Workbook Report — 12/13/17

My friend and (excellent) pro bono writing coach, Mike Larsen, told me that many readers skim or skip the Preface and Introduction and go straight to Chapter One. So the opening chapter should contain strong material, and the first sentence and opening paragraphs should be particularly strong. With those thoughts in mind, I’ve moved much of the material that was in the Preface to Chapter One, influenced by some of Mike’s suggestions about specific content that he felt was most important and compelling.

Feedback is welcome on the new 2-½ page, 1100 word opening, which follows:

Transform the System with Compassion: A Workbook (Draft)

Chapter One

If we change ourselves, we can more effectively change the world. If we change the world, we can more effectively change ourselves.

It’s not either/or. Neither one of those tasks is more important than the other. One need not come before the other. It’s both/and. Each is equally important. They can be simultaneous. Intertwined, personal and social transformation strengthen each other. One recent example is the #MeToo rebellion against sexual harassment.

James Baldwin said:

A day will come when you trust you more than you do now and you will trust me more than you do now. We will trust each other…. I really do believe that we can all become better than we are. I know we can. But the price is enormous and people are not yet willing to pay.

Accepting death and other inherent limits to the human condition is one price we must pay. Humans can’t do everything they’d like. There’s no guarantee that children can grow up to be whatever they want to be if they work hard enough. Admitting mistakes is another price we must pay to nurture mutual trust. Apologizing can be even more difficult. To become better than we are, we also must overcome many damaging habits that society has embedded in us, such as arrogance, egotism, bias, and the lust for power.

In “Our Elites Still Don’t Get It,” David Brooks wrote:

The branches of individual rights are sprawling, but the roots of common obligation are withering away. Freedom without covenant becomes selfishness. And that’s what we see at the top of society, in our politics and the financial crisis. Freedom without connection becomes alienation. And that’s what we see at the bottom of society — frayed communities, broken families, opiate addiction. Freedom without a unifying national narrative becomes distrust, polarization and permanent political war…. Change has to come at the communal, emotional and moral level.

The problems we face are multiple. Big Money has too much power. Our society is creating rigid classes based on inherited inequality. Wages are stagnant. Technology is displacing workers. We’re losing the battle against global warming. The so-called “free market” is breaking loose from regulations that protect stability and promote the general welfare. Growing individualism isolates individuals and undermines community. More people have fewer friends with whom they discuss personal problems. Our culture is becoming more selfish and materialistic. The war on terror creates terrorists.

Elizabeth Warren brought the crowd to its feet at the 2012 Democratic Convention when she declared, “The system is rigged.” Donald Trump used the phrase to help win the White House. Bernie Sanders almost won the Democratic nomination with his criticisms of “the system.” The term appears frequently in pop culture.

This workbook argues that the System involves all of our institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals. All of those elements are interwoven. They reinforce one another and enable people to climb one social ladder or another. Those higher up look down on those below, and those lower down worship or resent those who are higher.

This rankism is an unjustified assertion of moral superiority. When that assertion is  internalized, it affects people at their core, their basic identity. Typically, it’s an acceptance of essential inferiority. Only one person is at the top of each ladder, and they don’t stay there long.

Few individuals treat each other as human beings who are essentially equal. Mutual respect is rare. You dominate or submit.

The comic strip character Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and it is us.” He had a point. Each of us shares responsibility for the state of the world. To deal with the System, we must work on ourselves as well as society.

The Transform the System Network proposes that Americans transform their nation into a compassionate community dedicated to the common good of all humanity, the environment, and life itself. If other nations do the same, we’ll be better able to cooperate to serve that purpose.

Whatever your political or religious beliefs, we invite you to participate in this project. We seek common ground, rooted in the belief that if we listen to our conscience and love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we can help each other become better, more engaged, more moral human beings. For most people, this effort involves being in tune with the Great Spirit, God, Creator, Christ, or Higher Power. But words are secondary. Words cannot capture the Mystery. What matters most is compassionate action.

If grassroots activists overcome our personal issues and improve our ability to work together, we can address the many crises we face, help America live up to its highest ideals, and help one another liberate our higher angels. By building a massive grassroots movement able to act together in unison, we can help America cultivate its creative seeds and discard the oppressive ones.

We can restructure our society to make it more democratic, with constructive criticism challenge selfishness, and with firm compassion restrain those who violate the rights of others. We can improve our mental and moral qualities — our character.

In Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World, Tina Rosenberg reports on how “from the affluent suburbs of Chicago to the impoverished shanties of rural India” mutual support teams have helped smokers stop smoking, teens fight AIDS, worshippers deepen their faith, activists overthrow dictators, addicts overcome addictions, and students learn calculus.

Such teams can help activists overcome their activist-related addictions, set aside counter-productive habits, and become more effective. Those teams can also help motivate politically inactive people to become more active.

This workbook offers an easy-to-learn method that small teams can use to support one another in those personal and political change efforts. That method is simple: once a month, when meetings begin, each member briefly reports, in confidence, about their personal and political change efforts. Many groups can easily incorporate that method into their activities.

That reporting can help hold members accountable to their commitment to self-development and political action. Knowing they’ll be asked to report on it, members will be more conscious of their commitment during the month.

Even though such reporting might take only sixty seconds a month, it can be oppressive and folks can resist the idea out of apprehension. To guard against the risk of oppression and alleviate that resistance, we suggest these guidelines:

  • Emphasize confidentiality.
  • Each member defines their own goals.
  • There’s no peer pressure to immediately correct any particular pattern of behavior.
  • Each participant can discuss anything.
  • Each one merely reports; there’s no “cross-talk.”
  • With consent, feedback and advice can be offered after the meeting adjourns.
  • Additional meetings can be scheduled to go into matters more deeply.

 

Workbook Report — 12/11/17

More good feedback has prompted me to make changes to the one-pager — which I see as both the first part of the Preface to “Transform the System with Compassion: A Workbook (Draft)” and a flyer for broad distribution.

