Posted by: Alan D. Price, PhD | January 16, 2010

Synocracy: The Novalia Model, Part I

In the introductory post on this blog, which served to define the concept of “Synocracy” as a synergistic form of governance, I referred to the writing of Timothy Wilkin, MD in 2004.  Dr. Wilkin defined a synergistic relationship as:

…any relationship wherein the participants are more happy, more effective, and more productive than they would be without the relationship. A synergic choice is any choice that increases the happiness, effectiveness, and productivity of the participants in the relationship.  The sum of the whole relationship in terms of happiness, effectiveness, productivity, profitability, satisfaction, etc. is more than the sum of the parts – more than the sum of the individual’s ability to be happy, effective, productive, profitable, satisfied, etc. outside this relationship.

Synergy in Private and Public Relationships

An important question which arises in considering the role of individuals in relationships is: How do natural and acquired differences in power and status affect the relationship for good or for ill?  Take for example, the nuclear family in modern society.  Are families synergistic?  Are the participants “more happy, more effective, and more productive than they would be without the relationship?” Obviously, it depends on the family, doesn’t it?  Some families are run like dictatorships.  Some aspire to being totally democratic.  Others are somewhere in between.  It is clear that when children are very young, they cannot participate equally with adults in decision-making because of lack of experience and lack of the necessary cognitive development that would provide the capacity for good judgment.  And, cannot the same be said for larger groups in society?  Individuals vary in their experience and capacity for good judgment.  Yet, all are given an equal say in modern “majority-rule” democratic processes.  Such “majority-rule” voting in a family with very young children would be a disaster.  Is that not also true in the case of citizens with widely varying intellectual capacity and maturity?

Another related question is:  In the American Republic, which is structured as a representational democracy, is the relationship between a citizen and his/her representatives in Congress one in which the citizen is “more happy, more effective, and more productive than they would be without the relationship?”  If we look at the low poll ratings of Congress today, clearly the answer is a BIG NO.

Still another question which arises is:  Is egalitarianism necessary for synergistic relationships?   In the family having very young children, are the children (and the parents) “more happy, more effective, and more productive than they would be without the relationship,” if the family operates democratically?  Developmental psychology provides a clear answer.  Because of the lack of self-control in very young children, parental limits are necessary in order that the children do not feel “out of control.”  In other words, the younger the child, the more parental limit-setting is required to create family and individual stability.  Thus, to create a family in which all members are “more happy, more effective, and more productive than they would be without the relationship,” a nonegalitarian governance structure is necessary to insure stability and solidarity when children are very young.

Obviously, the structure of governance must necessarily evolve as the children grow in maturity.  And, furthermore, such flexible, evolving structure is essential in order for the children to develop increasing emotional maturity and independence.  If the governance structure does not evolve, the family relationships will cease being synergistic and both children and parents will not benefit from the relationship and will actually be harmed by it.  Such rigid, dysfunctional family structures are sadly very prevalent in modern society.  Since there is no peer group which can provide “leveling down mechanisms,” there is nothing to prevent insecure parents from increasing their control over offspring as the children grow in capabilities and the desire for independence.  This is a situation that exists in modern America, because of the deterioration of the extended family structure in favor of the isolated, nuclear family.   Not only did the extended family of earlier times provide the possibility of discouraging parents from becoming out and out autocrats with their children, but it also provided support for parents and children alike when situations became emotionally dysfunctional and destructive.

As the famed writer, Kurt Vonnegut, said to the graduating class of 1994 at Syracuse University:

I have made us, for a few hours at least, what most of us do not have and what we need so desperately – I have made us an extended family, one for all and all for one. A husband, a wife and some kids is not a family; it’s a terribly vulnerable survival unit. Now those of you who get married or are married, when you fight with your spouse, what each of you will be saying to the other one actually is, ”You’re not enough people. You’re only one person. I should have hundreds of people around.”

I met a man and a wife in Nigeria – Ibos. They just had a new baby. They had a thousand relatives there in southern Nigeria, and they were going to take that baby around and visit all the other relatives. We should all have families like that.

In another commencement address at Agnes Scott College in 1999, Vonnegut said similarly:

Let’s talk about women. Freud said he didn’t know what women wanted. I know what women want. They want a whole lot of people to talk to. What do they want to talk about? They want to talk about everything.

What do men want? They want a lot of pals, and they wish people wouldn’t get so mad at them.

Why are so many people getting divorced today? It’s because most of us don’t have extended families any more. It used to be that when a man and women got married, the bride got a lot more people to talk to about everything. The groom got a lot more pals to tell dumb jokes to.

