Agoras of the Global Village Concept: ISSS 2003

During his stay in Crete, and prior to the 47th Annual Conference of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS) which took place in Crete from July 6-11, 2003, Aleco Christakis, in his role as President of the ISSS, was interviewed by a Greek Newspaper regarding the theme of the ISSS Annual Conference, namely “Conscious Evolution of Humanity: Using Systems Thinking to Construct Agoras of the Global Village.” The responses to the interview questions are reported in the text below:

Question: What was the reason for selecting a conference theme focusing on globalization?

When I was elected President of the International Society for the Systems Sciences, I was living in Archanes, Crete. I started talking to the villagers, and especially my neighbor Takis Mastorakis. I learned from them how they felt about the forces of globalization. They were very angry and alienated because their voices were not heard. They could not participate as legitimate stakeholders in designing a future for their island and their village. For example, they felt that the Climate of Crete is changing drastically for the worse because of the high fossil fuel consumption of the industrialized countries, causing them not to be able to earn a living as they always have for thousand of years as farmers. They actually knew how to pronounce “Global Warming” in English.

Question: What is the essence of the theme of the conference?

The essence of the conference theme is the democratization of globalization by enabling people from all walks of life to participate in designing the Agoras of the 21st Century in the context of the emerging Global Village. The Internet technology and other social, political, and financial trends have actually transformed the world into a Global Village by increasing the capacity of people to interact. However, these interactions are more commercially oriented and not emancipatory for the people of the planet, e.g., the villagers of Archanes in Crete where I live. Unfortunately, to practice the type of true-dialogue-democracy the citizens of ancient Athens were practicing is not easy any more, because of the increasing difficulty to solve complex problems, such as health care, education, etc. In other words, the issues confronting the citizens in every part of the planet cannot be addressed and resolved unless we reinvent participative democracy through the practice of a contemporary approach to true dialogue. We have established an “Institute for the 21 Century Agoras” (www.globalagoras.org) dedicated to this vision.

Question: Why did you select Crete as the place for the conference?

As you know, Crete was perceived by our Greek Ancestors as the “omphalos” of planet Earth. After spending over forty years in the USA, I returned to Greece and chose to live with my American wife in Crete. In addition to its rich history of the Minoan civilization and its natural beauty, Crete is the only place in the world that humanity was able 6,000 years ago to practice the “partnership model” as opposed to the “dominator model,” which is the contemporary model. Unfortunately, we teach our children to emulate the dominator model. If you visit the Ancient Minoan palace of Knossos you do not see any paintings of warriors but you see paintings of Minoan Goddesses. Can you think of a better location for a conference dedicated to the democratization of globalization?

Question: Do you think it is really possible to practice participative democracy?

Actually I think that participative democracy is the only viable alternative for the sustainability of humanity. It sounds very idealistic, but in essence it is very pragmatic. Those organizations, nations, and societies that are not capable to engage their citizens in a true democratic dialogue will not survive in the long run, even if they are very rich in terms of natural resources. We are all as human beings yearning for our voices to be heard, even from early childhood. For example, I have been collaborating for over 15 years with Native Americans in the USA, whose languages and voices have not been heard by the dominators for over 200 hundred years. Together we have developed an approach to practicing participative democracy, which we have called “Wisdom of the People Forum.” We have coined a new Greek word DEMOSOPHIA for community wisdom. We will have in the Crete conference about 15 representatives of indigenous people from around the world participating in such a Forum. The focal point of their dialogue is how they can sustain indigeneity as a viable worldview in the context of globalization. During the Forum they will experience true dialogue and will collaborate in designing an action plan for the future of indigenous people. The DEMOSOPHIA approach has helped indigenous people to rediscover their traditional cultural values, which were lost because of the forces of colonization in the 19th Century. I am afraid that the forces of globalization represent a similar threat in the 21st Century for humanity unless we can democratize globalization by the practice of DEMOSOPHIA.

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