It has always struck me a odd that the decision making system most often employed by radicals and revolutionaries (in my experience) is a conservative one. While group culture can certainly effect it, consensus tends to gravitate towards the status quo, especially for complex or tricky decisions. Unable to convince everyone to try something different, the group will often keep doing what it has been doing.
I was talking to Tree on the phone about this phenomenon and she mentioned that one of the things she discovered in her research on Sociocracy was the opposite tendency. Most people who examine this Dutch developed decision technique walk away feeling like it is a more ornate and slightly different flavor of consensus. But I think Tree has identified the critical cultural difference.
Like consensus, Sociocracy uses a collection of decision making tools to help it guide the group towards resolution. There is however only a small amount of overlap between these tool sets. Sociocratic elections ask “who is best to do this job?” first, rather than “who is willing to do this job?” which often results in different people being selected than other selection methods. In my experience when the Twin Oaks visitor team was using Sociocracy, when we did it right, we could dramatically reduce the amount of time we spent talking about topics, especially by using the quick reaction round technique. This was where everyone in the group gave just a single sentence response to the proposal.
The full set of Sociocratic tools and structures dwarfs formal consensus in size. There is far more overhead in learning Sociocracy. And central to the difference in these two cultures is how blocks are different. In both anyone can block. In (what I think are the better forms of) consensus decoding the blocks is the groups responsibility. Even though it often comes from a single person, the collective needs to elaborate it and then see if the proposal can be modified to address the blocking concerns.
In Sociocracy, the pressure is flipped. Your block needs to be “reasoned and paramount” if you can not convince the group it has these attributes the block does not stand. This is one of the ways sociocracy is progressive, rather than conservative.
The other, which Tree pointed out in our chat, is that Sociocracy has numerous built in tools for designing temporary solutions which will be tried out and then evaluated. Sunset clauses are regularly used in consensus, but in Sociocracy, everything is up for periodic evaluation, with an eye towards correction and refinement.
The cultural assumption of Sociocracy is “Let’s try something new, and make sure we have safeguards in place to protect us if something does not work.” While consensus more often says “if we can’t get the whole group to agree on changing, then we are better off staying where we are.”
But culture is mushy. I’ve been in consensus based activist groups which did our process on the way to the action – we started with the assumption that we had to constantly be doing things. Our critique was that the status quo around us was not working and our job was to be change agents. The culture of that affinity group was constantly advancing new things and trying novel techniques.
Just as easily you could get a persuasive intellectual in a Sociocratic setting who was always framing their objections in reasoned and paramount ways. And it would turn the organization into a discussion group.
[On a personal note: I have been remiss posting on this blog recently. It has long been my personal adage that "Excuses are like cotton candy. They have a sickeningly sweet taste but there is not much there, really." But in case you are curious, it is influenced in by extended family visits from Willows half brother Fabian from the Netherlands and his half sister Rachel from Death City visiting Twin Oaks. These lovely encounters have thrown further out of whack my engaged (not busy) schedule. Thus resulting in fewer blog posts.]
In the original myth of Prometheus, the hero ascends mount Olympus, where he fools the gods and steals fire from them [The myth then morphed into him going to the underworld.] Returning to the surface world, this fire is given to humanity and used to build civilization. But Zeus becomes angry with Prometheus and condemns him to be tortured for eternity.
Recent information made available thru the Freedom of Information Act indicates some important details of the myth have been left out. It turns out the gods knew Prometheus was coming and was planning to rob them. So the gods hid all of the good fires and left only the worst one behind for Prometheus to steal [Prometheus wrongly assumed there was only one kind of fire]. Thus Prometheus returned to earth with the wrong fire and with the wrong intent and correspondingly built the wrong society.
There is now a place for a new kind of Prometheus. One who works with the gods instead of stealing from them and uses the best fires, which the gods hid from Prometheus in the places we have only now started to look for them – in the wind, in the sea and in the sun.
It is time we started working with nature – instead of stealing from it, harnessing the power of renewable resources in wind, solar and sea-based technology. And with these we can build a new civilization.
Shal and i are going to visit Sequoia and Yosemite in September on the Green Tortoise Bus.
I am looking forward to this as much for the natural beauty as for the time with Shal, who is one of my oldest and dearest friends. And as i was talking about this on the phone this evening, i was reminded of my early search for the Green Tortoise.
There was a time when the internet was young and a time when the Green Tortoise did not have permits for all the bus routes they were driving. I remember talking with a Green Tortoise bus driver about this perhaps 30 years ago and he explained that the legal permits for bus routes were so prohibitive, that Green Tortoise could not cover the permit cost, because they did not do enough cross country runs per year.
So years back, before Facebook existed and when Amazon mostly sold books, i was trying to reconnect with the Green Tortoise for a friend who wanted to go cross country. I banged the bus company name into google and only three entries came up, none of them was an official site. And i wondered to myself “Are they still underground because of this permit thing?” and decided to investigate further. I read one of the pages where the bus company was named, hoping to find contact information.
