Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wade’s Journal and Readers’ Comments

In addition to watching Giants’ baseball, most of my free time lately has been devoted to the Residents’ Council at the 200-person complex where I live, Western Park Apartments. Having been recruited to serve as President, it’s been a rewarding and challenging experience. The more I get to know my neighbors, the more I get to like and respect them. Reinvigorating the Council by establishing some new structures that reflect what I’ve learned over the years seems to be working. Prior to our first meeting, an old-timer predicted fifteen participants, but forty came. And the next week we had nineteen at a Coordinating Committee meeting.

Historically, my pattern has been to start a new project and then move on after two years or so. But I’ll be in this apartment for the rest of my life, or most of it. So I may as well make the most of it. With the vibrant community of residents that we have here, I look forward to it.

I’ve also been posting chapters of My Search for Deep Community: An Autobiography to the Web at http://deepcommunity.org. As I go along, I’ll make corrections that have been pointed out to me by readers who’ve sent me comments on the print edition. I hope to step up the pace of posting chapters as I get a handle on Council responsibilities. I also envision a much shorter book eventually, with key moments in my life in chronological order, that I would distribute to the general public, perhaps after finding a publisher.

In My “Ego Trip” I look back on my motivation for writing that autobiography. In addition to the motives that I discuss there, I now realize more clearly that one reason is that I wanted to circulate it on my 70th birthday as a gift to dear friends. And I just wanted the full historical record available, just in case unknown others might find it of interest or value at some point in the future. After all, I was in the midst of a number of historic events. Whether I will be able to afford to make the upcoming, slightly amended version available to the general public remains to be seen, after I learn what it would cost.

David Marshall, a Vive-President at Berrett-Koehler Publishers (BK), replied to my proposal that BK convene a national working conference on “Changing the System” with the following Facebook post:
Super reader Wade Hudson advocates for a “Changing the System” National Conference in 2015. It’s cool to see such leadership from somebody in our the largest BK stakeholder group: readers. This may fit with three of our five initiatives from our 2014-16 Strategic Plan: Connect with Customers, Build Our Brand, and Commit to Diversity and Inclusion. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
He also tweeted about it and @BKpub retweeted his tweet.

In addition, Mike Larsen, the literary agent who organizes the San Francisco Writers Conference and the Writing for Change Conference has expressed enthusiasm for the proposal and said that he will inform BK that he and likely some of the volunteers in his network would help with the conference.

These developments are encouraging, but the task is a formidable one. So though BK seems like the ideal sponsor for such an event, I am making no assumptions.

Otherwise, I continue to drive taxi part-time, read some of The New York Times daily, and read about half of the articles in The New York Review of Books my favorite publication. Recently, I’ve begun posting to Wade’s Wire reflections on some of the New York Review's essays that I find most interesting.

In Comments on “It’s All for Your Own Good," I reflect on the essay’s argument that well-meaning, kind-hearted individuals can undermine others’ self-respect with condescending attitudes and paternalistic practices. As one who has struggled with my own arrogance, it is an issue with which I still struggle. With its comments on Why Nudge? by Cass Sunstein, the review also felt relevant to my situation here at Western Park Apartments, which is owned by Northern California Presbyterian Homes and Services, a church-related non-profit with a noble vision rooted in spirituality.

In Comments on “Divine Fury: A History of Genius,", I remark on “Wonder Boys,” a thought-provoking review of Divine Fury that explores the nature and history of human consciousness, its relationship with the cosmos, or God, and the notion of “genius.” What is different about the human mind? How did it evolve? What does all that mean about how the universe works? Though I don’t agree with every wrinkle in the piece, the author, Tamsin Shaw, offers me some helpful clues.

I’ve appreciated the following responses to recent posts:

Re: Uber Attacks Taxis

Richard Keene: I'm with you on this.  Seems tech is causing major disruptions everywhere.

Michael Shaughnessy: I would encourage you to edit this and seek publication in a more widely distriibuted source. The personal sharing is appropriate for your weekly entry, but you analysis of the economic situation (in a tighter form)  would be great on Alternet or HuffPo.... Thanks for your work.

Yahya Abdal-Aziz: Much to reflect on, as usual!  If I haven't said so recently, let me say it again now: Thanks for your writing.  I find it well worth reading and thinking about.

And occasionally very informative; I had no idea of the parlous state of the taxi-driver's lot in SF until I read your piece below.  I hope you and your colleagues find an effective and speedy resolution of the problem.

