THE GROUP: To Save Spaceship Earth — Part 1

The Group: To Save Spaceship Earth is a work in progress. While settings, plots, theories, objects, and narratives in this novel may be loosely analogous to the same that have happened in various realities around Spaceship Earth, the names, actions, and attributions of characters cast herein are purely fictional. All parts of this novel will be published in the Effective Learning Report at various intervals on the internet, subject to revision at any time, hopefully culminating in a final print edition offered for sale to the public.

Copyright 2020 by Effective Learning Publications. All rights reserved. No part of this novel may be copied or printed on paper without permission. Share on the internet as you wish.

By RICHARD JOHN STAPLETON

Hank thought it was junk mail.  Why would anyone want to pay him five thousand dollars a month to participate in some sort of discussion group?

       He deleted the message thinking it was a scam—but the messages kept coming.  

       He emailed the sender and told him to take him off the list and threatened to notify the police, but the sender assured him by return email the offer was real, and to prove it a bank account had been set up in his name with an initial deposit of one hundred dollars, which he could verify and access with a username and password, which turned out to be true. Hank withdrew fifty dollars from the account using an ATM machine. 

       He thought he must be insane to even dream about getting involved with a screwball idea like this.  There was no telling what kind of outfit was behind it, and there had to be a catch somewhere; most likely it was a scam. Why would anyone pay him to show up at a hotel and talk with people?  How had they found him?  What did they know about him?    

       He wound up emailing the anonymous sender telling him or her there was an account in his name and he had withdrawn fifty dollars.  He asked the sender to send him the name and address of the organization responsible for this.  He said he wanted proof the offer was legal.

       He received an email informing him the group financing the project was ethical and legal, registered as a non-profit organization in the name of Spaceship Earth, Anonymous, and ethics was  one of their major concerns. The ultimate objectives of the project included fostering free, fair, ethical, legal and progressive human behavior around Spaceship Earth that would contribute to the survival of as many plant and animal species as possible, including homo sapiens, and there was no question about the legality of the project.  The email said Henry should attend the first meeting of the group and discuss these issues with people at the meeting, the first meeting having been scheduled in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday of the coming November. 

       The e-mailer said his name was Dr. Rout Logger.  All meetings would be held in hotels in different cities the first Saturday of each month until such time as the sponsors decided to terminate the program.  The sponsors were all citizens of Spaceship Earth concerned about preserving life for all Earthians, which included all species of fauna and flora aboard Spaceship Earth.  All participants would be paid five thousand dollars per Saturday meeting, deposited monthly in their bank accounts established by the program administrators.  Participants would be responsible for arranging their own transportation to the meetings and food and lodging, to be paid from their monthly fee.  They could stay and eat wherever they chose in the various cities.

       Logger wrote in the email that group members would meet in formal sessions in designated, secure meeting rooms, which would be protected by a private security service.  Group sessions would be conducted from nine a.m. to noon and from two p.m. to five p.m. on the first Saturday of each month.  If Henry replied to this email agreeing to attend the November meeting, five thousand dollars would be deposited in his bank account.  On Mondays following Saturday meetings attended another five thousand would be deposited in his account for the next meeting.  It was permissible to miss a monthly meeting for compelling reasons, but after missing a monthly meeting no additional deposits would be made until after attendance at the next meeting.  The city and hotel selected for the next month would be announced in emails sent the Monday following the last meeting. 

       Participants could discuss whatever they wanted to discuss. Logger said each session would be started by randomly selecting the group leader, who would answer three questions: 

What is the Problem? 

What are the Alternatives?

What do you Recommend?

       The meetings were to be conducted in rooms large enough to accommodate forty participants, who would use their first names in the group, aliases being permissible. There would be no breaks during the three-hour sessions but participants would be excused for legitimate calls of nature.  No eating or drinking would occur during the sessions.  There would be no physical touching or sexual innuendoes or flirtations during group meetings.

       The group members had been selected according to various criteria and considerations attempting to form an inclusive group reflecting beliefs, ideas, and behaviors held and enacted by various groups in society as a whole.

       All sessions would be audio and video-recorded. Some of the information collected would eventually be published in reports making recommendations for sustaining all Earthians, made available to all humans around Spaceship Earth.

       It bothered Hank that this guy would not snail mail him any printed documentation for the meetings and program, but he decided to go to one meeting and see what was going on.  What were the chances you might get shot, tortured, kidnapped or something?  Pretty slim he thought.  If you got paid five thousand dollars for doing nothing but talk it was worth taking a chance.  But where did this Earthian crap come from?

SESSION ONE

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY

September 2019

The conference room was a large square room furnished with comfortable leather armchairs arranged in a circle that left enough space between the circle and the walls for someone to walk around the outside perimeter of the circle of chairs. Each chair was furnished with a movable desk and a laptop computer. The desk could be adjusted to suit the preferences of each participant.

