My husband and I were watching part II of the John Adams series on HBO last night — the part where Benjamin Franklin gives Adams (Paul Giamatti) some OJT on international diplomacy, beginning with — and I paraphrase — “you can’t get a man to do what you want him to do by publicly humiliating him.”
“A man likes to make his own decisions,” she says as she sends John off to the Continental Congress to seek men and arms (and help from the French) in Massachusetts’ recent violent confrontations with the British Army.
Abigail takes a breath to make sure her head-strong husband can hear her.
“Men,” she concludes, “do not like to have their decisions made for them.”
Still, it wasn’t until we reached the movie’s scenes dramatizing the delegates’ after-hours meetings in the local public house that my husband finally turned to me and said “they’re mediating in separate caucus.”
The Unity Necessary for Political Change Requires Mutual Self-Interest and Common Ground
The unity necessary to make the agonizingly difficult 1776 decision for independence, revolution and war was not achieved by persuasive argumentation, but by the alignment of each state’s self-interest with the self-interest of each other state. This was Franklin’s brilliance as international ambassador and as one of the founders of our unprecedented and improbable political enterprise – the united states.
All of which takes me to Ken Cloke’s new book Conflict Revolution — Mediating Evil, War, Injustice, and Terrorism — which I’ve been reading in draft but that you’ll soon be reading in print — pre-order now — courtesy of Janis Publications.
I want to tell you all about Ken’s revolutionary shift from rights and power on the one hand to mutually beneficial interests on the other, but I’ve got work to do. For now, I’ll leave you with a snippet from his last chapter which should whet your appetite for more.
Political theorist John Schaar wrote:
“The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and their destination.”
Ultimately, we are the social, economic, political, and environmental impediments we are seeking to overcome. All the problems and conflicts we want others to resolve are already present within us. The systems, paradigms, cultures, and environments we regard as dysfunctional exist not just around and between, but within each of us. They are us, even if we have devoted our lives to changing them, and must be transformed both within and without.
Systemic, paradigmatic, transformational, revolutionary changes therefore require personal as well as social revolutions. These revolutions do not happen merely by participating in recycling efforts to reduce environmental pollution. At their deepest level, they require us to actually experience ourselves as no different from the plants and animals we are destroying and, more problematically, from the people who are doing the destroying. Only by accepting personal responsibility for global problems on this scale can we discover where they begin inside us, and identify the practical steps we can take to stop them at their source.
Consequently, we not only need to transform the dominating and coercive nature of social, economic, political, and environmental power, and dismantle them at their systemic source by expanding the use of interest-based alternatives and increasing the ability of civil society to solve problems collaboratively. We also need to refuse to participate in them personally, even when they are dedicated to achieving “good” ends. This is no easy matter, both because a great deal is at stake and because domination and coercion are not just large-scale events, but small, barely noticeable everyday behaviors whose origin lies in all of us.
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