People Need People
Nora Bateson 2022
“We have been lost to each other for so long. My name means nothing to you. My memory is dust.This is not your fault, or mine.” — Anita Diamant, The Red Tent.
Of all the necessities to human life: water, air, food, shelter — probably the most important is being in relationship with each other. We are furless, clawless and fang-less. We move more slowly than other creatures on our two feet instead of four, and the need for emotional and intellectual stimulation is physiological. Without each other our ancestors would have been cold, defenseless and unwell. In short, People Need People. This is, without accident the name of the online Warm Data process brought to groups around the world in early 2020 as the pandemic took hold. The online version is a digital sibling to the Warm Data Lab which has been bringing people together around the world for the last 7 years.
As more than two years of pandemic is bridging into a changed world of tech gatherings, more emergent crises are on the horizon in the form of war, climate change, and economic vulnerability. It looks like the storm of systemic change is here to stay. There is an awakened sense of need to be able to continue life in the event of a disruption in infrastructures and existing institutions. This is not so new. Preppers have been doing this since I can remember. But something has changed. The chasm between the radical bunker builders and the responsible citizen has been shrinking. More and more I hear of folks who are not even remotely “preppers” suggesting that, ‘it’s not a bad idea to have some extra supplies.’ I grew up in California, the land of earthquakes, landslides and forest fires, we always had to be ready to go camping in the backyard. I am not hoping for a future apocalypse of canned food and candles. The spirit of bunkering can easily turn into an escalation of the nastiest aspects of individualism. Greed, violence, and willingness to overlook the health of others has brought on our current ecological, cultural, and economic crises — — I am quite sure bunkering to save yourself is not the way to a beautiful future. Health and healing are communal processes. People Need People.
Now I live in Sweden where we have been informed recently that the best preparation for any crisis is a good relationship with your neighbors. I agree. The hitch is that every service of modern life has been structured to be delivered in ways that support individualism, not community. Our energy, water, food, septic, and even transportation for many is specific to our separate homes. Part of being comfortable in the modern world is not having to be in communication with, or share daily needs with your neighbors. In this respect the people who are living with less comfort are much better prepared for crisis that those who are cozy in a 9–5 workweek, a soft chair, and their own kitchen. People think they have no need for people.
The task of ‘getting to know your neighbors’ has become more difficult than it was a decade ago. The algorithms of social media that have fed the flames of divisive polarization. These schisms have crept into real life. You may not want to spend even 10 minutes with your neighbor, let alone depend upon them. It should be noted that this separation has been cultivated over the last century through which (in some cultures) parents, and grandparents had no practice at being in communal relationships. Children grow up and leave, the nuclear family is isolated, and we go through life looking for connection. It is no wonder that the idea of community is so full of hope. The idea of ‘community’ is a good one, but the communication patterns of modern life make it so that most of the time the communal project becomes an angry, resentful, insulted mess. Even the most like-minded or ‘intentional’ communities suffer breakdowns of relationship. People don’t know how to live with people.
Now what? People need people and people have no idea how to live with people. The ways in which community was generated in the past have slipped away. The farm, religious ceremonies, moving water, taking care of animals, making music, raising children, tending the elderly … these things have changed shape. In some cases the break with traditions of family and religion released younger generations from oppressive cultural expectations so they could pursue a different life than their parents, allowing for different expressions of sexuality, exploring new ideas of life, and so on. But in the midst of finding ourselves, we lost each other. Now in this time of tumultuous, rapid change there is a need for another sort of collaboration, one in which improvisation is the basis. No one knows what chaos is coming next, or when or how to respond. The pandemic was evidence enough that governmental bodies and media were not suited to addressing localized unique situations. To get through these times a morale that underpins communal relationships must be nourished. This morale is a willingness to be flexible together, to be creative together, to ‘find a way’ where there is need. People need to find a way — to find a way.
This is exactly what the Warm Data processes are all about; finding a way. Recognizing that the most difficult aspect of figuring out how to go forward together is not the creativity part, or the details of the actions that people will find, or the model — but the possibility of doing so together. The depth of our conditioning to fend for ourselves and our loved ones at the expense of others’ survival is not to be underestimated. Neither however is the depth of the human need to be together, and to help each other. It is just that the second one is under-nourished by cultures of separated livelihoods. People are still people, we can do this.
How? By bringing new collective perception to the most personal, everyday aspects of life. In a morning’s breakfast the contexts of family, health, agriculture, economics, culture, history, tech, education, and more are all connected… A basic moment of parenting includes all of these contexts as well. Perhaps the most divisive aspect of daily life is the way these moments appear to be isolated, when in fact they are the glue of mutual contextual vitality. It is this sort of perception, through the most personal, and intimate memories of our lives that the multiple threads of complexity can been revealed. Once revealed, the pull toward divisiveness and polarity softens. Adding more context makes it easier to perceive and understand each other. Zoom in on the detail, zoom out on the wider connections. The way that the warm data sessions work is simple at the surface, and complex in its theory. (Luckily no one needs to know the theory except the hosts; anyone can attend a warm data lab or people need people session). It takes about 2 hours. That is not very long. The communal healing and generosity that comes out of that 2 hours never ceases to blow my mind. The warm data happens, and the overlapping stories begin to re-knit the possibility people make together. People find a way.
But people do not like to be told how to live their lives. Deep inside a natural defiance repels authoritarian rules. People like to figure out their lives themselves, in the context of their own communities, histories, and the uniqueness of their possibilities. The idea of coming into a municipality or a neighborhood or even a family with a top-down formula for ideal life is a means to a revolution. The warm data process does not assume any such formula, but rather it sets the conditions for new insights to be found together, and mutual learning to take place. Whatever solutions groups come up with today are going to need to be flexible enough to meet the next crisis. That flexibility must be in each of us, not the plan itself. The map is not fluid, the territory is. Nourishing flexibility that we do not yet know we will need is at the core of this work. People need to find their own way- together.
A thickening of the unsaid integrity — Starting in small fringes that link and recircuit finding unfound mixtures. Re-soaking the past.
Marinating memories Until their softness is sticky vitality.Like the richness of soil, the ensembling is teeming with nuances sticking to other nuances.
Following entirely undrawable paths. The unusual textures, the surprises, — in the wordless sea of how we are.The resonances and rhythms have their own current.
In the rich probiotics of fresh tones. Made together, without goals.
This is not collaboration, this is composting.
This kind of new life is not a restructure.It is a reunion.It is not a plan.It is a nourishing. (Nora Bateson 2019)
More on Warm Data
Bateson, N.,(2021). Aphanipoiesis. In Journal of the International Society for the Systems Sciences, Proceedings of the 64th Annual Meeting of the ISSS, Virtual (Vol. 1, №1)
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