       A black, red, and yellow copper rooster about three feet tall was perched atop a two-foot cubic mahogany box in the center of the room. An iron rod about three feet long with a pointed triangular arrow head on one end and copper feathers on the other end was attached to the rooster. A system of ball-bearings beneath the rooster’s feet attached to the box made it easy for someone to spin or twirl the rooster and the pointed arrow. The rooster was battery-powered and programmed to throw its head back and crow each time it stopped spinning, after someone had twirled it by hand.

       About twenty people were already there.  Henry sat in the nearest empty chair, making eye contact with two or three people nearby.  It was ten minutes before nine o’clock.

       The armchairs had almost filled up by nine o’clock, at which time Rout Logger briskly walked into the room, carrying a large leather briefcase, seating himself in one of the empty armchairs, all of which were identical. 

       “Good morning folks.  I’m Rout Logger.  It’s good to see you.  I’m glad you could make it.  Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of one another in these meetings for a good while.  Thanks for being here.  I see a few members are not here yet, but we’ll get started anyway.  Please make sure you are on time from now on.  It’s rude, disrespectful, and disruptive for anyone to come in late. 

       “I think most of you generally understand the purpose of the meetings, the times for the meetings and so forth.  You were all sent the same emails introducing the process.  Here’s the procedure we’ll be using in the sessions.  We want the discussions to be honest, full and frank.  We’ll start every discussion by spinning that rooster out there in the center of the room, called The Truther.  I’ll spin it the first time myself to kick off the process; from then on whoever got pointed out last spins it next.  The purpose of spinning The Truther is to randomly select the leader of the discussion, insuring each member has an equal chance to be the leader of every session, excluding the person making the spin.  If The Truther stops on me I’ll be the leader myself, just as any of you would if it landed on you.  We want to foster equality among members and response-able, efficient, effective, intelligent, critical and creative feeling, thinking and behaving in the group.  Although I am the formal leader of the group I have as much right as anyone else to be the designated leader of the moment if The Truther selects me under the fully democratic laws of this process.

       “I originated the idea for this project and secured the funding.  Most of the donors are wealthy individuals but some are middle class. The donors will remain anonymous, but I can tell you they have donated funds for this project based on their hope the process might contribute to improving the quality of life, and chances of survival, of all species of fauna and flora around Spaceship Earth, especially homo sapiens

       “The donors are convinced if Earthian homo sapiens do not make significant changes in their feeling, thinking, believing and behaving dire consequences will result, possibly resulting in their extinction as a species during this century.  If it can be demonstrated that this process worked in this group hopefully similar groups will be established around Spaceship Earth.  Each of you is being paid the same for your attendance and participation, five thousand dollars for each monthly session in which you participate.  Do the math.  Since there are forty of you in the group this amounts to almost two and one half million dollars per year for group member compensation, about three million per year for total expenses, counting my salary, logistics, room reservations, administration and security, and what have you.      

       “I have degrees in economics, organizational behavior, and management science, plus post-doctoral training in social and psychological disciplines, including a certification in transactional analysis.  I have forty years’ experience in entrepreneurship, university teaching and research, and management consulting, dealing with organizational analysis and policy formulation, manpower motivation and productivity, and organizational development, for a variety of organizations and groups.

       “My job here is not to impart information per se but to facilitate the creation of new comprehension of the Earthian plight to generate recommendations for changes.  Everything you say in these group discussions will be recorded and videotaped and any information generated may be used in a summary report for improving Earthian states of affairs.  You will be able to access anything I have said or anything any one of you has said in these meetings using your computer in the meeting room, but you may not copy, save, forward, or share the information.  None of you will be personally identified in the report.  Anything you say, however, may be quoted in the report, attributed to the first name you choose to use in the group.  The report may be published anywhere around Spaceship Earth.  This process won’t work if two or more of you use the same first name.  As we go around the room, if someone has already announced your desired first name, use a first name no one has already announced; aliases are fine.

       “OK, let’s go around the room, proceeding clockwise, with this gentleman to my immediate left.  Just give the name you want to be known by in the group and say something about what you do.”

       “Hello everyone, I’m John.  I’m a systems engineer and programmer.”

       “My name is Wendel.  I’m a farmer.”

       “I’m Ellie, a teacher.”

       “I’m Helen. I’m a nurse.”

       “Hi, I go by Hal.  I’m an attorney.”

       “My friends call me Joan.  I’m a supervisor with an insurance company.”

       “Bud.  I’m a mechanical engineer.”

       “My name is Maria, a social worker.”

       “Bob.  I’m a physician.”

       “Sam. Writer and social activist.”

       “Napoleon.  Retired military.”

       “Margaret.  I work for the government.”

       “Luke.  Evangelical minister.”

       “George. Politician, state senator.”

       “Julia.  I run a cleaning service.”

       “Hank.  I own my own business.  Construction.”

       “Bubba.  I’m a farmer.”

       “Bill. Educator.”

       “Tony. A bartender.”

       “Mikhail. An accountant.”

       “Judy.  Housewife and mother.”

       “Matilda. Librarian.”

