Rerun #1! An Introduction (6/30)

You’ll have to pardon my previous post. Perhaps I should have started out with a bit of explanation of my rather provocative blog title. Here is that explanation:

Anyone who has ever watched a Hollywood bank robbery may recognize that this phrase usually has a somewhat threatening undertone. It is often followed by such uncooperative requests as “get down on the floor” or “put all the money in this bag.” This is hardly the model which I advocate for social order. Ironically, it’s more like the current order.

Really, aren’t we currently just cooperating with the Man with the Gun? It sure seems like it to me. One of the many steps out of our current mess is the recognition that there is a difference between true cooperation and mere obedience under threat. Any toddler can tell you that if a bigger kid grabs their toy, they aren’t really sharing. Nor are they cooperating.

Cooperation requires a major shift in our perspective, which will include a recognition of the difference between leaders and rulers. Both can coordinate people to get things done, but one uses consent and the other uses power. This becomes obvious when we ask ourselves about the leadership qualities of bank robbers, and what similarities they have with the qualities of our current national “leaders.”

I want to talk about two approaches to a specific problem to illustrate the difference between leaders and rulers.

In my previous post, I briefly mentioned the cooperative system called Mondragon. This was one response to the oppression suffered by the Basque people under Spanish rule, and it has led to a humane system based on voluntary membership and democratic control. Mondragon provides for its members many of the services commonly expected from government, but it is not a regional government. Mondragon has never annexed territory or forced anyone to join. People in that area are free to apply for employment and thereby join the cooperative. But they are also free to remain independent, to work in some of the other cooperatives in the area or to go it alone as a Spanish citizen.

Another Basque response to Spanish rule is embodied by the militant group known as ETA, which has doggedly carried out an insurgency that still features occasional bombings and other attacks. ETA is a fringe group that clearly does not have the hearts of the Basque people it claims to represent; while many Basques might prefer independence, it is almost inconceivable that this independence will ever be seized by force. If it is, there will probably be ethnic Spaniards in that country who find it is their turn to face oppression. I can’t imagine how that would turn out well. The ruins of Iraq and Yugoslavia teach us that using force to establish ethnic or sectarian homelands is a vicious circle that ends in genocide.

Leaders seek cooperation. Rulers seek compliance.

Now, I don’t claim that all of our problems will be magically solved if we just cooperate. There are still going to be crop failures and disasters and a general shortage of resources as our population grows and our natural resource base shrinks. We’ve got a tough century ahead of us. However, if we work together on principles of voluntary democracy, we will be much better able to address the issues we face. We might still get hurt, but we’ll get hurt together rather than by each other. We won’t have to suffer our hurts alone or nurse grudges against those who hurt us.

We cannot afford rulers anymore. We cannot afford to force our views on anyone. I just read about Sen. Obama’s recent…um…dialogue with Dr. James Dobson and it turns out that Obama has some really interesting things to say about how we all need to figure out how to live together. As I followed the links, I discovered Obama’s “Call to Renewal” speech, that provides the content for their discussion.

The full text of the speech is at and I recommend that y’all read it.

Now, I’m wary of seeming like an Obama booster since I’m not actually sure I want him to be President. I respect him too much to wish that job on him, and fear its corrupting effect. I also have some significant disagreements with his positions. However, he is running for President so I can’t just tune the guy out. Obama wants to work inside government and I want to work outside government, but the sentiment showed in his address show that we are doing related work.

He ended the speech with these words: “And that night, before I went to bed I said a prayer of my own. It’s a prayer I think I share with a lot of Americans. A hope that we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all. It’s a prayer worth praying, and a conversation worth having in this country in the months and years to come.”

I’m ready for that conversation.

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