NOTE: Following is the latest draft of the Preface for a booklet, tentatively titled “Transform the System,” which is a work-in-progress. I welcome feedback. To review the projected contents, click here.


Imagine. Forty adults enjoy a picnic on a riverbank. They see small children floating downstream and dive in to save them from drowning, but can rescue only half of them.

A man on a raft passes by and reports that one mile upstream a giant monster is throwing children into the river. He estimates it would take twenty adults to subdue the monster.

The party proceeds to discuss what what path to take through the thick jungle alongside the river.  Unable to agree, twenty return to rescuing children, five meditate or pray, five return to eating and drinking, and ten go after the monster. But when the activists find the monster, they can only slow him down.

That scenario is a metaphor for our current situation. If we, the people, united, we could improve national policies and greatly alleviate suffering and injustice. But we’re fragmented, without the power we need.


At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Elizabeth Warren brought the crowd to its feet when she declared, “People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here’s the painful part: They’re right. The system is rigged.”

During the 2016 election, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump echoed that theme and received strong support. Clearly, there’s widespread concern about “the system.” Advertising and popular culture often refer to “the system.” Following are some images that reflect that perspective.




































Does that “folk wisdom” have merit? Does “the system” exist? This booklet is based on the proposition that it does.

When most writers discuss “the system,” they only talk about the government and the economy. Other writers only talk about “systems” and propose “systemic reform” in terms of those specific systems.

This declaration takes a more comprehensive, or holistic, view. We assert that “the System” includes all of our major institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals who are conditioned to fit into the System and reproduce it in our daily lives.

Our society is stable because the System, which is  self-perpetuating, provides ongoing coherence and stability. The various elements of the System are interwoven. They overlap and reinforce one another. That underlying consistency is what the popular wisdom refers to when it talks about “the system.”

If we understand the System, expose root causes, connect the dots, and clarify how the pieces fit together, it will help us correct injustices that the System inflicts on the disinherited, reverse the dehumanization suffered by the powerful, and eventually restructure the System.

A widespread commitment to that goal could help unify a broad array of forces into a “transform-the-system movement.” Various organizations could fight for specific causes while doing so for the sake of the larger cause. We could affirm both/and, within a shared commitment to systemic transformation. We could build momentum by occasionally supporting one another on timely priorities when victories are near. With that approach, we could inspire discouraged, inactive people who want to have a short-term impact. And we could also inspire idealists who are concerned about the need for long-term fundamental reform.

Toward that end, this booklet analyzes the System, proposes basic principles for how we can move forward, and presents a step-by-step plan for how we can restructure the System and transform the United States into a compassionate community.

A variety of social-change strategies will always be needed. That’s a good thing. This work is neither the final word nor a blueprint. But hopefully it will offer a sensible, useful direction and spark new, better ideas.

Reader Responses, My Comment, and a Quote

compassion-weaknessIn response to Political Correctness in 2016, I received the following responses:

I appreciate your honesty and substance, as usual.

I would love you to have a wide audience as what you say is thoughtful, meaningful, and of use, as well as important.

But all I can do is appreciate hearing your articulation, feeling the support and a “light” in the seeming hopelessness of the darkness descending.

Whether you can continue, or not, I’m grateful for these posts.

I wish you, and all, a miracle of hope and generosity. May it be in our lifetimes, and may our lives make sanity, the welfare of all inhabitants of this planet possible long after we are gone.


I hope you don’t give up, Wade. But trying to function on the left is really hard. You have the people with a lot of class privilege, mostly but not entirely white. Then you have a lot of other people who become “leaders” by trashing everyone else who isn’t in their particular identity group. How it advances one’s cause baffles me, because if you antagonize your allies you won’t have any. Reading what I just wrote makes me want to give up too.

I really like your honest approach to things, and I think what you have been writing has become more and more insightful. Unfortunately, the truth of the insights makes me, at least, want to give up myself. How can the left accomplish anything when its worldview, in practice, is just as anti-human as that on the right? Who is going to be inspired by this crap? … Wade, as I wrote elsewhere, I think your thoughtful comments are very important, and I hope you don’t give up.


Good piece — thanks for sharing.


Don’t lose heart!