       “Joe, the plumber.”

       “Harrison.  Corporate CEO.”

       “Stuart. college student.”

       “Dick.  US representative.”

       “Nancy. I own my own beauty shop.”

       “Rupert.  I’m a banker.”

       “Clarence.  Lawyer.”

       “Albert.  University professor.  Physics.”

       “Barbara.  I’m a housewife.”

       “Ron.  Truck driver.”

       “Marshall.  Weatherman.”

       “Jimmy.  Labor union organizer.”

       “Steve.  I work in our family manufacturing business.”

       “Marian. Elementary teacher.”

       “Horatio.  I own some small businesses.”

       “Martin.  University professor, religious studies.”

       “Trudy.  I’m a psychotherapist.”

       “Dan.  I’m an insurance agent.”

       “Adam.  Economics professor.”

       “Socrates.  University professor, philosophy.”

       “Ellen.  I just graduated from college. Accounting major.  Looking for a job.  Can’t believe I was given five thousand dollars to attend this six-hour seminar.”

       “Andy.  I’m a cop.”

       “Noam.  I’m a social activist.”

Rout Logger got up, walked to the center of the room, and gave The Truther its first twirl.

As The Truther arrow spun round and round, winding down, Logger said, “If it stops on you, just tell us what you think is the problem, what are the alternatives, and what you recommend.”

       Bubba jerked upright in his chair as if he had been shot through the heart as The Truther stopped spinning, pointing right at him, as the rooster raucously crowed, letting everyone know it was time to wake up and get to work.  Glaring at Rout with incredulity, fear, and consternation, Bubba said, “You mean you want me to tell these people about some problem?  What do you mean, a problem?  What problem?”

Rout—“Whatever you think the most relevant problem is right now.”

Bubba—“You mean what I think the most relevant problem in the whole damn world is?”

R—“Basically, yes.”

B—“How would I know?”

R—“If you did know, what would it be?  What is the first thing that comes to mind?”

B—“Well, I guess, jobs.”

R—“Why is that a problem?”

B—“Why, hell, any fool knows it’s a problem when you have people goin’ hungry, folks can’t find jobs.”

R—“Good, that’s a start.  What are the alternatives?”

B—“I don’t have the foggiest idea.”

R—“Yes, you do.”

B—“Well, I guess we could make sure people can find work or somethin’.”

R—“How would you do that?”

B—“Beats the hell out of me.”

R—“No recommendations at all?”

B—“Nope.”

       Rout thanked Bubba for starting the process and told the group once a discussion had been opened and the Truther-selected leader stopped talking the group would then discuss what had been said on a free-flow basis until the problems and issues brought up by the randomly-selected leader had been exhausted of relevant points, relevant points being relevant in the opinion of group members.  He said one of the major tasks in these discussions was to identify relevant points from the mass of possible points, most of which were irrelevant.  Once the relevant points were separated from the irrelevant the task became to see how the relevant points related to one another so as to comprehend the problem well enough to make recommendations having a decent probability of producing beneficial outcomes if implemented.

       He told them when the randomly-selected leader finished his or her opening remarks others should then jump in the fray on a first-come first-serve basis, meaning the first person to speak up then had the floor until s/he said what was on her or his mind about the problem, the alternatives, and the recommendations.  He said quite naturally disagreements will result, and arguing about various points is a vital and necessary part of the process, necessary to separate irrelevant focal point entities from the relevant.  He said it was the responsibility of every group member to attempt to correct and educate all group members about points or focal point entities they advocated or those considered wrong said by others, trying to set dissenters and antagonists and the group straight in the process.  He said unlearning what was wrong was as important as learning what was right.  He said this was the only way to separate the irrelevant from the relevant.

       On the other hand, Logger told them in most cases economic, political, social, and psychological problems did not have “right” answers that could be proved right, and therefore the best that could be hoped for in most cases would be for humans to develop consensual answers that would produce sustainability and satisfaction for all species around Spaceship Earth.  

       He said the process was roughly analogous to the naturally-occurring process aboard Spaceship Earth causing the evolution of ideas and practices over time, causing beliefs, policies and practices to happen that were somehow acceptable in past short runs to various groups and organizations but which might now be obsolete and irrelevant.   In this process in this room, however, everyone had an equal opportunity to correct obsolete or irrelevant beliefs, policies and practices anyone in the group might be carrying around in his or her head, caused by the spinning of The Truther, and the fully democratic laws of the process, however improbable it was anyone could change someone else’s mind with one rebuttal.

       Logger said they weren’t searching for absolute truth here, which could not be found, or which could not be proved true to ordinary people if found; but rather they should be able to generate workable propositions having decent probabilities of being considered true in the minds of most humans that would cause salutary outcomes.  The best they could hope for was to find the truest of the relatively true, irrespective of absolute truth.

       Rout said there was one law for this process that must not be violated except in the case of emergencies:  No one could talk when someone else was talking to the whole group, and talking to the whole group is the only kind of talking allowed. 

