Recent Additions to the Systemopedia

A Vision

A Vision
By Wade Lee Hudson

(4/3/20 draft)

The COVID-19 crisis may change this nation’s character. Greater solidarity and compassion may deepen. The world we seek may soon be possible. The time for vision is here. 

A grassroots movement that addresses the whole person, the whole society, and our social system — a holistic democracy movement — can transform this nation into a compassionate community, and cooperate with people elsewhere who do the same in their country. 

The first step is a solid organizing plan. The second step is to steadily gain members with contagious joy and small, face-to-face communities who endorse the plan. The third step is to build momentum with political victories. The following scenario envisions how this can happen.

Step One: The Plan

An organizing committee that “looks like America” forms and drafts a brief set of core principles such as: 

Draft Declaration for Holistic Democracy – 3/27/20” 

We, the undersigned, commit to serve humanity, the environment, and life itself  by promoting holistic democracy, which addresses the whole person, the whole society, and our interwoven social system. We urge the development of organizations committed to these goals whose members:

  • identify as co-equal members of the human family, respect the essential equality of all human beings, affirm individuals’ multiple identities, recognize each individual’s unique personality and particular skills, and work together to weave our diverse peoples into one nation; 
  • aim to overcome unconscious bias and resist discrimination based on race, gender, class, sexual orientation, or any other similar identity;
  • promote partnerships, nurture democracy throughout society, empower people, support freedom for all, and oppose arbitrary efforts to dominate others;
  • work to prevent social problems by correcting root causes and standing up for each other; 
  • love others as they love themselves, avoid selfishness and self-sacrifice, rely on love and trust rather than hate and fear, channel anger productively, and decline to scapegoat or demonize; 
  • attract people with contagious joy, face-to-face community, and caring friendships;
  • honor their nation’s accomplishments, maintain its highest traditions, criticize its failures, and help build a more perfect union;
  • push for compassionate policies supported by strong majorities, sustain the legitimacy of minority opinions, recognize the value of visionary campaigns focused on goals not yet supported by strong majorities, and engage in nonviolent civil disobedience and boycotts when needed;
  • encourage members to improve their emotional reactions, engage in honest self-examination, support each other with their personal and spiritual growth, and avoid oppressive or disrespectful behavior;
  • seek to transform their nation into a compassionate community that:
  • cultivates the development of healthy families;
  • establishes everyone’s equal rights and their equality under the law;
  • assures everyone a decent standard of living;
  • cultivates shared leadership, assists the development of worker-owned businesses, and supports workers’ rights;
  • protects free speech, makes it easy for everyone to vote, and defends individuals’ freedom to engage in activities that don’t interfere with the rights of others; lives in harmony with the natural environment;
  • respects all living creatures;forms supportive relationships with other countries, affirms their right to self-determination, promotes human rights, and advocates peaceful resolution of conflicts with mediation and negotiation.

In these ways, step-by-step, person-by-person, family-by-family, community-by-community, nation-by-nation, we pursue the eventual, evolutionary transformation of our social system into a compassionate community that serves humanity, the environment, and life itself. 

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The organizing committee then:

  1. Drafts a plan for how to advance these principles, establishes a fiscal home for the project, begins raising necessary funds, widely circulates the plan for review and comment, digests the comments, and updates the plan. 
  2. Convenes a Community Congress (or Citizens Assembly) with randomly selected Americans who, with expenses paid, adopt, modify, or reject the updated plan.

Step Two: Organize

If the Congress adopts a plan, the organizing committee convenes a founding convention to form a “holistic democracy network” with people who support the plan. Steps are taken to assure that participants “look like America.” The convention opens with a panel of prominent speakers who help attract participation. The convention is streamed live, but only those who participate in person vote.

Toward the end of the convention, people who endorse the plan form district teams with others who live in the same Congressional district. These teams meet regularly to share a meal and in groups of ten or less conduct a “holistic check-in” — each individual reports on what they’ve been doing, plan to do, or would like to do with regard to self-improvement, community service, and political action. Each group then conducts an Open Topic Dialog concerning whatever’s on their mind. 

Throughout the rest of the month, these teams may engage in other activities, but all teams meet regularly, share a meal, and conduct a holistic check-in and an open topic dialog. This common practice nurtures a sense of community among the network. 

