Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Legend That Lost Its Way: How Pacifica Split

In January 1960, Harold Winkler, Pacifica Radio’s president and KPFA station manager, received an unusual phone call from New York. A former political science professor at the University of California, Winkler had resigned in protest over a required loyalty oath for faculty members. He was also independently wealthy. On the other end of the line was Louis Schweitzer, a Russian-born millionaire, radio station owner, and also a president – in his case president of the Peter Schweitzer Division of Kimberly-Clark. He knew about Pacifica and had a radical proposition.
     A few years before, the eccentric radio enthusiast had bought a station for $34,000, subsequently offering New York City the latest music and some intelligent programs. But he found the choice between losing money on quality and making a profit by going more commercial personally frustrating and philosophically untenable. To his dismay, the station’s greatest success had come during a New York newspaper strike. “That was not what I wanted at all,” he told Winkler. “I saw that if the station ever succeeded, it would be a failure."
     So, he asked, did Pacifica want it?
     For a decade, KPFA in Berkeley had been the only listener-sponsored radio station in the country. But after planning for four years and raising $200,000, the Pacifica Foundation had recently launched a second station – KPFK in Los Angeles – an independent operation with its own board, station manager, and local base of supporters. Now, without paying anything, it could own a completely equipped FM station in the Big Apple, smack dab in the middle of the FM dial. It was a no-brainer.
     The station that ultimately became WBAI began lower on the dial in 1941 as WABF, a commercial station, but moved to the 99.5 frequency in 1948. In the early 1950s it was off the air for two years, but came back in 1955 with call letters that reflected the name of its current owner, Broadcast Associates, Inc. By the time Schweitzer made his donation, it was worth about $200,000.
      With KPFK and WBAI, Pacifica expanded from a single station into a network reaching three major metropolitan areas with a potential audience of sixty million people. But along with growth came challenges for which the organization was largely unprepared.
     Driving into New York City in February 2006, on the first leg of my orientation tour as Pacifica Executive Director, I thought about WBAI’s past. It was once one of the most innovative stations in broadcast history, winning awards for its civil rights coverage and helping to define the counterculture. In 1965, it sent the first American reporter, Chris Koch, to cover the war from North Vietnam. Combining resources with the other Pacifica stations, it broadcast live anti-war teach-ins. At a time when even the underground press wasn’t receptive to feminism, it put Nanette Rainone’s groundbreaking show “CR” on the air. When Columbia students seized the campus in 1968, it covered the occupation uninterrupted.
     There was also Bob Fass’s “Radio Unnameable,” a weekend collage of music, poetry and talk, radio’s version of the underground press. Identifying with the counterculture and anti-war movement, Fass took his mike out to demonstrations and invited movement leaders into the studio to discuss their plans. He ran the show like a telephone switchboard, connecting people and getting them involved. He broke the mold and invented something new – freeform radio.
With a transmitter at the Empire State Building, a signal that reached far beyond the city limits and a roster of on-air voices second to none, the station’s influence was profound in its day. But now it was at war with itself. It was like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said programmer Ibrahim Gonzales, “complete with endless debates over the right of return, over who held the rights to a time slot.” As managers and hosts came at one another with lawsuits, purges, and fights over race and ideology, its audience was drifting away.
    In 2005, amidst charges of mismanagement, favoritism, and partisan games, Station Manager Don Rojas had resigned. Business manager Indra Hardat was placed temporarily in charge as the local board searched for a permanent replacement. Nine months later, when I started my cross-country trip, she was still on the job. But the real power was in the hands of Program Director Bernard White.
    Like many key players, Bernard had been with Pacifica for decades, Raised in Harlem, he studied at Queens College and held a variety of jobs, including New York school teacher, before turning to radio journalism in 1978. For several years he shared the mike weekday mornings with Amy Goodman on “Wake Up Call,” then became WBAI’s Interim Program Director in 1999 after the untimely death of Samori Marksman, a beloved and cosmopolitan Pan-Africanist. The following year, in a controversial move, General Manager Valerie Van Isler chose him for permanent PD over Utrice Lead, a flamboyant Trinidad native. By year’s end, however, Bernard was fired, a casualty of Pacifica’s “Christmas Coup.” Central management and the National Board had taken over the station, changed the locks, fired Van Isler, installed Leid as interim GM, and given a list of “banned” employees to the security guards.
     Bernard and two dozen others who were fired during the “hijack” period, as it was labeled by those organizing against the people in charge, returned to WBAI in 2002. But his tenure as program director since then had been stormy. Bernard had solid backing from the Justice and Unity Coalition, the strongest faction on the local board, which considered him a determined anti-racist who put “activist” voices on the air. Amy Goodman thought of him as a comrade and friend. To his opponents, however, he was a Tammany Hall-style demagogue who abused his position, dismissed popular hosts like investigative journalist Robert Knight and health guru Gary Null, commandeered the airwaves to criticize his opponents, and frequently played the “race card” himself. Basically, they blamed him for the station’s listener and financial decline.
     Whatever the reasons, station membership had dropped by 20 percent since the previous year, according to industry and management figures. On-air fund drives ran longer and longer, and brought in less money per day.

