OK, via rhizome.coop (Facilitating occupation Posted on October 30, 2011) I found this video,
which is a celebration of the “process” of “consensus” at Occupy Wall Street.
Erm, grumpy old man here, but the bit (1;20ish) where one guy says “there is no hierarchy” and that is then repeated and repeated by the rest of the crowd (no microphones allowed, y’see) . Shouldn’t that be spliced/mashed up with that bit in the Life of Brian when Brian beseeches the throng “you’re all individuals” and everyone shouts back “yes, we’re all individuals”?
That would be a youtube sensation, methinks.
What I am trying to say:
While it’s great to see this stuff going down, esp in the States (which has always had lots going on, just not in the MSM), I distinctly remember the same fervour to ‘be heard’ and ‘now they have to listen to us’ after Seattle 1999.
It’s NOT that everyone’s voice is heard, or can be heard in ‘consensus’. That’s a ridiculous statement, patently false (and self-serving?) Surely what’s crucial to keeping newbies (yes, yes, dreadful term) is that they get to find some outlet for their energy and skills, that they get mentored to increase their skills, within the broader context of a set of ‘winnable’ but radical/worthwhile demands – what Michael Albert calls “non-reformist reforms”. The idea that the key to getting and keeping new folks is that their voice is heard is dangerously delusional. In my ever-so-humble opinion.
“It’s NOT that everyone’s voice is heard, or can be heard in ‘consensus’. That’s a ridiculous statement, patently false (and self-serving?)”
OK, so some clarification needed. Can everyone’s individual voice be heard, especially in the context of a general assembly of hundreds? Of course not. It’s unlikely to be possible even in your average meeting of 6-12 people. So in that sense I agree with you, and also agree that creating that expectation is dangerous.
But does good consensus leave people feeling heard? Yep.
So, what’s the difference?
(1) In good consensus there needs to be an acceptance that I may not personally get to raise a point, but that that’s OK because I’m not that unique and others will say it if I don’t.
(2) There also needs to be some discipline (sorry – I know that word isn’t always popular) about the contributions we make. I can’t expect to be heard if my comments aren’t useful. There’s a saying – “say what needs to be heard not what you want to say”
(3) Effective consensus hears the concerns of the group – both those on the surface and the less obvious ones, and those of the margins of the group as well as those of the mainstream. And it’s not having concerns dealt with that leaves people feeling ‘unheard’
Whether the consensus you and I are likely to encounter lives up to this is another matter……
Yes, perfect clarifications. I had let the red mist descend, as I so often do…
“say what needs to be heard not what you want to say”
someone should make a t-shirt. I’d buy one… (or more accurately, dozens of people would buy them for me…)
I keep coming back to dissensus as being more important. In false consensus we manufacture consent. In real consensus we are all of a single mind. Neither seems that useful.
Dissensus asks us to let go of righteousness and to accept that others will disagree. That viewpoints we find even abhorrent may have a validity we cannot fathom. It’s not singing Kumbaya. It’s not even necessarily being “nice” to those we disagree with, but it does hold us back from seeing them as enemies to be destroyed.
Behind it all is the possibility that a lack of single-mindedness, while happily less efficient than consensus, is more likely to hedge our bets in an evolutionary sense. It’s not diversity in the social theoretical sense, it’s diversity in an evolutionary sense.
Creatures may compete evolutionarily, but they rarely resort to Jihad or a Final Solutions to achieve it. That restraint is dissensus. Some apes don’t seem to always have that restraint. Us apes have a capacity for a wider empathy and compassion that at times at least spreads beyond our clan. We can limit our world to the range of our negotiated settlements, consensus, or we can expand it to include everything by following the lead of our compassion and embracing dissensus.
This doesn’t automatically constrain our actions to exclude anything “not nice,” but it does remove the intoxicating justification we get from being right, “Everybody says so!”
you KNOW what I am going to say before I say it. In fact, I think I’ll see if there’s a wordpress widget that sets up an automated response to any comment you leave that’s over about 50 words – “Hmm, sounds like the basis of a blog post right there!”
This time I beat you to it! In a way… It’s a condensed mash-up of a few recent posts at Horizon’s of Significance.
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So glad this discussion is being had, and I did not have to open it up. Consensus does not allow true dissent. And that is a huge problem. And the *only* place everybody’s voice can be heard is in a small group, preferably less than ten.
But it won’t be heard even there if it’s squelched by the false choice of block or obey. Yish. This whole topic is a huge can of worms. If anyone can handle’em all, you can, DT. 😀