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Network for Peace through Dialogue

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March 9, 2009

The Economy and Your World

Are we in the U.S. and in the world having a scary time or a transformational moment? A terrible upheaval or an opportunity to spend more time with family and friends? A bailout that won’t end for a generation or necessary belt-tightening for Americans who have gotten too soft and focused on comfort?

These were some ways of looking at the current economic picture offered by ten women who gathered for the Network's third Living Room Dialogue on the economy. The women sought to make sense for themselves of the horrendous and confusing information on the economic downturn/fiscal crisis flooding the media. They had been shocked by events near to home (a parent in his 70s out seeking work) and news from around the country (a tent city in California, a closing GM plant), but wanted to understand what is going on beyond U.S. borders as well.

The format for this meeting was what is called a "Talking Circle." The Network's recent Living Room Dialogues have featured practice in dialogue skills as well as consideration of the topic for consideration. The last two in the current series on the economy focused on listening skills; people spent some of the meeting time in pairs or in a small group listening carefully to one another and summarizing what speakers said.

Talking Circles are based on a process used by American Indians for decision-making. This dialogue began with the reading of a quotation from Black Elk in which he asserts that the Power of the World always works in circles, citing many patterns in nature - the orbits of earth and stars and the nests of birds, for instance. The guidelines for a Talking Circle are:

  • It is done in a complete circle.
  • A stick is passed around in a clockwise direction.
  • Only the person holding the stick talks.
  • A person talks until they are finished, being respectful of the time.
  • The circle talk is complete when everyone has had the opportunity to speak.
  • A person may pass the stick without speaking, if they so wish.
  • If desired, the stick may be passed around again.
  • What is said in the circle stays in the circle.
  • A circle is used to discuss issues of importance.

For this meeting, after one go-round, the stick was passed to anyone who wanted to speak further, "popcorn" fashion.

A few of the ideas that arose in the dialogue provided a hopeful note among the many fears for the future that were expressed in the Talking Circle. Everyone did agree that they appreciated the process, however, and liked staying together as a group rather than dividing into pairs or small groups.


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