Part One of Pacifica Radio: A Listening Tour

  • Next: Facing the Factions

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pacifica Radio’s Progressive Meltdown Continues

The Pacifica Foundation, a community radio network that includes WBAI-FM in New York, has dismissed its executive director, the latest tumultuous step for an organization that has been plagued by financial problems and acrimonious turnover among its management.

Summer Reese, who was named executive director in November after doing the job on an interim basis for more than a year, was fired by Pacifica’s national board on Thursday. In a brief statement on Friday, the board confirmed the move and thanked Ms. Reese “for her service to date,” but gave no explanation.

Ms. Reese’s dismissal is the latest in a series of changes in recent years that have destabilized Pacifica and its five stations. In August, WBAI, which operates a powerful signal at 99.5 FM but is millions of dollars in debt, laid off 19 of its 29 employees, including the entire news staff. The station, which is supported almost entirely by listener donations, has since been through two program directors and struggled publicly with its fund-raising.
- New York Times, March 18, 2014

"According to a media release Monday morning, Reese and a small group of supporters removed a padlock installed at Pacifica’s offices the previous day and “informed staffers that business would continue as usual.” (Tracy) Rosenberg claims the firing was illegal because of the three-year contract held by Reese, adding that she has “no doubt” that the board was planning to fire Reese for political reasons.
- Paul DeRienzo
The forces currently aligned with Summer Reese, including Gary Null, and with Bernard White, Lydia Brazon and Dan Siegel were already engaged in a long-term struggle by the time I arrived in January 2006. Many of the players still remain the same, and "takeover" rumors are currently being circulated by both factions. 

Contract issues were also involved in my departure, although I ultimately chose to leave rather than extend what was becoming a stalemate. Essentially the same leadership that retook control of the PNB and dismissed Reese urged my early departure and the selection of Nicole Sawaya (without interviewing any other candidates). Not a great transition, as it turned out, and entirely avoidable.

That said, no one faction is exclusively responsible for the network's decline. But snap dismissals are no better than bolt cutters in solving Pacifica's real problem - a crippling deficit of trust. In light of recent developments, I thought these 2010 reflections might be relevant...

A lot has happened since I left my job as Pacifica Radio’s Executive Director at the end of 2007. Almost a decade after she was abruptly fired former KPFA General Manager Nicole Sawaya returned as my replacement with enthusiastic support from the Board and community – but resigned twice over the next year. As the network approached its 60th anniversary it faced the most serious organizational and financial crisis in years. On-air fund drives, which bring in over 80 percent of the network’s income, weren’t meeting their goals, most stations had meager cash reserves, and WBAI was a half a million behind its target and mired in an internal power struggle that had been building for several years.