That’s a really sad story you told, about your angry interlocutor who no longer wants to read what you have to say, or have a dialogue with you.  There’s a person who’s hurting so deeply, that they lash out at even at those who are most likely to listen considerately to them, and even somebody as cautious in making judgements as myself can only think: is that really what a measured and adult response looks like?


I doubt that you have ever intentionally disrespected that person, and know that you are usually pretty careful to write what you mean, choosing your words to convey quite precise shades of meaning.  The only point they make that I would have to agree with is this: guessing what “most persons of” any group – race, colour, class, nationality, religion or sect, political party or side, gender or sexual orientation – just isn’t likely to resonate with “most” – or even many – persons of that group.  Putting it another way: making a generalisation about how people are likely to think, feel or behave based on (one of) their overt group memberships runs the risk of alienating many of that group’s members, because every group is comprised of individuals with (usually) as many points of difference as of commonality.

A thought for you: This may be one of the lessons of intersectionality … we are all unique in our situations, being at once a member of many different groups that, taken as a whole, often have different default positions or understandings; as individuals, we often have to resolve conflicts between the (majority or default) positions and viewpoints of the various groups we belong to.

   For example, if you know that I’m:

       an Australian,

       a Muslim,

       a mathematician,

       a husband, father and grandfather,

       a teacher and a business analyst

   – does this tell you in convincing terms what my position would be on, say,

       our military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq?

       evolution and creation science?

       religious education?

       sexual mores and laws, such as the age of consent, abortion, homosexuality or in vitro fertilisation?  

   I’m confident that, while you could take reasonable guesses at all of these, you’d miss the mark fairly widely on some.  More importantly, I’d be happy to tell you if you asked – which means you don’t have to guess at all!

But the reason I’m writing to you is this: to tell you that what you’ve been doing is more useful than you can know.  Sometimes, you are (possibly) too humble!  Arrogance and thoughtlessness do NOT spring to mind as adjectives to describe “Wade Hudson”!  Know that even the gadfly has its use: it keeps the beast moving …


The person who wrote those comments (“Don’t speculate on what people of color…”) is neither an activist nor a progressive, and he does not speak for people of color any more than you speak for white people.  He’s a reactionary.

I no longer have tolerance for the type of bigotry that leads so many, in a moment of truth, to reply to comments such as yours by saying such things as “your bullshit” and issuing such emotionally violent insults as “check your white privilege” to someone who is so far removed from the upper class as to make such an insult ludicrous.

Progressives need to understand that identity politics is not a leftist or a progressive movement – it is a rightist and reactionary movement.  The ‘grey area’ has separated into a sharp line and a categorical distinction – in our time in history, the identity-politics left is no different from the Donald Trump right – they are two forms of the same reactionaryism that causes neighbor to hate neighbor and to split and divide by race and gender so that some can be elevated while others are crushed, rather than struggling for a better system together for all.

I urge you, for example, to listen to the speeches of Fred Hampton from the Black Panther party whose anti-racism was fundamentally embedded in what was deeply understood to be the primary struggle of overturning corporate capitalism and materialism and fighting for what he called socialism.  The Black Panther party was absolutely adamant about not replacing white elites with some fraction of black elites – by not replacing one oppressor with another – and to them it was very clear that this meant economic oppression.  The anti-racist struggle of the Black Panther party was always in that frame, as it must be, because people are not born racist – they are driven by circumstance to be so.

The “African American activist” you quote is so far removed from the true anti-racist activism represented by the Black Panther party that it would be an insult to their memory for him to even claim he understands what the Black Panther party represents.

We have a long, long ways to go.  I do not even attempt to engage in the world of leftists because leftism has been overtaken by identity politics.  It is simply impossible to try to reason or be honest (as you have been) with leftist culture today.  You are bound to run into emotionally violent hatred in response to your efforts – from those who label themselves as leftists, most of all.  Attempting to reason with this type of politically-correct reactionary thinking is no more likely to succeed than attempting to reason with a white supremacist group.

It is going to take an ideological tremor carrying the force of an earthquake before there will be any good openings to finally address the real systemic issues facing our world – war, materialism, greed, and spiritual stultification born of waste and decay.  “Check your white privilege” does nothing to move us forward – it is pure reactionaryism, pure emotional violence, enforced by a power-hungry culture of “the prestige of self-righteousness”.  It’s about time progressives don’t cow-tow to politically correct violence.  It is the tragic truth.


