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4Oct/112

A View of the 2nd Occupy Portland GA Committee meeting.

I debated on posting this, but finally decided I should.

I attended the GA Committee Meeting on Monday night, from about 7:20pm till 9:30pm - and I was beyond disappointed at what I saw. I could write pages about this, but I will try to make a very short list:

1) Very few people had been in a consensus decision making process before, nor understood it.
My opinion is that people who are deciding on a solution to bring to the GA should have experience with it.

2) The people who had used consensus before we not listened to.
Myself and another gentleman repeatedly brought up our position that consensus in a large group was not workable, and that we should use modified consensus from the start. Though the rest of the group stated that they disagreed with us, their actions said otherwise, as they moved on over our objections. The "solution" was to use a 9/10ths model when something was "urgent" - and for those of you that don't immediately see the problem with that, here is a snippet of the paraphrased conversation:

Someone: "if it's urgent, we move to a 9/10ths model"
Me: "Who defines urgent?"
Someone: "It's obvious".
Me: "I don't think it is".
Someone: "well, if it deals with a safety or security issue"
Me: "Who defines if it is a safety or security issue?"
Someone: "it's obvious"
Me: "?!?!?"

At that point, I gave up - because my opinion had already been marginalized, and because it was self evident it wasn't obvious - or else we wouldn't have been discussing it.

3) Many people we unable to think critically about what they said
There seemed to be an ingrained marginalization of people's opinions - and the reasons for them. During a discussion of when it was ok to block proposals, it was stated multiple times that blocks shouldn't be allowed for "arbitrary" reasons. When I pointed out that what is arbitrary to me may be "life or death" to someone else (especially when we get into ethical considerations), that was modified to be "it must be something that addresses a real human need". While that phrasing sounds great, it, again, only changes what we have to define - not that we have to define something. There is no language value difference between "not arbitrary" and "real human need" - they both can mean completely different things to different people, and one person's "real human need" can easily be another person's "arbitrary". In combination with the conversation in (2), it seemed to me that there was willful blindness - and in my experience no amount of talking can overcome that.

As I said, I did end up having to leave early, as my son was getting fussy, so I don't know if things got better - you can all watch the recordings of it and form your own viewpoints.

While I would love to see things work out well at tonight's GA, my fear is many people will feel marginalized - and walk away because of it. If we want true consensus, then we must strive for that, and be aware of the blinders that people naturally wear - that *all* of us naturally wear.

Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Where can I read about the mechanics of the modified consensus process?

  2. It’s continuously changing, but the forums at http://www.occupyportland.org/forum/ have posts about it.


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