If it all comes together, I still envision going to meetings and offices with copies of the flyer and the workbook to invite participation, which might lead to invitations to talk and discuss the issues more.

From down under in Australia, Yahya Abdal-Aziz questioned the focus on “the system.” That comment prompted me to add a new opening to explain that approach. Hopefully quoting Elizabeth Warren and James Baldwin also adds some passion.

Yahya’s comments and a comment from Jakob Possert, who’s from Austria, prompted me to try to use a global perspective more, and clarify that references to the U.S. are for the purpose of illustration.

Numerous comments on the widespread resistance to “revelatory reporting to groups” prompted me to quote Baldwin and Tina Rosenberg’s Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World. (I told her that book was the most important book I had read in a long time.) I’m also having a good dialog with Michael Nagler about the issue. I encourage you to read that important dialog, at the top of the report below.

The latest draft of the workbook will always be at https://goo.gl/dFtih1. The “one-pager” is the first part of the Preface down to the +++++ divider.

All of the feedback follows.

RE: “REPORT ON RESPONSES TO 11/26 DRAFT”

Michael Nagler:

Glad you’ve gotten good responses.  Are you aware of our experiment?  Should have mentioned it earlier.

Wade:

Thanks for the kind words. I like the format for the Hope Tank. Might the participants “check in” with a brief report on their personal and political change efforts before you discuss social and cultural concerns?

MN: Glad you’ve gotten good responses.  Are you aware of our experiment?  Should have mentioned it earlier.

WH: Thanks for the kind words. I like the format for the Hope Tank. Might the participants “check in” with a brief report on their personal and political change efforts before you discuss social and cultural concerns?

MN: We often check in, with whatever people want to share.  But of late we’ve been plunging right into the group discussion, continuing here and there with one another afterwards.

WH: Do you believe that checking in with brief reports on personal and political change efforts could be of value? If you did, you might help develop a model that could be replicated elsewhere, to widespread benefit.

MN: I’d want to make sure it wasn’t sounding like a test.  The people in our HT generally do some of that spontaneously.

WH:

I hear you. That’s an important point. The draft booklet included:

Each participant can discuss anything…. To maximize its effectiveness, any such project needs to avoid authoritarianism, as was reflected in Chairman Mao’s reeducation program in China and social rehab programs like Synanon in the Bay Area that were based on vicious “criticism-self-criticism.” One way to do that is to borrow from the Harm Reduction model, which asks individuals to define their own goals (rather than demanding total abstinence). Another method is to have individuals simply report on their self-development efforts, with no “cross-talk” from others.

What do you think of those guidelines?

On the one hand, intentionality, commitment, and accountability can help nurture self-development — in contrast to Sixties-style, do your own think individualism. As one correspondent reported, “I do admit I need to be more conscious of what you have clearly outlined in the list and likewise put it at the heart of what I am engaged in,” But on the other hand, a heavy hand can undermine self-empowerment.

A work in progress!

PS: Elsewhere, on the same issue, I’ve written, “Each member defines their own goals and activities. There is no peer pressure to immediately correct any particular pattern of behavior.”

RE: “WORKBOOK DRAFT”

Bob Morgan:

Good to have this concise piece.

Yahya Abdal-Aziz

Short and sweet!  Much more likely to be read, understood and acted upon than even a three-page version, let alone a ten-page one. 😉

PS  –  I don’t know whether, before now, I’ve mentioned my discomfort with your use of the term “the system”.  To me, it smacks inescapably of Marxist rhetoric, and it’s been my experience that that kind of talk immediately alienates people suspicious of far-left, militant and activist groups.  At least, that’s what it does here in Oz, and we were no never so rabidly anti-Communist as the American mainstream.  I wonder how Americans respond to the term – does it tend to stop some promising conversations in their tracks?  Something for you to consider.  Perhaps some other less ideological term, such as “society”, or even the name of your favourite nation (which I suspect may be “the US”!) could be more productive?  e.g. “Transform the US with compassion”.  Even your first discussion question would carry the change quite well: “What is the US?  Does it have a central purpose?  If so, what …”  (I know I’ve criticised some of your writing before for being perhaps too US-centred, but after all, “Charity [i.e. caring] begins at home”.  –  Over to you!  –  YA

Wade:

Good to hear. Thanks. Concerning “the system,” your comments prompted me to add a new opening to respond preemptively to those concerns, which are shared by others. It’s at https://goo.gl/1HjMFh  What do you think?…. Also, your comments prompt me to have the whole document focus as little as possible on the U.S….. Thanks again.

Bob Anschuetz:

From me a firm thumbs-up on your workbook outline–for both its content and presentation. Only one suggestion. I think all references to “the system,” whether within or without quotes, should be changed to “the System.” That’s because you use the word in a special sense, as developed in your booklet. You need to distinguish that special sense for the reader by, in effect, representing it by a “proper name”–which in turn requires an initial capital letter.

Gary Vondran:

 suggest moving in goal 4. “race” and lead with income…..insert to “race and gender.”  I feel income disparity is currently the #1 cause

of today’s society lack of compassion and reverse robinhood economics. Good work….print.

Wade:

Ah, yes. That’s a hotly debated topic these days. Myself, I’m inclined to believe they are equally important. But race generates more heat, so I’m inclined to keep it first to make a statement that we are attentive to the issue.

David Hartsough:

Good work. I like it. What do you mean by “appearance” of the social system?

Wade:

Thanks. Good to hear. I think “appearance” can be dropped, so the phrase only refers to structure and character. What I meant was “what it looks like.” But using it makes the sentence longer, and others may have the same question.

Mary Kay Magistad:

This is certainly more concise than the initial paper.  The challenge now, I guess, is to find people who function best when reporting to a team of people. That’s not my speed, so I’ll bow out at this point.

I’m strongly committed to social justice — it has informed much of what I’ve done as a journalist over 30 years, and many of my closest friends share that focus. But I prefer informal interaction over formal monthly meetings, so I’m not your target audience.