According to Casey Peters, Pacifica’s National Election Supervisor in 2007, a “vacuum of power” developed after my departure. “With obvious instability at the top,” he wrote in his final report, “the election campaigns descended into chaos.” When he tried to meet with Sawaya to discuss the process, she declined and told him “she opposed Pacifica Bylaws provisions for elected boards.”

The problems intensified further when Sawaya resigned and corporate counsel Dan Siegel stepped in. “He applied intimidation regarding the still-pending certification of KPFA results,” Peters claimed, “telling me that I would be fired if I did not do so promptly. The problem was that criteria for certification had not been met due to irregularities in the campaign.” Peters came to believe that Siegel was attempting to control the outcome of the vote. On March 13, 2008, as Peters was about to fly to New York for the WBAI vote count he received a message from Chief Financial Officer Lonnie Hicks. The word was that Siegel didn’t want him counting votes in New York. Furthermore, he was being fired.

A few days later, according to Peters’ account, Siegel entered his home without notice and startled his wife. “His intent was to confiscate election equipment and materials,” Peters wrote. “Siegel had apparently been drinking, and sat in a rented SUV flashing his headlights into our bedroom. Marilyn called the police to stop the harassment. We seriously considered pressing trespass and assault charges, but felt any publicity about the incident would not look good for the Pacifica Foundation.” Nevertheless, after the elections a lawsuit was filed by one faction at WBAI against the network and its representatives.

In Spring 2008, a fight over financial control between Hicks and Sawaya, who had been wooed back after her first resignation, resulted in a Board decision to give her the right to directly supervise the national financial staff, something I’d sought without success. Unfortunately, after a three month absence she faced a rapidly worsening picture. Frustrated by a costly organizational structure that often blocked change, she openly called it “unsustainable.”

One of her first big decisions, made with Hicks’ agreement, was to cut the budget for Free Speech Radio News by 25 percent. What seemed to shock some people wasn’t so much the cutback (about $11,000 per month) but the fact that it was done without prior discussion. Sawaya explained that the financial crunch required strong and immediate action. The Board decided to let it stand.

The next surprises came in July, just as budgets for the next fiscal year were being developed. The National Board had voted to convene in person that month, but the national office didn’t follow up and the meeting had to be cancelled. Afterward, without explanation, Hicks disappeared from work. No announcement was issued, but news leaked out that he was on “paid leave to deal with family matters.” Later, rumors circulated that an investigation of his activities was being pursued – and also that he might sue. Sawaya meanwhile assumed responsibility for budget development, pushing for staff reductions and other budget cuts.

In the end, she left first, while Hicks returned to work in late 2008. He was ultimately terminated in early 2009, and replaced by an old nemesis, former National Finance Committee Chair LaVarn Williams. As predicted, he filed a lawsuit, alleging that he was dismissed because he was African American and a whistleblower. Clearly, Hicks had a sense of irony, considering his frequent warnings about escalating legal costs, the fact that a majority of Pacifica's National Board and staff – including his replacement – were people of color, and that he fought as hard as anyone to hold back information from the board and membership when he was in control.

Sawaya announced her second resignation in early August 2008, but asked those who knew not to say anything for a month. At meetings, she meanwhile tried to convince the Board and National Finance Committee that Pacifica should act like a network and “centralize” various functions, especially accounting and reporting. Directors listened but nothing changed.

As the national political conventions approached she turned her attention to Pacifica’s coverage. A radio journalist, Sawaya considered it a high priority. Still, people were surprised by her decision to leave the national office and personally cover the presidential race at a time when the main management issue was resolving its financial crisis. What they didn’t know was that she had already resigned.

Before she left for Denver, another confrontation intensified the situation. A volunteer programmer, allegedly “banned” from KPFA in Berkeley, showed up unexpectedly. The General Manager wasn’t around, but the Business Manager felt that something needed to be done. Calling the National Office next door, she asked for advice from the new Human Resources Director, Dominga Estrada, who advised her to call the police. According to witnesses, when the cops arrived excessive force was used. Sawaya was there and attempted to block videotaping of the event.