And certainly educational: I'd read the phrase, "the tragedy of the commons", before now, but from its context thinking of it as an historical curiosity, had never bothered to explore its meaning.  I see now how wrong I was, and how relevant this economic phenomenon is today and may well be at any epoch of human history.  It applies, for instance, as an operative cause, to the loss of sovereignty of native peoples worldwide in the face of colonial aggression by the Western powers of the last half-millennium.

But rather than comment on every issue canvassed below, I decided to reply, wanting to let you know this:

You can stop paying for massages; all you need is a willing partner and the knowledge of how to do massage effectively and safely.

That knowledge can come from a good book on massage techniques.  I saw such a book just last week in my local "cheap books" store, for around $14.  Of course, it takes time and practice to become good at massage; but since most of the time you spend doing so includes actually giving the massage, you and your partner can benefit equally.  You'd both probably consider it a good investment of your time.  It also requires some patience and sensitivity of the student, but given these, one can soon learn to become more aware of the texture and condition of the fibres under one's finger-tips: a requisite skill.

While we were living in Malaysia, my wife and I had the great fortune to learn the basics of "urut jawa", the Malay deep tissue massage techniques, from a friend and more particularly from his father, a renowned "Tokoh" (master) of the art.  These have stood us in good stead during the last forty-some years, more so as I had a painful condition of the spine which plagued me until I reached my mid-30s.  I believe it was my wife's constant care that helped it to finally abate to more tolerable levels.  So I'm certainly an advocate for the considered and careful use of massage on medical grounds; but of course its therapeutic benefits are far wider than the physical treatment of disease.

There's something else I've been meaning to say, and will take this opportunity to do so: I think of you often, and wish you all the very best in your efforts to transform both yourself and the wider world.

My best regards,


Re: [wadesmonthly] Recent Posts on Wade's Wire

Bob Anschuetz: I always find things of interest in your Wire--in the latest, especially, the anecdote about Robin Williams and the 50 recommended essays. That literary genre has always been my own favorite, though the work of particular poets runs a close second. I'm also curious about a matter connected with your own literary output. Have you decided yet what, if anything, you're going to do further with your book? I'd love to know, as it was the source of my own principal work engagement for almost three months, and I was deeply impressed by its human authenticity: both the honesty of your self-revelation and the seriousness of your commitment to deep community as a way of life and the foundation of effective social activism. I wish you all best in choosing the right course for the book and the right life for yourself.


Re: Many Activists Need An Intervention

Roma Guy: Interesting….regarding listening and hearing from activists you encountered. Their being in motion (act) apparently doesn’t include listening….lots of that around and not only from activists.


Re: Changing the System: A Proposal for a National Conference (10/17/14 Draft)

Clinton McDowell: Received ..always amazed at yer steadfast ,Eal in undertaking this challenge.
Keep on keeping on!

Richard Moore: Here’s my take on a realistic step-by-step plan: Building the new in the shadow of the old

Friday, October 17, 2014

Changing the System: A Proposal for a National Conference (10/17/14 Draft)

By Wade Hudson

The system is broken and we know it. In the short run, our social system appears to work for a few, but their gains are superficial, the system is not working for most Americans, and in the long run the system may collapse as it becomes increasingly top heavy.

The percent of voters who believe the government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves increased from 29 percent in 1964 to 79 percent in 2013. Almost four in five Americans are dissatisfied with the political system. That same percentage is convinced that corruption in government is widespread. Two-thirds are dissatisfied with the state of the economy. Most Americans report they’re so upset they “would carry a protest sign for a day” if they could. Strong majorities favor major changes in national policy and believe grassroots pressure is needed to achieve that.

To build popular power, we need broad agreement on a long-term vision rooted in shared values and a realistic, step-by-step plan for achieving that goal.

Given those realities, concerned individuals must increase and broaden understanding of how the system functions and how we can reform it fruitfully. Toward that end, I have proposed to Berrett-Koehler Publishers (BK) that they convene a national working conference focused on the following questions:

  • What is “the system”? How can we best describe and analyze it?
  • How do we need to change it?
  • What organizing strategies are needed to build a popular movement pushing for those changes?

A careful, deliberate, collaborative process could pull together the best ideas available about how to restructure our society. That plan could help motivate a massive number of individuals to work together toward that end. Using the “wisdom of crowds,” the efficiency of the Internet, and careful collaboration, we can change the world in a deep and sustainable manner.

