All My Relatives – La Familia, the Village, the Tribe

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Principle #8

Let us begin the exploration of the family aspect with the following series of (for this post) short quotes:

To understand the principle of all my relatives, let us first look at how this manifests in communities of color and then consider the different ways these relationships expand to embrace a much wider circle. We can then discern how treating people as relatives would transform leadership and create a society that is more compassionate, equitable, and socially responsible.

Bordas, Juana (2012-03-26). Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age (p. 165). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Like a tribal drumbeat, ubuntu resonates across African cultures and wraps people together— my humanity is tied to your humanity . It is not an ethereal spiritual concept of oneness, but a real day-to-day obligation to be sharing, open, and welcoming toward others..

Because culture is learned, the important thing to realize is that people can develop affinities and sensitivities for a number of different cultures. Leaders can acquire multicultural competencies, and expand their abilities to reach and connect with people from an increasing diversity of cultures.

Bordas, Juana (2012-03-26). Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age (p. 168-170). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Bordas talks about this principle of Ubuntu – how everyone is tied to everyone else, and says this should reach across all cultures, not just within the cultures. Culture, after all, is learned, and leaders that learn multicultural competencies can expand this sense of family. This leads, ultimately, to this excellent conclusion about how Christ was the center of the early civil rights movement:

Many leaders in communities of color have sought not just to liberate the human spirit, but to alleviate the harsh conditions many people encounter here on earth. In Young’s book, An Easy Burden, the chapter “The Lord Is with This Movement” confirms the integration of spirituality and social action. During the early civil rights protests, all demonstrators were required to sign a pledge for nonviolence that included these principles:

  • Meditate daily on the life and teachings of Jesus
  • Walk and talk in the manner of love— for God is love
  • Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men may be free
  • Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health

Bordas, Juana (2012-03-26). Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age (p. 175). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Seven-Generation Rule – Intergenerational Leadership

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Principle #7

IN 2000, I INVITED a group of established Latina leaders to talk about the need for additional reinforcements— particularly young women— to continue advancing our community. We realized that our hands-on, long-term experience had made us seasoned leaders. We had succeeded through mutual support, networking, working together, and being groomed by more established leaders. Quite frankly, we weren’t getting any younger, and we wanted to ensure continued Hispanic progress. We were passionate about passing on the leadership legacy established in our community. Thus was born the Circle of Latina Leadership, a year-and-a-half-long intergenerational program that prepares emerging leaders in their twenties and thirties to guide the future of Denver’s Hispanic community.

Bordas, Juana (2012-03-26). Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age (p. 142). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Sounds to me like the community wasn’t being that all-inclusive, if they suddenly realized they had been omitting the younger generation from the circle. But she does emphasize that any group must look to the generations before and after if they are to keep the continuity of the group going. To do so, she concentrates on the Millennial generation that they are trying to bring into leadership, and the elements shaping it.

A closer look at the Millennial generation offers insights on how they are preparing to lead in this century and have a predilection for following the leadership principles of communities of color. They are an activist generation and by 2016 they will make up 33 percent of the electorate…

Forty percent of Millennials are already Black, Brown, Asian, and American Indian, and a growing percentage are beautiful mixed races. Millennial culture thrives on diversity. According to Jeff Rainer— a twenty-something who coauthored The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation with his boomer father Thom—“Diversity is simply our reality. It has always been a part of my life. Millennials have friends who look different, act different, and believe different. We are diverse.”  Even when they say “I do,” one in five marries someone from another race, and a whopping 87 percent said they would be willing to. …

We know that Black, Latino, and American Indian communities have ancient kinships with people from many countries. These were once based on geography, race, culture, and nationality. Today, young people have blasted these relationships wide open. A new international culture is emerging: they dress similarly; listen to world music, with its indigenous fusion flair; download the same shows, news, and movies; and use social media networking to build community. They share concerns for the future, and they stay connected.

Bordas, Juana (2012-03-26). Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age (pp. 145-146). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

I know that was another long quote, but I bring it up because it introduces another interesting situation – the Millenials are lauded for their diversity, and then we are told that they are all the same, a part of the same international culture. So are they diverse or not? Does becoming more diverse make them more alike? Do they sink to the lowest common denominator, or do they achieve greater diversity as they rise.

