Self-determination

There is almost an arms race quality to the way in which we are trying to save our current education and health care “systems”. I am coming around to the notion that the system is the problem. Much in the same way that The Support Economy diagnoses managerial capitalism as the primary cause of the disconnect between corporations and markets, I am seeing that [Ivan] Illich had it right over 30 years ago – we have seen the enemy, and it is us. Through our large, corporatist systems we have created self-perpetuating monopolies in both health and education.

I wrote this statement in 2004 and I haven’t changed my mind on our need for systemic change. Jon Husband recently reminded me of the book, The Support Economy, which I read several years ago, and his favourite quote:

Psychological self-determination is expressed in three different dimensions. In the first dimension people want to live their lives the way they choose to live it. This is the sense of sanctuary. The second way people express their psychological self-determination is in the widespread desire for voice: we want to be heard and we want our voices to matter. The third way we want our psychological self-determination to be expressed is in our desire to be connected: we want to be part of communities.

Our current corporate, educational and health care systems stand in the way of self-determination. We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves (community) but we also need to have control of our own lives. In our health, our learning and our work; self-determination is the key to resilience. We see this with the successful anomalies in the business world – W.L. Gore; Google; Semco – which allow more self-determination than their competitors.

I asked myself, which system has the best potential to change first? For those who agree that change is necessary, would it be better to concentrate on the creation of new business models and then let education and health care follow suit? I think so. Leadership seems to come from, or at least is deferred to, those who have the money or the means of production. So if you’re reform-minded, perhaps business reform is the most pragmatic avenue for your energies. Change the business models, change the world.

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