There was no contact info. But the more i read the blog post, the more i came to the realization “this writer has terrible spelling”. Now any regular reader of this blog knows that if i am spotting your bad spelling, they you have a serious spelling problem because it is something i almost never recognize, being borderline dyslexic myself.
But then i got to thinking, “if this person is such a terrible speller, and i am only getting three hits from all of the internet, then perhaps we are combining our poor spelling and i am searching for the wrong thing.” And when i checked, sure enough i had spelled “tortoise” wrong.
Putting in the correct spelling resulted in all manner of matches, including the ticket selling (and presumably legal) Green Tortoise official website.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
If you have a Dutch parent, you qualify for the rights of a Dutch citizen. Every 5 years Willow and Hawina and i go to the Dutch Embassy in Death City and get Willow’s passport renewed. Willow is a US citizen, with a US passport, but the Dutch are completely happy to issue an EU one, if the parents apply. This is a no brainer.
The Dutch passport is actually a Schengen Treaty enabled EU passport. You can travel between all the blue areas on the map below by just flashing an EU passport.
There are multiple reasons for having a couple of passports, beyond the above listed convenience. The one most people are familiar with is traveling between hostile or warring countries. Donning a Cuba passport stamp in a US passport can result in a visit from the FBI. Should you wish to travel regularly between the Arab world and Israel, a second passport (even from the same country, which you can get by claiming you lost one) is advised.
But the real reason i want Willow to have a second passport is that if his life is at all like mine, there will be a moment when it is extremely useful. This moment will be when he is traveling and some agent of the state thinks that they control him, because they have taken his passport. Annoyingly confidently they will be leading him off to some undesired destination. Having a second passport gives you the chance to look for an opportunity to depart from the foreign state agent and make a break for it.
Part of our home schooling is learning for when you can successfully make a break for it.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
What do you give to the person who wants nothing (for themself)? Perhaps you would give them an idea. Ideally it would be an idea so novel, funny, daring, newsworthy and crazy enough that it just might work. This is where i need your help.
This Friday is GPaul’s 30th birthday and we will be in NYC continuing with our community building Point A work. I am responsible for his under organized birthday event. Pleasantly, he personally wants little, demonstrated by (among many things) his willingness to stay in a tiny shoe box room in the barn at Acorn for years after he could have moved into a nicer one.
What we want collectively is at the other end of the accessibility spectrum: High visibility, inspiring, urban based, income sharing, intentional communities. And what I am asking from you, even if you can’t join us for this post Pride Friday night party in NYC is exotic memes.
What preposterous yet plausible proposals do you have for how to spark new urban communities? Some examples might help.
Party til Occupation. Both the mainstream media and progressive activists were surprised by Occupy. A call was made for a broad protest, as thousands have in the past, and people showed up in Zuccotti Park and ultimately across the country and started building political community. What had not been expected was that people from different classes and races could work intimately together using consensus to improve the treatment of the poor and the homeless and highlight corruption in banking and politics.
What if (after finding a suitable site) we decided to hold an open ended party. Different collective groups from the city take responsibility for making sure there are people and party goodies for some specific set of days for perhaps the first month or so. Then if it turns out that people are enjoying the party, renew the invitations and simply start pretending that permanent occupation of the site is a desirable and possible outcome.
CommunityCupid.org. Instead of a one on one dating site, this new social network helps people find others to live in community with. This does not need to be a single place based residence, it could be buying clubs and other aggregate discount services. And the structure of the site and the data is such that it is designed to bring people who are looking to spark community into the conversation. A relatively simple solution for starting up such a project might be as a Facebook plug in.
These are two examples of unlikely, but desirable projects. I am hoping you can add your own to be part of the birthday fun.
On Friday we will gather all the cards and all the participants we have and each person attending the party will draw 3 or more cards and choose the one which they think they can defend to the group the best. Then they will present the bold proposal of their selection and the rest of the group will evaluate the proposal to see if it is worthy of pursuing.
If you are in NYC this Friday, then email me and I will tell you where this event is in Brooklyn. If you can’t participate, but would like to submit a preposterous plausible idea you can either email me or leave it in the comment field.
Comrade Tikva has penned a great piece for Elephant Journal [Which posted my review of the Movie Wanderlust] If you want to see this article on EJ , with it’s links (and odd image) it’s here. She also does a brilliant comic on polyamory.
Many romances begin with wordless flirtation, stolen kisses and vague communication.
In a culture where disinterest is often interpreted as shyness or “playing hard to get,” men are encouraged to think women need to be skillfully interpreted and convinced, instead of taken at their word. Even the clearest “no” is still up for debate.
I’ve had men tell me I was “asking for it” by making eye contact with them on the street instead of averting my gaze. And when they discovered that my polite smile was not a request for sex, they reacted in outrage as if I was purposefully leading them on.
A stranger misinterpreting our smile as an open invitation to our body sounds ludicrous, but watching any romantic comedy will show us how our culture views consent.
