Once again, Dwight Towers has suggested I use a comment I’ve made on that site as a post here.
This time I may go a little long, adding further comment and breaking any chance at pithiness, so admired in certain quarters…
I keep coming back to dissensus as being more important. In false consensus we manufacture consent. In real consensus we are all of a single mind. Neither seems that useful.
Dissensus asks us to let go of righteousness and to accept that others will disagree. That viewpoints we find even abhorrent may have a validity we cannot fathom. It’s not singing Kumbaya. It’s not even necessarily being “nice” to those we disagree with, but it does hold us back from seeing them as enemies to be destroyed.
Behind it all is the possibility that a lack of single-mindedness, while happily less efficient than consensus, is more likely to hedge our bets in an evolutionary sense. It’s not diversity in the social theoretical sense, it’s diversity in an evolutionary sense.
Creatures may compete evolutionarily, but they rarely resort to Jihad or a Final Solutions to achieve it. That restraint is dissensus. Some apes don’t seem to always have that restraint. Us apes have a capacity for a wider empathy and compassion that, at times at least, spreads beyond our clan. We can limit our world to the range of our negotiated settlements, consensus, or we can expand it to include everything by following the lead of our compassion and embracing dissensus.
This doesn’t automatically constrain our actions to exclude anything “not nice,” but it does remove the intoxicating justification we get from being right, “Everybody says so!”
This remains my most disquieted reaction to #OWS, to visions of a new, more efficient way of managing consensus. There is something chilling about a crowd wiggling their fingers to steer opinion. It doesn’t challenge the complicity of consent with all that they find wrong with the world, much, if not most or even all of which I do find myself at least in sympathy with if not agreement. It replaces the form of power manifested in the towers of lower Manhattan with another form of power while never looking into the problematic of power itself. This is why we call it revolution, it is simply a turning of the wheel, replacing one team in the struggle with those united in opposition. Finding a more direct method of measuring, managing, and ultimately controlling consent leaves us poised for more of the same with different players.
Without a deeper critique of power we are falling back on our innocence, and the righteousness that breeds. It never asks us to question our desires, how we are entangled in our conditioning, how we may need to deal with all of that before we focus on running a new exchange for consent in the shadow of the old one.