Rout—“There can be no gossiping, commenting, or communicating of any sort—verbally or non-verbally—with members sitting to your right or left in the circle when someone is talking to the whole group.  There can be no rolling of eyes, smirking, frowning, gritting of teeth, or any other non-verbal psychological communication gesture when someone is talking to the whole group.  There can be no actions, social or psychological, intended to alter or influence what speakers are saying as they say it, or cause them to stop saying what they are saying, as they say it.  On the other hand, you may confront them socially with counter-arguments by saying whatever you wish in an Adult manner as soon as they finish saying their piece, assuming no other member beats you to the punch by commencing to talk before you can, in an attempt to change their minds or behavior. 

       “After the current Truther-selected leader stops saying what s/he is saying, the first person to dive into the conversation then owns the floor until she or he decides to stop talking, her/his speech also being protected as was the speaking of the previous speaker; and so it goes for the duration of the process. Anyone can become the leader of the moment by simply diving into the process first after the previous speaker shuts up.  

       “If I decide to spin The Truther to select another leader, there can be no communicating of any sort, socially or psychologically, before, while, or after The Truther is spinning, except by the member randomly selected as leader by The Truther. 

       “The overriding law here is there can be no communicating of any sort when the process is in session except when talking to the whole group or to a specific person in response to something the person had said to the whole group, which must be said in such a way the entire group can hear everything being said.  But as soon as the person owning the floor finishes talking it’s first-come first-serve, with the first person to start talking now owning the floor until s/he finishes communicating. 

       “In other words, there can be no covert, ulterior psychological communication, side deals, subversive power alliances, psychological threats, bullying or quid pro quo cronyism throughout the process at any time, however long the process shall be conducted, perhaps months, perhaps years, depending on what happens. Everything must be overt and above board with all cards played face up on the table, which can be checked using your laptop computer. We’ll have more to say about how to do that later. 

       “There can be no holding up of hands to get permission to talk.  You must compete will all members as an equal on a first-come first-serve basis by diving in first as soon as the person speaking stops. 

       “Some of you will naturally acquire larger market shares than others as the process unfolds in the free market of the communication process.  Peer ratings will be used from time to time to give everyone feedback regarding his/her market share.  Different market shares will naturally happen due to some of you having training and knowledge especially relevant to various focal point entities that will emerge, some of you are just naturally better communicators than others, some of you have more functional personalities than others, some of you are just naturally more intelligent and creative than others, some of you are better than others making analogous comparisons, seeing interrelations among focal point entities, and being able to comprehend whole systems.

       “Buckminster Fuller asserted in his book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth that humans should comprehend whole systems, not just the parts, and the way to do this is by separating irrelevant observations from relevant focal point entities, and then comprehend how the relevant focal point entities relate to one another, where the more relevant entities there are in a system the greater the comprehension required and  produced. Buckminster Fuller, by the way, invented the appellations Spaceship Earth and Earthian, and this program would not have happened had he not written and published his book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth in 1969.

       “Fuller defined Comprehension as a mathematical function of the number of relevant focal point entities identified in a system, where Comprehension = N2-N/2, where N equals the number of relevant focal point entities in the system under consideration. 

       “You will improve your Comprehension abilities through practice over time in this process.  On the other hand, not all market shares will be equal.  Each of you will have an equal opportunity to earn and accrue strokes for identifying relevant focal point entities and explaining how they interrelate, but as in any fully democratic free enterprise system qualities such as ambition, courage, hard work, determination, risk-taking, and ability to endure failure are relevant determinants in many cases.  Some of you shall accumulate higher stroke incomes and develop larger stroke bank accounts than others.  On the other hand, all of you will be paid the same in money terms, five thousand dollars per monthly session.  Since all of you inherited your abilities, knowledge, and skills by accident you are not to be blamed, praised, or monetarily rewarded for merely possessing relatively different abilities, knowledge bases, and skills. 

       “If you have a low market share don’t worry about it; as with all eventualities it just accidentally or inevitably happened, given that free will probably does not exist and all events have causes, including events such as feelings, thoughts, wishes, decisions, desires, goals and wants happening in human brains, resulting from infinitely regressive unbroken cause-effect chains going back to the beginning of time, assuming there was a beginning of time.

       “Although a major objective of the process is to cause the creation of beliefs, propositions, policies, and practices that will make Earthian life fairer, more satisfying, and more sustainable, there is no way to make the prior acquisition of knowledge, skills, and ability in the group equal and fair among members.  We all have our own genes, scripts, formal educations, karmas and dharmas that we inherited.  There is very little you or I or anyone can do right now about the particular cause-effect sequences that caused our brains to be programmed from birth as they are.  If I were to try to make the process fair by attempting to manipulate equal market shares and stroke incomes for each of you, by requiring you to hold up hands to get my permission to speak, or by going around the room in sequence to make sure everyone has the same airtime, the creative potential of the process would be significantly diminished.

