Changing the System with Love, Wisdom, and Power: A Declaration for Action (10/17/14 Draft)

NOTE: This declaration is intended to indicate the kind of brief statement that could be considered, along with other similar declarations, at a national conference to launch one or more projects focused on systemic reform. The latest draft of a proposal for such a national conference is posted at http://www.wadeswire.org/?p=1232. As it is amended, the latest draft of this statement will always be posted here. Feedback on both is welcome.


Changing the System with Love, Wisdom, and Power: A Declaration for Action
By Wade Hudson  (10/17/14 Draft)

The system is broken and we know it. To turn this nation into a compassionate community, Americans must unite as never before. . To build popular power, we need a long-term vision rooted in shared values and a realistic, step-by-step plan for achieving that goal. This Declaration outlines how we, the signers, aim to help achieve that goal. You are invited to join us.

The percent of voters who believe the government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves increased from 29 percent in 1964 to 79 percent in 2013. Almost four in five Americans are dissatisfied with the political system. That same percentage is convinced that corruption in government is widespread. Two-thirds are dissatisfied with the state of the economy. Most Americans report they’re so upset they “would carry a protest sign for a day” if they could. Strong majorities favor major changes in national policy and believe grassroots pressure is needed to achieve that

Our major institutions, including our economy, our government, our media, and our schools, and ourselves as individuals and our culture, are interwoven into a self-perpetuating social system that preserves the social ladder, which has become increasingly steep. Most of those who do well pass on their advantages to their children and grandchildren, with little regard for others or the environment.

The system corrupts our culture and dehumanizes our people. No one escapes its impact and everyone reinforces it, actively and passively. Most Americans are seduced by the hope of “making it” by climbing the ladder. We seek to make ever more money and gain more power over others. We deny who we really are so we can please parents, teachers, and bosses. We accept that some one person must always be “in charge.” We dominate when we can, and submit when we cannot. We reduce others to objects, use them, and discard them. We look down on those we consider inferior. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to others, trying to prove ourselves (to others and to ourselves). We fail to develop the self-confidence that is needed to challenge authority effectively. We fear to be different, We become self-centered, which limits our ability to collaborate with others as equals. We’re almost always thinking about what to do next and neglect to examine our feelings honestly and develop our humanity. We have few intimate friends with whom we discuss personal issues. We rarely actively and respectfully listen to others. Hopeless about prospects for joining with others to affect national policy, we resign ourselves to voting on Election Day.

To change the system we need to change ourselves, consistently become more fully who we really are, tap into our inner strength and courage, let go of our fears, and join with others to leave the world a better place for future generations.

Most Americans embrace shared values. We want to treat others as we want to be treated. We want to learn how to better respect and love ourselves so we may better love and respect others. We want everyone to have healthy food, clean air, drinkable water, peace and quiet, economic security, a safe environment, rewarding social interactions, good friends, a healthy family, ongoing learning experiences, and  a fair chance to realize their best potentialities. We want to be productive and happy, have fun, experience joy, be of service to others, steadily become better human beings, relieve suffering, and advance human evolution. We appreciate intangible realities, ponder or revere the Mystery that energizes and structures the universe, and want to be in harmony with Mother Nature. We affirm being honest, courageous, humble, free, generous, disciplined, responsible, firm, and flexible.

We believe working-age adults who are able and willing to work should be able to find a good job that enables them to avoid poverty. Private businesses should serve the public interest, treat their workers fairly, and refrain from damaging the environment. Law and order is essential and everyone should be treated equally in the eyes of the law. Legitimate authority should be respected and when individuals abuse their power they should be held accountable. Individuals have the right to their privacy as long as they don’t violate the rights of others. Throughout society, we must promote nonviolence, reconciliation, empowerment, partnership, cooperation, and collaboration.

Down deep, we care. When others suffer injustice, we want to relieve that suffering and prevent future injustice. Identifying problems is not enough. We also want to correct root causes, which requires changing national policies.

We have majority support on important issues. Now we need to sustain popular power to push for what we want. With concentrated action, we can restructure our society.

Persuading Congress to respect the will of the people will not be easy. Though we are a divided nation in many ways, we have seen positive results when we have united.  We have the ability to break through discouragement and apathy. By taking a small amount of time each month to communicate with our Congresspersons, we can unite and speak with one voice. When we do, we will have the numbers of our side. It will take time, but if we move forward step-by-step, we can eventually build the unity we need.

We who engage in political action need to overcome weaknesses that divide us. By improving how we relate to others, we can increase our effectiveness. With peer support,  discipline, focus, patience, and willingness to  examine ourselves honestly, we can learn better how to face our mistakes so we can avoid them in the future. No one needs to tell us how to change and we don’t need to tell anyone how they should change. Each one of us can set our own goals and support others in their efforts.

To foster that personal and collective growth, we who sign this declaration will gather at least once a month with a team of at least two other signers to share a meal and report on our self-development efforts and our political action aimed at national policy. By setting aside special time to share a meal, listen to one another, enjoy each other’s company, have fun together, and explore how to move forward, we will improve our skills and increase our numbers. Knowing that others are participating in this network will deepen our sense of community.