Still, I wish you success with it.

Wade:

I understand. Thanks again for your interest and helpful feedback.

Jakob Possert:

I like this one-pager. Especially I think it is good to have the questions there. The common basis for what holda these groups and from which they act should be question driven I think. I guess asking more explicitly where was the system in te beginning and where is it going (What kind of system do we want) would be an important question…. I would like to be part of such a group. I cannot promise much more, also I am not a US citizen.

Wade:

I like the phrase “question driven.” …  Your comment about “asking more explicitly where was the system in the beginning” prompted me to add “What is its history?”…. Not being a US citizen is no problem. In fact, a comment from Yahya in Australia prompted me to shift to a more global perspective!

Bob Anschuetz:
As you know, I’m in full support of your efforts, though I don’t see myself as a participant in either the organization or functioning of the community you envision. That being the case, you should probably remove me from your mailing list for further progress reports. I remain willing, however, to provide any text editing you think might be helpful, as long as the time available to do so is compatible with other obligations to which I may already be committed. By the way, regarding one editorial issue, I think your use of the term “the System,’ as you develop the concept in the booklet, is essential for understanding why it is necessary to build a “compassionate community” in the way you propose. For me, “the System” is not just Marxian boilerplate, but a description of the way things really are–as is becoming more evident every day in American society. And, to pick up on an earlier point, I would capitalize “System” in the phrase “the System” everywhere you use it. My sense is that, even if a reader is not yet familiar with your own understanding of the phrase, the archetypal capitalization, together with his own experience, will immediately hint at a meaning very close to the one you intend.

Transform the System Dialog

I just posted this to folks I’m working with on “Transform the System with Compassion:
A Workbook.”

Report on Responses to “A Mutual Support Community (11/26/17 Draft)

Sixteen people responded to the “A Mutual Support Community (11/26/17 Draft)” email, which  asked folks if they “want to help form, or join” a mutual support team. I’ve posted all of the responses and my responses here. Most of those responses were positive. Two were particularly encouraging.

Michael Carano, an activist who was recently elected to the City Council in Tallmadge, Ohio said, “I do admit I need to be more conscious of what you have clearly outlined in the list and likewise put it at the heart of what I am engaged in,” and reported that he will ask the Council “to ‘check in’ by briefly reporting on their personal change efforts.”

And Steve Gerritson, who’s on the executive committee of Clean Technology Alliance in Seattle, said:

Yes, we do talk about personal goals, successes, failures, and change efforts, although the discussions are not structured and participation is voluntary. But using your guidelines I think we might make a more systematic effort at it. I don’t want to scare anyone off, so we’ll probably have a discussion about the merits beforehand.

Myself, at a recent Love Army forum with about 10 people, I initiated an experiment with a reporting format that evolved into the format I’m now recommending. It seemed to go well. As part of the planning process at Glide Church where I’m active, I submitted the idea and await a response. One of the respondents who came to the November 18 workshop said he wants to help form or join a team. I look forward to talking with him about possibilities in San Francisco when his time frees up.

Partly due to the holidays, the school semester, travel plans, health issues, and geographical factors, other respondents don’t plan to experiment soon. Some would like to later.

But other respondents address a common resistance. Kitty Myers made an important point when she said, “For the invitation, I suggest a de-emphasis on personal revelation with that being on a potential area of growth for the groups as they coalesce into a comfortable source of support. One step at a time!” I replied, “I agree that groups often need to coalesce — establish trust — before engaging in personal revelation. However, I’d like to figure out how to nudge those who are ready to do so.” I also wonder whether there are ways we can nurture more trust more quickly.

In a similar vein, Dan Brook suggested that (confidential) personal reporting be a recommendation rather than a requirement. He also suggested that “the entire endeavor have the feeling of ‘inviting a type of commitment’ that is lightweight and based on agreement with the spirit of the goals, rather than any technical sense of agreement.”  And Mary Kay Magistad said she prefers “informal interaction” rather “reporting to a team of people.”

Those points strike at the heart of the matter: the need for intentionality and accountability. That’s why married couples, for example, affirm vows and religious communities affirm a written expression of their core beliefs. Those are “technical” agreements.

For decades I’ve heard activists promise to do personal work and informally support one another in those efforts. But I don’t see it happening. They let it slide. They align with Michael Carano when he said, “I do admit I need to be more conscious of what you have clearly outlined in the list and likewise put it at the heart of what I am engaged in.” And Steve Gerritson (see above) who said, “It may be that getting to the endpoint you desire is easier if the starting point is a little more focused…. [Our] discussions are not structured and participation is voluntary. But using your guidelines I think we might make a more systematic effort at it.”

WHY NOT commit to take 60 seconds once a month to report to several trusted friends about your efforts — and listen to them report about theirs? Knowing during the course of the month that you would be asked to give that report would serve to remind you to reflect and work on your personal development. It would help hold you accountable to your commitment.

In Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World, Tina Rosenberg reports on how, “from the affluent suburbs of Chicago to the impoverished shanties of rural India,” intentional mutual support groups have helped smokers stop smoking, teens in Africa fight AIDS, worshippers deepen their faith, activists overthrow dictators, addicts overcome addictions, and minority students learn calculus. I believe such groups could also help activists overcome their own activist-related addictions and become more effective.

Again, why not? James Baldwin said:

A day will come when you trust you more than you do now and you will trust me more than you do now. We will trust each other…. I really do believe that we can all become better than we are. I know we can. But the price is enormous and people are not yet willing to pay.

What is that price? What are people afraid of? I’m not sure. I only have some sense of answers. But it seems we need to address that question directly, develop methods for relieving fear, and help one another “pay the price.”

As Mary Kay said, “The challenge now, I guess, is to find people who function best when reporting to a team of people.” Given how deeply individualism is embedded in this country, I don’t know how many such people we can find — people who also share a commitment to systemic social transformation. But I believe it’s important we try.

