Anchor for this item posted by Bernard Tremblay at Monday, March 25, 2002; Monday, March 25, 2002

Reading David Loy's West against the Rest? Buddhist Response to "The Clash of Civilizations" and recalling the essays where he showed how our conceptualization of civil society affected the ways we acted on our values, as well as those values themselves, I tried once more to arrive at a statement of how I see the "emancipation project" of Marxism bound up the "enlightenment project" of Buddhism. Drawing upon an emergent situation to flesh it out, I decided to try and sketch things out.
The question I would like to pose the group this evening concerns process. Are we actually committed to the processes that we adopt and profess? or are these merely ways of describing our group functions in a way that distinguish them from those of groups we would declare exploitative and corrupt? If the former, then it would be reasonable to expect a visceral and energetic reaction when processes slip into more expeditious ways of meeting needs where individuals are either used and manipulated as means or are disregarded. That we slip occasionally shouldn't be surprising, since we've been deeply conditioned to that way of doing and being. And it shouldn't be shocking, because that would give rise to a scandalized denial. And yet it's just that sort of defensiveness that I experience in actuality, which makes me wonder if the real benefits and advantages of concensus-based collaboration have been understood, since there's so little drive to realize them (in the good old sense of "to make real").
Last weekend the working group met and two of us were to collaborate on a callout. I forwarded a few documents to my collaborator, with the idea of priming the pump. There was no reply until he sent me a slightly-modified version of the callout another city had drafted, with no acknowledgement of what I had sent. This was the only communication from him in the three days from the WG meeting til the day of our general meeting, and so the version of the document that was presented was necessarily my reworking of what he had forwarded.
The draft was circulated at a committee meeting before the general meeting, with only few and only very slight comments. The document met the same reception at the general meeting and so I proposed that it be sent to the group's general mailing list, with the idea that it be released Friday, early enough to go with people to that weekend's workshops in two different cities, unless it was blocked.
Over the course of the week I received a single comment which pointed out two rather obvious errors of grammar, errors I saw coming from my style of cut and paste composition, and the sort of errors I was likely to miss in my own writing. Given that solitary comment, and the degree of the errors, I responded to the list by saying how I saw that as showing how the document had not really been read closely. (This would concern me even if participatory production were not such a priority for me.) My collaborator responded with a peculiar bit of logic, suggesting that I couldn't base that conclusion on a single comment. I call this peculiar because it was precisely that fact of ther being a single comment that made my point; the point would have been baseless if there had been a greater number of comments.
But the peculiarities accumulated quickly and at the last minute he wrote saying that "some people" had made "some suggestions" and he no longer thought the document should be released.
Hours later he sent out a revised document. The document might be judged as better than the original, even with the process having introduced new errors, but I have to wonder about the way it came into being (and here I draw nearer my point). An individual who did very little to create the initial draft, who found little problem with the draft when it was presented to the whole group, on involving a number of people outside the group reverses himself and blocks the draft that the group had okayed, and then revises that document in keeping with the second group's suggestions.
My point concerning Marx is simply this: only by unalienated engagement with production does the work represent one's labour in a way that facilitates and energizes conclusions concerning methods, aims, and uses ... the intangibles of social relations need to be grounded in individual's experiences. And regarding Buddhism, there is this: only when I am clearly aware of how my momentary preferences and dislikes are conditioned by events from the past, can I assess how my decisions in the moment are actually determined by the present situation and how they are loaded with aspects that relate to other situations and other transactions.
In a society organized around the clique and the pecking order, it's sensible enough to see others as being those who are striving to dominate or those who are to be dominated. Absent an understanding of collaborative development, we naturally adopt relations of "lead, follow, or get out of the way".
While professing beliefs in democratic processes that involve the group as a whole, in matters large and small the membership is likely to accept ways of doing things that entirely reverse group decisions, depending on the identity of those involved. Maquerading as agents of autonomy, individuals can reap the benefits of conventional authoritarian hierarchical production that relieve them of their responsibilities and their duties. Sensitive to the promise of compliments and inclusion as well as the threat of argument and marginalization, entities that exist in order to undercut conventional power relations actually perpetuate them in the most insidious way.
A "good enough" document produced by the group was blocked at the very last minute by one individual who had been positioned to contribute from the very beginning, in favour of another version that was only slightly better, produced by that one individual in concert with a second group. Wouldn't some sort of questioning be appropriate here?
How can the group grow and develop without experiencing the consequences of its internal processes? It will never be productive. Nor will it be conscious. And thus as we betrayed, in the mundane, by those whose actual agendas contradict the principles agreed upon in theory. In denying, minimizing, or otherwise dismissing those contradictions, the group itself plants the seed of corruption, dishonesty, and manipulation. Although the consensus process has been intentionally chosen and explicitly supported, and although one of that's process's major benefits is in its use to explore and dissolve conflict, all this has here been subordinated, apparently to the need for avoiding the possibility of conflict. The possibility of real consensus (requiring the social processes and groupd dynamics that have comprise part of the group's goals) has been traded for the mock security of mere compliance (complete in itself).
It's about authenticity, and integrity, and the wholesome sort of sanity that grounds an impartial appreciation of what's what.