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just a voice

Written By: - Date published: 4:01 pm, February 7th, 2014 - 6 comments
Categories: activism, community democracy, democratic participation - Tags: , ,

What follows is just my take on recent public meetings held in the Dunedin Botanic Gardens. To be clear, I’m not speaking on behalf of anyone else, though I’m aware there has been broad agreement on some of what follows.

Firstly then, last Saturday, there was general agreement by those gathered to adopt the name ‘Many Voices’. I guess at this nascent point in our development that name could be superceded. Regardless, some of the reasoning behind choosing a name that’s not overtly political is down to a somewhat shared concern that, organisationally doors should be open and no hurdles should be presented to people thinking of involving themselves. As throw-away examples, surveillance issues concern people of both a traditional left and right persuasion. Similarly, many people don’t feel comfortable  identifying with either the political left or the right, but have genuine social concerns and worries.

We realise we have the potential and limitations that we explore or impose. There is no compelling reason why, in time, we can’t have discussion groups, organise and execute actions, run workshops, build community and much, much more depending on skills, resources and enthusiasm. Obviously, there is no reason why everyone would need to be involved in all aspects of ‘Many Voices’. We’ll find our own space and comfortable level of engagement. Since we want expressions (verbal or physical) to be free from the stultifying effect of elevating one viewpoint over others simply due to the availability of resources, money or gifted orators, we will not be forging any party line on any political or social issue.

In line with the above and to protect the democratic integrity of what we’re about, we won’t be affording the opportunity for any political party or organisation to sell themselves or amplify their particular message through us. We are concerned with developing the voices, thoughts and opinions of ordinary people and exploring the potential that can flow from that.

It might sound like an aside, but because we want to develop spaces that will encourage mutual engagement and learning, rather than spaces where people are merely spoken at or preached to, there will be no megaphones or loudhailers at any of our events or actions.

One of our next steps is to produce a comprehensive but tight summation of what we are about and lock in any necessary protections for the democratic foundations or initial conditions that will inform our future activities. I could guess that will be the only piece of ‘official’ ‘Many Voices’ literature that will be produced. Other literature, insofar as it can only reasonably be said to reflect the views of those who write, produce or source them, won’t claim to be representative of Many Voices as a whole.

Finally then, ‘Many Voices’ isn’t some exclusive clique of ‘standardistas’ or any such like. It’s already a fairly broad mix of people whose politics/sense of community embrace a variety of perspectives and levels of commitment. There’s no pressure put on anyone to commit to any specific programme or plan of action. Perhaps just the initial prospect of engaging with people who are broadly in concert with you would be a good enough reason for you, and/or people you know, to pop along to the Bandstand at Dunedin Botanic Gardens around 1 O’Clock this Saturday afternoon.

6 comments on “just a voice”

  1. weka 1

    Nice write up, and great project. I especially like this

    “In line with the above and to protect the democratic integrity of what we’re about, we won’t be affording the opportunity for any political party or organisation to sell themselves or amplify their particular message through us. We are concerned with developing the voices, thoughts and opinions of ordinary people and exploring the potential that can flow from that.”

  2. In 1990 I spent about a fortnight in a small town in western Greece called Konitsa. it was halfway up a mountainside. Down below was a beautiful river and gorge (the Aoos River – spelling might be wrong).

    Anyway, in the town on the hillside there was only really one piece of public flat land and it was laid out a bit like a chess board in black and white squares. It happened to be just beneath the second floor balcony of the hotel we were staying at. After tea we sat drinking some retsina on the balcony.

    As we sat there I remember first seeing the local Orthodox priest start walking up and down this square (about 20m x 20m at most, probably less) next to a middle aged man. I thought they were just using it as a convenient place to continue a conversation they’d started elsewhere.

    But then, more and more people started to do the same, walking up and down, backwards and forwards talking to each other. As we watched we noticed that people would leave one conversation and then go over to another and walk alongside, joining in. We also noticed that groups of young people – dressed up – also joined the group, chatting excitedly, laughing and passing comments with the other townspeople.

    Within half an hour of first seeing the priest and man walking together, the square was completely jammed with people, still all walking back and forth with quite a few ‘onlookers’ talking to each other and passing comments to those walking.

    I used to think that it was simply their ‘entertainment’ on a ‘saturday night’ (or whichever night it was). But now I realise it was probably much more than that. They weren’t just having fun – though they definitely were and the atmosphere was really friendly – they would also have been sorting out issues, some interpersonal, some to do with the town. And, of course, they were passing the time with each other in a way that made that perch on a rocky mountainside their home, together.

    All the best bill, and the other voices.

  3. geoff 3

    good stuff

  4. greywarbler 4

    A great idea Bill. And Puddleglum that Greek gathering sounds novel and a winner for getting people intrigued, then involved.

  5. Philj 5

    Xox
    Nice idea. Other locations throughout Aotearoa?

  6. T6C 6

    Will be there at the Botanicals.

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