Throughout our world service structure, a traditional “right of appeal” ought to prevail, thus assuring us that minority opinion will be heard and that petitions for the redress of personal grievances will be carefully considered.
This Concept establishes not only the right for minority opinion to be heard and grievances addressed, but imposes upon the minority a responsibility to express their point of view, and upon the majority the responsibility of really listening with an open mind.
It can be extremely difficult to stand up and express a minority opinion, particularly when the minority appears to be very small. From childhood most of us have been told that in a democracy “the majority rules”. Many of us have a fear of ridicule, or being judged, or looking foolish among our peers. In A.A., however, each of us has an obligation to share our thoughts.
All of us who have been in service for some time have seen situations where the minority opinion expressed has brought to the attention of the group a facet of the question that had been overlooked, and has thus changed the outcome of a vote.
Concept Five recognizes that minorities can frequently be right, and that even when they are partly or wholly in error they still perform a valuable service when they bring about a thorough discussion of important issues. Bill Wilson tells us that the well-heard minority is our chief protection against an uninformed, misinformed, hasty or angry majority.
Strictly speaking, a democracy operates on the will of the majority, no matter how slim that majority may be. We have found in Alcoholics Anonymous, however, that our Third Legacy method of electing delegates, in which a two thirds majority is required, or the top candidates names are placed in the hat and the trusted servant is the person whose name is drawn, has strengthened the spirit of democracy among us.
Another example is the way the General Service Conference operates, refusing to take important decisions on anything less than a two thirds vote, and even when a two thirds vote has been obtained allowing for the minority opinion to be heard once more.
One additional note: while several people may vote in the minority, not all of their objections may be the same. It is always a good idea to allow for more than one person to be heard if they have something new to add to the discussion.
One of the best ways I know to come to agreement is thorough and open discussion of all the points of view represented in any group. This can and does often take a substantial amount of time, spread over more than one meeting. In this time of instant electronic communication the process may seem to be painfully slow. But taking this time, and allowing always for the minority opinion to be heard, can ensure that our Higher Power, as expressed in our group conscience, will be heard.
Thus, this Concept protects Alcoholics Anonymous from the tyranny of either the majority or the minority, so long as we serve in the spirit of the Twelve Steps, the Twelve Traditions, and the Conference Charter.
Yours in service,
Past Delegate, Panel 49, Utah Area 69