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1979

Principles of the Conscientized International Expert

political correctness in international initiatives

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Caveat lector. Printed in Transnational Associations, 1979, 11, pp. 543-545 [PDF version]


Project participants

1. Participant representativity: I will only participate in meetings or projects in which the distribution of participants (a) by age, (b) by creed, (c) by race, (d) by ideology and (e) by nationality, reflects, in each case (within say 15 %) that for the world population, or at least for that sub-set with which the project is concerned.

Any imbalance toward a predominance of one age-group, creed, race, ideology, or nationality, or any coalition thereof, runs a considerable risk of restricting the validity of any conclusions (to the degree of that imbalance) for a society in which the interests of each are improperly guaranteed and protected be the others.

2. Sexism: l will only participate in meetings or projects in which the difference in the numbers of males or females is not greater than (say) 15 %.

Any imbalance runs a considerable risk of restricting the validity of any conclusions (to the degree of that imbalance) for a society composed of approximately equal numbers of each sex. The dominance of one perspective is not tolerable.

3. Discipline representation: l will only participate in meetings or projects in which the disciplines represented reflect the complete spectrum of those which consider that the topic under discussion is related to their concerns and current activities.

In a society bedevilled by complex problems it cannot be expected that any international issue can be appropriately and responsibly discussed in the absence of the insight of disciplines which may provide clues to useful action. It is intolerable that discussion should be dominated by views emerging from one discipline or group of disciplines. It has been remarked that few of the 1800 disciplines would acknowledge that their expertise is not relevant to any complex problem.

4. Qualifications: I will only participate in meetings or projects in which special care is taken to ensure that those participating are appropriately qualified to guarantee that the discussion and conclusions are of quality commensurate with the best available in institutions around the world and are not influenced by superficial considerations.

The participation of people who have devoted insufficient attention to the topic under discussion, as recognised by their peers, is irresponsible. If the project is to be of any significance, every effort must be made to protect the project from inappropriate inputs and inadequate insight

5. Community representation: I will only participate in meetings or projects in which representatives of the community to be affected participate are present on an equal footing with outside experts.

It is intolerable, in the light of past experiences of the misuse of expertise, that "experts" should make plans for a community without involving those to be affected right from the start. In doing so, care should be taken to ensure that all factions and minority groups are appropriately and genuinely represented at that level.

6. Economic and social equality: l will not participate in meetings or projects in which participants are supposed to participate as equals but in which their annual salaries (including financial privileges) differ by a significant amount (e.g. 15 %).

It is unreasonable to engage in projects to reduce economic and social inequalities when the participants in such projects constitute a living and unself-critical demonstration of such inequalities.

7. Family participation: l will only participate in meetings or projects in which arrangements are made to facilitate the presence and participation of family members including children.

It is unrealistic to expect that a balanced discussion concerning the problems and future of any community can be achieved when persons representing important dimensions of that community are excluded or allocated a purely decorative role. This procedure further reinforces adult arrogance (usually male) and does much to perpetuate the unenlightened sterility of such proceedings. It constitutes a demonstration of the insidious dynamics whose prevalence in society is of so much concern. And, in so far as it is towards improving the world in which children will have to live, it is only natural that such meetings should be more responsive to childrens' views of the future -- rather than designing their world with eyes blinkered by the views and methods of the preceding generation.

Project facilities

8. Location: I will not participate in meetings or projects based in cities to which a disproportionate percentage of resources is already allocated at the expense of other locations whose underprivileged condition is consequently aggravated.

It is intolerable that projects to reduce the unequal allocation of resources should constitute a basic demonstration of the mentality which reinforces the continuation of such practices.

9. Transportation: I will only participate in meetings or projects which do not require use of vehicles constructed by aerospace and automotive enterprises intimately associated with the manufacture of arms and military equipment.

Such enterprises are at the heart of the military-industrial complex and contribute directly to the arms race, to misallocation of resources, and the aggravation of world problems. Each time such vehicles are used to transport participants the position of such enterprises within the international system is reinforced

10. Handicapped: I will only participate in meetings or projects which make provision for the participation on an equal footing of those who may be physically handicapped, whether confined to wheel chairs, blind, deaf or with a speech impediment.

