Reflections on West Lake Tahoe

Today, after living in Northern California for more than 50 years, I more fully appreciated the unadulterated beauty of Lake Tahoe. I may have landed here at the perfect time, late April, and best location, Tahoma, on the West Shore.

After clearing what feels like the last major hurdle on my autobiography – completing a good first draft on the final, most important chapter, “Reflections,” in which I acknowledge my mistakes, share my conclusions about key points in my worldview, and look forward to the future – I decided to celebrate by firing up one of the Dominican cigars I brought with me and stroll to the pier across from the post office.

Sitting on a bench at the end of the pier in the sun without a cloud in the sky with the temperature at a comfortable 54 degrees, intoxicated a bit by the tobacco, I gazed on the lake with its various shades of blue in almost complete solitude. No speedboats disturbed the peace and quiet, which will soon no longer be the case. In fact, none were within eyesight. To my right and left, several piers in each direction were empty, except for one person in the far distance. One individual was sitting on the steps in front of her cabin about 150 yards away. I could see two gardeners clearing the land around the three tiers of cabins nearby. Otherwise, I was alone and loving it, reinforcing my plan to travel throughout the Western United States in a converted van next winter. Driving through Nevada to get here I was struck once again by the beautiful enormity of this country. I can find more solitude here than I can by traveling almost anywhere else, except maybe Australia (not a bad idea).

Mother Nature is indeed a wonder to behold. How unfortunate that city dwellers so seldom are able to be healed by communing directly with Her magic, without being distracted by human interaction.

Earlier today I was heartened to read an article on The New York Times, which I found by noticing that it was the “most emailed” article. (I should look at this list more often, because when I do, I usually find a real gem, as I did with “Raising a Moral Child” and “All or Nothing Marriage,” for the “wisdom of crowds” is a fact.)

Today’s article was “What Does Buddhism Require?” , an interview with Jay L. Garfield, who has taught philosophy at several universities and is currently the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Professor of Humanities, Yale-NUS College in Singapore. He is at work on a book called “Engaging Buddhism: Why Buddhism Matters to Contemporary Philosophy.”

For some time, in conversations with friends about the Buddhist belief that “there is no self or soul,” I have argued that what has been meant by that expression is that there is no separate self with boundaries. Rather, the self is without boundary and is interwoven with other selves and all of reality. But I had never seen any such written explanation. So I was reassured that Garfield articulated that understanding in much the same way with the following statements:

A strong sense of self — of one’s own substantial reality, uniqueness and independence of others — may not be psychologically or morally healthy. It can lead to egoism, to narcissism and to a lack of care for others…. More positively, the Buddhist tradition encourages us to see ourselves as impermanent, interdependent individuals, linked to one another and to our world through shared commitments to achieving an understanding of our lives and a reduction of suffering. It encourages us to rethink egoism and to consider an orientation to the world characterized by care and joint responsibility.

My mood has also been boosted by a decision to finally bite the bullet and buy a new laptop (it should be delivered to me here Thursday). Getting a telephone call from Microsoft Support that informed me how to install Word 2013 without buying it again helped get me over that hump.

I also feel good about my decision about how to handle my ambivalence about writing about people who are still alive with whom I have experienced conflict without giving them a chance to correct the record or offer a rebuttal. I plan to hold off on distributing the first edition of my autobiography to the general public. Rather, I will make it available only to those people I write about, plus some consultants and perhaps to my blog subscribers who promise not to distribute it widely to others. Then, I’ll incorporate feedback into the second edition if there is one. I’m trying my best to be accurate, fair, and considerate in what I say about others, but it’s a delicate matter, so I feel good about this approach. Nevertheless. I’m still welcome to suggested changes in this plan.

The controversy about the racist Clippers’ owner’s comments is also encouraging. Exposing the enduring reality of racism and affirming the need to address it is always a positive development.

And just now my neighbor here connected a cable to my TV so I’ll be able to watch the Giants and Warriors on a large HD screen rather than trying to find some way to stream them on my laptop. Life is good!

Ukraine and Dynastic Capitalism

Paul Krugman - CaricatureBy Wade Lee Hudson

Following the death of Mao and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Dynastic Capitalism has taken over the world. Every country of any size is dominated by a handful of extremely wealthy elites who pass on their wealth and power to their heirs, as Paul Krugman and Bill Moyers addressed in their discussion of Thomas Piketty’s explosive new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. This global social system is fundamentally unified, though different factions compete with one another for advantage, like teams in a global sporting competition.

Nations belong to more than one faction and from time to time the competition between two particular factions emerges as primary. At the moment, the conflict between the West and Russia over Ukraine is receiving primary attention. But the economies of all nations are now so thoroughly intertwined, war between the major powers is unlikely because the 1% in each nation know they would suffer severely as a result.

