invisible structures, was Credit Union

Jack Rowe jackrowe at
Wed Jan 7 14:57:11 EST 1998

Invisible structures are often defined as legal structures such as the
credit unions, non-profits, village organizations, etc. I usually think of
them as the various forms of human relationship, so that any and all
political, social, economic etc. relationships/structures are included. 

All the visible structures and designs of permaculture exist within the
context of the invisible structures of human relationships. These invisible
structures include customs and mores (to paraphrase JS Mill, "custom is not
only second nature to humans, but is continually mistaken for first"),
money and the entire economic system including which livelihoods are
supported and which are discouraged, and our social ways of relating which
ultimately are learned in family structures. Quite a complex and
interesting millieu in which to attempt to function in a healthy way. 

The success or failure of attempted visible, or formalized invisible,
structures is therefore often deeply affected by our patterns of
relationship, conscious or unconscious... patterns of relating and
interacting which are not just metaphorically but often literally invisible
to our normal conscious thought processes. It seems, often, that the
unconscious ways of relating are most powerful (at least in a destructive
way), as in attempted 'conscious' communities which often fail because of
hidden agendas, expectations and relationship patterns brought into the
community interactions by participants. 

To me, these often-hidden relationships constitute a central part of the
whole issue of our relationship with the earth as a biosphere. We tend to
focus on the safer material plane of what plants to grow, what animals to
eat, etc., yet it is our underlying relationships with ourselves, each
other and our ecosystems whence originate the flawed perceptions that have
created the system of eco-pillage which currently and simultaneously
supports and threatens our existence. Hmmm...

Anyway, whatever patterns for healthy invisible structures (credit unions,
planned communities, etc.) we can find or create and then share will be
beneficial in the extreme toward reworking the less-healthy inner patterns
we have inherited for relating to our world and each other. 


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