A physical handicap should not constitute an excuse for disqualifying a participant, particularly when this is reinforced by the design of the conference building, furniture, toilet and audio-visual facilities, and the arrangements made for transport and accommodation. This is especially the case when the project in concerned with problems which may give rise to the handicap by which the person is afflicted and to which that person is uniquely qualified to bear witness.

11. Equipment: I will only participate in meetings or projects which do not make use of technical equipment (e.g. typewriters, computers, telephones, desk calculators, interpretation equipment, etc.) manufactured or maintained by multinational enterprises.

Aside from making use of scarce resources, and displacing individuals from jobs, such products are often partly manufactured in developing countries under exploitative labour arrangements and are then sold under monopolistic conditions.

12. Ergonomic factors: I will only participate in meetings or projects which involve use of furniture and time schedules which respect the physiological and psychological needs of participants (as determined by such disciplines as ergonomics).

It is unreasonable to expect a group to generate useful results for a wider society when its members do violence to their posture, health and general well-being by the manner is which they are obliged to work. Furthermore, solutions to this difficulty should reflect the needs of individuals from cultures where both the actual furniture and the organization and pace of interpersonal interaction may be very different

Working arrangements

13. Holidays: I will only participate in meetings or projects which respect the national holidays (independence days, etc.) of the countries of the world and the weekly and other holy days of the religions of the world.

It is insulting to a people or a creed to arrange international meeting or project schedules in terms of the practices in one nation or culture whilst ignoring the practice in another which maybe less favourably represented. This can only aggravate international misunderstanding as well as reinforce the insensitivity of those from dominant nations and cultures.

14. Forms of address: I will only participate in meetings or projects which take account of the appropri ate forms of greeting and address to which people from different cultures are accustomed.

It is insensitive and possibly insulting, for example, to use the first (or given) name of a person who does not wish to be automatically coopted into the western fraternity which favours this practice.

15. Group size: I will only participate in meetings or projects which call for interaction in groups in numbers not significantly greater than the "critical group size", namely 7-12 participants.

Groups of larger size inhibit the freedom of expression of the less articulate and less aggressive participants whose views may well be both specially relevant and less distorted by needs for personal aggrandisement Larger groups are generally less effective in this mode of operation and therefore absorb considerable person-hours when those involved could better employ their attention on other activities.

16. Participant expression: I will not participate in meetings or projects in which the speaking is done mainly by a small clique (representing less than 30 % of the participants) whilst the remainder, for whatever reason, seldom speak, if at all.

This is an extremely inefficient use of human resources in which many travel long distances without having the opportunity to express their views and priorities. The more aggressive individuals or those speaking the congress "jargon ,'fluently, dominate such events which thus stand as models of the oppressive communication practices in the wider society.

Project environment and resource use

17. Resource conservation: I will only participate in meetings or projects which make deliberate efforts to counter the wastage of natural resources normally associated with such activities.

It is only appropriate that an international project should make use of recycled paper and reusable envelopes, for example.

18. Meeting budget: I will only participate in meetings or projects in which the total budget for the preparatory meetings (including travel, accommodation, and cost of work lost) does not exceed a reasonable percentage (say 33 %) of the total annual operational budget (i.e. excluding administrative overheads) of the project.

It is counter-productive to assemble people to engage in projects whose operational budgets are of the same order of magnitude as the cost of their preparatory meetings, and to waste time discussing the details and viability of such budgets.

19. Smoking: I will only participate in meetings or projects in which smoking in any form is not tolerated.

Smoking fouls the air. It is inconsiderate of non-smoking participants, is bad for the health of smokers and non-smokers, and reinforces the attitudes which ensure continued environmental pollution. It is especially inappropriate in meetings about environmental questions.

20. Alcohol consumption: I will only participate in meetings or projects enlivened by receptions, banquets or entertainment in which alcoholic beverages are not tolerated.

