Index:                                          * Introduction                                 ------------4Consensus Deci...
Introduction    There are five possible methods of decision-making :                                                      ...
It is heartening in this context that the issue is again beingdebated in the West. The efforts in the West, however, are l...
Consensus Decision-making / 7                                                                    What does consensus mean?...
Consensus Decision-making / 8                                         Consensus Decision-making / 9      When a proposal s...
Consensus Decision-making / 11                              -2-                                     sphere in which confli...
Consensus Decision-making / 12                                        Consensus Decision-making / 13people to use their po...
Consensus Decision-making / 14                                         Consensus Decision-making / 15      Formal Consensu...
Consensus Decision-making / 16                                         Consensus Decision-making / 17Rules of Formal Conse...
Consensus Decision-making / 18                                        Consensus Decision-making / 19      Trust           ...
Consensus Decision-making / 20                                       Consensus Decision-making / 21to feel guilty, defensi...
Consensus Decision-making / 22                                      Consensus Decision-making / 23that each member underst...
Consensus Decision-making / 24                                     Consensus Decision-making / 25     • Sustainable system...
Consensus Decision-making / 26                                     Consensus Decision-making / 27rating another’s perspect...
Consensus Decision-making / 29                             -3-                                           An objection is o...
Consensus Decision-making / 31                             -3-                                     Amy Rothstein was out o...
Consensus Decision-making / 32                                       Consensus Decision-making / 33      In Mendha, the fo...
Consensus Decision-making / 35Appendix :                                                              stance in which fina...
Consensus Decision-making / 36                                          Consensus Decision-making / 37considered really pa...
Consensus Decision-making / 38                                             Consensus Decision-making / 39words, what they ...
Consensus Decision-making / 40that I have not overdrawn the picture. This is one of the means.Now let us examine the other...
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Consensus (Mohan Hiralal)


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Principles of building a consensus

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Consensus (Mohan Hiralal)

  1. 1. Index: * Introduction ------------4Consensus Decision-making 1. Exracts from ‘ACT UP’ : Civil Disobedience Training Manual ------------6 2. Extracts from the book ‘On Conflict and Consensus : A Handbook on Formal Consensus Decision-making’ by C.T. Lawrence Butler and Amy Rothstein - - - - - - - 10g his Bhoodan [Land-gift] Movementwwwwwww 3. Extracts from the speeches of Vinoba in the 1950’s during his Bhoodan [Land-gift] Movement - - - - - - - - - - - 28 4. Mendha and the Theory and Practice of Consensus - - - - - - - - - - - - 30 * Appendix: Extracts from ‘Hind-Swaraj’ Editor by M.K. Gandhi - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 34 Mohan Hirabai Hiralal Published by : Mohan Hirabai Hiralal Convener, ‘Vrikshamitra’ Contribution: Near Chiddarwar Hospital Rs. 10/- Shende Plot, Ramnagar Chandrapur - 442401 (Maharashtra, India) Tel.: 07172-258134 Printed by : Mobile: 9422835234 Ranjeet Desai Paramdham Mudranalaya Vrikshamitra, Chandrapur / Gadchiroli Pavnar, Dist. Wardha e-mail: (Maharashtra, India) Website: (Maharashtra, India) 442111
  2. 2. Introduction There are five possible methods of decision-making : Participatory democracy, strengthening of civil society, Autocracy — popular initiatives through NGOs—all these have now become One person makes the decisions for everyone. a part of the current political discourse. That the base of de- Oligarchy — mocracy—and therefore participation of the people in the demo- A few people make the decisions for everyone. cratic process—should be widened, is being appreciated, at least Representative democracy — at the theoretical level. In fact, as long as equal participation of all the people is lacking, ‘democracy’ is just a misnomer. A few people are elected to make the decisions Vinoba had written in 1941, for everyone. “There is a polity that calls itself ‘democracy’ and poses as Majority rule democracy — sarvayatan (Rule by all). Its show is going on in Europe and The majority makes the decisions for everyone. America. But no system based on violence can be termed sarvayatan even if it pretends to work on the principle pf ‘one Consensus democracy — man - one vote’” Everyone makes the decisions for everyone. ‘Rule by all’ is what should be aimed at. And to advance in that direction, ways and means ought to be developed for The first four methods have been tried, and are being the equal participation of all in making and implementing de-tried everywhere for making decisions. cisions that concern them. They have proved highly unsatisfactory in solving the It is here that consensus decision-making is crucial. Anypeople’s problems; they have rather aggravated conflicts. other decision-making process is bound to be violent. Brand-Instead of empowering the people, they have strengthened ing consensus decision-making as Utopian will therefore takethe forces that exploit them, dominate over them. us nowhere. If it is desirable, then what is needed is to think Consensus decision-making has hardly been tried; it with wisdom and creativity and make experiments to make itis dismissed as Utopian. a reality. This booklet seeks to show that it is not so; it is pos- During the great Gramdan Movement, Vinoba exhortedsible. In fact, this is the method that must be tried if hu- the people, again and again, to work in this direction; for thereinman emancipation is the goal. lies the key to the success of the self-governance of the village community—the Gram-swaraj. Thousands of villages declared Printed by : their resolve to follow this path. But the Movement unfortu- Shyam Brothers nately stagnated, and ultimately petered out in the absence of Ganeshpeth, Nagpur grassroot work, which would undoubtedly have included ex- (India) 440018 periments in consensus decision-making. 4
  3. 3. It is heartening in this context that the issue is again beingdebated in the West. The efforts in the West, however, are lim-ited to groups of like-minded people or intentional communi-ties. Reaching consensus in village communities much moreheterogeneous is certainly much more challenging and muchmore difficult. But that is what needs to be attempted. Revolutions have failed because the revolutionaries triedto ‘make’ revolutions ‘for’ the people. If the end being soughtis the freedom for all, then the means must be commensurateto it. It is high time that we realize that ‘process is the key’. The spectre of globalisation has made the search for con-sensus decision-making all the more urgent. States are kneel-ing down before the evil forces of market, and collaboratingwith them, abandoning the interests of the people which theypretend to guard. Now people must rise against this unholy al-liance; for not only their freedom but also the very existenceof human values is at stake. And consensus decision-makingis the only process that can bring and keep the people togetherby harmonising their varied sentiments, interests and view-points. This little booklet is therefore timely. This is a commend-able initiative on the part of ‘Vrikshamitra’ and its convenerMohan Hirabai Hiralal. Let us hope that it generates discus-sion on this issue. - Parag Cholkar 5
