Book Reviews with Stella Constance: Getting a Grip 2: Clarity, Creativity and Courage

Frances Moore Lappe’s Getting a Grip 2 is her latest edition, rewritten a decade later to address these challenging times. She has received 17 honorary doctorates and has been a visiting scholar at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Lappe discusses some of the current social economic problems, their perceptions and what one can do to turn things around. She delves into identifying causal forces, on choosing entry points and being able to shift patterns through the understanding of the following eight key ideas that she explains in detail, in her 252-page book:

Eight key ideas 

  • Idea 1: Knowing the differences between “thin democracy” and “living democracy”;
  • Idea 2: Knowing the different categories of public life, including our current and potential roles in them;
  • Idea 3: Rethinking Power;
  • Idea 4: Ten Arts of Democracy;
  • Idea 5: Moving Towards the Language of Democracy;
  • Idea 6: The Inner World of a Living Democracy;
  • Idea 7: Seven Ways to Rethink Fear;
  • Idea 8: Living Democracy’s Checklist.

Each idea above is quite extensively researched and discussed, as she covers socio-economic topics with precision and clarity. To give readers an idea of the wide scope covered in those these listed concepts above, here’s a quick overview of Idea 4: the Ten Arts of Democracy.

Ten arts of democracy:

  1. Active Listening (encouraging the speaker and search for meaning);
  2. Creative Conflict (confronting others in ways that produce growth for all);
  3. Mediation (facilitating interaction to help people in conflict hear one);
  4. Negotiation (problem solving that meets some key interests of all involved);
  5. Political Imagination (re-imaging our futures according to our values);
  6. Public Dialogue (public talk on matters that concern us all);
  7. Public Judgement (public decision making that allows citizens to make choices they are willing to help implement);
  8. Celebration (expressing joy and gratitude in what we learn as well as what we achieve);
  9. Evaluation and Reflection (assessing and incorporating the lessons we learn through action);
  10. Mentoring (supportively guiding others in learning these arts of public life).

The realm of fear and hope and their effects are covered in Idea 6. Here’s a brief overview of the Inner World of Living Democracy, where people have to decide if they will want to enter into the Cycle of Hope or the Cycle of Fear. Lappe mentions that it is at the Moment of Dissonance, where the individual becomes aware of the disconnect between his/her inner needs and the outer world. That a person then decides to either enter into the Cycle of Fear, or with some deliberate reframing, choose alternatively to create a Moment of Opportunity and enter instead into the Cycle of Hope.

The Cycle of Hope stages is outlined, and progresses, as follows:

  • Recognize the Fear (as a call to courage, not a verdict of failure);
  • Find Entry Points (to act personally to shift causal patterns towards life);
  • Ease Fear (by attracting and embracing new “tribes”);
  • Experience Joy (in truer connection & greater efficacy);
  • Glimpse Possibility (of more life –serving mental maps and follow curiosity).

Whereas, the Cycle of Fear stages is outlined and progresses, as follows:

  • Experience Fear (of acting on our need to create a world truer to our values);
  • Deny (our need for connection & efficacy and deny our denial);
  • Seek Substitutes (connection via consumption; efficacy via control & violence);
  • Crises Worsen (citizens disengage; society and environment degrade further);
  • Feel Disconnect (between inner sense of fairness & empathy and the “real” world).

Then, both cycles go back to its start point where the person decides (again), whether to choose at the Moment of Dissonance to either enter into the Cycle of Fear, or create a Moment of Opportunity by entering instead into the Cycle of Hope. The cycles are the result of deliberate choices.

Lappe does an excellent job in helping readers see the world through a more comprehensible perspective that also empowers people with tools to actuate better results for themselves, their families and communities. Lappe — a “warrior of hope” – has created another outstanding piece of writing. It is a highly recommended read.

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About Stella Constance

Community Human Resources Developer and Educator with over 30 years of experience working with different organizations and social environments. Projects span from the fields of sustainable community health development (specializing in human resources) to multimedia writing and production. Projects often focus on the health and sustainability practices of businesses and associated communities to maintain their long-term viability . Charitable works include, assisting Jabes Orphanage Community School in Nairobi, Kenya, by creating a successful and expansive agricultural program, with some additional community support given for Jabes School and nearby affiliated communities.

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