My wife, Marcia, and I sit in meetings with activists from around the country, usually in our capacity as web developers or communications specialists. Our colleagues are sometimes focused on process, often on content, but like nurture and nature, there is no difference between the two.

Then there are the folks emphasizing the big picture calculating present position within long term goals. Others concentrate on the communication that they are engaged in, the conversation they are having and the bridge they are building in the moment. This distinction is subtle and possibly non existent.

The century-and-a-half argument between nature and nurture–genetics or the environment–has to do with a defective perspective that they are two different things. Recent developments in evolutionary developmental biology have opened the eyes of proponents of both polarities. How life unfolds from before conception has to do with the influence of the environment on a genetic template programmed to take into consideration environmental influences. Imagine a world-exploring vehicle that changes its appearance, even the fuel it uses, as it passes through different landscapes–a vehicle designed to invent new looks and tastes as it makes its way across a planet. Is it the environment or the designer that has more to do with the way this vehicle looks and acts?

Like the academic conservatives that focus on nature or genetics as the foundation for any perspective we should have, Left political activists hone in on content and more specifically the mission of their particular organization or group when planning how to create social and political change. Focusing on content or specific issues, we neglect the big picture. It is a frequent feature of the Left that unity feels less important than achieving a particular constituency’s goals. Placing content before process keeps this disunity intact.

Paying attention to process relieves activists of their differences, providing an opportunity for participants to feel part of the process, part of something larger than themselves. Whereas content proponents focus on why, process adherents are more concerned with how. Both are integral to moving forward.

Strategy on the Left often focuses on mission, allies, targets, strategy and tactics. Process is often confused with strategy. Process is about that big picture but with an integral addition. Focus on process is commitment to relationship. What we’re really talking about is noting the importance of encouraging quality relationships while engaged in the process of achieving goals. It is about noting the value of what is happening right now, in the present, and honoring that present. Experiencing the moment we are in as the most important moment. This awareness is the element of process that is overlooked.

Looking to future strategizing to achieve big picture goals of social and political change can be balanced by being in the present and respecting our allies as we journey across this strange new world, experiencing things we’ve never experienced before.

Consider making this discovery while on the journey. Big picture and present moment are the same.


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