  4. 4. Consensus Decision-making / 7 What does consensus mean? -1- Consensus does not mean that everyone thinks that the decision made is necessarily the best one possible, or even that (From ACT UP : Civil Disobedience Training Manual) they are sure it will work. What it does mean is that in comingWhat is consensus? to that decision, no one felt that her/his position on the matter was misunderstood or that it wasn’t given a proper hearing. Consensus is a process for group decision-making. It is a Hopefully, everyone will think it is the best decision; this of-method by which an entire group of people can come to an ten happens because, when it works, collective intelligence doesagreement. The input and ideas of all participants are gathered come up with better solutions than could individuals.and synthesized to arrive at a final decision acceptable to all.Through consensus, we are not only working to achieve better Consensus takes more time and member skills, but usessolutions, but also to promote the growth of community and lots of resources before a decision is made, creates commit-trust. ment to the decision and often facilitates creative decision. It gives everyone some experience with new processes of inter-Consensus vs. voting action and conflict resolution, which is basic but important skill- Voting is a means by which we choose one alternative from building. For consensus to be a positive experience, it is best ifseveral. Consensus, on the other hand, is a process of synthe- the group has (1) common values, (2) some skill in group pro-sizing many diverse elements together. cess and conflict resolution, or a commitment to let these be Voting is a win or lose model, in which people are more facilitated, (3) commitment and responsibility to the group byoften concerned with the numbers it takes to “win” than with its members and (4) sufficient time for everyone to participatethe issue itself. Voting does not take into account individual in the process.feelings or needs. In essence, it is a quantitative, rather than Forming the consensus proposalsqualitative, method of decision-making. During discussion a proposal for resolution is put forward. With consensus people can and should work through dif- It is amended and modified through more discussion, or with-ferences and reach a mutually satisfactory position. It is pos- drawn if it seems to be a dead end. During this discussion pe-sible for one person’s insights or strongly held beliefs to sway riod it is important to articulate differences clearly. It is the re-the whole group. No ideas are lost, each member’s input is val- sponsibility of those who are having trouble with a proposal toued as part of the solution. put forth alternative suggestions. A group committed to consensus may utilize other forms The fundamental right of consensus is for all people to beof decision-making (individual, compromise, majority rule) able to express themselves in their own words and of their ownwhen appropriate; however, a group that has adopted a will. The fundamental responsibility of consensus is to assureconsensus model will use that process for any item that brings others of their right to speak and be heard. Coercion and trade-up a lot of emotions, is something that concerns people’s ethics, offs are replaced with creative alternatives, and compromisepolitics, morals or other areas where there is much investment. with synthesis. 6
  5. 5. Consensus Decision-making / 8 Consensus Decision-making / 9 When a proposal seems to be well understood by every- Roles in a consensus meetingone, and there are no new changes asked for, the facilitator(s) There are several roles which, if filled, can help consen-can ask if there are any objections or reservations to it. If there sus decision-making run smoothly. The facilitator(s) aids theare no objections, there can be a call for consensus. If there are group in defining decisions that need to be made, helps themstill no objections, then after a moment of silence you have through the stages of reaching an agreement, keeps the meet-your decision. Once consensus does appear to have been ing moving, focuses discussion to the point at hand; makes surereached, it really helps to have someone repeat the decision to everyone has the opportunity to participate, and formulates andthe group so everyone is clear on what has been decided. tests to see if consensus has been reached. Facilitators help toDifficulties in reaching consensus direct the process of the meeting, not its content. They never If a decision has been reached, or is on the verge of being make decisions for the group. If a facilitator feels too emotion-reached that you cannot support, there are several ways to ex- ally involved in an issue or discussion and cannot remain neu-press your objections: tral in behavior, if not in attitude, then s/he should ask some- Non-support (“I don’t see the need for this, but I’ll go one to take over the task of facilitation for that agenda item.along.”) A vibes-watcher is someone besides the facilitator who Reservations (“I think this may be a mistake but I can live watches and comments on individual and group feelings andwith it.”) patterns of participation. Vibes-watchers need to be specially Standing aside (“I personally can’t do this, but I won’t stop tuned in to the group dynamics.others from doing it.”) A recorder can take notes on the meeting, especially of Blocking (“I cannot support this or allow the group to sup- decisions made and means of implementation and a time-keeperport this. It is immoral.” If a decision violates someone’s fun- keeps things going on schedule so that each agenda item candamental moral values he/she is obligated to block consensus.) be covered in the time allotted for it. (If discussion runs over the time for an item, the group may or may not decide to con- Withdrawing from the group. Obviously, if many people tract for more time to finish up.)express non-support or reservations or stand aside or leave thegroup, it may not be a viable decision even if no one directly Even though individuals take on these roles, all partici-blocks it. This is what is known as a “lukewarm” consensus pants in a meeting should be aware of and involved in the is-and it is just as desirable as a lukewarm bath. sues, process, and feelings of the group, and should share their individual expertise in helping the group run smoothly and If consensus is blocked and no new consensus can be reach a decision. This is especially true when it comes to find-reached, the group stays with whatever the previous decision ing compromise agreements to seemingly contradictory posi-was on the subject, or does nothing if that is applicable. Major tions.philosophical or moral questions that will come up with eachaffinity group will have to be worked through as soon as thegroup forms.
