Re: DSM: RE: consensus

SwiftRain (
Mon, 18 Sep 2000 21:36:41 -0400

Joseph Moore wrote:
> How big a group has successfully practiced this method?
Whether a process is "successful" is of course a matter of personal
opinion. Consensus is almost always successful at making decisions that
everyone supports, and almost never successful at making decisions that
only some people support. If consensus were the method by which the
entire world were governed, there would be few if any proposals
consensed on by the Council Of All Beings -- which I would see as a
success, since it would properly and fully represent the diversity of
the experiences & views of the inhabitants of earth, among which there
is not (and perhaps should not be) much consensus.
Perhaps the largest group within which consensus process in practice at
the present time is the Rainbow Family Of Living Light. Though
estimations of the size of the National Gathering are varied, by all
estimates tens of thousands of people come together around July 4th (in
a location decided by consensus) for a few weeks of harmonious living,
focused around a Prayer For World Peace on the 4th at Rainbow Noon.
At no point, of course, are these tens of thousands of people all
together in a single Council -- with the lack of amplification they
would probably be unable to hear each other, never mind have the feather
travel all the way around the circle -- but the process through which
the Gathering is administered is one of a diversity of Councils, each
open to all, practicing consensus process.
There is a Main Council at the National Gathering which is the central
administrative body of the tribe, open to all who wish to attend.
Whether this body is "successful" at administering the affairs of the
Rainbow Family is again a matter of one's criteria for success. Having
no authority to command anyone to do anything, it is in no way
equivalent to a Congress or Parliament. The consensuses which are
reached are commonsense and near-universal -- it is consensed, for
instance, that we should leave our site completely clean and
renaturalized by the end of the Gathering, which in fact we do with
remarkable success.
Most of the practical decisions which are made at the Gathering are made
in much smaller Councils -- Councils in kitchens, for instance, which
decide what to make for dinner. The fact that practical decision making
with the consensus model requires a small scale does not mean that
consensus is an inappropriate model for a large group; it means that the
way in which consensus operates within a large group is one of intense
diversification. Decisions are made on the level on which it is
possible to reach consensus upon them, which means that all decisions
are human decisions, responsive to every individual who participates in
There is no "enforcement" mechanism for consensuses in the Rainbow
Family. They are not the sort of thing which need enforcement. They
are not decisions by one group about what another group should do; they
are decisions by the entire Tribe about what is the best thing to do for
the needs and desires of All.
> How would it translate into the hodge-podge of people found in a
> school or city?
It probably doesn't. I feel that schools & cities (in their present
form) should be eliminated for just this reason.
> Some people are fundamentally (if not clinically) insane. You say that
> there are not cases where the consensus is Blocked and people feel the
> Blocker is just nuts - hard to imagine with a representative sample of
> Regular People.
The less familiar the people participating in the process are with each
other, the more likely they are to think those who Block consensus are
"just nuts" -- but I don't feel that people who are Nuts have any less
right to Block, if their reasons are not personal. That is (regardless
of if they are in fact Nuts) if they believe that a consensus would be
the wrong decision for the group they have the right/responsibility to
block it.
At the Gathering there are indeed people who Block for malicious or
extraordinarily closed-minded reasons. In particular there are almost
always some of this sort of person at Vision Council, which decides the
general location in which the next Gathering will occur -- but a
decision is made every year regardless. It requires huge amounts of
patience, but we feel that the principle & practice of consensus is
worth the sacrifice.
> Tyranny is efficient (and bad). Democracy is inefficient (and better).
Consensus is horribly inefficient -- even when it does not have to deal
with maliciousness or craziness -- and wonderful.
It is simply a matter of how much patience, attention and energy a
society is willing to invest in order to respect the views of all of its

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