Thursday, August 21, 2008

When Children Can't Play Nice

Shamrock from Fall River-tastic has a nifty video and succinct discussion of how Fawrivvah's creepy old narcissaur Mayah Vobbit Correia displays his befuddlement at parliamentary niceties, first stating that he isn't aware of one of "the traditions" of the FR School Committee, and then subsequently calling upon "the traditions" of that august body, the one that says you must use Robert's Rules of Order in meetings up to the point that you don't want to. Like if you don't like an amendment. Or the guy making it. I lost interest when the chair started to huff and puff and do the snap-snap-snap thing. Or at least that's where it looked like it was going.What Would Cahlton Do?(And what the hell is the Mayor doing chairing a School Committee meeting? I thought we stopped that megalomaniac pissing contest childishness. You'll have to go to the above link to see the short comedy clip.)
A misleading page from the otherwise-excellent "History of Milwaukee" website seems to imply that Henry Martyn Robert was teaching at Downer Teachers' College in Milwaukee when he compiled Robert's Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies.
For those not familiar with what a smart guy does when faced with a personal adversity: HE CHALLENGES HIMSELF. Colonel Robert was shocked when, asked to run a Baptist church meeting in New Bedford, he watched as it descended into chaos without the kind of order that, say, a handy procedural manual might have provided. Robert decided that he would learn everything that he could about running meetings, and compiled the indispensable pocket manual, which he published in 1876.
When an assembled body decides to utilize the procedures in Robert's Rules, it drinks deep from the same draught, the same tradition that thousands of good-intentioned bodies have, the strong armor and wisdom that has impelled forward millions of assembled patriotic and civil citizens.
I started studying Robert's Rules when I was involved in a non-profit business being dragged down by a roomful of old shits who used the Rules like a club to confuse and obfuscate. I knew that their use of the procedures as a weapon was wrong, so I picked up a used copy and shared what I learned with the rest of us who were being double-talked and motioned and amended. We learned their game before the next meeting. With the playing field leveled, they eventually lost control of the non-profit that they were trying to ruin.
Yes, I have been in meetings with pretentious creeps like the above so-called "chair." Self-impressed sophistry leads him into an empty cul-de-sac of inadequacy. And it ain't pretty when he stamps his little feet, feigns ignorance, blames others for not following the rules he doesn't know, gets all petulant and defensive, waves his hands around, shrugs and makes faces. That he learned this behavior while he was a State Representative is reprehensible.
An interesting question is, "Just what Parliamentary Procedure is followed in the Massachusetts legislature, anyway?" Many Massachusetts towns do not use Robert's, or follow to some bastardized extent. But if the chair or the constitution or bylaws tells me that we are following Robert's Rules, I expect everyone in the meeting to do so -- or be educated how to do so -- throughout, to the final gavel of adjourn.
Robert's Rules is there to provide harmony. Easily understood and documentable harmony that applies to everyone.
We see a lot of problems with leadership in this country. The ones who think they're smart, finding something that they think is a loophole or a "special rule" or a weak constitutional device, and then twisting it to benefit their own situation.
Like "executive privilege," for instance.
But neither war nor weather can change certain rules. Like the Constitution. There's a word for knowing what those rules are. That word is CIVICS.
There's a word for people who should know and practice those rules: CITIZEN.
There's also a word for people who don't follow rules: Criminal.

I appreciate and respect your work, and am truly sorry, Colonel.
As soon as I stop spinning...


puck said...

Fabulous post, ThirdMate. Here in the Spindle City we're all doomed by a pigheaded, whale of a mayor who can't stop ramming our already stove boat. Mayday!

ThirdMate said...

I can get a hold of a bunch of harpoons, spear lances, and flensing tools. We've still got tryworks, so we could "light the world" again.
Just with the ones named "Bob."

puck said...

Splendid offer! Since Bob's brain is the Black Hole of Fall River, we may be forced to rely on his blubber for "enlightenment"!