  6. 6. Consensus Decision-making / 11 -2- sphere in which conflict is encouraged, supported, and resolved cooperatively with respect, nonviolence, and creativity. Con- (Extracts from the book ‘On Conflict and Consensus : A Hand- flict is desirable. It is not something to be avoided, dismissed, book on Formal Consensus Decision-making’ by C.T. Lawrence Butler and Amy Rothstein) diminished, or denied. Majority Rule and CompetitionFormal Consensus Generally speaking, when a group votes using majority rule We must learn to live together cooperatively, resolving our or parliamentary procedure, a competitive dynamic is createdconflicts nonviolently and making our decisions consensually. within the group because it is being asked to choose betweenWe must learn to value diversity and respect all life, not just two (or more) possibilities. It is just as acceptable to attack andon a physical level, but emotionally, intellectually, and spiritu- diminish another’s point of view as it is to promote and en-ally. We are all in this together. dorse your own ideas. Often, voting occurs before one side re- We believe that it is inherently better to involve every per- veals anything about itself, but spends time solely attacking theson who is affected by the decision in the decision-making pro- opponent ! In this adversarial environment, one’s ideas arecess. This is true for several reasons. The decision would re- owned and often defended in the face of improvements.flect the will of the entire group, not just the leadership. The Consensus and Cooperationpeople who carry out the plans will be more satisfied with their Consensus process, on the other hand, creates a coopera-work. tive dynamic. Only one proposal is considered at a time. Ev- Formal Consensus has a clearly defined structure. It re- eryone works together to make it the best possible decision forquires a commitment to active cooperation, disciplined speak- the group. Any concerns are raised and resolved, sometimesing and listening, and respect for the contributions of every one by one, until all voices are heard. Since proposals are nomember. Likewise, every person has the responsibility to ac- longer the property of the presenter, a solution can be createdtively participate as a creative individual within the structure. more cooperatively. Avoidance, denial, and repression of conflict is common Proposalsduring meetings. Therefore, using Formal Consensus might not In the consensus process, only proposals which intend tobe easy at first. Unresolved conflict from previous experiences accomplish the common purpose are considered. During dis-could come rushing forth and make the process difficult, if not cussion of a proposal, everyone works to improve the proposalimpossible. Practice and discipline, however, will smoothen the to make it the best decision for the group. All proposals areprocess. The benefit of everyone’s participation and coopera- adopted unless the group decides it is contrary to the best in-tion is worth the struggle it may initially take to ensure that all terests of the group.voices are heard. The least violent decision-making processConflict Traditional nonviolence theory holds that the use of power While decision-making is as much about conflict as it is to dominate is violent and undesirable. Nonviolence expectsabout agreement, Formal Consensus works best in an atmo- 10
  7. 7. Consensus Decision-making / 12 Consensus Decision-making / 13people to use their power to persuade without deception, coer- Formal Consensus is not inherentlycion, or malice, using truth, creativity, logic, respect, and love. time-consumingMajority rule voting process and parliamentary procedure both Decisions are not an end in themselves. Decision-makingaccept, and even encourage, the use of power to dominate oth- is a process which starts with an idea and ends with the actualers. The goal is the winning of the vote, often regardless of implementation of the decision. While it may be true in an au-another choice which might be in the best interest of the whole tocratic process that decisions can be made quickly, the actualgroup. The will of the majority supersedes the concerns and implementation will take time. When one person or a smalldesires of the minority. This is inherently violent. Consensus group of people makes a decision for a larger group, the deci-strives to take into account everyone’s concerns and resolve sion not only has to be communicated to the others, but it alsothem before any decision is made. Most importantly, this pro- has to be acceptable to them or its implementation will needcess encourages an environment in which everyone is respected to be forced upon them. This will certainly take time, perhapsand all contributions are valued. a considerable amount of time. On the other hand, if everyoneThe most democratic decision-making process participates in the decision-making, the decision does not need Groups which desire to involve as many people as pos- to be communicated and its implementation does not need tosible need to use an inclusive process. To attract and involve be forced upon the participants. The decision may take longerlarge numbers, it is important that the process encourages par- to make, but once it is made, implementation can happen in aticipation, allows equal access to power, develops cooperation, timely manner.promotes empowerment, and creates a sense of individual re- The amount of time a decision takes to make from startsponsibility for the group’s actions. All of these are cornerstones to finish is not a factor of the process used; rather, it is a fac-of Formal Consensus. The goal of consensus is not the selec- tor of the complexity of the proposal itself. An easy decisiontion of several options, but the development of one decision takes less time than a difficult, complex decision, regardlesswhich is the best for the whole group. It is synthesis and evo- of the process used or the number of people involved.lution, not competition and attrition. On Decision-makingFormal consensus works better when more people Decisions are adopted when all participants consent to theparticipate result of discussion about the original proposal. People who do Consensus is more than the sum total of ideas of the indi- not agree with a proposal are responsible for expressing theirviduals in the group. During discussion, ideas build one upon concerns. No decision is adopted until there is resolution ofthe next, generating new ideas, until the best decision emerges. every concern. When concerns remain after discussion, indi-This dynamic is called the creative interplay of ideas. Creativ- viduals can agree to disagree by acknowledging that they haveity plays a major part as everyone strives to discover what is unresolved concerns, but consent to the proposal anyway andbest for the group. The more people involved in this coopera- allow it to be adopted. Therefore, reaching consensus does nottive process, the more ideas and possibilities are generated. assume that everyone must be in complete agreement, a highlyConsensus works best with everyone participating. unlikely situation in a group of intelligent, creative individuals.
  8. 8. Consensus Decision-making / 14 Consensus Decision-making / 15 Formal Consensus is presented in levels or cycles. In the play of comments and ideas. Allow for the addition of any rel-first level, the idea is to allow everyone to express their per- evant factual information. For those who might at first feel op-spective, including concerns, but group time is not spent on posed to the proposal, this discussion is consideration of whyresolving problems. In the second level the group focuses its it might be good for the group in the broadest sense. Their ini-attention on identifying concerns, still not resolving them. This tial concerns might, in fact, be of general concern to the wholerequires discipline. Reactive comments, even funny ones, and group. And, for those who initially support the proposal, thisresolutions, even good ones, can suppress the creative ideas of is a time to think about the proposal broadly and some of theothers. Not until the third level does the structure allow for ex- general problems.ploring resolutions. If there seems to be general approval of the proposal, the Each level has a different scope and focus. At the first facilitator, or someone recognized to speak, can request a calllevel, the scope is broad, allowing the discussion to consider for consensus.the philosophical and political implications as well as the gen- Call for Consensuseral merits and drawbacks and other relevant information. The The facilitator asks, “Are there any unresolved concerns?”only focus is on the proposal as a whole. Some decisions can or “Are there any concerns remaining?” After a period of si-be reached after discussion at the first level. At the second level, lence, if no additional concerns are raised, the facilitator de-the scope of the discussion is limited to the concerns. They are clares that consensus is reached and the proposal is read foridentified and publicly listed, which enables everyone to get the overall picture of the concerns. The focus of attention is on The length of silence ought to be directly related to theidentifying the body of concerns and grouping similar ones. degree of difficulty in reaching consensus; an easy decision re-At the third level, the scope is very narrow. The focus of dis- quires a short silence, a difficult decision requires a longer si-cussion is limited to a single unresolved concern until it is re- lence. This encourages everyone to be at peace in acceptingsolved. the consensus before moving on to other business. At this point, Try to encourage comments which take the whole proposal the facilitator assigns task responsibilities or sends the deci-into account; i.e., why it is a good idea, or general problems sion to a committee for implementation.which need to be addressed. Discussion at this level often has It is important to note that the question is not “Is therea philosophical or principled tone, purposely addressing how consensus?” or “Does everyone agree?”. These questions dothis proposal might affect the group in the long run or what not encourage an environment in which all concerns can bekind of precedent it might create, etc. It helps every proposal expressed. If some people have a concern, but are shy or in-to be discussed in this way, before the group engages in re- timidated by a strong showing of support for a proposal, thesolving particular concerns. Do not allow one concern to be- question “Are there any unresolved concerns?” speaks directlycome the focus of the discussion. When particular concerns are to them and provides an opportunity for them to speak. Anyraised, make note of them but encourage the discussion to move concerns for which someone stands aside are listed with theback to the proposal as a whole. Encourage the creative inter- proposal and become a part of it.
