Written by Harold Davis III and returned here as a gift in ongoing dialogue. Our gratitude knows no bounds and we invoke, first and foremost, the words that come before all else.Rebalancing the Scales¶
We can begin by considering the indigenous understanding that any means - even those which sound good in our time, like 'decentralization' - can be used towards ill-conceived ends. In particular, the ends of our political systems must always be grounded in the distribution of power and living freedom for the people who participate.
Between households, responsibilities came down to a principle of reciprocity: records were kept and at the end of each year all outstanding credits and debits were to be canceled out. This is where the 'village bureaucracy' comes in [...] Of course, the danger of such accounting procedures is that they can be turned to other purposes: the precise system of equivalence that underlies them has the potential to give almost any social arrangement, even those founded on arbitrary violence, an air of even-handedness and equity.
This particular excerpt speaks to the matrilineal protocol we’ve learned directly from our dialogue with the Kanienke'ha'ka. Every new year or cycle requires an ‘in between’ time before the start of the next. As the last cycle transitions into the next, there are the four sacred ceremonies to be held. Bringing in these ceremonies is the ‘Creatress’s Dance.’ The whole design is happy for the birth of a new cycle. Becoming aware of the cyclicality and encoding it in our protocols ensures the ongoing distribution of power and its concomitant: peace.
The Creatress’s Dance¶
Before this matrilineal transition can happen, the mothers do their work; rebalancing the complex dynamics in social organization morphologies. This ceremony is called the stirring of the ashes. In this ceremony, the collective gathers to assess the last cycle and prepare for the next. This collective stirring of the ashes is critical to understanding the nuances of 'credit and debit’ in the native context. Credit might be better termed Commons, for we are considering here commons-based societies, where ‘managing your affairs’ extends to both explicit and subtle social reconciliation amongst individuals, groups and ecosystems. If our relationship to our shared commons of each other and our ecosystems is not regenerative in our day to day life, moving into the next cycle without rebalancing these complex morphologies is dangerous.
Hence, the mothers will have to stir the ashes on behalf of the individuals who have ignored requests to manage lingering affairs by cycle's end, reconciling whatever must be reconciled before the start of the new cycle. A motherly correction for the next cycle to come has limited influence on the collective when one cannot stir one's own ashes. Nonetheless, matrilineal cancellation extends beyond debits or credits, into all forms of exchange, which are maintained in regenerative ways by our mothers' work. Entropy has an inevitable trajectory in closed linear systems; but not in the open complex dynamics of regenerative cycles. The indigenous perception of non-linear time may be a precursor to the capacity to both build in and extrapolate regenerative mechanisms from our matrilineal heritage so that we may implement sustainable social organizations. All other technologies are built on top of this first innovation of our mothers and grounded in the matrilineal heritage we all know inherently.
[Closed linear systems without regenerative roots that can contextualise entropy] reveal, finally, the great opportunity web3 presents to us. We now have a form of money which is not premised on violence. Money which is given value by consensus, not by an outdated Roman notion of possession based on slavery which brings the most impersonal kinds of violence directly into the most intimate zone of human relationship: the home itself. By untangling this barbaric part of our history we can once more begin to imagine what sacred economics - meaning home management that transcends my personal needs without suppressing them - might look like in substance and practice.
To reiterate the point, it seems that many indigenous thinkers spent more time investigating how [freedom] might be enacted, rather than what it ‘meant’:
This idea follows beautifully on from a recent realization about indigenous sustainability. Not only did our ancestors of the ‘good mind’ seem to concern themselves with how freedom can be enacted, they seem to have gone a step further and focused on what can be done with freedom, working backward towards how it can be enacted in respective context and circumstance. This helped prevent getting stuck in the pothole of pursuing freedom as an end goal.
In our unsustainable societies, such a pursuit may waste most of a lifetime; while indigenous societies, even in early stages of development, understood that freedom is not the end goal: it is one of the many expressions of a life fully lived. When we live fully our own lives, when we honour the potential each and everyone of us carries, then we are also free, though simply having formal freedom does not imply that we are living fully. According to the 5000 year old poem below, falling short of our full potential is a danger far more prominently discussed in the very different epistemological world that our ancestors inhabited.
Our mistake was that we thought of freedom as a place, rather than a continuation of a struggle.
Tyranny never sleeps.
Our second mistake was that we thought of freedom as a goal, rather than as a launching pad from which to reach our goals.
Without purposes, freedom hardy matters.
Our third mistake was that we though freedom would make us free.
That, however, is license, - not freedom at all.
