Peace, Power, Righteousness

16 Jul

Let me be pretentious a moment. Reading about the Haudenosaunee Kaienerekowa (Iroquois Constitution) made me realize two things. One, the US Constitution was NOT based on it; and two, it’s a really good system! The ideals of power, peace, and righteousness are a great way to think about fixing democracy today.

Now why am I studying this? When your wife is a religious scholar, the strangest books appear in your house, and she moved into colonialism and its aftereffects. Normally this would give me a giant yawn — “Oh Lord, not another hippie dippie political tract.” But the missus insisted that I might like this one book called Heeding the Voices of Our Ancestors by Gerald Alfred. (He goes by his Mohawk name now, and is a lot more activisty, but this was his dissertation at Cornell.) It’s short, so I decided to try it. Suddenly, I’m now reading about the political conflict of First Nations with the Canadian government and the nature of the Iroquois Constitution. This scratched me where I itched because history and politics are my bailiwick.

Since he’s explaining the rise of Mohawk nationalism on this particular reserve south of Montreal, he has to summarize the Iroquois Constitution (and forgive me if I’m missing the salient points), which was designed to balance all the political factions, more specifically, the tribes and gender. They ensured that each tribe and clan had representation, women exclusively voted for their representatives, which were exclusively men. Now here’s the point I found interesting. They did not try to achieve majority… they tried to reach consensus.

They used oratory to convince the different chiefs of their opinion. I’m guessing this might have taken a lot longer, but hell, I don’t see majority rule being any shorter. They had to achieve consensus before they made their move. This is why they stayed neutral during the French and Indian Wars, and when the Mohawk decided to attack the French on their own, they got cut off from Iroquois support.

Now it doesn’t sound perfect, but to quote James Madison, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” The idea of reaching consensus, of forcing compromise between two diametrically opposed points of view, would give power to the moderates, and things would actually get done in government! That’s a really exciting idea.

So how do you implement it? As Mohawk activists are quick to point out, you don’t get peace and righteousness without power. If you don’t have the idea to enforce consensus (like the joke about fascist libertarianism, “You WILL be free!”), then you go nowhere. So the first step in changing the culture is having politicians willing to make compromise. There’s a reason why they don’t, but if you’re in a safe district, you don’t have to risk your job to try.

And would that be worse than what we got? What you do think? Put your comments below!

7 Responses to “Peace, Power, Righteousness”

  1. Sabiscuit July 17, 2020 at 12:48 pm #

    Thank you very much for this. This post has given me some great ideas for research and reading. You’re very lucky to have married someone who inspires you so much. Hang in there and have a great weekend.

    • albigensia July 17, 2020 at 12:56 pm #

      Wow – that is an amazing compliment. Glad I could help!

  2. Equipping Site July 18, 2020 at 12:14 pm #

    Thanks for following my site; you are very kind.

  3. Yetismith July 22, 2020 at 6:45 am #

    Consensus…it’s what I’ve always said we should strive for. It’s what would be the most fair. Will our government (USA) ever accept such a radical idea? Unlikely. I don’t know about Canada.

    • albigensia July 22, 2020 at 6:57 am #

      Canada is a parliamentary system, so it’s still majority rule, but since they have to create alliances with other parties to rule, it’s a little closer to consensus. Not perfect, but what is? 😉


  1. Now add more exclamation points!!! | Albigensia Press - January 29, 2021

    […] movement to grant Native Americans (or in his case, First Nations) true independence. I read his doctoral dissertation and found it very cool. This book, though… I got about 20 pages through […]

  2. Fight, Freeze, or Flight | Albigensia Press - March 23, 2021

    […] who reject (or “fight”) the contradictory information. Say you have your students read Heeding the Voices of Our Ancestors by Taiawake Alfred; it’s his doctoral thesis before he went all activist-y. He’s […]

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