February 2022 Newsletter

Americans for Humanity
February 2022 Newsletter

My recent reading of Hannah Arendt’s On Violence shook me to the core, prompted some serious re-evaluation of my thinking, and led me to rewrite the opening to the Preface. If you’re interested and your time is limited, you might just read the first four paragraphs

The Comments section in my essay Hannah Arendt on Violence and Politics includes a summary of how Arendt altered my worldview. In particular, she challenges the notion of automatic “Progress,” rejects “enlightened self-interest,” and affirms a “disinterested” commitment to compassion and justice.

Simone Weil’s Draft for a Statement of Human Obligation has also had a strong impact on me with her focus on obligation. She 

holds every human being without any exception as something sacred to which (s)he is bound to show respect. This is the only possible motive for universal respect towards all human beings….It is for the intelligence to conceive the idea of need and to discern, discriminate, and enumerate, with all the accuracy of which it is capable, the earthly needs of the soul and of the body… That reality is the unique source of all the good that can exist in this world: that is to say, all beauty, all truth, all justice, all legitimacy, all order, and all human behaviour that is mindful of obligations.

Like Arendt, Weil calls for people to accept their obligation to be compassionate and pursue justice simply because it’s the right thing to do.

Significant new resources, such as The Trouble with Cultural Evolution,” by Massimo Pigliucci are posted on What’s New.

Recently I’ve engaged with a number of thought-provoking Dialogs, including exchanges with Dan Brook on Plutocracy?, Roger Marsden on Holistic Spirituality, and Michael Johnson (“The Growing Democracy Project”) on Systemic Solutions, which concludes with a summary of our disagreements, Feel free to join these conversations!

Larry Walker, the site’s Assistant Editor, has been:

  • Finding ways to engage individuals to contribute to our website in areas that align with their passion.
  • Engaging individuals to write Adaptive Action pieces related to their areas of passion.
  • Reviewing Resources to identify those that are hidden behind Paywalls, improving the site Navigation to be consistent for our users, and filling out the excerpts of various Resources where they are missing.
  • Digging deeply into the claims made by Jeremy Rifkin regarding the Digital Revolution because his ideas emphasize decentralization, which is consistent with our website. This research is leading to related resources that will bring us up-to-date on the Digital Revolution in 2021.
  • Suggesting and/or adding a few new Resources to the website as he encounters them.

We’d welcome your participation in these and other efforts to improve the site!

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New Opening for the Preface

  • New Opening for the Preface. “Humanity is on a downward spiral headed toward a premature death—or the end of life as we know it. Signs include climate catastrophes, a deadly pandemic and no plan to stop the next one, systemic racism, increased inequality, hyper-nationalism, more authoritarianism, less democracy, a new Cold War, an addiction to violence at home and abroad, irrational resentments, scapegoating, mindless cults, bitter tribalism, cancerous materialism, selfish consumerism, corruption everywhere, out-of-control Big Tech, the growth of the Surveillance State, oppressive hierarchies, the persistent desire to dominate, politicians dedicated to their own power—all justified in the name of a mythical meritocracy and self-centeredness that claims in the personal arena, “I can only take care of myself and my family,” and in the political arena, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Systemic elitism, uncontrollable bureaucracies, and deep decadence prevail.

    Neither History, God, Progress, a left-wing Savior, a right-wing Strongman, nor some Darwinian “cultural evolution” will save us. There’s no guarantee all will end well. As a species, we’re merely temporary residents of the universe. As individuals, we begin dying the moment we’re born. Doing nothing is not an option. Whatever we do or fail to do has an impact.

    Our best hope is to awaken a profound and widespread moral commitment to do the right thing—to pursue Truth, Justice, and Beauty—in small supportive, action-oriented teams whose members support each other with their personal efforts to become better human beings and their political efforts to become more effective activists while coming together, at least occasionally, in a unified, independent social movement to advance holistic and systemic transformation—for the sake of all humanity, the environment, and life itself—to grow democratic hierarchies, cultivate co-equal partnerships, and establish democratic equality throughout society. This website is dedicated to this mission…” (read more)

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

Recent Additions to the Systemopedia

A Vision

A Vision
By Wade Lee Hudson

(4/3/20 draft)

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: 

Draft Declaration for Holistic Democracy – 3/27/20” 

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. 

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The organizing committee then:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.

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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.

