Liberating Our Inner Hunter-Gatherer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The wikipedia says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regardless, I stand by the main point:

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

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



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

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

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

Nurture love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The problem is the System.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Violence breeds violence.
Violence corrupts.
Violent victors oppress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Wade’s Wire Subscriber:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Teams have three things in common. Members:

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

Those shared experiences cultivate a spirit of community.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

I greatly appreciate your interest.

Thanks again,



Feedback Please, New Booklet (11/3 Draft)

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

To offer input, please use the survey at by Thursday, November 16. (Comments here or via email are also welcome).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dialog with Van Jones

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

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

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

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

He replied, “I’m for it.”

The Truth is Even Messier

Van Jones’ beautiful new book, Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together, is an important masterpiece. Interspersing compelling narratives about his personal life, it calls on liberals and conservatives to more fully respect and understand one another. If they do, he convincingly argues, they can find common ground and make positive improvements on numerous issues, including criminal justice reform, the addiction crisis, training disadvantaged youth for tech jobs, and promoting green jobs in poor rural and urban communities.

He makes a persuasive case that traditional conservative values hold merit, as do liberal values. But elite partisans on both sides have distorted those values with narrow dogmatism. By setting those dogmas aside, a “bottom-up bipartisanship” can counter that neoliberal “top-down bipartisanship” that has caused so much damage in recent decades.

The result has been great frustration and resentment among the white working class, which the Democratic Party has largely ignored and often disrespected. That neglect led to the successful left-populism of Bernie Sanders and the right-populist rhetoric of Donald Trump, which helped him win the White House — aided by what Van calls the “dirty right,” which includes white supremacists and neo-Nazis who, along with Trump, fanned the flames of racism. Van’s “greatest fear” is the growing strength of that dirty right. He calls on true conservatives to denounce those groups forcefully.

According to Van, the way forward to a positive, proactive grassroots movement that unites Americans “across the board” is a patriotic affirmation of core American values: all are created equal, and liberty and justice for all. Conservatives have emphasized liberty. Liberals have focused on justice. Van says we need both.

I agree with what Van has to say in this book, with two exceptions. One problem I have is with his total embrace of “American exceptionalism.” America is no more unique than other nations and it is not unequaled in terms of its positive qualities. The World Happiness Report, published by the United Nations, ranks nations. In 2017 the United States ranked 14th overall — only because it was 9th in GDP per person. On every other measure, the U.S. ranked much lower. And its overall score had declined since the previous report. Humility on the world stage is in order.

The book’s most serious flaw, as I see it, is its unequivocal affirmation of the upward-mobility template that is reproduced through our society (and contributes to the mythology of American exceptionalism). That template nurtures hyper-individualism, extreme competition, the desire to dominate “inferiors,” and the willingness to submit to “superiors.” Requiring the poor to climb out of poverty is no way to eliminate the human and social costs that are inflicted by poverty.

That upward-mobility requirement fails to honor the principle of equality that Van highlights. We will not have equal opportunity so long as some people must climb a ladder to make ends meet and others do not. If privileged youth have guaranteed economic security, so should everyone.

Even if we eliminate unfair discrimination, offer compensatory education and training to poor children, and provide community support, as Van recommends, we still will not have equality before the law.

Worse yet, equalizing the opportunity to climb out of poverty will not end poverty so long as the federal government creates unemployment and poverty by limiting the number of living-wage jobs — in order to protect the creditor class from unexpected inflation, which eats away at their assets. The result of that policy is an inadequate number of jobs at the top of those ladders.

Moreover, so long as the goal of upward mobility is to climb higher so you can look down on and dominate those below, we will not have an egalitarian society. Rather we’ll have one based on achieving “superiority.” Van does not address that dominate-or-submit dynamic. Meritocracy — a system in which individuals are rewarded based on ability rather than class privilege — is not democracy.

The notion of having to climb ladders is a zero-sum concept. The assumption is that if you get ahead, I fall behind. A better solution is to affirm another founding American principle: promote the general welfare, which is included in the Preamble to the Constitution. If you thrive, I thrive.

Distributing federal revenue sharing funds to local governments, a conservative principle, to assure everyone a guaranteed living-wage job opportunity would help close the inequality gap. Then those who want to climb a social ladder could do so, but they would not be compelled to do so in order to live decently. A deep commitment to equality and love requires that we do no less.

