Youtube: From Cannon Fodder to Ego Fodder

Here, after a long time*, is the latest Dwight Towers youtube video. This one is about the static top-down “informational” meetings that I have already had a go at in “Meetings from Above“. Apologies for the loudness of the machine-gunning at the beginning – it settles down after that…

* not long enough, some will doubtless think!


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17 Responses to Youtube: From Cannon Fodder to Ego Fodder

  1. Antonio Dias says:

    This ties in with so many other questions ranging from, “Is there a legitimate form of authority?” to all the variety of questions related to de-commodifying our relationships, to, “Is there a place for passivity?” The list goes on.

    It’s tied in with the dynamics of ideology and movements. These insure that there will be an “in crowd” and they defend themselves against opposing groups and their banner ideas. If there is to be a post-ideological form of interaction among numbers of people these are central questions to be addressed.

    My instincts are that this is a realm in which we need to let go of “efficiency” – as we should in so many realms. I would like to see events that focus directly on these questions without burying them beneath some other agenda. This might be what a cutting-edge form of group facilitation might be about. Although even there, if not especially there, we face the conflicting agendas of them-that-pays from them-that-wants to bring about some change.

    In the “real world” I’ve thought this needs to be dealt with within one’s own perceptions and reactions to an event. That the only place to sort out all the influences and dynamics at work and come to an individualized “take-away” or response is to do it for ourselves after the fact. This may be a good practice, but it doesn’t help spread the awareness behind it.

    Even the “bad-guy” here, the narcissistic ego, is – as you’ve chronicled extensively – a fact of life and something we need to learn to deal with. It will not go away – either within society or within our own hearts. It needs to be dealt with. I hesitate to use the term managed. It’s no more manageable than it wants us to think anything else is!

    These are public situations. In public, in aggregate, we are reduced to the level of three year-olds sitting in a room enveloped in our egos and incapable of making any more mature connection. Is this another example of a hard limit? Can we join together in non-commodified, non-aggregate groupings? We are so conditioned to finding this “normal.” A pre-modern, pre-civilized person doesn’t. To them it’s always personal. Is it just our assumptions that shape how we interact in groups or is there something intrinsic in a certain threshold of group size that automatically commodifies us?

    We should hold a meeting!

    • dwighttowers says:

      We can hold a meeting so long as I am allowed 45 minutes (I may actually need 50) to tell people what they’ve been doing wrong. I am of course willing to take questions afterwar… no, wait…

      Lots to ponder here, and will mull and perhaps you should do a guest post on this blog the way you kindly invited me to do on yours.

      Few quick points – passivity, yes, insofar as nobody should be “forced” to do anything potentially embarrassing/triggering – that’s where the law of two feet comes in. I’ve found though, that people who are too scared to innovate in their organising, or benefitting too much from the status quo, will pull out that old chestnut “not everyone wants to be active.” To which I would say, “bollocks, they turned up, they must want SOMETHING.”
      – in crowds, yes, probably inevitable and not a bad thing. But (self) awareness and acknowledgment are crucial, and allowing/encouraging/engineering ‘legitimate peripheral participation’ is essential. A major flaw of Climate Camp, IMHO, and thus it has died.
      – definitely efficiency is v. slippery/dangerous here. Implies there is One Right Answer (and that those in charge know it!!!)

      But let’s get the post going maybe??? Rhizome (comment below) have been making v. sensible points about sustaining movements/people’s involvement WITHOUT making them come to loads of meetings (though those are dif kinds of meetings – organising rather than public/informational)


  2. rhizome says:

    Thanks Dwight. I’m in full agreement with the concept of designing events specifically to empower people to have the conversation they want and take action that makes the changes they want to make. Many of us find it difficult to fully cede power to others. What if they don’t take the decision we want? What if we can’t fund the options they go for? What if they stray from my area of expertise? Lots of reasons why it’s safer to design meetings to maintain the status quo, or change it within acceptable limits.

    I once heard a parent describe dressing their child in the morning – give them options of what to wear so they feel in charge, but make sure all the options are acceptable to you first! As a parent I have some sympathy with that, but as a facilitator and activist…well, we’re not babies anymore are we?