This deepened the existing divide at the station. Management defended its decision but said it wasn’t responsible for the overreaction of the police. Dozens of volunteers, and some on the staff, saw it as another example of a management out of step with Pacifica’s values and mission. A letter of no confidence in GM Lemlem Rijio was signed by dozens of people.

Soon afterward HR director Estrada left for a new job elsewhere and the National Board began to openly discuss what was called a “national office collapse.” The term actually referred to one of several options for how to address the overall problems. One alternative was to struggle on as is, a decision that would create a large budget deficit. Another was to cut some national positions and the salaries of others. The third and most radical option was to lay off almost everyone, retaining only enough staff to pay the bills and keep governance and the national office functioning.

The Board also had to decide what to do about the leadership vacuum. Some hoped to quickly recruit a new Executive Director. But the process would take months, and proposals to re-expand the CFO’s authority and apply strict performance standards to managers were likely to get in the way.

Even if a new chief executive could be found – and the Board overcame its divisions – there were elephants in the room. Pacifica’s leaders were far from agreement on how to resolve its financial crisis, and, even more difficult, restructure its programming and management to reverse the long-term decline in listenership and income.

By early 2009, as blogs and discussion forums speculated about receivership, bankruptcy, and breaking up the network, the balance of power shifted again. In New York and on the national board, the controversial Justice and Unity Coalition lost control. A new national chair, Grace Aaron of Los Angeles, stepped in as Interim ED. As the crisis deepened, she took dramatic action.

WBAI was facing eviction. It was $128,000 behind on the rent for its Wall Street office and studio space by April, and owed another $75,000 in back payments for its coveted transmitter atop the Empire State Building. It was losing at least $500,000 a year, required repeated short-term bailouts, and owed the national office almost $1 million in back payments for central services. WBAI had weathered storms and struggles before. But this time the troubles not only could bring down the station but also threaten the future of Pacifica itself.

To reduce the rent, Tony Riddle, the station’s fifth General Manager in seven years, renegotiated a long-term lease with Silverstein Properties – without getting Aaron’s approval. Under the new terms, WBAI had to pay $60,000 in May, another $75,000 in June, and $45,000 by July 25. If the station or Pacifica missed a payment, the consequence would be immediate eviction. It turned out to be one of Riddle’s last acts as GM.

In early May, Aaron removed him, but created a new “at home” job for Riddle as National Development Director. It was apparently a consolation prize for not making a stink. The new CFO, LaVarn Williams, was appointed Acting GM of the station. Almost immediately, Program Director Bernard White was removed. Aaron had already ordered the locks changed on the transmitter site. While some WBAI boosters cheered the changes as long overdue, others took to the streets, decrying a racist world view among opportunistic liberals.

In June, Aaron removed another GM, Ron Pinchback of WPFW in Washington, DC. The station had also lost listeners and fallen short on fundraising in recent years. Yet critics saw racial motives: like White and Hicks, Pinchback was African-American, suggesting to some that the changes were really a purge of top Black managers. The fact that most replacements were also Black was overlooked.

“WBAI was predominantly white in the 1960s and 1970s,” noted JUC leader Lederer. “And there has always been a rear guard of white listeners and programmers who want to go back.” JUC members and other Bernard White backers threatened to boycott and possibly sue unless this latest “national coup” was reversed. The station’s “race” war wasn’t over yet.

When Amy Goodman expressed “dismay” about White’s removal in a letter to Pacifica management, Williams replied that he and previous GMs were responsible for a “failure model” that jeopardized both “your program and the whole foundation.” Despite the popularity of Democracy Now!, Amy’s influence had become limited over the years, mainly governed by a mutually lucrative contract to air the show and assist with fundraising. Thus, barring a successful lawsuit, which could take years to resolve, or an LSB election that returned the JUC to power, Bernard White had seen his final days at Pacifica.

By 2010, Pacifica finally settled on a new Executive Director, Florida feminist radio host Arlene Engelhardt. The intensity of conflict was down a bit, but revenues from on-air fundraising continued to decline. KPFA’s GM Rijio was forced out and only KPFT in Houston had permanent management.

