“Humility and Rationality”

Humility and Rationality
By Wade Lee Hudson

A review
Thinking, Fast and Slow
Daniel Kahneman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011, 512 Pages

Controlling emotions, instincts, intuitions, and biases is like riding an elephant. As Jonathan Haidt wrote: “The emotional tail wags the rational dog.” In his magnum opus, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman sums up decades of research and urges readers to strengthen “slow thinking” to better manage “fast thinking.” Rationality demands discipline, practice, and effort, but over-confident, we often fail. A humble understanding of why and how we don’t always choose the most rational action can help us be better human beings. 

Kahneman argues that humans

often need help to make more accurate judgments and better decisions, and in some cases policies and institutions can provide that help. The assumption that agents are rational provides the intellectual foundation for the libertarian approach to public policy: do not interfere with the individual’s right to choose, unless the choices harm others. For behavioral economists, however, freedom has a cost, which is borne by individuals who make bad choices, and by society that feels obligated to help him. The decision of whether or not to protect individuals against their mistakes, therefore, presents a dilemma.

Whether to require motorcyclists to wear helmets is an example. Requiring everyone to get health insurance is another.

Social-change activists have much to learn from Kahneman’s work, which calls for a commitment to overcome the arrogance that interferes with learning from mistakes. No wonder pride has been considered the number-one sin, and humility the number-one virtue. 

Still Looking for a Holistic Community

By Wade Lee Hudson

Re-posted 6/29/18

I seek a community whose members promote comprehensive transformation, aim to become better human beings, and set aside time to support each other with those efforts. 

That’s it. The essential ingredients of a holistic community that involves the whole person and helps change the whole world. It seems straightforward and sensible. From time to time, I’ve tasted holistic community enough to convince me it’s practical. But those experiences, including my own efforts to organize one, have been fleeting, and I know of none I can join.

My primary motivation is that I believe holistic communities could help relieve suffering. As I address in Transform the System: A Work in Progress, it seems to me that most social change efforts specialize in ways that undermine their effectiveness. Most focus on either the outer world or the inner world. Holistic communities that integrate the two could provide mutual support for both open-ended self-development and improvements in the external world, including political action to impact public policy.

A mission statement for a network of holistic communities might be something like: to help transform our country into a compassionate community dedicated to the common good of all humanity, our own people, the environment, and life itself. That wording would enable people in any country to endorse it.

To help achieve that mission, community members might adopt a commitment such as:

Change Myself, Change the World: A Commitment

I commit to:

    • Pay attention to, control, and try to change thoughts and feelings that can lead to oppressive or counterproductive behavior.  
    • Acknowledge my mistakes and resolve to avoid them in the future.
    • Become a better human being and love myself and others in every situation.
    • Talk about my efforts with close friends and listen to them talk about their efforts.
    • Support the development of social structures that nurture personal and community empowerment.
    • Help transform my nation into a compassionate community dedicated to the common good of all humanity, our own people, the environment, and life itself.
    • Help improve my nation’s public policies with measures such as assuring living wage job opportunities and taking steps to protect the less powerful from arbitrary discrimination and oppression inflicted on them by the more powerful. 

In addition to informal, spontaneous activities that emerge naturally in any community, intentional mutual support in a holistic community could involve methods such as: 1) begin meetings with a moment of silence for people to meditate, pray, or reflect on the meeting’s agenda, and/or; 2) “check in” with reports on recent personal and political change efforts. (I’ll maintain a list of such methods at “Possible Methods for How Group Members Can Support Each Other with Their Self-Development.”) 

Affirming a commitment to critical self-examination and setting aside time to report on those efforts — on occasion doing so confidentially with trusted allies — can deepen personal growth.

A network of holistic communities could include many different kinds of groups, including book clubs, study groups, and activist organizations. Those groups could share the same mission, use the same method(s) for pursuing that mission, and affiliate with the network. That common ground could help nurture a sense of community among a wide variety of groups in multiple countries. 

The specific wording of the mission statement and methods as suggested here is not critical. They’re merely offered to clarify the concept. Hopefully others can improve on them.

Now, actively waiting, I keep my eyes and ears open for a community to join. My life is good and I enjoy my frequent solitude. But I believe a holistic community could be of service to humanity, and enrich my own life.

In the meantime, I support political actions from time to time, welcome invitations to discuss these issues, and focus on building the TransformTheSystem.org website. On that site, I’ll update resources, present new proposals for action, post essays and reviews of books and articles, and engage in public dialogs. It may take 2-3 ten years to build the site into the clearinghouse of information and analysis that I envision. But I want to pull together into one place the wide variety of material that has shaped and is shaping my worldview.

To receive occasional reports on additions to the site, subscribe to Transform The System News. To engage in public dialog about these issues, you can comment on blog posts on the site’s home page.

Together, perhaps we can plant seeds that will contribute to positive social change.

Beyond Left and Right: Compassionate Pragmatism

 

Beyond Left and Right: Compassionate Pragmatism
By Wade Lee Hudson

There’s no widely agreed-on definition of “liberalism” and “conservatism.” Terms like “free-market fundamentalism” vs. “egalitarian economics” make more sense, but supporters of one of those terms may agree with the other side on other issues. So they can’t logically be lumped together as either “liberal” or “conservative.” The “left-right” spectrum is incoherent and serves to divide and conquer. However, even if the meaning of “liberalism” and “conservatism” were clear, the more rational approach would be to integrate the best of each perspective into a new worldview, such as “compassionate pragmatism.”

Traditionally, the “right” has been said to affirm authority, order, hierarchy, duty, tradition, and nationalism. And the “left” has been associated with liberty, equality, solidarity, human rights, progress, and internationalism. But most people believe in all or most of those principles — because each holds value.