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NOTES: 

  1. The latest draft of this essay will always be here. Feedback is welcome. 
  2. Stephen Gerritson, George Fowler, and Alan Levin contributed greatly to the composition of the Declaration with many comments and suggestions.
  3. Those who contributed to or signed Americans for Humanity: A Declaration also helped with this effort.
  4. 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.

 

Promoting Global Transformation with Holistic Democracy

Promoting Global Transformation with Holistic Democracy
By Wade Lee Hudson

With careful planning and popular support, a well-organized grassroots movement can transform this nation into a compassionate community  — and cooperate with forces elsewhere who do the same in their country. 

The first step is to form broad agreement on a vision — shared principles that can help hold together a wide diversity of communities. The second step is for the movement to steadily gain members by nurturing face-to-face communities who embrace the vision. The third step is to build momentum by winning victories with improvements in national policy that move toward the vision.

The following “Draft Declaration for Holistic Democracy” indicates the kind of core principles that could be the basis of unity for this global, pro-democracy movement.

Draft Declaration for Holistic Democracy – 3/27/20 

We, the undersigned, commit to serve humanity, the environment, and life itself.  We urge the development of organizations committed to this goal whose members:

  • identify as co-equal members of the human family, respect the essential equality of all human beings, affirm individuals’ countless 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 nations, 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 can promote holistic democracy, which addresses the whole person, the whole society, and our interwoven social system. We can pursue the eventual, evolutionary transformation of our social system into a compassionate community that serves humanity, the environment, and life itself. 

This approach calls for patience and dedication. There are no shortcuts. We can keep the best of what we’ve inherited and build on that foundation. We can create a better, fairer, more compassionate, and more democratic world — one that has many new structures, a new character, and a new appearance — one that is in many respects new — one that looks and feels like new — one that eventually is transformed

If this global movement develops, specific strategies and tactics will vary across countries. But all elements will share a commitment to holistic democracy. With mutually reinforcing personal, social, cultural, economic, and political reforms, this holistic democracy movement will promote fundamental transformation. 

NOTES: 

  1. Stephen Gerritson, George Fowler, and Alan Levin contributed greatly to the composition of the Declaration with many comments and suggestions. Wade Lee Hudson was the principal author.

  2. This work-in-progress is envisioned as the introduction to a booklet that will elaborate on steps two and three with concrete organizing methods. Feedback is welcome.  If you’re interested in collaborating on this project, please let me know.

  3. Everyone is free to take the Declaration, modify it, and use it as you see fit.

Depolarize Ourselves: Affirm Our Humanity

To my mind, the most valuable part of Ezra Klein’s Why We’re Polarized is the section “Depolarizing Ourselves.” Ezra writes:

We, as individuals,… are also being changed by it (the political system). The primary way the system gets its hooks into us is by threatening or otherwise activating our political identities and using the catalytic energy to (manipulate),… being used for the political purposes of others….

(Our identity) is deeper than conscious thought….The millisecond it takes to take an identity to activate isn’t something we can simply slough off. But… we can harness it….

There is a massive apparatus for defining, policing, and activating (identities). If you want to get out of that superstructure, it takes work…. We can become intentional about which identities we work to activate…. Trying to be aware of how politics makes us feel, of what happens when our identities are activated, or otherwise inflamed, is a necessary first step to gaining some control of the process.

Sometimes (the context) is changeable. Our informational environments are one of those things…. Once we recognize that we exist amid an omnipresent conspiracy to manipulate our identities, we can begin the hard work of fashioning our environment to shape and strengthen the identities we want to inhabit. 

One of those identities, arguably the most important, is our membership in the human family. Our basic humanity is fundamental. I am a human being. You are a human being. The more we remember that reality, the easier it is to affirm everyone’s essential equality — each individual’s infinite value. This awareness nurtures mutual respect and a commitment to democratic participation in collective affairs. 

The “omnipresent conspiracy” to which Ezra refers is more than “political” as narrowly defined. Our entire society, our institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals are woven together into a self-perpetuating social system — the System. This system encourages everyone to climb social ladders, look up to and resent those above, and look down on and dominate those below. The best term for this system may be “meritocracy.” 

If we establish a new central purpose for our society — such as “to serve humanity, the environment, and life itself” — we can move toward transforming our nation into a compassionate community. If we cultivate a commitment to mutual support for self-improvement (with each individual defining their own goals), we can better move in that direction. And an important source of mutual support is face-to-face community with others who share core values. In this way, we can depolarize ourselves and strengthen our humanity.

