Quakers make decisions together in such a way that ideally, everyone’s voice is heard. For Gil George, it’s a revolutionary process.
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- Gil says that “while hierarchy might really efficiently get things done, there’s so much damage done along the way that it counteracts all of the value created.” Do you agree? What do you see as the damage done by hierarchy?
- What do you think is the antidote to the problem that Gil is highlighting?
- Have you experienced Quakerism as being a successful alternative to hierarchical thinking? What are the challenges facing us in this area?
Gil George: Hierarchy is a system of organization that is extraordinarily efficient, but it is also a system that views an end goal as more important than the means to get to and achieve that end goal and I think what we often forget is that the means we use often determine which end goal really happens.
How Quakers Turn Hierarchy on its Head
My name’s Gilbert George. I live in southeast Portland. I have been a pastor of a Friends’ meeting (that has pastors), and I am currently a stay-at-home dad and editing a blog called “Godspace.”
The Dangers of Hierarchy
So, yes, while hierarchy might really efficiently get things done, there’s so much damage done along the way that it counteracts all of the value created. We talk about how hierarchy created civilization as it is. I’d have to ask: what have been the effects of civilization as it is now?
Hierarchy bred a resentment because hierarchy gave some people power and completely stripped it from others. And so when that occurs, there will always always always be a negative response from the people whose agency has been stripped from them. Martin Luther King, Jr., said it best: riots are the voice of the unheard.
Counteracting Systems of Domination
Quakerism counteracts the systems of domination by re-placing the value of all human beings, by refocusing us off of the value of the opinion of one or few who have access to resources and control, and saying that: “this person who just came in off the street has as much access to the voice of God as the CEO.”
And when we actually live that out and we welcome all of the voices to the table–because that’s the important piece. It isn’t shutting off the voices of the people who have access to wealth and power, it’s having the people who have access to wealth and power actually sitting down and listening to the voices of the people who don’t have that same access, and recognizing that God speaks through them equally.
And so we as Friends, in our discernment process—we bring hope to folks all throughout these broken, damaged, hurting systems that are disintegrating all of us, and we’re bringing integrity back into the life of our society.
All People Have Value
Our way of being together is a corrective to the main patterns of dismemberment, of disintegration in our society because we confront the systems of hierarchy by reminding the people on any piece of whatever corporate ladder or other structures there are in our society that every person has deep, wonderful value and has access to the voice of God.
And that shatters hierarchy to pieces, because hierarchy is built on the idea that there are people who are more valuable and there are people who are less valuable. And what we as Friends say is all people, no matter what, are equally valuable.
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.