  “On the other hand, a major purpose of this process is to cause over time the natural inevitable and accidental cause-effect chain causing you to be who and what you are right now to be changed in such a way as to cause you to accept consensual answers caused to be developed in this process that will cause all species aboard Spaceship Earth to experience satisfying and sustainable lives. 

       “That’s a tall order I know; but basically that’s what we are up to, however probable or improbable it is it will be achieved.       

       “One develops market share by selling ideas to the group about the problem or opportunity under consideration, that become relevant focal point entities.  Selling an idea means others think you are right.  Trying to sell irrelevant ideas will not produce sales and market shares or cause you to receive a large number of high quality positive strokes.  On the other hand, you will receive and aggregate more strokes by trying to sell relevant observations than by not trying.  The only way you can know whether your observations are relevant is by trying to sell them. 

       “W.C. Fields, the comedian, was incorrect, at least for purposes of this process, when he said, ‘Tis far better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.’ 

       “It’s possible The Truther will never select you as a leader in this process, thereby never guaranteeing you strokes, either positive or negative.  If this happens to you you have to volunteer observations, ideas, and the like to get some strokes, competing with all group members after members owning the floor finish saying whatever they want to say.

       “A stroke is a unit of recognition.  Most homo sapiens have a strong need to be recognized for their achievements, and receiving positive strokes for achieving relevant goals are among their greatest satisfactions.  Satisfaction is the most common human goal. Unfortunately some forms of satisfaction may result in deleterious outcomes and should be suppressed or outlawed, such as those craved by pedophiles, narcissists, sadists, fascists, and the like; although, for whatever it’s worth, they too are not to be blamed or praised for accidentally inheriting their particular cause-effect chain that caused them to be what they are and gain satisfaction from what turns them on, socially-unacceptable it may be.  

       “On the other hand, if you are selected by The Truther and you refuse to answer the three reality questions you will be fined the first time it happens; and if it happens several times after being selected by The Truther, you will be banished from the group.  This law is necessary to make democracy happen in any group or organization. 

       “The bottom line is that it’s OK to be wrong by saying something; but it’s not OK to say nothing, if The Truther selects you.  Everyone knows something, however irrelevant it might be. It’s OK to be honestly wrong in this group. It’s Not OK, however, to be dishonestly wrong.

       “After experiencing the process for a session or two, persons violating process laws will be fined and perhaps required to leave the room for one hour at the instant of infraction, and if this does not result in causing the individual not to violate group laws s/he will be permanently banished. 

       “It takes some time for some people to get used to these laws, having never had an opportunity to function as an equal response-able member of a truly free and fair democratic process. Most group processes are contaminated by stroke-hungry greedy power-hoggers who control most of the airtime and strokes for themselves, forcing most members into stroke-deprived positions by psychologically forcing to remain silent while adapting to and obeying irrelevant time-wasting rituals and pastimes; but after experiencing fully democratic processes most people can overcome their prior undemocratic programming and will appreciate being caused to lead when selected by The Truther; and they will find it satisfying when they succeed in inserting themselves in the process after the person owning the floor stops, thereby earning strokes, with no holding up of hands to get psychological permission and protection, thereby learning not to play psychological Games, i.e., not being forced to act out Persecutor, Rescuer, and Victim roles. We will hear more about Game-playing, Persecutors, Rescuers, and Victims later.

“In transactional analysis terms, this democratic Game-free process encourages the cathecting of Nurturing Parent, Adult, and Free Child ego states rather than Critical Parent, Adult, and Adapted Child ego states. If you are not familiar with transactional analysis terms I suggest you do some homework and learn them. You can find several excelllent TA books on transactional analysis on the internet by simply punching transactional analysis into Google. An excellent TA book for purposes of this program is titled Born to Learn: A Transactional Analysis of Human Learning.

       “Another reason it’s against the law in this group to hold up your hand to force someone to rescue you or to force others to give you the floor because it’s a deleterious use of power, not only reinforcing your weaknesses but debilitating the group by causing the group to lose relevance, effectiveness and efficiency.  In this group you are all empowered adults, and you must assert your opinions whenever you get a legal chance, whether to selfishly garner strokes for yourself or to help others learn based on feelings of social responsibility.  This process has no gatekeepers tasked to Rescue, Persecute, or Victimize others, and no one can make a fool of anyone.  While the express purpose of this group is to help save Earthians aboard Spaceship Earth the process is not a psychological Game, since all relevant transactions are over social transactions. Psychological Games entail two sets of transactions, one overt, the other ulterior and covert.

       “In this group all members are equally OK existentially by virtue of having been caused to be as they are by the above-mentioned cause-effect chains.

       “There are other laws of the process, such as no libeling, slandering, or cursing.  Any slanderous allegation about any person, including public figures such as politicians, celebrities, and prominent citizens, must be backed up by facts and evidence if challenged.  Unfounded malicious libelous defamatory allegations spread by word of mouth in scurrilous ways are outlawed in this process.  All forms of communication designed to foster bigotry, hatred, and irrationality, or prejudicial discrimination are outlawed.”

