Friday, July 05, 2013

Think globally, act locally, change the consensus culture

Merely convening the members of a logical decision-making group is a very tough thing to do sometimes, says Larry Dressler. His 2006 volume on consensus helps us think about giving up authority, ceding it to the group, and plunging into a process that might be fairly nerve-wracking for those of us who love to be our own boss, who love to achieve consensus with our private group of one, and who prefer to be able to override all decisions, reverse any course of action, or simply move on to another project unilaterally. Some darn times we just have to work as organized, collective humans.

What I say about visioning work, in general, is that if we don't engage in it we find ourselves stuck in someone else's. I mean, we spent 2001-2009 in Dick Cheney's vision.
Ish. The same is true for consensus on the large scale. We figure out how to bring together the parties that can make something happen and we process toward a new path, a new consensus. One example of a civil society initiative toward that new route for humankind is the Transition Town movement.
As a relatively new social movement the Transition Movement seeks to promote a genuinely engaged form of citizenship from below. This is a radical social movement that is at odds with the current neoliberal consensus.
--Nick Stevenson, International Journal of Cultural Studies (2012, p. 65)
Citizens may be ruled by their governments, and by the massive corporations who dominate our economies from Washington to Moscow to Santiago to Bejing, but those political and economic giants are still composed of small components. A new consensus of large numbers of the small components can change everything. This, says Stevenson, is as much about creating a new culture as it is about politics or economics.

Indeed. Culturally, we may hesitate to say, well, I want to work with the Tea Party. I'm not going to contact and invite them to our consensus process. That would be a pity. Some Tea Partiers would be outstanding members of the Transition Town movement--seeking far more local control over the carbon consumption and CO2 output of your town, and doing so via many interrelated projects, such as more gardening and gleaning, more and better mass transit and bikes, more investment in all-electric vehicle charging stations, more local support for safe energy generation and consumption, etc. Some corporate owners would happily meet and be involved, and, if that culture of partnership could replace the culture of hostility, they might well support decisions that would even bonk their short-term bottom line if they were convinced that it would give them a long-term stability and even an edge.

But we are in a culture that increasingly promotes niche discussions, not honest nonpartisan public civil discourse. Can we create something better? Yes, and it may require me to stop referring to Dick Cheney if I want to engage well in that. Hey, I'll try. I have a culture to accommodate.

Dressler, Larry (2006). Consensus through conversation: How to achieve high-commitment decisions. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.

Stevenson, N. (2012). Localization as subpolitics: The Transition Movement and cultural citizenship. International Journal Of Cultural Studies, 15(1), 65-79. doi:10.1177/1367877911411793

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