I have found the kind of discussion (and I use that term loosely) during the last month of electioneering curious. There has been much made of the ills of a coalition. If someone were new to the English language it would be easy to assume that a 'coalition' was some kind of dreaded disease that must be avoided at all costs.
Some leaders of Canada's political parties have warned of the dangers of coalitions and even advised against supporting anyone who would even consider entering into a coalition. Others have been very assertive in declaring they would never enter into a coalition.
I have to admit I'm confused by this kind of discourse. My confusion is based on my understanding of what the word 'coalition' means. The dictionary informs me that a coalition is "an alliance for combined action". What I do know is that we live in a complex world of competing ideas, values and strategies. I am of the opinion that complex social problems cannot be solved alone; that the ideas and strategies needed to address the challenges we face today requires the collective thoughts, ideas and commitments of a large group of people.
Nature offers us a powerful lesson. Research into the natural world has revealed that collective wisdom is more intelligent and more responsive than individual wisdom. I'm told that a school of fish, a hive of bees or a flock of birds is fifty times more responsive to its environment than any single bird, bee or fish. Charles Darwin, who has been unfortunately attributed with the phrase - "the survival of the fittest" couldn't have been more misunderstood. Darwin well documented that the most significant determinant of survival of a species was the capacity of the species to work together.
My concern with the recent electioneering and pattern of governance that is typical in our society today is the tendency to treat others as combatants or enemies rather than as cohorts and collaborators in finding solutions to our most complex social and organizational challenges.
Adam Kahane is a Canadian researcher, author and facilitator who has worked with some of the most intractable social and political challenges of our time. Kahane was invited by President-elect Nelson Mandela to address the huge societal and relational gaps between the blacks and whites in South Africa. Kahane has also worked to ease the Israeli and Palestinian conflicts, as well as conflicts between governments and rebels in many countries around the world.
Kahane believes that collaboration is critical to achieving sustainable solutions. He states that enduring relationships are primary to enable us to operate as a single intelligence, and that 'interdependence' not 'independence' is the outcome we ought to be pursuing. His observation is that groups, organizations and even countries fail because of their inability to work together. Kahane often responds to the hostility and disregard he witnesses between participants in meetings with the following statement - "Some of you act as if you have no expectation of a relationship beyond this conversation."
My challenge with the kind of campaigning I am witnessing in this election and most elections is that much of the discourse between rivals would invite the comment made my Kahane above. The battering, bruising and disrespect expressed during the campaign would seem to minimize or extinguish any potential of these elected officials to work together in some kind of collaboration after the election for the betterment of all Canadians.
It is time we demanded that our leaders and elected officials treat each other with respect and dignity; that they acknowledge the need for collaboration, and accept that collectively we have a greater capacity to address our social challenges then when we operate as a community of individuals in conflict with one another.
In my mind an "alliance for combined action" is exactly what is needed.