By Wade Lee Hudson
The COVID-19 crisis may change this nation’s character. Greater solidarity and compassion may deepen. The world we seek may soon be possible. The time for vision is here.
A grassroots movement that addresses the whole person, the whole society, and our social system — a holistic democracy movement — can transform this nation into a compassionate community, and cooperate with people elsewhere who do the same in their country.
The first step is a solid organizing plan. The second step is to steadily gain members with contagious joy and small, face-to-face communities who endorse the plan. The third step is to build momentum with political victories. The following scenario envisions how this can happen.
Step One: The Plan
An organizing committee that “looks like America” forms and drafts a brief set of core principles such as:
We, the undersigned, commit to serve humanity, the environment, and life itself by promoting holistic democracy, which addresses the whole person, the whole society, and our interwoven social system. We urge the development of organizations committed to these goals whose members:
- identify as co-equal members of the human family, respect the essential equality of all human beings, affirm individuals’ multiple identities, recognize each individual’s unique personality and particular skills, and work together to weave our diverse peoples into one nation;
- aim to overcome unconscious bias and resist discrimination based on race, gender, class, sexual orientation, or any other similar identity;
- promote partnerships, nurture democracy throughout society, empower people, support freedom for all, and oppose arbitrary efforts to dominate others;
- work to prevent social problems by correcting root causes and standing up for each other;
- love others as they love themselves, avoid selfishness and self-sacrifice, rely on love and trust rather than hate and fear, channel anger productively, and decline to scapegoat or demonize;
- attract people with contagious joy, face-to-face community, and caring friendships;
- honor their nation’s accomplishments, maintain its highest traditions, criticize its failures, and help build a more perfect union;
- push for compassionate policies supported by strong majorities, sustain the legitimacy of minority opinions, recognize the value of visionary campaigns focused on goals not yet supported by strong majorities, and engage in nonviolent civil disobedience and boycotts when needed;
- encourage members to improve their emotional reactions, engage in honest self-examination, support each other with their personal and spiritual growth, and avoid oppressive or disrespectful behavior;
- seek to transform their nation into a compassionate community that:
- cultivates the development of healthy families;
- establishes everyone’s equal rights and their equality under the law;
- assures everyone a decent standard of living;
- cultivates shared leadership, assists the development of worker-owned businesses, and supports workers’ rights;
- protects free speech, makes it easy for everyone to vote, and defends individuals’ freedom to engage in activities that don’t interfere with the rights of others; lives in harmony with the natural environment;
- respects all living creatures;forms supportive relationships with other countries, affirms their right to self-determination, promotes human rights, and advocates peaceful resolution of conflicts with mediation and negotiation.
In these ways, step-by-step, person-by-person, family-by-family, community-by-community, nation-by-nation, we pursue the eventual, evolutionary transformation of our social system into a compassionate community that serves humanity, the environment, and life itself.
The organizing committee then:
- Drafts a plan for how to advance these principles, establishes a fiscal home for the project, begins raising necessary funds, widely circulates the plan for review and comment, digests the comments, and updates the plan.
- Convenes a Community Congress (or Citizens Assembly) with randomly selected Americans who, with expenses paid, adopt, modify, or reject the updated plan.
Step Two: Organize
If the Congress adopts a plan, the organizing committee convenes a founding convention to form a “holistic democracy network” with people who support the plan. Steps are taken to assure that participants “look like America.” The convention opens with a panel of prominent speakers who help attract participation. The convention is streamed live, but only those who participate in person vote.
Toward the end of the convention, people who endorse the plan form district teams with others who live in the same Congressional district. These teams meet regularly to share a meal and in groups of ten or less conduct a “holistic check-in” — each individual reports on what they’ve been doing, plan to do, or would like to do with regard to self-improvement, community service, and political action. Each group then conducts an Open Topic Dialog concerning whatever’s on their mind.
Throughout the rest of the month, these teams may engage in other activities, but all teams meet regularly, share a meal, and conduct a holistic check-in and an open topic dialog. This common practice nurtures a sense of community among the network.
All members promote the network and recruit members, especially person-to-person. Periodically team representatives meet in regional gatherings to share reports on activities, brainstorm, and provide mutual support. These gatherings select representatives to state gatherings, which select representatives to national gatherings, which select representatives to international gatherings. Video conference calls are occasionally used as well.
District teams organize support from others in their district for efforts to persuade their Congressperson to engage in a monthly Community Dialog with their constituents. These dialogs enable randomly selected constituents to address any subject, without the dialog being dominated by the Congressperson.
The project also helps to organize a Purple Alliance that pushes for compassionate changes in national policy supported by a supermajority of Americans — including a majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents — such as limiting the amount of money individuals and organizations can spend on campaigns and issues. This alliance includes a wide range of activist organizations that continue to primarily focus on their own priorities, while occasionally encouraging their members to support the Purple Alliance action.
Step Three: Act
When timely, the Purple Alliance backs a campaign led by others to enact legislation supported by a supermajority of Americans that would improve living conditions. The Alliance calls on their members and others to communicate to their Congressperson about the bill. They urge representatives who have not supported the bill to do so, and express their appreciation to those who have. They may call, write, email, visit the Congressperson’s office (either alone or with other team members), participate in a Community Dialog, join a demonstration, or engage in nonviolent civil disobedience. If the Congressperson has not yet gone on record in support of the bill, they gather support from individuals and organizations in their district for a resolution urging the Congressperson to do so.
The initial goal might merely be to gain a specific number of co-sponsors for the bill. This would give the bill more credibility and strengthen the hand of the groups that are leading the campaign. The Alliance might then declare victory, move to another issue, and return to the initial issue when it’s farther along the legislative process. Regardless, the Alliance clarifies at the outset whose leadership it will follow: the Alliance will not support a compromise or an alternative bill if the designated leader objects. Nevertheless, the Alliance retains the option to withdraw from the campaign at any time.
Periodically, the Alliance reports to its members on progress with the campaign and updates the message to be communicated to Congresspersons. Holistic democracy network members meet with supportive Congresspersons to explore what more the Congressperson can do to help advance the network’s principles.
Network members ask countless organizations to endorse the network’s principles, including local and national Republican and Democratic parties. When any such bodies endorse the principles, network members may help transform that party into an activist organization that engages in precinct-organizing year-round (perhaps using the Open Topic Dialog).
Groups that endorse the network’s principles engage in a wide range of activities to advance its principles — without gaining prior approval from the network.
This approach calls for patience and dedication. There are no shortcuts. We keep the best of what we’ve inherited and build on that foundation. We create a fairer, more compassionate, and more democratic world that has many new structures, a new character, and a new appearance — a world that is transformed.
As this global movement develops, specific strategies and tactics vary across countries. But everyone shares a commitment to holistic democracy. With mutually reinforcing personal, social, cultural, economic, and political reforms, the holistic democracy movement promotes fundamental, systemic transformation.
- The latest draft of this essay will always be here. Feedback is welcome.
- Stephen Gerritson, George Fowler, and Alan Levin contributed greatly to the composition of the Declaration with many comments and suggestions.
- Those who contributed to or signed Americans for Humanity: A Declaration also helped with this effort.
- Feel free to take the Declaration, modify it if so desired, gain signers (perhaps using Google Forms), and post their names (perhaps using Airtable). Signers could then be invited to horizontally collaborate concerning next steps.