Western Dynastic Capitalism is trying to gain an edge over Emerging Dynaistic Capitalism by using the International Monetary Fund to pressure emerging nations to open their borders to the free flow of capital and goods. Historically emerging nations, including the United States, have used restrictions on the flow of capital and goods to protect their own industries. But today, for the sake of their own self-interest, developed nations are opposing such measures.

Particularly important is freedom of capital. The largest financial institutions instantly buy and sell huge quantities of financial instruments every day. These transactions are non-productive. They don’t benefit the real economy. But they generate enormous profits. So Western Dynastic Capitalism administrators are pressing Emerging Crony Capitalism administrators to lift restrictions on the flow of capital into and out of their nations.

The West has managed to maintain stability by wedding liberal democracy with its economy. China has developed a more blatantly totalitarian model. Russia is taking that same path. Most people when given the choice understandably prefer the liberal model. The Russian 1% are well aware of this reality. What they are most afraid of is not the West and its military, but the threat of internal political turmoil demanding liberal democracy, which could threaten their dominance.

Meanwhile, the West is far from being fully democratic. Dynastic Capitalism dominates here too. This reality calls for the rest of us to resist getting sucked into choosing sides in the smoke and mirrors of manufactured crises, these momentary struggles between teams that play the same game. The corrupt machinations of the various players only divert us from the fundamental problem: the whole world is dominated by a global social system that sorely needs to be restructured.

Berrett-Koehler and My Final Push

High School BasseballBy Wade Lee Hudson

Inspired by recent communication with Berrett-Koehler Publishers (BK)  Vice-President, David Marshall, I may not post much here for the next two months. Instead I plan to concentrate as fully as possible on finishing the first edition of my self-published autobiography and making copies available free of charge at my 70th birthday party on July 26. I’ll also mail it to anyone who wants a copy and will be asking readers for feedback, including their opinion about whether I should seek a publisher who could help me improve it and distribute it more widely.

I want to make this book as good as possible. I’ve almost finished the first draft, with 35 chapters and 350 pages, and believe it’s pretty good. But there’s a long way to go for it to be very good. I could use help, especially in terms of how to shorten it.

My conversation with David began when he called to interview me as part of BK’s branding study. Though we did not discuss my book, my interaction with him and a proposed modification from Bob Anshuetz, my copy editor, have prompted me to coin a new title, Opposing the System to Save the World: My Story.

I’m moving toward that title because my phone call with David and his follow-up email reinforce my confidence that my analysis of our social system, as I expressed for example in “Transforming the System with Evolutionary Revolution,” is sensible. At least it’s worth serious consideration. Most of the expert “systems thinkers” from whom I’ve solicited feedback have not responded. But those who did, like on the Wiser Earth network that was inspired by Paul Kawken’s Blessed Unrest, have been supportive. Likewise, most of my peers from whom I’ve solicited feedback have been rather unresponsive. But those who have commented have been supportive.

I believe my analysis is original and important. I did not borrow it from anyone, but rather developed it in dialog with associates. Most recently, I summarized my thinking in the Preface to my autobiography. That section reads:

Our global society is a self-perpetuating social system of inter-related elements – namely, our institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals. No one element controls this system, which operates to concentrate wealth and power.

Most people who write about “the system” only talk about our political and economic institutions. But you and I reinforce the system every day in countless ways. Without our participation, the system would collapse. And our other major institutions, other than government and business, such as media and schools, reinforce the system in essential ways.

One reason that this systemic perspective is important is that it avoids scapegoating. Different people have many different scapegoats. Among those who want to pin down blame, there is no consensus about what element of the system to blame – because it can’t be done in a way that holds up to logical analysis. We are all responsible. But some people are compelled to direct their frustration and anger at something.

Avoiding scapegoating is important because if one does not scapegoat, it makes no sense to tap anger to attack “enemies,” or “opponents,” which does not work in the long run anyway.

Instead, we need a positive, creative vision with which we can inspire others and ourselves to be more active to help change the system by changing ourselves, our culture, and our institutions – and creating new structures that help us better serve humanity.

My conversation with David reassured me that I am not as alone as I sometimes feel with regard to this perspective. I don’t know if I have ever had a conversation with anyone with whom I felt so much that we were on the same wavelength.

But that experience did not surprise me, because the BK books I have read — Power and Love, Transformational Scenario Planning, True North Groups, and The Secret of Teams — have resonated with and clarified my thinking immensely, often prompting me to give copies to friends and colleagues. And the book I bought two weeks ago, Deepening Community, looks like another great one, as does one David recommended, Collective Visioning, by Linda Stout. David said, “She is a miracle worker who has helped underrepresented people throughout America discover and express their voices.”