A few Americans, but very few, still have extended families. The Navahos. The Kennedys.

But most of us, if we get married nowadays, are just one more person for the other person. The groom gets one more pal, but it’s a woman. The woman gets one more person to talk to about everything, but it’s a man.

When a couple has an argument nowadays, they may think it’s about money or power or sex, not how to raise the kids, or whatever. What they’re really saying to each other, though, without realizing it, is this:

”You are not enough people!”

Vonnegut elaborated on the Nigerian story mentioned above, although the size of the extended family used as an example decreases by 400 members.  The number, of course, (600 or 1,000) is not important.  The point to be made in the story is that the extended family was quite large.

I met a man in Nigeria one time, an Ibo who had six hundred relatives he knew quite well. His wife had just had a baby, the best possible news in any extended family.

They were going to take it to meet all its relatives, Ibos of all ages and sizes and shapes. It would even meet other babies, cousins not much older than it was. Everybody who was big enough and steady enough was going to get to hold it, cuddle it, gurgle to it, and say how pretty is was, or handsome.

Wouldn’t you have loved to be that baby?

I sure wish I could wave a wand, and give every one of you an extended family – make you an Ibo or a Navaho – or a Kennedy.

Throughout his writing career, Vonnegut extolled the need for “artificial extended families” as an antidote for the isolation and loneliness of the modern individual.  Almost thirty years ago, (1982) the California Department of Mental Health instituted an educational program called, “Friends Can Be Good Medicine.”  More information on this program can be accessed here.  At about the same time, I was involved in developing an enterprise that had resulted from the falloff in my income during rather difficult times.  This enterprise started out as a for-profit, Singles Network, which was based in the ideas promoted in the “Friends Can Be Good Medicine Program,” and in ideas deriving from Kurt Vonnegut’s fictional tale of the last American President (a doctor) who had been elected with a campaign slogan of “Lonely No More,” which represented his promise to create artificial extended families in the U.S.  To implement such family development, a computer would randomly give every individual a new middle name, corresponding to:

…the name of a flower or fruit or nut or vegetable or legume, or a bird or a reptile or a fish, or mollusk, or a gem or a mineral or a chemical element–connected by a hyphen to a number between one and twenty.

Thus, my name might have become Alan Daffodil-13 Price (or Daffy for short).  So, if I happened to travel to a distant city and was desirious of companionship, I could look in the phonebook and find another member of the Daffodil family.

Vonnegut’s narrator (the former President) humorously points out one of the advantages of such an artificial family system.

“…consider how much better off you will be, if the reforms go into effect, when a beggar comes up to you and asks for money,” I went on.

“I don’t understand,” said the man.

“Why, I said, “you say to that beggar, ‘What’s your middle name?’ And he will say ‘Oyster-19 or ‘Chickadee-1’ or ‘Hollyhock-13 or some such thing.

“And you can say to him, ‘Buster–I happen to be a Uranium-3.  You have one hundred and ninety thousand cousins and ten thousand brothers and sisters.  You’re not exactly alone in this world.  I have relatives of my own to look after.  So why don’t you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut?  Why don’t you take a flying fuck at the moooooooooooon?’ “

I soon expanded the membership of the singles network to include married individuals as well as singles and began to build artificial extended family groups.  The program provided the basis for the development of a new model for social organization, which I called “Novalia” and later “The Novalian Society.”  Novalia was chosen because it literally means “new land.”

The Novalian Society

Novalia was originally envisioned as a hierarchially organized, holonic structure that would potentially expand to a national and even global organization of artificial, extended family groups.  Such groups would be organized in enclaves, comprised of groups in a given district.  District Novalian Enclaves would then be organized in Regional Novalian Enclaves, which in turn would be organized in a State Novalian Enclave, and thereupon in a National Novalian Enclave and even ultimately in a Global Novalian Enclave.  The entirety of such a structure would be called “The Novalian Society.”

Each local, Novalian family would send a representative to the district enclave and the same representational process would be repeated up the hierarchical structure.  Each level would have its respective, governance structure.  And, unlike the representation in the U.S. Congress, which is elected by the citizens of a state, the representatives at each Novalian level would be intimately connected with the groups which they represent.  Thus, synergistic relationships between family and enclave members and their representatives would be encouraged.

In Part II of this essay, I shall suggest how the The Novalian Society model might be incorporated, in a transitional way, in the current system of governance in the United States. 

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