Which leads to the next quote: one of amazing promise, but one that seems to forget a lot of history, as well:

IN 2002, THE HOPI Indian elders prophesied that a universal tribe— a Rainbow Tribe—was coming that would reflect the iridescent beauty of humanity. This tribe would heal the earth, bring peace and understanding, and undo the damage done by the White civilization. Then the elders said, “The time is now … We are the ones we have been waiting for.” 38

Bordas, Juana (2012-03-26). Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age (p. 152). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Pardon me for saying I feel slightly maligned by this one. A new tribe is going to come along and undo the damage caused by White civilization. Will this Rainbow be inclusive of Whites? And what damage is going to be undone? Let’s see, how about undoing the damage of:  Modern medicine, plentiful food, lack of starvation, longer lifespans. Those close-to-the earth cultures of color were no 24/7 picnic where sweat of the brow labor was concerned.

Or let us consider poverty. It is nice the improvement that White civilization has brought to poverty: one can be in poverty and still have a cell phone, TV, roof over one’s head, etc. I am not against having better stewardship of the earth, I just think people who speak of “damage” don’t always have a full context to put it all in.

Intergenerational leadership also requires changing the way Anglo society relates to “old people.” The dominant culture needs both positive role models of aging— with beauty, strength, and grace —and real understanding of the potential contributions of older people . Fortunately, communities of color respect age and experience; historically, they have venerated older people for their wisdom and called them “elders.”

Bordas, Juana (2012-03-26). Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age (p. 153). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Here again, I would demure that historically White communities have respected age and experience, through all our wisdom literature. It is only the modern area that has lost this – and those of us who were never moderns never lost it.

So now is a good time to list the 10 essential elements for cultivating intergenerational leadership. Due to length, I am not going to make many comments, just list them for consideration:

  1. Listen: Deep listening is an ancient tradition that enabled tribal people to reach consensus and craft a shared vision. Today cross-generational communication challenges us to listen and learn from different age groups.
  2. Be real and walk the talk
  3. Embrace mutuality and equality: Regardless of age, every person’s talent and experiences are respected and there is shared learning and support. Responsibility is distributed equally.
  4. Stoke up the network: Younger generations like to work in groups and be part of a network. Create a web of support between people of different ages.
  5. Tap into your passion and common interests
  6. Follow through with texting and social networking: Use Facebook, Twitter, and the like to stay in touch and share information, as well as access information on current issues, social causes, and political and social events, and, of course, to build your network.
  7. Put relationships first: Support and validation may be the most important thing people can offer one another.
  8. Think continuity: Relationships take time to grow. Family, tribe, village, and geographic community are continuous, lifelong relationships. Communities of color are intact and see relationships as ongoing.
  9. Remember the power of Sankofa: A historical perspective that helps young people understand and integrate past experiences is one of the great gifts a more mature person offers.
  10. Use the Seventh-Generation Rule: Listen to the guidance of Chief Sitting Bull: “Let us put our minds together and see what kind of future we can build for our children.”

Bordas, Juana (2012-03-26). Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age (p. 154)-156. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Creating the Circle of Leadership

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The African village, the American Indian tribal council, and the town meeting are examples of cooperative circular structures in which the community considers important decisions. The African saying “One head does not a council make” underlies their old tradition of tapping into the collective wisdom. The Native American “talking stick,” passed around a circle, gives everyone a chance to speak from the heart, so that a group perspective surfaces. The core Hispanic values of sharing, mutuality, cooperation, and community certainly imply a circular sense of all members being connected and taking care of one another.

Bordas, Juana (2012-03-26). Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age (pp. 139-140). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Thus does Bordas begin section three of her book on multicultural leadership. Once again the section will feature three principles.

I find it interesting that she lists three examples of cooperative circular structures: one for Blacks, one for native Americans, and one that doesn’t specify its cultural origins. Based on the parallelism she has been using, one would assume that the town meeting was meant to be for the Latino culture. Yet when I think of the town meeting I think of the New England town meeting of colonial American origin. Her examples after that point goes back to the three cultures of color, so I am uncertain.  I do not know whether Latinos have a culture of town meetings or not, I only know that of my own WASP background, and its egalitarian community focus.

So expect upcoming blogs on the next three principles:

  • Principle #7: The Seven-Generation Rule – Intergenerational Leadership
  • Principle #8: All My Relatives – La Familia, the Village, the Tribe
  • Principle #9: Gracias – Gratitude, Hope, and Forgiveness

Oh My Darling Clementine

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Despite the words, this song was not a gold rush song. It didn’t appear in print until 1863 — 14 years after the California Gold rush.