The following list of upcoming books also indicates why I hold BK in such high regard:

A Peacock in the Land of Penguins, 4th edition by BJ Gallagher
With more than 365,000 copies sold and translations in 20 languages, BJ Gallagher’s pioneering book is a classic in the fields of creativity and diversity. Organizations around the world have used the book to improve team communication, effectiveness, and innovation. We all have a little bit of peacock inside of us!

Power Through Partnership by Betsy Polk and Maggie Ellis Chotas
Society erroneously trains us to believe that women do not partner well with other women. However, with extensive research, Polk and Chotas show that partnerships between women are even more effective because of shared values and experiences, and in this book they show us all how to do it.

The Confidence Myth by Helene Lerner
Research shows that women consistently undervalue their skills and readiness for challenging jobs, promotions, and assignments–while men have the opposite bias. How can women compete on this un-level playing field if they talk themselves out the game before they start? Helene Lerner tells women that confidence is overrated and what is really important is to step up and be a leader, ready or not.

Are You Intriguing? By Sam Horn
Our deepest yearning is to connect, yet many of us don’t know how. We’re taught how to read and write in school; but we’re not taught how to genuinely engage people and create mutually-rewarding interactions. We’re not taught how to earn people’s interest so they voluntarily give us their attention, friendship and business. People want to be intrigued and they want to be intrigued fast and this book provides NEW ways to do that.

Singletasking by Devora Zack
In any situation, doing one thing at a time is more effective than multitasking—yet why do we continually lapse into the habit of doing many things poorly all at once? What if you could do more things, more successfully by improving focus, eliminating distraction, and managing your environment? The answer is singletasking, whatever the question.

Leadership for a Fractured World by Dean Williams
Harvard University professor Dean Williams shares what he has learned from his decade of working with leaders around the world to bring about change in today’s complex, interdependent, conflicted, power-dispersed environments.

Dare to Serve: The Unexpected Power of the Leader Who Serves by Cheryl Bachelder
Thirty-five years ago, Robert Greenleaf introduced the concept of the servant leader who leads by putting the well-being of others first. While many have found the servant leadership concept intriguing, it has never gained a sure foothold inside of corporations. The concept has been marginalized and misunderstood. It has been simplistically and pejoratively cast as “nice-guy leadership” – perhaps best-suited to the non-profit arena, but certainly not a serious idea for driving public company performance. This book aims to set the record straight and is written by the CEO of Popeye’s, an international fast-food franchise.

So you may want to subscribe to the BK newsletter by clicking on this link.

And to learn more about BK and its early history, read the text of an excellent recent speech by its President and Founder, Steve Persanti, “Secrets of Berrett-Koehler’s Success.”

‘Til later, alligators.

Raising a Moral Child

Moral ChildBy Adam Grant

What does it take to be a good parent? We know some of the tricks for teaching kids to become high achievers. For example, research suggests that when parents praise effort rather than ability, children develop a stronger work ethic and become more motivated.

Yet although some parents live vicariously through their children’s accomplishments, success is not the No. 1 priority for most parents. We’re much more concerned about our children becoming kind, compassionate and helpful. Surveys reveal that in the United States, parents from European, Asian, Hispanic and African ethnic groups all place far greater importance on caring than achievement. These patterns hold around the world: When people in 50 countries were asked to report their guiding principles in life, the value that mattered most was not achievement, but caring.

Are some children simply good-natured — or not? For the past decade, I’ve been studying the surprising success of people who frequently help others without any strings attached. As the father of two daughters and a son, I’ve become increasingly curious about how these generous tendencies develop.

Genetic twin studies suggest that anywhere from a quarter to more than half of our propensity to be giving and caring is inherited. That leaves a lot of room for nurture, and the evidence on how parents raise kind and compassionate children flies in the face of what many of even the most well-intentioned parents do in praising good behavior, responding to bad behavior, and communicating their values.

By age 2, children experience some moral emotions — feelings triggered by right and wrong. To reinforce caring as the right behavior, research indicates, praise is more effective than rewards. Rewards run the risk of leading children to be kind only when a carrot is offered, whereas praise communicates that sharing is intrinsically worthwhile for its own sake. But what kind of praise should we give when our children show early signs of generosity?

Many parents believe it’s important to compliment the behavior, not the child — that way, the child learns to repeat the behavior. Indeed, I know one couple who are careful to say, “That was such a helpful thing to do,” instead of, “You’re a helpful person.”

