Twenty Arbiters for Policy Decisions and Actions: A Template for Our Times


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

5 May 2018 – As 2017 (Western-Julian Calendar) becomes a shadow in our lives, nature and human events, forces, consequences assume historical status! Memories remain, never to be forgotten. Legacies are pondered for lessons to be gleaned and applied. 2018 is defining and inscribing its defining chronological nature and human events.

At one point, I found myself caught in a trance of racing images, thoughts, and emotions regarding the global-era challenges the world is facing. I had, in a 2016 moment of optimism, documented nature and human global-era challenges and resources, presenting them in clear graphic displays; somehow the display brought momentary comfort, a sense of mastery we could succeed in resolving challenges (Marsella, 2016). Ha! Well-intentioned naïvete!

The well-known phrases from Charles Dickens poignant opening description of France on the verge of chaos, written in his classic volume, A Tale of Two Cities, have literary relevance, but perhaps they are irrelevant to our times.  Dickens wrote: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”  Indeed, as all times seem to believe, except in the darkest hours in which death, suffering, and destruction, times offer challenges and opportunities.    

Each day policies and decisions are being made at all levels of local, national, and international levels, impacting nature and human survival. As I view these policies and decisions, from government, corporate, and even religious vantage points, I once again found myself concluding, “Well-intentioned naivete!” The arbiters of these policies and decisions are too often inadequate to the task and framed in biases legal and regulatory terms favoring the very sources of the problems we face.  Wealth, power, position, and person dynamics continue to dominate the common good.  It is not an absence of arbiters that is a problem, but rather a reliance on arbiters favoring a few.

Perhaps it would be helpful to keep before us the various aspirations for society’s models supportive of nature and human life. Idealistic? Of course! But, if we deny the possible, then reality fills the gaps with less than laudatory choices.

  • Caring Society
  • Compassionate Society
  • Civil Society
  • Decent Society
  • Democratic Society
  • Diverse Society
  • Just Society
  • Meaningful Society
  • Peaceful Society
  • Purposive Society
  • Socially-Responsible Society

Pondering is the proper word here, because it connotes the deep and weighty nature of our actions and consequences. I pondered our global situation, with all it challenges and possibilities, recognizing the burdens converging from a long and eventful history of accumulating problems rooted in human and natural of events and forces.  The problems had, in my opinion. Assume multiplicative rather than additive proportion.

Justice, of course, is always the most meaningful arbiter; its historical stature and wisdom lessons transcending time and place. It is an anchor, against which policies and decisions may be measured. I wondered, however, if there might be other arbiters offering a template for addressing policies, decisions, and actions.  I developed the following list as reminders of the nature and human challenges we face in 2018.

  1. Complexity:

Challenges are multilevel, multi-causal, multi-sector, and interactive. Multi-disciplinary approaches are essential. No discipline is sufficient by itself.   Challenges may be formative in their initial stages, but await precipitating circumstances to emerge.  At this point, responses can escalate a challenge, or promote challenges becoming enduring and resistant to solution.

  1. Consciousness and Awareness:

Challenges require a state of constant consciousness, awareness, vigilance, and appraisal of mental and physical consequences of situations, policies, actions.

  1. Connection:

Challenges are rooted in failures to grasp connections between and among people, institutions, and nature. “Connection” refers to an essential linking of attachment and bonding in support of human impulses.  Sympathy, concern, empathy, compassion, and accompany constant progressions.

  1. Context:

Challenges must be considered within economic, political, and moral contexts of antecedents and consequences. Nothing exists apart from a context in which it is embedded and sustained. Context offers insights and opportunities. Too often, however, context is ignored and the focus is on the problem as an independent phenomenon.

  1. Ecology:

Challenges exist in an ecological — reciprocal — shared – mutual relationship of origins, causes, and consequences.

  1. Environment:

Challenges from nature and human-made disasters — are       precipitated and sustained by laws, policies, and regulations     favoring profit or power for a few at the expense of concern for environmental decline.  Anthropogenic causes are now multiplying in effect and consequence.

  1. Hope/Optimism

Among principles and guidelines for addressing global-era challenges, one of the most human of qualities is hope. Hope is the impulse of life within all living things to press forward to be all they can be within circumstances. Hope is present, in my opinion, in all forms of life.  It is an impulse for survival and development. As I wrote earlier, a weed has hope!

