Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My Bottom Line

More than anything, I seek a joyous, compassionate community of progressive political activists who promote peaceful social transformation, focus on winnable objectives, and support one another in their personal growth, while accepting the time limitations that are common in the modern world. That is my bottom line.

After decades of activism, I’ve concluded that progressive activists, myself included, need to overcome counterproductive habits that turn off potential recruits and create disabling conflicts within organizations. These habits include arrogance, one-upmanship, withholding feelings, impatience, and not really listening to others.

I can no longer give my heart and soul to a project that does not encourage and support its members to nurture open-ended self-development, as defined by each individual (in contrast to specific skills training). Having been unable to find such a project, I’ll primarily continue to research, read, write, and dialog on these matters, try to advance the development of such efforts, and keep my eyes open for a holistic project that I can join.

To my mind, a holistic perspective that embraces the whole person is important. Traditional activism concentrates on the outer world (behavior) and neglects the inner world (experience). Holism integrates the outer and the inner. Traditional activism relies primarily on the head and overlooks the heart. Holism integrates the two. Traditional activism treats human beings as instruments, cogs in a machine. Holism affirms and enhances the full range of human experience. Traditional activism relies on suppressed emotions, hidden agendas, and manipulation. Holism is open, transparent, and collaborative, trusting that honesty, spontaneity, and freewheeling interplay are more productive in the long run.

Joy, having fun together, and being ever more happy avoids the lifelessness that is common in activist organizations. Contagious happiness can be a powerful recruiting tool.

Compassionate concern about the suffering of others, including our close associates, counters dehumanization.

The pursuit of peace involves cultivating inner peace as well as peace within society, which includes learning how to treat each other with respect. Violence is a turbulent, intense state of mind that leads to attempts to injure another, which also damages the soul of the perpetrator. Nurturing deep peace, both internal and external, is crucial.

Total, sudden conversion is not essential, though it sometimes happens. By acknowledging our mistakes and resolving to avoid repeating them, we can from time to time “turn over a new leaf” and suddenly “feel like a new person.” Being reborn is a lifelong process.

A progressive worldview affirms that:
1)      Our government has a major, positive role to play.
2)      Human beings are essentially good and naturally affectionate.
3)      Individual empowerment, autonomy, and self-determination within strong, caring communities are key.
4)      Communities need to pay attention to the consequences of individual and collective actions in our inter-connected and inter-dependent world.
5)      Society can make valuable progress through steady, incremental personal, social, and political improvements.

Social transformation would entail the comprehensive reform of our social system into a compassionate community dedicated to the well being of the entire human family, as I discussed in “Transform the System.”

Cataclysmic, violent revolution is not necessary. The system must not collapse before we change it. Incremental reforms can lead to comprehensive, fundamental, systemic transformation. We can focus on short-term reforms that improve governmental and corporate policies as steps toward longer-term structural changes that address underlying causes.

Winning victories with a focus on winnable objectives builds momentum. Untargeted anger and efforts to “shut it down” without a mechanism for negotiating solutions undermine our effectiveness and promote violence. Grounding idealism in pragmatism helps avoid these complications.

In order to achieve this new purpose, we need to create new institutions as well as transform our existing institutions, our cultures, and ourselves through a gradual process of evolutionary revolution that can eventually, unpredictably create a new society that is qualitatively different and greatly improved.

Given widespread time constraints, ten or so members of a community based on these principles might merely gather in one of their homes once a month to:
  • Share a meal and socialize informally.
  • Report on their efforts with regard to political action and personal growth (including social skills). These reports might consist merely of informing others, without any feedback or advice (unless requested).
  • Air resentments and conflicts if and when they emerge and if need be set aside time for those involved to resolve them.
  • Make decisions about their future (including activities like political demonstrations, hikes, volleyball games, or concerts in which only a few members might participate). If the participants so decide, these events could be conducted in the name of the community.

In this way, members could gradually get to know one another more fully and deepen their sense of community. But these methods are suggested only to make my thoughts more concrete. Other individuals could surely offer other ideas and like-minded partners could collectively determine the best course.

Ideally, this community would be affiliated with similar communities in a network. Each of these communities could serve as a model that would encourage others to form similar communities. Each community and the full network could convene occasional public events to share ideas and fellowship, inform non-members about their efforts, and invite them to form their own community affiliated with the network.

That’s my dream.


  1. Dear Wade,

    (I tried to publish a comment on the blog itself, but no avail.)

    Great comments and food for thought, Wade. Always, I struggle with the challenge of adding new projects to an already full plate -- and honestly, at the moment, I am getting invitations to new and meaningful engagement every single day! But what you are describing here is so foundational and potentially transformative that it bears reflecting on how to clear space and commit to making such meetings happen. Thanks again for the inspiration.

    May you be well,

  2. This is a GREAT bottom line!

  3. Dear Wade,

    This is Sharon Johnson and I share the value of your dream.

    [Name deleted] along with a few others have been discussing similar dreams as your own and recognize the need of intergenerational/culture involvement with an integrity of which you address. We are planning a dinner discussion ... at [her] home, if you are interested. FYI: Our conversation for further thinking comes from the healthcare issues we continually face.

    Your articulation speaks directly to my thoughts.

    I am in Sweden until end of May.

    All my best,
    In peace,
    Sharon Johnson