Monday, October 1, 2012

Fixing Democracy, Part 9

This is the next in a series of posts on how to make our democracy work better based on an article in The Intelligent Optimist magazine (formerly Ode) by Tom Atlee.


“Notice how different it is [mass participation, volunteering, advocacy and turn-out]from a focus on public wisdom and generating and empowering a legitimate, inclusive, informed and coherent voice of the whole people that can articulate that wisdom and push it into public policy. As odd as it may seem, public wisdom doesn’t depend on mass public participation.  It depends on engaging just enough people to adequately embody the diversity of the population, and then giving them support to generate wise understandings and recommendations about what the rest of us and our representatives should do about the issues we face.


“In a sense, such mini-public deliberations are a scaling up of a practice even older than the Athenian boule [pool of participants] considering issues of consequence facing the tribe.  As my colleague, leadership coach and consultant Rosa Zubizarreta has said, ‘Our indigenous ancestors knew that to meet in a circle is sacred, whether we are doing so to communicate with other dimensions of time, space and being, or whether we are doing so for the equally numinous purpose of communicating with one another, talking and listening, witnessing and presencing, until there is nothing left but the obvious truth.’ Sitting in council is a deep-rooted part of our social DNA. But how do we do this sacred duty with millions of different people—millions of diverse people with different beliefs cultures and interests?”

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