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Transform the System Dialog: An Invitation

People often talk about “the system,” but there’s little agreement about what it is or how we should change it. The Transform the System Dialog is based on the belief that broad agreement on these issues could lead to greater unity and more effective activism.

To join the dialog, answer these questions, or comment on others’ answers:

  1. What is “the system”? (150 words max)
  2. How should we transform it? (150 words max)
  3. Why should we transform it? (150 words max)
  4. What I am doing to help transform it? (150 words max).

To offer answers, reply to this email or click here. To comment on others’ answers, review them individually and use the form at the bottom of each submission. To see the list of submissions, click here.

Answers and comments are posted at the end of each submission

Every two weeks participants will be invited to comment on Dialog reports. I’ll compile those reports, facilitate the process, and occasionally share my own thoughts.

Possible future steps include face-to-face conversations, video calls, and electronic communications.

After receiving feedback, those who offer answers will be free to revise their answers—-or submit new answers. Selected submissions may later be included in a Transform the System Reader.

This dialog is open to everyone in any country who wants to relieve suffering and promote fairness. A list of participants will be maintained here.

Your interest is appreciated. Please send this invitation to others.

Sincerely,

Wade Lee Hudson

TransformTheSystem.org

Bill Barr’s Biggest Lie

What do you think was Barr’s biggest lie? 

As I see it, most reporting, commentary, and legislators have missed the mark on that question. And many news reports, such as Judy Woodruff on the Newshour, have reported his most important lie as if it were fact. 

During this week’s hearing, for example, Barr said:

“But the question just been asking raises a point I wanted to say when Senator Hirono was talking, which is, how did we get to the point here where the evidence is now that the President was falsely accused of colluding with the Russians, and accused of being treasonous, and accused of being a Russian agent, and the evidence now is that was without a basis, and two years of his administration have been dominated by the allegations that have now been proven false? And, you know, to listen to some of the rhetoric, you would think that the Mueller report had found the opposite.”

However, AP FACT CHECK, “Trump, Barr distort Mueller report findings,” reports:

The Mueller report said the investigation did not find a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, saying it had not collected sufficient evidence “to establish” or sustain criminal charges….

The special counsel wrote that he “cannot rule out the possibility” that unavailable information could have cast a different light on the investigation’s findings….

The report also makes clear the investigation did not assess whether “collusion” occurred because it is not a legal term. The investigation found multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia,…

Failing to prove that X was true does not mean that X was proven false. To make that mistake must have been intentional.

Self Care

By Penn Garvin
Originally posted in the Broadsheet, a rural PA newsletter

There is self care of oneself and there is also self care of the movement.  Self care of the movement means that we look closely at (1) how we treat each other (2) how we support each other (3) how we give each other permission to rest, relax and have fun (4) how we hold each other accountable for saying what we do and doing what we say (5) how we model a movement that those not presently involved are drawn to be a part of and (6) how we come through this difficult period of time better and not bitter. With all else we have to do it may seem difficult to also do this work of self care.  However, in order to build a strong and lasting movement, it is critical to all the other work we do.  

Keep tuned for more information about self care in the upcoming Broadsheets. We will look at each of the topics listed above with questions that you can use for discussion in your organizations and groups. For more information and to have someone come to your group, please contact Penn.

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As I wrote above we are going to look at each of these topics individually.  I would suggest that you think of your own reactions to what is written below and then ask for time at your next meeting (if you are a part of an organization or group) and share this information and have a discussion.This is part of a larger article written by a friend of mine who lives and works politically in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is hoping that folks will sign on to a declaration called “Americans for Humanity.”  If you want more information, please contact me and I will send you the 8-page document. What follows can seem rather harsh but please dig deep inside yourself and see where there are grains of truth and then talk with others. The first step to making change is always to be honest and name the problem.

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David Brooks on the Social Fabric

Backed by the Aspen Institute, David Brooks launched Weave: The Social Fabric Project to nurture what he considers to be a growing social movement. In his New York Times column, “A Nation of Weavers,” Brooks argues that this grassroots movement addresses “our lack of healthy connection to each other, our inability to see the full dignity of each other, and the resulting culture of fear, distrust, tribalism, shaming and strife.” He believes this movement will “usher in a social transformation by reweaving the fabric of reciprocity and trust.” Through these Weavers, he says, “renewal is building, relationship by relationship, community by community. It will spread and spread as the sparks fly upward.”

Brooks moves in the right direction, but stops short. He aims to go below the surface, but neglects root causes. He wants to address the “whole person,” but fragments the individual.

Brooks rightly argues that “America’s social fabric is being ripped to shreds.” And he’s right to lament the recent emergence of “hyperindividualism” and affirm “radical mutuality” — that is, the belief “we are all completely equal, regardless of where society ranks us,” which leads us to “love across boundaries, listen patiently, see deeply and make someone feel known.”

But Brooks is wrong to affirm “an ethos that puts relationship over self.” That separation violates holism. Rather, an integrated balance is possible, as when Christians say: Love yourself as you love others. And Buddhists say: Neither selfishness nor self-sacrifice.

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An Argument for the Declaration

An Argument for the Declaration
By Wade Lee Hudson

Activists undermine progress. Deep-seated tendencies reinforce fragmentation and drive away potential recruits. These divisive impulses, rooted in biological instincts inflamed by our hyper-competitive society, weaken our power.

Not everyone suffers from the same weaknesses, but most are burdened with many. “Americans for Humanity: A Declaration” aims to help overcome these barriers to personal, social, and political growth.

These personal problems include:

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