Medusa

They say that Medusa was the most horrifying woman ever known.

According to legend, she was so terrible to behold that a mere glance at her viper-enshrined visage was enough to render the seer stone. She was so ugly, so terrible to look at, that one could not even survive the horror.

The hero Perseus caught off her head – a just fate, it appears, for such a monster – whereupon he seems to have kept it safely secured to be used as a weapon against unsuspecting foes. I imagine him carrying it around a dirty burlap sack, periodically proudly displaying the dead woman’s head, even in death using her as a tool to defeat foes far greater than he.

In early mythology, Medusa and her Gorgon sisters were born that way – monsters, if you will – with wings and entwined snakes for hair.

This story proved uninspiring, I suppose, because it eventually changed form.

Medusa wasn’t born a monster, no, she was born beautiful. The most beautiful woman you can imagine.

Too beautiful.

Ovid allows Perseus to tell her story:

…Beyond all others she
was famed for beauty, and the envious hope
of many suitors. Words would fail to tell
the glory of her hair, most wonderful
of all her charms—A friend declared to me
he saw its lovely splendour.

Nothing good happens to beautiful women.

Perseus continues:

…the Sovereign of the Sea attained her love
in chaste Minerva‘s temple.

This was a terrible wrong – Poseidon’s forceful attainment of the beautiful Medusa.

Minerva was enraged.

…she turned her head away and held her shield
before her eyes. To punish that great crime
Minerva changed the Gorgon’s splendid hair
to serpents horrible. And now to strike
her foes with fear, she wears upon her breast
those awful vipers—creatures of her rage.

And thus, on Ovid’s telling, Medusa was rightfully punished. For the actions of Poseidon. For being just too beautiful.

Chastised so with awful vipers, men could never again look upon her.

And then brave Perseus sneaks in, finds her asleep, and cuts off her head.

Nothing good ever happens to ugly women.

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Josh Patten’s satire

I’m very amused by Josh Patten’s project: replying to President Trump’s tweets as if they were texts for him personally:


Imagine going back to 1990 and trying to explain the humor here. “We have a president, you see, who makes a fool of himself daily by tweeting inane remarks to about 34 million followers. Yes, the President of the United States. A tweet? Well, it’s a short message that you type and anyone who wants to read all your ad hoc thoughts can subscribe. Yes, lots and lots of people do this all the time. OK, so a comedian imagines that the president’s tweets are messages just for him. (We all get these ‘texts’ on fancy phones that we carry everywhere.) The comedian responds in the banal way you might answer a friend’s texts, imagining that he’s part of the president’s private circle instead of a mass audience. And this is funny because … I guess you’d have to live in 2017.”

A serious point is buried in Patten’s humor. Companies and governments have long sought to infiltrate private spaces in order to increase their influence. FDR arrived in Americans’ living rooms during “fireside chats.” The TV screen brought “Friends” into your house. To various degrees, most people have protected their real lives from these infiltrations by drawing distinctions between actual and fake friends, authentic and artificial messages. Now that we lead a lot of our private life online, where anyone can “follow” it, and now that almost all leaders (popes and Dalai Lamas as well as heads of state) broadcast messages through the same media that we employ for social purposes, the borders are harder to police. Donald Trump is intruding–often counterproductively, but still pervasively. Patten’s satire pushes back.

See also: protecting authentic human interactionDoes Twitter “smoosh” the public and private?Habermas illustrated by Twitter.

NCDD Orgs Team up for Public Engagement Training

We wanted to let the NCDD network know about these training opportunities coming up with our friends at the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) and Public Agenda (PA). These two NCDD member orgs have teamed up to dive deep into public engagement skills at an in-person workshop in NYC, which also is part of PBP’s final module for their Summer Implementation Institute. Coming up this Weds July 26, is PBP’s final FREE webinar on breaking barriers for outreach during the Idea Collection phase – the third module in the Summer Implementation Institute. Next week, Public Agenda will doing a two-day workshop to strengthen public engagement strategy on July 31-August 1, with PBP presenting their session on the second day.

