The Green Party has Four Pillars and Ten Key Values. The Ten Key Values expand on the original Four Pillars. The first of these extending principles is called Decentralization.
Presuming that it is no accident that Decentralization is listed as the first of the added Values, we should consider it to be especially important. Judging it to be a practical objective rather than a lofty ideal, we should look to see how well incorporated it is in our state and local groups, and compare our policies and procedures with organizations that do not value decentralization.
My observations suggest there is more similarity between greens and unregenerate outsiders than between us and our stated values. Maybe we're trying but just falling short, but conversations reveal a disagreement over exactly what it is that we claim to stand for.
It turns out that the word 'decentralization' means different things to different people. I have come to terms with the arbitrary nature of words like 'love' and 'trust'. Trust, for example, can mean you believe I won't rat on you. Or trust can mean you believe what I say is true. But 'Decentralization', as expressed in the Green Party canon is unambiguous; it is clearly defined as the opposite of 'centralization'.
'Centralization of... power contributes to social... injustice...'
I omitted the words relating to wealth, the environment, and militarization in order to focus on matters that more directly apply to our state and local groups. This is where we practice and demonstrate our commitment to the principle, and where others expect to find evidence of our exceptional character. We're talking about (De)Centralization of [wealth and] power..."
Some of our members mistake decentralization for doing whatever they want, especially if they've gotten away with it for years. But decentralization is different from disorganization. Our fifth Value does not excuse a lack of willingness to communicate and cooperate, or relieve us from the need for accountability. For the GP-MI to be effective in supporting its candidates, it needs to be organized. Information and other resources may be centrally located, but access is shared according to the democratically formulated organizational structure. Our candidates don't espouse anarchy, and neither should we.
Decentralization is a radical concept. It threatens our established ethos when we realize that the ageless constraints that imposed the 'representative democracy' are vanishing. Handing supreme power to elected officials and their appointees was necessary in Roman times, before the printing press and before the Internet. Today, practically everyone has a cellphone or can borrow one to register their opinion directly. We can take 'Decentralization' to mean exactly what it says. Power is distributed. That can be scary. But the debate on this topic is over. Decentralization is our fifth Key Value.
So how apparent is this to our newcomers? Do they see decentralization, apart from in our literature? To a great degree, not yet. Our native culture raised us to conform mindlessly to authority, to compete ruthlessly with peers, to become the authority before whom others must bow. With this in mind, it is easy to see how someone with the best of intentions could say any of the following:
- The Media Committee has an 'Onboarding Process' that excludes people we don't think we can work with.
- Local Groups are not legitimate until they are deemed so by the Local Liaison, (a person). This authority can also remove the legitimacy status.
- Articles should not be published on our website without special permissions by some GP-MI authority.
- Only the Committee Manager has authority to remove forum posts.
- Only the Committee Manager can see who is allowed to vote on our polls.
It's everywhere, but political organizations attract personalities with aggressive traits, more than other groups do. When I went back to school for a teaching certificate, I took a part-time job as a security guard. I noticed that most of my new friends were like Barney Fife, all wearing badges and carrying long heavy flashlights like clubs and racing to any excitement, even blocks away. That position attracts these types.
Then I noticed that most school principals were all about power and domination. Teachers almost all fell into the Myers-Briggs category ENFJ, as we discovered during a pre-season exercise intended to draw awareness and acceptance of all personality types. (We talked the talk.)
While a student at GVSU, I started an amateur radio club and sought funding for a station. We ended up with a high-power short-wave, VHF/UHF, TV, digital, and satellite station. It was appreciated by technical students who didn't fit in with sports or music. Our on-the-air events during the National Science Olympiad in 1998 were published in the internationally circulated QST magazine. All of this was opposed by the school's funding body, the 'Student Senate'. That 'organization' was dominated by a few of the most ignorant students on campus, who realized by intuition that democratic processes give advantage to those who want to stop others. Every single thing we did had to go through the president of the university, after being stopped or stalled by the student political 'leaders'.
A typical reaction for disillusioned newcomers is to quit. They expected more from us after reading our values. They aren't willing or prepared to engage in a moral battle with us, the ones with all the morals. They feel deceived and wonder why we let hostile obsessions for power to grow here, of all places. It should be on us to wage that battle.
Democracy and consensus models are strange mechanisms to wield against control fiends, but those are our tools. The plan is to build a structure, and then to nurture the culture of tolerance and shared ownership. The structure includes the Bylaws, the Handbook, our Consensus Model, and all the supporting documentation. It also includes the web application that is coded according to our own evolving business rules.
Building the culture is a group endeavor with each of us focusing on our own behavior, on what we can do today for the GP-MI and our shared values. We should refuse to dwell on what other people are doing, trying to correct and control them. We should politely refuse to engage in gossip and instead lead by example.
Remember that other personality types are also attracted to the GP-MI. These are principled, idealistic types; intellectuals and oddballs; people with deeply held convictions about right and wrong. They work selflessly for their congregations and the communities, and they are politically active in support of human dignity and rights. They seek us out, not for power or position, but because of our shared values. The products of collaboration on the Handbook and our Consensus Model temp me to believe that we are on a course towards becoming the organization we say we are, and that we will find more and more new friends willing to stay with us and contribute to our efforts at changing the world.