Declaration Dialog

Twelve subscribers to my lists offered valuable (positive) feedback to the first two drafts of “A Declaration for Compassionate Community.” Those drafts with revision marks are posted here. A log of the feedback and my responses is posted here.

Those reflections prompted me to make changes and re-organize the document as a pledge (see below) that opens with “next steps” that everyone can take immediately, and concludes with the declaration of support for the growth of a popular movement. The new title is “Americans for Humanity: A Pledge.” Aiming to make it as short as possible, on my own initiative I’ve also deleted some of the initial content.

What do you think of this option? Suggested changes?

My plan is to send this draft to the same subscribers and incorporate suggested changes so long as they are forthcoming.

Then, if and when there’s strong consensus, I’ll seek feedback from many individuals not on those lists — and ask you to do the same with people you know.

The goal is to make the statement as good as possible.

Then, if and when there is strong support for the latest draft and no more substantial suggested changes are being submitted, we can consider whether and how to circulate it for endorsement.

Americans for Humanity
A Pledge
(1/10/19 Draft)

As an inhabitant of the United States of America, I will:

  • Serve humanity, the environment, and life itself.
  • Improve my emotional reactions;
  • Examine myself honestly;
  • Avoid oppressive or disrespectful behavior;
  • Support others with their personal and spiritual growth;
  • Welcome support from others.
  • Strengthen my sense of myself as a member of the human family.
  • Affirm personal identities based on characteristics such as race and gender.
  • Oppose efforts to dominate others due to their identity.
  • Respect the essential equality of all human beings.
  • Rely on love and trust rather than hate and fear.
  • Channel anger productively.
  • Promote partnerships that empower people.
  • Support individual rights and the rule of law.
  • Nurture democracy throughout society.
  • Honor America’s achievements, criticize its failures, and help realize its ideals.
  • Help transform the United States into a compassionate community.
  • Encourage the growth of a popular movement that embraces these values and:
    • Fully represents and gives voice to the American people.
    • Attracts people with face-to-face community and caring friendships.
    • Supports members who want to form small teams that share meals, strengthen connections, and plan other activities.
    • Pressures Washington to implement policies supported by strong majorities of the American people.
    • Engages in nonviolent civil disobedience and consumer boycotts when needed.
    • Cooperates with movements in other countries that also serve humanity, the environment, and life itself.

To sign, click here

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NOTES:

  1. The latest version of this pledge will always be at https://goo.gl/MYF4s3
  2. An archive of email comments without authors identified will be at https://goo.gl/Q8Pj6s.

The American Dream, Redefined

Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations by Amy Chua is a valuable, challenging book. The American Dream, however, is more complicated than Chua acknowledges.

Chua affirms a self-critical American Dream “that recognizes past failure.” She also rightly criticizes those who reduce America to “a nation founded on genocide and on the backs of slaves.” She writes:

In America, it’s the progressive elites who have taken it upon themselves to expose the American Dream as false. This is their form of tribalism…[which] creates a virtuous Us and a demonized Them.

Her point is well-taken. Progressives often express a holier-than-thou attitude toward typical Americans and do not adopt a balanced stance toward America’s strengths and weaknesses.

Chua’s less judgmental perspective declares that “generations seeking justice have done so for the promise of America….  [which] allows — indeed, gains strength from allowing — all those subgroup identities to flourish…. “ She proposes strengthening America’s identity as the only nation that is not based on ethnicity, but rather is an inclusive “super-group” with everyone “united by their common humanity and love of liberty.” She believes:

It’s not enough that we view one another as fellow human beings; we need to view one another as fellow Americans. And for that we need to collectively find a national identity capacious enough to resonate with, and hold together as one people, Americans of all sorts…. What holds the United States together is the American Dream.

But her definition of the American Dream is mistakenly rooted in the pursuit of great wealth. She says:

America’s have-nots don’t have wealth — many of them want it, or want their children to have a shot at it, even if they think the system is “rigged” against them. Whether black, white, or Latino, poor and working-class Americans hunger for the old-fashioned American Dream….

The original dream, however, merely affirmed the gradual accumulation of modest wealth. Freelance writer James Truslow Adams popularized the phrase “American Dream” in his Epic of America which defined the term as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.” If the American Dream were limited to that “land of opportunity,” hardly anyone would object.