But is that the right approach? In a clever experiment, the researchers Joan E. Grusec and Erica Redler set out to investigate what happens when we commend generous behavior versus generous character. After 7- and 8-year-olds won marbles and donated some to poor children, the experimenter remarked, “Gee, you shared quite a bit.”

The researchers randomly assigned the children to receive different types of praise. For some of the children, they praised the action: “It was good that you gave some of your marbles to those poor children. Yes, that was a nice and helpful thing to do.” For others, they praised the character behind the action: “I guess you’re the kind of person who likes to help others whenever you can. Yes, you are a very nice and helpful person.”

A couple of weeks later, when faced with more opportunities to give and share, the children were much more generous after their character had been praised than after their actions had been. Praising their character helped them internalize it as part of their identities. The children learned who they were from observing their own actions: I am a helpful person. This dovetails with new research led by the psychologist Christopher J. Bryan, who finds that for moral behaviors, nouns work better than verbs. To get 3- to 6-year-olds to help with a task, rather than inviting them “to help,” it was 22 to 29 percent more effective to encourage them to “be a helper.” Cheating was cut in halfwhen instead of, “Please don’t cheat,” participants were told, “Please don’t be a cheater.” When our actions become a reflection of our character, we lean more heavily toward the moral and generous choices. Over time it can become part of us.

Praise appears to be particularly influential in the critical periods when children develop a stronger sense of identity. When the researchers Joan E. Grusec and Erica Redler praised the character of 5-year-olds, any benefits that may have emerged didn’t have a lasting impact: They may have been too young to internalize moral character as part of a stable sense of self. And by the time children turned 10, the differences between praising character and praising actions vanished: Both were effective. Tying generosity to character appears to matter most around age 8, when children may be starting to crystallize notions of identity.

Praise in response to good behavior may be half the battle, but our responses to bad behavior have consequences, too. When children cause harm, they typically feel one of two moral emotions: shame or guilt. Despite the common belief that these emotions are interchangeable, research led by the psychologist June Price Tangneyreveals that they have very different causes and consequences.

Shame is the feeling that I am a bad person, whereas guilt is the feeling that I have done a bad thing. Shame is a negative judgment about the core self, which is devastating: Shame makes children feel small and worthless, and they respond either by lashing out at the target or escaping the situation altogether. In contrast, guilt is a negative judgment about an action, which can be repaired by good behavior. When children feel guilt, they tend to experience remorse and regret, empathize with the person they have harmed, and aim to make it right.

In one study spearheaded by the psychologist Karen Caplovitz Barrett, parents rated their toddlers’ tendencies to experience shame and guilt at home. The toddlers received a rag doll, and the leg fell off while they were playing with it alone. The shame-prone toddlers avoided the researcher and did not volunteer that they broke the doll. The guilt-prone toddlers were more likely to fix the doll, approach the experimenter, and explain what happened. The ashamed toddlers were avoiders; the guilty toddlers were amenders.

If we want our children to care about others, we need to teach them to feel guilt rather than shame when they misbehave. In a review of research on emotions and moral development, the psychologist Nancy Eisenberg suggests that shame emerges when parents express anger, withdraw their love, or try to assert their power through threats of punishment: Children may begin to believe that they are bad people. Fearing this effect, some parents fail to exercise discipline at all, which can hinder the development of strong moral standards.

The most effective response to bad behavior is to express disappointment. According to independent reviews by ProfessorEisenberg and David R. Shaffer, parents raise caring children by expressing disappointment and explaining why the behavior was wrong, how it affected others, and how they can rectify the situation. This enables children to develop standards for judging their actions, feelings of empathy and responsibility for others, and a sense of moral identity, which are conducive to becoming a helpful person. The beauty of expressing disappointment is that it communicates disapproval of the bad behavior, coupled with high expectations and the potential for improvement: “You’re a good person, even if you did a bad thing, and I know you can do better.”

As powerful as it is to criticize bad behavior and praise good character, raising a generous child involves more than waiting for opportunities to react to the actions of our children. As parents, we want to be proactive in communicating our values to our children. Yet many of us do this the wrong way.

In a classic experiment, the psychologist J. Philippe Rushton gave 140 elementary- and middle-school-age children tokens for winning a game, which they could keep entirely or donate some to a child in poverty. They first watched a teacher figure play the game either selfishly or generously, and then preach to them the value of taking, giving or neither. The adult’s influence was significant: Actions spoke louder than words. When the adult behaved selfishly, children followed suit. The words didn’t make much difference — children gave fewer tokens after observing the adult’s selfish actions, regardless of whether the adult verbally advocated selfishness or generosity. When the adult acted generously, students gave the same amount whether generosity was preached or not — they donated 85 percent more than the norm in both cases. When the adult preached selfishness, even after the adult acted generously, the students still gave 49 percent more than the norm. Children learn generosity not by listening to what their role models say, but by observing what they do.

