What’s a Lone Person to Do?

If you’re reading this book because you see a problem in your collective that you think should be addressed, you may well be alone in your quest. If you’ve actually raised your concerns with the group, you may suddenly find yourself the outcast, with the rest of the members possibly either openly hostile or utterly indifferent.

It’s all well and good to say that all the people in a collective need to take responsibility for the group’s functioning in order to avoid power inequalities and ensure a true spirit of consensus and collectivity, but if you’re just one person, and the group is in fact not taking responsibility and is allowing a self-appointed leader or faction to steer decisions (including the newly-arrived-at conclusion that perhaps you are no longer a valued or wanted member), what can you alone do?

We wish we had the answer. (Our own personal solution has been to stagger away, blinded by pain, to tend to our wounds in a dark corner, wondering what hit us and why. We also decided to write a book on collective process.) This chapter is more than anything a cautionary note. Because you have read the contents of this book (and hopefully a number of others) on the topic of collective function and dysfunction, you may consider yourself armed with an arsenal of information and insight on what is going wrong with your group. You may feel confident that you can make a good case to the membership for the need for self-analysis and reassessment of priorities. But that doesn’t mean you won’t still find yourself alone and the subject of attacks and slander.

Evidence from books is very unconvincing to people who won‘t make an effort to try to understand the situation or the underlying problems, and even less so to anyone who has already reached a conclusion based on rumors, speculation, and innuendos. There is a saying, which unfortunately is all too often appropriate in collectives that are experiencing conflict: “My mind is made up, don’t bother me with facts.”

In many cases, people who feel they have carved out their little corner of power are not going to give it up easily, no matter how trivial their sphere of influence may seem. If you threaten the hegemony of someone in a position of some authority, whether his leadership is overt or subtle, (or even if you haven’t done anything that could be construed as a threat but he thinks there’s the potential that you might, perhaps because you‘ve been outspoken) you may very well see another side of him, one with bared teeth and hissing.

It has been suggested that rather than going it alone one should set out to build a coalition, persuading each person individually, through private conversation, before making one’s concerns public. This is classic political strategizing. We feel very ambivalent about this. On the one hand, it might work, and it could be preferable to exposing oneself as a sole target to a verbal battering. On the other hand, it’s a manipulative tactic that could be characterized as sleazy, depending on the amount and quality of the persuading involved.

Furthermore, you will always be out-sleazed by the other party if she is willing to go further than you are. This is not a competition worth entering into unless you’re willing to go over to the dark side. After your fellow collective members have figuratively beaten you up with personal attacks, vilification, and calls for your banishment, we think you will want, at least, to walk away with your integrity.

Please send your comments and suggestions to: collectivebook@yahoo.com.

"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]
[What’s a Lone Person to Do?]







Links &