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Originally posted here.

Ezra Klein and Jane McAlevey: Who’s To Blame?

Ezra Klein and Jane McAlevey:
Who’s To Blame?
By Wade Lee Hudson

Ezra Klein’s power analysis contradicts the analysis that Jane McAlevey presents in the “A master class in organizing” Ezra Klein Show podcast. According to Klein, the primary problem is “the machine” — not the “1%” or any particular decision-maker, as offered by McAlevey, the author of three books on organizing, including, most recently, A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy. Nevertheless, a broad-based “Purple Alliance” could utilize many of McAlevey’s organizing principles. This alliance could advance policies supported by supermajorities, including a majority of rank-and-file Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Rather than cultivating an Alinsky-style demonization of key decision-makers, this approach could target the machine, or “the System.”

In the February 5, 2020 podcast, “Jill Lepore on what I get wrong,” Lepore asks, “In some big structural way in the book there’s a quite notable absence of villains…. Why no villains?” Klein replies:

I’m trying to tell you how a machine works. I’m just trying to tell you what happens to almost everybody in it…. There are people in it. Where they are and what they’re trying to do makes them villainous to me…. What I want to tell you is how the thing is working…. 

I wanted to call some players and institutions in this villains and I had trouble figuring out a chain of causality…. And so I think one of the reasons I had a little bit of trouble finding a clear villain…is that I think all of these institutions are in a relationship with their audience…. There is something different happening in the relationships between the bases and the party institutions…. 

Every time I tried to trace [blame] down to the place that I could prove it, I would fail…. (Trump) had figured out what was true about the audience. So I’m trying in some ways to trace that, but also I have trouble assigning the causality or even figuring out where it begins. All these things seem to be in a dynamic relationship with each other that is hard to figure out how if you replaced a player or even the institution how different of a result you would get…. The thing I’m trying to build an idea of is of a machine with different pieces all working together.

In the Introduction to his book, Why We’re Polarized, Klein talks about “the system” and writes, “We collapse systemic problems into personalized narratives.” And the final chapter includes a section on “Depolarizing ourselves,” which implies, as I see it, an affirmation that our major institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals are woven together into a self-perpetuating social system, the System.

It seems to me, however, that Klein stops short of fully spelling out that broader implication. Instead, he tends to only analyze the political and economic elements of the System, as do most people who engage in systemic analysis.

McAlevey, on the other hand, says blaming the 99% vs the 1% is “sort of right” and insists we are “up against a tiny elite,” “filthy rich” employers, and “greed” (though many factors other than greed are at play, as Klein has discussed). But Klein did not challenge her with his power analysis. Instead, McAlevey’s eloquent, technocratic expertise prevailed.

But as we avoid scapegoating, lessons can be learned from her expertise and incorporated into efforts such as a Purple Alliance and the transformation of the Democratic Party into a year-round, precinct-based, face-to-face, mutually supportive, activist community.

Links

Elizabeth Warren Is Unlikely to Endorse Bernie Sanders. Here’s Why.
By Astead W. Herndon and Shane Goldmacher

“I come from the lens of an organizer, and if someone doesn’t do what you want, you don’t blame them — you ask why. And you don’t demand that answer of that person — you reflect. And that reflection is where you can grow.”
–Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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Ezra Klein Show, March 11  Dan Pfeiffer on Joe Biden, beating Trump, and saving Democracy

“Ezra and Dan focus on “inside game” strategy — campaigning, legislating, restructuring the government (e.g., eliminating the filibuster). What they say largely makes sense. But absent an effective “outside game,” the gains achieved with their efforts will be sorely limited and fragile. Witness 2010.

We need massive, inclusive, democratic grassroots movements that unite occasionally to support timely, top priority issues and persist until they win. In this way, we can build enough power to persuade Congress to respect the will of the people. 

To cultivate that political unity, we need profound personal, social, and cultural change of the sort that Ezra has addressed at times, especially in his conversations with and about Elizabeth Anderson. In particular, we need to learn how to really respect everyone’s essential equality and democratize our entire society, including creating new social structures, some of which would involve formal interaction with elected officials.

The discussion about Organizing for America and Bernie’s vision of “sending his people into Kentucky” and Dan’s idea of “sending a bunch of organizers” to lobby was woefully inadequate. That top-down approach is not democratic, and we need more democracy.”

–Wade Lee Hudson

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Draft Declaration for Holistic Democracy – 3/12/20