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“As an Australian social scientist was told by a Temne tribesman in Sierra Leone: “When Temne people choose a thing, we must all agree with the decision—that is what we call cooperation..” This is, of course, what we [modern citizens] call conformity. The reason for the crushing conformity required of the pre-industrial man, the reason the Temne tribesman has to “go along” with his fellows, is precisely that he has nowhere else to go. His society is monolithic, not yet broken into a liberating multiplicity of components. It is what sociologists call “undifferentiated. . . . . With this context [of rapid value change], however, a second powerful trend is unfolding. For the fragmentation of societies brings with it a diversification of values. We are witnessing the crack-up of consensus.”

Alvin Toffler, Future Shock

These Toffler quotes suggest two interesting features of humanity. First, consensus is part of human nature, for without this nature, aboriginal societies could never have survived to become modern societies. Second, as our societies become more complex, we lose more of our ability to attain that consensus.

As our instincts yearn for a more consensual decision-making, we increasingly hear this word bandied about in our contemporary society: “consultation.” This word is frequently used by politicians, political pundits, and leaders of corporations and public institutions. They make it sound so easy—as if they only have to say “consultation” to bring it into practice.

Yet most citizens subordinate to the more powerful people do not think they are living in a consultative world. Instead they readily identify themselves with the hapless office worker of the Dilbert cartoon strip, where Dilbert earns his pay by being continually hindered, subverted, and disabled by managers, co-workers, silly bureaucratic policies, and empty platitudes. Dilbert, like many other citizens, accepts that his job epitomizes life in general and makes little effort to change his environment, either by being a more positive influence on the people around him or by leaving his job for a better one because all jobs are just like his current job.

So why are we even bothering with “consultation” when we think we live in a Dilbert-like society and when Mr. Toffler's quote suggests that a modern society is unlikely to attain consensus? Why not just admit that those in power can make the decisions—good or bad—and those of us not in powerful positions are there only to carry out orders or live with the consequences? To many of us, the word “consultation” is only another empty platitude espoused by the powerful to make us feel included.

The next part of this chapter describes three decision-making models that I have conjectured—power, democratic, and consultative.consenus building, negotiation, conflict resolution, win-win agreement, international treaty, internationtal treaties, community building, mediation, mediator, volunteer, volunteers, volunteer organization, volunteer board, community association, community assistance, community program, community programs


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© 2009 Dave Volek.
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