In my last commentary, I presented my opinion that we have created a hero/savior complex in our current political climate – one in which we look to our politicians and bureaucrats to define and solve our problems, and they in turn happily want to take the power and step into the hero role. This complex and the current campaign financing system have created a bloated government that serves itself and those who make large campaign contributions.
In one of my favorite books, The Death of Common Sense, and its sequel, The Rule of Nobody, Philip Howard offers a multitude of examples of our bloated self-serving political system. They include laws that try to protect people in ways that take away their free-choice and dignity while currying favor to politicians and their campaign contributors. He also deftly describes thick and difficult to navigate bureaucratic processes. The regulations and bureaucracies he presents range from ridiculous to outrageous. And the kickbacks coded into statues, for financial contributors, can leave readers incensed. For me, these books illustrate what is wrong with our current system of governance.
I posit that we could more effectively deal with our issues, if we take back responsibility for ourselves and each other. As citizens, we could more effectively name the parameters of our issues and more efficiently use our joint resources to address them, by taking out the proverbial political middlemen. In so doing, we would also get an immeasurable psychological boost, as citizens and communities. I agree with what James Hollis said in his book, The Eden Project: “Taking responsibility for ourselves is the greatest terror of our journey, and the greatest gift we can bring other.” I would add that taking responsibility for ourselves and our communities and nation is the greatest gift we could give ourselves as well.
There are plenty of examples of individuals that are taking back responsibility for their own and their community’s well-being by employing processes that tap into group wisdom and the resources available in and to their communities. In these examples, we witness everyday citizens, and various special interests, come together to name the problems, identify the resources, and craft solutions – the success of which they have a stake. These processes transcend the one size fits all approach to solving problems. They are more holistic, and deeply more honoring and respectful of all. They are flexible and long-term oriented.
Examples of the effectiveness of these process that invite all members of a community to jointly problem solve are many. They are applied to various issues. Here are a few of the examples:
The Montgomery County Public School successfully brought together parents, educators, unions, administrators, businesses and others to decrease the achievement gap that exists because of racial and socio-economic inequities.
The Vermont Council on Rural Development goes into communities and helps them have conversations on how to revitalize their towns and jointly prioritize goals. They then work on creating plans for achieving them.
Project Fatherhood convenes fathers in East Los Angeles to regularly talk about the issues they deal with and share tools and resources to become the types of father’s they want to be. They do this so their children and they can thrive.
In my opinion, unlike many bureaucratic and political fixes to our issues, each of these “programs” are empowering citizens and eliminating waste while effectively achieving their respective goals. They are offering the dignity of trusting the people who need help to get it with each other’s support. Because they are organic and not constricted by multiple rules and regulations, they can be adapted as conditions change and new realizations occurs. Since they include various cross-sections and interest groups, they have a higher degree of relevance and broader buy-in. For me, they are compelling models of governance. Ones that I believe we need to replicate.
As we approach the next cycle of elections, I propose that we move away from looking to candidates to be our heroes to looking for candidates that will partner with us. I offer that we replace our question of what can this candidate do for me and my causes, with:
- Are these candidate well-suited to work collaboratively with citizens to make our communities, states and nation stronger and healthier?
- Are they willing to set their egos aside and facilitate the empowerment of citizens and communities, in the way that the facilitators of the Montgomery Public School, Vermont Council on Rural Development, and Project Fatherhood have?
- Are they capable of deeply listening, respecting and honoring all the people they are supposed to represent and serve?
- Are they people I can and want to work with to better my, my community’s, my country’s and the future generation’s well-being?
As you ponder these questions, I invite your feedback and perspectives.
Jessica Dancingheart is a personal and organizational consultant. Find out more at www.openingtopossibilities.com.