Upset about staff cutbacks, Kellia Ramares, long-time journalist and board operator at KPFA, delivered her own swan song at a Pacifica National Board meeting in July. After more than a decade with the network, including an arrest in the newsroom during the bad old “hijack” days, she announced that she was leaving. “Pacifica hires an election supervisor while they cannot keep a news tech at quarter-time hours?” she asked rhetorically. “Is this the business of elections or radio? To those who say that I should not criticize this expenditure, because ‘we must democratize Pacifica,’ I quote Confucius: “You cannot teach philosophy to a hungry man.”

The critique went deeper still. In an article for the Atlantic Free Press, Ramares added, “I now question the entire alleged movement that calls itself progressive.” She urged others similarly disillusioned to ask whether “progressivism is a philosophy that helps its adherents live healthy, secure, decent lives in the material world of today, or is it just pie-in-the-sky propaganda that institutions such as Pacifica use to get well-meaning people to give it money.”

Acknowledging that all media were taking an economic hit, she nevertheless had concluded that “citizen journalism, available across the political spectrum, but a special darling of the left because of its free speech nature and alleged purity of purpose, is destroying the ability of journalists to make a living. Paid journalists can’t compete with free. Is it progressive to expect, or even to demand, to receive free work in a society that demands that we pay for our food, clothing, housing and health care? Is it progressive to give donations to an institution for its infrastructure, but not to care about whether the workers in that institution can pay their bills?”

“Can we do well while we do good,” she concluded, “or is progressivism just a fancy name we give our struggle and poverty in order to make our marginalization seem noble?”

When rumors fly through Planet Pacifica or attacks get especially nasty, people often blame provocateurs and charge that the government is out to get radio’s voice of the people. There is some basis for this suspicion. The FBI had Pacifica in its sights as early as 1958, and took a special interest in 1962 when former Special Agent Jack Levine gave KPFA an interview. Levine exposed the Bureau as a threat to democracy and a tool of J. Edgar Hoover, its vain and obsessed director. According to Mathew Lasar, who reviewed Freedom of Information Act files, the Bureau poked, prodded, and harassed the organization for years, even planting agents disguised as private citizens.

In recent times, however, charges of counter-intelligence operations directed against the organization have been speculative at best, and occasionally excursions into free-range paranoia. As Executive Director, I was frequently asked to investigate such suspicions but found no solid evidence of a government operation. And even if a disinformation campaign was being pursued, it would be overkill. The Pacifica community is capable of destabilizing itself without a federal assist. Outside forces aren’t responsible for the bylaws or listener activist distrust of staff, the slow response to the digital age, disputes about the mission, programming gridlock, financial decline, or misbehavior by board members and volunteers.

Part of the problem is the version of democracy put in place in 2002. At this point, the five stations had about a million regular listeners (declining since then). Of this total, about 10 percent make financial or volunteer contributions, qualifying them to participate in local elections. Of that total, little more than 10 percent actually return ballots in the elections. In recent years it has sometimes been difficult to reach that bylaw-mandated threshold.

Due to instant runoff voting, it takes at most about 300 votes for someone to be elected to a station board. In other words, Local Station Board members draw their right to govern from less than one percent of the listeners. And in order to win, candidates often resort to negative appeals, especially charges that the process is corrupt and Pacifica isn’t democratic enough. In general, the elections have tended to perpetuate an atmosphere of confrontation and suspicion.

Board meetings also pose problems. They frequently feature rude outbursts and other disrespectful behavior. Roberts Rules are often abused, becoming weapons of obstruction rather than tools to promote rational discussion. Members use e-mails to spread rumors and promote debates of marginal relevance. In many cases, factional alliances manipulate the rules. Productivity suffers and questionable behavior opens the organization to legal liability. All this has had the effect of alienating potential supporters or future board members.

