Posted by: agidius | October 4, 2011

The More You Know ~ Consensus

A healthy place to settle any argument

Debate and disagreement are an unavoidable part of any community. How it is dealt with, however, varies. Recently, there has been some discussion that, in the event of a majority opinion, consensus is not needed. After all, if most people think one way, isn’t it true? Well… maybe not. Human opinion is a fickle thing, and what is commonly accepted as true one day can, in time, turn into something patently offensive. Few of our contest’s winners have kept their status over time… Kawasaki, Subaru, and Macho Man in particular have lost much of their respect, if not their value. How, then, can we avoid potentially embarrassing decisions that leave us scratching our heads a few contests down the road? The key lies in consensus.

Consensus is not mere compromise, although compromise is often involved. It is a process in which all legitimate concerns are weighed before a decision is made, or an action is taken. A society governed outside the reach of consensus is a dangerous one…  but one which relies on it fully is sluggish and ineffective.

Let’s get into some specifics here. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – our governing body, the leadership, is not one of compromise. Indeed, it operates on the crudest of systems: the majority vote. Now, the majority system has its benefits, the most obvious and demonstrable of these being the ability to work quickly  and efficiently. Our most recent Top 50 is a prime example of this… a process which once took weeks, that of picks, kicks, and shifts, was cut down to a day and a half. The brute force of majority pushed through every single shift in a breakneck process which allowed no room for disagreement.

To contrast, a system which relies entirely on consensus, on weighing the merits and drawbacks noted by all concerned parties, has been shown to be a slow, ponderous beast which rarely gets anything of value accomplished. This can be easily seen in the thread for SmashDaddy’s Proposal. For the bulk of the first page of discussion, the various aspects of the proposal were weighed and evaluated evenly. Compromise was made. Some ground was given, but not all. A peaceful resolution was at hand, for a time.

But then, a number of things happened which demonstrated the difficulties in dealing with a consensus-based system. Enter the Absolute Opinion, here played by MasterWarlord. The Absolute leaves little room for negotiation, if any at all. To the Absolute, the outcome of any discussion is known before it even begins. Words which express a complete faith in their convictions are common, as well as a dismissive attitude towards any points the other side can make. In order for consensus to exist, the mentality of absolutism – on both fronts – must be abolished.

Another equally destructive force is the idealism of pure compromise. The idea that the truth lies in the middle of two extremes is very rarely the case… this is most easily demonstrated in the discussion of the MYM 7 Top 50, which can be found here. This is typically what is referenced when arguments are formed against the consensus approach… that is, the assumption that in order for true consensus to exist, everyone’s input must be averaged almost mathematically. Again, this is not the case, especially due to the existence of the Absolutes on both sides. A system of pure compromise is in itself compromised due to how easily it can be taken advantage of.

If not the majority opinion, if not the average opinion, what, then, should be the determining factor? This is where human nature, pure and simple, comes in. Opinion is just that, how one interprets an event, a person, or even a moveset. Through debate, through discussion, through REASON, plain and simple, truth can be reached. Everyone benefits from a discussion, no matter how silly or stupid it may seem at the time. Enlightenment can come from the most unlikely of sources. Listen, interpret, reply, and revise until a conclusion is made. Be slow to judge, and quick to defend. In the long run, greater proactivity in leadership, moveset interpretation, and understanding your fellow MYMers will result. And isn’t that what we should have been shooting for to begin with?

What do you think?

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