How to Avoid Breakdown
The Wheel of Life seems to turn inexorably, leading to collapse and breakdown, which allows new systems to emerge.
But there is a way for a large, complex system to avoid breakdown, and this is where the “holon” fits in. A holon is a sub-system of a larger system which is both a whole and a part.
According to Arthur Koestler (who came up with the word), it possesses a degree of autonomy, being able to handle contingencies without asking higher authorities for instructions. Nevertheless, it is still an intermediate form, assisting in the proper functionality of the larger whole.
Fleming adds these holons to our hexagonal diagram during the early stages of the conservation phase. They “come and go, adapt quickly, or die and reinvent themselves – they can go with the flow of trial-and-error, life and death.” He summarises these abilities as “recovery-elastic-resilience.”
They dive back into the reconnection and growth phase, discovering new ways of connection and learning to cope (or not) with various challenges, including scarce resources.
Fleming cites the village as a holon in the context of a larger system such as a nation state, with its towns and cities – and this is where my own personal experience comes in. Personally, I foun
During the lockdown precipitated by the Covid 19 crisis, our village of Muasdale fared surprisingly well for several reasons. The village store thrived, helping build community resilience.
Social support networks emerged rapidly. Two organisations centred on the town of Campbeltown 20 miles away extended their reach to shop for and pick up medical supplies for those needing to shield. Neil, a friend of mine living up the road, volunteered to coordinate the network locally for both Muasdale and nearby Tayinloan (where Neil lives), two villages normally stranded halfway down the long peninsula of Kintyre.
Neil continues to have regular Zoom meetings with both his counterparts in Campbeltown and with Argyll and Bute Council, who are coordinating social support across the whole of the region. They set the health and safety protocols and help link up volunteers with neighbourhood networks.
A local befriending group also emerged to support people not only in the two villages but on the nearby island of Gigha.
The test will be whether or not these flexible, local groupings continue to function after the crisis has passed.
Time to bring in another model – the “ladder of participation” – which will provide us with a guide as to the success or failure of local experimentation.