Freedom, is being shackled to identity, purpose and direction, and being in constant pursuit.
Asa G. Hilliard 1985
If not for dialogue with the Kanienke'ha'ka, the beauty may not have emerged in the bars of the stanza above. These ongoing dialogues have exposed us to the precedent of indigenous nations growing out of war and into peace, at different times and geographies; evolving into peaceful confederation and further expansion uninterrupted by war for millennia; all of which is critical for analysis from a matrilineal lens. Such a lens is not all that different from the “political imaginations” of Native nations mentioned by Graeber and Wengrow.
This poem, and our dialogues, also highlight the flaws in the ubiquitous, and seeminly inevitable, 'historical lens', which works its way into truisms we take at face value like: All human civilizations have had wars. Maybe this is true on the surface, maybe, but it omits a whole lot of nuance too. For example, isn’t there a significant distinction between short lived societies of total war and societies that experience war once or twice across many thousands of peacefully confederated cycles? It seems a significant enough distinction, so we can do away with vague (yet collectively accepted) anecdotal evidence to justify ignoring what could be transformative indigenous critique and dialogue.
Appreciating the context of the author and time is very relevant too. Imhotep, an East African polymath and architect of the Step Pyramid, was commemorated for efforts in craftsmanship among various scientific and medicinal disciplines. Greeks like Hippocrates called themselves students of Imhotep 200 years after his death. Apparently, beautiful poetry was in his toolkit as well. His “philosophy of life” based poetry was passed down through generations in East African cultures. Here, though, we would like us to focus on the last bar, with the aforementioned pattern in mind.
The last bar seems to point to what we are all most familiar with when it comes to our matrilineal East African ancestors; the mind boggling structures they left behind. It is unfortunate that we forget so quickly how such monumental undertakings were always tied to native identity, innovative purpose & direction and were most definitely the epitome of constant pursuit.By Design¶
Having thus forgotten everything but the physical form of their freedom, we cannot easily see the seasonal sway between sustained innovative inter-disciplinary craftsmanship, and sustained indigenous modes of agriculture. Free labor collectives are an important note in the matrilineal context here as well. We can point to Graeber and Wengrow’s second and third primordial freedoms found in matrilineal systems: “(i) The freedom to disobey and (ii) the freedom to create or transform social relationships.” This renewed understanding frees us of the dehumanizing images of Charleston Heston et al. who claimed that chattel slavery was the foundation of East African social organization. With all these linear, dehumanizing layers removed from our imaginations and historical lens, what is left?
Maybe a design concept. Because tyranny never sleeps, decrease the surface area for attack or the time and space for tyranny to take root.
We can do this by avoiding the stagnation of our imaginations. Don’t get stuck in how to get to freedom; or in the processes of unlearning; or - in our web3 case - learning freedom again. Instead work backwards. First, establish our end goal: matrilineal power distribution.
The capacity for innovative work will follow. This was the true foundation of Imhotep’s East African culture and all of our humane cultures.
Then we can concern ourselves with matrilineal dialogue, so that we can enact the freedoms needed in our respective circumstances to get our needs met. What kind of needs? The kind that are shackled to incentives of identity, purpose, direction and the opportunity for constant pursuit of ambitious innovation across disciplines. The latter ensures evolution: experimentation and play are built-in and automatic in the the meta design of matrilineal social organization.
This also hints at the much-needed web3 bridgework to conventional institutional thought. Through clarity of direction and truthful dialogue in diverse collectives, we can shift web3 away from only monetary incentives and ensure these fall into the background as the original goal of human civilization comes back into the foreground. Regenerative commons will always sound like regenerative markets to be commodified to some folks; so if we ensure the structures we work and live in are on our respective matrilineal terms - while leveraging the momentum of language in so called Green Industry, SDGs, diversity efforts etc. - we can realise the transformative potential out of this web3 space.
Imhotep’s poetry seems to be giving us insight into a part of the blueprint used at the beginning of new regenerative cycles for millennia in East African (her)story. Giving us wisdom from Mothers of his Mother further south down the Nile in Ethiopia, and further still and inland, to the waters of Uganda where the Mother Nile begins. It is a unique poem that can likely double as an administrative direction from his matrilineal Clan Mothers, who innovated a seed shape for real civilizations (and hence faux civilizations alike). Modern administrative strategies akin to “The New Deal” begin to seem infantile when compared to this motherly combination, which both formulates and lives empirically a free life. The poetry of their sons has been sustained long enough to gift us with one of the cradles of humane civilization as a powerful design precedent for our work going forward.