Coming up…

  • THIS Weds July 26: final FREE webinar with PBP, from 3pm – 5pm Eastern, 12pm – 3pm Pacific
  • July 31st: Public Agenda workshop in NYC
  • August 1st: Joint workshop with PBP and Public Agenda in NYC

To RSVP for the PBP webinar, click here. To register for the PA and/or PBP in-person NYC workshop[s], click here. For more on PBP’s Summer Implementation Institute, follow the hashtag #PBPInstitute on Twitter for more participant quotes, questions, and experiences! You can read the announcements from PBP and PA below or find the original on PA’s site here.


From the Participatory Budgeting Project

At the Participatory Budgeting Project, we’re wrapping up the first-ever PB Network Summer Implementation Institute with a final free webinar on Wednesday and an in-person session in NYC on August 1st.

On our final free webinar, we’re talking about outreach strategies used to generate ideas from non-English speakers, young people and court-involved people during Idea Collection!

Kenneth Tang from the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) and our West Coast Project Manager, Francesco Tena, will present on their local experience in two flagship PB processes: Oakland (the first process to do PB with federal funds in the U.S.) and Boston (the first youth PB process in the U.S.)

Join other PB-implementing staff and officials from across North America to:

  • Discuss record-breaking outreach strategies.
  • Dive into the challenges and benefits of using innovative outreach tactics in PB idea collection.
  • Collaboratively brainstorm ways to improve and expand outreach in communities where there are barriers to civic participation.
  • Receive tools and resources to use in your PB processes and in your work more broadly.

Likewise, if you’re interested in taking community leadership in government to the next level, join our in-person Steering Committees 101 workshop hosted in New York City next month, in partnership with Public Agenda. This session is focused on building and sustaining effective community leadership in democratic processes.

When: Tuesday August 1
Where: New York City
Cost: $200 REGULAR admission and $75 STUDENT admission. Or, check out the registration page for the full two-day workshop on public engagement with Public Agenda!
Register: Here

Hope to see you Wednesday and in August!

From Public Agenda

Looking for assistance with organizing and sustaining productive public engagement? Struggling to decide how to use online engagement tools? Frustrated with the standard “2 minutes at the microphone” public meeting? Need expert advice on bringing together a diverse critical mass of people?

Our Public Engagement team is leading a 1.5 day workshop on how you can hone an effective engagement strategy along with a special session led by our friends at the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP).

On July 31, Public Agenda’s Matt Leighninger and Nicole Cabral will:

  • Provide an overview of the strengths and limitations of public engagement today;
  • Help you assess the strengths and weaknesses of public engagement in your community;
  • Explore potential benefits of more sustained forms of participation;
  • Demonstrate a mix of small group and large group discussions, interactive exercises, case studies and practical application exercises

On Aug 1, during Session 1, we’ll focus more squarely on options and next steps that participants can take in their communities. These sessions will help participants to:

  • Develop skills for planning stronger engagement systems;
  • List existing community assets that can be instrumental for sustained engagement;
  • Anticipate common challenges to planning for stronger systems;
  • Develop an initial set of next steps to pursue.

During the afternoon session of August 1, PBP will present “Steering Committees 101: Centering community experience & expertise.”

This PBP session is part of PBP’s first-ever Summer Implementation Institute hosted by the North American Participatory Budgeting Network, consisting of 4 modules. The in-person session in New York City is preceded by three online webinars. Each module focuses on a particular phase of participatory budgeting (PB) starting with the PB vote and working backwards through proposal development, idea collection, and building a PB process with community leaders. Along with registering for this in-person session, you can RSVP for the three webinars from PBP here.

The in-person session in New York City is focused on building and sustaining effective community leadership in democratic processes. Here, leaders in community engagement will come together to share experiences, discuss pain points, and solve challenges. This session stems from an asset-based approach to community leadership within PB and beyond. Although focused on PB, this session is applicable to all public engagement practices centered in community experience and expertise.

You can find the original announcement on Public Agenda’s website at www.publicagenda.org/pages/workshop-public-engagement-strategy-in-new-york-city.

Everyone is Talented

László Moholy-Nagy, a Hungarian artist who joined the Bauhaus as a professor in 1923, was known for his philosophy that “everyone is talented.”