Once the workbook is finished and we circulate it widely, including personal visits to organizations, we may generate more interest in mutual support teams that operate within a transformative worldview. In the meantime, hopefully some of us will experiment with teams whose members report to one another about personal and political change efforts. The results of those experiments could then go into the hopper, along with reports from Michael and Steve. We shall see!

+++++

Also, to the “Report on the Feedback on the Draft Booklet  I’ve added a comment from Michael Nagler:

I confess, the most I can do is take a few minutes here and there to look through the document.  So two comments for now: 1) the section on ‘Nonviolence’ should be titled ‘Against the use of violence,’ or something to that effect.  It says nothing about nonviolence, and could reinforce serious misconceptions that nv isn’t real.  2) This sentence should have a dash inst. of a comma, otherwise ambiguous: “Systems thinkers avoid ideology, getting locked into visionary theorizing…” Hope that helps a little at least. Michael

And my response:

I prefer common usage. Merriam-Webster’s defines “violence” as:

    1. the use of physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy
    2. an instance of violent treatment or procedure
  1. injury by or as if by distortion, infringement, or profanation : outrage
    1. : intense, turbulent, or furious and often destructive action or force the violence of the storm
    2. vehement feeling or expression : fervor; also : an instance of such action or feeling
    3. a clashing or jarring quality : discordance

And it defines “nonviolence” as:

  1. : abstention from violence as a matter of principle; also : the principle of such abstention
  2. :
    1. the quality or state of being nonviolent : avoidance of violence:
    2. nonviolent demonstrations for the purpose of securing political ends

I believe my use of those terms in the draft booklet is consistent with those definitions. When we refer to a particular form of nonviolent resistance, I believe we should use some other term, such as “philosophical nonviolence” or “Satyagraha.”… Thanks for the feedback and the copy-editing suggestion.

 

Report on the Feedback on the Draft Booklet

I just sent the following to the “Transform the World” respondents. If you want to join the conversation or get on that email list, please let me know.
–Wade

++++++++++

Dear Respondents,

Nineteen individuals provided feedback on “Transform the World with Holistic Communities (11/3/17 Draft)” . You can review the complete feedback along with my reactions at https://goo.gl/s7opwh.

You can respond to my comments by going to that link and editing the document directly. If you do, please place your responses below mine flush left in regular font, and let me know so I can more easily report about additions to that document.

I very much appreciate everyone’s contribution and apologize for not thanking each of you individually.

The response was generally positive (four stars on average) and very helpful. Not coincidentally, I suspect, two of the more critical responses were particularly helpful. Those comments about the organization and tone of the document have had a big impact.

Although some reviewers suggested alternate wordings here and there and some said certain statements were over-generalizations, it seems there was little disagreement about the core principles. That is encouraging, for my main goal was to gain a sense of whether the path I’m on makes sense. Some reviewers were enthusiastic in their response. And the Nov. 18 workshop was very helpful. All of that support encourages me to persist.

On WadesWire.org I just posted “Liberating Our Inner Hunter-Gatherer,” which reflects on an important issue that elicited several comments.

I urge you to read “What is Transformation?” — a booklet written by Robert Gass, co-founder of Rockwood Leadership Institute and founder of the Social Transformation Project, which has worked with “close to 300 of the most capable and promising leaders and activists in the social and economic justice, civil and human rights, peace, and environmental movements.” I’ll be sharing my evaluation of that booklet early next week. It would be interesting to receive your thoughts before I share mine.

Tonight I’ll begin reviewing more of STP’s online resources, including “Transforming Organizations,” which is “a user’s guide for organizational change — an in-depth explanation of and blueprint for a transformative, systems-based approach to strengthen progressive organizations.”

Thanks again for your interest.

Yours,

Wade

Liberating Our Inner Hunter-Gatherer

In Affluence Without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen (2017), James Suzman says the Bushmen of southern Africa

are now the only people who still carry some of the distinct sequences of DNA associated with African “Adam,” the first small group of anatomically modern people who bind all of humankind into one family.

Susman reports that early Dutch settlers in southern Africa wrote that the native peoples there were “always gay, always dancing and singing” and appeared to enjoy a life “without occupation or toil.” A priest commented, “They are the happiest of men since they alone live in peace and freedom…. Their contempt for riches is in reality nothing but their hatred of work.” According to those settlers, the indigenous people there “seemed incapable of being pressed into labor.”

The Bushmen evolved in abundant wetlands. When those waters disappeared, they lived in an enormous desert that isolated them from modernization. New arrivals in the area chose not to cross the desert. For 200,000 years, until the mid-1960s or so, the lifestyle of the Bushmen remained largely intact.

That isolation enabled anthropologists to extensively study the Bushmen — as well as other hunter-gatherer societies in other parts of the world that retained their cultures. But the most compelling accounts have always come from non-scholars who made first contact with those societies.

In his book, The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area, Malcolm Margolin  relied on such reports, as well as anthropological studies. His book offers a vivid description of the culture of the Indian people who inhabited the Bay Area prior to the arrival of Europeans 250 years ago.

In “What Is Sustainable,” Richard Adrian Reese summarizes some of Margolin’s findings:

Occasional armed conflicts were usually low-intensity ritual warfare, good for blowing off steam…. There were no wooden palisades [walls] surrounding villages.  The men did not have shields, war clubs, tomahawks, or body armor.  The culture did not enshrine heroic war chiefs, nor did it create a sprawling empire.  They were really into dancing….

Margolin worked on this book for three years, and he often dreamed about the Ohlone.  “It produced in me a sense of victory to know that such a way of life is part of the human potential, part of the human history.”… our genes are not diseased, just our culture.  

The wikipedia says:

Hunter-gatherers tend to have an egalitarian social ethos…. it is widely argued by palaeoanthropologists that resistance to being dominated was a key factor driving the evolutionary emergence of human consciousness, language, kinship and social organization…..