  9. 9. Consensus Decision-making / 16 Consensus Decision-making / 17Rules of Formal Consensus: ions about proposals, is to be expected and acceptable. Do not 1. Once a decision has been adopted by consensus, it can- avoid or repress conflict. Create an environment in which dis-not be changed without reaching a new consensus. If a new agreement can be expressed without fear. Objections and criti-consensus cannot be reached, the old decision stands. cisms can be heard not as attacks, not as attempts to defeat a 2. In general, only one person has permission to speak at proposal, but as a concern which, when resolved, will makeany moment. The person with permission to speak is determined the proposal the group discussion technique in use and/or the facilitator. This understanding of conflict may not be easily accepted 3. All structural decisions (i.e., which roles to use, who by the members of a group. Our training by society underminesfills each role, and which facilitation technique and/or group this concept. Therefore, it will not be easy to create the kind ofdiscussion technique to use) are adopted by consensus without environment where differences can be expressed without feardebate. Any objection automatically causes a new selection to or resentment. But it can be done. It will require tolerance andbe made. If a role cannot be filled without objection, the group a willingness to experiment. Additionally, the values and prin-proceeds without that role being filled. If much time is spent ciples which form the basis of commitment to work togethertrying to fill roles or find acceptable techniques, then the group to resolve conflict need to be clearly defined, and accepted byneeds a discussion about the unity of purpose of this group and all involved.why it is having this problem, a discussion which must be put If a group desires to adopt Formal Consensus as its deci-on the agenda for the next meeting, if not held immediately. sion-making process, the first step is the creation of a State- 4. All content decisions (i.e., the agenda contract, com- ment of Purpose or Constitution. This document would describemittee reports, proposals, etc.) are adopted by consensus after not only the common purpose, but would also include the defi-discussion. Every content decision must be openly discussed nition of the group’s principles and values. If the group dis-before it can be tested for consensus. cusses and writes down its foundation of principles at the start, 5. A concern must be based upon the principles of the it is much easier to determine group versus individual concernsgroup to justify a block to consensus. later on. 6. Every meeting which uses Formal Consensus must have The following are principles which form the foundationan evaluation. of Formal Consensus. A commitment to these principles and/ or a willingness to develop them is necessary. In addition toOn Conflict and Consensus the ones listed herein, the group might add principles and val- Conflict is usually viewed as an impediment to reaching ues which are specific to its purpose.agreements and disruptive to peaceful relationships. However, Foundation Upon Which Consensus Is Builtit is the underlying thesis of Formal Consensus that nonvio-lent conflict is necessary and desirable. It provides the motiva- For consensus to work well, the process must be conductedtions for improvement. The challenge is the creation of an un- in an environment which promotes trust, respect, and skill shar-derstanding in all who participate that conflict, or differing opin- ing. The following are principles which, when valued and re- spected, encourage and build consensus.
  10. 10. Consensus Decision-making / 18 Consensus Decision-making / 19 Trust to persuade others to your point of view. Foremost is the need for trust. Without some amount of Self-empowermenttrust, there will be no cooperation or nonviolent resolution to It is easy for people to unquestioningly rely on authoritiesconflict. For trust to flourish, it is desirable for individuals to and experts to do their thinking and decision-making for willing to examine their attitudes and be open to new ideas. If members of a group delegate their authority, intentionally orAcknowledgment and appreciation of personal and cultural dif- not, they fail to accept responsibility for the group’s decisions.ferences promote trust. Neither approval nor friendship are nec- Consensus promotes and depends upon self0empowerment.essary for a good working relationship. By developing trust, Anyone can express concerns. Everyone seeks creative solu-the process of consensus encourages the intellectual and emo- tions and is responsible for every decision. When all are en-tional development of the individuals within a group. couraged to participate, the democratic nature of the process Respect increases. It is everyone’s responsibility to show respect to one an- Cooperationother. People feel respected when everyone listens, when they Unfortunately, Western society is saturated in competition.are not interrupted, when their ideas are taken seriously. Re- When winning arguments becomes more important than achiev-spect for emotional as well as logical concerns promotes the ing the group’s goals, cooperation is difficult, if not impossible.kind of environment necessary for developing consensus. To Adversarial attitudes toward proposals or people focus atten-promote respect, it is important to distinguish between an ac- tion on weakness rather than strength. An attitude of helpful-tion which causes a problem and the person who did the ac- ness and support builds cooperation. Cooperation is a sharedtion, between the deed and the doer. We must criticize the act, responsibility in finding solutions to all concerns. Ideas offerednot the person. Even if you think the person is the problem, in the spirit of cooperation help resolve conflict. The best de-responding that way never resolves anything. cisions arise through an open and creative interplay of ideas. Unity of Purpose Conflict Resolution Unity of purpose is a basic understanding about the goals The free flow of ideas, even among friends, inevitablyand purpose of the group. Of course, there will be varying opin- leads to conflict. In this context, conflict is simply the expres-ions on the best way to accomplish these goals. However, there sion of disagreement. Disagreement itself is neither good normust be a unifying base, a common starting point, which is bad. Diverse viewpoints bring into focus and explore therecognized and accepted by all. strengths and weaknesses of attitudes, assumptions, and plans. Nonviolence Without conflict, one is less likely to think about and evaluate Nonviolent decision-makers use their power to achieve one’s views and prejudices. There is no right decision, onlygoals while respecting differences and cooperating with oth- the best one for the whole group. The task is to work togetherers. In this environment, it is considered violent to use power to discover which choice is most acceptable to all dominate or control the group process. It is understood that Avoid blaming anyone for conflict. Blame is inherently vio-the power of revealing your truth is the maximum force allowed lent. It attacks dignity and empowerment. It encourages people
  11. 11. Consensus Decision-making / 20 Consensus Decision-making / 21to feel guilty, defensive, and alienated. The group will lose its Equal Access to Powerability to resolve conflict. People will hide their true feelings Because of personal differences (experience, assertiveness,to avoid being blamed for the conflict. The presence of con- social conditioning, access to information, etc.) and politicalflict can create an occasion for growth. Learn to use it as a cata- disparities, some people inevitably have more effective powerlyst for discovering creative resolutions and for developing a than others. To balance this inequity, everyone needs to con-better understanding of each other. With patience, anyone can sciously attempt to creatively share power, skills, and infor-learn to resolve conflict creatively, without defensiveness or mation. Avoid hierarchical structures that allow some individu-guilt. Groups can learn to nurture and support their members als to assume undemocratic power over others. Egalitarian andin this effort by allowing creativity and experimentation. This accountable structures promote universal access to power.process necessitates that the group continually evaluate and Patienceimprove these skills. Consensus cannot be rushed. Often, it functions smoothly, Commitment to the Group producing effective, stable results. Sometimes, when difficult In joining a group, one accepts a personal responsibility situations arise, consensus requires more time to allow for theto behave with