I may have mentioned this in passing, but for those of you just tuning in, this past year I ate in Pyle, one of Oberlin's co-ops. My main reason for joining Pyle was that all of my friends were doing it. Admittedly, this is a pretty bad reason to do anything, but it turned out well. I got to eat good food, hang out with my friends, and cook bread, which is the only food that I enjoy making.
I also got to learn a lot about consensus and discussions. I won't try to explain the consensus process. Suffice to say, it involves thumbs and the point of it is to make a collective decision. It's not voting. It's not supposed to be voting at all.
One very exciting aspect of the co-op discussion process is that you get to use a lot of hand symbols to signify things. There's the thumbs, but there's also a crude representation of a llama (apparently) to make a proposal and knocking in the air to signal agreement with a statement.
I have some problems with the consensus system and with the very lengthy discussions we tended to have in Pyle, but, really, I have problems with them in the same way that I have problems with vegetarianism--I could never wholeheartedly do it, but I see the point, and I'll be a champion for it outside of Oberlin because, if nothing else, I've gotten used to it.
This became quite clear last week. My church had a conference to discuss some changes in how we operate and then vote on said changes. I spent most of the time knocking and making little llamas in my pew, mainly for my own benefit.
In all seriousness, though, the co-op has taught me a lot about decisions and about making up my mind. In previous years, I've always been a little nervous in these meetings. I may be a member--and therefore someone with a vote--but I'm still a lot younger than anyone else present. Or at least it feels that way. This time, though, I knew what points I wanted to mention if no one else did, and I was entirely confident in my vote. For this, I have my co-op to thank.