Tuesday, May 22, 2012

One Small Step For Humankind ... One Giant Leap for Individualism

First of all, I have to admit that the launch of the rocket by Space X (link) is exciting and offers a lot of potential for new science and learning as well as might provide some significant cost savings when it comes to space exploration.  All of these things are good but I worry that they come at a price to our collective being as humanity.  The article I cited above has a great quote "It's fine to rely on partners, but that's not where the greatest nation in the world wants to be."  I find this sentiment to be troubling.  Is our individualism what really makes us great as a nation.  Is it really the fact that we can "go it alone" a sign that we truly are #1 in the world. My worries about private companies engaging in space flight is that it runs the risk of privatizing the knowledge that we can gain from such an experience.  Do we really want the symbol planted on Mars if/when the first humans land there to be a corporate logo?  I am not opposed to the idea of companies finding ways to make a profit through space exploration and travel, but I do worry that if it is done solely with private dollars and private backing that ultimately the gains no longer are public but also held in private.  It is probably overly romantic of me, but I have always loved that fact that some of our last frontiers of exploration, namely space and Antarctica have been held, not privately by companies or even nations, but have been seen more as a resource of all humanity.  I want to be excited about the potential offered by private companies but I worry that all of us seems to feed into the individualistic psyche of our nation.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Guns Don't Kill People, Robert's Rules Kill People

In the wake of General Conference there has been a lot of talk among United Methodist about the failings of Robert's Rules of Order.  The general feeling is that Robert's Rules are often abused by those who know them and work to create winners and losers when it comes to debate rather than working towards the unity of the greater whole.  While not the only victim of blame in the wake of General Conference, Robert's Rules receive what I believe is an undo share of the criticism and hear is why.

1) It really is akin to blaming the gun for killing the person instead of the person firing it.  Not only that, unlike a gun, whose sole purpose is to fire, Robert's Rules is a tool whose purpose is orderly discussion, productive debate, and working towards the unity of the greater whole.

2) We are talking about a convention with close to 1,000 voting delegates, I am not sure there is any system of governance for such a meeting that would not fall into similar challenges.

3) The formality of Robert's Rules is NOT meant to shackle debate or to oppress voices it is meant to encourage debate and allow for voices to be heard.

Instead of blaming the weapon, this is a great time to ask ourselves what caused Mom to be pointing it at Dad in the first place.  Why do we feel the need to use rules as weapons of division rather than as tools of unity?

I am a huge fan of working to reach a consensus and I am a strong believer in the work that the Holy Spirit can do in a gathering of people.  But NO model exists that will change people's minds and force consensus.  I was a part of a group of seven that needed to a consensus on who was to represent the group to a larger meeting.  Three of us believed that we really were the best person to represent the group (ten years later I am willing to admit I might have been wrong on my beliefs at the time).  We spent hours debating the process and ultimately came to a conclusion that I should represent the group but I do not believe we really reached consensus (that everyone thought I was actually the best person for it).  Even with the consensus I believe there is a chance that others may have felt like "losers" despite the fact that without a vote we could not point to clear winners and losers.

The problem with winners and loser is not Robert's Rules, it is each of us.  It starts with the fact that each of us generally thinks we are right about something (if we thought we were wrong we would likely try and come up with a different idea).  We then usually look for any tools we can to make sure the right decision is the one that is made ... or keep people from making a wrong decision.  I think this comes from a lack of trust.  I see this in myself a lot.  It is easy to look over matters and feel like I know what the best solution to a problem is and then grow frustrated if others do not see it that way.  The next step is to start thinking about how to change their minds, to fix things, or otherwise move things in the direction I want them to go.  Robert's Rules can be great for that.  A person who is knowledgeable about Robert's Rules as many more tools at their disposal than someone who does not.  The problem does not lie with Robert's Rules, it lies with each of us, failing to trust the wisdom of a greater body.  I know that the body is not always wise in its decisions, but maybe we need to think more about what that means, then blaming Robert's Rules for getting us there, because after all, if they are really causing harm, Robert's Rules makes it pretty easy to set them aside if that would be better for the group.

My personal challenge, as I get ready for two large meetings is to think about how I can get past that desire to win and use Robert's Rules I believe they are intended to be used ... for the good of the body

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I'm All a Twitter

So over the last several years I have been internally debating the merits of Twitter.  I created an account several years ago, @RevJeffOzanne, but have never really used it much.  Some of what I have been unsure about is what I might say on Twitter that I don't already say in other forms like Facebook, and if all my Twitter peeps are also on Facebook, am I just wasting my time/energy.  As I was watching General Conference (the quadrennial gathering of The United Methodist Church for all my non-UMC readers) I was following the Twitter feed for the event as well.  It was fascinating to be watching the dialogue that was occurring around General Conference and peoples thoughts and reactions to it.  Part of me was excited about the possibilities that such discussions created.  Here was a chance for many more voices to be added to the thousand people who were actually allowed to speak at General Conference.  Other parts of me were less excited ... here is why

  • Twitter takes the snarkiness factor up a notch, or twelve.  I love snarkiness, I often engage in snarkiness, and I definitely have passed the time in meetings and events being snarky with the person next to me.  My concern however is that Twitter encourages our snarkiness at the expense of more constructive thinking.  We end up being snarky in the same forum we are trying to be serious in.  No one would stand up in a meeting and make a snark comment, but we offer them on Twitter in the same space we use to advocate for serious ideas and issues.  I feel like this confuses our communication.
  • Twitter creates a second realm of discussion ... while it can bring more conversations out into the public (like allowing those of us not at General Conference to be a part of the debate) the forum that it creates is limited, despite Twitter having millions of users.  The fact that not everyone is one Twitter creates divides in the conversation between those in the know and those not.  The "Includer" in me worries about the exclusion that naturally occurs from this.
  • Somethings take more than 140 characters to say ... though not this ... and short thoughts can limit rather than encourage debate.
I am sure these faults don't make Twitter irredeemable and worthless, but it makes we wonder how much our new mediums of communication have an effect on how we think and how we engage in conversations.  Comment sections on news articles, rather than fostering health dialogue become collecting areas for hateful opinions, bad logic, and untruths (if you disagree, feel free to comment below).  Maybe the great challenge of Twitter is to realize that because it is so easy to say things, we should say less instead of more ... (and I don't mean simply reduce the number of characters).