Logger’s long monologue bored, rattled, confused, and irritated some of the group members, making them wonder whether they could put up with Rout’s arrogant peremptory attitudes and demeanor for one meeting, much less any number of them.  Everyone in the group had by now realized they had never experienced a group like this. 

       Most of the members sat looking at the floor in front of them, with several thinking Logger was a hypocrite, preaching democracy while telling them what to do and think like a fascist dictator, talking down to them.   

       Logger matched and paced the demeanors, facial expressions and postures of the group members, also saying nothing, attempting to out-passive them, to force someone to respond to the issues Bubba had led the group to think about and discuss, or what he had just said.

Maria— exasperated, finally blurted out,  “This is unbelievable.  You come in here and start laying down rules and laws like we are a bunch of criminals or school children. You have not furnished us any written documentation for anything, no agenda, no syllabus, no handouts, no background reading of any sort, no worksheets, and then start talking to us like we have no rights.  No one can learn like this.” 

Rout—“I’m sorry you feel that way Maria.  You are free to leave at any time if you seriously disagree, but the laws of the course are what they are.  They are necessary to insure our discussions will be full, free, fair, frank, democratic, and effective, and democratic.  They insure respect, dignity, and equality for all group members.  You are being well paid for your time and work.  As of now each group member has received a five thousand dollar payment for today’s work.  You may resign from the process at any time and you may retain whatever payments you have received up to that point as the process unfolds.  The laws of the process, however, are not subject to democratic argument, and they won’t change.  This group will not operate like the US Congress.  One of the paradoxes of democracy is that you have to have dictatorial fair rules and laws laid down by ethical lawgivers in order for democracy to function efficiently and effectively.  There are of course many forms of democracy, but here we will use the form of democracy deemed most efficient and effective by me and the process donors, who are paying you for your time, attention and participation.”

       This comment escalated the shock and dismay in the group.   

       Several more minutes elapsed with no one saying anything.  Most members sat stone-faced glaring straight ahead and not making eye contact with anyone.   

       Finally someone said something. 

Harrison—“Now see here, Rout, this is no way to run a meeting.  You’ve got to take charge and follow an agenda.  You’ve got to call on the most qualified people to talk about things.  You can’t just point out people to say things by a damn spinner or let just anybody say whatever he wants to, which by the way is a damn insult to my intelligence.  What do you think we are, a bunch of kids playing Spin the Bottle?  You’ve got to assign the problem to your best staff people so they can make a power point presentation to fill everybody in.  This is ridiculous!  Especially sitting in a circle like this.  You need to have your people set up in chairs in neat rows and columns.  You’re supposed to be the leader, out front, taking charge.  You can’t avoid your leadership responsibility by spinning an arrow to make people talk, not calling on people, not even allowing people to hold up their hands, while you sit around twiddling your thumbs just like everybody else.  You’re trying to make people say something whether they want to or not, no matter how unprepared or unqualified they might be.”

Rout—“Harrison, you have got a lot to learn here.  For starters, you are not the boss here.  In a pure democracy anyone can speak up and say what they think, and has a responsibility to do so.  I’ll grant you using The Truther to select people to start discussions does not occur in most democratic processes but the founders of this particular democracy decided after weighing the advantages and disadvantages it is best to randomly select leaders to start discussions, to insure every member has an equal chance to be the leader of the discussion, otherwise certain members will cow others into submission and control the agenda so as to achieve their selfish nefarious ends at the expense of others. 

       “For whatever it’s worth, randomly selecting people in a democracy is not a new idea.  The ancient Greeks used it to select leaders as early as the Sixth Century BCE. The process is called sortition.

       “Most people who rise through the ranks in large fascist corporations do so by adapting and flexing to and doing the bidding of authoritarian bosses to survive.  Otherwise, they can be fired at the drop of a hat by a supervisor for any reason.  They have no concept of what it is to function in a democracy with real rights of membership under a rule of law.  They are psychologically enslaved to a boss.  Large corporations are fascist dictatorships, pure and simple.  The main thing that counts in a corporation is pretending to agree with and pleasing your boss, living up to his expectations, commonly called ass-kissing and brown-nosing, not thinking for yourself. 

       “This group for sure is not like a contemporary large corporation, an authoritarian fascist dictatorship antithetical to democracy, where all are enslaved to a boss right above their level, who has the right and power to fire subordinates for any reason, and nobody has a right to freely speak her or his mind about anything, even if they hold up their hands.  I know many of you in this group are opposed to the idea of democratic Game-free discussion processes using Adult—Adult transactions, but if you stick with this program long enough you may learn to respect true democracy.