According to Sahlins, ethnographic data indicated that hunter-gatherers worked far fewer hours and enjoyed more leisure than typical members of industrial society, and they still ate well. Their “affluence” came from the idea that they were satisfied with very little in the material sense….

Howard Zinn, the historian, concluded that indigenous people were peaceful when they lived in lush environments that were not overpopulated. And for most of our 200,000 years, our ancestors lived in lush environments.

Suzman writes: “…the fifteen-hour working week was probably the norm for most of the estimated two-hundred-thousand-year history of biologically modern Homo sapiens.”

In the draft booklet, “Transform the World with Holistic Communities,” I wrote:

For 200,000 years human beings were egalitarian, compassionate and cooperative hunter-gatherers who worked less than 20 hours a week and were peaceful, joyous and playful.

Several of the eighteen people who reviewed and commented on the draft objected to that statement.

On reflection, to be more precise, I should’ve said something like: “the typical human being probably.” Using qualifiers tends to render writing less punchy, so I try to avoid them. But in this case, I should have qualified my statement, as did Suzman.

Regardless, I stand by the main point:

Those characteristics are deeply embedded in our DNA — more so than the ego trips, power trips, meanness, and other traits instilled in us by the modern world. Engaging the whole person involves liberating that inner hunter-gatherer.

Humanity has made progress in many respects. Hardly anyone wants to forsake all modern comforts and advantages. But we can still recover some of the positive qualities we’ve lost. The survival of life as we know it may depend on it.

 

Strategy

Let’s be real.
To transform the world
Into a compassionate community
Dedicated to the common good of all humanity,
The environment,
And life itself,
We, the people, must unite
As never before.

To achieve that unity
We must overcome weaknesses that divide us,
Ego trips and power trips,
Our quest to gain status
So we can lord it over others,
Our narrow-minded thinking that isolates us,
Our tendency to label, scapegoat, and be judgmental.

Rooted in compassion,
With contagious happiness and
Nonviolent evolutionary revolution,
We must support one another
In our self-development and our political action.
We must elevate our country’s culture,
Make our society more caring and more democratic,
Improve how we relate to one another,
Liberate our inner hunter-gather,
Love ourselves as we love others,
Appreciate the spiritual, nonmaterial elements of life
As well as the material —
Those elements we cannot touch
As well as those we can —
Help one another strengthen
And humanize
Ourselves,
Our families,
Our communities,
Our workplaces,
Our schools,
Our churches, synagogues, mosques,
And other spiritual communities,
Our governments,
Our entire society.

Nurture love
Everywhere.

The personal, the social, the cultural, and the political
Are woven together into our self-perpetuating social system,
The System,
Which includes our institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals.
All of those elements fit together
And reinforce one another.
That’s why our society holds together,
Muddles through.

Steady reform everywhere,
Headed in the same direction,
Will hasten fundamental transformation,
“A change in composition or structure.
A change in the outward form or appearance of.
A change in character or condition.”
Personal growth will contribute to
Social, cultural, and political growth.
Social growth will contribute to
Personal, cultural, and political growth.
Cultural growth will contribute to
Personal, social, and political growth.
Political growth will contribute to
Personal, social, and cultural growth.

None of those tasks is more important than the others.
None must come first.
They are equally important.
Combined, they will constitute holistic, systemic transformation.
From day to day,
Moment to moment,
Pick your focus,
With awareness that no victory or defeat is final.
Strengthen compassion.
Enhance empowerment.
Establish justice for all.
Transform the world.

Our global society is driven by
The desire to climb
One social ladder or another,
Look down on those below,
Feel superior,
Gain more wealth and power over others.
Individuals do it.
Organizations do it.
Nations do it.

We learn to dominate when we can
And submit when we cannot.

No President is to blame.
No political party is to blame.
No ruling class is to blame.
No individual is to blame.
The political system is not to blame.
The economic system is not to blame.
The problem is deeper than that.
The whole System,
Which includes each of us,
Is to blame.
Whether Socialist, Communist, Capitalist, Social Democratic,
Or some mix thereof,
Dictatorial or democratic,
Every modern society is
Centralized,
Stratified,
Top-down.

There is no Enemy.
There is no legitimate scapegoat.
We are all responsible.
We reinforce the System
With the clothes we buy,
The taxes we pay,
The votes we cast,
The cars we drive,
And many other ways.
.
Obama was not the Enemy.
Trump is not the Enemy.
Immigrants are not the Enemy.
China is not the Enemy.
Wall Street is not the Enemy.
There is no Enemy out there
That is more to blame than
We the people,
Individually and collectively
Are to blame.

The problem is the System.

Neither can there be a Savior.
Obama was no Savior,
Though many hoped he would be.
Trump is no Savior,
Though many believe he will be.
The Republicans will not save us.
The Democrats will not save us.
No third party will save us.

Our only hope is to
Return to our roots,
Cultivate our primordial compassionate instincts
That humans relied on for
Two hundred thousand years
Before they developed centralized agriculture
Only 10,000 years ago.
That compassion is deep in our DNA.
Observe young children.
They are naturally
Cooperative, awestruck, curious, caring.
They learn to be racist, sexist, homophobic, domineering, hyper-competitive.
Down deep,
Human beings are compassionate,
Cooperative creatures.

Yes, other instincts are at play as well.
Fear fosters the urge to conquer and dominate.
But compassion is stronger.
We can learn to set aside fear
And be true to who we really are.
We can undo our conditioning,
Be more fully human,
Become better human beings.

The Personal
When we go deep within
We connect with
The Ground of Being,
All humanity,
Life itself.
We are awestruck by the beauty of the Universe,
Feel like a small leaf on an enormous tree,
Become more humble,
Realize we don’t have all the answers,
Appreciate the “wisdom of crowds,”
Think together,
Strive to better understand the world and ourselves,
Pull away our masks,
Acknowledge mistakes and weaknesses,
Accept who we are, our limitations, our mortality,
Discover our true self,
Our higher self,
Our deeper self,
More fully value
Collaboration,
Cooperation,
Peer learning,
Mutual support,
Community.
We pursue truth, justice, and beauty,
Promote fairness.

