INTERdependence is the Human Condition

The following is the sixth chapter from We Can All Win!

Timothy Wilken

As Alfred Korzybski1921 explained:

“To discover the nature of Man and the laws of that nature, marks the summit of human enterprises. For to solve this problem is to open the way to everything which can be of importance to humanity – to human welfare and happiness.

“The great problem has been felt as a powerful impulse through out the ages of human striving, for in all times it has been evident to thinkers that upon the right solution of the problem must forever depend the welfare of mankind. Many “solutions” have been offered; and, though they have differed widely, they agree in one respect – they have had a common fate – the fate of being false. What has been the trouble? The trouble has been, in every instance, a radical misconception of what a human being really is. The problem is to discover the natural laws of the human class of life. All the “solutions” offered in the course of history and those which are current today are of two and only two kinds – zoological and mythological. The zoological solutions are those which grow out of the false conception according to which human beings are animals; if humans are animals, the laws of human nature are the laws of animal nature. The mythological “solutions” are those which start with the conception to which humans are mixtures of natural and supernatural – unions or combinations of animality and divinity. Mythological “solutions” contain no conception of natural law; scientifically judged, they are absurdities, well meaning no doubt, but silly and deadly in their effects upon the interest of mankind.”(1)

Known to the Wise

Abraham, Buddha, Confucius, and Jesus understood the underlying connectedness of all humanity. Their admonitions to us contain high awareness of our human interdependence. This is why they taught us not to kill, not to steal, not to molest, not to fraud, not to coerce.

They understood that the conflict of Adversity was not for humankind. They understood that the indifference of Neutrality was not for humankind. They taught us to be our brother’s keeper. As Gandhi explains:

“Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being. Without interrelation with society he cannot realize his oneness with the universe or suppress his egotism. His social interdependence enables him to test his faith and to prove himself on the touchstone of reality. If man were so placed or could so place himself as to be absolutely above all dependence on his fellow beings he would become so proud and arrogant as to be a veritable burden and nuisance to the world. Dependence on society teaches him the lesson of humanity. That a man ought to be able to satisfy most of his essential needs himself is obvious; but it is no less obvious to me that when self-sufficiency is carried to the length of isolating oneself from society it almost amounts to sin. A man cannot become self-sufficient even in respect of all the various operations from the growing of cotton to the spinning of the yarn. He has at some stage or other to take the aid of the members of his family. And if one may take help from one’s own family, why not from one’s neighbors? Or otherwise what is the significance of the great saying, “The world is my family?””(2)

In 1932, at the bottom of the Great Depression, the American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke:

“The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery is not narrowly nationalistic. It is the insistence, as a first consideration, upon the interdependence of the various elements in and parts of the United States – a recognition of the old and permanently important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer. It is the way to recovery. It is the immediate way. It is the strongest assurance that the recovery will endure.

“In the field of world policy I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor – the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others.

The neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.

“If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we cannot merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good. This I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife.

“With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.”(3)

Why INTERdependence?

When a task is larger than the abilities of a single individual it requires co-Operation. If you want to lift a thousand pound sofa you will need help. Two individuals working together can accomplish more than one individual working alone. One thousand individuals working together can accomplish much more than any individual working alone.

Interdependent systems are much more powerful than independent systems. Humans are the most complex form of life in known universe, and we spin a web of complex relationships to meet our needs and wants. They allow for division of labor. It is by dividing labor, and becoming specialized, that we humans are able to increase our standard of living almost without limit. If each of us had to provide all our own needs and wants, we would have to be the jack of all trades, and the master of none.

We humans joined together to gain the advantage of the division of labor. When we divide labor, each individual can become master of one trade. The individual can then produce a single product much more efficiently then he could produce hundreds of different products. We humans have created complex webs of interdependence based on our division of labor. Division of labor can be quite simple, as when the husband agrees to carry out the trash, while his wife cooks supper. Or it can be very complex, as in a large company, where the tasks are divided among hundreds of thousands of employees.

For humanity, our choice was simple. Become interdependent or retain the quality of life of the plants and animals. Our mothers and fathers, our grandmothers and grandfathers, our great grandmothers and great grandfathers – they have already made the choice for us.

We modern humans are bound together in total interdependence – this means we are totally dependent on each other. Whether we like it now or not, really doesn’t matter. Look in your pockets, we can’t go back 10,000 years now. We don’t know how to live in a true world of independence. We could not survive without the tools of our interdependence. The animals live their lives without the tools of interdependence. They live life naked with no possessions. They catch their food with tooth and claw – killing and consuming plants and animals to survive. They are dependent on plant and animal tissue for survival. We humans share the animal body and are no less dependent on animal and plant tissue for our survival. However, our intelligence and our interdependence allows us to cultivate the plant and animal tissue we need in our gardens, farms, ranches, nurseries, and hatcheries.

Fair Market INTERdependence

The “fair market” of institutional Neutrality provides humanity a limited form of interdependence. When we buy and sell in the fair market, we are depending on each other.

Humans in neutral relationship depend on others to meet their needs. Humans in neutral relationships need help from others.

However in the fair market place of neutrality, the helpers are anonymous. This anonymity is what allows us to feel independent. Our belief systems in the Western ‘free’ world rest heavily on the core belief in independence even while this belief is obviously false.

Humanity was right when we chose Neutrality to move beyond Adversity. But Neutrality is only a short term solution. Human Neutrality does not make us independent, it simply hides our interdependence in the anonymity of the fair market.