       “I am talking about transactional analysis psychological Games here.  A Game-free discussion process is one in which there are no Persecutors, Rescuers, and Victims.  We’ll be hearing more about this as we progress in our meetings.  Adult—Adult transactions happen when members of the group have their Adult ego states cathected, as opposed to their Parent and Child ego states. The Truther cathects, or turns on, Adult ego states.  Most transactions in large corporations are Parent—Child transactions at every level of the chain of command, the boss cathects a Parent ego state and subordinates are forced to cathect Adapted Child ego states and essentially say yes sir, and do as they are told. We will learn more about this as we go along. In most businesses, especially large corporations, bosses use their Parent ego states and employees are supposed to use their Child ego states.”

Harrison—“You mean you think you can teach me to respect your idea of democracy.”

Rout—“Yes, if you stick with the program long enough.”

Harrison—“Well, I’ll assure you, that’s a mighty big if.  I run a business and for sure I do not need your five thousand a month.  I can walk out of here at any time.  I make over twenty times that much per month already.  I came to this meeting out of curiosity more than anything else, and I think I have about learned enough.  This is a lunatic fantasy of some sort.  And furthermore, my friend, you are badly out of line.  I will not tolerate your insulting attitude.” 

Rout—“I’m sorry you feel that way about it, Harrison.  Thank you for your candor.  There’s the door, if you want to leave now.  It’s my way or the highway here, as far as these democratic process rules and laws go.  There’s one thing I agree with you corporate bosses about, my way or the highway, at least regarding democratic process rules and laws needing to be obeyed to preserve real democracy, and I assure you my way is the highway here.”

It got very quiet in the room, and after about another ten minutes elapsed with nobody saying anything, Rout decided to move on.  He told the group most discussions normally lasted about one hour after The Truther was spun, since after about one hour discussants generally got bored with the point or problem under discussion.  He said they had barely scratched the surface of a good discussion of the issue Bubba raised, namely whether the economy was the biggest problem in the world, and if so, what to do about it.  He told them since they were a neophyte group he would ask Bubba to spin The Truther to select a new leader so they could move on.  He repeated the rule for spinning The Truther: The last person selected will spin The Truther next.

       Bubba demonstrated his disgust and contempt for the whole proceeding by slowly swaggering toward The Truther in the center of the room, where he twirled The Truther in a dramatic fashion, creating psychological signals that caused several group members to reverberate signals that caused some members to make scurrilous comments to nearby members, as the cock crowed again when the arrow came to rest. 

       Rout then reached down and pulled a cowbell from his briefcase, which he vigorously shook, creating a loud clanging sound that quickly jerked the group members to attention.

Rout—“Several of you are violating the no gossiping law.  Do not do this again, or punishments provided under the law will be administered.”      

Hal—“I thought you said the no-gossiping law only applied when someone else was talking.”

Rout—“No, it applies during the entire three hours of a session, including time members are spinning The Truther.”

The Truther selected Trudy as the new leader.  She wanted to know if she was supposed to comment about what Bubba had said or bring up a new topic.  Rout said he didn’t care, that she should do whatever she thought most appropriate, since she was now the group leader.  She then said she agreed the economy was a serious problem but it was so general that she did not have much to say about it.  She said she thought civil rights were equally important, and women were entitled to equal pay for equal work and should be free to choose abortions.  This produced about thirty minutes of discussion with several members saying what they thought.  When the discussion ran out of steam Trudy twirled the arrow and selected a new leader.  The next leader, Margaret, mechanically defined a problem, listed two alternatives, and perfunctorily gave a recommendation.  This produced a new silent spell.  Rout thought more should be said about the issue Margaret brought up so he refrained from ordering a new Truther twirl.  About two hours of the first morning session had by then elapsed. 

       Nobody said anything for forty-five minutes, up to about noon, so Rout told them they were on their own until two o’clock. He told them to enjoy their lunch and report back promptly at two o’clock for the afternoon three-hour session.  He told them coming into any session late without a valid excuse was also against the law, and violators would be prosecuted.  Rout told them violating this law, or any of the process laws, could result in a fine that would reduce their monthly compensation and could cause their permanent banishment from the group.

       Rout said there was one additional law he probably should alert them to at this juncture.  Stonewalling is illegal.  He said if it appeared to him that certain members were deliberately not saying things to psychologically collude with other members to passive-aggressively undermine and sabotage the process they would be fined or banished.  He said he realized some people just naturally talked more than others and some members would naturally speak up more than others, but passive-aggressive stonewalling, lying by omission, deliberately not saying things attempting to cause others not to say anything to undermine the effectiveness of the process, was illegal.  He said lying was also illegal—both lying by commission, by telling deliberate falsehoods, and lying by omission, deliberately withholding relevant thoughts, ideas, and information to play Games.

       Most members by then were shocked, disoriented, upset, or infuriated, but no one said anything as they left the hotel. Outside they scattered like a covey of flushed quail, a loose analogy, assuming you have ever seen a covey of flushed quail take off.  Unfortunately wild quail had been almost rendered extinct in the last fifty years by agricultural herbicides and pesticides developed and sold by large corporations and applied by farmers, so almost nobody would ever again see a covey of wild quail flushed.

Bubba and Henry headed down a sidewalk in the same direction.

Bubba—“Can you believe that shit?”

