Re: Rentals in Cohousing--decisionmaking
From: Anna Yamada (
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 93 07:54 CST
Dig it.  A lotta times the word "Consensus" in the squatter movement on
the Lower East Side is bandied about when no one wants to admit they are a
special clique intent on imposing their wills, interests, political
viewpoints, and agendas on the whole group.  It can also often mean "ad
hoc, de facto, rule-of-the-strong, by-the-strong, for-the-strong".  Very
Lord of the Flies.  And these guys were trained in non-violent group
process by the War Resister's League, many of whom have praacticed
Theravadan Meditation and taken vows of Right Living.

Pearls to the swine.  Beware!

On Wed, 17 Nov 1993, Robert Hartman wrote:

> > From: ralynch [at] (Richard Lynch)
> > Subject: Re: Rentals in Cohousing--decisionmaking
> I'd like to comment on the very interesting discussion about how to
> deal with conflicting interests between renters and owners.  Jim
> Ratliff proposed the idea of a formal division based on decision
> content.  Richard Lynch makes an interesting case against a-priori
> formalisms of that type.
> I had a number of really bad experiences in consensus-based
> organizations when I was in college that left a bad taste in my mouth.
> Consensus is not a panacea.  It can lead to bad will and bad decisions
> when people have hidden agendas or problems with self-acceptance.
> Covert and overt politicking can expand to fill all of the available
> time and energy when the rules and the agendas aren't clear.  People
> can get scapegoated and ostracised when they are misunderstood, when
> they stand up to the group, or when they feel threatened for any
> reason.  Back in the days before the concepts of emotional boundaries
> and projection were widely understood, an informal group process was
> not always a safe or sane place in which to make important decisions.
> So I've tended to favor rules and criteria over group process.
> However, my mind is beginning to change as a result of some recent good
> experiences with group process.  But I must add the caution that these
> have occurred in the context of a graduate program in psychology with
> people who are clearly well-intended and have done significant work on
> themselves.  Even so, many of our large group (~30 people) meetings are
> a complete morass.  But every once in a while we get the hang of things
> and when that happens it's magical.
> I think that there are prerequisites for a reasonable shot at a
> successful consensus process.  First, each person must be capable of
> recognizing when he or she is taking things too personally.  Another
> way of saying this is that people must be able to call themselves on
> their own self-deceptions.  Because if they can't, the group will end
> up processing that material with them.  This is fine when the group has
> or is willing to make the time.  But even then, there are times in a
> person's life where no matter how much effort a group puts in, she or
> he just isn't ready to "get it."  And if that's the case, the group
> will feel stymied and may take it out on that person.
> Another prerequisite is that people must be honest forthcoming about
> their agendas.  They must make a commitment to bring their issues to
> the group as a whole.  Side-band communication should be limited to
> reality checks.  "Did I really hear what I thought I heard?"  ... "Yes
> you did."  People need to verify their perceptions to achieve clarity.
> But once a concern is validated, it must be brought to the group.
> For instance, in the case of a conflict between renters and owners,
> each person who has an interest must state his or her position fully.
> The group cannot make a sound decision unless it has all of the
> pertinent information, and that includes knowing about the hopes and
> aspirations of the people involved.
> People must make a number of commitments to preserve the safety of
> the space.  They must agree to honor each other's emotional
> boundaries and own their own projections, speak only for themselves,
> listen for their position to be stated before speaking, and make the
> effort to speak up when they really need to.  Most importantly,
> people must take personal responsibility for working through their
> own emotional issues that working in any group brings out.  It helps
> if the group can make a commitment to support that work, but that
> may not always be feasible.  However, the group must make a
> commitment to honor each individual as a full human being, and
> provide whatever support it can.
> Within a framework of emotional safety, I believe that consensus
> process can live up to its promise.  But without those prerequisites,
> I'll take a ballot any day.  Because without that, consensus process is
> either a sham or a misguided experiment, and if I'm going to get
> screwed with anyway, at least I can vote the bums out.
> -r

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