley that would burst forth in blossom...as generations of the peach blossom family had eaten the fruit and left their seeds in their fertile soil for more trees to grow.....and this valley remains as a magnificent example of what the world can be like and it was a well kept secret in the family that sometime in the future some people would begin to realise some things about the peach blossom families of the world....the seeds of a very different world...
In the past futurists have taken the view that if you want to work with common folk towards evolving better worlds perhaps an ideal place to start is with those who have had society ‘knocked out of them’ – start with the so-called ‘mad and bad’ on the fringe of society. These futurists found that self help and mutual help in the context of life experience of mental illness, stress and trauma can be potent as a gentle caring force for societal change.
 As in Neville Yeomans’ poem ‘On Where’ (Spencer, 2013a, p.8)