Report on “Americans for Humanity: A Declaration” – 1/30/19

A prominent author, editor, and activist wrote:

I’ve been going back through our past e-mail exchanges. A quick check. I am assuming that you wrote both of these pieces. Is that correct?

https://www.transformthesystem.org/commitment/

https://www.transformthesystem.org/blog-1/2018/7/30/your-privilege-is-showing

…If you are the author of this material, you are a person I want to know and would welcome the opportunity to explore with you your strategy for engaging the world in the discussions you seek to foster. I suspect that writing declarations or manifestos may not be the best way to proceed.

I replied:

I just now saw your email, which is very encouraging. Yes, holding you in very high regard, I would welcome the opportunity for us to get to know each other and explore strategies for engaging the world. I see “Americans for Humanity: A Declaration” or some similar brief manifesto merely as a first step. Soon I plan to review New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World — and How to Make It Work for You by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Tims. When I read it months ago, I was very impressed….

We plan a Skype call tomorrow.

A prominent academic and activist wrote:

This is great! I could sign it if it were edited to qualify the language in the item that references pressuring the government to implement policies supported by “strong majorities” so that we are *explicitly* here talking about “dignity-based,” “humanity-based” or otherwise valued-aligned policies backed by strong majorities. As you know, majorities are sometimes part of the problem in a democratic society (as regards unpopular or vulnerable minorities).

I replied:

Great to hear. Good point about majorities. Previously I’ve qualified the idea with “compassionate,” but overlooked the issue this time. Does that work? That word is used elsewhere only once, so using it here would not be too redundant. It would read: pressures Washington to implement compassionate policies supported by strong majorities of the American people.

A young, dynamic grassroots activist wrote:

I think this is amazing. It should be turned into a sticker or postcard people can use.

I replied:

Good to hear. Great idea. I’ll share it with a respondent who offered to help with graphics. Maybe the three of us will be able to collaborate if and when the Declaration is final and goes live.

Another activist responded:

Thanks for continuing to work on this. This is exactly the kind of document that would be affixed to the wall of a meeting or community room for an organization I’d actually be inspired to join. However, just seeing the document itself would not be sufficient for me to have confidence that the organization truly lives by these ideals….

A long-term associate from the East Coast commented:

Wade, I’ve put suggested additions or replacements in caps and deletions in brackets. My hesitation in responding to this declaration is that i have a full plate and, though i can send emails or info, I don’t see room for additional activism….

I replied:

I substituted “accomplishments” for “gains.” Thanks. But the other suggestions don’t quite work for me. I included all of your suggestions in the Log, however, so maybe others will second some of them.

A long-term prominent peace activist and author commented:

I would be happy to sign it, but would strongly encourage that we include something like commit to living in a world where  the US ends all the wars and threats of wars the US is involved in around the world and sign and agrees to the abide by the international treaty to abolish all nuclear weapons from the face of the earth, and agree to commit to solving all disputes by mediation, negotiation and justice for all parties in all conflicts.

International relations is an important issue, so email this led to a series of exchanges. The latest draft of the declaration now includes:

nurtures supportive relationships with other countries, backs their right to self-determination, and encourages the peaceful resolution of conflicts with mediation and negotiation.

A long-term correspondent wrote:

I don’t agree with every word but every word isn’t important to me.  We’re kindred spirits who desire to live our lives in accord with life-affirming principles like these.  I understand that you want to organize people around peace and love and fairness in this declaration. I’m grateful to know you and be in a circle of people that values these principles.   I support you and would sign this statement without change…. I’m planning a trip to CA around September to bury my father-in-laws ashes in Salinas. Perhaps we can get together then?

Another long-term activist emailed:

These are of course wonderful aspirations for a sane world! I am glad to sign, but can’t do anything else.

Another respondent commented:

Maybe missing more on the link between the way we treat the environment and each other, but it’s a good start! And I would sign it. Thanks for pursuing this project.

I replied:

I’m glad you would sign and appreciate the appreciation. I made a note on “The Case for “Americans for Humanity: A Declaration about your good point: “Maybe missing more on the link between the way we treat the environment and each other.”

I’m sending this report to the 28 of the 32 respondents who expressed strong interest in the project (most of the others were supportive but too busy to participate now). All comments and my responses are included in the Declaration Dialog Log. The latest draft will always be Americans for Humanity: A Declaration.

The response so far heartens me considerably. Many seasoned activists and several academics have offered strong support. Thanks again to all of you, including those who suggested changes that have helped improve the declaration. I’ll be back in touch soon.

Democrats, Border Walls, and Social Polarization

As Lilliana Mason reports in her shocking, disturbing Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became our Identity (2018), many scientific studies prove that human beings are afflicted with a deep-seated instinct to polarize into highly competitive, mean-spirited tribes. Emotions rooted in the body associated with politics and sports are remarkably similar. Those powerful feelings, often unconscious, can distort reality and undermine ethical behavior. Winning becomes primary, consequences secondary.