With each person setting their own goals,
We steadily learn how to
Set aside, restrain, or overcome
Excessive desires and passions.

When we go deep within
We confront our arrogance,
Learn to recognize our talents
Without exaggerating their importance,
Appreciate the talent held by others,
Accept praise from others as icing on the cake
Rather than the cake itself, the be-all and end-all.
We live as we want others to live
And accept that others will do the same,
In their own way.
We make judgments without being judgmental.
We nurture humility.

When we go deep within
We restrain our greed,
Recognize our need for economic security
Without becoming addicted to money
As a way to keep score
And allegedly rove our superior worth.
We value a comfortable nest,
Without demanding much more than we need,
Seek a good source of income,
Without resorting to trickery, deception, or exploitation,
Appreciate beautiful clothes and attractive homes,
Without becoming addicted to conspicuous consumption.
We practice simple living.

When we go deep within
We discipline our lust
With healthy sexuality and emotional intimacy,
Communicate with each other about
The feelings that emerge when we make love,
Value our partner’s satisfaction as much as our own,
Avoid reducing others to objects.
Without becoming obsessed with sex
We take care of our whole self,
Including our sexuality.
We satisfy our desires
And focus most of our energy on serving others,
Improving the world.

When we go deep within
We minimize our craving
For mind-altering substances,
Including sweet foods,
Practice harm reduction,
Limit or slowly reduce how much we indulge,
Learn to more fully accept and appreciate our
Natural state,
Less addicted,
More grounded,
Centered,
Clear-headed,
Productive,
Present,
Real.
We nurture authenticity.

When we go deep within
We control our envy
By acknowledging it and
Using it to challenge injustice.
We acknowledge that others are better off
Partly due to luck,
Realize that for every loss there is a gain
And for every gain there is a loss.
It’s lonely at the top,
And the rich and famous often get trapped
In a bubble, out of touch with reality.
We express gratitude for what we have,
Know we must play the hand we’re dealt.
We appreciate that we are
Wise, kind, and in harmony with the Universe.
We change what we can and accept what we cannot.

When we go deep within
We channel our anger,
Use it as fuel,
Without allowing it to morph into hate.
We place ourselves in others’ shoes,
Look for the kernel of truth in what they say,
Better understand who they are,
Love our enemies,
Hate the sin but not the sinner,
Express ourselves fairly,
Criticize actions without condemning actors,
Always open to reconciliation.
When we’re angry,
We avoid becoming hateful.

When we go deep within
We awaken from apathy,
Indifference,
Melancholy,
Irresponsibility,
Passivity,
Wasting our time,
Laziness,
And remember to love the Universe,
Become more aware of
And take action to relieve
Suffering.
We tap that which makes us
Most fully
Alive.

In those and other ways
When we go deep within
We steadily become
Better human beings
And more effective activists,
Knowing we are good enough as we are,
And can still improve,
Without ever achieving perfection,
Always learning,
Always growing.

The Social
Strong communities grow strong individuals.
Strong individuals grow strong communities.

We transform the world
One living room at a time,
Gather with trusted friends,
Build bonds,
Care for,
Love,
Inspire,
Teach,
Support one another,
Share meals,
Socialize,
Have fun,
Plan political activities,
Report to one another
On how we’re working
To become a better human being,
And when despair sets in,
Encourage one another
To get up and do our best,
Whatever makes sense,
Whatever might move the ball forward.

With help from one another
We learn to communicate more effectively,
Listen respectfully,
Learn constantly,
Empower one another.

True believers may be right.
Minorities may later become majorities.
The vanguard may become a mass.
Innovators may open new doors.
Righteous people may offer moral witness.

But true believers can be wrong.
Minorities can remain a minority.
The vanguard can become oppressors.
New doors can lead to dead ends.
And the righteous can become self-righteous.

Real leaders must follow.
A successful movement must rely on
The “wisdom of crowds.”
The crowd is not always right.
Gut reactions are dangerous.
But informed deliberation is important.
We must “think with” our colleagues.
A movement to promote democracy
Must be democratic.
It must be in tune with the people it aims to serve.
No enlightened minority can impose its will
And get away with it for long.
In a democracy, the State monopolizes police power.
Only the State,
With the consent of the governed,
Can legitimately impose its will.
Vigilante justice is not justice.

Without being too patient,
Activists must be patient,
Build support,
Set aside arrogance,
Nurture humility,
Inspire action.

Injustice provokes anger
And anger motivates action.
But when failure leads to frustration,
And we use violence to correct injustice,
We forget why we acted in the first place.
We rebel against oppressive authority
And become oppressive authoritarians,
We perpetuate injustice.
A vicious circle.

Instead, we can develop families,
Schools, workplaces, spiritual communities,
Social service organizations,
Activist organizations,
Cultural organizations,
Neighborhood centers,
Park and recreation programs,
Health care centers,
Governments,
Worker-owned cooperatives,
And other organizations throughout society
That help people channel their anger,
Treat people with real respect,
Give them a voice in affairs that affect them,
And help them discover themselves,
Support one another in their self-development,
Facilitate conflict resolution,
Restorative justice rather than
Locking people up in cruel institutions
And throwing away the key.
We aim to assure that everyone
Can find a good, living-wage job,
Has access to
Effective drug and alcohol rehab programs,
Affordable housing,
Good health care,
Economic security,
So they are free to fulfill themselves.

What good are we if we know
And do nothing?
Those are moral responsibilities.
Do the right thing,
Do all we can,
Promote the general welfare,
Secure the blessings of liberty and happiness
For all people.
One way or the other,
Whether with private charity,
The market,
Or government programs.

The Political
Ideally, there would no government.
Humans would take care of one another spontaneously.
No taxes, just generosity.
No police, just peace.
No paid therapists, just natural human support.