By this, he meant that, “every human being is open to sense impressions, tone, color, touch,spatial experience, etc. The structure of a life is predetermined in these sensibilities. But only art – creation through the senses – can develop the these dormant, native faculties towards creative action.”

Moholy-Nagy further argued that “any health man can become a musician, painter, sculptor, or architect, just as when he speaks he is a ‘speaker’.”

As Éva Forgács describes in her book, Hungarian Art, this philosophy was similar to the post-expressionist view of Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. In his Bauhaus Manifesto, Gropius argued, that “art cannot be taught.” That’s not to say that art is an intrinsic skill relegated to a select few, but rather that “the world of the pattern designer and the applied artist must become a world that builds again.”

As Forgács argues, both artists’ philosophies replaced the classic concept of “the artist who expresses individual concerns” with “the vision of a new type of creative man who was more of an engineer and designer of the world.”

If art cannot be taught, it not because some people are unable to learn, but rather art should be more accurately seen as a way of living and existing in the world.

This vision is strikingly similar to that of deliberative democrats; of John Dewey’s claim that “democracy is a way of living.” A philosopher and educator, Dewey was an American contemporary of the Bauhaus, which perhaps points more generally to the egalitarian optimism of the interwar period.

After the ruinous war to end all wars, our world needed to be rebuilt – a task that could not be left to the same aristocratic interests which had led us down the path to global conflict. We needed to rebuild the world. And we – each and every one of us – had the ability to do it.

Forgács concludes that “Moholy-Nagy ultimately believed that the world of artistic creation would not remain restricted, and as a natural course of development, every imaginative individual in the future would own it.”

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Upcoming IAP2 Trainings with The Participation Company

Looking to increase your public engagement and facilitation skills? Check out the upcoming training opportunities from NCDD member org, The Participation Company (TPC)! Not only are they offering their Foundations in Public Participation certificate program and the recently revised IAP2’s Strategies for Dealing with Opposition and Outrage in Public Participation; there is a new course added on Facilitation for P2 Practitioners. The trainings earn participants a certificate in public participation with IAP2 and NCDD members receive a per day discount!

You can learn more about the TPC trainings in the announcement below or on their website here.


The Participation Company’s 2017 Training Events

If you work in communications, public relations, public affairs, planning, public outreach and understanding, community development, advocacy, or lobbying, this training will help you to increase your skills and to be of even greater value to your employer.

This is your chance to join the many thousands of practitioners worldwide who have completed the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) certificate training.

Foundations in Public Participation (5-day) Certificate Program:

Planning for Effective Public Participation (3-days) and/or
*Techniques
 for Effective Public Participation (2-days)

  • October 16-20 – Orlando, FL (3-day Planning and 2-day Techniques)
  • October 30-November 3 – Arlington, VA (3-day Planning and 2-day Techniques)
  • November 6-10 – Walnut Creek, CA (3-day Planning and 2-day Techniques)

*The 3-day Planning training is a prerequisite to Techniques training

IAP2’s Strategies for Dealing with Opposition and Outrage in Public Participation (2-day): 

  • August 17-18 – Chicago, IL (2-day EOP2)
  • November 16-17 – Denver, CO (2-day EOP2)

Register online for these trainings at www.theparticipationcompany.com/training/calendar

Introducing TPC’s newest course offering “FP3”

Facilitation for P2 Practitioners – FP3 (3-day):

Building on best practices from both the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) and the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), this course introduces the basics of facilitation in the public arena. Participants learn how to design and conduct successful facilitated public involvement events. It is designed as a small, intensive interactive learning opportunity. For more information go to https://theparticipationcompany.com/training/courses/facilitator-training/

Is your organization interested in hosting a training event? Host discounts are provided. Contact us at melissa[at]theparticipationcompany[dot]com.

Check our website for updates to the calendar.

More About the Trainings…

Foundations in Public Participation – The International Association for Public Participation (IAP2)
Public involvement and community engagement are constantly changing. IAP2’s highly respected training program has evolved with ongoing changes in demographics, people’s attitudes and expectations, and public policy.

Both new and experienced practitioners and managers of community engagement will benefit from the structure, proven techniques, and knowledge that you’ll learn in this highly interactive training course.

