One of the things I learned studying effective political leadership — from South Africa to Northern Ireland — is that democracy is achieved in large part by communicating. Proposing one’s ideas in discussions with others allows us all to enhance our estimate of the situation, and fine tune our plans. Nobody has all the answers.
Another thing that I learned interviewing experienced researchers and organizers is that everyone has something to contribute. The key is bringing people together, a task that is sometimes a challenge in itself.
With the advent of Internet blogging platforms, communicating is easier than ever, although developing deeper relationships is difficult to do online. Still, one can learn and share much via Yahoo, Skype and YouTube.
Having participated in blog discussions for a number of years, I’ve noticed some limiting but surmountable factors that influence our ability to fully communicate. One is enthusiasm, which fades with time in a culture attuned to what’s new. Rather than dig deeper into a topic, it is tempting to be satisfied with a superficial knowledge. Another is despair, which given the state of human affairs, lies in ambush at every turn. Encouraging each other by communicating with respect and recognition, literally makes all the difference. And finally, commitment is hard to maintain without a principled foundation and community support. Surviving the onslaught of church, state and market, without deepening our commitment through discussion of principles and developing a community of support, is more than most of us can handle.
Accepting that betrayal is part of the human condition, maybe it’s time to begin discussions about what to do given that assumption.
(Jay Taber is a writer and storyteller in San Francisco.)
The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.access here