respect, goodwill, and honesty. Each one is ex- creative interplay of ideas. During these times, patience is morepected to recognize that the group’s needs have a certain prior- advantageous than tense, urgent, or aggressive behavior. Con-ity over the desires of the individual. Many people participate sensus is possible as long as each individual acts patiently andin group work in a very egocentric way. It is important to ac- respectfully.cept the shared responsibility for helping to find solutions to Facilitatorother’s concerns. The word facilitate means to make easy. A facilitator con- Active Participation ducts group business and guides the Formal Consensus pro- We all have an inalienable right to express our own best cess so that it flows smoothly. Rotating facilitation from meet-thoughts. We decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. ing to meeting shares important skills among the members. IfSince consensus is a process of synthesis, not competition, all everyone has firsthand knowledge about facilitation, it will helpsincere comments are important and valuable. If ideas are put the flow of all meetings. Having two (or more) people facili-forth as the speaker’s property and individuals are strongly at- tate a meeting, is recommended. Having a woman and a mantached to their opinions, consensus will be extremely difficult. share the responsibilities encourages a more balanced meeting.Stubbornness, closed-mindedness, and possessiveness lead to Also, an inexperienced facilitator may apprentice with a moredefensive and argumentative behavior that disrupts the process. experienced one. Try to use a variety of techniques throughoutFor active participation to occur, it is necessary to promote trust the meeting. And remember, a little bit of humour can go aby creating an atmosphere in which every contribution is con- long way in easing tension during a long, difficult meeting.sidered valuable. With encouragement, each person can develop Goodwillknowledge and experience, a sense of responsibility and com- Always try to assume goodwill. Assume every statementpetency, and the ability to participate. and action is sincerely intended to benefit the group. Assume
  12. 12. Consensus Decision-making / 22 Consensus Decision-making / 23that each member understands the group’s purpose and accepts which is based upon honesty and trust, nonviolence and self-the agenda as a contract. Often, when we project our feelings empowerment, and equality and democracy. Within the largerand expectations onto others, we influence their actions. If we society, we are an alternative society with a vision of encour-treat others as though they are trying to get attention, disrupt aging the outbreak of peace. We are not turning away from themeetings, or pick fights, they will often fulfil our expectations. existing society; we are the hope and the future of society. A resolution to conflict is more likely to occur if we act Generic Principlesas though there will be one. This is especially true if someone The following is a list of words and phrases from the Vi-is intentionally trying to cause trouble or who is emotionally sion Statement. Each needs to be defined, in two or three para-unhealthy. Do not attack the person, but rather, assume good- graphs (or more), by the membership. This would be a livingwill and ask the person to explain to the group how that person’s document, meaning the definitions would evolve, over time,statements or actions are in the best interest of the group. It is to more accurately reflect the intent and consent of the group.also helpful to remember to separate the actor from the action. • Common unityWhile the behavior may be unacceptable, the person is not bad. • Faith in actionAvoid accusing the person of being the way they behave. Re- • Sovereignty of the individualmember, no one has the answer. The group’s work is the searchfor the best and most creative process, one which fosters a mu- • Personal responsibilitytually satisfying resolution to any concern which may arise. • CommunityGeneric Vision Statements • Collective Common unity is faith in action. We recognize that with • Committedsovereignty of the individual comes personal responsibility for • Open and honest communicationthe community. Collectively, we are committed to open and • Create an open and safe environmenthonest communication. Together, we can create an environment • Conflictwhere conflict and differences are expressed openly and safely. • Nonviolence Individually, we practice nonviolence. As individuals and • The ability to resolve conflict without violenceas a group, we are constantly in the process of evolving the • Living simplyability to resolve conflict without violence. • Non-possessive We are committed to living simply. We do not own people • Honestor things. We have open, non-possessive, honest, egalitarian • Egalitarianrelationships with consenting peers. We are all students andteachers. We give unconditional support to those dependent • Relationships with consenting peersupon us. We are stewards of the earth and all her relations. We • All students and teachersstrive for sustainable systems in all our endeavors. • Unconditional support to those dependent upon us Within our community, we are creating a social order • Stewards of the earth and all her relations
  13. 13. Consensus Decision-making / 24 Consensus Decision-making / 25 • Sustainable systems of domination and control, which dehumanize and alienate all • Social order based upon honesty and trust, nonviolence parties affected by their use, are the standards of group inter-and self-empowerment, and equality and democracy action with which we were all conditioned. There are but a few • An alternative society models in our society which offer an alternative. • Vision All groups, no matter what their mission or political phi- • Outbreak of peace losophy, use some form of process to accomplish their work. Almost all groups, no matter where they fall on the social, po- • The hope and the future of society litical, and economic spectrum of society, have a hierarchicalA Revolutionary Decision-Making Process structure, accept competition as “natural”, acceptable, and even If you were asked to pick one thing that might bring about desirable, and put a good deal of effort into maintaining con-major social, political, and economic change in this country, trol of their members. It is telling that in our society, there arewhat would you pick? Most people would pick their favorite opposing groups, with very different perspectives and values,issue; be it civil rights, demilitarization, environmental which have identical structures and techniques for interactionsustainability, or whatever. Some people would choose a sys- and decision-making. If you played a theater game in whichtem of values to replace the capitalism system such as social- both groups wore the same costumes and masks and spoke inism or the Ten Key Values of the Greens. But few people would gibberish rather than words, a spectator would not be able toeven think of changing group dynamics (the way people treat tell them apart.each other when interacting with one another in a group); or So what would an alternative revolutionary decision-mak-specifically, the process they use when making decisions. ing process look like, you ask? To begin with, a fundamental Process is the key to revolutionary change. This is not a shift from competition to cooperation. This does not mean tonew message. Visionaries have long pointed to this but it is a do away with competition. Ask any team coach what the keyhard lesson to learn. As recently as the 70s, feminists clearly to victory is and you will be told “cooperation within the team”.defined the lack of an alternative process for decision-making The fundamental shift is the use of competition not to win,and group interaction as the single most important obstacle in which is just a polite way of saying to dominate, to beat, tothe way of real change, both within progressive organizations destroy, to kill the opposition; but rather, to use competition toand for society at large. Despite progress on many issues of do or be the best. In addition, the cooperative spirit recognizesconcern to progressive-minded people, very little has changed that it is not necessary to attack another’s efforts in order to doin the way people treat each other, either locally or globally, your best; in fact, the opposite is true. In most situations, help-and almost nothing has changed about who makes the deci- ing others do their best actually increases your ability to dosions. better. And in group interactions, the cooperative spirit actu- The values of competition, which allow us to accept the ally allows the group’s best to be better than the sum of its parts.idea that somebody has to lose; the structure of hierarchy, Cooperation is more than “live and let live”. It is makingwhich, by definition, creates power elites; and the techniques an effort to understand another’s point of view. It is incorpo-
