July 5, 2012

Coercive Harmony

Alexander Cockburn wrote in The Golden Age Is In Us (1995), entry from September 9, 1993:

These days we have the numbing rituals of consensus formation, a collective act of brainwashing dictated, as always, by the most unstable participant, exercising the tyranny of the hysteric, the unhinged, anybody whom sensible people in the group decide it’s not worth the trouble to upset. So there's consensus, since these more-or-less stable participants realize that their concerted objective is to please this weakest member, who obviously agrees.

Laura Nader, professor of anthropology at UC Berkeley, gave a striking interview in the San Francisco Examiner the other day in which she noted the growth of ‘coercive harmony’, a process she recognized from methods of pacification introduced by European missionaries during the colonial period to control indigenous villagers.

According to the article, ‘Alternative dispute resolution’, she said, ‘was a response to the confrontation and litigiousness of the 1960s civil rights movement.’ Spearheaded by former US Chief Justice Warren Burger, it aimed to free courts of cases that could be settled through mediation or arbitration. But in the pursuit of compromise, justice often has been forgotten ... and the pursuit itself has carried far beyond the justice system.

‘It's basically a movement against the contentious in anything, and it has very strange bedfellows, from people with various psychiatric therapy movements, Christian fundamentalists, corporations sick of paying lawyers, activists who believe we should love each other ... and it’s spread into different parts of American life.

‘We are talking about coercive harmony — an ideology that says if you disagree, you should really keep your mouth shut.’

[These days we have the corporatist development of coercive harmony and consensus formation in ‘community consultation’ to find the ‘win-win’ solution, that is, what does the developer need to pay to get the community to support its own destruction. The developer representing the most unhinged of society, the most sociopathic participant. Because the only purpose of these ‘consultations’ is to bless the developer's plans.]

human rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism