“Elections do not equal democracy.” Carlos Santiso, IDEA, June 2000 “Participation does not refer simply to voting… [but] requires that individuals have a voice in the decisions that affect them.” Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist, World Bank
The institutionalizing of a democratic electoral process in Iraq (Bush, USA) represents only the ‘form’ of democracy. It does not equate to the creation of a democratic culture and country. The ‘substance’ of democracy is the free and open engagement of citizens in conversation, exchange and meangingful participation in the various aspects, levels and decision-making processes of governance in their country.
To the quotes above, I would add: “Referendums do not equal democracy.”
After the 1995 Referendum in Quebec Canada, I was moved to organize People-to-People Search for Canada (an Open Space event), as an opportunity for ordinary citizens to participate in discussions on the future of Canada. I did not see the Quebec referendum process as a wholly democratic process because it excluded a vitally important stakeholder group from the decision-making process – the citizens of Canada outside Quebec. Beyond individual actions (writing letters, flying to Montreal), Canadian citizens were unable to participate in this crucial decision process which had the potential to dramatically affect their future forever.
(Inspired by Democratic Dialogue Handbook – see further below for extract)
Dialogue contributes to enhancing the level of individual and collective consciousness in groups, by expanding the level of understanding and awareness of issues and perspectives from “me” to “we”. Dialogue helps move people from a self-centered, ‘me’ focus to a more aware and inclusive ‘we’ focus. At the beginning, participants engage in ‘nice talk’ – polite but guarded conversation where the core issues are only surfaced without speaking to the deeply held beliefs, histories, and values underneath. In ‘tough talk”, participants risk divulging the differences and tensions and disagreements that separate them from other views. In ‘reflective talk’, participants extend a willingness to consider and truly ‘hear’ the views of others, and in the final ‘generative talk’, participants see themselves as intrinsically bound within a larger whole and generate new options and solutions that are reflective of the shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’. This movement in focus and relationships can be characterized as an enhancement in the individual and collective level of consciousness of the group.
Provocative Proposition Dialogue is a powerful process to enhance the level of human consciousness. The creation of more positive human futures depends on transcending competing and conflicting views to a larger and more compelling whole that all can align with. Don Beck in Spiral Dynamics calls this a ‘supra-ordinate’ goal – one that is desirable by all, but that none of the players can achieve on their own; it requires the active support and participation of the whole. Spiral Dynamics also suggests that the evolution of human consciousness from one development level to another is brought about by such supra-ordinate goals and shifts. Thus, dialogue can be seen as a powerful tool to contribute to a shift to higher human consciousness. (Caveat: Don Beck warns that dialogue – a primarily ‘green’ (communitarian; social-network) v-meme process, is totally ineffective to deal with ‘red’ (power; exploitive) v-meme situations and individuals. The only response that ‘red’ respects is a ‘red/blue’ response – consequences backed up with power.)
Dialogue as a Tool for Peaceful Conflict Transformation, The edition of Dialogue as a Tool for Peaceful Conflict Transformation, Magna Terra editores in October 2004.
- Nice talk – as the group first meets, conversation is limited to polite and guarded exchanges, and agreements on rules and norms of behaviour to ensure a sense of safety and order. Issues are raised superficially without delving into the underlying structures of belief, history, values and differences (cultural, religious, gender, age, etc.)
- Tough talk – participants take more risks to disclose their views, and to disagree; tensions, challenges; conflict issues become more visible
- Reflective talk – willingness to consider the issue from another’s perspective; to hear, see, own the perspective of others – represents the first shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’.
- Generative talk – participants recognize their interconnectedness to the larger whole, and generate solutions, options and possibilities reflective of that understanding; what is good for ‘us’ and not just for ‘me’.