Conversation Power Dynamics

January 13th, 2019

Questions asked while observing a meeting:

  • Who is included in the group? Who is excluded from the group?
  • Who has been given the power? Who holds the power? Are those different? Does power need to be restored to the first, if so? If so, how can you work with the constraints of the system to restore that power?
  • How/does each holder of the power retain or pass it?
  • How & why does each holder of the power take it?
  • Do xey give it around or back? Do xey favor one recipient?

Conversations between people are a function of society. When multiple people work towards a common goal, the use of conversation is sometimes necessary to align their work.

Different people have different ends and it is rare that people are transparent about their personal goals in a group settings, nor is it necessary. However, people’s personal goals inform the way in which they interact in a group. People’s energy, or power, is directed towards the things which they wish to see empowered, whether themselves or the aims of the group, or another group. Studying the flow of this power can lead an observer to a broader understanding of the way the group functions, its effectiveness as an agent towards its end, and the agendas of the individuals composing the group.

In determining the flow of power within a group and therefore the ends of the group and the individuals, one must look at the social construct/ures that are in effect. Some social structures that impart power: Age, gender, title, race, species

When speaking about these social structures, it is important to note that words like all human inventions exist solely because of their utility. When people speak for entertainment, they do not use language in this fashion. When listening to someone it is important to gauge whether they are trying to accomplish something and are therefore utilizing their words, or if they are expressing themselves with no other end, in which case the use of language is more fluid. This document deals with words in the sense of tools, which seems to be most often the case in group settings, especially when the group is trying to accomplish something. When a group is not trying to accomplish an end, I believe they tend toward singing, which has little inherent utility.

These social structures do not dictate inherent power or utility. They have their historic & traditional reasons for being associated with priority.

Social priority is determined by each member of the group and responded to respectively. Those with the most social power have the highest priority & others cede their desire to speak to them. Pauses or ’awkward silences’ can be opportunities for a lower-priority member to take precedence without having explicitly been passed the power. However, without inspiration these interruptions are just interruptions.

Older people have seen more and usually have more wisdom. Men have traditionally experienced a wider swath of the world, due originally to our greater physical size and eventually to our subjugation of the other. Titles traditionally imply reputation and should be given as recognition of achievement. White people in the Western world have exerted their power violently. Humans have done the same. Each of these constructs is losing its credibility as a metric of power and social utility, because of abuse of power by the privileged, and that abuse coming to the public consciousness. Those movements which combat the institution of these constructs: anti-establismentarianism, feminism, anarchism, black power movements, or animal rights movements are informed by both rage and righteousness. They fail in that they give into their anger, but they succeed in that they realize the eventual deconstruction of human hierarchies. Any system of classification (like age, gender, race, or species) inherently implies a power hierarchy when its vocabulary is applied to individuals statically instead of being an archetypal abstraction used for interacting with dynamic processes. It does this through the process of definition, separating one part of the whole as inherently different than another, and implying that that separate identity is inherent.

"But here there is neither Jew nor Greek..."(Colossians 3:11) These systems of classification do not exist in mind at birth but they are inherent, being woven through the social fabric, and reinforced by tradition, which defaults in the absence or repression of critical thought. Contrary to the wishes of radicals, this social fabric cannot be completely re-initialized, but in conjunction with their hope, they can be mutated.

The modes of interpreting these systems of classification vary across contexts, like cultures and genders, but when used from inside a context they always imply a hierarchy. One who wishes to look at a classification system like gender or race must remove xemselves from their place in that system, and be careful to avoid implying a different hierarchy. For example, a white person who realizes the race hierarchy in which they exist and hopes to reverse its effects must be careful not to institute a new hierarchy in which white people are placed below or anywhere hierarchically-related to other races. They are different parts of the same and it must be left that way.

There are similarities between taxonomies in different cultures — words for classifying race & gender exist in most communities; in those that do not there are other systems of classification. There are even, in some contexts, systems of classification for systems of classification. The myth of Babel provides a narrative to explain the origin of taxonomies: All people agreed on what each thing was called for a period of time. Then during an attempt to build an infinitely intricate structure, they tried to ’eff the inefffable;’ that is, they tried to contain the outside world within their minds through quantification. Being an impossible task, each group resorted to their own system of classification. For instance, how to measure a unit of distance consistently? Based on what object? In what context? Certain concessions were made which were not acceptable to another group. Divisions compounded in each individual attempt to create an all-describing, absolute language.

I’ve noticed at this NCNC GC many people interrupting the natural flow of discussion, taking power for themselves by speaking loudly enough to silence another or by speaking uninvited. I have seen little respect for conversational order, which facilitates the dispersal of wisdom from God. The wisdom of God is not necessarily a religious concept, though the term is. By that term I mean the absolute truth of the universe which has not adequately been expressed in language since all humanity spoke the same language. Each person understands their own fragments of it, but rarely expresses those fragments adequately even to their own standards, or becomes frustrated that the other is not receiving what they believe themselves to be transmitting clearly.

The so-called word of God comes through several forms including

Sudden revelation: Sudden revelation is, so to speak, a gift from God, an instantaneous knowing followed by the undeniable urge to speak resulting in an outburst of truth. People recognize the power imparted in this way and sudden outbursts are often honored as being divine impartation. Respect dictates that we honor the interjections of others as revelation, because we cannot judge the other’s motivation. However, agents inside us have also recognized this fact and manipulate it by interrupting on our own behalf and without inspiration.

Wisdom: Wisdom comes from a deep knowing of truth. It is slow and powerful. Those who are wise know many things and say few, so when they speak it is prudent for those around them to listen. It is rare for the young to be wise because they have seen few things and made fewer connections in their mind. However, many old people have deceived themselves into thinking they are wise simply because they have lived many years, and they know that people will/must listen to those older than them, and so they can consciously or unconsciously manipulate others into believing them because they are old. it is still prudent to listen to the old, and to discern for yourself whether they are imparting wisdom or speaking out of frustration, possibly because they were not listened to at a younger age.

Anointing When it is understood that a member of a community is blessed by God in a certain fashion or for a certain time, the community recognizes this by marking that member, as with oil. This sets that member apart and gives them a distinct identity. One marked in this way is said to be anointed, and this implies they they should be listened to, for even if they are not so old or experienced as to be generally wise, they have a title within the community. This title may be temporary — it is not the deep permanence of wisdom or the immediate blessing of sudden revelation. However, titles can also simulate anointing. Some groups of people have realized with enough numbers they can give titles to people which do not reflect that person’s specialties. Sometimes it also seems the case that a person’s charisma sways others into entitling them falsely.

Recognize your own power: what social constructs are imposed upon you? Many/most people imagine themselves unrestricted and speak thusly. While it may be noble to imagine yourself unrestricted, it is necessary when communing to understand your assumed place in the community, in order to be recognized and your power absorbed. Ask yourself how your age, race, gender, species, &c, affects the way others perceive you? Does it give you privilege to act with impunity or are you not being heard because you are not flying closely enough to where people expect you to be? The privileged do well to pass their power to those who are underrepresented by no fault of their own but by their standing. The underprivileged do well to abide by the constructs imposed on them, ‘turning the other cheek.’ This is that they will be without blame or shame, which both detract from their power, when it is their turn to speak. Then their power will be multiplied by their righteousness.