Reflections on Poland and South Africa PART TWO

Europejskie Centrum Solidarności | European Solidarity Centre

The second event at the conference was Deep Democracy Experience with Myrna Lewis & Malina Baranowska. A DIALOGUE involving all 85 participants.

The participants were youth from many European countries ranging in ages from their early twenties to their early forties, some having just left school, most having recently completed their academic training courses.

The Lewis Method of large-scale dialogue known as the dynamic dialogue or the soft shoe shuffle, enables all members to be involved and to have their voices “seen” or heard. The method encourages participants to stand next to statements that they agree with, moving from one statement to another, reflecting the statement that they agree with. The method encourages people to change their minds i.e. not to stand in one spot and feel that they need to hold onto their view. Should they hear something they prefer, they should be encouraged to move to a new position.  Through using this fluid method, opinions begin to take place in a large group and inevitably, a polarization of views occurs. At this stage another step in the method is applied namely the debate or argument or conflict.

The terms  ‘debate’,  ‘argument’, or ‘conflict’ suggest tension and there tension does arise due to the differences of opinion. However, the structured manner in which the argument takes place ensures safety and can be fun,  releasing tension and creating enjoyment.

There are four steps in the process:

  1. agreeing to go into the process and making of safety rules
  2. strong stating of the views from the different sides. The argument is between sides and not between people. The participants can move freely between sides. However, the sides state their views in a structured manner ensuring that people listen.
  3. gaining of insights, people are encouraged to reflect on the arrows and become aware of what ‘hit’ them i.e. what they had been surprised by, hurt by, or what had given them some insight. They are asked to recognize how they personally relate to what resonated with them thereby owning their projections. Individually and collectively, these insights represent the group’s wisdom of what underlies their differences.
  4. taking decisions on these new insights leading to creative and innovative solutions and buy in.

The youth began the discussion with the issue of establishing national identity versus eliminating national identity.

These were some of the insights gained in Step 3: 

  1. We have strong opinions and we maintained these opinions. We found it difficult to cross sides reflecting how we are not truly open to the opinion of others and we do not want to listen to the other side.
  2. That we are privileged and have not lived through a war or major conflict. Although we sympathise with refugees, we do not know what their lives have been like.  We have not even felt what it was like to travel with a passport that did not allow you the freedom to enter where you wanted to go. We feel that we are privileged; we are safe and have "good" passports. We are ignorant, and naïve and need to learn more before we express our views so strongly.
  3. We need our voice to be heard to be part of a national community.
  4. We struggle being emotional about our nation’s achievements, because we do not feel they are our achievements or ours.

We did not complete step 4, as these were participants at a conference. However, I suggested that they strongly reflect on what shared wisdom was gained and that they make their own decisions accordingly.

The dialogue ended on this note. The positive feedback from the participants continued to filter through during the 3 days of the conference and many spoke to me afterwards of how the dialogue had impacted positively on them.

Europejskie Centrum Solidarności | European Solidarity Centre

Issues debated by the other speakers:

A speaker from the Green party put forward a strong theme that the answers lay in returning to the basic building blocks of society i.e. going back to building community.

As I pointed out at the start, I do not know if the answer lies at this level.  My own feeling is that these are complex issues and need to be examined and considered at each level.

For me the issue and the hope is in the wording “doing it together” or “dialoguing with the community”. These statements suggest that these dialogues can be easily achieved.

We need to know how to introduce the dialogue and to ensure that the dialogue does not become mired in entrenched sides with naming and blaming taking place but move to the point that each can find the answer within themselves.

It is not so much what needs to happen, but how:

To make sure that through well-facilitated dialogue we can make it possible that what needs to happen is uncovered, the voices of every-one heard and the way forward towards the common good explored.

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