Two First Things in Building Collective Action

By Michael Johnson

“I have put 40 years into building and sustaining an urban intentional community of substantial size—the Ganas Community in Staten Island, NY. We began with seven, reached 100 in the 90s, and settled in at around 65 ever since. I have also studied collective action groups out in the regular world, especially worker co-operatives and solidarity economic groups.

So, do I have anything useful to pass on? I think so. At least a couple.

For me there is one lesson that stands out above all others in starting a community or collective action group: the group that starts and sustains the project has to learn how to talk to each other about the problems they have with each other.

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Posted in Americans for Humanity.net/Social/Communication

How Ivy League Elites Turned Against Democracy

How Ivy League Elites Turned Against Democracy, Stephen Marche. “Some of the best-educated people in the country have overseen the destruction of their institutions…. What the Ivy League produces, in spades, on both the left and the right, is unwarranted confidence. Its institutions are hubris factories…. America’s less-educated and less-productive citizens drive anti-government patriotism, both in its armed and elected wings, but they mostly, despite themselves, pick their representatives from the ranks of the Ivy League and other similarly elite institutions around the country. Even in their rage against elites, the anti-elitists fall back on the deep structure of American power….” (COMMENT: But why do they submit?) Posted in Systemic Resources/Meritocracy

The Gender Gap Is Taking Us to Unexpected Places

The Gender Gap Is Taking Us to Unexpected Places, Thomas B. Edsall. “Women are just as competitive as men, Haidt wrote, ‘but they do it differently.’… Benenson writes:

From early childhood onwards, girls compete using strategies that minimize the risk of retaliation and reduce the strength of other girls. Girls’ competitive strategies include avoiding direct interference with another girl’s goals, disguising competition, competing overtly only from a position of high status in the community, enforcing equality within the female community and socially excluding other girls…. The result of these two somewhat conflicting motives is that girls and women seek high status but disguise this quest by avoiding direct contests.

Published originally on Americans for Humanity at Systemic/Domination.

“Meritocracy”: A Critique

  • “The Aristocracy of Talent” Review. “…Wooldridge calls for private schools to offer half their places to poorer students and advocates the creation of a “highly variegated” school system consisting of technical and art schools as well as academically selective ones. He also says we need a “moral revival” in our values to counteract our society’s obsessive celebration of intelligence. He points out that many members of the cognitive elite (such as bankers and journalists) are generally despised by the ordinary public, who revere the caring professions instead….” Added to Systemic/Meritocracy/Articles.

Worshipping Saviors

From Apotheosis Now, by Fara Dabhoiwala:

“What does it mean when men are worshiped, willingly or not, as gods? …It also serves to mask the extent to which Western attitudes depend on their own forms of magical thinking. Our culture, for example, fetishizes goods, money, and material consumption, holding them up as indices of personal and social well-being. Moreover, as Subin points out, none of us can truly escape this fixation:

Though we may demystify other people’s gods and deface their idols, our critical capacity to demystify the commodity fetish still cannot break the spell it wields over us, for its power is rooted in deep structures of social practice rather than simple belief. While fetishes made by African priests were denigrated as irrational, the fetish of the capitalist marketplace has long been viewed as the epitome of rationalism.

…We all make our own gods, for our own reasons, all the time.”

Also, it seems Democrats “worship” and seek Saviors, as many did with Obama and Sanders, for example. And why do Americans excessively credit or blame the President?

 

Reflections on ‘21: Trump, Covid, My Cancer

Last year I dodged three bullets: Trump, COVID, and cancer.

Lord knows what a lame-duck Trump would’ve done in the White House.
Thankfully, the heart-breaking pandemic didn’t hospitalize or kill anyone I
know. And blood tests indicate my multiple myeloma, an incurable bone marrow
blood cancer, is progression-free, a good sign.

Nevertheless, the struggle to transform America, stop worse pandemics, and
maintain my health continues.

Trump is a symptom. Root causes produced Trumpism — and they aggravate
related phenomena like racism, materialism, corporate consolidation, and the
war on democracy. Our society is supposedly a democracy — rule by the people,
who are equal — but it’s actually more of a meritocracy — rule by elites, who
claim to be the most talented.

Our society encourages everyone to climb social ladders, “get ahead,” gain
more wealth and power, and look down on and dominate those below — or submit
to those above. Self-centeredness, arrogance, and a belief in top-down
leadership afflict almost everyone.

So long as we Americans fail to undo oppressive social conditioning, we’ll
fail to learn collaborative leadership, nurture co-equal partnerships,
overcome fragmentation, spread democracy throughout society, and unite to
build a large, multi-issue, independent social movement powerful enough to
persuade Washington to respect the will of the people. A commitment to
compassionate self-reform rooted in a shared vision for fundamental
transformation is an urgent need. Instead, activists focus on changing others.

The COVID pandemic reflects these problems. The widespread selfish
affirmation of unlimited individual liberty is used to rationalize vaccine
resistance, but this pathological self-centeredness did not emerge out of
thin air. It metastasized from widespread neurotic self-centeredness, which
provided fertile soil to grow in. If this extreme self-centeredness were a
complete anomaly, it could’ve more easily been suppressed.

A related problem is President Biden’s failure to collaborate. Rather, he
“follows” his advisors, rather than making decisions together. Now, however,
his advisors admit their decisions are influenced by politics, Biden’s
bailiwick. He says “this gets solved at a state level” rather than affirming
a humble partnership between federal, state, and local governments, By
refusing to accept an enforcement mechanism, the United States is undermining
an effort to negotiate an international treaty to deal with the next
pandemic. The NATO foreign ministers disagreed with Biden’s method of
withdrawing from Afghanistan, but he proceeded unilaterally. The United
States defines American global leadership as the ability to persuade allies
to do what the U.S. wants, rather than forging collaborative partnerships.
Par for the course. A symptom of a deep cultural problem.

