Analysis: BOB MUBANGA
DEMOCRACY is an infinitely-including spirit. We have an instinct for democracy because we have an instinct for wholeness.Democracy is the self-creating process of life, projecting itself into the visible world so that its essential oneness will declare itself.
In this regard, democracy is grounded in the power of true dialogue among diverse people to help them transcend the limits of personal perspectives and resonate with each other and the world through their interconnectedness, revealing bigger pictures and deeper wisdom than that of an individual or group, making it possible to create together solutions, visions, communities and societies that make sense and serve life now and for generations to come.
Zambians, in their political history, have appreciated and experienced this sort of powerful “generative dialogue” dating back to the time when multi-party politics was re-introduced by then President, Kenneth Kaunda, who had agreed to the terms of dialogue in a similar manner that President Edgar Lungu has done in a bid to strengthen the oneness and build consensus among all players in the dialogue process.
It is against this background that there is need to support the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue (ZCID) and indeed all other stakeholders that may come in, such as the Church, to help in mediating during discussions and workshops, and bring the living power of generative dialogue into the very structures and processes of modern politics and government.
Empowered dialogue can bring wisdom to democracy premised on the fact that it has to let people involved bring about all their challenges to the table and discuss issues for possible solution(s). For instance, in 1991 the leading Canadian news weekly, Maclean’s, sponsored a dialogue about the future of Canada among 12 ordinary Canadians carefully selected for their differences in terms of professions and other factors – nurses, lawyers, teachers, musicians, company workers, white, black, native, male, female – from across Canada. Right from the start, they were passionately divided about minority rights and political systems.
After two days of ideological battles and emotional upheavals, a breakthrough happened. A spirit of partnership blossomed and by the end of the last day, the group had agreed on a vision for Canada that advocated more mutual awareness, connectedness, and collaborative activity.
In view of the above, it is of paramount importance for well-meaning citizens of this great republic to once again rise above board and rally behind the ZCID so that its fairness is seen through the manner in which it will make up a steering committee consisting of opposing partisan authorities, who may be experts from across the political spectrum. This could be a workable approach to addressing every major social or political issue some people are faced with.
However, in all dialogue processes, we need wisdom; and the kind of wisdom we need in a democracy has to be compellingly real and useful to the country’s ordinary people, and preferably arise from within and among them. And it also has to contain a remarkable level of insight and even creativity to adequately address the complexities and nuances of our social, environmental and political circumstances.
Zambians, as a people, have evolved such that deep within each of us is perhaps our most potent source of wisdom, individually and together. There, at the core of our being, lie our common spirit, our common life, and our common humanity, resonating together in the symphony of our interconnectedness.
Further, let’s not seem to be separated from nature and from each other, distracted by novelty, noises, entertainment and the demands of our complex post-modern lives, which in many ways often make us lose touch with our love and togetherness.
Dialogue is an antidote to our current life, and in high-quality dialogue we encounter each other’s unique diversity in profound ways that don’t let us skim by in politeness, compromise and denial, or defend ourselves with ideology, attack and not listening to others’ views.
Dialogue calls forth a collective reality that is too great to readily comprehend, too dissonant to accept, too real to hide from.
In this regard, true dialogue knows the answer, intrinsically, and it pulls us down into our core commons, where interconnectedness is waiting for us. Sometimes it triggers an emotional catharsis.
Sometimes it evokes a mental struggle to weave seemingly contrary interests into a larger solution acceptable to all.
However, most democracies properly require “separation between church and state” partly to keep two sources of concentrated social power separate (in contrast to the “divine right of kings”) and partly to encourage freedom of religion.
Beyond this, we can always use more generative dialogue among spiritual leaders, among politicians, among journalists, among peacemakers, among humanitarians, among justice advocates, among physical and social scientists and among people from all these fields to help them generate their own special kinds of wisdom, which they can then bring to the discussions.
Common to many of these efforts is the recognition that diversity is a resource for wisdom, for expanded perspective, as long as it is engaged in generative dialogue. The kind of diversity we bring together governs the kind of wisdom that emerges. If the diversity reflects the diversity of a community, the wisdom will be especially appropriate for the community.
If the diversity reflects the diversity of a political movement, the wisdom that emerges will further heal that movement. It is the combination of relevant, adequate, diverse and generative dialogue that creates the needed wisdom. When people come together, they find powerful, insightful common ground.
In order to accomplish this, we need to lift our heads above the foxholes of our adversarial issue positions long enough to welcome the power of dialogue to generate wisdom beyond our positions and learn how to trust the processes of life and conversation.
The author is a local government specialist and social commentator.
Analysis: BOB MUBANGA