In all parts of the world, small communities formed civilizations in that true sense of extended moral communities [...] A moment's reflection shows that women, their work, their concerns and innovations are at the heart of this more accurate understanding of civilization [...] This more accurate understanding is arrived at specifically by asking substantive questions, rather than reducing everything to formality or form. As they write elsewhere, an example of such a question might be:
Is there a positive correlation between what is usually called 'gender equality' (which might better be termed, simply, 'women's freedom') and the degree of innovation in a given society?”
The focus on freedom and innovative, self-conscious political organization forms the bedrock of the ‘new science’ Graeber and Wengrow present. The subtle, but critical, point they make about mutual aid being the basis of individual autonomy has been largely veiled in our current social imaginations due to the legacy of both France and Rome. Rather than reciprocity, we find loneliness.
I’ionrhek thiia’tionha’ak nonen tion’kwatorohon
We are individuals but we discover ourselves within the collective.
It is the “in-between” of the individual and collective that creates both. Like the enzyme placing the rungs of DNA.
The Longhouse often mentions Corn being an important key for establishing peace. Finally, one day in council, a clarification was made as to exactly why this is the case. The answer was its connection to the commons.
“Take some white corn, remove the kernels and throw them onto a stove top. Take in the smell as the corn cooks and the smoke rises. Once it cooks, put it in a bowl and begin to mash it together, add your berries, nuts or whatever you’d like. All the while taking in the nice smell of the corn. Pick this mush up with your fingers, savior the taste and smell. Then realize this was your first time having corn in this kind of way.”
In the moment listening to this response we were no longer hearing words and sentences articulating any particular concept, but we were guided to feel our way to our own articulation of our own concepts. Such a story is a powerful means of minimizing overly prescriptive teaching or learning. Feeling being the best teacher any of us ever had, communicating to us without words but somehow getting everything possible across in an instant. What was felt myself was the epitome of transformative potential. Just imagining, then feeling the impact of the smell and taste of that corn made it clear. What was felt was certainty, comfort in autonomous access to abundance.
Tangible individual autonomy is only felt with access to regenerative abundance of the collective commons. This is a key function of regenerative commons as the mechanism for mutual aid and individual autonomy. In fact, autonomy outside the context of regenerative commons contribution and distribution has very little function, which is likely why it is all but totally absent from modern conventional modes of organization. Hence the need for web3 innovation: our matrilineal heritage in ecosystems (and now even solar systems!) are threatened because of the lack of autonomy our culture perceives in them.
The labor and expression of human beings continues to be devoid of autonomy in our global system.
This begs the question of whether we really understand the use of terminology like DAOs? Autonomy is not inherent in decentralized architecture; it is only achieved via distributed power, consciously designed by our matrilineal heritage and implemented by us when we know our heritage. An important piece of our heritage is regenerative commons based abundance; where self preservation doesn’t take on an ‘irrational rational’ as seen in scarcity based systems. Especially with felt autonomous access to voice and said abundance.
More examples of our failure to properly interpret this fundamental function of autonomy in long term social and ecological sustainability efforts were provided during our direct Kernel dialogue with the Historical Two Row Wampum Working Group in the council process. Kanienke'ha'ka highlighted the matrilineal authority of ecosystems and the innovation of women in the laboratory of their gardens, emphasizing the importance of proper sequencing when women and men interact. Authority here does not allude to gender-based unchecked power, rather it resides in the proper sequencing important for long term socioecological sustainability.
This has an interesting effect on the structure of households and nations alike. Unlike in Roman property law, women are the first or primary interaction with the earth and the faces yet beneath her, in all strains of life. Men are second in the sequence, and must first interact with women to get a sense of agricultural sustainability in any given geography. Through their gardens or their laboratories, the women carry and pass along the native sciences of regenerative abundance to future generations. They are the scientists and engineers of the first regenerative technologies which all other native tech is safely built atop — sustainable culture comes first in the sequence of humane innovations. This aligns beautifully with the notion of how women’s freedom is intricately connected to the truest kind of innovation and thus real civilization.Details of Autonomy¶
We offer here a few final examples intended to illuminate further some skewed interpretations of autonomy, along with examples of functional autonomous mechanisms specifically geared toward power distribution in matrilineal heritage.
It may help to start with a powerful quote that warns of the ways in which technology and socioeconomics co-constitute one another. In the 1930s, the French STS (Science Technology Studies) pioneer Jacques Ellul said “Motivation pre-dates invention at every stage of development.” Hence industrialization squeezed human beings into the cracks between machinery. Unskilled labor and one foreman is designed right into the equipment and factory layout. This highlights the dangers of hyper individualist or extractive perceptions of autonomy motivating blockchain based innovation.