Yes, please speak your truth.

I always appreciate it, even when I disagree with it.

I wish in our culture more people gave, and many more people accepted, unsolicited advice.


I read your writings. I always have. I’ve read your stories. Ever since we connected over Charter for Compassion.

I’ve sent your links, joined groups you’ve been a member, posted many of your thoughts on social media, encouraged others in the Bay Area to connect with you. I share in your frustrations.

Know that conversations and dialogue can matter. You need not have to have a large pulpit or a growing mailing list to make a difference. I look forward to knowing of all the ways you share your truth…either through a single correspondence or conversation via email or phone…or by one day taking a cab in the bay and finding you as the driver.

Hang in there.

Best wishes to you for 2017.


Those words of support hearten me. Hopefully they will help me proceed with a better attitude, and perhaps squeeze out more time for productive efforts.

Concerning the last comment, though in context I think it is implied, on reflection I think I should have added a parenthetical comment to clarify the opening sentence. So I’ve edited the post to read: “Trump wasn’t condescending (toward the white working class),” said one of my taxi passengers,…”

Overall, however, I disagree with that criticism. I believe the left does have a problem with “political correctness,” which is why Trump was able to exploit that theme. More seriously, the reluctance to be self-critical on this point reflects a general reluctance to be self-critical.

Since posting Political Correctness in 2016, I’ve read “Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say: How the Language Police Are Perverting Liberalism” by Jonathan Chait in the New York Magazine. It’s a lengthy account of many battles that have been fought on this turf. I found it compelling. But in case you don’t want to read the entire article, I post here the conclusion:

The p.c. style of politics has one serious, possibly fatal drawback: It is exhausting. Claims of victimhood that are useful within the left-wing subculture may alienate much of America. The movement’s dour puritanism can move people to outrage, but it may prove ill suited to the hopeful mood required of mass politics. Nor does it bode well for the movement’s longevity that many of its allies are worn out. “It seems to me now that the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing,” confessed the progressive writer Freddie deBoer. “There are so many ways to step on a land mine now, so many terms that have become forbidden, so many attitudes that will get you cast out if you even appear to hold them. I’m far from alone in feeling that it’s typically not worth it to engage, given the risks.” Goldberg wrote recently about people “who feel emotionally savaged by their involvement in [online feminism] — not because of sexist trolls, but because of the slashing righteousness of other feminists.” Former Feministing editor Samhita Mukhopadhyay told her, “Everyone is so scared to speak right now.”

That the new political correctness has bludgeoned even many of its own supporters into despondent silence is a triumph, but one of limited use. Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree. The historical record of political movements that sought to expand freedom for the oppressed by eliminating it for their enemies is dismal. The historical record of American liberalism, which has extended social freedoms to blacks, Jews, gays, and women, is glorious. And that glory rests in its confidence in the ultimate power of reason, not coercion, to triumph.

Knowing that others feel bludgeoned into tired silence helps me feel less alone, which motivates me to persevere.

Political Correctness in 2016

pc“Trump wasn’t condescending (toward the white working class),” said one of my taxi passengers, making a point that I failed to make in my 2016 blog posts (though I did write about leftist condescension).

Apparently hardly anyone else made my passenger’s point. I just googled the phrase and found no results.

Trump’s supporters felt he respected them, listened to them, spoke their language.

And one of Trump’s main points was his complaint about political correctness, which rang a bell with his supporters. I also failed to fully analyze that point, though in “Countering Racism,” I did quote Van Jones on the issue:

Van urged progressives to really understand the pain being experienced by many white working class people and learn how to speak to it. He described the struggles many suffer, including I believe the erosion of their long-held identity as breadwinner, and then one of their children comes home and tells them, “You are a bigot.” Van said, “That is painful.”

And I did often caution against name-calling and hurling judgmental labels. But, although I linked to Thomas Edsall’s excellent, important “The Anti-PC Vote,” I only commented on his reference to problematic language. On second thought, after Trump’s victory, his piece calls for fuller attention. And considering that it was published on June 1 2016, Hillary should have given it more thought too.

In both the workplace and academia, Haidt argues,

the accusatory and vindictive approach of many social justice activists and diversity trainers may actually have increased the desire and willingness of some white men to say and do un-PC things.

