Paris, San Bernardino, Brussels,  Ferguson, Nice, Orlando, Dallas, Lahore, Baton Rouge, Istanbul.

textiles weaving

The world’s cities seem threatened from within and without.

When Integral City sponsored the Online Webinar 2012, we learned the five major threats that all cities faced were: climate, energy, water, food and finance. Since then we have added a sixth threat that trumps them all – and that is culture.

The culture of our cities is being pierced, torn apart and shredded by fear, anger and deep angst.

Culture is the collective expression of values, worldviews and belief systems that holds each city together. It is woven one thread at a time by each person, family, group, street, neighborhood and community until the city’s cultural cloth of warp and woof becomes substantial enough and resilient enough for the weavers to walk across without thought to its existence. Culture in a city is largely invisible but utterly vital to the living dynamic of its wellbeing and existence.

Culture arises from practice of what we call the Master Code:

  • Take care of yourself
  • Take care of each other
  • Take care of this place
  • Take care of this planet.

The Master Code has an evolutionary thrust to it that naturally emerges hierarchies of complexity. Enabling care of self, others, place and planet is a universal code that transcends and ought to include a multiplicity of belief systems. Practice of the Master Code at each level of complexity weaves the tensile strength to practice at the next level of complexity. In other words, taking care of one self enables taking care of others: taking are of others enables taking care of place; taking care of place enables taking care of planet.

But the shock and horror of terrorist acts, racial injustices and police murders in not just one city, but in many cities around the world are undeniable symptoms that some fundamental dis-ease is afflicting our human hives. Our cities are losing their capacity to function with the Master Code.

Why? It may be that we have failed to realize that the Master Code has an involutionary thrust to it as a natural complement to the evolutionary thrust. Each city has emerged from the life conditions supplied by the planet at its distinctive geological location. The life conditions of the city create the context for the capacity for families and groups to care for one another; and the capacity of families to care creates the primal hearth for caring for individuals who learn first in the family to care for themselves.

The terrible irony and truth of the Master Code is that its evolutionary practice depends utterly on its involutionary sustainability and resilience. The reverse orders of enabling care in the city depends on the institutions our city cultures have created to keep us safe, secure and supported so that we can care – at any level of complexity.

(For those who follow my study of the honey bee, consider the evolutionary and involutionary qualities of their double sustainability loop. The hive is sustained by the “cultural and economic” engine that produces 20 kg of honey per year for internal hive survival, but also is sustained externally because the bees pollinate the surrounding eco-region so that energy sources are renewed for next year. This double sustainability loop is essentially evolutionary and involutionary like the Master Code.)

When Citizen and Civil Society Voices of the city perceive that care has departed from the Civic Management and Business Voices (including but not limited to police, justice, emergency response, health, education and the economy), they sense and believe that the Master Code that maintains order in the human hive has deserted them. They can no longer relate to a system that they perceive denies them rights to work, relate, act and think in ways that sustain them. When this perception operates in enough people in the city (my guess would be 10 to 15% of the citizens) then the fabric of culture from which all the Voices of the city have evolved Is torn apart.

Evolution then becomes replaced by revolution – it looks like acts of terror, military coups, street fights and guerrilla warfare. Care becomes hatred expressed as racial slurs, heinous threats and socially mediated anger. The evolutionary thrust of the Master Code disintegrates and demagoguery, despotism and disintegration ensue.

The involutionary thrust of the Master Code retreats to the planetary basics of climate, energy, water and soil, with food and finance in scarce supply. For the evolutionary thrust of the Master Code has enabled the conversion of all the resources that are embedded in our planetary roots (climate, energy, water, soil, and biology) into Place Caring and Place Making Capacities that have produced our human hives. Evolutionary capacities advance like unfurled prayer mats because they are re-sourced by involution; involutionary resources retreat when evolutionary prayer mats disappear.

What is not working in our human hives? It may be our failure to comprehend that in order to sustain our capacities for caring for each other and the city – at any and all levels of complexity – we are dependent on the planet and cites that have cared for us. The invisible cultural fabric that we have taken for granted is now haplessly visible as it has been blasted to shreds under our feet, over our heads and around our homes.

Will we now have to abandon the looms we have used to weave the cultural prayer mats of our human hives and pick up the tools for hooking rugs from rags and jute cloth to patch them back together?