  14. 14. Consensus Decision-making / 26 Consensus Decision-making / 27rating another’s perspective with your own so that a new per- taking sides. Conflicts would be seen as an opportunity forspective emerges. It is suspending disbelief, even if only tem- growth, expanding people’s thinking, sharing new information,porarily, so you can see the gem of truth in ideas other than and developing new solutions which include everyone’s per-your own. It is a process of creativity, synthesis, and open- spectives. The group would create an environment where ev-mindedness which leads to trust-building, better communica- eryone was encouraged to participate, conflict was freely ex-tion and understanding, and ultimately, a stronger, healthier, pressed, and resolutions were in the best interest of everyonemore successful group. involved. Indubitably, this would be revolutionary. The next step is the development of an organization whichis non-hierarchical or egalitarian. A corresponding structurewould include: participatory democracy, routine universal skill-building and information-sharing, rotation of leadership roles,frequent evaluations, and, perhaps most importantly, equal ac-cess to power. Hierarchical structures are not, in and of them-selves, the problem. But their use concentrates power at thetop and, invariably, the top becomes less and less accessible tothe people at the bottom, who are usually most affected by thedecisions made by those at the top. Within groups (and withinsociety itself), there becomes a power elite. In an egalitarianstructure, everyone has access to power and every position ofpower is accountable to everyone. This does not mean that there are no leaders. But the lead-ers actively share skills and information. They recognize thatleadership is a role empowered by the entire group, not a per-sonal characteristic. A group in which most or all of the mem-bers can fill any of the leadership roles cannot easily be domi-nated, internally or externally. The last and most visible step toward revolutionary changein group process is the manner in which members of the groupinteract with each other. Dominating attitudes and controllingbehaviour would not be tolerated. People would show respectand expect to be shown respect. Everyone would be doing theirpersonal best to help the group reach decisions which are inthe best interest of the group. There would be no posturing and
  15. 15. Consensus Decision-making / 29 -3- An objection is often raised that a single man may the be able to block any decision, defying all others. What could then (Excerpts from the speeches of Vinoba in the 1950’s during his be done? The man may be right or he may just be obdurate. If Bhoodan [Land-gift] Movement) he is right, he will make others understand his point of view. If The will to power in men needs to be rooted out. To rein he is obdurate, the village community should devise ways toin this will to power, everyone has been given the right to vote bring him round. It should be creative enough to do a democracy. This implies that distribution of power is the Consensus may not be reached in a few village communi-first step. ties; but that would obstruct their progress, while the commu- When men differ from each other in every respect, what nities that succeed in doing so would go ahead. That wouldcould be the basis for granting this right to all? Unity of soul make the former sit up and set them thinking. It is through lovecould be the only basis for it. that real progress takes place; not through fear. One has to be But although democracy has given the right to vote to ev- patient. A child sows a seed, but has no patience to let it takeeryone, it stipulates counting of votes and the power is entrusted its own time for germination. This is not how the adults shouldto those securing majority, howsoever thin it may be. The ideo- behave. When the people realize that one should not stick tologues of democracy should, in fact, understand that this is not one’s views obstinately at the cost of the village unity, consen-a question of arithmetic; for the idea of the unity of soul is a sus will not be difficult to achieve.metaphysical rather than a mathematical idea. In fact, majoritarianism is against human nature; consen- Sarvodaya removes this anamoly. It says that enerybody’s sus is more in keeping with it.ideas should be respected. It is wrong to consider that threeout of five are right and two are wrong; it is the unanimousopinion of all the five that should be upheld. It is because ofthe rejection of this principle that the whole world is now tornwith conflicts between majorities and minorities. We want decision-making by consensus. We should thinkover the ways and means to bring this about. The UN SecurityCouncil has adopted this principle. The Quakers too follow thisprinciple. This is just a beginning. We should make further ex-periments in this direction. All may not agree on all the points. There may be somedifference of opinion. Those having a different opinion mayexpress it, but may not stand in the way of the rest. We cancall this ‘sarvanumati’ (consent by all) as against‘sarvasammati’ (total agreement). 28
  16. 16. Consensus Decision-making / 31 -3- Amy Rothstein was out of question—when they decided on their own accord to take decisions about the village affairs by Mendha (Lekha) and the consensus. It was their own innate wisdom that made them take Theory and Practice of Consensus this decision. And they have since stuck to that resolve against all odds. It was only in 1987 that they came to know about (Mohan Hirabai Hiralal) Mahatma Gandhi and his seminal work ‘Hind-Swaraj’ during the Participatory study on People and Forest. And only recently Consensus decision-making has been and is being at- did they learn that writers like C.T. Lawrence Butler and Amytempted in some intentional communities. Gandhian thinkers Rothstein in the West have written extensively on the theoryhave advocated its use in the village communities governing of consensus as the only worthwhile method of decision-mak-themselves; in fact, they have held that it is an essential condi- ing in human groups.tion for the village community to become and remain self-gov-erning. However, this is, more often than not, dismissed out of The residents of Mendha can learn much from such think-hand as Utopian. Consensus decision-making is not deemed ers; and they too can make their own contribution to the theorypossible in a village community. as well as practice of consensus. They have, in fact, already made singular contribution. Mendha (Lekha) has proved that it is possible. The method of Consensus decision-making is being suc- And if one village can do it, any village or any small cessfully practised in Mendha. What could be the reason?community—even urban community—can do it. The easy answer is—Because it is a homogeneous com- People of Mendha (Lekha), a village in the Gadchiroli dis- munity with all the residents belonging to a single tribe—thetrict in Maharashtra, have declared that ‘We have our govern- Gonds.ment in Delhi and Mumbai, but in our village we ourselvesare the government’, that is, while they send their representa- But is it so?tives, like all Indian citizens, to the State Assembly and the Mendha (Lekha) is not the only village which is homoge-Central Parliament, they govern themselves at the village level. neous. Then why does’nt this happen in all homogeneous vil-They have made their own laws, rules and regulations for their lages?governance. All decisions regarding the village affairs and its Clearly, it is not a potential that is an exclusive preroga-development are taken in the village assembly—the real tive of any caste, class, religion, race or gender. It is a humanGramsabha or the Gaon-samaj sabha—consisting of all the potential. That it is dormant now is a fact. But it can surely beadult men and women in the village. Every issue is thoroughly activated, just as a seed gets germinated when proper condi-debated therein. Everyone’s active participation is sought and tions are provided for the same. Proper conditions need to beencouraged and valued. And all the decisions are taken by con- provided for the activation of human potentials too.sensus. Mendha’s experience shows that a particular structure and The villagers of Mendha had no knowledge of the ideas a particular way of working are conducive to the success ofof Mahatma Gandhi—hearing about C.T. Lawrence Butler and the consensus model. 30