BK is a logical candidate to organize a national conference whose participants would consider written proposals for action that had been posted online and discussed extensively beforehand. BK’s best-sellers include Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins, The Serving Leader by Ken Jennings, Leadership and Self-Deception by Arbinger Institute, and When Corporations Rule the World by David Korten. Their books fall within three categories, “BK Life” (the personal), “BK Business” (the social), and “BK Currents” (the political). With this broad perspective, BK is dedicated to “systems change” and adopts a holistic approach to the world.

Their current strategic plan affirms:
We seek to abolish class systems (wherein one group has an enduring structural advantage over another group) in all areas of organizations and society, including ownership, wealth, belonging, power, accountability, compensation, and access to information and resources.
Given their credibility, connections, and commitment to systemic change, I believe BK could initiate a process that would engage readers, authors, and activists in developing a plan for how to improve our world fundamentally. BK could contract with a diverse set of prominent writers to draft brief responses to the questions posed above and invite those writers to dialog with one another and then consider modifying their original statements. That dialog could be posted on the Web for review and comment by the general public. The writers invited to participate could include individuals such as Alice Walker, Cornel West, Van Jones, David Brooks, Fritjof Capra, Robert Reich, Naomi Klein, and others whose prominence would help elicit strong participation.

The conference could be loosely based on “Open Space Technology,” with a variety of proposals presented for consideration. Participants would “vote with their feet” and participate in breakout groups focused on those proposals that most appeal to them. Space could be provided at the outset for new last-minute proposals from participants. If no unanimous consensus emerged concerning a specific proposal for action, after the conference different groups could implement those proposals that most appealed to them.

If you support this proposal or have suggested amendments, please comment at http://www.wadeswire.org/?p=1232. As this proposal is amended, the latest draft will be posted there.
NOTE: Though I do not assume that the conference organizers would select it as a focus for the conference, my own suggestion for the kind of statement that could be considered is “Changing the System with Love, Wisdom, and Power: A Declaration for Action.” I also welcome feedback on that statement.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Many Activists Need An Intervention

To turn this nation into a compassionate community, Americans must unite as never before to change national policies. To achieve that unity, political activists need to improve how they operate.

Yet most activists, habituated to their traditional methods, fail to engage in serious self-examination, honestly evaluate their strategies, admit mistakes, and evolve. Our efforts are commendable. At least we are trying. Overall society is likely better off than it would be if we did nothing. Nevertheless, we need to do better, much better.

The Occupy Central demonstrators in Hong Kong offer inspiration with their deep, disciplined commitment to nonviolence. A recent interaction with David Harris, the renowned 1960s’ draft resister and author, offered me encouragement. The response to the “A Meditation on Deep Community” that I presented to my Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples heartened me. I was pleased that my minister, Rev. Dorsey Blake, liked a draft of a “declaration for action” that could be the focus of an action-oriented national conference and said he would ask Jakada Imani, head of the Center for Spirituality and Social Transformation whether his center and our church might co-sponsor such a conference. A dialog about that draft declaration with Ronnie Dugger, the writer and activist, was reassuring. The feedback I’ve received to my limited distribution of print copies of the first edition of my autobiography, My Search for Deep Community has been encouraging. And my organizing with the Residents’ Council at my 200-unit, non-profit apartment house has been rewarding. On the other hand, certain encounters with activists recently have been less positive.

The other day, while walking home from the store, I saw an old friend with her back to me talking to two people. I walked up to them and joked, “Don’t believe a word she says.” The two strangers informed me they were canvassing for the upcoming election. They asked me how I felt about two ballot measures and I told them I was supportive, but when they asked me about David Campos’ campaign for Assembly, I replied, “I’m not sure. I just heard that some friends of mine are supporting David Chiu because he offered more support to them on the domestic-violence controversy surrounding Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.” The male canvasser replied, “Campos merely wanted due process,” and proceeded to talk for almost two minutes about the two officials’ positions on other issues. Having been unclear about the facts in that case, suspecting his statement was inaccurate, and truly wanting to discuss the dilemma, I replied, “I do not appreciate you lecturing me rather than engaging in a dialog with me about my concern.” He answered, “Well, I’m a school teacher and I can be pedantic.” “That’s a problem too,” I said, and everyone laughed. My friend then hugged me and told them about how we first met and the second canvasser asked me where I lived, after which we learned that I do not live in the district they were working. I commented, “Well, I guess I wasted your time,” and walked off, irritated because none of them engaged me in that dialog that I told them I wanted. Afterwards, I realized my alienation may have led me to be unduly rude. I expressed no appreciations, did not even say goodbye to my friend (who also failed to engage in a discussion about my concern), and walked away too quickly. But I knew the canvassers had probably been trained to avoid wasting their time.