But that utopia is not on the horizon.
Government is necessary.
No more government than necessary.
Local government when feasible
Rather than federal bureaucracies.
But when government is needed,
We must have the best government possible
To correct injustice.

Black lives matter. All lives matter.
Black lives matter. All lives matter.
Black lives matter. All lives matter.
It’s not either/or. It’s both/and.
That principle applies again and again.
It’s not either/or. It’s both/and.
It’s not either/or. It’s both/and.
We can affirm both the particular and the universal.
Black lives matter because all lives matter.

Affirming that black lives matter is important
Because many Americans still
Hold racist beliefs and
Discriminate against people of color.
Police officers are more likely to kill black people
In situations where they would not kill a white person.
And our criminal justice system is more likely
To lock up a black person than a white person
For the same crime.
That’s reality.

Many white Americans
Want to keep America white.
They fear whites will eventually be a minority.
They complain about “identity politics,”
Which involves oppressed people banding together to defend themselves,
But what matters most to them is their white identity.
What they really want is for whites to dominate,
Not cooperate.

People who share similar problems
Often come together to support one another
And fight to change public policies.
Women who are victims of domestic violence.
Gays who are arrested, bullied, or beat up.
Blacks who find it harder to get a job or buy a house.
Alcoholics and drug abusers.
Mental patients.
At times they all need to separate,
Share their stories,
Build up one another,
Fight back.
That separation is not the threat.
The threat is the oppression that prompted it.
Others should listen and be supportive.
Most who separate also affirm their common humanity,
Or do so sooner or later.

All humans have multiple identities
And create new identities as they mature.
We need not box others, or ourselves,
Into any one identity
And others need not box us in either.
Labels can be deadly.

We are all in this together.
It’s all for one and one for all.
I am not free until you are free
Because I cannot be all I can be
Until you can be all you can be.
If you are oppressed
I may be oppressed next.
If you are oppressed
I am not free because
I feel compelled to try to help correct that injustice.
The more you thrive, the more I thrive.
If all people are free, I am free.

With friends recruiting friends
We can mobilize enough people
To persuade our government
To respect
The will of the people,
Help this country live up to its highest ideals,
Protect rights and liberties,
Improve living conditions,
So all people can grow.
Even the 1% will benefit
From a more harmonious society.

We need a critical mass
That acts in unison.
A mass movement
That looks like
And represents
Our nation.

How many people will be required
No one knows.
Exactly what kind of actions will be required,
No one knows.
Options include milions
Communicating the same message
To elected officials
At the same time each month.
Consumer boycotts.
Candlelight vigils.
Marches.
Rallies.
Concerts.
Civil disobedience.
One-day work moratoriums,
Followed by two-day work moratoriums,
Followed by indefinite General Strikes.
Global boycotts.
No one knows.
The possibilities are many.

But one thing is clear.
The movement must be nonviolent.
A transformative movement must have
Broad backing and
Violence alienates,
Erodes support,
Drives supporters away,
Diverts attention away from real issues,
Enables the State to crack down,
Lock up rebels,
Be more oppressive,
Scare away potential activists.

Violence breeds violence.
Violence corrupts.
Violent victors oppress.

To break that cycle of violence,
A movement to transform the world must be
Large,
Persistent,
Focused on winnable goals,
Led by an inclusive coalition that stays together over time,
Ready to act quickly on the next priority
When one campaign is resolved.
No need to waste time organizing a new coalition.
Get to it right away.

If everyone in the movement
Communicates an agreed on message
To their government at least once a month,
Not everyone will have to give the movement their heart and soul.
Many people have conflicting commitments.
Limited time.
But everyone can communicate monthly with
Their national representative.

We can focus on compassionate improvements
In national policy that most people already support.
In the United States,
Republicans, Independents, Democrats,
A Purple Alliance.
Win victories and see new possibilities emerge,
New opportunities open up,
Understanding expand,
Optimism grow.
Each victory makes new goals winnable.
Focus on victories,
Build momentum,
Improve the world.
Relieve suffering.
Be patient.
Change what you can and
Accept what you cannot.

Many movement members can do more
Than communicate monthly with their representative.
Many, with other organizations,
In the name of a transform-the-world movement,
Can take on other issues.

But everyone can recognize the need for occasional
Mass unity,
Sustained unity,
Pragmatic unity,
To come together to win
Proactive improvements,
Not just reactive defense,
Pragmatic idealism,
Evolutionary revolution,
One victory after the other.
Expand what is winnable
By winning what is winnable.

Step by step,
With holistic communities,
We can integrate the personal, the social, the cultural, and the political,
Reform our institutions, our culture, and ourselves,
Feed the world,
House the homeless,
Guarantee living-wage job opportunities,
Meet basic needs,
Enable everyone to thrive,
Serve the common good of the Earth community.
Transform the world.

A Mutual Support Community (11/26/17 Draft)

Dear Wade’s Wire Subscriber:

Please let me know if you want to help form, or join, a team of the sort described in the invitation below — which will be circulated widely only after some such teams prove the idea has merit.

++++++++++

Help Transform the World with the Mutual Support Community (11/26/17 Draft)

The mission: to help transform the world into a compassionate community dedicated to the common good of all humanity, the environment, and life itself, so everyone can be all they can be.

Mutual Support Community members strive to become healthier, happier, and more compassionate individuals and more effective activists. In those personal and political efforts, we aim to:

  • support one another and deepen friendships;
  • enjoy life and talk heart-to-heart;
  • relate as equals and nurture both self- and community empowerment;
  • counter individualism, isolation, fragmentation, and dehumanization;
  • build mutual respect and avoid domination and submission;
  • more fully understand ourselves and the world;
  • appreciate beauty and help establish justice;
  • defend liberty and help strengthen democracy;
  • become more fully human;
  • promote personal, social, cultural, and political transformation.

Members gather at least once a month for about two hours in teams of 5-10 people. We begin by sharing tea, coffee or a meal and socializing. When the meeting begins, we briefly and confidentially report on our personal and political work. We acknowledge weaknesses and mistakes and resolve to minimize them. Individuals set their own goals and only talk about what they want to talk about.

