GPID Self-conscientization and in-project demonstration
Some irrelevant questions about the GPID project as a case
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Proposed additional "Sub-project 25" of the Goals, Processes
and Indicators of Development project
of the United Nations University on the
occasion of a GPID meeting (Geneva, October 1978):
and in-project demonstration
This document has been elaborated following the news report (see Annex
1) of the self-immolation by burning of a 24-year old woman in front of
the UN Offices in Geneva - hopefully her gesture is not totally wasted.
She wished to draw attention to the easily-forgotten point that those who are
concerned with remedying the condition of the underprivileged and oppressed
often perpetuate, through their own actions and privileges, the conditions for
which they claim to be providing remedies. This may also be illustrated by
the importance and lack of self-awareness associated with a discussion in a
smoke- filled room on "environmental air pollution", and the action
and structures required to eliminate it.
In the interests of brevity, and because of its irrelevance in the current
academic mode, this note has been structured in point form. As such the points
made are not as fully qualified as would be appropriate in a more extensive
review. The points are made in the form of questions where possible.
1. The GPID project is
concerned with the goals, processes and
indicators of development.
- Is it valid to assume that the matters under discussion have no immediate
implications for the structure and processes of the project and its meetings
- To what extent is there an equivalence between (a) the problem of examining
and responding to the goals, processes and indicators of society and (b)
the problems of examining the goals, processes and indicators of development
of the GPID project group itself ?
- To what extent do the GPID sub-projects, selected as key areas in relation
to human societal development, Identify key areas requiring attention within
the GPID project group ? (see Annex 2)
- What is impeding a more rapid development of the GPID project, as well
as more immediate impact on its own action ?
- Do the problems of the GPID project group highlight other key issue areas
which could usefully be introduced in sub-projects ?
2. What are the
consequences of the effective inability to give
self-reflexive attention of a substantive nature (rather than administrative and procedural) to the status of a project suchas GPID within society ?
- If the relevance of substantive questions concerning goals, processes and
indicators of development cannot be made relevant to the structures and processes
of a group such as GPID, can they hope to be rendered relevant to any other
social group ?
- To what extent do participants perceive themselves and the project as "meta"
to the system under consideration, rather than part of it ?
- Why do the project's structures and processes tend to be organized so that
the need and possibility for their own transformation do Dot emerge except
as an administrative postscript (relying on conventional administrative procedures)
responding to administrative anxiety concerning the productivity, credibility
and funding of the project ?
- Why do low expectations so quickly prevail, namely that a projects significance
will lie in some "long-tern clarification of questions" and that
immediately implementable insights are neither sought nor hoped for, particularly
with regard to the project group itself ? Why are immediacy and urgency so
easily abandoned ?
3. What are the Implications of the tendency to abstract the project from its
social context and the heritage of previous efforts of a similar nature or intent?
- Why do such projects tend to ignore each other, even though the same people
may travel directly from a meeting of the one to a meeting of the other
- How valid is it to assume that each such project has the privilege of making
a "fresh start" and can safelynignore the poor correspondance
between the intentions of the originators of past (and other) projects and
the manner in which the projects have been received by society and by their
- Why do such projects protect themselves from constructive attention to
negative feedback arising from the controversy or indifference which may surround
them, and fail to consider the implications for the project (and the views
formulated therein) of the existence of such opposing viewpoints (irrespective
of their content) ?
- Why is the existence of hidden dynamics (e.g. concerning who participates
and why, or where meetings are held) not considered as of significance for
what is consequently discussed and agreed upon? What are the equivalent dynamics
and constraints in society as a whole ?
4. Is it acceptable that the group should be unable to
move to a new
level of debate when faced with discussions having the following
- Agreement by some participants that one viewpoint (e.g. universal values)
is valid followed later by agreement by other participants that an opposing
viewpoint is valid ( This may even involve cycles of expression and abandonment
of opposing viewpoints of different chain length (e.g. A-B-C-D-A, or M-N-0-P-Q-R-S-M)
to the point that it may be hypothesized that the length of such cycles is
chosen so that it cannot be encompassed by the collective attention span of
those present (Subjection to such cycles bears some resemblance to the situation
identified by the Peter Principle whereby "People are promoted to the
level at which they become incompetent" in that collectively a group
cannot sustain the attention span to encompass the cycle as a whole and is
governed by the sequence of viewpoints in it and the dynamics between them).
- Difficulties in handling opposing viewpoints rationally and the significance
for the project of their existence and the procedural adjustments that are
required to mediate between then in a meeting
ANNEX 1: MEMORANDUM TO_SOCIAL
Parting thoughts of a 24-year old woman prior to self-immolation before
UN Offices In Geneva (2 October 1978):
"A flaming torch in the black night of exploitation"
"The United Nations represents millions of lives but the delegates
prefer lives of luxury to their humanitarian responsibilities"
Immolation by Fire at the Palais des Nations
La Suisse 3 octobre 1978
ANNEX 2: Sub-projectissues and their implications
for the goals, processes and indicators of the development of
1. Concepts of development
What is the nature of the "development" of GPID ?
What are the needs of project participants and how should they be satisfied
How do such needs affect the development of the project ?
What are the rights of project participants ?
4. Alternative ways of life
- What are the implications for project participants, their behavior together
and the organization of the project and its processes ?
- What can be learnt from the factors impeding alternative modes of
participant behaviour within the project ?
5. Visions of desirable societies
- What are the alternative visions for the future organization of the project
in the light of the visions of desirable societies ?
6. Visions of desirable worlds
7. Theories of development
What concepts are relevant to the development of GPID ?
- What lessons can be drawn from the development of GPID ?
- How should the productivity and productive forces of GPID be analyzed ?
8. Expansion and exploitation processes
What are the implications for participants and the project ?
9. Liberation and autonomy processes
Do some participants need liberating from dominance relationships;
how should this be done; and what can be learnt from the constraints ?
What may be learnt from participant attitudes to arming themselves to
defend their standpoints in a debate ("verbal ammunition", "violent
debate", etc) ?
11. Processes of the UN system
12. Alternative strategies and scenarios
- What alternative strategies are their for the GPID project and what are
their implications for impact on the larger system ?
13. Goals and indicators
- What are the goals of the GPID participants and sub-projects and what are
the Indicators of their achievement ?
14. Indicators of territorial systems
15. Indicators of non-territorial systems
16. Indicators of ecological balance
17. The politics of indicators
What can be learnt about dialogues from the problems of eliciting viewpoints of participants which they choose to avoid expressing
within the academic debating processes?
- What can be learnt for the dialogues sub-project by considering
the questions in this annex ?
How does the network of communication between participants look?
- How does the mutual relevance network of project issues look, how is it
related to participants wider interests, and what is the significance of the
22. Forms of presentation
What forms do individual participants prefer and what is the significance
for the organization of the project and the communicability of its insights
23. Methods of analysis
24. Inter-regional studies
25. GPID Self-conscientization and in-project demonstration
What can be concluded from the paradoxes of self-reflexiveness?