  17. 17. Consensus Decision-making / 32 Consensus Decision-making / 33 In Mendha, the forum for decision-making is the Village issue at hand. The study circle is not a formally structured body;Community Council (Gaon-Samaj Sabha). All the adult vil- it has no definite membership. Participation in it is voluntary,lagers participate in it. Such participation is possible because not compulsory, unlike that in the village assembly. It can meetthe number of the members is limited. Everybody knows ev- as many times as the people want; as the situation warrants.erybody else. The geographical area of the village is such that And it meets at a public place openly. When consensus eludesthe villagers can assemble at any time with short notice. These, the village assembly, the issue in question is referred to the studythen, are the key factors. The number of the persons in the group circle for review and more in-depth discussion. The study circleand the geographical area in which they live should be such is not supposed to take any decision; that is clearly the pre-that active participation by all is possible. rogative of the village assembly. Its function is to help the vil- The villagers in the Mendha have resolved to take deci- lage assembly in taking proper decisions.sions by consensus only. Everybody is aware of it. So consen-sus is not tried half-heartedly and abandoned at the slightestpretext. Participation of those with different views is not onlytolerated or encouraged, but deliberate efforts are also made toensure it, and their views are respected. Such persons knowthis. This serves in preventing the formation of groups. Mendha has resolved that at least one male and one fe-male member of each household must attend the meetings ofthe gaon-samaj-sabha. If they fail to do so, they are fined. Par-ticipation of women in the village affairs is at best token ev-erywhere. Reservation for them in the panchayat bodies havehardly made any difference. That Mendha has made participa-tion of at least one woman from every house compulsory is While consensus model is adopted for decision-making,significant in this context. it logically follows that implementation should also ensure Decisions are taken in the village assembly. But it is not maximum possible participation. In fact, it is an essential cor-possible to debate all the issues thoroughly there. Sometimes, ollary. Mendha is aware of it. The system of Bank account op-help from outside experts and knowledgeable friends is neces- eration may be mentioned in this context. The communitysary to know the relevant facts and different facets of the is- authorises two persons to operate the account, a third personsue. So Mendha has complemented the village assembly with to keep the pass book, and a fourth one to keep the accounts.a study circle. Alongwith the villagers having an appetite for This authorisation is not for any specific period; any time itknowledge and interest in debating various issues, friends from can be changed. This also ensures transperancy in financialoutside the village too can participate in the study circle; and, matters and obviates corruption which is the bane of the presentat times, their participation is sought to know more about the democratic and bureaucratic structures.
  18. 18. Consensus Decision-making / 35Appendix : stance in which finality can be predicted for its work. When the greatest questions are debated, its members have been seen toExtracts from the book ‘HIND-SWARAJ’ or INDIAN HOME stretch themselves and to doze. Sometimes the members talk awayRULE by M. K. Gandhi (1909) until the listeners are disgusted. Carlyle has called it the “talking CHAPTER V shop of the world”. Members vote for their party without a THE CONDITION OF ENGLAND thought. Their so-called discipline binds them to it. If any mem- ber, by way of exception, gives an independent vote, he is con-Reader: Then from your statement I deduce that the Government sidered a renegade. If the money and the time wasted by Parlia-of England is not desirable, and not worth copying by us. ment were entrusted to a few good men, the English nation wouldEditor: Your deduction is justified. The condition of England at be occupying today a much higher platform. Parliament is sim-present is pitiable. I pray to God that India may never be in that ply a costly toy of the nation. These views are by no means pecu-plight. That which you consider to be the Mother of Parliaments liar to me. Some great English thinkers have expressed them. Oneis like a sterile woman and a prostitute. Both these are harsh terms, of the members of that Parliament recently said that a true Chris-but exactly fit the case. That Parliament has not yet, of its own tian could not become a member of it. Another said that it was aaccord, done a single good thing. Hence I have compared it to a baby. And if it has remained a baby after an existence of sevensterile woman. The natural condition of that Parliament is such hundred years, when will it outgrow its babyhood?that, without outside pressure, it can do nothing. It is like a pros- Reader: You have set me thinking. You do not expect me to ac-titute because it as under the control of ministers who change from cept at once all you say. You give me entirely novel views. I shalltime to time. Today it is under Mr. Asquith, tomorrow it may be have to digest them. Will you now explain the epithet “prosti-under Mr. Balfour. tute”?Reader: You have said this sarcastically. The term “sterile Editor: That you cannot accept my views at once is only right. Ifwoman” is not applicable. The Parliament being elected by the you will read the literature on this subject, you will have somepeople, must work under public pressure. This is its quality. idea of it. Parliament is without a real master. Under the PrimeEditor: You are mistaken. Let us examine it a little more closely. Minister, its movement is not steady but it is buffeted about likeThe best men are supposed to be elected by the people. The mem- a prostitute. The Prime Minister is more concerned about hisbers serve without pay and therefore, it must be assumed, only power than about the welfare of Parliament. His energy is con-for the public weal. The electors are considered to be educated centrated upon securing the success of his party. His care is notand therefore we should assume that they would not generally always that Parliament shall do right. Prime Ministers are knownmake mistakes in their choice. Such a Parliament should not need to have made Parliament do things merely for party advantage.the spur of petitions or any other pressure. Its work should be so All this is worth thinking over.smooth that its effects would be more apparent day by day. But, Reader: Then you are really attacking the very men whom weas a matter of fact, it is generally acknowledged that the mem- have hitherto considered to be patriotic and honest?bers are hypocritical and selfish. Each thinks of his own little in-terest. It is fear that is the guiding motive. What is done today Editor: Yes, that is true. I can have nothing against Prime Min-may be undone tomorrow. It is not possible to recall a single in- isters, but what I have seen leads me to think that they cannot be 34
  19. 19. Consensus Decision-making / 36 Consensus Decision-making / 37considered really patriotic. If they are to be considered honest Editor: Your reasoning is plausible. It has deluded many. I havebecause they do not take what are generally known as bribes, let used similar arguments before now. But I think I know better now,them be so considered, but they are open to subtler influences. In and I shall endeavor to undeceive you. Let us first take the argu-order to gain their ends, they certainly bribe people with honors. ment that we are justified in gaining our end by using brute forceI do not hesitate to say that they have neither real honesty nor a because the English gained theirs by using similar means. It isliving conscience. perfectly true that they used brute force and that it is possible for CHAPTER XVI us to do likewise, but by using similar means we can get only the BRUTE FORCE same thing that they got. You will admit that we do not want that. Your belief that there is no connection between the means andReader: This is a new doctrine, that what is gained through fear the end is a great mistake. Through that mistake even men whois retained only while the fear lasts. Surely, what is given will have been considered religious have committed grievous crimes.not be withdrawn? Your reasoning is the same as saying that we can get a rose throughEditor: Not so. The Proclamation of 1857 was given at the end planting a noxious weed. If I want to cross the ocean, I can do soof a revolt, and for the purpose of preserving peace. When peace only by means of a vessel; if I were to use a cart for that purpose,was secured and people