Later, however, the discovery of gold triggered the dream of instant wealth, which became a key feature of the American mind. The advent of mass advertising and the introduction of television aggravated hyper-competitive consumerism, materialism, cheating, corruption, and selfishness.

The desire for comfort and security evolved into a passion for obscene wealth. “To keep up with the Jones’” became “to get ahead” — by any means necessary. The mantra “greed is good” became widely accepted. To climb social ladders and look down on those below became society’s driving force. Television programs like the top-rated “Survivor” — where contestants progressively eliminate other contestants until one wins the million-dollar prize — symbolize this competitive consumerism. In sports, “It’s not whether you win or lose that counts but how you play the game” became “winning is everything.”

Richard Easterlin and Eileen M Crimmins found that from 1970 to 1987 the percentage of college freshmen who aimed to be very well off financially increased from 37% to 75%, while the percentage who aimed to develop a meaningful philosophy of life decreased from 65% to 37% during a similar time period.

The American Dream is now based on the belief that every child faces few barriers and has a good chance to rise from humble origins to enormous wealth. Americans discount the advantages and disadvantages inherited at birth and neglect the importance of luck, cheating, and extreme selfish ambition. Unlike Europeans, most Americans do not acknowledge that forces beyond personal control greatly influence success. Rather, they believe people are almost always rewarded for hard work and skill — and they themselves feel shame if they are not.

But throughout our history, most Americans have never risen far above their parents’ status. White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg documents how “upward mobility” has always been a myth. Worse yet, Isenberg reports that the American Dream has been based on assumptions of moral superiority.

In the British colonies, John Winthrop, a seventeenth-century leader of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, summed up a basic principle for his newly forming community when he declared, “God Almightie in his most holy and wise providence hath soe disposed the Condition of mankind, as in all times some must be rich some poor, some high and eminent in power and dignitie; others mean and in subjection.”

Later, John Adams, the second President of the United States, reinforced that point when he affirmed the “passion for distinction in the ranks and the order of society” and declared, “There must be one, indeed, who is the last and lowest of the human species.” Or, as the Tibetan Buddhist saying put it: “Envy toward the above, competitiveness toward the equal, and contempt toward the lower.”

Isenberg believes the myth of upward mobility affects who we are and how “we judge people by the way they’re dressed, by the way they talk, by the unwritten codes of class behavior.” Contempt toward those who are lower on the ladder of success, envy and resentment toward those who are higher, shame for “failing,” and fear of those deemed a threat are widespread.

The result is fragmenting social discord, a dilemma neglected by Chua. These tensions undermine the unity she seeks. As summed up by GoodTherapy.org, “Healthy levels of competition can help improve self-esteem and increase enjoyment of life.” However, obsessive competition (which has become more common) “may lead to perfectionism, chronic feelings of inadequacy, or mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.”

In the 1960s, the counterculture rejected the dehumanizing version of the American Dream and its “corporate technostructure … that reduced everyday life to a hamster cage of earning and spending,” as Jackson Lears expressed it. Chua would have done well to pay more attention to that critique.

The American Dream has included four beliefs: 1) equal opportunity; 2) the ability to advance; 3) a passion to get very rich, and; 4) assumptions of moral superiority. A productive redefinition of the American Dream would affirm the first two and set aside the others. A healthy dream would avoid obsession with great wealth and moralistic judgments toward those who are less “successful.”

Establishing economic security for all could help assure an equal opportunity to a good life, enable those who want to do so to gain more income, and enable many Americans to choose a simple lifestyle that leaves time for meaningful activities that do not generate income.

Then, the American Dream could better serve humanity, the environment, and life itself.

NOTE: Excerpts from Political Tribes are posted here.

Populism Is Down but Far From Out in the West

After a Rocky 2018, Populism Is Down but Far From Out in the West
By Max Fisher
The New York Times

President Trump’s push for a border wall hints at a problem that populist leaders are facing across the Western world.

After a year of setbacks, populist leaders and parties are trying to rejuvenate their fortunes by revitalizing the sense of crisis on which they thrive. But as with Mr. Trump’s demand for a border wall — which has brought a two-week government shutdown — this may say more about populism’s weakness than its strength….

