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By Evan Harmon

KCPD warns Occupy KC to immediately take down all structures

Police officers from the Kansas City Police Department showed up at the Occupy KC camp in Penn Valley Park to inform the Occupiers that all structures, including tents, will no longer be tolerated. Read on…

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Entries in voting (2)

Tuesday
Nov292011

The consensus process is indispensable to genuine self-governance.

 

By Amy Bowen

If you have ever stood in a cold rain for three hours, agonizing over a single proposal alongside fifty of your fellow Occupiers, you will understand why some people are less than enthusiastic about using the consensus process. However, the critical benefits that the process imparts to democracy, and the inherent meaning it provides to its citizen participants, makes enduring a bit of discomfort and tedium not just worthwhile, but necessary.

The Occupy movement is based on a leaderless consensus model. Decisions are made horizontally in order to replace the need for leaders, who by definition make egalitarian organization impossible. We have been falsely represented by our elected officials; what we want now is the ability to govern ourselves with equality. Our commitment to true, participatory, egalitarian self-governance is evident by the very nature of our occupation.

It is no coincidence that the most vocal critics of the consensus process tend to be, well, vocal. In their everyday lives, they tend to direct rather than be directed, and to interrupt rather than be interrupted. Those accustomed to dominating others, whether deliberately or not, may struggle to patiently engage in healthy, consensus decision-making, which aims to achieve equal participation and the consent, if not the agreement, of all.

With simple majority rule, the minority simply loses. We should reject this oppression of the minority, in favor of a living, evolving consensus, a transformational process which can accomplish things unattainable independently. This is synergy in its purest form.

It is important to note that the process does not mandate unanimous approval. It seems that this hodgepodge mix of fiercely independent Occupiers almost never agrees unanimously on anything, at first.

Rather, when a proposal sparks disagreement, the process aims to ensure that every unique dissenting voice is heard. Each dissenter is allotted a certain length of time to express the reasons why they do not fully support the proposal. The group then considers the reasons for dissent, reevaluates the proposal, and perhaps alters it in light of these new ideas. This may take a little longer than dictatorial decision-making, but it ensures cohesiveness, which is crucial to our success as a movement.

Any decision-making method is only valuable to the extent that it assists us in accomplishing our goals. Therefore, if at any time the process becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the occupiers to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new form of self-governance. Indeed, if we didn’t believe that, we wouldn’t be here.

For those who have never been able to shout loudly enough to be heard, the General Assembly stands in radiant contrast to the unfeeling power of majority rule. And contrary to Mr. Johnson’s belief, the danger is not to be found in the process itself, but in its abandonment.

Recommended reading: Horizontalidad

Tuesday
Nov292011

The consensus process may defeat us, unless limits are adopted

By Jeff Johnson

Consensus is a grand ideal. Where practical, it should be attempted. Where it interferes with progress, it should be avoided.

The two attributes of the consensus process—to ensure that every citizen has the opportunity to be heard, and to help citizens feel involved in their own governance—can turn into serious liabilities when left unchecked. At times, the process has so stymied decision making and the forward progress of the Occupation, that I even have wondered whether it was introduced by the enemies of the Occupation.

But no, those enemies despise this leaderless, feel-good democracy too much to use it as a tactic. Not just because it slows things down and angers their God of Efficiency, but because nothing threatens those in power more than citizens participating in self-governance, realizing that they could at any time take the reins away from the powerful few.

The problem is that many times, participants enjoy the process too much. Discussions run on beyond usefullness. The decision at hand gets lost amid the insistence of every last speaker airing every last opinion. The value of endless debate and rebuttal pales as the sun sets, the wind turns cold, and the evening evaporates, with seemingly no end to the eager speakers, and indecision the likely final outcome.

Worse than this, if the speaking has finally run its course, and a vote is called, the vast majority might approve a proposal, but a lone dissenter may refuse to accept the decision.

Such dissent is supposed to be reserved for critical disagreement and is intended to prevent schism. Therefore, it should be rare. In practice, dissenters are too inclined to block, and the group is held hostage by dissent.

As the process has been used, it is too deferential to these dissenters. I was inspired to support the Occupation because I was convinced that the changes needed in this country could be accomplished through this Movement. I did not join for decision-less debate.

Without limits on dissent and on excessive opining, the process will fall under its own weight, and we will have missed our opportunity to change the world.

Another unfortunate fact of the process is that its biggest fans insist on extending the process into workgroup meetings. This adds an absurd level to an already over-committee’ed arrangement.

When I called to ask Ms. Bowen to write a column defending the consensus process, before she knew why I was calling, she asked if we should use “the process” during our phone convesation. I wasn’t completely sure she was joking.