I also expect this song is probably one of the most popular and well-known of the songs in the 19th century book I am going through.  I remember a Disney clip of this song with Donald and his nephews. Do they still teach this song in elementary music classes?

Here it is:

In a cabin, in a canon, an excavation for a mine;

Dwelt a miner, a Forty-niner, And his daughter Clementine.

Chorus

Oh my darling, Oh my darling, Oh my darling Clementine,

You are lost and gone forever, Drefful sorry, Clementine.

She drove her ducklets, To the river, Ev’ry morning just at nine;

She stubb’d her toe, against a sliver, And fell into the foaming brine

Chorus

I saw her lips above the water, Blowing bubbles soft and fine; alas for me, I was no swimmer, And so I lost my Clementine.

Chorus

(P.S. — the typo in the first verse isn’t mine, but comes from the original sheet music. Canon is a religious term — I am sure they meant Canyon, which is what I remember singing — not Canon or Cannon.)

The Intercultural Person

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I was recently told by one of my regular (and rare) readers of this blog when she saw me face-to-face at church that my blogs had finally gotten beyond her. She was referring to all the blogs I have been writing on the materials I have been reading from my Master’s degree coursework in International and Intercultural Communications. I assured her that I would be coming back up for breath sometime soon. Only 6 more weeks of this class to go. But I am not coming up for breath today. Instead, I am digging even deeper into the subject.

I am not sure if I have voiced it previously in my posts, but to date, for a course that is supposed to be about international communications, I have been somewhat disappointed to see how American-centric the materials are.  When they do touch subjects about intercultural issues, it always has this underlying idea that all problems are because of the dominance of America and Western culture, and that these issues were created by Westerners, that other cultures have not experienced these things, or not in such an extreme form, until the West came along and messed things up.

This sort of self-flagellation is not highly productive. It creates resistance by those who feel they are being falsely blamed. It also distorts history and gives a false view of the world around us.

But now my readings recently – the “extra readings” outside the main textbooks – have piqued my interest. Their topics are hitting on the intercultural topics I was hoping the course would hit. Of course, the article I am dissecting today is even worse for professional jargon than the text books (the text books actually are fairly straightforward and readable by comparison). So apologies in advance, oh regular reader, but hopefully I can make at least some of this make sense.

First, let me start by giving the Reference for the work, with the understanding that all the quotes will be from that work, unless otherwise noted:

Intercultural personhood and identity negotiation.. (n.d.) >The Free Library. (2014). Retrieved Jan 25 2015 from http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Intercultural+personhood+and+identity+negotiation.-a0215410902

Concept of Intercultural Personhood

In this paper, intercultural personhood is … a human mechanism that operates in the whole process of intercultural communication. We hold that intercultural persons are extensions of cultural-selves whose qualities lie in their openness to cultural others, their willingness to negotiate differences, the ability to reach intercultural agreements, the ability to integrate diverse cultural elements, as well as the potential to achieve identity extension and mutual growth.

Note here that the intercultural person remains a part of their own culture, but has a capability to see beyond their own culture and into others. Not only do they see differences, but they are open to them, without losing themselves in the other.

Effective intercultural communication requires both the openness to cultural others and the willingness to negotiate differences. To negotiate differences means that intercultural person tries to give up cultural stereotypes, prejudices or ethnocentrism, and aims at conducting dialogue with others on equal footing. … Ethnocentric communicators, who only view things from their own perspective, can hardly reach any true intercultural consensus… (I)ntercultural identity negotiation should be interpreted as a coordinated process of mutual informing, mutual learning and mutual compromising, in which negotiators endeavor to reach intercultural agreements.

This reminds me of the character Willard Neufsteiler in the Honor Harrington universe of Sci-Fi author David Weber.  The one remarkable trait he was known for was in always arranging deals and contracts that were mutually beneficial to both sides.  The win-win scenario. The intercultural person has that same mentality.

