Nine Futile Democracy Conventions in One

In 2011 “Winner Take All Politics—how Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class” authors Hacker and Pierson for the first time documented how over the past 30-40 years, the richest of the rich have gotten a lot richer while most Americans have not, resulting in the growing inequality of incomes. In fact, the exorbitantly paid have continued to thrive during the current economic crisis, even as the rest of Americans have continued to fall behind.

Scot Walker’s election to be Governor of Wisconsin in 2010 and his victory against an emotional recall attempt in 2012, both with the help of considerable donations from the Koch Brothers, are symptoms of the broader conservative tide that brings rising economic inequality with it.

The Democracy Convention‘s beginnings formed in the demonstrations in Seattle in 1999 to protest the WTO’s agenda. Over the following years, various other democratic movements coalesced with it to confront the challenges to democracy from conservatives, especially to the success of Scott Walker and the conservatives in WI. The results of the 2012 recall election point to the fact that the democracy movement and the Democratic Party have a tough row to hoe vs scott walker. Still more frustrating is the situation that the Democratic Party and the Democracy Convention fail to address these problems with significant new ideas.  The futility of continued reliance on classic activism as the way to create change and advance the democracy agenda might be summed up by Paul Batalgen’s three aphorisms:

  1. “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.”
  2. “If we keep doing what we have been doing, we’ll keep getting what we’ve been getting.”
  3.  “The definition of lunacy is to keep doing what you’ve always done and expect different results.”

The website Thwink.org has an excellent explanation why:

“Classic Activism revolves around getting the proper practices adopted. In the popular jargon of activism, Classic Activism is “solutions oriented.” Let’s examine how Classic Activism works by seeing how proper practices flow through the process.

A proper practice is a behavior that if followed, would directly help to solve the problem. Examples of the proper practices needed to solve the sustainability problem are use of renewable energy, the three R’s of reduce, reuse, and recycle, closed loop manufacturing, and the Kyoto Protocol treaty on climate change.

How the process works is shown below:

Let’s walk the diagram. The problem symptoms are always caused by proper practices not being followed. If the proper practices are not yet known, then step 2 is needed to find the proper practices. Then if people don’t know about the proper practices or why they should practice them, the step 3 is needed. This attempts to tell people the truth about the problem and the proper practices. If that’s not enough to solve the problem, and it usually isn’t, step 4 is needed. This tries to exhort, inspire, and bargain with people to get them to support the proper practices.

If step 4 doesn’t work, what does a classic activist do? The only thing they can do: repeat the steps and somehow do them better. Since that doesn’t involve any sort of root cause analysis or treatment of change resistance as a separate problem to solve, it can’t work.

But try to tell that to a veteran activist and your message will bounce right off. A true classic activist is immune to all attempts to persuade them that their problem solving approach is not going to work or could be improved.

In order to address complex problems, as Peter Senge writes in his book, “The Fifth Discipline, The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization,”, it is necessary to take a systems view, a topic we will expand on in the next post.

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About Freedom to...

Consultant helping people and employers in health care, education and government to see and understand how their organization works and how to change them to improve performance.
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2 Responses to Nine Futile Democracy Conventions in One

  1. ewan says:

    Your place is actually valueble for me. Thank you!

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