In this atmosphere, according to Haidt,


Trump comes along and punches political correctness in the face. Anyone feeling some degree of anti-PC reactance is going to feel a thrill in their heart, and will want to stand up and applaud. And because feelings drive reasoning, these feelings of gratitude will make it hard for anyone to present arguments to them about the downsides of a Trump presidency.

Trump’s anger at being policed or fenced in apparently speaks to the resentment of many American men and their resistance to being instructed, particularly by a female candidate, on how they should think, speak or behave.


On April 26, Trump wheeled out a spectacularly offensive attack on Clinton, perhaps designed to provoke the response it got. He accused her of playing “the women’s card” when “she has got nothing else going. Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she would get 5 percent of the vote.”

Hillary rose to the bait. Three days later, appearing on Jake Tapper’s CNN show “The Lead,” she countered:


I have a lot of experience dealing with men who sometimes get off the reservation in the way they behave and how they speak. … I am not going to deal with their temper tantrums, or their bullying or their efforts to try to provoke me. He can say whatever he wants to say about me, I could really care less.


Trump responded on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show on May 2. What Clinton said “was a very derogatory statement to men,” Trump declared. “It was almost as though she’s going to tell us what to do, tell men what to do.” He continued, “It was a real put-down.”

The kind of messages that provoke reactance and a defiant or oppositional response, according to one study, include “imperatives, such as ‘must’ or ‘need’; absolute allegations, such as ‘cannot deny that …’ and ‘any reasonable person would agree.’ ”

…Some people will reject a policy or action that is to their advantage when they feel pushed or forced into making the “correct” decision.

In other words, reactance can foster a totalizing loyalty that does not respond to reasoned fault finding. This might help explain Trump’s seeming immunity to criticism from his adversaries. His followers feel that they have experienced a “diminution of freedom” and believe that Trump can “restore their autonomy.”

He has won a unique admixture of support, based in part on what might be called an anti-rational or irrational loyalty but also in part on his recognition of legitimate grievances among his adherents that many other politicians belittle or deny. This loyalty, as Republican candidates found during the primaries, is far wider and deeper than anyone not sharing it expected.

She has yet to discover a compelling rebuttal to Trump on political correctness,…

One reason is her deeply embedded elitism, which is shared by many, probably most, leftists — as reflected by the fact that she still has not really apologized for her “irredeemable … deplorables” comment, which fired up Trump’s base. And neither have most of her supporters.

As I see it, political correctness, which was a term originated by Socialists in opposition to the top-down imposition of dogma by the Communist Party, is reflected in the following statement (I don’t recall who the author was) concerning how to respond to Trump:

If you are able to talk about “giving Trump a chance,” or to urge “reconciliation” with an authoritarian sexual predator, racist, xenophobic, megalomaniac, anti-Semitic, transphobic, islamophobic, ableist, cheat and liar–you likely have a whole lot of unexamined white, middle and upper class, cisgender, heterosexual privilege and you are exercising it in a way that will further oppress those without your privilege.

The accusation that others, even those who are generally allies, are exercising white privilege merely because they disagree on tactics is common, and, to my mind, troublesome. Yes, those of us who are white, including working-class whites like myself, need to examine our privilege closely and be careful when we offer comments — as middle-class professionals who are persons of color should examine their class privilege.

The moment during the convention coverage that was most memorable for me was a segment on Samantha Bee’s “Full Frontal,” Her reporter interviewed Republican delegates who repeatedly replied “All Lives Matter” when asked what they thought about the phrase, “Black Lives Matter.” Those responses reinforced the stereotype of white Republican racists. But when the reporter probed, the delegates talked convincingly about how they do not want to be racist and they want to learn more about how to talk with African-Americans without being offensive.

During the campaign, numerous voters were quoted about how they often feel like they are walking on eggshells, worried about offending someone. At time, that leaves them speechless.