    Quick caveat about Open Space though. But before that I should say that I facilitate Open Space and support others in its use. So I do see it as a useful tool. Indeed it can be just the right tool for the job, but it can also be a hammer to crack a nut.

    There’s a few things about Open Space that don’t always work for me and for some of the groups I’ve worked with:

    Once the space is open, up and running it’s not a facilitated process. Individual small group conversations are in danger of becoming ego fodder themselves. There’s nothing to stop the convener of a discussion (or others) dominating. Ah, but there is, I hear you say – The Law of 2 Feet. If you don’t like it, get up and leave. Hmmm, to an extent. But there are some cultures in which that’s seen as plain rude, and that’s quite a hurdle to jump, at least at first. Yes, I’ve seen groups that have soon got over that hang up, but it’s there and not everyone finds it easy to overcome and whilst they’re struggling to do so the process isn’t fully accessible to them.

    Plus, why should I leave and go elsewhere (using my 2 feet) if this is the conversation I actually want to be having – just not with these domineering so-and-sos.

    And don’t get me started on the 4 principles of Open Space: “(1)Whoever comes is the right people, (2)whatever happens is the only thing that could have, (3)when it starts is the right time, (4)when it’s over it’s over”. They’re well meant but poorly articulated, in the sense that without lengthy clarification they don’t mean what they seem to say and can be off-putting and divisive.

    But this is a reply not a post so I’ll stop there!

    • dwighttowers says:

      Thanks so much for the very useful caveats. I may have gotten a bit starry-eyed about Open Space. Partly in frustration with the status quo and partly because I am simply not experienced enough with it. It is very very useful to have those caveats listed.
      The 4 principles aren’t, I will agree, exactly like the 4 Noble Truths, are they?

      I really hope that you can find the time/bandwidth to expand on this comment of yours (not that what is here isn’t amazing!!).

      Best wishes

  3. leavergirl says:

    Nooooooo! Not long enough by half. Can we have a sequel?

    Tony, I have a whole list of “to manage” synonyms that I keep handy. It’s changing my life, one word at a time… 🙂

    Rhizome, you have a point. There is no fool proof method against bloviators. But in open space, the people who are there, it’s *their* process. They can dare to use the law of 2 feet which at first feels awkward. They can learn to take responsibility to find ways to get around bloviators as well, maybe through a vibe watcher, or by contriving an interuption, a break, a call to the window (look, a golden eagle! Oh, it just flew off.) etc etc. What open space has to offer is a challenge for each one of us to fix on the spot what ails the process, nah?

    • dwighttowers says:

      Hey Leavergirl,
      your wish is my command. I think a youtube video about “what to do about being ego-foddered” is in order. Stealin… I mean, *using* the ideas you and tony and rhizome have brought to the table. To that end, might I peak a glance at your list of manage synonyms? 🙂

      PS The golden eagle tactic!!! Love it. To be adapted to local conditions – “look – a Tasmanian tiger” or “was that a griffin?”

  4. leavergirl says:

    We’z all open source. No stealin’ nowherez around here. What is mine is yourn, etc etc. Cept my toothbrush.

    The griffin strategy! Jackalope would work around here too… 🙂
    (Btw, I have finally learned that one sure fire way to disable a bloviator is to get up in the middle of their sentence with an ‘excuse me’ and disappear into the bathroom for a stretch. They get the message.)

    To manage? Let’s not.
    Leavergirl’s guide to alternatives:
    1. as in “manage a hive”
    — tend
    — handle
    — care for
    — look after
    — take care of
    — nurture, foster, cherish
    — support
    — attend to, minister to
    — mind

    2. as in “manage a relationship”
    — handle
    — make go
    — deal with
    — see to
    — maneuver
    — carry on, out, through
    — conduct
    — run
    — under one’s care

    3. as in “have influence”
    — affect
    — move
    — lead
    — persuade
    — guide

  5. leavergirl says:

    “Course, the bloviator strategy only works one on one. Meetings… more challenging. But doable… for too long, we have all put up with boring nonsense because we have thought… well, this is how stuff is done. Who am I to make a fuss? No more.

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