Oppression silences diversity and undermines collective intelligence. Protecting individual and group freedom and participation within the larger project of generating long-term collective quality of life is essential. So ensure that civil rights—even beyond being legally binding—are passionately held as vital to our identity as democratic societies and citizens.
Related: 7 Checks on Extreme Inequality, 12 Competent Popular Oversight of Governance, 13 Constraints on Concentrated Power, 21 E Pluribus Unum, 46 Privacy Guarantees, 48 Prudent Use of Power-Over, 64 Using Diversity and Disturbance Creatively
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This is an edited version of the video on this page.
Very often people think that oppression is bad for the oppressed people, and that’s true. But I want to raise the idea that oppression is also bad for the collective intelligence of a group or community and consequently for any collective wisdom it might be able to generate. This is because collective intelligence depends on engaging with different perspectives and information.
We are trying to cover a lot of ground when we make a decision, when we look at a situation, when we try to resolve a conflict, whenever we try to take into account what needs to be taken into account. If we are silencing and sidelining different voices and different people who are seeing parts of the puzzle, those parts of the puzzle are not accessible to us. Therefore, we miss the bigger picture through which we could create a smarter and wiser solution to whatever it is we are working on. So oppression silences diversity and thereby undermines collective intelligence, and that’s the reason we address oppression when we are designing wise democratic systems.
We want individuals and groups to be free to manifest who they are and to say what they see and what they feel, to express their needs, to engage with others freely in order to put their piece of the puzzle into the larger project of generating long-term collective quality-of-life which is our wise democracy goal and purpose.
We can’t get a functionally wise unity by excluding people, views, perspectives or ideas that we don’t want. We need to be biased towards inclusion, biased towards welcoming and bringing people and ideas together and doing something creatively with all that. This is covered specifically in another pattern in this pattern language – using diversity and disturbance creatively.
Civil rights is a legal concept: it is a legal application of valuing diversity and voices. We find legally binding terms in the Bill of Rights which says we need to have these voices present and we’re going to make sure with our laws that that happens. That legal protection is the minimum part of what we need for this pattern. The other part is, “democracy is vibrant and effective to the extent we productively engage these different voices, perspectives and gifts in our ongoing collective enterprise.” So we defend it not just because it’s legal or because it’s fair. We defend it because that’s who we are. We believe in who we are collectively as a democratic society and as a democratic culture. This is an essential piece of us that we don’t violate.
As citizens we don’t want any other people to be oppressed and we don’t want to be oppressed either. We take action about both of those to ensure whatever rights our society has agreed on. Were our constitution based on wise democracy, we would probably expand the rights that are possessed by everybody. In a wise democratic civil society – whatever those rights are – we defend people’s right to be heard even if we disagree with them.