Questions LO30143

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 04/29/03

Replying to LO30128 --

Dear Organlearners,

John Dicus <> writes:

>I've not written much for the last few months. Not sure why.
>I've been listening. Life experiences and current events have
>caused many questions to surface.

Greetings dear John,

We here in South Africa have noticed that the activity of Americans on
email lists has declined sharply. We suspected that they are now in a
stage of serious contemplation rather than telling the world how good they
are. It is heart warming that you, at least one of them, are explaining
why -- asking serious questions.

>Questions to which I have no satisfying answers. I suspect
>they're all, in some way, interrelated more closely than I'm
>ready to articulate. If you don't mind, I'd like to pose some
>of them to you over a period of time. I'd like to know what
>you think.

The fact these questions are closely interrelated points to wholeness. We
here in South Africa felt very much the same during the late eighties. We
were "artificially united" in our struggle against communism. But when the
Berlin Wall fell, many of realised intuitively that the rippling effects
of it would be the greatest in South Africa. Two years later our president
FW de Klerk grabbed the bull by its horns, unbanned the ANC and released
Nelson Madela from jail. The rest is history. The vast transformation of
South Africa began.

>I'll just pop out this question, then try to give some supporting
>Why does there seem to be a presumption that people
>participating in a group dialogue on LO's, leadership, teamwork,
>organizational change, sustainability, Open Space, AI, etc., are
>strongly opposed to the war in raq? Why does there seem to
>be a presumption that ones who may be moved by poetry or
>appreciate art and other forms of beauty are strongly opposed
>to said war?

I think it is because that people such as those whom you have mentioned,
have to think constructively in what they are doing to succeed. On the
other hand, war is destructive. It is impossible to combine constructive
thinking and destructive actions and still progress.

But i must hasten to add that the 24 hour media coverage on the war in
Iraq had a great effect on the US. There are wars going on in the rest of
the world which get hardly any attention at all. For example, think of the
devastating wars in Central Africa. Do they have any effect on American
thinking? I think no, but it is for them to say.

>I hope I'm asking a real question and not inadvertently disguising
>opinion as question. I'm asking, not only because people here
>offer thoughtful responses, but because I think there are important
>things to learn as relates to personal and organizational growth. At
>least as applies to me.

What you are writing is striking of South Africans during the last five
years of apartheid. Many began to ask serious questions to which the
rulers responded by calling them undercover joiners of the terrorists!

>Most of my thoughts manifest in yet more questions.
>What things do we take as certainties or givens that may
>not be so certain or given?

In the case of white South Africans they thought that their economical
status was so secure that even should black people take over the rule,
they will be little affected. Money will buy them out of their
difficulties. Well, it was true for the very rich whites. But for ordinary
whites their lifes changed dramatically. But the real tragedy is that the
poor blacks ( some 50% or more) are now worse off than during apartheid.
Their leaders, who they helped putting into power, forgot about them. They
made promises which they could not fullfill in a hundred of years.

>I don't know how I truly feel about the war. Do I think it
>was necessary? Maybe. Do I sincerely wish it hadn't
>happened? Yes.

You are way ahead of your compatriots ;-) Here in South Africa we also had
for two decades wars with the terrorists over our borders. After the fall
of apartheid (1992) few questioned the wisdom of these wars. And then
suddenly, about three years ago, the damwall bursted with a letter to one
of our papers. If i remember correctly, its title was "Boeta is gatvol".
Literally it means that "brother's arse is full". It was written by
someone who fought in these wars for "country and God". He realised with a
shock that these wars were justified by lies and that they were fought in
vain. Suddenly the papers were flooded by similar responses, all "gatvol"
of the past.

>What does peace look like anyway? On what scale do
>we look? Over how long a period of time do we observe?
> Is society evolving? Will/should conflict always be a part of
>our existence. Does it have/need to be?

Peace comes when the causes of conflict are removed in such a manner that
no causes for a new conflict are created. Peace can come quickly. In South
Africa it came within two years! We now have a culture in which we try to
resolve conflicts rather than living by them.

>Are there elements in one's own personal life that should
>be defended at high cost? Does that defense ever require
>an offensive posture?

I think of two elements in particular
* The right to question anything and not to be silenced by any authority.
* The right to any information which may involve one's personal life.

>Are there elements of a healthy organization that should be
>defended, or even fought for, at high cost? Does that ever
>require/justify an offensive stance?

Again I think of one element in particular -- the right to learn come hell
or high water. Luckily, learning and offense do not mix just like water
and oil do not.

>What does peace look like in one's own life? In one's
>own organization?

Peace manifests itself in care and compassion for others less fortunate.
Here in South Africa this care and compassion are vastly more than during
the era of apartheid.

>Does Organizational Learning include, or leave room for,
>those who may have been strongly in favor of a war in Iraq?
>Does Open Space? Does Appreciative Inquiry? If they do
>(or don't) then what does that say about these concepts,
>disciplines and practices?

The above are a number of difficult questions to answer because OL, OS and
AI occur so little formally in South Africa. But i will try to answer

The supporters of the "wars over the border" were not ostracised as they
themselves did to those questioning these wars. Those who joined the New
South Africa knew that apartheid had to go because it brought far more
misery than what growth it was claimed to sustain. Most of them knew that
the war supporters would come to the same insight, given enough time to
contemplate the pros and cons while experience life in the New South
Africa. There are still some diehards on both white and black sides, but
they now make up less than 1% of the population.

I have been part of a "tacit Open Space" for some two years in which
people from several cultures and skin colours (pro-war and anti-war)
participated. I call it a "tacit Open Space" because it functioned like
one without knowing that it is the case. We met irregularly, each time
questioning a topic of organisational learning. We had about ten such
meetings. It was great fun in participating, bringing us closer together.

>Thank you for the opportunity to learn with you.

Thank you for asking such honest questions. They made me realise
once again how much we have in common, although we live in
different parts of the world. I do not know exactly what will happen,
but vast transformations in the US is unavoidable. May i mention
three of them.
* The US will have to stop acting as the sheriff of the world.
* The US will have to cut heavily on its consumption of fossil fuel.
* The US will have to distanciate itself from its shady international
dealings of the past -- trying to favour those who would then
favour the US (like Saddam Hussein). It just does not work --
sooner or later the dog bites its master.

May i also mention something else. Two nights ago i listened to the last
commander of our military forces during apartheid, general Viljoen. He
said the longer a conflict is allowed to go on, the less the number of
strategic alternatives become to resolve it. It struck me as an incredibly
wise thing to say. He learned it by experiencing it the hard way. Many
politicans like conflicts. But true military leaders hate armed conflicts
because they are the ugly and miserable part of their job.

With care and best wishes,


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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