To test whether these role-modeling effects persisted over time, two months later researchers observed the children playing the game again. Would the modeling or the preaching influence whether the children gave — and would they even remember it from two months earlier?

The most generous children were those who watched the teacher give but not say anything. Two months later, these children were 31 percent more generous than those who observed the same behavior but also heard it preached. The message from this research is loud and clear: If you don’t model generosity, preaching it may not help in the short run, and in the long run, preaching is less effective than giving while saying nothing at all.

People often believe that character causes action, but when it comes to producing moral children, we need to remember that action also shapes character. As the psychologist Karl Weick is fond of asking, “How can I know who I am until I see what I do? How can I know what I value until I see where I walk?”


Adam Grant is a professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the author of “Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success.”

Originally published by The New York Times on April 11, 2014. On April 14, it was #1 on the list of most emailed articles.

The Michael Lewis Controversy

Michael_Lewis_2009By Dealbook

When Michael Lewis rolled out his new book with an appearance on the CBS show “60 Minutes” and an excerpt in The New York Times magazine, the author was praised by literary critics and panned by high-frequency traders.

The speedy condemnation from people made rich by high-speed trading was expected, but Mr. Lewis, one of the most popular business journalists in the country, has also been panned by a number of financial journalists.

While praising the attention that Mr. Lewis has drawn to the problems of high-speed trading, reporters and columnists who cover Wall Street are calling the book old news and questioning Mr. Lewis’s errors, omissions and s implification of the issue.

Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote that Mr. Lewis “reserves blame for the wrong villains.”

Joe Nocera, an Op-Ed columnist for The Times, wrote that the narrative “starts to feel just a little too perfect.”

Mr. Lewis responded to the criticism today in an inte rview with Salon, saying that “this time I punched Wall Street in” a location that can’t be mentioned in the pages of The Times.

In The Times’s Sunday book review, James B. Stewart, a Times columnist and the author of “Den of Thieves,” punches back.

“There’s really no news in the book,” Mr. Stewart said in an appearance on CNBC. “The news is Michael Lewis discovered high-frequency trading, but Scott Patterson wrote all this, and more, in his 2012 book, ‘Dark Pools.'”

“It’s not a fair book,” Mr. Stewart said. “Goldman Sachs gets slammed, The Wall Street Journal gets slammed for not picking this up, the S.E.C. gets slammed. No one gets to tell their side of the story. One thing I’ve learned as a reporter is that every story gets better when you hear the other side of the story.”

Mr. Stewart’s review finds that:

“A purported contest between good and evil in which all the characters are good quickly becomes dull, especially when the setting is as technical as high-frequency trading. The traders themselves remain faceless adversaries of Katsuyama and his buddies. Lewis never penetrates their high-tech lairs, or even seems to have tried. Who are these people? What are they like? How do they do what they do? How much money do they make and what do they do with it? And are they really so bad? (For answers to these questions, there’s Scott Patterson’s far more comprehensive and persuasive 2012 book, “Dark Pools: The Rise of the Machine Traders and the Rigging of the U.S. Stock Market.”)”

Why Compassionate Politics

Self GiantsBy Wade Lee Hudson

From time to time I ask total strangers about their impressions of the progressive movement. Thus far, without exception, their concerns about certain weaknesses in that movement echo my own.

Last week a young woman got into my taxi and asked what had just happened with the weekly Monday-night protest about the recent killing of a man at a BART subway station by a police officer. I reported that the organizers of the protests had decided to stop disrupting BART service and instead simply distribute leaflets. She replied with a comment about how such disruptions are no way to gain public support.

I said, “Yes. You wonder why it took them so long to figure that out. But when I was young and stupid I took that approach myself.”

She responded, “So did I when I was in college.”

“What issues did you work on?”

“Issues related to education.”

“Are you still engaged in activism?”

“No. I’m not.”

“Do you wish you were?”

“Yes, I definitely do.”

“What might prompt you or encourage you to get engaged?”

“I’m not sure. That’s a good question.”

Then after a long silence during which she seemed to reflect on that question, I asked, “Is there something about the approach taken by activists that discourages you?”

With strong feeling she immediately responded, “Yes. Self-righteousness. Seeing everything in black and white. Taking the hard line.”

I then told her about my own work on these issues and she thanked me profusely for asking her those questions. She then talked about having volunteered in a program for homeless children but having got burned out after devoting several hours a week to that stressful project.

