The Need For Kindness

Although collective members should not subject one another to fake sentimentality and cloying praise, the shared effort of being in a collective presupposes good will and genuine consideration for each person involved. If the basis for interactions among the group is not kindness, tolerance, and acceptance in spite of unavoidable flaws, then there is a dynamic at work which does not support consensus. The basis for consensus is not shared decision making (thatís an outcome), but fundamental respect for the concerns of each member and for the person herself or himself. Whenever there is bullying, ridiculing, or grandstanding, there is no consensus.

In ďThe Problem With PolitenessĒ we stress the need to allow members to express anger and other unpleasant or difficult emotions and opinions. Itís okay for a member to be angry, annoyed, or wrong. People make mistakes; the collective should consider that a normal part of functioning. Those who commit blunders should strive to correct them and then move on. What is not okay is bad behavior that is intentional: that is, it has been devised to create a particular outcome, whether itís to intimidate dissenters, prove a point, or demonstrate oneís supremacy in a given area. Itís also not okay to upset other people just to amuse oneself.

Even those of us who elect to participate in egalitarian collectives have been living in a society that places people in positions of authority and submission with respect to one another. Most of us understand that equality means neither giving nor taking orders and rejecting any form of established hierarchy, but when it comes to informal hierarchies, collective members sometimes fall back onto what theyíve been accustomed to by mainstream culture. For instance, if someone seems particularly knowledgeable in a given area and willing to take on high-visibility tasks, he is sometimes allowed to attain a position of informal leadership. What makes this possible (in addition to garden-variety laziness) is the mainstream notion, especially difficult to shake among those of us who took pride in doing well in school and being recognized for it, that people should be praised and acknowledged for their talents and successes. In a truly egalitarian group, everybody contributes according to his or her ability and availability, and no one expects to get or take credit for his or her achievements. Hero-worship is incompatible with consensus. All accomplishments are somehow built on someone elseís shoulders.

Loyalty, which on its face might seem like a good thing, has no place in egalitarian collectives that strive to be fair to all members. Loyalty is what causes us to stick up for someone close to us, even to the detriment of another, when we know our crony is wrong. Or to overlook facts and forego investigating a matter even when it would mean clearing an innocent person of wrongdoing. Fairness requires that we listen to all and consider all possibilities before arriving at an opinion.

Please send your comments and suggestions to:

"Is This What Consensus Looks Like?"

"Is This the Just Society We Want to Model?


[Why This Booklet?]
[Introduction to Consensus]
[The Particular Vulnera-
bility of Collectives
[Power Sharing]
[Red Flags to Guard Against]
[Ploys To Subvert Consensus]
[The Problem With Politeness]
[The Need For Kindness]
[Creating Pariahs]
[Respect for Differences]
[Personal vs. Group Issues]
[Micro-Managing Behaviors]
[Skepticism is Healthy]
[There's Hope]

[A Model for Justice?]
[The Dearth of Due Process]
[What About Free Speech?]

[Codifying the Collective Process]
[Relinquishing Control of Projects and People]
[Staying True to the Mission]
[Whatís a Lone Person to Do?]







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