So now the Euro crisis is set to continue (perhaps as those with a knowledge of Astrology would have anticipated). Last week I was in both Paris and Frankfurt, this week in Milan and the Czech Republic. Whilst in Paris, I spoke to a Senegalese taxi driver. I shared my thoughts on Europe and was interested to find him agreeing vehemently with them – I liked him a lot (I find I tend to like people who vehemently agree with me!). In a previous blog I mentioned that I thought that Europe had spoilt the smaller nations (Greece, Ireland, Portugal etc.) like a bad parent who indulges their children. As parents we had tempted them with money for infastructure projects on the promise that it would help accelerate their growth. The catch was that they needed to provide half the funding for these projects. They could not resist the temptation of the money and bankrupted themselves in the process. But who do they owe the money to? The answer is the European banks; for Greece France owns fifty percent of the debt, Germany over thirty percent and the UK around fourteen percent. So everyone has been using (usury used to be the term for lending money to others to make profit) everyone else. The chickens have well and truly come home to roost. What is the solution to all of this? I am conscious that the response of the EU currently has been to increase and centralise control. This is the response of many a parent when they feel their children are misbehaving (interestingly many insightful television programmes have helped highlight the fact that it is usually the parents who are creating or exacerbating the issue and need to change in such situations). This response of centralising power has critical dangers. If you want others to grow and take responsibility but they fail to do so, or act irresponsibly, then the natural response is to withdraw responsibility. Unfortunately, often the result of this is to further deepen the problem. When someone takes control over us they assume a parental position. Our instinctive reaction to this is usually either to be “good” and comply or to rebel and be more irresponsible. Either response re-inforces a dependent and childlike relationship.
Working as chairman of our local Steiner school, I noticed in trying to change the school and address some of the issues that it had, we, as governors, ended up taking greater and greater responsibility. Furthermore, the more we took responsibility the less that staff seemed to. The result was a continuing rift between the governors and the teaching staff. This seemed endemic, as it played out at other Steiner Schools and had been the case long before I was part of the school. I noticed after some time that the way the administrator and the governors talked about the staff was as if they were errant children and indeed they seemed to behave more and more like errant children. At the time there was a plan to restructure the management of the school which the governors were enthusiastic about implementing. However, the staff rebelled and insisted that they wanted to continue to implement the approach that they had always had (which had never worked successfully). The result was a schism between the Governors and teachers running the school. The temptation on the part of the governors was to enforce the change. However, I recognised that to do this would perpetuate the sense of “us” and “them”. Consulting the I-Ching I received the top line of Hexagram 5 which talks about “even happy turns of fortune come to us in a form that at first seems strange”. It certainly did seem strange. Initially the teaching staff were very aggressive and determined to seize power and dictate how things would be. They set about fighting us (the governors) for power. However, I could see that whilst initially it was difficult and appeared to signal collapse and destruction – the adminstrator was sacked from her role and destructive oppositions were created with the parents and the support staff, I realised that something else was at play. I realised it was a test or learning for dealing with power. If we held on to it as Governors, or even fought for it, then it would be a fight without end and everyone would be suffer. If we acted through force or power then we signalled that our aim or purpose was power. Life has a wonderful sense of humour and the person leading the teachers at the time, and full of revolutionary zeal was a man whose surname was Power! It was clear to me that the lesson was about how to handle power (when you begin to see how the Universe is working, it is amazing how much it gives the game away)! So I decided that my test was to give away power and go with this new emerging energy. I started by apologising for our part in the situation as governors and for the fact that we had tried to push a change programme on the school – my fellow governors were not too happy about this and considering whether to assert their authority and try to force through the change but luckily for me they were willing to trust me. So instead we gave away power to the teaching staff and let them win the fight. Also, I could see that this move on the part of the teachers was exactly the responsibility we had been looking for. It might not be coming out in the form we desired but it was the energy we had bemoaned the lack of. I had to work like I had never worked before to hold any frustration and instead be determined to work on supporting the teachers in taking responsibility, but I realised that unless someone transformed the oppositions and negative emotions then nothing would change. Since I had no control over anyone else and it was not my responsibility to dictate how others behaved I could only work on myself. My fellow governors mostly followed suit. After 18 months, I remember them saying to me that they now felt they would not choose anyone other than our Mr Power to be the Chair of College (the teaching body managing the school). This was in direct contrast to 18 months earlier! It is now some six or seven years since these events. The school had an Ofsted inspection and one of the elements that received the biggest commendation was the very positive working relationship between the governors and the teachers. The company that ran the inspection was one set up particularly with Steiner schools in mind and they were intrigued to know how we had got round the division between teachers and governors that seemed to bedevil every school. To this day, one thing that is continually referred to by both the teaching staff and the governors is the fantastic working relationships between us; they talk about the fact that there is so much trust that they feel as if it is just one body. Our mutual respect and affection for each other is very high and the relationship seems so natural no-one can really understand how it was ever different. This experience was a wonderfully rich learning experience for me. It took very hard work to transform the opposition into union but I realised it was what the I-Ching meant by the hexagram Work on What Has Been Spoiled.