How many times does the woman turn the main character down before he grabs and kisses her—and doesn’t she secretly want it all along, perhaps without even knowing it herself, until he figures out how to prove that they are meant to be?
It may be entertaining to watch awkward fumbling and forceful passion on the screen, but this kind of indirect communication seeps out into our actual romantic encounters far too often and can be very dangerous.
When men identify with that main character who wins the girl in the end, they feel cheated when their own efforts aren’t achieving the same results. They can sometimes decide to take it forcefully if the woman isn’t catching on quick enough, because “no” just means she hasn’t been convinced yet that this is what she really wants.
Most women have encountered men who feel entitled to have access to their bodies. Just look at the recent gruesome events involving Elliot Rodger and the resulting stories on Twitter with the hashtag “#YesAllWomen.”
Clearly there are a lot of men out there who think they deserve the girl, regardless of what she has to say about it.
In polyamorous relationships, unclear communication will have us drowning in a sea of interpersonal drama much more quickly than it would in a conventional, monogamous relationship.
One reason for this is that monogamy is the expected norm, so if we’re monogamous, it’s pretty easy to coast through the beginning of our relationship without putting any effort into communicating our intentions or expectations.
If we say nothing at all about what we want, it is assumed that our eventual goal is a monogamous until-death-do-us-part with someone. Polyamorous relationships are more complex and less understood, so therefore require explanation right from the beginning and skillful communication throughout.
Poly folks will often discuss their specific intentions with people they are attracted to and even sit down with everyone’s other partners and discuss it with them as well, way before the first date is even considered. It is very likely that a first kiss won’t come with a silent assumption of consent, but after it has been discussed with everyone involved instead.
Clear communication is a must for long-term poly relationships, so this is a skill that gets exercised often.
But what does this have to do with rape culture? Rape culture is fed on silence and assumptions. By insisting on communicating clearly every step of the way about any intention of sex or romance, we kill those old ideas of romance being about silent flirtation and stolen kisses.
We make consent sexy.
We might think that clear communication is overkill, boring and that it will stifle the romance—but the opposite is true. When people are open and vulnerable in relationship to each other, expressing the full extent of their desires and (most importantly) wanting to hear and understand the desires of their partners, there is absolutely nothing sexier than that.
I used to think that stolen kisses were sexy, but now I see them as a sign of emotional immaturity and dissociation. I would much rather my partners be obviously interested in what I want than trying to see what they can get out of me.
I would much rather be telling them what I want than waiting for them to guess.
Margaret Atwood’s quote, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” illustrates why it is more important that men take on the task of communicating clearly and receiving consent, but it is incredibly empowering to take on the task as a woman as well.
We don’t need to be in a polyamorous relationship to get our clear communication groove on, obviously. But if we’re in a polyamorous relationship we need to communicate impeccably, just to keep up with what’s going on.
Making clear communication and consent sexy is a huge part of what’s needed to feed the revolution of consent culture. So whether we are monogamous, polyamorous, monogam-ish, or poly-curious, we need to push ourselves to communicate more openly with everyone and see how it affects our romantic life.
My mother is amazing. When i was going to high school some sociologist interviewed her and asked,
“On a scale of one to ten, where ten is the highest, how happy are you?”
“Ten” my mother said without pausing
“Really,” said the interviewer, “no one has ever said ten before.”
“Absolutely ten. I could not be happier.” She replied.
My mom is a pretty accomplished gal. Besides raising my brother and myself, who were a handful. She also founded, ran and grew a non-profit called Boston By Foot. To celebrate the nations bicentennial, she put together a program of volunteer guides which gave architectural walking tours of the city of Boston. To qualify to be a guide you had to go to 6 weekend lectures, write a paper about architecture in the city and even pay a small tuition for the privilege of volunteering. As business models go, this one would probably get an F. But gravity never stopped my mother.
Boston by Foot would grow to a sizable operation, with over 200 active volunteer guides who have given over a quarter million paid tours since 1976.
A couple of weeks back, the Boston Architectural College gave my mother an honorary doctoral degree in community engagement. My brother, my sister-in-law and i all went up to watch her get her degree.
The BAC itself is a bit of an anti-gravity project. It is an architectural college, both graduate and undergraduate which has:
1) Open Admissions
2) Volunteer Professors
3) Every student has to both study and work for an architectural firm while they are enrolled.
With the exception of state funded schools at the community college level, there are very few open admission schools in the US. This means if you can pay tuition, you can come to classes, and if you can survive academically, you can earn a degree. About 23% of the people who start the undergrad program finish it. Because all students also work for practicing architects, graduates are highly sought after.
It seems totally appropriate that this academic institution which survives because talented people volunteer their time for something they love, should be the place that recognizes my mothers work.
And if you want an inexpensive architectural tour of the city of Boston given by someone who is doing it for love instead of money, then visit the Boston By Foot website.
She said, happily, i did not have to call her “Doctor Mom”.