A few days later I received a phone call from the same campaign on the same three issues. The caller immediately started reading his script at some length. When he finished and asked me his question, I said, “I have a suggestion. In the future, when you reach someone, first ask them if they have a minute to talk about your issue.” He replied, “OK,” but proceeded to read me the rest of his script without asking me if I wanted to talk. He was reading from a written script, but most activists have a script in their head and repeat it endlessly, like a tape recording. Their understanding is that “leadership” involves mobilizing people to do what the leader wants, a notion that is reflected in President Obama’s attitude about “American leadership.”

On September 30, I drove down to Stanford University for an opening reception for a new exhibit of incredible documentary photographs from the 1960s taken by Bob Fitch, an old friend. The event, titled “Movements for Change,” featured a panel of activists from the 60s, including Harris. The panel made opening statements and engaged in a conversation with the audience for about 90 minutes.

When none of the panelists offered any reflections on lessons learned from the past that could inform the future, I tried to get the floor to pose that question, but was unable to get recognized. No one from the audience raised the issue either. Before we adjourned, Bob suggested that the audience circulate and engage in dialog with one another.

In line with his suggestion, I approached a Stanford student who had spoken eloquently from the floor about his activism and asked him, “Have you noticed any weaknesses in past movements that need to be avoided in the future? Mistakes that we can correct moving forward?” He replied by talking about how activists’ intellectual frame needs to shift toward a more transnational focus. I responded by commenting that his remarks were outer-directed and I was more interested in how we relate to each other and the general public. He then said we need more face-to-face interaction. I agreed and asked if any other points come to mind. He said none did. I half-expected him to then ask me about my thoughts, but he didn’t, so I thanked him for his responses and moved on. I was amazed that this elite student of activist movements had apparently not been prompted by his professors to reflect more deeply on that issue, and that the panel would engage in a 90-minute conversation about their activism without reflecting on the question.

I then connected with Harris and asked him the same question. He replied by talking about how “the movement” fell into drawing an ideological “line in the sand,” which undermined its original openness to various perspectives. When I asked him for other examples of weaknesses, he addressed how “ego” is often a problem and that activists tend to “stop learning.” I found his comments very astute and reassuring.

The informal reception that followed was unsatisfying. I approached a few people, including another old friend, but experienced no substantive dialog. (I need to find some new ways to deal with “cocktail parties.”) And my ride home with my friends was also lacking. In the car, I reported on my interactions with the Stanford student and Harris, hoping it would lead to an exploration of the issue. But it elicited only one brief comment, and the rest of the ride involved no real evaluation of our past and ongoing efforts.

So I resolve to be patient. I’ll continue with our Residents’ Council and maybe expand to some neighborhood organizing. I’ll remain active in Fellowship Church (including our October 19th 70th Anniversary) and work to enrich that experience, participate in the October 18 “Soul of Work” workshop, and post to my blogs more frequently, where I hope to plant seeds that will somehow bear fruit someday. I’ve begun posting a Web-edition of My Search for Deep Community: An Autobiography. I envision a new book, which may be a brief memoir focused more narrowly on deep community. Perhaps a strong, inclusive committee will eventually organize a national conference to launch a holistic project that integrates the personal and the political, as I suggested to Rev. Blake. I invited Harris to participate in a public dialog concerning how activists might be more effective, perhaps using a yet-to-be-defined format that would foster rich dialog among all participants. And perhaps I can make some new connections by posting this October 23 Meetup.com event:
San Francisco Personal-Political Mutual Support Workshop
Let's explore how political activists can be more effective.
We'll explore developing one or more models that political activists might use to support one another in their efforts to become better human beings and more effective activists. One option is for each member to confidentially report on their efforts and their plans, with no unsolicited feedback. We may experiment with various other models at future workshops.
We shall see. I can only do what I can do, while taking care of myself and others as best I can. In the meantime, as Kathy Kelly’s Iraqi friend advised her, I try to remember to “love the Universe.”