Birthday Reflections: 2016

WadeOn my 72nd birthday, my path forward is unclear. I know what I want but I don’t know how to get there.

I want to participate in a holistic, powerful, democratic, inclusive, multi-issue, nonviolent, national organization that:

  • Is dedicated to steadily transforming this nation and its social system into a compassionate community dedicated to the common good of the Earth Community.
  • Builds momentum with evolutionary revolution by backing progressive positions that already have the support of a majority of Americans.
  • Grows a network of small groups of individuals who share that commitment and explicitly support one another in their efforts to become better, more effective human beings.
  • Encourages members to engage in active listening, appreciative inquiry, and respectful, non-dogmatic, non-ideological dialog.

As I see it, major changes in national policy are essential to relieve the suffering and injustice that are so widespread. In particular, the federal government should generate and share revenue with local governments to provide more human services and protect the environment. That public-service program could guarantee that anyone who is able and willing to work could find a living-wage job.

Instead, the federal government is more concerned about protecting the creditor class against even a small degree of unexpected inflation, which erodes capital. So Congress refuses to engage in short-term deficit spending to fund a real jobs program. And when we approach full employment, the Federal Reserve raises interest rates.

The result is that the federal government intentionally creates widespread poverty and unemployment. Under those circumstances, local efforts to solve homelessness, for example, are doomed to failure. But compassion-grounded advocates who merely help individuals or address local policies neglect national policy.

Since I first became an activist fifty years ago, my associates and I have hoped that some day a powerful, national, ongoing, progressive coalition would come together. On a number of occasions, I’ve joined such efforts, including the Rainbow Coalition, Labor Party, Alliance for Democracy, Progressive Challenge, and the 2008 Obama campaign (which promised the hope of a post-election grassroots organization). None of those efforts persisted.

About 20 years ago, I concluded that certain weaknesses in how progressive activists operate undermine our efforts. So I participated in a stone circles workshop on spiritual activism with Claudia Horwitz and then initiated a series of workshops to explore how the progressive movement might be more effective: several Strategy Workshops, two Compassionate Politics Workshops, and a Holistic Three-Fold Path Workshop. And I participated in a number of similar workshops convened by local faith-based organizations. All of those activities were fruitful.

But I still have not found an organization of the sort that I described above (in the second paragraph) that I can join. And the issues that prompted me to initiate those workshops — such as fragmentation, ego trips, head trips, power trips, lack of listening, unwillingness to engage in respectful dialog, and just plain meanness —  have come to the fore even more during this year’s Presidential campaign.

Bernie’s campaign prompted me to hope that his movement would take over the bottom-up Democratic Party and transform it into an activist organization that organizes precinct-based clubs composed of neighbors who gather regularly, grow face-to-face community, and fight for the Party’s platform year-round.

I posted numerous essays on that idea online and discussed it with my taxi passengers. After receiving considerable positive feedback, I proposed to the San Francisco Democratic Party that they develop a model based on that concept that could help encourage the Democratic Party nationwide to adopt that approach. Some Party leaders and my District Five Democratic Club expressed support, but so far they have not followed through. So that proposal is on the back burner.

It seems that Democratic Party leaders (and Bernie himself) are almost entirely focused on elections. They don’t seem interested in building a real grassroots organization. So the Party is an empty shell that springs to life for elections and then goes back to sleep.

So I’m once again pausing from trying to initiate anything. Since Uber wiped out my retirement plan, I have to drive taxi and save as much money as I can, perhaps for as long as I am physically able (which will require a stronger commitment to my self-care).

For fifty years, I was lucky. I was able to survive on “movement wages,” which freed me to do my community work (and at times be rather self-indulgent). I never had to be a wage slave for long or develop a career. Then, when I got my medallion, it seemed my old age was secure.

But maybe the yuppies were right. Maybe I should’ve focused on my upward mobility.

Now if I take a weekly “day of rest” and do some reading, I’m lucky to squeeze out an hour a day to write, which I feel compelled to do. Writing helps me sort out my thoughts and sharing my comments seems valuable to some readers. Few people ever share what I post, so obviously what I communicate rarely seems as important to others as it does to me (lol). But I get just enough feedback to keep writing and circulate it.

So I’ll try to occasionally post at least a little something to Facebook, Wade’s Wire and Wade’s Weekly. Mike Larsen  has invited me to join some friends of his to a Saturday morning “tea and conversation,” to which I’ll invite a few friends. Paul Kinburn and I invited several fellow Western Park residents to a Sunday night “tea and conversation” last Sunday, which went well and may continue. I want to catch up on some loose email threads with friends and place higher priority on such dialogs in the future. I may invite some old friends to experiment with a format for a more intentional, “soulful” conversation that others might find useful. I’ll continue to dialog with my passengers and conduct occasional public-opinion surveys. I’ll try to remain open and available for “I-Thou” mutuality when the opportunity emerges. And maybe I’ll write a new manifesto or a brief memoir about my community organizing.

In the meantime, with Lawrence Ferlinghetti:

I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

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