As she left my taxi, she thanked me again for my questions and said she’d be thinking about them.

Two nights later, another passenger initiated a conversation about the Sixties. She commented on how there is less activism today and people seem more “self-protective.” She said she was still somewhat active.

When I asked her if there is something about how activists operate that discourages non-activists from becoming active, she quickly said, “Adopting a very angry and antagonistic stance, rather than one that is positive and proactive.”

Those interactions reveal real problems with traditional activism and touch on tensions that are difficult to resolve. On the one hand, passionate true believers with a hard line can recruit enough people to launch a project and get media attention. Soon, however, they reach a plateau and find they need more support from the mainstream in order to change public policy, but their militant methods alienate the mainstream, whose support is critical.

My interest is with encouraging the development of new strategies that could attract disaffected concerned individuals like my taxi passengers and greatly increase the number of people engaged in activism. My goal is not to persuade militants to change. They have a role to play. Liberals and radicals need each other.

Recently I’ve focused on “compassionate politics” with an emphasis on achieving long-term systemic transformation through steady short-term incremental reforms. To my mind, to transform our social system, we must simultaneously change our institutions, our cultures, and ourselves. This process therefore necessarily involves ongoing personal growth, which many consider spiritual.

One form of self-improvement that seems critical to address is the arrogance to which my taxi passengers referred.

It is my belief that activist organizations need to consciously foster the growth of supportive communities that are clearly, explicitly dedicated to self-development as well as political action.

But finding progressive-minded people with whom I can collaborate on these issues is not easy. With their focus on the outer world of public policy, progressive political activists largely ignore the inner world of spirit and feelings and build organizations that are impersonal machines. They seem to think that their passion and their ideas will suffice.

And individuals who are engaged in personal or spiritual development shy away from politics.

So I’m beginning to seriously wonder if I should shift my methodology somehow. I’m definitely open to new ideas.

Many political activists are becoming more open about their dedication to personal/spiritual growth. Perhaps some day these seeds will bloom and caring progressive communities dedicated to both personal growth and political action will flourish.


I published a slightly different version of this essay on Wade’s Weekly on September 4, 2011.

Historians are Getting Less Blame-y and You Should, Too!

hillary-portraitEver since I read her The Lifelong Activist, I’ve subscribed to Hillary Rettig‘s newsletter and have found it very valuable, as I did her book. Today she posted the following comment. I find it interesting partly because I believe that a “systems perspective” helps us avoid scapegoating and more precisely assign responsibility.


So privileged, last night, to hear a lecture at Kalamazoo College by Christopher Clark, one of the world’s leading historians. His recent book on the causes of World War I is called The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914; and please note the interesting “How” in the subtitle. Clark says he used “how” because “why” discussions tend to get abstract: he wanted to keep things focused and concrete. Also, he said (paraphrasing) that “why” discussions almost inevitably devolve into questions of blame and finger-pointing, which are in the end both reductive and of limited use to historians or anyone.

Many people know that blame, harsh judgements, etc., are unhelpful in the personal realm; I find it fascinating that they are similarly unhelpful even in the “big” realm of history.

Clark also drew some interesting parallels between the pre-World War I world and our own post-Cold War one; although he warned against taking such comparisons too far. I will definitely be reading his book, and if you’re a history buff, you should, too.

Reflections from Ecotopia

Lake TahoeBy Wade Lee Hudson

I left Vegas in a positive frame of mind. Readers had recently sent me great feedback, movies and music had inspired me, a dream had enlightened me, I had won at blackjack, and I was headed back home to the lush green mountains of Northern California.

The most heartwarming email I had received was the following, whose subject was “Revive the failing bird,” a reference to my report on a dream that featured a near-dead bird that represented my self-identity as a community organizer:

Hi Mr. Hudson and greetings from Minnesota! Seeing your beautiful pictures from the Dominican Republic made my desire for a spring thaw even stronger. Eventually we will be able to see the ground again rather than layer upon layer of snow and ice…

My name is Amy Ledoux. I am 40 years old and am the mother of seven (three adopted as a single parent, two are my husband’s from his first marriage and, at the ages of 38 and 39, I gave birth to the last two little miracles who could have been nicknamed “surprise” and “are you kidding me???”) I have no idea how I began receiving your emails, but I have been reading them for years and I wanted to tell you that they have been a Godsend. I began losing my eyesight a few years ago from Fuch’s Dystrophy. I became quite confined to my house as my eye sight worsened. Last February I could no longer see the traffic lanes in front of me or distinguish the lights on a traffic pole, so I hung up my keys. In August I went to cross the street with my babies in a stroller in front of me and my mom pulled me back so that we wouldn’t get run over by the vehicle I did not see, so I no longer went for walks without an escort.

