In an orderly fashion

From our earliest days at school we are trained to think that if we don’t have order of a particular sort then we have chaos – and chaos is a bad thing. If we don’t have the grown ups in the centre of our society, maintaining order, then it falls apart. Those in power in companies, institutions or nations all have a vested interest in perpetrating powerful myths that keep the rest of us in check. In fact the degree to which they have power is determined by their success in convincing us that without them looking after us we would get in a mess. As a result We have a consistent and pretty fixed sense of what organised means, what organisations look like, and how unattractive the alternatives are. We cling to this sense of order like a lifeboat in the stormy seas of life.

Being part of this myth generating group has a strange effect on its members. It makes the grown ups start to think and act funny. They react differently because they are in charge, because they are responsible. They stop reacting to things in spontaneous and natural ways. Instead they start to filter and calculate their responses based on their roles. This screws things. They realise this is happening and feel uneasy about it. They know it is wrong and start to hide these feelings from themselves. They hide them from others. They see people in the same situation as themselves and start to gravitate towards them because it feels more comfortable to be with people who understand. Next thing you know they are starting to see the world in terms of us and them, black and white. They need to defend something they are part of from people who are not.

Look at the way that in the second world war  the Germans managed to maintain administrative control over such vast numbers of people and at such a speed when they invaded most of Europe in a couple of years. A friend of mine put his finger on how this could happen. People like order. Those in charge of maintaining order particularly like it. Up to a point they don’t care what kind of order it is so long as it is order. So if you invade a country you only need to take out a few of the top people and most of the rest will meekly line up in an orderly fashion and those charged with maintaining order, the police force, the judiciary, educators etc., will continue to do what they do.

Does it have to be this way? If not how do we stop this pull to an artificially created centre? Is it an inevitable part of human nature? Might we avoid it if we have such decentralised systems that there is no longer a centre to aspire to and defend?


6 thoughts on “In an orderly fashion

  1. Nice one! it goes beyond the simple KM / cooperation issues to look at the political picture. What you're describing relates very much with what Hannah Arendt wrote in her book "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil." The justification by higher instances of the validity of your work, combined with a very fragmented line of work (everyone doing a tiny little bit of work in the massive Nazi chain leading all the way to concentration camps) allowed 'ordinary people' to be the main actors of the largest genocide in the XXth century. This also echoes the popular saying 'divide and rule' in a way.A central power offering a seemingly stable infrastructure and legislation and pushing people to conform to it in their little niches could be the key to potentially devastating social consequences… The power of silos might be mightier and darker than we think when it is encouraged from the top…


  2. I think order (or maybe the perception of order) and some degree of centralised power are necessary for a functioning, stable society. My view is that things can get out of whack when people don't have any understanding about how their society is ordered. If you just accept "order" as a given without thinking critically about it, you'll be less able to recognise its weaknesses.


  3. Is this why people in corporate roles adopt the "Voice"? From their throat – out of body – As if they are making speeches from a script? Clipped – jargon filled – Have you noticed this voice?Whereas people who are not in this role world speak from their body? Softer. More space – deeper – goes to story quicklyWe see this in blogging – it took me years to get from Robert who writes memos to Rob who has a voice. We talk a lot about voice on paper – Do you hear this too?


  4. Just began your book Euan – a huge related aha for me is your core idea of Growing Up. When we are kids we live at home and our parents provide all of our key services. Much of what they do is a mystery for us – how they earn the money – feed us – heat the place etc.We have to obey their rules too! They like order too. "Tidy your room Euan!"So are we "awakening" – a mystic idea or are many of us "Growing Up"? For as grown ups we really do take charge of our lives. As so many of us are Growing Up – are we as a species growing up? If we were grown up why would we be fed by Them – doctored by Them – Financed by Them etc?I have been struggling to find the context for my book which as the details of the process of the shift in culture and the details of the forcing events that drive this shift. Your insight into "It's all about Growing Up" has been a massive help to me – thanks Euan


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