Alcohol dulls the mental faculties, diminishing the value of participant contributions and thus of the exercise. In addition, it is against the principles of some major cultures and therefore offensive to them. It constitutes a significant waste of scarce resources at a time when budgetary restrictions are increasing and many viable projects go unfunded. Furthermore, it is unseemly that participants should engage in such activity, which often amounts to conspicuous overconsumption, at a time when two-thirds of the world's population is short of food or starving.

21. Meat consumption: I will only participate in meetings or projects in which the meals provided, available or recommended, do not involve consumption of animal flesh.

Such consumption is offensive to the principles of some cultures and as such is not appropriate to an international project. Delegation of the (often painful) slaughter of such animals, by people who find it distasteful and yet hope to benefit thereby, reinforces the split-minded attitude whereby the slaughter of human beings is tolerated by those who would supposedly prefer not to engage in it themselves. Further, it is wasteful of agricultural land which could be more efficiently used to produce food for the undernourished two-thirds of the world. The conspicuous waste associated with such consumption (during intergovernmental meetings, for example) is often insulting those whom the project is supposed to benefit

22. Energy use: I will not participate in meetings or projects in which the use of energy (for air conditioning, central heating, lighting, etc.) is inconsistent with the internationally recognised need to conserve energy resources.

It is intolerable to be associated with projects which are concerned in some way with energy-related issues and yet fail to take account of international recommendations on these matters in connection with their own practices.

Project communications

23. Languages: I will only participate in meetings or projects in which arrangements are made for interpretation of discussions into and from the working home languages of all the participants, and in which equivalent arrangements are made for the working documents

It is intolerable that participants from countries which are already underprivileged in many respects should be obliged to interact using the languages of those countries which have contributed most to maintaining their current state.

24. Practical action: I will only participate in meetings or projects which do not confine their activity to verbal exchanges of ideas but ensure a significant convergence on practical action or real-world problems.

Debate is all too easily a substitute for action. The needed thinking has largely been done, but seldom has any impact on the problems - and that is the problem. New angels continue to be discovered on the pinheads of scholastic discourse.

25. Observer detachment: I will only participate in meetings or projects in which it is not expected that I should take up an attitude as a detached observer, unaffected and uninvolved in the societies and issues on which I am supposed to advise.

Such detachment suggests a degree of objectivity which does not correspond to the reality of the situation. At the same time, it establishes an artificial distance from the issues which protects me from any consequences of my actions as well as reducing the credibility of my advice in the eyes of those who should supposedly act upon it.

26. Community dialogue: I will only participate in projects requiring dialogue with those to be affected by the project if the period of dialogue is extended to a point at which the community in question no longer views those coming from outside as a source of interference in their internal affairs.

It is intolerable that experts should undertake hit-and-run investigations of communities. It is well-known that it takes much time for true dialogue to emerge in such situations. It is characteristic of such communities that people who have lived with them for several decades are considered as "foreigners" and not to be wholly trusted. To be worthwhile, as much time as is necessary must be spent with the community in question.

27. Participant interaction: I will not participate in meetings or projects in which the messages between participants must necessarily pass via some central group which, armed with such excuses as "time", "relevance", "mailing costs", etc., regulate or inhibit such communication.

Such communication patterns do violence to the interests which participant factions share, and impede the articulation of those interests, to the advantage of the controlling group. Again it is precisely such practices which reinforce inequalities to which the group should be sensitive and as such erodes its credibility as an instigator of meaningful change.


Conclusion

In view of the interaction between the constraints noted above, it is clearly improbable that any meeting or project will come up to these standards and must therefore necessarily aggravate existing problems in attempting so inappropriately to alleviate them.

I am therefore -- through no fault of my own -- unable to act meaningfully in terms of the values of the international community, which are of course my own.

I will therefore refrain from action until events evolve to permit me to act in a manner consistent with these principles. By that time, however, as a continually developing human being, I hope that my principles and standards would have been even further refined

I can be contacted by courier pigeon, provided that someone with similar values is sent to fetch the pigeon.

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