Henry—“Hell no!  This takes the cake.  Who does that asshole think he is?”

B—“Hey, why don’t we find us a bar somewhere and have a beer.”

H—“Good idea.”

B—“By the way, my name’s Bubba.  What’s yours?”

H—“Hank.” 

B—“Glad to meet you, Hank.”

After taking his first swig of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, Bubba popped a question.

B—“How much longer you gonna stick with this crap?”

H—“I don’t know. I thought it was crazy from the git-go.  We still don’t know who’s payin’ for this or what they’re up to.  This has got to a scam of some sort.” 

B—“Or a bunch of liberals, nuts, communists or something.  One thing’s for sure, though, they’ve got more money than sense.”

H—“Yeah, the money’s real.  At least so far.  That’s what got me.  I couldn’t believe it when $50 popped out of that ATM machine.  Did they deposit $100 in a bank account for you like they did me to sucker you into this thing?”

B—“Yeah, that’s what got me too.  And then after I told them I would come to one meeting they put a fucking five thousand dollars in the account.  I don’t know what they woulda done if I hadn’t showed up, which I thought about.  But then I got to thinkin’ if them damn fools put five thousand G’s in my account once they might do it again, for one day’s work, or whatever you want to call what this crap.”

H—“That’s pretty much my story.  Reckon how long they’ll keep it up?”

B—“Don’t know, but, irregardless of now obnoxious that Logger asshole is, I’ll probably stick with it a while longer, so long as they keep a’handin’ out the money.”

H—“Me too more than likely.  I’ve got too many bills piled up to turn it down.  Wonder what that rich sombitch who said he makes twenty times more a month than they are paying him is gonna do?  Reckon he’ll drop out?”

B—“I’ll bet he don’t.  But he shore did get pissed off didn’t he.”

Over sandwiches and another beer their conversation continued.

Bubba—“I don’t know what’s worse, having to sit for three hours without a break, or puttin’ up with that smartass’s attitude, or that damn spinner. Calls it a truther, for god’s sake.  Can you believe that shit?  Spinnin’ that damn thing to make people talk?  Hell, it’s a damn insult.  That is a nice lookin’ rooster though I must admit.  Makes a nice crowin’ sound. Sounds like my rooster back home.”

H—“You’ve got that right, but the asshole just sittin’ there sayin’ nothin’ is even worse.  Can you imagine him just sittin’ there for damn near an hour with nobody sayin’ nothin’?  With everybody just setten’ there not knowing whether to shit or go blind—and there’s some smart people in there, one guy’s a doctor—and nobody sayin’ nothin’.  God amighty.”

B—“I know.  It’s like the asshole is paying us to waste our time to put up with him, or maybe he just wants to make fools out of us or somethin’.  It’s damn weird, I’ll tell you that.”

H—“I wonder what he’ll come up with next—bring out a bullwhip or chains or something.  He’s already got a cowbell.  I tell you what, Bubba.  I think I’m gonna go back to my hotel room and call my wife and maybe take a nap.  We’ve got over an hour before we have to show back up.”

B—“Good idea.  Enjoyed talking with you.”

H—“Yeah, me too.  Well, see you back at the torture chamber.”

Most of the group members went their separate ways as soon as they got out of the hotel, having no desire to talk with anyone, feeling drained, confused and angry.  Most found a deli, pub or restaurant a few blocks from the hotel and ate by themselves.  On the other hand, two other small groups congregated here and there.  Most of them had about the same sentiments as Bubba and Henry regarding Dr. Rout Logger.  No one had anything good to say about him, considering him arrogant, unfeeling and dictatorial.  Maria said he was dehumanizing.  She said he said he believed in democracy but acted like a fascist, making up rules right off the top of his head whenever he felt like it, like an absolute dictator. 

       Almost all participants thought about dropping out, but concluded they would be paid rather well for six hours of misery, bullshitting, discussing or whatever you wanted to call this.  A few knew they could not attend all the monthly meetings even if they wanted to because of previous commitments; but they were curious to learn what would come of this.  Some thought they could eventually turn Rout Logger around and teach him how to act like a decent human being.

       About half the members wondered what to do with the two hours, which was more than enough time for lunch.  Most of them staying in nearby hotels went back to their rooms to collect their thoughts and refresh themselves, some taking naps; others read, checked their emails and made telephone calls.  Some sat in the lobby of the hotel where the meeting was held and read until two o’clock.  A few went shopping.  Some took walks. 

       Several members thought about asking Rout to cut the time for the lunch break to one hour so they could get off work an hour earlier.  This would give them more time to catch earlier flights home after the meeting, as some had decided to do, not staying in a hotel Friday or Saturday night, having arranged early and late flights before and after the Saturday meeting, to save a little money and have more time with their families at home, while others wanted to stay in a hotel to give them more time away from their families.  A few brought their spouses along with them; two members brought spouses and children along for the trip, since they had never been to Louisville, Kentucky. 

End of Part One. To be continued.