Thursday, October 18, 2012

Still More Fixing Democracy, Part 2

This is the last in a series of posts on how to make our democracy work better based on an interview article in The Intelligent Optimist magazine (formerly Ode) with Tom Atlee, co-director of the Co-Intelligence Institute in Eugene, Oregon.


Q—So citizen councils should not replace parliaments but supplement them?

A—“Indeed. There’s no way to say this would be a better system for sure, because it’s tried only rarely.  We need to test this idea, over and over.”


Q—How do you get citizens who haven’t been part of the council to unify behind a decision?

A—“I believe the media have a gigantic role to play.  Journalists can write about who each participant is and report on the process. Then the public watches these diverse people expressing their diverse views, coming to respect each other, and shifting their thinking to recommend solutions together.”


Q—That’s not exactly the kind of journalism we see lots of….

A—“Yet this is exactly what Maclean’s, Canada’s weekly newsmagazine, has done at one of the most divisive times in Canada, with the Quebec independence debate being most vivid.  On a Friday, they brought together a dozen people who collectively represented the diversity of the country for a shared vision for Canada.  By Saturday night, it was a complete mess. Then, over dinner, one of the participants started to really listen to an indigenous woman and concluded the natives were feeling unheard—and the most important factor to get some kind of understanding is people feeling heard. So the next morning, this woman asked the indigenous woman to tell her story. That changed everything. In the end, everyone was hugging each other.”


Q—Sounds like a reality show!

A—“In fact, some have suggested a reality show like that. A reality show could feature dramatic conflicts among diverse citizens, their increasing understanding, and then a breakthrough that ends of being cathartic and enlightening for a whole nation. Bringing people together in a council will generate collective wisdom for and by the people, coming together around something. These things aren’t exactly characteristics of our current political life.”

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