became simple-minded its full effect was both the cart and I would soon find the bottom. “As is the God,toned down. If I cease stealing for fear of punishment, I would so is the votary”, is a maxim worth considering. Its meaning hasrecommence the operation as soon as the fear is withdrawn from been distorted and men have gone astray. The means may be lik-me. This is almost a universal experience. We have assumed that ened to a seed, the end to a tree; and there is just the same invio-we can get men to do things by force and, therefore, we use force. lable connection between the means and the end as there is be-Reader: Will you not admit that you are arguing against your- tween the seed and the tree. I am not likely to obtain the resultself? You know that what the English obtained in their own coun- flowing from the worship of God by laying myself prostrate be-try they obtained by using brute force. I know you have argued fore Satan. If, therefore, anyone were to say: “I want to worshipthat what they have obtained is useless, but that does not affect God; it does not matter that I do so by means of Satan,” it wouldmy argument. They wanted useless things and they got them. My be set down as ignorant folly. We reap exactly as we sow. Thepoint is that their desire was fulfilled. What does it matter what English in 1833 obtained greater voting power by violence. Didmeans they adopted? Why should we not obtain our goal, which they by using brute force better appreciate their duty? They wantedis good, by any means whatsoever even by using violence? Shall the right of voting, which they obtained by using physical force.I think of the means when I have to deal with a thief in the house? But real rights are a result of performance of duty; these rightsMy duty is to drive him out anyhow. You seem to admit that we they have not obtained. We, therefore, have before us in Englandhave received nothing, and that we shall receive nothing by peti- the force of everybody wanting and insisting on his rights, no-tioning. Why, then, may we not do so by using brute force? And, body thinking of his duty. And, where everybody wants rights,to retain what we may receive we shall keep up the fear by using who shall give them to whom? I do not wish to imply that theythe same force to the extent that it may be necessary. You will not do no duties. They don’t perform the duties corresponding to thosefind fault with a continuance of force to prevent a child from thrust- rights; and as they do not perform that particular duty, namely,ing its foot into fire. Somehow or other we have to gain our end. acquire fitness, their rights have proved a burden to them. In other
  20. 20. Consensus Decision-making / 38 Consensus Decision-making / 39words, what they have obtained is an exact result of the means not be able to agree as to the means to be adopted in each case. Ithey adopted. They used the means corresponding to the end. If I myself seem clearly to see what should be done in all these cases,want to deprive you of your watch, I shall certainly have to fight but the remedy may frighten you. I therefore hesitate to place itfor it; if l want to buy your watch, I shall have to pay you for it; before you. For the time being I will leave you to guess it, and ifand if I want a gift, I shall have to plead for it; and, according to you cannot, it is clear you will have to adopt different means inthe means I employ, the watch is stolen property, my own prop- each case. You will also have seen that any means will not availerty, or a donation. Thus we see three different results from three to drive away the thief. You will have to adopt means to fit eachdifferent means. Will you still say that means do not matter? case. Hence it follows that your duty is not to drive away the thief Now we shall take the example given by you of the thief to by any means you driven out. I do not agree with you that the thief may be driven Let us proceed a little further. That well-armed man has sto-out by any means. If it is my father who has come to steal I shall len your property; you have harboured the thought of his act; youuse one kind of means. If it is an acquaintance I shall use an- are filled with anger; you argue that you want to punish that rogue,other, and in the case of a perfect stranger I shall use a third. If it not for your own sake, but for the good of your neighbours; youis a White man, you will perhaps say you will use means differ- have collected a number of armed men, you want to take his houseent from those you will adopt with an Indian thief. If it is a weak- by assault; he is duly informed of it, he runs away; he too is in-ling, the means will be different from those to be adopted for deal- censed. He collects his brother robbers, and sends you a defianting with an equal in physical strength; and if the thief is armed message that he will commit robbery in broad daylight. You arefrom top to toe, I shall simply remain quiet. Thus we have a vari- strong, you do not fear him, you are prepared to receive him.ety of means between the father and the armed man. Again, I fancy Meanwhile the robber pesters your neighbours. They complainthat I should pretend to be sleeping whether the thief was my fa- before you. You reply that you are doing all for their sake; youther or that strong armed man. The reason for this is that my fa- do not mind that your own goods have been stolen. Yourther would also be armed and I should succumb to the strength neighbours reply that the robber never pestered them before, andpossessed by either and allow my things to be stolen. The strength that he commenced his depredations only after you declared hos-of my father would make me weep with pity; the strength of the tilities against him. You are between Scylla and Charybdis. Youarmed man would rouse in me anger and we should become en- are full of pity for the poor men. What they say is true. What areemies. Such is the curious situation. From these examples we may you to do? You will be disgraced if you now leave the robber alone. You, therefore, tell the poor men: “Never mind. Come, my It is a superstition and ungodly thing to believe that an act of a wealth is yours. I will give you arms, I will teach you how to usemajority binds a minority. Many examples can be given in which actsof majorities will be found to have been wrong and those of minori- them; you should belabour the rogue; don’t you leave him alone.”ties to have been right. All reforms owe their origin to the initiation of And so the battle grows; the robbers increase in numbers; yourminorities in opposition to majorities. If among a band of robbers a neighbors have deliberately put themselves to inconvenience.knowledge of robbing is obligatory, is a pious man to accept the obli- Thus the result of wanting to take revenge upon the robber is thatgation? So long as the superstition that men should obey unjust laws you have disturbed your own peace; you are in perpetual fear ofexists, so long will their slavery exist. being robbed and assaulted; your courage has given place to cow- - M. K. Gandhi ardice. If you will patiently examine the argument, you will see
  21. 21. Consensus Decision-making / 40that I have not overdrawn the picture. This is one of the means.Now let us examine the other. You set this armed robber down asan ignorant brother; you intend to reason with him at a suitableopportunity: you argue that he is, after all, a fellow-man; you donot know what prompted him to steal. You, therefore, decide that,when you can, you will destroy the man’s motive for stealing.Whilst you are thus reasoning with yourself, the man comes againto steal. Instead of being angry with him you take pity on him.You think that this stealing habit must be a disease with him.Henceforth, you, therefore, keep your doors and windows open,you change your sleeping place, and you keep your things in amanner most accessible to him. The robber comes again and isconfused as all this is new to him; nevertheless he takes awayyour things. But his mind is agitated. He inquires about you inthe village, he comes to learn about your broad and loving heart,he repents, he begs your pardon, returns you your things, andleaves off the stealing habit. He becomes your servant, and youfind for him honorable employment. This is the second method.Thus, you see, different means have brought about totally differ-ent results. I do not wish to deduce from this that robbers will actin the above manner or that all will have the same pity and lovelike you. But I only wish to show that fair means alone can pro-duce fair results, and that, at least in the majority of cases, if notindeed in all, the force of love and pity is infinitely greater thanthe force of arms. There is harm in the exercise of brute force,never in that of pity. h