This course, Foundations in Public Participation, will let you hit the ground running, armed with the knowledge and confidence you need to plan and execute effective public initiatives with community engagement for any area in which you may be working. The course is divided into two modules, each focusing on one of the two major phases of public communication and participation: Planning and Techniques. Upon completion of both modules, you will receive a certificate of completion from IAP2.

Designed by successful practitioners who work with diverse populations and divergent circumstances throughout the world, this comprehensive new program is grounded in what you, your peers, and your mentors have told us about your training needs.

Strategies for Dealing with Opposition and Outrage in Public Participation
The world has changed since IAP2 first rolled out the course with Dr. Peter Sandman a few years ago. Global polls find people are more suspicious and distrustful of large institutions including government, business, media and even large non-governmental organizations.

Angry people can’t represent their interests very well in participate processes and thus ignoring their skepticism isn’t productive.

IAP2 has expanded and refreshed the course materials to help you work more effectively in this changed world. Way beyond just another conflict resolution training class, the newly renamed Strategies for Dealing with Opposition and Outrage in Public Participation helps people understand the human behavior and emotional intelligence of working with angry and cynical people under these tough circumstances. Doing so is foundational to the practice.

Conflict resolution training is needed to address the increasing trend of public anger in society. Growing global citizen outrage causes government gridlock, lawsuits, stopped projects, us vs. them attitudes, destroyed credibility, and loss of time and money. The newly updated Strategies for Dealing with Opposition and Outrage in Public Participation (formerly called Emotion, Outrage and Public Participation) is a conflict resolution training workshop that builds on IAP2’s global best practices in public involvement, the work of Dr. Peter Sandman, a foremost researcher and expert in public outrage and risk communication, and decades of lessons learned. This course will help you move people from rage to reason and engage stakeholders in building consensus for better decisions.

The Participation Company offers discounted rates to NCDD members. Visit www.theparticipationcompany.com/training/calendar for more information and on-line registration.

deliberation depends on social movements

Why would people deliberate? Here I’ll argue that citizens will only come together to exchange reasons if they are empowered to make decisions. In turn, it often takes a social movement to  change institutions so that any particular group of citizens has power. And social movements cannot be (fully) deliberative.

In an important passage in Talking to Strangers, Danielle Allen argues that it’s an error to assume that speakers “enter [any] deliberative forum already mutually well-minded toward one another.” She writes, “If they do so enter, the battle to achieve a reasonable policy outcome is already 75 percent won. The hard part is getting citizens to that point of being mutually well-intentioned.”

Allen proposes rhetorical solutions to this problem: ways of communicating that encourage other people want to hear your reasons and respond with good arguments, rather than walk out or shout you down. For example, you can begin a conversation by making an unsolicited sacrifice, which is “the most powerful tool for generating trust.” You can also “aim to convince 100 percent” of the audience instead of trying to build a mere majority, and you can look for ways to “ameliorate the remaining disagreement and distrust” after a decision has been reached. These are techniques for creating the conditions under which people will exchange reasons about what is right to do.

The rhetorical techniques that Allen suggests manifest political friendship, in Aristotle’s sense. First you act like a friend; then people will trust you enough to deliberate with you. The good news is that many people exhibit a desire for such friendship that makes deliberation possible. In 1982, my friend James Youniss, a developmental psychologist who had studied with Habermas, wrote:

Persons enter discussion, debate, negotiation, and so on … to clarify uncertainties, check doubts, receive criticism, justify views, gain different opinions, or explore novel ideas. But that is not all. Persons who respect one another seek to maintain their relation, and they communicate voluntarily for this purpose. They want to understand and to be understood. They want to show that they care and want to be cared for in return. In the reciprocal cooperation epitomized in friendship, each retains freedom of thought by acknowledging freedom in the other and, thus, communication is essential so that the respective parties do not lose the opportunity for truth seeking in common. [“Why Persons Communicate on Moral Matters: A Response to Shweder,” Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, vol. 28, no. 1, 1982]

These relational motives make deliberation seem plausible. Talking can be its own reward, if and when people value friendship. However, the mode of discussion may have to be emotional and personal and may have to involve speech-acts like making sacrifices. Abstract arguments will fall on deaf ears unless trust has been built.