In order to win, polarized tribes will sacrifice their own self-interest as well as the needs of others. Tribal members enjoy seeing opponents suffer even if they themselves don’t benefit. Their unconscious bias results in destructive discrimination and produces a self-reinforcing downward spiral. Rather than reach agreement on how to relieve suffering, they prefer to fight win-or-lose symbolic, ideological battles over abstractions like “the government,” “capitalism,” or “the wall.” Meanwhile four percent of the world’s children die by the age of five and the planet is burning up.

Mason argues that both Republicans and Democrats are examples.

Clearly, for Donald Trump, winning is everything, regardless of consequences. He will do anything to claim victory, even if the claim is false. He’s the ultimate polarizer. His motivations are transparent.

But Democrats are prone to the same weaknesses, as reflected in how they have handled the the government shutdown and the Kavanagh hearings. They also can be too dedicated to winning the next election, without enough regard for consequences.

Concerning the shutdown that’s inflicting serious harm, the Democratic response to Trump’s demand for “a wall” has been “no wall,” resulting in a zero-sum battle that leaves little room for compromise. As summed up by Vox.com:

Democrats are refusing to give Trump the political win…. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said “no wall” — not now, not ever — she meant it….  It’s a symbol of Trump’s political ascension…. Pelosi says Democrats will never vote for “the wall.”… [She said] a wall is an immorality…. As long as Trump’s “wall” — the campaign rallying cry — is the centerpiece of the White House’s border security demand, don’t expect Democrats to engage.  [Many Democrats] have said they would never vote for another mile of fencing.

Over the past two years, [for Trump] the wall has become “see-through” and perhaps less contiguous…. To Trump, it’s all a wall…. For Democrats, that’s the problem.

Democrats are vehemently opposed to a border wall not necessarily because they oppose physical barriers along the border, but because backing it would be seen as the equivalent of backing one of Trump’s racist campaign promises.

A more rational position for the Democrats to have taken would have been:

We’ve voted for scattered steel fences before. We might vote for more in the future. But we will not negotiate the issue during a government shutdown. And we oppose 230 miles of more steel fences.

But if enough Democrats oppose funding for even one more mile of fencing, they may have the power to block any compromise on this issue, as the Freedom Caucus has held sway in the Republican Party.

The mainstream media profit by aggravating this conflict with superficial reports that focus on “the wall” vs. “no wall.” To my knowledge, neither the Times, the Post, the network news, nor the Newshour have reported on this issue with the depth and detail it requires.

Now, in his Jan. 19 televised address, Trump said, “To physically secure our border, the plan includes $5.7 billion for a strategic deployment of physical barriers, or a wall. This is not a 2,000 mile concrete structure from sea to sea. These are steel barriers in high priority locations.” With this move, he may have given the Democrats an offer it will be hard from them to accept without contradicting their no-wall absolutism.  

Commenting on this shift, Robert Kuttner said, “He has already back-pedaled on his demand for a literal concrete wall. In the endgame, he can term a mix of electronic surveillance and some actual barriers a ‘wall,’ and declare victory.” But will the Democrats backpedal too?

The Kavanagh hearings are another example of Democrats prioritizing electoral victories and disregarding human costs. Shortly after the hearings, in “Why Didn’t the Democrats Stop the Nomination?” I wrote:

If the Democrats had hammered away at the many lies told by Kavanaugh under oath, they may have stopped the nomination…. But they didn’t. So the network news, including PBS, hardly touched on [that issue] during the days leading up to the vote. Why didn’t the Democrats concentrate on the lies? One possibility is that the focus on sexual assault…will bring more women to the polls. …If that scenario is accurate and it helps the Democrats next month to win an overwhelming majority in the House … were those tactics justified?

Also suspicious was Senator Dianne Feinstein’s holding on to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s letter  charging Kavanagh with sexual assault, rather than giving it to the FBI before their confidential background check closed. Some Democrats have acknowledged that decision gave Republicans fodder to accuse the Democrats of playing dirty tricks by using the issue as an “ace in the hole.”

Moreover, the Democrats did not pass on to Dr. Ford the Republicans’ offer to go to California to interview her privately. When the committee asked her if that offer had been communicated to her, she replied, “I just appreciate that you did offer that. I wasn’t clear on what the offer was. If you were going to come out to see me, I would have happily hosted you and … been happy to speak with you out there.”

As it turned out, the hearings proved to be a public spectacle and, according to post-election analysis, they did help the Democrats win suburban districts and take back the House. Was the suffering and danger inflicted on Dr. Ford worth gaining that edge?

