Politics As Usual

Tue, 20 Apr 1993 19:49:01 -0700 (PDT)

Politics As Usual

"Top secret" info on power and control in consensus decision making
and group process.

In the tradition of Machiavelli's "The Prince", explore the secrets of
rule by consensus. Ever been frustrated by a few who maintain
steady power in a supposed anarchistic or egalitarian situation? Since
the ideal of trust has been made inherent in much of the hype
surrounding consensus decision making, those who know the _real_
though unspoken rules for manipulation of the process have a
distinct advantage over the naive. The truth is that consensus doesn't
make people any more honest or straightforward than any other
system of decision making. Some will always be more crafty than
others. Here then are the tactics often used by those in power in
extended group process.

1: Always deny any association with or interest in power or control.
Be especially vehement if confronted on this.

2: Be pragmatic. Know exactly what you want before coming to a
meeting of the group, but deny you have made up your mind
beforehand. In consensus everyone is supposed to come to meetings
"with an open mind."

3: Whenever possible, imply your point rather than stating it
directly. Say it without saying it. This maintains the illusion that you
are not directing the group.

4: If necessary, lie to get what you want whenever you can get away
with it. Always use "white lies" first and most often.

5: Be articulate. In consensus, victory goes to the most persistent
mouth. Develop great reserves of stamina and will power to be able
to argue your point longer and more forcefully than anyone else.

6. Establish your credentials. A college degree (or two or three) goes
a long way toward establishing the respect necessary for people to
hand you their consent (and thus their power). Make sure the group
understands that you know the particular subject under discussion
better than anyone else. Stress the point that you understand the
history of the item, as well as have greater experience with it, etc.

7. Be _the_ authority on the consensus process itself. That way you
can define what is "proper procedure", thereby achieving greater
control. Having people in the group with no experience of consensus
process works to your advantage, as is keeping them in the dark
about various loopholes. A high turnover in group membership aids
in this tactic.

8. Develop seniority. Since consensus tends to maintain tradition and
the status quo, if you're around longer than anyone else people will
grow to accept that you are a part of that tradition. You become more
legitimate, a "historian" ("Well, the group has always done it this

9: Always imply, "I am the group, the group is me." When speaking
of your own ideas or plans state them as "I sense the group wants..."
or "I believe the group has decided..." Non-assertive members of a
group always go along with that line.

10: Develop a "mystique", i.e. greater sincerity, spiritual power, a
"sixth sense", being a martyr, have excellent poise, etc. Dress
"imposing". Be dignified. Whatever is necessary.

11: Always maintain that consensus (your kind, anyway) is beyond
reproach as "a decision making process." Consensus can do no wrong,
works miracles, makes everyone happy, is holy. _You_ know this is
politics. Everyone else should think it's religion.

12: Identify with all the more and popular causes of members of
your group. Project heartfelt devotion.

13: In deciding on any point in which you have little or no interest,
become the perfect impartial facilitator to help the group come to a
decision. This is important so that others may see you as an unbiased
motivated-only-for-the group's-good type of person and creates a
situation to which you can refer later as an example of your

14: Attract weak-willed or naive people to your group to do you
bidding. Have no more people in your group than you can control.
When not in meetings of the group, always maintain strong
psychological control of members. Much of the work of consensus is,
after all, done outside meetings. Have some members acting as stool
pigeons (weak ones are good for this).

15: Attract no one to your group who has as much experience in
group process as you, or who may try to discredit you. As soon as
you sense either of the above, turn the group against him/her. Kick
him/her out. Always cut down strong opponents behind their backs,
but in a tone of confidence and sincerity.

16: If you find that someone is intractable in his/her opposition to a
proposal of the "group", imply/argue that s/he is mentally,
emotionally, ethically, or spiritually deficient. Or state that s/he has a
poor attitude. Pull the rug out form under his/her feet.

17: Have a few "emotional" tricks ready for your adversaries, such
as tears, the ability to stare down an opponent, tossing in a red
herring, scoffing or sarcasm (if you think you can get away with it),

18: Maintain a _poor_ record keeping system, if you can. Be
disorganized. But make sure that _you_ have the records in _your_
possession (not where the group meets, though). If someone who is
arguing against you wants to know a point of history that may help
him/her in his/her argument, tell him/her that you (with your
excellent memory) can remember that incident well and "recite" it in
whatever way would strengthen your own position. If s/he presses
for proof first act insulted that s/he should question your integrity.
If that doesn't stop him/her, stall until you "check the minutes of
that meeting", which due the disorganization of your record keeping
system and the fact that they are elsewhere, will delay the report
until the next meeting. If s/he presses you next meeting, claim you
can't find it, someone must have taken it, etc. The idea is to stall,
until s/he gives up in frustration.

19: If it looks like a decision may be made against your objections,
you may block by your one vote. It is important that you drum up a
"deeply felt moral reason" for your defense. This is a last ditch effort.
You don't want the general perception to be that you're a "blocker".

20: Never let anyone else know these tactics. ("What tactics?")

The consensus process is new to many and is often -presented in a
hallowed light to the idealistic or naive. As if, somehow, it will
remain untainted by human foibles and selfishness and arrive
magically at a solution 95% or 100% acceptable to all. This makes it
attractive to the alternative community and the new age crowd who
are fed up with traditional politicking and rightly so.

Remember, however, that in most decision making, backroom politics
always plays a major role. The same applies to consensus. Outside
alliances are made which in the meeting will give the effect that the
group is approaching unity. Two or more people can agree to
disagree on minor or unimportant issues (to give the appearance
they aren't allied), but can back one another up on major decisions
which will affect control of the group. Favors can be traded, deals
made; in short, all the usual arrangements in any legislative body.

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