Postwar liberal democracy is simply too new of a system, scholars of democracy say, to know whether it can survive these challenges. We may look back at 2016 as a populist blip associated with one-off crises, or as the beginning of a process of chipping away at liberal democracy from within.

“For anyone who was hoping for a break in the hectic politics of the past years,” Mr. Mudde wrote in his assessment of populism’s prospects, “2019 won’t be it.”

Read more 

Don’t Underestimate Elizabeth Warren

By John Cassidy
The New Yorker

…The successful candidate will need a message that distinguishes her or his campaign from the pack and resonates with Democratic voters. Since the prize is a head-to-head contest with Donald Trump, the winner will have to be someone who doesn’t shy away from confrontation.

On all of these grounds, an argument can be made for Warren,…

Read more

 

Americans for Humanity

NOTE:
Would you sign and ask others to sign the following — if it is circulated as is?  Do you have suggested changes?  You can email private comments to <wadehudson0726ATgmailDOTcom> or post them publicly as a comment below.
Thanks, Wade

Americans for Humanity:
A Declaration for Compassionate Community
(1/3/19 Draft)

I support the growth of a popular movement that:

  • Serves humanity, the environment, and life itself.

  • Fully represents and gives voice to the American people.

  • Helps transform the United States into a compassionate community.

  • Pressures Washington to implement policies supported by strong majorities of the American people.

  • Engages in nonviolent civil disobedience and consumer boycotts when needed.

  • Aims to get big money out of politics.

  • Seeks to establish economic security for all, assure living-wage job opportunities, reduce inequality, and ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes.

  • Supports individual rights and the rule of law.

  • Nurtures democracy throughout society.

  • Promotes partnerships that empower people.

  • Respects the essential equality of all human beings.

  • Encourages everyone to identify strongly as a member of the human family.

  • Affirms personal identities based on characteristics such as race and gender.

  • Opposes efforts to dominate others due to their identity.

  • Relies on love and trust rather than hate and fear.

  • Channels anger productively.

  • Attracts people with face-to-face community and caring friendships.

  • Encourages members to:

    • improve their emotional reactions;

    • engage in honest self-examination;

    • support each other with their personal and spiritual growth;

    • avoid oppressive or disrespectful behavior.

  • Supports members who want to form small teams that share meals, strengthen connections, and plan other activities.

  • Cooperates with movements in other countries that also serve humanity, the environment, and life itself.

+++++

NOTES:
  1. The plan is to informally circulate this draft until March 1 and ask for feedback.
  2. Incorporate feedback and aim for general consensus.
  3. If strong support emerges, circulate the final declaration after March 1, ask people to sign it and ask others to sign it.
  4. After May 1, invite all signers to discuss next steps with one another.
  5. An established organization might then adopt the project, assume ownership of the AmericansForHumanity.org domain name, and recruit other organizations as partners.
  6. The latest version of the declaration will always be at https://tinyurl.com/AmericansForHumanity
  7. An archive of email comments without authors identified will be at https://goo.gl/Q8Pj6s.
  8. Public comments will be at http://www.wadeswire.org/?p=2598.
  9. A list of people who’ve said they would sign and ask others to sign this declaration — if it is circulated as is — is maintained at https://goo.gl/ABfJHf.

Political Tribes

From Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations by Amy Chua:

As a student from rural South Carolina put it, “I think protesting is almost a status symbol for elites. That’s why they always post pictures on Facebook, so all their friends know they’re protesting. When elites protest on behalf of us poor people, it’s not just that we see them as unhelpful; it seems they are turning us, many of whom have a great deal of pride, into the next ‘meme.’ We don’t like being used as a prop for someone else’s self-validation.”

…What these elites don’t see is that Trump, in terms of taste, sensibilities, and values, actually is similar to the white working class. The tribal instinct is all about identification, and Trump’s base identifies with him at a gut level; with the way he talks (locker room), dresses, shoots from the hip, gets caught making mistakes, and gets attacked over and over by the liberal media for not being politically correct, for not being feminist enough, for not reading enough books. His enemies, they feel, are their enemies. They even identify with his wealth, because that’s what many of them want, along with a beautiful wife and big buildings with their name on them. For many working-class Americans, bein anti-establishment is not the same as being antirich.