Similar to the function of felt autonomous access to regenerative commons mentioned above, we can start to realize the intricate connections between individual autonomy and the collective. Conventional perceptions of autonomy ignore the true physics: neither can exist without the other. While we often perceive autonomy as freedom from the collective, in reality, the Longhouse offers this thought experiment:
“All of you stand in a circle with your backs turned to me in the center so you cannot see me. You can hear me fabricating things with what you all know is also yours. How long before someone turns around and says something to me? Am I autonomous? Without consensus with the collective we risk interference with things in which we may already have too much invested. So the only way to autonomy is to run it by everyone and get the go ahead, 'Yeah that'll fly'. Then we have our autonomy.”
Again, communicating a feeling directly is a transformative power because it removes dehumanizing images from our languages. In this case, the story-image shows the feeling or physics of autonomy in its true definition. It is the freedom to relate to one another in a robust way; in our families, communities, and matrilineal heritages across vast regions. It is not freedom from one another - or so-called 'trustlessness' - as we go off in infinite fragmented directions of educations, workforces, ideologies and institutions. There are often circumstances ripe for potential interference, or at least harsh judgement and misunderstanding, in our immediate relations. If we turn our backs in such times, it is not autonomy at all, but the barest cliche of independence. In truth, this behaviour and impulse is better termed loneliness or isolation, and is built into our hyper extractive systems.Protocols of Autonomy¶
A final insight comes from the consensus protocols learned from the Longhouse, which center around the autonomous decision making processes of the life givers and life protectors in the three tiered clan system. The Clan Mothers and women’s autonomy or freedoms extends, via matrilineal heritage, across all strains of life. We learn from Wahiakeron’s language teachings that the original language of ‘United People’ comes from Sate’tionkwate — "We are all the same height, from a blade of grass to the tallest mountain.” The protocols ensure these voices, even through long term complex dynamics, are never drowned out.
Then, in the flow and layout of the council process we can see more functional, built-in autonomy. Preliminary clan meetings, for example, are where the bulk of consensus occurs on positions, before formalizing these Clan positions in formal council. While deliberation also occurs in formal council, nine times out of ten it shouldn’t be needed. Here we begin to see a bottom up streamlining of horizontal power to every voice, while also avoiding gridlock, rather than a minimization of voice via top down boardrooms.
In formal council protocol, we can see even further streamlining of distributed power between men and women of Native nations. The Women only sit with the men after autonomous preliminary meetings throughout the moons (month) where the bulk of consensus occurs: this is the very important “in-between” of the council protocols. Clan Representatives report to one another on what is happening in the prelims until it is time for formalizing each Clan's position. In Native confederations, authentic peaceful diplomacy between nations requires there be no interference before coming to the table for dialogue; here we see this functional concept applied to achieve authentic balance or peaceful dialogue between female and male voices in decision making.
When finally together in formal council processes, Turtles are the only clan that sit opposite each other: life givers with their backs to the West, and life protectors to the East. Female Turtles walk over to the male Turtles, while the Wolf and Bear clans already sit side by side, deliberating with no need to change positions. The Turtles do not deliberate, but they observe the positions being deliberated and validate them against Kainerahsera’skennenkowa or the physical laws of peace & sustainability.
This is deeper than mere council logistics though. “The men cannot make the first move” is a motif in Kanienke'ha'ka ceremonies & cultural nuances; and here in decision-making protocols, it actually ensures matrilineal authority in consensus. This indicates where the balance has to come from — “always from where there is more.” As the aforementioned sequence indicates, female encompasses male, not the other way around. Or rather, regenerative abundance has capacities to include perspectives of extractive scarcity when coming together on a position for an issue, but not vise versa. This shows the deep capacities of the protocols for peaceful dialogue, enabling a balance in decision-making for human social resilience, designed right from the nonhuman physics and cosmologies, which determine the council flow and layout.
Here in the details of mechanisms for women’s freedom we see what can happen if just this one protocol of walking across the council floor is reversed. Beyond gender in the human strain of life, what happens to our matrilineal heritage in all strains of life when balance has to come from where there is less? Or maybe the better questions: What end goals are worthy of our constant pursuit, while also being shackled to our matrilineal identities and heritage? Isn’t this what gives us our purpose and direction for long term sustainability?
Hopefully, these questions can help avoid stagnated imaginations in and of potential web3 freedoms and innovations.