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There is a rather rare and obscure meaning of deliberation that we'd like to reanimate: deriving from the word deliver, deliberation in this sense means liberation or setting free. Yay, that sounds terrific.

The more common meaning—careful consideration with a view to decision—can be oppressive in its privileging of reason, understood as devoid of passion and feeling. In this view, legislators deliberate (ha!) while a crowd of protesters is dangerously moved by irrational passions. I remember an ACT UP demonstration in Chicago when the cops threatened to arrest all of us if we didn't get out of the street, and we held a meeting of 100s of demonstrators, on the spot, collectively deliberating about what to do. We decided to continue on to our next destination, but on our own terms, in the street, unmoved by the cops' threats. Lots of passion, lots of reason, impossible to separate the one from the other, all of that went into our decision-making.

Another meaning of deliberation is absence of hurry, slowness in action or movement, leisureliness. This last form of deliberation throws a wrench in the workings of fast capitalism Another yay for that! Impassioned deliberation as a practice of freedom.

Etymology contains a source of confusion: the de- prefix in Latin (as in de-liberation) can mean anti- (against, not, away from) but doesn't have to. It can mean thoroughness or "regarding" or "concerning." You might think de-liberation is against liberation. But it's not. "De-formation" means both forming and deforming.

Deliberation: from de-librare (like Libra, the balance), weighing thoroughly. Deliberation: from de-liberare, freeing thoroughly.

Liber means book, children, and Bacchus. Deliberation: from de-liber-ation, reading books, weighing the options, and deciding in favor of play – in order to be free?


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