Touring the stations back in 2006, I repeatedly asked whether Pacifica was trying to operate a radio network or create a government. The reason was that it looked like the latter. Some even wanted quasi-judicial bodies – like the Committee to Investigate Allegations of Racism and Sexism formed in 2006 – and the equivalent of a Freedom of Information Act, as if Pacific was a National Security State. Anyone who questioned the “bold experiment” was considered out of step, possibly even a reactionary.

More than three years after I left, despite financial crisis, major staff turnover and a forceful exercise of executive power, progress remains elusive. Change is in the air, but the outcome is uncertain. Another round of contentious Board elections is underway, and whatever the results, they will likely either slow down the pace or again alter the direction.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Prisoners of the Real

An intellectual odyssey – from Pythagoras to planetary consciousness – and a new vision of  freedom and cooperation

One: The Creative Also Destroys 

Ye instruments, forsooth, but jeer at me,
your wheels and cogs mere things of wonder;
when at the door, you were my keys to be,
yet, deftly wrought, your bits can move no wards asunder.

-- Goethe's Faust

In the alternative universe where fact and fantasy fuse — that intergalactic space of “science” and “speculative” fiction — super-heroes, alchemists and misguided or “mad” inventors search for occult formulae through which the secrets of matter and spirit can be unveiled. Faith and reason meet within a cosmic flash and, for a moment, they see a source of limitless power.

Long before paperback novels and films turned this universe into an industry, magicians of an earlier age attempted to unravel the mysteries of space and time through number systems, using experience and experiment to juxtapose "sacred" numbers with chemical and material correlates. Number theory also fascinated many founders of modern science; for Descartes there was "universal mathematics," for Liebnitz the key was "universal calculus."

More than two thousand years before that, however, Pythagorean philosophy launched this quest by synthesizing the use of numbers in several religious traditions. The Babylonians had based their system on the number 60, with a god for each number. In the Old Testament 40 was a holy cipher. In Jericho the number seven was powerful, referring both to the seven deadly sins and the seven spirits of God. In Chinese mythology odd numbers represented white, day, sun and fire, while even numbers signified black, night, earth and water.

With such precedents, in about 550 BCE Pythagoras used his knowledge of numbers, along with related beliefs about music, magic and astrology, to construct a knowledge system that eventually served as the basis for "solar" systems of thought. With his discourses, numbers began to expand humanity's grasp of the actual, imposing order on matter.

According to legend, the "first philosopher" had noticed a relationship between the sizes of four anvils and the notes they produced when struck. From this revelation he developed a philosophy based on the numbers one through four. Creation begins with the One – pure unity, he concluded, and then expands to the holy four. In turn, they beget the sacred number ten. For Pythagoras, all life sprang from this formula. Using the four basic numbers he proceeded to build his great triangle: 
* *
* * *
* * * * 
During the renaissance rational scientists finally made the Pythagorean system accessible to reason. The number one, they argued, represented the source of all numbers -- pure reason; two was man and three was woman. Four, the product of equals (2 + 2) was justice and cosmic creation, leading to the "mother of all" -- ten (1 + 2 + 3 + 4). Elements of Pythagoras' theory can be traced to Plato, and from there to Descartes. Subsequent practitioners further concretized the mystical basis of the system; Copernicus' correction of Ptolemy's mistake, about 2000 years after the formation of Pythagoras' "secret brotherhood," committed Western civilization to a one-sided expansion of "solar" knowledge in which the cosmos was given over to rational explanation.

Despite the trend a few mathematicians did manage to maintain their belief in the mystical basis of number theory. Liebnitz, for example, accepted the universe as an expression of perfect reason and proposed the "universal calculus" that eventually developed into symbolic logic. His intention was to replace the decimal system's repeating sequences of one through ten with a binary system in which only one and two were used. Yet this notion, which ultimately led to the 20th century's computer revolution, was linked to his recognition that the binary system reflected another form of knowledge, a "lunar" system known as the I Ching. Although Liebnitz' attempt to express all knowledge through mathematical symbolism might well be classified as a simplistic error of rationalism, his insight into the revelatory power of the I Ching was nothing less than inspired.

