Reimagining what’s possible: From authoritarianism and othering to democracy and belonging

Belonging in its truest sense means that people in any system or container have the right to not only be included within it, but to make demands on that system and even change the structure of that system itself. In an ideal form, democracy grants everyone the opportunity to change the nature of how our system functions—a critical component of belonging at the structural level. 

And yet, democratic systems have so often generated the opposite of belonging– prioritizing majority interests over minority needs, reinforcing structural racism and economic inequality, and facilitating the election of “democratic” leaders opposed to the ideal of democracy itself. In the Global South, democracy has also been wielded as a colonial weapon, offered as a system made “for the people” but never truly “by the people.”

In this opening conversation, OBI Director john a. powell and Ece Temelkuran will grapple with the real failures of democracy—including the ways that its imperfections have contributed to deeply unjust power structures and toxic “us vs. them” binarism—but also the promise and necessity of democratic systems in sharing power and resources in pursuit of belonging. They will further grapple with the sometimes-competing demands of de-fragmentation and bridging—necessary for functioning diverse democracies—and the demands of social justice, which sometimes requires breaking with power structures and other groups to enact critical change. They will ultimately seek to envision what democracy would look like if it were rooted in radical belonging, which includes all people and the earth itself, and chart the collective path that would take us towards that vision—one built through bridging, solidarity across identity lines, and hope for what is possible when we come together.

Thursday, October 26, 2023