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 The “one-pager” is the first part of the Preface down to the +++++ divider.

All of the feedback follows.


Michael Nagler:

Glad you’ve gotten good responses.  Are you aware of our experiment?  Should have mentioned it earlier.


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.


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.”


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


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  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.


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?


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.


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.


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.

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