But, I was able to blow up the font of your emails and hold my cell phone right in front of my face and continue to read your emails. They were a great source of consistency, comfort, and a connection to the outside world.

In February of this year I had my first cornea transplant and my vision went from 20/200 to 20/25 in my left eye! Life is progressing and I am thankful for every moment of it! I am thankful that I can see the keyboard in front of me to write this email to you.

The reason that I am reaching out to you is in response to your writing about the seemingly dead bird in your dream. I may have a cause that could help revive the buzzard. I am forwarding an article that was published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch this past Sunday. It was sent to me by my good friend, Mike Tikkanen, who is the subject of the article. I think the rest speaks for itself. And, just so you know, I don’t know exactly how old Mike is but, I think we can safely say he has been buying the senior coffee at McDonalds for several decades!

Should you ever decide to make a stop in the Midwest on your U.S. tour, I hope that you make a pit stop in Wisconsin or Minnesota. I think we could arrange a get together of several open minded individuals and enjoy a good conversation in person.

Baby #2 is up and trying to rip off my glasses and grab the keyboard. Gotta go. I believe all of Mike’s contact info is in the article if you choose to follow-up with him.


She then included an article, “He hopes the public will soon notice the children he can’t ignore,” about Mike Tikkanen and his work with Kids At Risk Action (KARA) advocating for abused and neglected children.

I replied:

Dear Amy,

Wow. That’s incredible. It really warms my heart to hear your story and to know that my writings were so meaningful to you under those conditions. As is the case with many writers, I often write not knowing if anyone is really reading what I write. It’s great to know you were really reading!

Actually I’m familiar with Mike and hold his work in very high regard. May I post your email with a link to that article about him?

I have plenty of causes which inspire me. What is lacking is collaborators. Recently, it seems some partnerships may be forming with the Full Employment project and I just posted some encouraging feedback from Gary Pace on the Holistic Community Pledge.

We shall see. In the meantime, I’m enjoying working on my autobiography.

Thanks again and best of luck with the family!

Amy shared her email with Mike, who replied:

Wow Amy this is good news. As is your improving eyesight. Thank you so much for keeping us in your thoughts and helping us advance our Kids At Risk Action effort.

I am very familiar with Wade’s work and so glad you have made this connection and hope that he will make our information available to his readership. I believe he has a pretty big following.

Wade, Hello from your pals in MN. I so love the smallness of the planet when my friends connecting me back into their circles. Amy was KARA’s executive director for quite some time and has helped us become an organized advocacy group making hour long documentaries with Public TV stations (we are in negotiations this week) and presenting resolutions to our DFL convention this spring in hopes of making life better for at risk children. We are really excited about the possibilities this year and would greatly appreciate any attention you might give our efforts.

Keep on writing and organizing as it does tie us all together and keep raising awareness.

As an odd tidbit related to your dead bird in the attic, years ago (about 30) I owned a junkyard with 29 employees and it made me crazy. I don’t know if this dream prompted my bailing out of the business, but I suspect it plays in somewhere; I remember the anchor around my neck and what seemed like an entire night of (dreaming) trying to remove it. I much prefer my bodies flying dreams but have not been able to replay them recently.

My very best wishes to both of you,


An email from Gary Pace in response to the draft Holistic Growth Pledge also heartened me. He said, “I think this looks really good, Wade. Simple, yet deep. Could be a good kernel to work around. Thanks for continuing to work with this thread of connection.”

In addition, Malcolm Hoover, had responded to that draft:

Wade, this is great. I would only add to this that I will identify and reach out to someone who I identify as a possible ally at least 3 times a year and try to build unity with that person and educate myself about their issue(s). For instance, for me it would be reaching out to the LGBTQ community and educating myself particularly on the issues of trans men. Thanks for including me.

I replied:

I’m glad to receive your response. Yes, I would think that each participant could add to it in her or his own way, as you have. My intent was to leave it open in that way, rather than trying to over-prescribe, and trust each person’s essential nature to guide them — if they pause to listen.

At times, I feel my efforts to facilitate deeper, more intimate dialog are a waste of time. But when very astute individuals such as Gary and Malcolm offer comments such as those, and Amy and Mike offers such words of support, I’m reassured that at least I’m not totally crazy. And then I reflect on examples such as the success of the True North Groups and how rewarding the “soul sessions” I initiated in Mexico were (they merely asked people to “talk from the heart,” with no predetermined agenda). So I persist with my obsession.