A series of 64 oracles, the I Ching is said to have been written by King Wen about a millennium before Christ. Its subconscious, or lunar insights – sometimes used as a spur for meditation or a form of fortune telling – are derived from a dialectic of light and darkness, the primal thesis and antithesis known as Yin and Yang. Yin is the dark, night side of mind, the opposite of the bright, white and orderly Yang. The 64 oracles have a simple mathematical basis, the total number of possible combinations of Yang (represented by unbroken lines) and Yin (broken lines). The symbols of the hexagrams are paired opposites: heaven and earth, thunder and wind, water and fire, mountain and lake.

When I began this project many years ago I consulted the oracle in a moment of intuitive expectation. The idea was that the answer to any question is – and has always been – known to the asker. The coincidence of thrown coins, or even a page randomly opened, records this subconscious knowledge, and can eventually be understood through meditation. Jung called this principle synchronicity, the meaningful coincidence of two or more events:

"Synchronicity designates the parallelism of time and meaning between psychic and psychophysical events, which scientific knowledge has so far been unable to reduce to a common principle."

In this case, the Wilhelm-Baynes translation of the I Ching fell open at the commentary on the first hexagram, six unbroken lines called Ch'ien, or The Creative. This hexagram represents primal power, light-giving and strong, the power of time and duration, motion with time as its basis.

In the human world, The Creative represents the action of the leader, the ruler or manager, who awakens and develops the higher nature of his or her fellows. The Creative "sees with great clarity causes and effects" and attempts "conservation," which the translators define as the continuous actualization and differentiation of form. The qualities of such leaders are potentiality of success, power to further, perseverance, and sublimity; in this context "sublime" means "head" and success implies that the Creative lends "form" to archetypes of ideas.

According to the oracle, The Creative brings peace and security to the world by creating order: "The course of The Creative alters and shapes beings until each attains its true, specific nature, then keeps them in conformity with the Great Harmony." The leader is personified by the dragon, Chinese symbol of the electrically charged, dynamic, arousing force, a thunderstorm which is active in summer and withdraws into earth in winter. The oracle explains that the leader chooses a specialty and exerts influence on his environment without conscious effort.

Ch'ien seemed an ideal definition of the manager, bringing order to the environment, shaping the actions of others through creative activity that can lead to harmony. The Creative strives upward – toward heaven, giving support to the idea that managers and other leaders are natural ascensionists. Psychically oriented toward brightness, flying, climbing, pointing and moving upward, ascensionists are also often particularly concerned with hierarchic order. In sum, the I Ching defines the creative nature of humanity, organizing the universe of ideas.

My reading, however, wasn’t complete; there were also the "lines" which reflect the changes in individual situations. Lines that "move" reveal the direction of subsequent events, and sometimes offer warnings. Reading the lines related to The Creative, "nine at the top" caught my attention. In any hexagram, this line concerns the effect produced by the beginning line; in this case, it provides the warning that the "arrogant dragon will have cause to repent."

Several interpretations are possible. When a person attempts to move too high he or she loses touch with humanity and becomes isolated. Extremes also lead to confusion. Arrogance leads one to press forward, moving outward and upward without understanding how to draw back – inward and downward.

Put another way, an "arrogant dragon" knows existence but not annihilation; such a leader "meets with misfortune." Although the hexagram deals with creative powers, suggesting that an excess of strength isn’t necessarily harmful, this line illustrates the final effect of the leader's situation. If one's character is strong and inner preparations have been made, the end may simply be a transition. Yet the line also implies remorse, "since there is no possible way out."

"Nine at the top" is a succinct description of leaders in a world of manipulative tools that they create to order reality, a world of efficient production that culminates in techniques of death, a world of predictability, assimilation, and alienation. Over the last century, The Creative has certainly become a destroyer. More than once, order had led humanity to the brink of annihilation in a cycle suggested by the lunar system.
Next:Deconstructing Leadership