The situation of the EU appears to be Work on What has Been Spoiled (Hexagram 18). It is not a mistake that the EU is in the position that it is in, it is a lesson which has to be worked on consciously to understand the reasons and take responsibility for the situation. Taking greater centralised power does not seem like it is going to work. It feels like King Canute trying to hold back the waves. There is a model which I have worked with a great deal over the years which sees three stages of development in creating relationships, teams and organisations. The three stages are inclusion (or dependence), assertion (or independence) and collaboration (interdependence). To get to interdependence you have to work through dependence and independence. The key is that interdependence includes dependence and independence. It is the independence which is always tricky for people because Saturn (structure and control) is an uneasy bedfellow with Uranus (independence). In myth Kronos (Saturn) cut off his father Ouranos’s (Uranus) testicles. Symbolically this represents the way that structure and control over time disempower new fresh energies. Applying greater control, I fear, is unlikely to elicit greater responsibility. The danger is that democracy is having to be bypassed. Most large conglomerations of power seem prey to falling into corruption and bureaucracy and in the end lose the dynamic and fresh independent energy needed to sustain them – think of the Eastern Bloc and Russia, think of Rome etc. So the key appears to be finding the balance between independence and dependence in order to get to interdependence (the conscious and voluntary choice to co-operate from a position of independence). An analogy a friend of mine uses for Europe is that of living with one’s neighbours. We may get on very amicably with our neighbours but this relies on the freedom we have to choose to co-operate from a position of independence. Were we to try to share a bank account with our neighbours, the likelihood is that we would quickly find ourselves in many fights and unhappiness (blocks of flats which share costs rarely seem to do so amicably). The I-Ching in the hexagram The Family (number 37) states that the family is the basis for all society. In line 3, where it is describing conflicts within the family, it says that “the wise thing is to build strong dikes within which complete freedom of movement is allowed each individual”.
So we are experimenting with our interdependence and with groups. Not surprising given the movement to the age of Aquarius. It is going to take time; probably hundreds and thousands of years, to crack this one.
And so finally, back to the Senegalese taxi driver – where does he fit into things? I was thinking about King Canute holding back the waves and the fight there is between a human’s conception of their power and what they deem important and Nature. Europe is a human construct. Their are no physical boundaries which define Europe. Indeed no-one seems terribly clear what is included in Europe exactly – is Russia part of Europe? The EU is considering including Turkey as part of Europe. When I was in Milan, I was told a joke by one of my Italian coachees – with the Hong Kong stock exchange everyone knows it is backed by the might of China, with the New York stock exchange everyone knows it is backed by the might of America, without Europe, what is the London stock exchange backed by? The answer – Surrey! The message was that London needs Europe and many people have described the UK as a pygmy without it. This intrigued because I began to see as I went round Europe that the main arguments in favour of Europe were largely based on fears connected to power. Indeed in Italy and France the sentiment was very clear, that we needed to hold together in these difficult times to protect each other. The analogy I was given by one Italian was that it was like being on a lifeboat in a shipwreck in raging seas with people drowning around you. You have to look after yourself and hold together with others to prevent being taken down by those less fortunate. I didn’t like this image, I replied that I would rather try and save as many people as I could and if I died then so be it, better that than live at someone else’s expense. When I was talking to the Senegalese taxi driver this is what we were discussing. I shared with him my thought that I didn’t like the exclusive nature of club Europe which sought to create barriers towards other nations. It is a self-protective mechanism. The argument always seems to be one of a herd mentality – you can’t leave the herd, you will be isolated and die without the protection of the herd. This instinctive way of acting is based on fears and suspicion. It is “us” against the great “them”. It occurred to me that the notion of Europe is that of an elite club and is against the flow (King Canute’s waves) of our human hearts. There is a historic flow of interaction and trade between France and northern African countries like Senegal, there is also a flow of interaction and trade between the UK and the old commonwealth. I wonder if Europe denies our global interdependence and seeks to create a mutual dependence within a clique? I think maybe we all need each other during difficult times like this and I certainly feel that there is an opportunity for the European countries who have benefited and in previous centuries exploited other countries to support and help them. My Senegalese taxi driver liked this idea. He felt that Europe was an exclusive club and it was time for it to reach out rather than trying to protect itself and exploit others. Creating a European super state doesn’t feel like doing that to me. So perhaps Europe needs to break down so that every country can enjoy it’s independence but choose consciously to be part of a globally interdependent world where it is supported and helped. Europe was originally created to prevent the disasters of another World War, in particular to prevent France and Germany ever being in violent opposition to each other. Perhaps it is time for everyone to be included in this? Perhaps the blockage that Europe represents to the Global flow needs to be washed away to achieve this? When we are friends with people only our jealousy (based on fear) tells us that they are not allowed to be friends with others and must exclusively be friends with us. I would like every country to be free to be friends with every other country. It usually means we end up losing friends if we can’t share them with everyone. I would like every country to be free to be friends with every other country. In this respect I leave the last word to William Blake:
He who binds to himself a joy
Doth the winged life destroy,
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.