Often with members from other teams, at least one member of each team in our network will meet with their Congressperson’s staff to explore how the Congressperson and the community can work together to promote the kind of change affirmed in this Declaration.

At the same time, we will steadily encourage activist organizations to form a broad, national coalition to launch a Million Member Mobilization to communicate the same message to Congress in a timely manner on a top priority proposal backed by a majority of the American people. With those numbers, at least one member of every one hundred households will act in unison and the impact will be enormous. Congress will listen when 2300 persons per Congressional district speak in one voice.

That goal is ambitious. But as we steadily mobilize more like-minded Americans, more people will participate. Many people are passive because others are passive, not because they don’t want to act. We must try to break that downward spiral with an upward spiral. Without massive, sustained unity, our chances are limited, so we intend to do our best to encourage the development of a Million Member Mobilization.

In addition, other forms of action are available. Some of us can and will engage in nonviolent civil disobedience focused on winnable objectives and negotiating compromises. If enough of us back a top-priority consumer boycott, we can persuade corporations to honor the public interest. And, if we have to, we can stay home from work on the same day in large enough numbers to persuade key decision-makers to take our concerns seriously.

Individual members of our network will consider supporting those actions as they emerge. By developing our network and strengthening our personal capacity to be effective, we are building a pool of concerned individuals who “promote the general welfare” (the goal presented to us in our Constitution). With this shared vision, time-efficient work, discipline, persistence, patience, and a positive spirit that attracts people, we hope to motivate others to join in this movement.

By pushing for realistic, positive change to advance the common good, we can move forward step by step, meet neglected needs, build our collective power, and restructure our deteriorating society into a compassionate, truly democratic community.

Changing the System: A Proposal for a National Conference (10/17/14 Draft)

By Wade Hudson

The system is broken and we know it. In the short run, our social system appears to work for a few, but their gains are superficial, the system is not working for most Americans, and in the long run the system may collapse as it becomes increasingly top heavy.

The percent of voters who believe the government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves increased from 29 percent in 1964 to 79 percent in 2013. Almost four in five Americans are dissatisfied with the political system. That same percentage is convinced that corruption in government is widespread. Two-thirds are dissatisfied with the state of the economy. Most Americans report they’re so upset they “would carry a protest sign for a day” if they could. Strong majorities favor major changes in national policy and believe grassroots pressure is needed to achieve that.

To build popular power, we need broad agreement on a long-term vision rooted in shared values and a realistic, step-by-step plan for achieving that goal.

Given those realities, concerned individuals must increase and broaden understanding of how the system functions and how we can reform it fruitfully. Toward that end, I have proposed to Berrett-Koehler Publishers (BK) that they convene a national working conference focused on the following questions:

  1. What is “the system”? How can we best describe and analyze it?
  2. How do we need to change it?
  3. What organizing strategies are needed to build a popular movement pushing for those changes?

A careful, deliberate, collaborative process could pull together the best ideas available about how to restructure our society. That plan could help motivate a massive number of individuals to work together toward that end. Using the “wisdom of crowds,” the efficiency of the Internet, and careful collaboration, we can change the world in a deep and sustainable manner.

BK is a logical candidate to organize a national conference whose participants would consider written proposals for action that had been posted online and discussed extensively beforehand. BK’s best-sellers include Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins, The Serving Leader by Ken Jennings, Leadership and Self-Deception by Arbinger Institute, and When Corporations Rule the World by David Korten. Their books fall within three categories, “BK Life” (the personal), “BK Business” (the social), and “BK Currents” (the political). With this broad perspective, BK is dedicated to “systems change” and adopts a holistic approach to the world.

Their current strategic plan affirms:

We seek to abolish class systems (wherein one group has an enduring structural advantage over another group) in all areas of organizations and society, including ownership, wealth, belonging, power, accountability, compensation, and access to information and resources.

Given their credibility, connections, and commitment to systemic change, I believe BK could initiate a process that would engage readers, authors, and activists in developing a plan for how to improve our world fundamentally. BK could contract with a diverse set of prominent writers to draft brief responses to the questions posed above and invite those writers to dialog with one another and then consider modifying their original statements. That dialog could be posted on the Web for review and comment by the general public. The writers invited to participate could include individuals such as Alice Walker, Cornel West, Van Jones, David Brooks, Fritjof Capra, Robert Reich, Naomi Klein, and others whose prominence would help elicit strong participation.

The conference could be loosely based on “Open Space Technology,” with a variety of proposals presented for consideration. Participants would “vote with their feet” and participate in breakout groups focused on those proposals that most appeal to them. Space could be provided at the outset for new last-minute proposals from participants. If no unanimous consensus emerged concerning a specific proposal for action, after the conference different groups could implement those proposals that most appealed to them.

If you support this proposal or have suggested amendments, please comment below. As this proposal is amended, the latest draft will be posted here.

NOTE: Though I do not assume that the conference organizers would select it as a focus for the conference, my own suggestion for the kind of statement that could be considered is “Changing the System with Love, Wisdom, and Power: A Declaration for Action.” I also welcome feedback on that statement.