All members promote the network and recruit members, especially person-to-person.  Periodically team representatives meet in regional gatherings to share reports on activities, brainstorm, and provide mutual support. These gatherings select representatives to state gatherings, which select representatives to national gatherings, which select representatives to international gatherings. Video conference calls are occasionally used as well.

District teams organize support from others in their district for efforts to persuade their Congressperson to engage in a monthly Community Dialog with their constituents. These dialogs enable randomly selected constituents to address any subject, without the dialog being dominated by the Congressperson.

The project also helps to organize a Purple Alliance that pushes for compassionate changes in national policy supported by a supermajority of Americans — including a majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents — such as limiting the amount of money individuals and organizations can spend on campaigns and issues. This alliance includes a wide range of activist organizations that continue to primarily focus on their own priorities, while occasionally encouraging their members to support the Purple Alliance action. 

Step Three: Act

When timely, the Purple Alliance backs a campaign led by others to enact legislation supported by a supermajority of Americans that would improve living conditions. The Alliance calls on their members and others to communicate to their Congressperson about the bill. They urge representatives who have not supported the bill to do so, and express their appreciation to those who have. They may call, write, email, visit the Congressperson’s office (either alone or with other team members), participate in a Community Dialog, join a demonstration, or engage in nonviolent civil disobedience. If the Congressperson has not yet gone on record in support of the bill, they gather support from individuals and organizations in their district for a resolution urging the Congressperson to do so. 

The initial goal might merely be to gain a specific number of co-sponsors for the bill. This would give the bill more credibility and strengthen the hand of the groups that are leading the campaign. The Alliance might then declare victory, move to another issue, and return to the initial issue when it’s farther along the legislative process. Regardless, the Alliance clarifies at the outset whose leadership it will follow: the Alliance will not support a compromise or an alternative bill if the designated leader objects. Nevertheless, the Alliance retains the option to withdraw from the campaign at any time.

Periodically, the Alliance reports to its members on progress with the campaign and updates the message to be communicated to Congresspersons. Holistic democracy network members meet with supportive Congresspersons to explore what more the Congressperson can do to help advance the network’s principles.

Network members ask countless organizations to endorse the network’s principles, including local and national Republican and Democratic parties. When any such bodies endorse the principles, network members may help transform that party into an activist organization that engages in precinct-organizing year-round (perhaps using the Open Topic Dialog).

Groups that endorse the network’s principles engage in a wide range of activities to advance its principles — without gaining prior approval from the network.

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This approach calls for patience and dedication. There are no shortcuts. We keep the best of what we’ve inherited and build on that foundation. We create a fairer, more compassionate, and more democratic world that has many new structures, a new character, and a new appearance — a world that is transformed.

As this global movement develops, specific strategies and tactics vary across countries. But everyone shares a commitment to holistic democracy. With mutually reinforcing personal, social, cultural, economic, and political reforms, the holistic democracy movement promotes fundamental, systemic transformation.

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NOTES: 

  1. The latest draft of this essay will always be here. Feedback is welcome. 
  2. Stephen Gerritson, George Fowler, and Alan Levin contributed greatly to the composition of the Declaration with many comments and suggestions.
  3. Those who contributed to or signed Americans for Humanity: A Declaration also helped with this effort.
  4. Feel free to take the Declaration, modify it if so desired, gain signers (perhaps using Google Forms), and post their names (perhaps using Airtable). Signers could then be invited to horizontally collaborate concerning next steps.

 

The Man Behind Trump’s Facebook Juggernaut

The Man Behind Trump’s Facebook Juggernaut, By Andrew Marantz

“…Some of the public anxiety over Facebook is a response to how easily it can be abused, but much of that anxiety is about the outcomes the platform yields when it’s working as designed. Even leaving aside the Cambridge Analytica data breach and the allegations of foreign interference—even if nobody had ever violated any platform’s terms of service—many of the fundamental problems of social media still remain. Creepy surveillance, dissolution of civic norms, widening unease, infectious rage, a tilt toward autocracy in several formerly placid liberal democracies—these are starting to seem like inherent features, not bugs. The real scandal is not that the system can be breached; the real scandal is the system itself. In a sense, it’s almost comforting to imagine that the only bad actors on social media are Russian state assets, clickbait profiteers, and rogue political consultants who violate the law. If that were the extent of the problem, the problem could surely be contained.”

Promoting Global Transformation with Holistic Democracy

Promoting Global Transformation with Holistic Democracy
By Wade Lee Hudson

With careful planning and popular support, a well-organized grassroots movement can transform this nation into a compassionate community  — and cooperate with forces elsewhere who do the same in their country. 

