Late Wednesday night I posted a (too) long analysis of the White House meeting with BP (immediately below). It was not well-received. One friend wrote, “Phil, a President’s comments are not a Platonic dialogue. Give up the close reading and inter-linear analysis.”
Readership was considerably down. No other blogs linked in. Mainstream media coverage of the Wednesday White House session also seemed modest and matter-of-fact. What struck me as important was dismissed as secondary, or procedural, or simply boring.
Certainly attention given the “gentlemen’s agreement” on Wednesday was light compared to the extraordinary coverage given the political hurricane attending the BP CEO’s Thursday appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
One of the weirder aspects of the hearing — and there were many — was Congressman Joe Barton’s accusation that the establishment of a $20 billion Independent Claims Facility is a “shakedown”. The Congressman also apologized to CEO Hayward for the President pressing BP so hard. Today the Wall Street Journal editorial page has joined in criticizing the shakedown. Meanwhile, The Financial Times — British equivalent of the WSJ — explains that the agreement is in BP’s self-interest. A front page piece in the Friday New York Times provides a good overview of the issue.
At the same time the President is evidently being pilloried by many in his political base for “doing a deal” with the evil oil company.
Elinor Ostrom has argued that resilience is the outcome of participation, collaboration, and deliberation. Throughout my life I have seen this principle and process confirmed. As we participate with one another we begin to understand each other. Through collaboration we recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each other. With this wealth of practical information we can begin to meaningfullly deliberate regarding tough problems and emerging opportunities.
Participation and collaboration make it very difficult to demonize and dismiss the “other.” We still may not like them, but because of our deeper understanding we are able to work with them and even make compromises to achieve common goals. (They usually feel the same way about us.) This is true of almost every level of social interaction.
A key pre-condition to participation and collaboration is listening. The big story this week — I will continue to argue — is that the White House listened, BP listened, and they began to put in place structures and systems for a more effective response and enhanced resilience going forward.
There are those who seem to say that authentic, self-critical listening is somehow weak or unprincipled. Many more seem to find the process of listening, deliberation and constructive problem-solving just too boring to give it much attention.
I am certain that resilience depends on rich systematic feedback and adaptation to the feedback. In everyday life this is called listening.