Feedback on “Transform the System” (11/24 Draft)

systemJames Vann:

Wade, there is nothing in your long struggle to form “compasssionate communities” to object to– certainly a noble objective. My reticence is not with the objective, because, foundationally, that is the way thigs are supposed to be (“mom’s apple pie”). Admittedly, it is my failure, but I do not foresee how compassionate relations lead to political transformation on a mass scale. Being a “nice neighbor” does not automatically eradicate racism, sexism, xenophobia, imperialism, nor propagate progressive politics .


Thanks much, James E Vann, for your thoughtful, supportive response and for your long history of nonviolent struggle. You address a key problem: how to translate compassion into effective action. There is no easy solution and nothing is automatic. But it seems to me that it would help if existing organizations operated in a more compassionate manner. Regardless, to borrow your formulation, I do not foresee how uncompassionate relations lead to political transformation on a mass scale. Comments are welcome on the latest draft of the Transform the System statement of principles, which proposes some concrete steps. It’s at…. If my quest is, as James E Vann said, as obvious as “mom’s apple pie,” why does no such organization exist (so far as I know)?


Steve Leeds:
This statement is fine. Il’l be interested in hearing about your meeting.


Larry Walker:

Your 2-page document reads well. A couple of suggestions:

Make the document fit in 2-pages.
Consider dropping the paragraph on the national convention (not needed at this time).
Can you provide links to LinkedIn profiles for your Colleagues/Team? (I have one.)
Good job.


David Hartsough:

Thanks Wade. I like the statement, but am not sure it will draw/folt many people into action. Many people will agree with it if they read it, but the question is what they can do after they read it or feel inspired enough to help bring bring this new society into existence. Too many people have given up hope that we can bring about social transformation.


Good to hear. Thanks.
If and when you have suggestions about what folks can do after they read it, I’d welcome them.
The latest draft may address that issue a bit more….
I agree that people giving up hope is a problem.

I’ll send another report with the latest draft soon.

Can you send it to Joanna Macy and solicit her feedback?


Sharon Johnson:

there is a greater need for a community to find love – shelter – hope and solidarity. Especially for those who do not work within the structure of a church…. It is more than ever that a community you suggest is a must in our Nation. I(we) have seen our starving residents respond to a false god in their need to feel safe, secure and deservingly cared for by our government and other institutions. Clearly, the system is not working for the majority and the beast in us is roaring for our country of people to stand tall against the harming ways of our system of care.

Going towards, building up is a healthier way to forge in transformation and in the process we must be kind and gentle to ourselves and others. As you know this transformation has been building for years and years. It is time for leadership(in all forms ) to capture this time and lead towards peaceful resolution for the common good.

The below statement outlines issues and offers solutions. The dedicated few leaders – one step st a time – can bring this together.


Bob Anschuetz:

Responding to your request for feedback, I think you’ve done a great job in creating the short-version “manifesto” for the movement you’ve envisioned. I’m always as interested in the clarity of the writing in such documents as I am in the content being conveyed, and I honestly believe you’ve now got that just right.

For what it’s worth, however, I don’t share that same faith in the rightness of the project you’re proposing. In my own view, no reform effort that starts entirely from scratch with a relative handful of people can achieve through its own efforts the monumental goals you set: namely, the worldwide transformation of human behavior from predominant egotism, selfishness and individualism to predominant empathy, caring, and community. If such a transformation is ever to be achieved, my own notion is that it will be by means of very gradual organic improvements in national cultures. In the U.S. such progress has already occurred to a modest degree with respect to the social status of blacks, gays, and women. The place of each of these groups has been strengthened by a mix of government anti-exclusion legislation and positive changes in society’s attitude toward them based on their emergence from the shadows and the subsequent recognition that they share with all Americans important social values and a common humanity.