Intercultural negotiation is a long process that requires the negotiator’s patience. There are no shortcuts to intercultural relationships, no vicarious ways to learn how to relate to people of another culture; only actual contact with individuals over an extended period of time begins to build intercultural understanding (Huston, 1994)… People with diverse cultural backgrounds… see different worlds that are often incommensurable to each other (Foley, 2001). For example … high-context cultural members would also find it difficult to comprehend the information sent by low-context cultural members. Intercultural person breaks up rigid cultural boundaries, through which symbols from different cultures gradually penetrate into each other and form a new overarching system.

Integrating new elements into one’s own cultural script is an effective way to achieve identity extension… When foreign elements or ideas are incorporated into a local culture, people’s horizon will be broadened, and consequently they will acquire new cultural attributes. As the overlaps increase, people from different cultures begin to live in each other’s world. What is foreign will become localized; what is strange will become familiar; what is inappropriate or unacceptable may become acceptable or even popular.

The process described, is long, slow, and transformative.  The intercultural person stays a part of  his culture, but does not stay the same within that culture.  The function of being the bridge changes both him, and hopefully his culture and the culture he is reaching out to.

Development of an Intercultural Person

To be a creative intercultural person means to embark on a trip to cross one’s own cultural boundary and to open up new possibilities. Intercultural persons take their own culture as the platform from which they seek intercultural agreements and aim at promoting mutual understanding, mutual identification and mutual growth. They believe in relative autonomy of their culture but at the same time fully recognize the significance of interactions among cultures. On the one hand, they spare no effort to reach intercultural agreements; on the other hand, they strongly commit to maintaining their own uniqueness.

The intercultural person is not the cosmopolitan person. That person loses contact or understanding of their own culture and the cultures they are interacting with. To be intercultural you have to be firmly grounded in your own culture, yet not afraid to examine it with the same intense lense to you take to the cultures you are reaching out to.

In our opinion, intercultural person’s identity is embedded in his social life and historical experiences. It is further shaped by intercultural encounters. He/she is more an extended person than a person who lives on the border… Generally, the cultural values of the society in which he/she lives life or the society chosen to identify with constitutes the salient part of the identity. Other cultural scripts will only be activated when he/she is placed in the relevant cultural contexts. The most effective way to transcend local vision and achieve mutual growth is cultural integration. In integrating diverse cultural elements, intercultural persons localize the foreign, make the local intercultural and bridge cultural gaps. Thus, in enriching the original cultural inventory and transforming its values, intercultural persons share more common ground with others and assume a new extended identity–“identity-in-unity” (Yoshikawa, 1987, p.143).

This new identity offers people from diverse cultures a platform to negotiate differences and establish reciprocal relationships. In order to break up cultural boundaries and facilitate productive communications, intercultural persons have to finish two basic tasks: the first is to make their cultural uniqueness known, recognized, understood and appreciated by cultural others; the second is to absorb wholesome elements from other cultures and express them in their own way.

Note the use of the word reciprocal. The intercultural person is involved in a two-way process. If both sides have nothing of value to offer, nothing can be gained. My experience is that both sides might find the other has a legitimate way of seeing something that is equally valid in some cases, while in others each may find something worthwhile to borrow from the other.

Identity Negotiation Competence

In intercultural communication, each individual approaches the cultural other with his own patterned way of thinking and unique vision of the world. Communication will break down if two parties fail to establish a common ground and develop a mutually beneficial relationship.

Ethnocentric individuals tend to categorize strangers in terms of skin color, dress, accents, the cars they drive, and so forth (Gudykunst, 1995). In other words, they usually classify people with stereotypes. As a consequence, strangers’ identity is often frozen, misjudged or ignored. Intercultural person has acquired the knowledge of other culture and understands their own and others’ cultural values and patterns of behavior. This promotes a capacity to identify similarities and differences between cultures.

The author of this article puts a lot of weight on being a competent identity negotiator. After all, culture is basically an element of identity. The author provides a three-element system that the interpersonal person uses to effectively negotiate culture.

(First) Intercultural persons can create communication context that is familiar to others, respond to their counterparts with familiar cultural scripts, making them feel at home. When others find that their identities have been recognized and validated, they experience identity trust.

Secondly, intercultural persons are capable of promoting self-transformation, identity extension as well as mutual growth. As an integral part of identity negotiation process, intercultural transformation is a long struggle, through which individuals change their cultural orientations, redefine their self-images and enrich their cultural scripts.

