[EM] Free Association / Delegable Proxy FAQ - Should FAs be inclusive?
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
abd at lomaxdesign.com
Thu Mar 2 13:34:46 PST 2006
At 07:12 AM 3/2/2006, Jan Kok wrote:
>Does it make sense for an FA to include people from opposite or widely
>differing viewpoints on an issue of major concern to the FA? For
>example, would it make sense to have an FA with pro-choice and
>pro-life people in it, to discuss reproductive issues? What could
>such an association accomplish?
A great deal, though much of this will depend on the exact
organizational structure. With traditional structures, not very much
at all, indeed, a great deal of time might be wasted.
But Delegable Proxy creates an organizational hierarchy with default
caucuses which form around individual proxies, who can and will carry
on communication within their caucus, independently of the central
organizational traffic. So we will answer the question within the
FA/DP context, not the more general FA context. It is quite possible
that there could be other organizational technologies that would be
as efficient, effective, and safe as DP, and for some FAs, something
simpler may be adequate. However, DP is itself quite simple and can
remain dormant when not needed. DP does not really add any
significant organizational overhead.
The example in the question is a good one. What could a general
purpose political FA accomplish by including both sides (more
accurately, *all* sides) of a very controversial issue. Consider the
implications of inclusion as distinct from exclusion.
If an organization is exclusive, it must have an exclusion
definition, formal or otherwise. A lot of energy can be wasted trying
to define who are and who are not the true believers in the cause,
and this keeps organizations weak.
On the other hand, if the organization is inclusive, there is the
potential for deliberation and negotiation leading to a consensus.
With a highly polarized issue, complete consensus may be quite
unlikely. However, people can agree to disagree on certain issues
while discovering that they can cooperate on others. In present
political structures, what are really separate issues tend to get
linked to each other, making it next to impossible to find and
actually implement potential consensus positions and decisions.
I have a good friend who is politically progressive, in nearly
everything. But she's an Orthodox Christian, which may be related to
the fact that she is opposed to abortion. It is not my purpose here
to explore all the reasoning involved, but this woman is faced with
difficult compromises if she steps into the political arena. She
thinks that abortion is murder, but she also thinks that the public
face of "Right to Life" is thoroughly hypocritical in trying to save
prenatal lifes but showing astonishing unconcern about, say, Iraqi
lives or Afghani lives.
*There are a lot of people like that.* Now, what consensus is
possible between the non-fanatics within the two major camps,
Right-to-Life and Right-to-Choose? For starters, contraception. Even
further, it is not impossible for Right-to-Lifers, for example, to
come to recognize a difference in degree, such that "murder" of a
fetus, while perhaps a terrible sin, is not the same as, say, the
murder of a young child. (This is, in fact, the general Islamic
position, that abortion is a sin which increases in seriousness with
gestational age, until at birth it becomes identical to normal
murder. Contraception is not a sin at all.)
It ought to be possible to act politically in furtherance of your
beliefs about something like abortion without it being linked with
other issues. FA/DP organizations could make this possible.
Within a general political FA, there would form many ad-hoc caucuses,
and some formal ones as well. But even within a caucus, say a
Right-to-Choose caucus, there would be benefit in allowing the
participation of those who opposed abortion. It is crucial to know
the other side to be effective politically. You need to know how to
give the other side enough of what they want that they will stand
aside, at least, from preventing you to get what you want. The truth
is that it will be *difficult* to get an RtL believer to participate
in a pure RtC caucus. But there will exist many caucuses on many
different issues, so there will be people coming together who
generally agree with each other but who differ on this particular
issue. And it will be these people who will be highly motivated and
in a good position to find consensus.
Can an FA have an organizational position, as, say, "We are opposed
to abortion"? Not a pure FA, but an organization can be non-FA in one
aspect and FA in every other aspect. It will be well advised,
however, to associate itself through membership cross-linking with an
overarching pure FA. Because of the freedom from ideology of a pure
FA, there is no cost to this, and by doing it, they would not be
aiding the opposite side in anything except, hopefully, success
through finding a consensus. When a consensus has not been found,
both sides will be relatively weak, since their energy and strength
will be pulling in opposite directions; they will cancel each other
out. FA-facilitated activity will only become strong when a consensus
has been found. And this is exactly as it should be.
Pure FAs attempt to remain in this dogma-free position. But this
freedom from dogma is not something that is enforced by, for example,
expelling dogmatic people! FAs don't expel anyone, though meetings
may act to protect their freedom to meet. "Meetings" may exclude
people by general agreement of the meeting, but this does not exclude
the person from the FA, and whatever general rights members of the FA
have, such as the right to name a proxy, would remain. So an excluded
member might still, for example, have a vote at the meeting,
exercised remotely or through a proxy.
But what if a group of opponents of a meeting's consensus tried to
bring down this meeting by packing it? The freedom of Free
Associations includes the freedom *not* to associate. Meetings can
set their own rules; it is just that a meeting following the FA
traditions will not do so absent necessity. And there is nothing to
stop the excluded person from associating with other members in other
contexts. Quite simply, there is no way to pack the DP structure in a
Free Association, just as there is no way to exclude someone unless
*everyone* agrees to exclude him. He can simply meet with those who
don't exclude him.
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