I’ve recently had one such interaction that has bothered me a great deal, and still does, leaving me uncertain about what to think. After another police killing of an African-American man, an African-American activist whom I considered an ally, with whom I’d had a number of positive interactions, posted:

I think we are better off without the police. I think we might be safer, happier, healthier if there were no police…. the system we have is not reformable and we are better of with no police than the ones we have now,…

I replied:

I doubt that most people of color would support abolishing the police. Rather it seems that we need to insist that the police live up to their alleged purpose: to Serve and Protect. there are examples of police departments that have done that. Pushing to multiply those examples seems like a more winnable strategy. Working steadily to reform our systems can eventually transform them

He responded:

Don’t speculate on what people of color would support to people of color. It is fucking annoying. Can you check your white privilege for once Wade it is getting so tiring. Go post your confident self righteous strategy thoughts on your own page. I don’t have the patience for your bullshit today. Speak for your fucking self. I have been ignoring your pattern of behavior for a while. quietly deleting your offensive posts without comment, but I am all out of hope and all out of patience for white bullshit. I am not inviting a dialogue. I am setting a boundary. Never post on my page again. You are happy to read but i don’t want to hear what you have to say. …You have made great sacrifice and I honor that. And the way you relate to me disrespectful of my basic humanity and you have to cut it out. Sorry of the vent but today I just can’t take it any more. Love to you….

Those comments disturbed me profoundly and I’ve thought about them a lot. After reading “It’s Not About Race” by John Metta, I thought about them more. Metta reports having been the only person of color in a discussion about race, during which he stated, ““I speak with a lot of emotion, and sometimes that emotion is anger. That should be allowed, because anger is a valid response to oppression. I’m not angry at you as an individual, but at a system of injustice.” Metta then reports that sometime later, a man said that he hoped we could “rise above emotions.” He wanted an “intellectual discussion” using logic so we could “really get to heart of the matter” without getting “derailed by emotions.”

Those remarks led Metta to analyze cultural norms and the need to accept cultural differences. He concludes:

I was angry that a white man was telling me we should “rise above emotions” and “get to the heart of the matter” by talking about race intellectually and avoiding emotions…. Every single thing white people do and say is done in the context of normative white culture, which they don’t have to think about…. Most of the time, they can’t see their own culture, much less someone else’s, meaning they have no idea what the hell we’re talking about anyway. So either we get angry, or we just close our eyes, nod our heads, and say things like “Yeah, using the Socratic method to talk intellectually would probably be a good way for us to discuss systematic racism.”

That essay prompted me to post Shut Up and Listen where I said:

Responding to anger can be difficult. Generally the best response is to listen, ask questions, learn, empathize, and find points of agreement. Unsolicited advice is rarely appreciated, as I’m still learning.

That’s especially true if you are White and the other is African-American. Let’s face it. In this country, race matters. Persistent oppression and White assumptions of superiority charge the atmosphere.

I wrote that though I have never said anyone should “avoid emotions.” How to channel anger wisely is another matter, however, especially in the context of talking about how to be effective politically. And if we want to counter racism, when and how we “call out” people for racist comments is a delicate matter. If we aren’t careful, we can make them more racist.

All this leaves me confused, uncertain, and discouraged. I see the whole world spiraling down into tribalism rooted in rigid identities, labelling, and name-calling. Hillary’s biggest mistake was letting Trump pull her down into the politics of personal destruction and ad hominem attacks, which was given birth by the 1968 Gore-Buckley debates and later the Democratic Party’s  attack on Robert Bork. Activists are generally guilty of the same mistakes and fail to see their particular issues as simultaneously reflections of how the System divides, conquers, and oppresses everyone, including its administrators who are dehumanized.

I disagree with Bernie that we need to emphasize class more than race. Each are equally important. I disagree with Hillary’s elitism. And I believe we need a massive, democratic, multi-issue grassroots movement with inclusive leadership whose members are co-equal, with no claim to privilege based on background, including having been relatively more oppressed.

My New Year’s Resolution is: Speak my truth. At the same time, I remind myself: avoid unsolicited advice and precede, and follow, criticisms with appreciations.

I don’t know how much time and energy I’ll have to write, or how much I’ll be motivated because my efforts seem to resonate with only a relative few. I have to drive taxi as much as I can, probably for as long as I can, so I’ll have some money when I’m 95. And absent more support and encouragement, it’s hard for me to push myself to write more than an hour a day.

Maybe the #LoveArmy will indeed prove to be what I’m looking for and I can relax and just be a foot soldier rather than carrying so much of a burden on my shoulders.

Regardless, as I learned recently, “I am good enough (and will be better).” Whether the same applies to humanity remains to be seen.