Saturday, 1 February 2014

E is for Erfaren

In English ‘erfaren’ means practised, skilled, experienced, veteran. Up to now I have always connected the word with the first three meanings, but not the fourth. That changed the other day.

Since last October I have been a deputy representative (for the Social Democrats) on the municipality’s Education Committee. This is my first step into politics, but one that I find increasingly fascinating. This involvement has gradually led to new duties – as a deputy on the preschool-primary school sub-committee, and as deputy contact person on a parent-teacher council. Last week I attended the above mentioned sub-committee for the second time. The ‘governing’ group (in Nässjö this is an alliance of the Social Democrats, Centre Party, Liberals and the Left Party) usually meets for half an hour prior to the committee meeting proper, and on this particular occasion the chairman turned to me and said that he’d have to leave early, that the vice chairman might be late in arriving, and that if that was the case I would have chair the meeting.

As a totally unpractised, unskilled and inexperienced politician, and a deputy to boot, I asked him how that could possibly be the case – especially as there were others on the committee who were much more eligible than me. Ah, he replied, it has nothing to do with experience. It is to do with age. You are the oldest and are therefore next in line to take charge.

As it turned out the vice chairman arrived in the nick of time. I have clerked many Quaker meetings for business, locally, nationally and internationally, but I have never chaired a political committee meeting and when it comes to those procedures am totally inexperienced. However, when I returned home that evening I looked at the municipality’s website and sought out the live-recordings of full council meetings that are available there. I watched the latest one to see what the chairman did and listen to what he said, in the hope of gaining some insight as to how the proceedings were carried out in another, larger political gathering.

To my utter amazement, during the council meeting the chairman used language that I have heard used in a Quaker business meeting in Sweden, and have even used myself in that context: “is it the sense of the meeting that we should .....?” With this, I realised that I was a veteran – practised, skilled and experienced, albeit in a different context to the one in which I find myself now. This also brought the realisation that, yes, I could chair a political meeting if it came to the crunch, in my own way yet with help from others who are familiar with political procedures. I have already discovered that in this municipality decisions are mainly taken by consensus, which means that the step from Quaker clerk to committee chairman is not all that great.

Being 'erfaren' as in veteran – in terms of age and experience – could have its advantages.  

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