But Beyond the Messy Truth barely talks about love. It affirms “love of nation,” briefly refers to Christians who embrace love, and asks those who are secular to respect Christians and other spiritual people. But it does not explicitly urge secular people to make a deep commitment to compassion in their daily life.

The book does say, “You can’t lead people you don’t love,” but the next sentence basically reduces love to “respect,” which is the primary theme of the book. It focuses on how political activists need to respect one another, but it does not deal with how all Americans need to respect one another throughout society and nurture collaborative teams whose members treat one another as equals.

The #LoveArmy, Van’s latest project, takes a more comprehensive and profound approach. That project is “a network of people committed to revolutionary love. We grow love + power through education, connection, and action. Together, we are building a nation where everyone matters and every vote counts.” Its core principles affirm:

  • We need each other. Listen with empathy, speak authentically,…
  • We recognize that our challenges are intertwined and that being united is our biggest strength….
  • Learn from mistakes, get better every time….
  • Relationship and community are the foundation of change. Call each other up – not out. Healthy competition has its place but cooperation is more often what we need….
  • Strive to be better. Trust yourself.

That affirmation of love, cooperation, mutual support, and ongoing self-development is powerful and critical.

Beyond the Messy Truth is an extremely valuable contribution that aims to help us “begin to come together, in a new way,” as Van envisions. The book points us in the right direction. Hopefully, the #LoveArmy will help us take more steps down that path toward fundamental social transformation.

Love Army Forum Convenes

For the first time in my life, I found myself with a sizeable group of political activists willing to be open and honest about personal failings and mistakes and committed to ongoing self-development as well as pragmatic and visionary political action. I felt like I had found a home. It was last night at a #LoveArmy forum convened by Anjali Sawhney in San Francisco.

Some Thrive East Bay events I’ve been to recently have also been rewarding. But this one seemed to hit even closer to the center of my heart.

The fifteen participants included:

  • An African-American man who said he can have civil conversations with racists.
  • An African-American man who said he aims to handle troublesome behavior like water off a duck’s back, while saying “That’s his problem.”
  • A white mediator who convened a number of virtual dialogues between liberals and conservatives prior to the last Presidential election.
  • A white social-service worker who decided after struggling with it not to label Trump supporters “irredeemable” and “deplorable” but still believes it’s important to “call them out” for noxious behavior.
  • A white man from Iowa struggling with trying to understand his friends and relatives back home who have troubling opinions.
  • An African-American man who’s helping to organize a “million-man” march on Washington of formerly incarcerated individuals in three years.

During introductions, when I expressed my passion, Anjali responded, “Wow. That’s really in line with our mission.” That felt good. As I left, she said she hopes to participate in my November 9 book club discussion of the new book by the #LoveArmy founder, Van Jones. I left with a warm glow and a free copy of his book, Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together.

My main reservation about the forum was a feeling that some of the participants may worship Van too much. He’s very compassionate, charismatic, wise, sharp, articulate, and quick. Partly because I’ve had some good connections with him in the past, I trust him and hold him in very high regard, though I haven’t agreed with everything’s he’s said. But our experience with Barack should remind us: no one will be our Savior. No one is perfect. Submission is always problematic. We, the people, must be leader-full.

The experience with Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition illustrates another point: structure matters. How to organize a democratic grassroots movement is not easy. A balance between centralization and decentralization is essential. Representatives from the grassroots need to have a real voice with the national office, without paralyzing it. I look forward to hearing what Van and his team think about this issue.

In the meantime, I’ll read Van’s book quickly and take note of points with which I disagree. It’ll be interesting to see how many there are. Reading it may prompt me to modify extensively the booklet I’m writing, Transform the World with Holistic Politics: Grow Supportive Communities . But I suspect his book will only help me improve my work.

My New Booklet

For fifty years, my life has been dedicated to advancing fundamental social change by trying to help organize communities whose members both support one another in their self-development and engage in political action together. Some of those efforts to “integrate the personal and the political” have been more successful than others.

I’ve also self-published two books, Global Transformation: Strategy for Action and My Search for Deep Community: An Autobiography. Those books were essentially first drafts that I circulated quickly to get feedback to help improve my thinking before composing briefer, more marketable books.

Now I’m summing up my conclusions in a small booklet, whose working title is “Transform the World with Holistic Politics: Grow Compassionate Communities.”

I hope to find a publisher that will help market and distribute the book. Now that I’m retired from part-time cab driving, I could also promote the book myself.