Allen’s rhetorical suggestions are valuable as long as relevant citizens have chosen to gather together at one time and place in order to communicate. But most people allocate their time and energy to purposes other than meetings. Those who stay away may be foolishly renouncing their influence, or selfishly free-riding on others’ efforts–but both behaviors are predictable.

If group exists, we can try to invite, entice, cajole, or reward people to participate. But we cannot just assume that a group exists that has the capacity to make decisions. To be sure, once a group forms, then (almost regardless of its assets) it can empower itself by creating goods that it allocates. A Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) raises money at a bake-sale, which gives it a budget to deliberate about. In such cases, the deliberation depends on a prior solution to a collective-action problem: getting parents to contribute goods for the sale.

In many circumstances, the problem is more difficult than that. It’s not just a matter of generating a resource that can be discussed, but of capturing it from someone else. For instance, if the municipal government sets the city budget, then a public meeting about priorities is not really a deliberation; it is just a forum for talking to power. Forcing or persuading the city to share ts power would require an organized political effort that would precede a citizen deliberation about taxing and spending. But how to get people involved in that political effort is again a problem of motivation and coordination.

The broader point is that any reasonably decent conversation depends on rules, which must not only cover the speech itself (e.g., by giving everyone an equal chance to talk) but must also create groups that have the power to make decisions that are worth talking about. Since power rarely yields voluntarily, the main way to change unacceptable rules is to organize social movements. Such movements may harbor some internal deliberations, but they cannot be deliberative fora. They must aim for specific reforms that then create groups that are worth deliberating in.

This is why I think that “Ostrom, Habermas, and Gandhi are all we need.” See also: Habermas, Ostrom, Gandhi (II) and how to get a deliberative democracy.

Hashtnagar Peasant Movement (1970-77)

Author: 
Problems and Purpose In 1968, the Mazdoor Kisan Party (Workers’ Peasants’ Party) formed in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP, now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) to organize the tenant farmers and landless labourers living and working in and around the Peshawar valley. Beginning in 1970, the MKP and associated peasant movements undertook campaigns to...

varieties of neoliberalism

Jonathan Chait laments the use of the word “neoliberalism” to denounce Democratic Party leaders like President Obama and Hillary Clinton–even Elizabeth Warren–from the left. Chait tells a story that begins in the 1980s, when the word “neoliberalism” was “the chosen label of a handful of moderately liberal opinion journalists, centered around Charles Peters, then-editor of the Washington Monthly.” Chait began his own career with Peters and shares at least some of this group’s views. He feels attacked by those who call neoliberalism “the source of all the ills suffered by the Democratic Party and progressive politics over four decades, up to and (especially) including the rise of Donald Trump.”

The word “neoliberalism” was virtually unused before 1950 and has rapidly become popular of late. But what does it mean?

“Neoliberalism” as a percentage of all the words in all English-language published books, 1950-2016, from NGram

In a reply to Chait, Mike Konczal distinguishes three kinds of neoliberalism, of which Chait’s is the first. Konczal argues that the left critique–a valid one–is against the second and third versions. All three have developed since 1980, probably contributing to the trend shown here.

Konczal’s three-fold distinction is better than the two-fold one I was going to propose before I read his piece, so I’ll follow his scheme.  This is how I would define the three versions:

Neoliberalism I

In the 1980s, certain leaders of the Democratic Party (Charles Peters, Bill Galston, Bill Clinton, and others) argued that if you seriously evaluated social programs, you’d find that many didn’t work. Spending scarce resources ineffectively did the recipients no good and reinforced the voters’ sense that Democrats just threw money at problems. Some of these people were centrists, arguing with their party’s left. They called themselves “neoliberals” to assert a break with the positions of people like Walter Mondale, the supposed “paleoliberals.” However, in principle, their argument could appeal to leftists, who would reallocate funds from poorly performing programs to better ones. I can easily imagine a version of this agenda flourishing within a socialist system. It’s about measurement, accountability, managerial expertise, and innovation, which are features of modernity that have been quite influential on the left. If you “see like a state,” you will be interested in measuring impact and allocating resources to the most effective uses. The reallocations will be made by state agencies, which actually centralizes power.

