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April 17, 2009

Velowala: ternary thinking in practice

Naomi Klein writes in today's Guardian that "hope alone won't save the world. It's time to hope less, and demand more".

I'm not sure. I find Klein's piece enervating. Will demanding things from mainstream politicians like Obama be more productive than waiting hopefully for them to save us? I don't think so.

My mood is lightened by John Michael Greer. He suggests that the time may be ripe to change the question. "Oversimplifying reality into two rigid categories is probably the most pervasive source of failed thinking in the modern world", he writes. "Rather than limit ourselves to a choice between two unpromising alternatives - “capitalism” and “socialism” - why not look at different frameworks, such as distributism.

Distributism. Right. Having paused to find out what distributism is, or was I return to find Greer writing about another novelty: the Druid notion of ternary thinking. "The basic practice is that when you encounter any classification of the world into two and only two sides (we call this a binary), think of a third option that isn't simply a compromise between them. With practice you get very good at noticing the blind spots that make binary thinking seem to make sense. Yes, you can then go on to look for a fourth, fifth, etc.!"

So I need to practice ternary thinking. Well, it's market day here in Ganges so my first practice session will be to ponder, as I transit between the cheese stall and the bread stall, how much our market is embryonic of a "distributist" economy - and what might be added to make it more so.

My first stop in looking for ideas will be Velowala. One of my all-time favourite websites, I now realize that Velowala is an amazing source of ideas for budding distributist entrepreneurs:




Posted by John Thackara at April 17, 2009 07:49 AM


this post is really making me think. i have a very difficult time picking sides, so i choose not to. i'm a fan of the middle, the grey area, while still somehow being in full support of acting according to values. i say this because often people in the middle are called "fence sitters" or told that they have no real beliefs. i have real beliefs, i'm just okay with the fact that they change. beliefs are not meant to be static, or they become dangerous.

i like the idea of distributism, and it's history is surprising, given that the Catholic Church held/holds SO MUCH power. that said, i shouldn't generalize.

Posted by: Vesper de Vil at April 18, 2009 12:24 AM

Great post, you've given a name to something I've been mulling over recently. I've been reading a biography of firebrand Clydeside socialist Maxton (ironically scribed by one Gordon Brown in the mid 80s)and it struck me that the ideas you've presented and such trends for consumer creation and craft, like ponoko and etsy might be hinting that the old socialist idea of "the ownership of the means of production" could be realised in a surprising and distributed way.

Posted by: Brian at April 20, 2009 02:21 PM

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