Until I finish a solid draft of that declaration, I may not be posting much of my own writing here. When I do have a complete draft, I will periodically post segments here and seek feedback.

Keeping faith,

Glide 2.0

This morning I wake up thinking about a proposal that I might present to the new Lead Pastor at Glide Church, Rev. Jay Williams, Ph.D. I’ve been to Glide Celebrations a few times recently, but have not heard Pastor Jay preach. However, I did like the statement he made at the recent Interfaith Gathering Against Hate at Temple Emanu-El. And I appreciate that he had his two co-pastors join him at the podium there and introduced them as fellow team members. Teams are good. And I like what I heard and experienced at those Glide Celebrations, which attracts people from throughout the world. So, hopeful that his team and the Glide Community would be receptive to my ideas concerning holistic politics, I complete the following draft:

Glide Church
Global Transformation Project
9/3/17 Draft

At each Celebration and in other ways Glide Church invites people who affirm a brief Statement of Principles (not yet written) to organize or join a local 12-person Global Transformation Team whose members meet at least once a month to:
+Share a meal.
+Report to one another on the following questions:
++What have I been doing to become a better person?
++What will I be doing to become a better person?
++What have I been doing to help improve my nation’s public policies?
++What will I be doing to help improve my nation’s public policies?
+Plan activities for some or all team members to engage in prior to the next team meeting. Possibilities include but are not limited to social, recreational, political, and cultural activities.

NEXT STEP: Form a Glide study group to consider this proposal and, perhaps, draft the Statement of Principles.

Drafted by:
Wade Hudson

Recently my writing had focused on the United States, but as I thought about Glide’s global reach, I shifted back to Global Transformation, the title of the 2007 book I wrote in Tepoztlan, Mexico. Though I was not ignoring global issues in the “Transform America” booklet I was writing, a broader focus seems called for. So I print the Glide Church proposal, place it in an envelope, and head out.

Then, at the conclusion of his excellent sermon, Pastor Jay reports that the new pastoral team will be initiating a serious, strategic planning process to shape Glide’s future. Three points in his report strike me. He emphasizes that it will be highly collaborative, the whole congregation will work on it together. He refers to a commitment to “justice for all.” And he says the scope of the planning will be “international.” Talk about synchronicity!! It sure feels that way to me.

After the service, I approach Pastor Jay.
We embrace warmly.
I say, “Great sermon. And I liked your statement at the Interfaith Gathering Against Hate.”
“Thank you.”
“I didn’t know about the strategic planning process but I woke up this morning with some ideas about a Glide project.”
“So it seems we’re on the same wavelength.”
“I was an Intern Minister here in 1970 and for the last several years I’ve been a member of the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples.”
“Yes, Howard Thurman’s church.”
“I’ve been coming here for a month or so and would like to get involved in the planning and printed out some ideas. Should I give you a copy now?”
“Yes, great.”
I give him the envelope and, after another warm embrace, go to Room 201 to become an official member of Glide Church.

Systemic, Holistic Thinking

In “What Makes a Terrorist?” Nafees Hamid presents a particularly clear argument for systemic analysis and a holistic perspective on what leads jihadist terrorists to engage in terrorism.

He argues:

The greatest difficulty for our ability to understand and respond to terrorism and radicalization is linear thinking. Arguing that radicalization is caused by poverty because most modern jihadists come from marginalized neighborhoods is the same flawed logic as arguing that radicalization is caused by Islam because jihadists are all Muslims. Even combining Islam and marginalization as risk factors doesn’t get us far, as only a fraction of a percentage of marginalized Muslims join jihadist groups. One can add many more factors and still end up with the same dilemma. Trying to find a root cause of radicalization is doomed from the start because it assumes a single, linear chain of causation.

Instead, it is better to think of radicalization as a phenomenon in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Multiple factors interact in complex ways that cause radicalization to emerge in individual people and groups. As with other complex systems, such as ecosystems, removing one factor does not cause the system to collapse but instead to evolve in ways that may be positive or negative.

…Radicalization is a complex system that cannot be reduced to its individual factors. International conflicts, social networks, community, ideology, and individual vulnerabilities all combine to let radicalization emerge. Some of these factors may be more volatile, such as individual personalities, while others are more stable, such as social networks. But only a holistic view of this phenomenon can provide the understanding needed for designing policies to counter the pull of extremist groups.

His approach applies to other issues as well.