(Finally) In integrating foreign elements and extending their identities, intercultural persons enhance mutual growth… Differences do not disappear with the development of intercultural communication, and they may become a source of conflict. But with the establishment of positive relationship, differences can be turned into valuable sources of cultural creation, for “we learn more from people who are different from us than from those who are similar to us” (Ting-Toomey & Oetzel, 2001, p.4).

While all of these are very beneficial ends, it does not happen easily. There has to be an openness in both cultures for the intercultural person to work effectively.  And the process is not always positive for the intercultural person himself. Misunderstandings can arise:

Intercultural personhood plays a key part in developing identity negotiation competence, but it sometimes produces negative impacts. The major ones are identity ambiguity and identity marginalization. Extension is a principal source of alienation (Hall, 1976). Intercultural persons identify with more than one culture, rejecting rigid cultural boundaries. They are often accused of being like a chameleon–changing identities contextually without fully identifying with any specific culture. Since joining mainstream society entails a high degree of assimilation, intercultural persons are confronted with the challenge of being marginalized by their own society.

We earlier mentioned the potential for cultural confusion on the part of the intercultural person. The author wants us to conclude by noting that the opposite danger is also true – that of the person’s home culture becoming confused about the intercultural person. Nontheless, I think this intercultural person is the role I am looking to explore and grow more into. I have often felt like I am at the same time at the core of my own culture’s historic sense of itself, and yet looking at it from an outside perspective when considering what it currently has come to. Am I a person out of  time, out of place, or exactly where I need to be?

Leaders as Community Stewards – Working for the Common Goal

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Principle #6

AS WE LOOK AT leaders as community stewards, I want to begin by emphasizing that nurturing community is very different for Blacks, Latinos, and American Indians from the way it is for Anglos. Our communities have very old roots that have sustained us. They have a purpose— to benefit others and to garner the force for social action and progress.

Bordas, Juana (2012-03-26). Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age (p. 118). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

I consider myself an Odd, and Outlier, not one of the people who fit the norm. So when I read of the way that these communities sustain people in the communities of color, I also visualize the way they encourage those who stand out, who are different in some way, to come back into the consensus. Their leadership of equals as described elsewhere by Bordas would be anathema to someone as myself. That general consensus never realizes until afterwards the benefit of the outlier, because it isn’t obvious to the group to cultivate it. So someone like me would not be sustained in a community like that – and the internet has allowed the Odds to realize that there are more of us hiding out in the world than we previously realized.

THE CONCEPT OF LEADERSHIP as service was brought to the foreground by Robert Greenleaf in 1979. His modest pamphlet The Servant as Leader set the stage for the emergence of the collaborative and participatory process, in which leadership is not the hierarchical domain of the privileged few but entails delegating responsibility, sharing benefits, and developing people. A philosophical and reflective man, Greenleaf surmised that the hierarchical leadership approach he had witnessed in his career at AT& T did not nurture other people’s leadership skills and, in fact, did not develop the leader’s higher capacities.

Bordas, Juana (2012-03-26). Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age (pp. 119-120). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

I am reminded of the washing of the feet that Jesus’ did, and what he said then. Something that they all knew about, and was available ….

The Native American Council nurtures full participation , promotes consensus building, and fosters respect for each person’s contribution. The Council, which in many tribes is their governing body, protects the well-being of its community, honors diverse opinions, and achieves shared ownership. Only after much listening, interchange, and reflection does a collective answer or solution surface. In the Jemez Pueblo, says Benny Shendo, “Our decision-making is not about majority vote, but around consensus building. Are people comfortable, do they understand enough about it? If this decision is made, will the community move forward? If a decision is not made, how will this affect the community?” Conflict arose when voting was imposed on tribes that traditionally had made decisions and governed by inclusion, listening, and consensus. The Comanche, for example, have a very flat society in which hierarchical leadership does not exist in a traditional sense. Representative government created elitism and hierarchy: When people were elected, they were elevated above the rest of the tribe.

Bordas, Juana (2012-03-26). Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age (p. 124). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

It is a mistake to see the I culture and assume it is that surface-visible voting, the rule of the majority. The I culture is first about the rule of law, the preservation of rights, and only the smallest portion of things are decided by the vote. Most decisions have to be made by getting people to agree to work with you.  As is a common saying “people vote with their feet.” If anything, consensus is more critical and harder to get the I community – which in the majority of social situations does not have any respect for hierarchy of any kind.