Neoliberalism II

In the 1950s and 1960s, Keynsian economics reigned pretty much supreme on both sides of the Atlantic. Then stagflation delivered an intellectual blow, and soon Chicago School economists were making increasingly influential proposals for tax cuts, deregulation, and monetary responses to recessions. Their arguments were welcome to political and economic interests that never liked the taxes and regulations of the New Deal. The economists didn’t call themselves neoliberals, but that label made some sense in a global context, where “liberalism” typically means laissez-faire–what Americans call economic conservatism. Reagan and Thatcher were neoliberals in this sense, many continental European countries also moved in that direction, and the shift was dramatic in the Global South, partly because of pressure from the IMF and World Bank. The arguments tended to be utilitarian: if you cut taxes, then you will see more total wealth for the whole population. An authoritarian state, such as Pinochet’s Chile, could endorse these policies, in which case there would be a dramatic gap between political liberties and neoliberal economics. Indeed, some critics hold that this form of neoliberalism is mostly about using militarized state power to promote corporate economic interests.

Neoliberalism III

Since Victorian times, a social philosophy has been available that says market exchange is natural, whereas states are artificial; that exchanges of goods or labor for money manifest freedom; that success in a market reflects virtues (thrift, industry, creativity) rather than vices like greed; that governments are coercive, whereas market exchanges are voluntary; that people should be individually responsible for the consequences of their actions; that markets embody collective wisdom, whereas centralized planning is subject to massive error, etc. That philosophy was called “liberalism” ca. 1850. It gained momentum and picked up the name “neoliberalism” in the 1980s, although most actual proponents called themselves “libertarians,” “classical liberals” or (in America) “conservatives” rather than “neoliberals.” I have mentioned a lot of different ideas in this paragraph, and proponents need not endorse them all. However, the thrust here is neither pragmatic experimentation (as in Neoliberalism I), nor utilitarianism (Neoliberalism II), but a set of normative views about society and character. One of the greatest thinkers of the left, Michel Foucault, expressed some support for neoliberalism in this form, seeing it as potentially emancipatory. Foucault certainly wouldn’t have appreciated Neoliberalism I or II.

Put together, these three movements invoke a long list of ideas, and most people would refuse to endorse them all. Hardly anyone calls himself a “neoliberal”; it’s an epithet coming from further left on the political spectrum.

It’s not clear that we’ve really moved in a Neoliberal II direction. The federal government spends about 3 percentage points more of GDP today than it did in the 1960s, when the Great Society (and the War in Vietnam) were in full force.

However, there has definitely been a shift of rhetorical emphasis. The 1948 Democratic Party platform on which Harry Truman ran was unabashedly pro-government and critical of business. No modern Democrat would sound like that. They all order some of their dishes from column I, II, or III of neoliberalism’s menu.

Specifically, the Obama Administration loved concrete new policy interventions that could be rigorously evaluated. In 2o13, for instance, the administration proposed $200 million in a competitive pool for state governments that cut energy use and expanded HOPE (Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation and Enforcement scheme), which had performed well in evaluations. But they proposed to cut Social Security by $130 billion and Medicare by $380 billion. They didn’t like these cuts; they felt forced to offer them in a budget battle with Congress. But the result of expanding evaluated social programs while cutting entitlements would be Neoliberalism I.

Similarly, when modern Democratic leaders tout their superior economic management–Look at the GDP growth and stock market increases when we’re in charge!–they are making a utilitarian case for voting Democratic. It’s not exactly Neoliberalism II, because it doesn’t say: “Less government produces more net wealth.” Instead, it says: “A combination of competent management, fiscal prudence, targeted investments, and free trade produces more net wealth.” That claim may be true and reasonably popular, but it leaves a lot of space to its left, particularly when it carries a whiff of Neoliberalism III in the form of admiration for business leaders. It isn’t surprising, then, that a substantial number of people would want to criticize mainstream Democratic policy, and the word “neoliberalism” works pretty well for their purpose.

See also:  Foucault and neoliberalismEdmund Burke would vote Democraticthe core of liberalism, and what defines conservatism?