In contrast to the document you’ve called on us to review, I thought the main purpose of the social action you were proposing was not to reform mankind from its affinity for dehumanizing “systems,” but to advance federal legislation in the U.S. that could help meet real human needs and in so doing help shift the focus of Americans from selfish–and, for the great majority, unrealizable–aspirations to ascendance in the “system” to a human concern for the common good. The outline of the strategy to do this was clear: In each congressional district in the U.S., folks of both conservative and progressive political outlook would get together and agree on meaningful policies they believe the federal government should pursue; they would then invite their congressional representative to meet with them on a monthly basis to urge him or her to push one particular policy in Congress. Because the policy proposed by the people would represent a left/right consensus, and because the congressperson’s re-election would likely depend on how honestly and fruitfully he/she strove to promote the people’s will, this seemed to me a wonderful plan: it could help shift the attention of politicians away from the system of cahoots with wealthy corporate donors and lobbyists, and to the people they nominally represent. A very similar plan has in fact been laid out by Ralph Nader in his latest two books, Breaking through Power and Unstoppable.


I do not envision starting from scratch. Rather, I hope to encourage existing organizations to change how they operate.
I agree that social transformation will be organic and gradual — at least until a critical mass is reached.
I agree that progress with the status of blacks, gays, and women is a good example of such evolution.
Advancing federal legislation is still an element of the statement.
I’ve read Nader’s book and generally like it, but like most progressives, he only talks about the government and the economy. I think we need a different strategy to be more effective. Changing hearts and minds is essential.


Yahya Abdal-Aziz:

Very interesting project!  I’ll be watching your progress intently.

One thing often stands out to me in your blog posts: your emphasis on America, and fixing whatever ails her.  Yet so much of what you write about applies equally to other places in the modern world, all equally enmeshed in the transnational system that American ingenuity and drive has contributed greatly to bring about.  For example, you wrote:

What is the system and how can the American people change national policies to transform it?”

As an Aussie, I could equally write:

What is the system and how can the Australian people change national policies to transform it?”

And the same applies to, say, Britons or Swedes; or anywhere in the Western world and increasingly, in the developing world, e.g. the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China).  Of course, I realise that change has to “take place” – in accordance with realities – in specific places.  By “places”, I mean nations, communities, economies, healthcare systems, social support networks, political institutions – the myriad ways we organise human life – rather than in geographical sites.  And so you’re absolutely right to be agitating for and organising change within those systems you belong to as an American.

And yet, we’re all a part of the evolving transnational world system, aren’t we?  Yet how much influence does any of us have over its processes and transformation?  Increasingly, the World System (caps on purpose – there is really only one!) is becoming our de facto government throughout the modern world.  Many years ago – maybe 50 in fact – it put a smile on my face to read that somebody had started issuing passports to “Citizens of the World” (or some similar phrase), beginning with themselves.  I believe the young fellow had some trouble boarding a plane for an international flight …  Still, I was hopeful that some time during my life, we might achieve an effective and freely elected global government.

And the “United Nations” was first organised about 70 years ago, but its unity still in no way matches that of the “United States of America“; nor does it adequately represent us; nor do we, the individual people of its member nations, have a vote on it nor any real say in its deliberations and policies.  Whether any of this will happen during our lifetimes, we have reason to doubt; but surely this was the ultimate vision?  A government of, by and for the people – of the world!


Well put. Thanks.

The latest draft is not tied to the USA


Posted later, from Larry Walker:

Transform the System (11/24/16 Draft)
Human beings are compassionate and cooperative creatures. Each day, individuals and organizations relieve suffering and improve the world.
Larry: I like this statement a lot.  It is reinforced by the fact that ‘violence’ on a global basis is going down — steadily.
Larry: I think media does a disservice by focusing on the ‘bad’ news.  A whole lot of good is happening, but does not capture headlines.
Portions of our global social system breeds fear, foments hate, divides people, and undermines community. The need to transform that System is urgent.
Larry: Again, violence on a global basis is going down — but gets few headlines.
Larry: Trump used media to magnify himself — no one has done that better in the political realm.  It continues today as medias decries his use of Twitter, and that very fact greatly magnifies his presence on the national, global scene.  Stop repeating his negative stories — only repeat his positive ones.
Larry: Shunning would destroy Trump in the blink of the eye — as he feeds on attention.
Larry: ISIL operates just like Trump — and the media magnifies their messages as well.
Larry: So bad things are happening, but they cannot win in the long term as they only destroy, not build.