The first step is to form broad agreement on a vision — shared principles that can help hold together a wide diversity of communities. The second step is for the movement to steadily gain members by nurturing face-to-face communities who embrace the vision. The third step is to build momentum by winning victories with improvements in national policy that move toward the vision.

The following “Draft Declaration for Holistic Democracy” indicates the kind of core principles that could be the basis of unity for this global, pro-democracy movement.

Draft Declaration for Holistic Democracy – 3/27/20 

We, the undersigned, commit to serve humanity, the environment, and life itself.  We urge the development of organizations committed to this goal whose members:

  • identify as co-equal members of the human family, respect the essential equality of all human beings, affirm individuals’ countless identities, recognize each individual’s unique personality and particular skills, and work together to weave our diverse peoples into one nation; 

  • aim to overcome unconscious bias and resist discrimination based on race, gender, class, sexual orientation, or any other similar identity;

  • promote partnerships, nurture democracy throughout society, empower people, support freedom for all, and oppose arbitrary efforts to dominate others;

  • work to prevent social problems by correcting root causes and standing up for each other; 

  • love others as they love themselves, avoid selfishness and self-sacrifice, rely on love and trust rather than hate and fear, channel anger productively, and decline to scapegoat or demonize; 

  • attract people with contagious joy, face-to-face community, and caring friendships;

  • honor their nation’s accomplishments, maintain its highest traditions, criticize its failures, and help build a more perfect union;

  • push for compassionate policies supported by strong majorities, sustain the legitimacy of minority opinions, recognize the value of visionary campaigns focused on goals not yet supported by strong majorities, and engage in nonviolent civil disobedience and boycotts when needed;

  • encourage members to improve their emotional reactions, engage in honest self-examination, support each other with their personal and spiritual growth, and avoid oppressive or disrespectful behavior;

  • seek to transform their nation into a compassionate community that:

    • cultivates the development of healthy families;

    • establishes everyone’s equal rights and their equality under the law;

    • assures everyone a decent standard of living;

    • cultivates shared leadership, assists the development of worker-owned businesses, and supports workers’ rights;

    • protects free speech, makes it easy for everyone to vote, and defends individuals’ freedom to engage in activities that don’t interfere with the rights of others; 

    • lives in harmony with the natural environment;

    • respects all living creatures;

    • forms supportive relationships with other nations, affirms their right to self-determination, promotes human rights, and advocates peaceful resolution of conflicts with mediation and negotiation.

In these ways, step-by-step, person-by-person, family-by-family, community-by-community, nation-by-nation, we can promote holistic democracy, which addresses the whole person, the whole society, and our interwoven social system. We can pursue the eventual, evolutionary transformation of our social system into a compassionate community that serves humanity, the environment, and life itself. 

This approach calls for patience and dedication. There are no shortcuts. We can keep the best of what we’ve inherited and build on that foundation. We can create a better, fairer, more compassionate, and more democratic world — one that has many new structures, a new character, and a new appearance — one that is in many respects new — one that looks and feels like new — one that eventually is transformed

If this global movement develops, specific strategies and tactics will vary across countries. But all elements will share a commitment to holistic democracy. With mutually reinforcing personal, social, cultural, economic, and political reforms, this holistic democracy movement will promote fundamental transformation. 

NOTES: 

  1. Stephen Gerritson, George Fowler, and Alan Levin contributed greatly to the composition of the Declaration with many comments and suggestions. Wade Lee Hudson was the principal author.

  2. This work-in-progress is envisioned as the introduction to a booklet that will elaborate on steps two and three with concrete organizing methods. Feedback is welcome.  If you’re interested in collaborating on this project, please let me know.

  3. Everyone is free to take the Declaration, modify it, and use it as you see fit.

Depolarize Ourselves: Affirm Our Humanity

To my mind, the most valuable part of Ezra Klein’s Why We’re Polarized is the section “Depolarizing Ourselves.” Ezra writes:

We, as individuals,… are also being changed by it (the political system). The primary way the system gets its hooks into us is by threatening or otherwise activating our political identities and using the catalytic energy to (manipulate),… being used for the political purposes of others….

(Our identity) is deeper than conscious thought….The millisecond it takes to take an identity to activate isn’t something we can simply slough off. But… we can harness it….