Neutral interdependence is not synergic interdependence. Our human culture is evolving, and now it is time now to move beyond Neutrality. It is time to embrace Synergy.

Once, we accept the reality of our human interdependence, then we can get on with winning. The secret of winning then is to get others to help us. Let us examine these options through the lens of synergic science.

Getting Help

Interdependence is the human condition.

All humans need help unless they wish to live at the level of animal subsistence. Interdependence means some times I depend on others and sometimes others depend on me. Once we acknowledge our interdependence and accept our dependence on others, then there are only three ways that we can get help.

  • We can force others help us – adversary help.
  • We can pay others to help us – neutral help.
  • Or, we can co-Operate with others and attract them to help us by making sure that they are also helped – synergic help.

Adversary Help

This is help obtained with coercion – force or fraud. Those providing the help are losing. When you force others to help you, they do the least they possibly can. Because the helper is hurt, adversary help is low quality help.

Adversary relationships are hurting and negative experiences. The helper experiences a loss. He is less after helping you than before. When you force others to help you, they do the least they possibly can.

Adversary interdependence means that sometimes I force others to help me, and sometimes others force me to help them.

Slavery, indentured service, tenant farming, and child labor are examples of adversary help. The criminal makes you help him, when he steals your property. The government makes you help it, when it forces you to pay taxes. You are being forced to help others anytime you are given an ultimatum.

Adversary relationships are hurtful. The parties in these relationships experience loss. They struggle to avoid the loss – they conflict. In an adversary relationship, one individual plus another individual are less after the relationship. In other words (1+1) < 2, and often much less than two.

When you make others help you, coercing them with force or fraud, the helper loses and will typically give you only the lowest quality help. Adversary relationships are marked by high conflict, low effectiveness and poor productivity.

Neutral Help

This is help purchased from others. This is the way most of us get help today. We hire it or we buy it in the market place. When I go to McDonalds, I pay them five dollars to feed me.

The focus in the neutral market place is on a fair price. Because the helper is ignored, neutral help is average quality help.

Macys, Sears, Mervyns, Pennys, Costco, K-Mart, Circuit City, etc., etc. – malls, stores, markets, shops, and restaurants – are all examples of neutral help. The yellow pages in the telephone book are lists of places where you can purchase help. Capitalism’s fair market is where you purchase neutral help. You buy help in the open market place at a fair market exchange price. This is the modern free world where help is sold as products and services.

In the fair market, the helper experiences a draw and will typically produce average quality help. Neutral relationships are ignoring and static experiences. The helper experiences a draw. They are the same after helping as before. When you ignore those who help you, this is why you will get only fair help.

Neutral interdependence means that we are both buyers and sellers of help – Sometimes I pay others to help me and sometimes I am paid to help others.

Neutral relationships are ignoring. The parties in these relationships experience no change. They barter to insure that the exchange is fair – to insure that the price is not too high or too low – to insure that neither party loses. The open market of free enterprise generates a zone of neutrality which markedly reduces adversary relations. Neutral systems gain a marked production advantage over adversary systems. They are significantly more productive. However, this is primarily because they are not adversary.

In a neutral relationship, one individual plus another individual are the same after the relationship. (1+1) = 2. When you pay others to help you, offering them a fair wage in an atmosphere marked by indifference, the helper draws and will typically give you only average quality help.

Neutrality is that place where I work just hard enough to avoid getting fired, and, my employer pays me just enough to keep me from quitting. Neutral relationships are marked by accidental conflict, moderate effectiveness and average productivity.

Synergic Help

This is help attracted by co-Operating with others – working together to solve our mutual problems. When other individuals understand that by helping you, they will also be helped, they will automatically help you. When others understand that when you win, they will win, they will support and celebrate your success. This is the power of the win-win relationship. Show those who can help you, how they will win by doing so. Show them how they will be helped by helping you. Because the helper is helped, synergic help is high quality help.

Synergic interdependence means that sometimes others help me and sometimes I help others.

Examples of synergic help in today’s world are less common. We nd them in many families. Also less frequently in small partnerships and business groups. Synergic relationships also exist in many start-up businesses, where the originators work together sharing in the risks and the rewards equally. But most of the developed world is locked into Neutrality.

If you wish to attract synergic help you must insure that when individuals invest their help with yours, they are also helped. Then they will automatically reinvest with you. When others understand that when you win, they win, they will support and celebrate your success.

Synergic relationships are helping, positive experiences. The helper experiences a win. They are more after helping you than before. When you help those who help you, you get the most help. When you help those who help you, you get excellent help.

Synergic relationships are helpful. The parties in the relationship experience a gain. They operate together to insure that both parties win, and that neither party loses. They negotiate to insure that both parties are helped, and that neither party is hurt.

In synergic relationships, one individual plus another individual is more after their relationship than before: (1+1) >> 2. Synergic relationships are marked by no conflict, high effectiveness and enormous productivity.

1 Alfred Korzybski, The Manhood of Humanity, ibid

2 Mohandas K. Gandhi, Young India, March 21, 1929

3 Franklin Delano Roosevelt , Presidential Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933

UnCommon Sense Library


The BasicsWe Can All Win!-PDF

2–Three Ways
3–The Relationship Continuum
4–Three Classes of Life
5–Human Neutrality

The Science—UnCommon Science(PDF)

Intro–Science 2001
1–Knowing 2001
2–A Limit to Knowing
3–Scientific Mistakes
4–What Do We Know

5–Order (PDF)-New

The Present—Crisis: Danger & Opportunity

The Future — A Synergic Future