Sunday, October 12, 2014

Chilliwack Municipal Election 2014 - On Responsibility

This years municipal election looks like it will be a bit more competitive than the last few years. There are multiple candidates for mayor and a whopping 17 candidates have tossed their hat in the ring for six council seats. You can find the full list here.

Competition can be a good thing. Competition can bring out the best in people. Competition can also unveil flaws, like unproductive mental models, beliefs and agendas.

An election can also bring out voter's mental models, beliefs and agendas. A couple of weeks ago I posted a few tweets about My Voter Declaration. Candidates were declaring so I thought I would too. Some of the rationale for this comes from my practice of working out loud. It's about being transparent and sharing ideas freely. Other reasons for this were to keep myself accountable - publicly saying you are going to do something is one way to put pressure on yourself to do that something - and to give fair warning to candidates that I will be asking questions and that I, and I assume many others, expect intelligent responses. Lastly, the My Voter Declaration tweets are a direct reflection of my beliefs about democracy, responsibility and citizenship.

Responsibility and citizenship in a democratic society

I have some chosen beliefs. I chose these beliefs because I know that beliefs drive behaviours and I choose to behave in certain ways. My goal is self-actualization and no, I haven't achieved it yet but I'm still trying. 

Beliefs drive behaviours

I believe we are all connected. I also believe we are all responsible... for everything. How this translates is that I believe that I am personally responsible for what goes on in my neighbourhood, my city, my province, my country and my world. It's a personal responsibility. This isn't an original idea. Others have expressed this belief most eloquently - 

Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained. Helen Keller

I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty. John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Responsibility does not only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to do a particular job. It lies with each of us individually.  The Dalai Lama

So, really, it's all about me. My responsibility to do what I can, when I can, where I can. I also believe that we can only control our own actions. Despite knowing we can't control others I still hold those in (paid) leadership positions to a  high standard.. or at least I have an expectation that they too will go about their jobs with an underlying belief that they are responsible.

Why taking responsibility matters

Taking it personally and being personally accountable and responsible for what goes on in our world makes it more likely that we
  • pay attention, 
  • play a part, 
  • get involved 
  • display empathy, and 
  • act with the greater good in mind. 

Accepting personal responsibility also makes it really difficult to shift blame. If I'm responsible and I see something wrong my first reflex is to do something myself. I believe this is critical. That first reflex may lead me to seeking other to help. I am quite aware of my own limitations and extend that knowing to others. We are, after all, only human. 

I also believe that we are responsible for ourselves so taking on the weight of the world is not a realistic goal. There is a balance, a sweet spot in the centre, where we can be responsible without the need to control. Where we can allow ourselves to be connected without assuming the combined pain of the world. 

How this plays out for me is in knowing that crime, for example, is something I'm complicit in. I understand the nexus of crime and I know that every time I fail to reach out, to include, to assist a child or family in distress, I become complicit in the creation of a future criminal. I, and society, creates criminals,. Very, very few people are born to be antisocial. So, I am responsible. Believing that makes it more likely that I will reach out, connect, and in a healthy way, help when I can. 

Reverse engineering - behaviours to beliefs

Knowing that beliefs - and mental models - drive behaviour, it's pretty easy to reverse engineer a persons behaviours to uncover their beliefs. When I say behaviours, I mean anything you can see or hear. Language is great tell when it comes to unearthing what an individual really believes about the world, other people, and his/her place in it.

Some of the conversations on Twitter of late have exposed the underlying beliefs and mental models of several of the candidates. One Twitter thread prompted me to post this:

Of course the challenge with reverse engineering in humans is that intent can be hidden. I'm sure most if not all of the candidates have the best of intentions. I am not quite as convinced that they all hold beliefs that include personal responsibility, transparency and participatory decision-making - all big issues for me.

Ok, that's it for me, for now. In the coming weeks I'll be posting questions for candidates and will try to summarize responses in the blog.

My question for voters - What's your declaration? What will you commit to?

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