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.

+++

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.

Links

Elizabeth Warren Is Unlikely to Endorse Bernie Sanders. Here’s Why.
By Astead W. Herndon and Shane Goldmacher

“I come from the lens of an organizer, and if someone doesn’t do what you want, you don’t blame them — you ask why. And you don’t demand that answer of that person — you reflect. And that reflection is where you can grow.”
–Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

++++

Ezra Klein Show, March 11  Dan Pfeiffer on Joe Biden, beating Trump, and saving Democracy

“Ezra and Dan focus on “inside game” strategy — campaigning, legislating, restructuring the government (e.g., eliminating the filibuster). What they say largely makes sense. But absent an effective “outside game,” the gains achieved with their efforts will be sorely limited and fragile. Witness 2010.

We need massive, inclusive, democratic grassroots movements that unite occasionally to support timely, top priority issues and persist until they win. In this way, we can build enough power to persuade Congress to respect the will of the people. 

To cultivate that political unity, we need profound personal, social, and cultural change of the sort that Ezra has addressed at times, especially in his conversations with and about Elizabeth Anderson. In particular, we need to learn how to really respect everyone’s essential equality and democratize our entire society, including creating new social structures, some of which would involve formal interaction with elected officials.

The discussion about Organizing for America and Bernie’s vision of “sending his people into Kentucky” and Dan’s idea of “sending a bunch of organizers” to lobby was woefully inadequate. That top-down approach is not democratic, and we need more democracy.”

–Wade Lee Hudson

+++++

Draft Declaration for Holistic Democracy – 3/12/20

Holistic Democracy

“Professor of Educational Policy, Democracy and Leadership at the University of Hertfordshire in England, Philip Woods offers a comprehensive worldview — holistic democracy — that complements Elizabeth Anderson’s democratic equality. Though focused on educational institutions, his perspective can be applied throughout society. Woods’ contributions are extremely valuable, but he seems to overlook that not all conflicts are “win-win” and his idiosyncratic definition of “ideology” is questionable….”

READ MORE

Joe Biden Affirms Equality

Joe Biden Affirms Equality

For months, as in my September 2019 and October 2019 blog posts, I’ve expressed frustration that the Democratic Party candidates for President never affirmed the essential equality of all human beings. It has been my belief that doing so would be both ethical and strategic — a way for a candidate to connect with voters and counter the charge of Democratic Party elitism — a way to affirm values that undergird concern about economics and other justice issues — a way to help establish and clarify a culture that stands over against the dominant culture, and thereby prepare the soil for more effective grassroots movements.

So I was glad to hear Joe Biden, in his victory speech tonight, declare: “This is a battle for the soul of America…. Once again fight for the proposition that we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…. But we’ve never fully lived up to it….I believe with every fiber of my being that all men and women are created equal.”

Now I hope that some or all of the other candidates will do the same.

Draft Declaration for Evolutionary Transformation – 2/29/20 

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. Currently, this movement is primarily cultural; many seeds are being planted to advance these principles. We urge the development of more 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 opponents; 
  • 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, recognize the value of visionary campaigns focused on goals not yet supported by strong majorities, and engage in nonviolent civil disobedience and consumer 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 help transform their nation into a compassionate community rooted in healthy families that:
    • establishes everyone’s equal rights and their equality under the law;
    • one way or the other, assures everyone a meaningful, living-wage job opportunity and provides a non-poverty income for those unable to take advantage of those opportunities or entitled to retire;
    • cultivates shared leadership, assists the development of worker-owned businesses, and supports labor unions and worker representation on boards of directors;
    • protects free speech, makes it easy for everyone to vote, reinforces the rule of law, and defends individuals’ freedom to engage in activities that don’t deny freedom to others; 
    • stops global warming and lives in harmony with the natural environment;
    • ends animal cruelty;
    • 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, using specific tools such as those included in the Systemopedia, 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. 

+++++

NOTE: Feedback welcome. My latest draft will always be here (with its date in the title). Feel free to take it, modify it, 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 Open Topic Dialog: A Way to Cultivate Democracy

In San Francisco and Austria, recent successful experiments with the Open Topic Dialog format have been encouraging. You’re invited to experiment with this mechanism. 