If one or both of the major political parties splinter, that development could open the door to more bipartisan compromise. Militant factions could still push to get more support for their minority positions. But bipartisan majorities could better enact supermajority opinions. That’s how democracy is supposed to work. Otherwise, irrational battles are likely to continue and may worsen.

The Republicans, the Democrats, and the media are products of the System. The upward mobility escalator — and efforts to be “a star” and dominate “inferiors” — nurture bias, discrimination, and scapegoating. Rather than admitting points of agreement and compromising, winning is more important.

In the meantime, our best hope may be for a popular movement that helps people transcend the System’s conditioning. As is the case with racial implicit bias, a strong commitment to self-awareness and conscious self-control can help reverse divisiveness.

As Mason puts it, “the power of winning is very strong,” but we can learn to “enjoy our own social-group identities without wishing harm upon others.” By enhancing self-esteem, positive self-images, and peer support, we can liberate our higher angels.

Declaration Dialog

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

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

What do you think of this option? Suggested changes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To sign, click here

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NOTES:

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

The American Dream, Redefined

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOTE: Excerpts from Political Tribes are posted here.

Americans for Humanity

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

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

I support the growth of a popular movement that:

  • Serves humanity, the environment, and life itself.

  • Fully represents and gives voice to the American people.

  • Helps transform the United States into a compassionate community.

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

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

  • Aims to get big money out of politics.

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

  • Supports individual rights and the rule of law.

  • Nurtures democracy throughout society.

  • Promotes partnerships that empower people.

  • Respects the essential equality of all human beings.

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

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

  • Opposes efforts to dominate others due to their identity.

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

  • Channels anger productively.

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

  • Encourages members to:

    • improve their emotional reactions;

    • engage in honest self-examination;

    • support each other with their personal and spiritual growth;

    • avoid oppressive or disrespectful behavior.

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

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

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

Transforming the World: A Scenario

Dedicated to humanity, the environment, and life itself, the Purple Alliance pushes for new national policies that are supported by a majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

As part of the Earth Community, the Alliance promotes democracy, respects the rights of individuals, opposes the tyranny of the majority, and pushes political parties to back proposals that have supermajority backing while also pursuing their other principles.

The Alliance affirms the value of compassionate personal identities based on political party, ideology, theology, nation, race, gender, geography, or other factors. At the same time, the Alliance encourages strong identification as a member of the human family.

From this perspective, the Alliance promotes the nonviolent transform-the-world movement, opposes one group disrespecting or dominating another group based on superficial characteristics, and supports the use of force to restrain people who violate the rights of others….

Read more.

Global Transformation: A Vision

The transform-the-world movement serves humanity, the environment, and life itself. In each country, movements attend to the interests of their country — and cooperate with movements in other countries to pursue global interests. To protect themselves from powerful, selfish, global financial forces, they support strong nation-states.

In the United States, the movement promotes the general welfare and aims to more fully realize America’s highest ideals — political equality, human rights, and popular rule.

The movement encourages identifying as a member of the human family, affirms other compassionate identities, grows communities whose members help each other become better human beings, nurtures power-sharing partnerships throughout society, appreciates individual accomplishment, and recognizes the need for leadership.

The movement Includes a purple alliance that backs improvements in national policy supported by a majority of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats. The alliance organizes popular support for these proposals, presses local officials and corporations to endorse them, conducts boycotts and nonviolent civil disobedience as needed to gain support, and back candidates who support the alliance.

The focus on winnable demands enables the alliance to build momentum by winning victories, which opens up new possibilities. Hope for deeper reforms increases. To more fully empower individuals and communities, the movement develops new structures and reforms existing structures with measures such as:.

  • Limit the influence of big money on politics with public financing that provides a six dollar match for every individual small donation.
  • Establish voting by mail throughout the country.
  • Require large corporations to get a federal charter that obligates them to: 1) serve the public interest as well as earn a profit, and; 2) allow their employees to elect members to the board of directors.
  • Develop more worker-owned business.
  • Make Medicare available to all.
  • Make affordable, quality child care available to all.
  • Require states to establish independent commissions to draw lines for Congressional districts.
  • Require all Congresspersons and Senators to participate in a monthly two-hour public forum on the second Saturday at 12 Noon for constituents to make comments or ask questions on any topic.
  • Require all police departments to cooperate with civilian review boards that hold the power to impose discipline.
  • Encourage social service agencies to work with client councils that help manage their agency.

To increase individual and community empowerment, the movement includes a network of small teams whose members support each other with their self-development. These teams have two things in common: 1) members endorse the movement’s mission — to serve humanity, the environment, and life itself — and; 2) once a month members briefly report to one another on their self-improvement efforts.

The network of support circles includes previously organized groups — such as book clubs and  committees affiliated with existing organizations — as well as friends, relatives, and individual members of organizations who form teams and join the network.