Diagnosed in late 2020, my first round of cancer treatment was a nightmare.
One night, due to the side effects, I ended up flat on my back and it took me
four hours to scoot on my butt to a phone to call for help. Another night I
couldn’t stand up out of my chair. Fortunately, members of my spiritual
support group here at Western Park Apartments helped me get on my feet
following these crises. But treatment-induced heart failure put me in the
hospital for ten days, often on a ventilator to help me breathe. Before I was
released, radiation removed a painful lesion on my pelvis caused by the
cancer.

Fortunately, my doctor modified my treatment regime to one that seems to have
stopped the spread of the cancer, and the side effects, though very
troublesome, leave me able to work several hours a day. To help with my
healing, I frequently meditate, relax at night while watching shows on my new
top-flight home entertainment center, and sleep whenever I can. Nevertheless,
the multiple myeloma may eventually spread and kill me by attacking one or
more of my vital organs.

Significant social support has been immensely valuable. The spiritual support
group meets monthly; we rotate sharing and discussing readings. An open-ended
weekly Coffee Klatch with several residents is rewarding. We sat together
with others at a recent large holiday gathering organized by management (my
eggnog with whiskey was greatly appreciated). We’ll bring in the new year on
New Year’s Day with plum pudding and mimosas. My sister, Mary, and I talk on
the phone often. Her emotional and political intelligence is very helpful,
and she came here once to de-clutter my apartment and recently allowed me to
invade her Tucson home for more than two weeks. Brandon Faloona visited and
set up a chair bed in my living room. His wife, Kristen Walsh, and their
boys, Azure and Theo, dropped by for two hours on their way to L.A. for the
holiday. Jed Riffe, his wife Tina who brought an incredible buffet of
bar-b-que, the Faloona family, Freddi Fredrickson, her husband Trevor Harris,
and his son Trevor Jr. threw a great birthday party for me here in July. My
weekly psychotherapist, Rebecca Crabb, is wonderful. Dorsey Blake, Kathryn
Benton, and Eileen Watson, leaders of the Church for the Fellowship of All
Peoples, to which I belong, have been present for me. The UCSF medical staff
has been fantastic. Without all this support, Lord knows what would’ve
happened with me.

Financially, a Section 8 voucher has greatly reduced my rent. Food stamps and
the Food Bank feed me. Amazon Fresh delivers food free of charge. Though
COVID limits my entertainment options and the City subsidizes my cab fares
and provides free public transit, Social Security still doesn’t cover my
barebones expenses. But maybe the cancer will kill me before I deplete my
savings. LOL

I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. Often I’m mad and sad —
especially about the state of the world. And sometimes I’m lonely (it would
be nice to engage in more intimate dialogs and/or cuddle with someone at
night). But by and large, I’m able to avoid feeling sorry for myself, a
chronic tendency. My screen saver reminds me: “The point is Life.” I am not
the point.

My commitment to my work has probably helped me deal with the cancer. They
say having a purpose is therapeutic and I remain dedicated to pursuing truth,
justice, and beauty. More concretely, for 60 years, I’ve been dedicated to
cultivating and promoting egalitarian community throughout society.

Toward this end, in recent years, I’ve come to articulate a unique worldview.
No one else articulates an analysis of “the system” the way I do. Many use
the phrase, but their definition is usually inaccurate. Fortunately, others
are very much on the same wavelength I’m on. Some of their statements are on
the Americans for Humanity website under Systemic/Resources. But these
declarations tend to be incomplete, too abstract, or ambiguous.

So I’m trying to clarify the case with contemporary language. Lots of people
have largely agreed with my systemic analysis. Very few people have
disagreed. (If you do, I’d like to post your comments and engage in dialog
with you). And more than 100 individuals have signed Americans for Humanity:
A Declaration. But support has been lukewarm. The main concern seems to be
whether the vision is too utopian.

Addressing this concern, with support from our Advisors, Larry Walker, the
website’s Assistant Editor, and I are focusing on presenting concrete,
realistic steps that anyone can take to advance holistic and systemic
transformation step-by-step with pragmatic idealism. The goal is to present a
“foundation” and a “frame” that like-minded individuals and organizations can
use to construct a “house” with self-directed creations, moving forward in
unison. As we see it, those who share a long-term vision can primarily focus
on their particular short-term objectives while occasionally uniting to
achieve more together than they can alone. The latest Americans for Humanity
homepage summarizes our thinking.

The Netflix film “Tick, Tick… Boom!” recently inspired me to persist. In the
film, supporters told the protagonist, a musical drama writer, “If one effort
fails, write another. Throw stuff on the wall and hope someday something
sticks and advances a revolution.” With him, eventually, it did.

Then he died from a heart attack the night before his greatest success. I
suspect I too will die before any great success — as did Van Gogh (his
brother never sold one of his paintings until after his death) and Walt
Whitman (who constantly rewrote Leaves of Grass with mixed results as I’m
doing with the website). But, with help, I can leave behind a knowledge base
that others may use to spark a prairie fire after I die — unless it happens
during my lifetime. I can only do what I can do.

I just learned that a new small nodule has appeared on my right lung. Another
scan in three months will help determine if it’s cancerous. Regardless, the
cancer or some other adverse event may kill me sooner rather than later. I
don’t have much time left. The door on my productivity is closing. Before it
closes, I’ll try to achieve as much as I can — with the website and in my
personal life. I welcome your collaboration and participation.

Might you help improve the website? Do you have suggested additions? What do
you think of our new homepage? Do you have suggested deletions (it may be too
long)? And if you haven’t, please sign Americans for Humanity: A Declaration.

Have a great New Year!

Wade Lee Hudson
Americans for Humanity