In collectivist cultures, communication is the heartbeat that nourishes relationships and sustains community. By listening patiently to people’s voices and ideas, the leader ensures that everyone is on the same page and ready to lend their resources and energies. This reverberates with the African-American adage— to accomplish things together, people must be singing from the same hymnal. Although there are similarities in the way Blacks, Latinos, and American Indians communicate, there are also clear distinctions. Leaders from these communities are keenly aware of culturally effective ways of communicating with their people. Three practices warrant special consideration: (1) call and response, (2) it takes as long as it takes, and (3) charisma and cariño (fondness or affection). Using these practices can expand a leader’s repertoire and enhance his or her ability to communicate in many different contexts.

Bordas, Juana (2012-03-26). Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age (pp. 126-127). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Now this passage I really like. The idea of “singing from the same hymnal” reverberates to me. But it also shows that Bordas is not fully aware of the concept of corporate worship or the analogy thus drawn. This talks of long tradition, that may not be in sync with today’s fads, yet everyone recognizes its value to creating community. Thus the reverence for our rule of law, constitution, etc., due process.

African-American leaders stay connected to their communities through the special language form of call-and-response patterns. The familiar “Do you hear what I am saying?” asks for validation that the leader is on track , and people respond, “I heard that.” This creates reciprocity that builds on each other’s verbal contributions. As jazz musicians are inspired by each other’s contributions, so call and response creates a collective and interactive communication process. Unlike Anglo communication, in which it is considered polite for one person to speak at a time and build ideas sequentially, African-American conversation zigzags from person to person. People “piggyback” on each other’s contributions, creating a stimulating collective conversation and fusion of ideas.

Bordas, Juana (2012-03-26). Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age (p. 127). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

I see here positive community reinforcement, which can also be a sort of mob psychology in the wrong environment. What level of option is there to present a modifying or dissenting perspective to this call-and-response. You either agree or stay silent. This can very easily create group-think.

The Wolf and the Lamb

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In The Wolf and the Lamb by the Rev. Eric Law he talks about intercultural communities in the context of the passage Isaiah 11:6-9. This passage is often known as the “Peaceable Kingdom.” But the author prefers it to be known as the “Peaceable Realm” because the word kingdom has “too many connotations of the hierarchical human system that the passage challenges.” Really? A passage about the coming Kingdom of God doesn’t have anything in it about hierarchy?

In the next chapter he quotes Micah 6:8 “He has shown thee, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of thee: But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” Here he gives his definition of Justice: “Justice means equal distribution of power and privilege among all people.” Really, so what about Christ’s parable of the talents, where the division was unequal, do you not get?

I like Chesterton’s view of this passage much better. In Orthodoxy he say:

But remember that this text is too lightly interpreted. It is constantly assured, especially in our Tolstoyan tendencies, that when the lion lies down with the lamb the lion becomes lamb-like. But that is brutal annexation and imperialism on the part of the lamb. That is simply the lamb absorbing the lion instead of the lion eating the lamb. The real problem is — Can the lion lie down with the lamb and still retain his royal ferocity? THAT is the problem the Church attempted; THAT is the miracle she achieved.

I think the common problem of our era is thinking the solution is to always turn wolves and lions into lambs. We think the solution to everything is equality of status.  We are all against hierarchy (except for the people at the top who know best and need to be there to ensure all the rest of us are all equal).

But God doesn’t make us all alike. It is the variety and diversity that he revels in. To be truly all we should be, we need to be unequal. What is important is not the equality, it is the freedom, the freedom to be different, diverse, creative. In an off-handed comment once I said having the right to vote really wasn’t essential to me – as long as the government was limited and my freedom assured, I would be satisfied. Let someone call himself king and rule over me, if my freedom was assured. That isn’t what we have in the United States, but it makes a good point. Too many people forget that we didn’t fight for equality, we fight for freedom.

Back to the book. On the other hand, the conclusion that Rev. Law comes to at the end of chapter three is something I can give earnest attention to. People have different perceptions of their power to participate and make changes.  Just seating them at the table won’t get them to participate. If they feel they have to be invited to speak and share, you have to invite them specifically.  If they are there but don’t feel able to speak without the support of their community, you have to allow them to generate that support to be able to speak. If you want people to participate, you have to recognize them and meet them at their diversity. You need to allow them to stay different – or not.