Our major institutions, our culture, and we ourselves fit together to form the System, which is fueled by the drive to get ahead of others, climb the social ladder, and look down on those below. Hyper-competitive individualism and feverish ambition help preserve the power chain and its dominate-or-submit dynamic.
Larry: Yes, this part of our system.  I do not agree that it IS the system.
Larry: Teil de Chardin has said that the history of the world is driven by the ability to evolve as social beings.  This is why humans have risen above other species as our level of socialization exceeds that of all other species.  He also states that that this social evolution is evolving toward Unity (which ultimately would be God).
Larry: I read the above many years ago.  Then came the Internet creating a social web on a global scale.  We are still only on the edge of what is possible.
In their daily lives, individuals strengthen the System with actions such as buying cheap products made in other countries, failing to treat one another with respect, and seeking to be King of one Hill or another.
Larry: If you look at the big picture, the buying of cheap goods carried 400 million people out of poverty in China alone.
Larry: The US is creating as much wealth as ever, but we have failed to define a distribution of wealth that recognizes the impact of automation, so the bulk has flowed to the 1%.  This does not need to continue.

Labeling people and discriminating against those considered inferior serves to divide and conquer. In ways that are often unconscious, we neglect the equal value of each person and feel superior to certain people and inferior to others. We learn to dominate or submit. “What’s in it for me” prevails. That self-centeredness carries over into nationalism, as nations try to exploit other nations to serve their own self-interest.
Larry: Divide and conquer does take place — but there are alternatives.
Larry: With immigrants for example, we try to ‘help’ them — and America does this generously.
Larry: Again, however, if we look at the big picture: 1) What does it take to be successful in a global economy?  Relationships, ability to deal with cultures different from us, and language skills that most Americans lack.  2)  What assets to our immigrants bring?  Relationships, comfort with other cultures, and other languages.  3)  The alternative is to Partner with our immigrant communities to encourage global trade, relationships, treaties, etc. etc.  This is win-win.
Larry: America has exploited many other nations.  We have also done well by even more — e.g. the Marshall Plan.  We could have a Global Marshall Plan that would lift others out of poverty while also doing well here.
Larry: My bottom line from all this is that we need a positive message to move ahead, not one based on fear, fighting evil, etc.

To restructure that System, we must learn how to love one another more fully and promote the common good of the Earth Community — all humanity, all living beings, the environment, and life itself — and reform our institutions, our culture, and ourselves to serve that purpose.
Larry: Excellent.

Individuals can establish a balance between self-interest and the common good, make our society more democratic, promote justice, develop collaborative leadership, set aside labels, relate to one another as human beings, place ourselves in other’s shoes, remember that no evil deed is a reflection of the whole person, not allow anger to become hatred, seek reconciliation when in conflict, be humble, accept that we cannot achieve everything we want, acknowledge mistakes and try to avoid repeating them, and nurture helpfulness, honesty, forgiveness, and a passion for justice.
Larry: Another excellent paragraph.

By sharing meals, socializing informally, enjoying life together, and listening to one another report on their efforts, teams of individuals who endorse these principles could support one another with their personal growth and political action. Public gatherings of representatives from those teams could attract new participants with contagious joy, affection, and commitment. With that approach, we could grow caring communities and create models for the society we seek.
Larry: Again very good.
Larry: Given 3 excellent paragraphs in a row. why are they buried at the bottom of your message.  You lead with negatives which can discourage and dishearten people before they get to the inspiring part.

Activist organizations could help their members unlearn divisive, oppressive tendencies the System drills into us, which would help them be more effective. And those organizations could be less competitive with one another and form alliances with other organizations to focus in a sustained manner on winnable objectives that a majority of citizens support.
Larry: ‘unlearn’ is a negative perspective.  Why not just suggest following  a number of very positive ideas and simply overwhelm those who practice hate and fear?

If you agree and want to be kept informed about efforts to advance these principles, please endorse this statement at Let’s join together to promote the common good of the Earth Community!
Larry: Happy to stay engaged.


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