I have just received a review copy of Richard Moore’s Escaping the Matrix, which is both an analysis of the present situation, and an investigation of possible alternatives and how to get there. I feel a kinship with Richard, since we are both ‘downshifters’ who at some moment in our lives, decided to redirect our lives to something more harmonious and that could possibly impact our world. I will report on the book later after reading, but here is an aspect of it, which we discussed in P2P News 104: the increased use of processes that are not based on majority voting but on the consensus of the community. One such process is ‘Harmonizaton Governance’:
Representative democracy, it has been said, is the marriage of the dictatorship of the majority with protections for the minority, and is in fact unthinkable with an apparatus of coercion which can both impose the majority decision and protect the minority. But throughout history this is an anomaly. Much more common were authoritarian states, coupled with, wherever that state was ineffective or didn’t want to intervene, local consensus-based modes of governance. The problem was that the local could never outgrow itself. The promise of the P2P enabling technologies is that local limitations can be overcome through globally operating cybercollectives. Our current modes of peer governance can of course learn from the older modes, and this is what this article and blog addresses. These older forms were based on consensus (since the majority did not have a state to coerce the minority) and used processes of `harmonization’.
1. Richard Moore on Harmonization
“Harmonization is an ancient tradition. When problems came up in aboriginal societies, the people of a tribe would typically meet in council and talk together until they all agreed on how the problem would be dealt with. Usually a respected elder of the tribe would act as facilitator in such a council, making sure that everyone got to express their point of view. Native American tribes operated this way, and we can still find examples today, in those few remote societies that continue to preserve their traditional ways. From our modern perspective, we can describe these societies as direct democracies, using harmonization as their process of governance.
When agriculture and civilization came along, this democratic from of governance was supplanted by hierarchical rule under an all-powerful chief or king. Harmonization was no longer part of the culture, and today most of us would probably doubt that such a process is even possible: How could a liberal and a conservative, for example, hope to agree on a common solution to a controversial societal problem? Aren’t their differences too deep for that to happen?
Fortunately, however, harmonization is a practice that is still possible for us, despite our apparent conflicts and differences. The problem is that our culture does not encourage the practice, nor does it afford us opportunities to exercise it. When the conditions are right, people are not only capable of harmonizing their concerns, but they find the experience liberating and empowering. In Chapter 5 of my forthcoming book, I describe several recent examples in which amazing results have been achieved in harmonization sessions. A draft of this chapter is available on the web:
Ch. 5 – part 1 ; Ch. 5 – part 2
The basic conditions that make harmonization possible are: (1) a group of people who share common problems; (2) a competent facilitator; (3) a face-to-face session with adequate time allocated