  1. Ideology:

Global-era challenges are rooted in powerful beliefs embedded in social, political, economic, and moral beliefs resistant to change. Beliefs assume ideological levels of importance and resistance as they become fixed and unassailable. Ideologies are not simply beliefs, but beliefs rooted and sustained across many aspects of life.

  1. Imagination:

Addressing global-era challenges demands “imagination,” or the ability and capacity to think and act beyond conventional   limits. “Out-of-the-box” is a common phrase used to describe the importance of new and innovative approaches for conceptualizing challenges and solutions. Youthful imagination needs to be tapped rather than ignored.

  1. Justice:

If there is to be an “essential” arbiter of actions, decisions, and policies in the personal and public spheres of life, it must be “justice,” for nothing is more a critical for inner peace and identity than reliance on fairness amidst asymmetries in power abuses.  “Justice” is an ancient arbiter, present in all early civilizations. Tragically, “justice” has become a fatality as situational concerns dominate virtue. The stain of abandoning justice will never be erased. It will longer and define conscience across centuries. Slavery is an example of the timelessness of justice abuses.

  1. Leadership:

There are many types of leadership and leaders. Perhaps       a person can be considered a leader in their own life, engaging in those efforts (i.e., thoughts, behavior) directed toward promoting survival, adaptation, adjustment, and change for self and others.  Global-era leadership requires vision, ethics, management and administrative skills, and courage.

  1. Live the Moment:

A sage one said: “If you live in the past, you will be sad, if you live in the future you will be anxious, if you live in the   moment you will be happy.”  It is not quite that simple,           although its formulaic style is appealing, and immediacy can be used as a motive for action because it is apparent.

  1. Mentoring:

Global-era challenges require mentoring of those privileged to         holding knowledge required for solutions. Mentoring is more than teaching; mentoring is preparing and educating youth in the complex of principles, skills, talents, virtues essential for      understanding, anticipating, and mastering present and emerging challenges.

  1. Moral Consequences:

Challenges have critical implications for nature and human welfare and wellbeing. This is a critical arbiter! Policies and decisions must prioritize moral consequence. Human rights abuses are a critical area of concern.  In the face of situational demands, enduring human rights are sacrificed and denied.

  1. Participation:

Challenges can best be met by promoting participation, cooperation, and collaboration. Partnership for collective actions offers increased resources and builds community.

  1. Proportion:

In our global era, interdependency of events, forces, and consequences challenges presents challenges in proportion and consequence. The enormity, scope, and consequences require attention to monolithic levels. As globalization continues, conflicting ideologies associated with diversity may emerge. These come to be sources of contention and separation.

  1. Reductionism/Holism:

Challenges cannot be endlessly reduced to smaller and smaller levels of understanding and explanation; reductionism ignores context, and ignores emergent properties associated with embeddedness. Holistically conceptualizations are essential. Ecology is a typical prototype for demonstrating endless connections.

  1. Resiliency/Recovery

Global, national, and local challenges have assumed overwhelming presence and proportion. The number, extent,       duration, and impact of nature challenges and human-made challenges in present times is taxing capacities for        resolution. At issue are economic, political, and moral demands exceeding anticipation, preparation, and implantation.  There is an essential need to grasp the nature          of resiliency for recovery. There is only minimal understanding of the nature of resilience in nature and among humanity.

  1. Story Telling/Narration:

Storytelling, as contextual narration of events and forces       associated with individual, groups, and nations, is a powerful principle for informing and solving challenges. Storytelling           empowers storytellers to frame their identity within life experience. It is a personal journey, bringing order to events, forces, and self.

  1. Systems:

Events and forces exist in relationships to each other.  These can be organized (i.e., subject to an understanding) or disorganized and chaotic. They are, however, always connected!  It is the connection, often impossible to discern, that is the key.  There is a need to grasp challenges exist in a hierarchy of levels and relationships ranging from the transcendent to the cellular.


Marsella, A.J (2016): Global Resources and Challenges for 2016, Transcend Media Service, 25 Jan 2016


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Emeritus Professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa Campus in Honolulu, Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu.  He is known internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 21 books and more than 300 articles, tech reports, and popular commentaries. His TMS articles may be accessed HERE and he can be reached at


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 7 May 2018.

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