I’ve been especially intrigued by the “Occupy…” movement sweeping not just our country but the entire globe. While I wish I could attend one as I feel very much aligned with this movement, it’s just not been possible given my current circumstances. So, I’ve been watching and listening with interest from afar (mainly through Facebook and any news reports that come my way).
What I’m thoroughly engrossed with is the process and quality of most of the Occupy conversations that I’ve heard about in reports. Here is a YouTube video of the process they’re calling “direct democracy” which is built on the consensus decision making model. For me this video captures a quality of deep respect for each person willing to step forward and be heard, and it feels like such an antidote to the divisive political posturing that has paralyzed our governmental process in recent years.
While I realize that this video does not represent all that is happening at these Occupy events, it offers a powerful example of how very large groups could participate in a collective leadership process.
Here are a few highlights that stand out for me (in no particular order):
- It’s an incredible example of self-organization. There are no identified leaders. Anyone who wants to speak is given a chance. This is confusing and messy for the media wanting sound-bites because it becomes so hard to pin down. And yet, look at the ripple effect spreading from country to country. Something very elemental is being tapped into through this process.
- Since microphones are often not permitted in the Occupy settings, the style of speaking is very structured – Each speaker must take their time as each sentence is repeated and echoed through the crowd. This means that the speaker must be very concise, but can (and must) also pause between sentences to formulate what they want to say next.
- There is such an air of respect for every speaker which gets conveyed through the repetition of each sentence.
- This quality of respect is amplified by the use of hand-signals rather than sound to show approval or disagreement. No one is shouting over the speaker. Applause isn’t cutting off what’s being said. So every word get’s conveyed. Every word is heard.
- The quality of attention and listening in the large crowd is truly impeccable so as to be able to repeat accurately what the speaker is saying. I don’t see any side conversations or milling about in the videos I’ve watched.
- When the audience echoes back what the speaker has just said, exactly as it was said, the speaker can then consider if this is what they really meant. And, because there is a pause while the echoing happens if they hear back something that they didn’t really mean, they can chose to re-frame say it again in a different way.
- The ability to block something is held very preciously, not to be used lightly. And, while scary, every person has the right to stand up and object if something doesn’t feel right at its core. When someone does block a decision, then the group needs to listen carefully, honoring the courage that it takes, and again listening to find what’s good for the whole.
- This kind of conversation isn’t looking for the quick fix and can’t be expedited. It takes time, is often messy, and can occasionally become really confusing.
- So then the group takes a break. People step away to tend to other activities, reflect in silence, or join together to sing, dance and make music, trusting that clarity will eventually emerge if they hold the process and each other gently, joyfully, respectfully.
What if all our important conversations at all levels, from our political “leaders” to our closest relatives, where held with such great respect for each other in this way?
What if we really listened as each person spoke to better understand what they are saying, knowing that we’ll each have a turn if we wish to speak?
What if we really listened to each other with the expectation that no single person has all the answers, but that each person offers a seed, a gift, a spark that is a voice from the collective whole?
What if we each entered into important conversations not trying to convince but wanting to learn from each other and to discover together what is good for the whole?
Having had the opportunity to express what’s important to us each individually, What if we then let go of our individual positions, so that as a community we could make room for the emergence of something far greater and collective?
How would our world be different if this was the way we engaged in all our important conversation?