There is a massive apparatus for defining, policing, and activating (identities). If you want to get out of that superstructure, it takes work…. We can become intentional about which identities we work to activate…. Trying to be aware of how politics makes us feel, of what happens when our identities are activated, or otherwise inflamed, is a necessary first step to gaining some control of the process.

Sometimes (the context) is changeable. Our informational environments are one of those things…. Once we recognize that we exist amid an omnipresent conspiracy to manipulate our identities, we can begin the hard work of fashioning our environment to shape and strengthen the identities we want to inhabit. 

One of those identities, arguably the most important, is our membership in the human family. Our basic humanity is fundamental. I am a human being. You are a human being. The more we remember that reality, the easier it is to affirm everyone’s essential equality — each individual’s infinite value. This awareness nurtures mutual respect and a commitment to democratic participation in collective affairs. 

The “omnipresent conspiracy” to which Ezra refers is more than “political” as narrowly defined. Our entire society, our institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals are woven together into a self-perpetuating social system — the System. This system encourages everyone to climb social ladders, look up to and resent those above, and look down on and dominate those below. The best term for this system may be “meritocracy.” 

If we establish a new central purpose for our society — such as “to serve humanity, the environment, and life itself” — we can move toward transforming our nation into a compassionate community. If we cultivate a commitment to mutual support for self-improvement (with each individual defining their own goals), we can better move in that direction. And an important source of mutual support is face-to-face community with others who share core values. In this way, we can depolarize ourselves and strengthen our humanity.

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Originally posted here.

Ezra Klein and Jane McAlevey: Who’s To Blame?

Ezra Klein and Jane McAlevey:
Who’s To Blame?
By Wade Lee Hudson

Ezra Klein’s power analysis contradicts the analysis that Jane McAlevey presents in the “A master class in organizing” Ezra Klein Show podcast. According to Klein, the primary problem is “the machine” — not the “1%” or any particular decision-maker, as offered by McAlevey, the author of three books on organizing, including, most recently, A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy. Nevertheless, a broad-based “Purple Alliance” could utilize many of McAlevey’s organizing principles. This alliance could advance policies supported by supermajorities, including a majority of rank-and-file Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Rather than cultivating an Alinsky-style demonization of key decision-makers, this approach could target the machine, or “the System.”

In the February 5, 2020 podcast, “Jill Lepore on what I get wrong,” Lepore asks, “In some big structural way in the book there’s a quite notable absence of villains…. Why no villains?” Klein replies:

I’m trying to tell you how a machine works. I’m just trying to tell you what happens to almost everybody in it…. There are people in it. Where they are and what they’re trying to do makes them villainous to me…. What I want to tell you is how the thing is working…. 

I wanted to call some players and institutions in this villains and I had trouble figuring out a chain of causality…. And so I think one of the reasons I had a little bit of trouble finding a clear villain…is that I think all of these institutions are in a relationship with their audience…. There is something different happening in the relationships between the bases and the party institutions…. 

Every time I tried to trace [blame] down to the place that I could prove it, I would fail…. (Trump) had figured out what was true about the audience. So I’m trying in some ways to trace that, but also I have trouble assigning the causality or even figuring out where it begins. All these things seem to be in a dynamic relationship with each other that is hard to figure out how if you replaced a player or even the institution how different of a result you would get…. The thing I’m trying to build an idea of is of a machine with different pieces all working together.

In the Introduction to his book, Why We’re Polarized, Klein talks about “the system” and writes, “We collapse systemic problems into personalized narratives.” And the final chapter includes a section on “Depolarizing ourselves,” which implies, as I see it, an affirmation that our major institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals are woven together into a self-perpetuating social system, the System.

It seems to me, however, that Klein stops short of fully spelling out that broader implication. Instead, he tends to only analyze the political and economic elements of the System, as do most people who engage in systemic analysis.

McAlevey, on the other hand, says blaming the 99% vs the 1% is “sort of right” and insists we are “up against a tiny elite,” “filthy rich” employers, and “greed” (though many factors other than greed are at play, as Klein has discussed). But Klein did not challenge her with his power analysis. Instead, McAlevey’s eloquent, technocratic expertise prevailed.

But as we avoid scapegoating, lessons can be learned from her expertise and incorporated into efforts such as a Purple Alliance and the transformation of the Democratic Party into a year-round, precinct-based, face-to-face, mutually supportive, activist community.