Then the team addresses its regular agenda. (Teams may be an informal association — like a book club or a Bible study group — or a committee within an organization. Or members may belong to various organizations — or no organization.) The team may consider activities for some or all members to engage in later. After the meeting, we interact informally and follow up on comments made during the meeting.

Teams have three things in common. Members:

  1. Promote the same mission.
  2. Report briefly on their personal and political efforts.
  3. Meet occasionally with members from other teams to exchange information and inspire one another.

Those shared experiences cultivate a spirit of community.

If you’d like to participate in this community, please form a support team with 5-10 friends or relatives and let us know so we can add your team to the list at MutualSupportCommunity.org/TeamList. If you’d like to join a team, contact one that’s open to new members.

Many thanks for spreading the word to people who may be interested. To share information or ask questions, please visit MutualSupportCommunity.org.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Thanks again for your interest in “Transform the World with Holistic Communities.”  The above invitation focuses on ideas in that draft 50-page booklet.

Eighteen individuals provided valuable, extensive feedback on that draft, which helped to shape the invitation. When I finish compiling that feedback and responding to it, I’ll send you a link to the complete report.

Again, please let me know if you want to try to form, or join, a team of the sort described above. If the first teams work, we’ll circulate the invitation widely and invite people to form more teams, throughout the country and perhaps internationally.

And please forward this message to others who may be interested.

Feedback on the invitation is welcome. The latest draft of the invitation will always be at  https://MutualSupportInvitation.

I greatly appreciate your interest.

Thanks again,

Wade

 

Fear and Love

Outsmarting Our Primitive Responses to Fear by Kate Murphy has been featured on The New York Times app since Oct. 26. 2017 for good reason. Its main point is:

If you can sense and appreciate your fear — be it of flying, illness or social rejection — as merely your amygdala’s request for more information rather than a signal of impending doom, then you are on your way to calming down and engaging more conscious, logic-dominated parts of your brain. At that point, you can assess the rationality of your fear and take steps to deal with it….

Dr. Dalrymple is a proponent of acceptance and commitment therapy for managing fear, which has recently been gaining clinical validation. It encourages people not only to accept that they are feeling fearful and examine the causes but also to think about their values and how committing to overcoming their fears would be consistent with who they want to be. The approach forces higher-order thinking, which theoretically disables or diminishes the amygdala response.

I added that emphasis to “think about their values and how committing to overcoming their fears would be consistent with who they want to be” because that element seems particularly important. Do you really want to be one who’s trapped by fear?

But the article concludes with what may be an even more important discovery:

Psychologists and neuroscientists are also finding that the amygdala is less apt to freak out if you are reminded that you are loved or could be loved…. Just as fear can be contagious, so can courage, caring and calm.

That point suggests to me that tapping deep instinctual compassion can help deal with fear. We need not only rely on “higher-order thinking.”

Feedback Please, New Booklet (11/3 Draft)

Your feedback on Transform the World with Holistic Communities: Personal, Social, Cultural, and Political (11/3 Draft) would be greatly appreciated. That 50-page booklet is online at https://tinyurl.com/Transform-Booklet.

To offer input, please use the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GFNWCBK by Thursday, November 16. (Comments here or via email are also welcome).

So far 25 individuals have said they will give feedback on Transform the World with Holistic Communities: Personal, Social, Cultural, and Political (11/3 Draft). Those individuals include long-term activists, academics, former academics, journalists, and others with highly relevant experience. The feedback that emerges should be extremely valuable.

Numerous holistic projects have practiced or nurtured holistic transformation for some time. Recently, promising new projects have emerged. Holistic transformation may be an idea whose time has come. This booklet aims to bolster that momentum.

Holistic community has been a concern of mine for fifty years. Now that I’m retired, I hope to devote more time to this commitment. With this booklet, I sum up lessons from my activism, organizing, and research. The intent is to:

  • Promote holistic communities that aim to empower the whole person and transform the whole society.
  • Serve the common good of the Earth community, so everyone can be more fully human.
  • Encourage personal, social, cultural, and political transformation.

Prior to circulating this draft widely, no one had seen it. So it’s very much what I think. Your corrections, disagreements, and suggested changes and additions will be appreciated. If you disagree, please tell me.

Ideally, this project will become a collaboration with co-equal authors. Otherwise, I’ll proceed with help from people like yourself.

The contents include: Preface; A Purple Alliance; Issues; Three Proposals for Action; Holistic Communities; Related Projects; Training Projects; Conclusion.

The “Issues” chapter includes these sections: Top-Down Power; The System; Spirit; Holistic Politics; Individualism; The Blame Game; Nonviolence; Leadership; Tribalism; A Caring Economy; Self-Improvement; Mutual Support; Beyond Ideology; Evolutionary Revolution.

Unless you ask me not to, I’ll post your comments on the Web so others can review them.

I greatly appreciate your attention, and hope we can work together to make the booklet as good as it can be.

Please let me know if there’s some way I can contribute to your efforts to nurture holistic community.

Thanks,
Wade

Dialog with Van Jones

During last night’s book tour event, Van recounted the story of his year-long struggle with severe depression, when he felt like an Easter egg that was beautiful on the outside and empty on the inside. But eventually after much inner work he concluded “I’m a good guy” and moved on.

Later, he said, “I want us to start healing each other.”

During the Q&A, when the usher gave me the mic, I commented, “I love the book. It definitely points us in the right direction. My main problem is with your echoing your father’s affirmation of upward mobility as an antipoverty program. It seems to me that no child should have to grow up poor because their parents can’t find a living-wage job. A plurality of Americans support a federal jobs guarantee.”

I then asked, “What do you think about guaranteeing living-wage job opportunities with federal revenue sharing to local governments, partly as a way to weaken the power of the drive for upward mobility which has such a corrosive effect on our society?”

He replied, “I’m for it.”