A number of films have reinforced my feeling that the lack of authenticity in the modern world is a widespread concern. The second “Hunger Games” affirmed the need for “deep friendship” rooted in honesty. “American Hustle” (what a great title; it sums up our culture) confronted the issue provocatively. And the incredible “Particle Fever” offered the perfect counterpoint to the hustling mentality: “The very things that are least important to our survival are the very things that make us human.” Einstein also said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

Last night a woman at a pizza parlor where I went to hear music told me why she likes living on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore. Life here is hard, she said, so people have to rely on each other, which is humbling. Being more humble, they are more “genuine,” she said.

“Particle Fever” also inspired me to stick with my resolve to nurture “deep community.” The relentless, decades-long pursuit of truth by those physicists was amazing. One never knows what the result will be. All success is built on a series of failures. But if the quest is righteous, it will provide enough reward in and of itself to stay on the path. The Holy Grail is not merely a myth.

On my last night in Vegas, the Tony Award-winning musical “Million Dollar Quartet” encouraged me to stick with my focus on “soul” and “speaking from the heart.” Loosely based on the accidental encounter of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis in the Sun Records studio shortly after each of them had “made it,” the musical tells the story of how Sun Records owner Sam Phillips believed in Black music and was determined to bring its liberating power to White audiences. Eventually his persistence paid off. Perhaps someday mine will as well.

The next morning I woke with the remnant of a powerful dream lodged in my mind. I quickly captured its message with this thought, “A key paradox: I want to save the world without being an evangelist.” This formulation was so strong it stuck with me and I posted it on Facebook, where it received interesting responses. Three people “liked” it, which is about average for me on Facebook these days, but three or four others raised objections, which prompted me to try to clarify my point with this statement:

Evangelists arrogantly assume they know something that others don’t know and need to convince them to do what the evangelists want them to do. In fact, most people already know what they need to know and believe what they need to believe, but don’t see a way to act effectively. One non-evangelical approach is to inspire others with the power of example and invite them to decide together how to collaborate to act on our universal values.

Those objections to my statement and many others over the years lead me to believe that most of my peers are locked into an old, top-down notion of leadership that is rapidly fading with younger people, who are more horizontal and collaborative. But young people don’t trust old people. So I am limited in my ability to find collaborators.

These reflections reinforce my tendency to stop trying to organize. If a strong team emerges with the Full Employment project (some signs are hopeful), I’ll stay involved with that effort. But mostly I’m just going to read, write, and dialog.

Driving to Lake Tahoe through Nevada, that dream fragment stuck with me and prompted me to compose in my head a new manifesto, titled “How to Save the World in X Simple Steps.” Alone with my own thoughts, I became excited about this statement, which could end up being a small booklet.

But then reality hit, symbolized by an unexpected snow storm that almost prevented me from arriving at my cabin. Being back in Ecotopia is comforting. I no longer have to endure women telling me they love my hair, or men patting me on the back and calling me “Einstein.”

But I’m no fan of snow and cold weather, so I’ll just hole up next to my heater and re-write, re-write, and re-write. The first draft of the autobiography is almost complete, but it’s coming in at about 350 pages, which is probably much too long, so I have my work cut out for me these next eight weeks before I return to my refurbished apartment, where I plan to offer folks a foot massage when they come to my second housewarming.

And then there’s my 70th birthday, July 26. It falls on a Saturday, So let’s party.

Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War Paperback

Deer HuntingDeer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War
by Joe Bageant

A raucous, truth-telling look at the white working poor-and why they hate liberalism.

Deer Hunting with Jesus is web columnist Joe Bageant’s report on what he learned when he moved back to his hometown of Winchester, Virginia, which-like countless American small towns-is fast becoming the bedrock of a permanent underclass. By turns brutal, tender, incendiary, and seriously funny, this book is a call to arms for fellow progressives with little real understanding of “the great beery, NASCAR-loving, church-going, gun-owning America that has never set foot in a Starbucks.”


BOOK REVIEW: Deer Hunting With Jesus
by Maxwell George

…One of the slickest things the right ever did was to label necessary social costs as “entitlements.” Through thirty years of repetition, the Republicans have managed to associate the term with laziness in Americans’ minds. To the ear of hardworking blue-collar and service workers, it means “something for nothing.” …The current political narratives are constructed by well-paid public relations professionals. Their job is made easy by the fact that Tom has neither the time nor the experience to deal with political complexity or with anything else other than his job.

…a lifetime pitted against your fellow workers in the gladiatorial theatre of the free market economy…

Sure, the working-class, rural “rednecks” of his hometown are dumb, he claims, but the gravest crime of ignorance is in the middle- and upper-class failure to consider, let alone comprehend, these exploited folks. That understanding is his mission.