These dialogs nurture democratic equality, democratic dialog, and respect for others’ equal value as a human being. The hope is that others will adopt this format as a way to enrich lives and prepare the soil for more effective, compassionate, grassroots movements. Following are the format’s guidelines:

Open Topic Dialog

A conversation group based on the “talking stick” principle. Enter a safe, respectful space, speak from the heart, and express what’s on your mind. It’s an opportunity to talk, listen, learn and brainstorm with others.

  • The person holding the “stick,” which may be any object, speaks for up to two minutes without interruption.
  • The speaker then passes the stick to someone who raises their hand, who responds to the previous speaker and then perhaps takes the discussion to another topic. 
  • Speakers can use their two minutes to ask a clarifying question (and may interrupt the answer).
  • The Timekeeper convenes the dialog, reviews the guidelines, selects the first speaker randomly if more than one person wants to speak first, sets a timer when each person begins speaking, facilitates the selection of the next Timekeeper, and adjourns the dialog. At the end of each dialog, the Timekeeper facilitates the selection of the Timekeeper for the next dialog — or continues to
  • that role. 
  • People with mobility difficulties can ask someone to give the stick to the next speaker. Everyone is encouraged to: 
  • be respectful and avoid personal attacks or name-calling; 
  • avoid going back and forth repeatedly with the same person, and;
  • call on people who haven’t spoken or spoken less and perhaps ask: Does anyone who hasn’t spoken wish to speak?

With this approach, the Dialog is horizontal, self-regulating, peer-to-peer, leaderless, and leaderfull. Everyone is a leader. Each Dialog can become self-perpetuating. Any group can easily learn and adopt the Dialog format.

Existing organizations can supplement their current activities by scheduling a Dialog to enable their members to get to better know each other, share whatever emerges, and perhaps explore issues related to their organization’s work that emerge spontaneously. When in the course of their normal business an organization becomes “stuck” with members not really listening to each other, it can be helpful to pause and conduct a Dialog, which can help members better appreciate different perspectives. Individuals who don’t belong to the same organization can invite friends and relatives to form a Dialog as a way for individuals with various perspectives to communicate and better understand each other.

There’s no pre-defined specific agenda. The focus is simply to “speak from the heart, and express what’s on your mind.” The only content that’s prohibited is “personal attacks or name-calling.” This open-ended focus encourages spontaneity and authenticity — and allows for unexpected issues to emerge, such as a timely current event or recent personal experience. The participants may, however, end up focusing on a specific topic.

This format enables participants to practice listening and respecting each other, which encourages the development of those skills. It’s not “therapy” and it’s not problem-solving. There’s no commitment to try to “fix” anything. Nevertheless, the Dialog may prove to be “therapeutic.” The talking stick gives everyone a voice — a chance to speak freely and be heard without interruption, which cultivates self-empowerment. 

Being asked to respond to the previous speaker encourages listening and dialog (an exchange of ideas on a topic). Nevertheless, participants are free to change the topic if they wish. Clarifying questions should be honest questions, not rhetorical or argumentative. Speakers are free to disagree respectfully. 

Each participant is equally responsible for the conduct of the group. The two-minute time limit helps assure everyone has a fair chance to participate. The Timekeeper is merely a functionary.  Anyone can perform that easy-to-perform role, which rotates from time to time. Each Dialog can determine the frequency and length of its meetings. It seems 5-12 is a good number of participants. A group of more than twelve can divide into two groups.

There’s no need to go through a time-consuming decision-making process to decide on what to talk about. There’s no decision-making process led by one person or a few persons. Everyone has an equal voice. There’s no trained facilitator. Anyone can initiate a Dialog, make copies of the guidelines, and serve as the first Timekeeper. 

According to the wikipedia, many aborignal tribes, especially Native Amerians, have used the talking stick as an “instrument of democracy”. According to the First People site:

The Talking Stick is used…when a council is called. It allows all council members to present their Sacred Point of View…. Only the person holding the stick is allowed to speak…. Every member of the meeting must listen closely… Indian children are taught to listen from age three forward; they are also taught to respect another’s viewpoint…. Since each piece of material used in the Talking Stick speaks of the personal Medicine of the stick owner, each stick will be different…. The Talking Stick is the tool that teaches each of us to honor the Sacred Point of View of every living creature.

The Open Topic Dialog is not based on this spiritual understanding, though we honor it. We express our gratitude to Native Americans for developing this tool, which we adapt. We encourage others to use it to conduct Open Topic Dialogs as a way to cultivate democracy.

Wade Lee Hudson
2/22/2020