The personal reports are confidential and each member defines their own goals. The reports may be communicated at the beginning of a previously scheduled meeting or during an informal gathering, such as a meal. Each team may or may not engage in additional activities designed to nurture personal development.

With these methods, the movement advances evolutionary revolution and moves steadily toward transforming the world into a compassionate community dedicated to the common good of all humanity, the environment, and life itself.

 

Originally posted here.

Transform the System Newsletter (please subscribe)

Transforming the System
By Wade Lee Hudson

Dear Subscriber: I haven’t posted here recently because I concentrated on the booklet and website discussed in this post. To stay in touch, please subscribe to the Transform the System Newsletter.

Personal, social, cultural, and political changes headed in the same direction are contributing to social transformation. Self-empowerment, community support, cultural shifts, and political action are reinforcing each other. No one predicted legislatures would adopt gay marriage so quickly, the Florida legislature would pass a gun control bill, or the West Virginia teachers would win their strike. Evolutionary revolution is underway.

The March for Our Lives, #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, teacher strikes, Poor People’s Campaign, self-help, holistic spirituality, democratic management, and public-benefit corporation movements are examples of emerging transformative change. Donald Trump exposed an unhealthy side of the American character, especially with how he treats people. In so doing, he provoked a growing affirmation of America’s higher ideals.

The Florida high school students who initiated March for Our Lives are particularly encouraging. They focused on demands already embraced by strong majorities of the American people. They involved diverse communities. At their D.C. rally, they limited the length of speeches and included powerful musical presentations. They focused on an important tactic: the ballot box.

In addition, when a mini-counter movement, #WalkUpNotWalkOut, called on students to befriend alienated peers rather than join school walkouts, one of the March for Our Lives leaders, David Hogg, embraced that campaign and replied, “#WalkUpAndWalkOut.” And when Fox News host Laura Ingraham insulted Hogg on air, he called on major companies to withdraw their Fox News advertising, and many did. Significantly, he didn’t focus on himself. He criticized her for routinely insulting others. In those two instances, he demonstrated sensitivity to how we treat each other, a very important issue.

The formation of ongoing multi-issue alliances could help realize the blooming potential. Alliance members can briefly support one another at key moments while continuing to work on their primary issue. Together we accomplish more than we can fragmented. With greater unity, we will gain momentum. build critical mass, reform social structures, and make our society more democratic. America will renew itself.

A systemic worldview that addresses root causes and clarifies how issues are interconnected can help build unity. To contribute to that process, with aid from many colleagues, I wrote Transform the System: A Work in Progress, created the TransformTheSystem.org website, and invite people to work together to advance transformation.

Transform the System: A Work in Progress argues that our institutions, our culture, and each of as individuals are woven into a self-perpetuating social system, the System. The System’s driving force is the pursuit of more wealth, status, and power over others. Climbing those ladders usually involves looking down on those below — and feeling inferior to or resenting those above. Though the culture is shifting, most Americans still spend most of their time dominating or submitting. Children submit to parents, students submit to teachers, workers submit to bosses, and wives submit to husbands. People assume someone must always be in charge.

If we transform our nation into a compassionate community dedicated to the welfare of all humanity, our own people, the environment, and life itself, we will achieve systemic transformation. Achieving that mission will involve creating new institutions and reforming existing institutions, our culture, and ourselves.  

New ways of organizing political action can help with that effort. Activists tend to focus on getting others to do what they, the activists, want them to do. They rarely engage in critical self-examination, acknowledge mistakes, resolve not to repeat them, and support one another in those self-improvement efforts. They focus on behavior, the outer world, and neglect inner experience. That approach undermines effectiveness.

A common problem is arrogance. People tend to resist activists telling them what to do. Some activists receive training on how to talk to potential supporters, but they rarely receive training on how to talk with them.

There’s no need for anyone to dictate to others how they need to change. Self-development is most fruitful when individuals define their own goals. But providing mutual support for self-defined personal growth can enhance effectiveness.

Personal, social, cultural, and political change are equally important. It’s not a matter of which comes first or which is most important. The more we change the world, the more we change. The more we change, the more we change the world. Each reinforces the other.

Widespread agreement on a systemic worldview could speed up change and help grow massive grassroots movements that push for compassionate changes in national policy backed by overwhelming majorities of the American people.

When we unite and fully activate our better angels, we will achieve systemic transformation. When that will happen can’t be predicted. All we can do is take the next step. But our day is coming. The wind is at our backs.

NOTE: Transform the System: A Work in Progress is free online, where you can comment publicly at the end of each chapter, and available on Amazon for $4. To stay in touch, please subscribe to the Transform the System Newsletter. For more information, visit TransformTheSystem.org.

 

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.